My Hungarian Angel Balázs still had to work today, but he made an effort to tell me that he would return in the evening and do something with me. (And he kept apologizing in emails that the hot water in my apartment didn’t work immediately last night. “You should [enjoy] the best service,” he insisted.)
P came to do his morning rout, and after that and some breakfast I went out to start my sightseeing. While the house has a very serviceable fan, the temperature blessedly dropped probably 10 degrees, hence walking is entirely agreeable. I checked the Basilica – quite stunning inside and out, ignored the three UNESCO-listed sites related to early Christian burial stuff, and went for the museums. LP only mentions and highly recommends Hungarian Modern Gallery, but I wandered to the wrong place, and the two clerks spoke neither English nor German – this seems the common practice here. The shorter one kept pointing to a price chart – in Hungarian only, of course – with her short sausage fingers, and I really could not understand a single word: belonging o the Uralic language group, Hungarian is quite unlike the languages of its neighboring countries (such as Slovakia or Austria), and I totally couldn’t guess anything. Eventually I got a joint ticket for five museums; in fact, in the beginning the clerks mistook it and told me it’s four, and they kept pointing wrong places on the map. Not helpful. The situation was even worse in the Zsolnay (ceramic) Museum – an old clerk kept ignored the map I got and kept insisting the museum is “number two” and was entirely incapable of reading a map. And when I tried to tell a guard in Zsolnay Museum that a young woman kept using flash when taking photos, all he knew was to tell me (in Hungarian) to buy a ticket for taking photos.
While I am keenly aware that no-one in the world is obliged to speak English, I have to admit that general situation described above made me rather irritable.
I finished three smaller museums, was very hungry, and decided to go for lunch. The Balkan restaurant recommended by LP is in the basement with little air and one-person, slow-moving service, and the Italian place recommended by LP with fab food on a terrace is non-existent. After checking again with the tourist info (the young girl with poor English really got on my nerves, although I tried my best to smile ALL THE WAY when her female colleague, who understood more English when I spoke ve-ry slow-ly, came to assist. (Exactly is it the best policy to make all these efforts to smile and be polite?)
I had a lunch menu in a fine open-air place, even though what the waiter told me to be “meat balls” turned out to be fried chicken, and with (rather good) fried potato it was virtually fast food. Whatever.
P told me he’d have time after 2pm, and we could “probably go to the ceramic factory,” but I needed to rush for the last two museums, which looked bigger anyway. The Modern Gallery took a bit more than an hour and has some inspired or even inspiring pieces. As for the last one, I can’t figure out why the painter occupied a place in the local art history: he likes big paintings with some admittedly impressive views, largely from the Balkans, but the overall designs he presented are from adequate to poor, especially when there’re people in the paintings.
After the museum marathon (as well as having some fine gelato and finding an ever-closed CD shop), I checked with P and met him at that Arkád. We went to a more far-away shopping center to check out some Thai food (which looks unappealing), and then went to their place. Balázs again was so happy to see me, again very interested in everything I did, and offered some fried noodles, chocolate (“from Paris”) and drinks. Afterwards he asked whether I would like to have a drink in town, and then very attentively asked whether I would be too tired. “We can also do it tomorrow.” Also whether it’s ok to ask me to walk, instead of riding a car.
This is how attentive Balázs is: Do you want water? Sparkling or non-sparkling? Is the food spicy enough? Put your feet here so you can relax better. Isn’t the bed too old and uncomfortable? Did you sleep well last night? I wonder exactly how he was brought up to be so very ultra-sweet.
We went to the square in front of the Basilica, and I was rather surprised to see that it looks almost like a night market that I know: there are many booths offering wines and other drinks, and there’re some stands with food such as roast, sweets, potato dishes, or pasta. People chatted and laughed on the street, sitting down or standing, all very relaxed.
Balázs kept checking whether it’s too cold for me, whether I wanted to have water in the white wine, and whether I needed to eat anything, and asked about my trip. When I told him how happily impressed I am by Hungary and especially Pécs, he said, “I’m very glad. I was worried that you wouldn’t be very impressed, [because] you have traveled to so many places, and it’s probably not easy to impress you.” This guy is really crazy, in a honey-glazed and then sugar-coated and then caramel-covered kind of sweet way.
When we sat down, Balázs checked several times whether I felt ok, probably because he saw that I was very quiet. I was more than happy – the breeze was great, the atmosphere was lovely, and I had such loving, loving, loving friends beside me. I hope that in their eyes I am a good and worthy guest.
The walk back home was a bit too much to my hosts, but it was such a lovely night, and I felt so extremely lucky. What did I do to deserve all the loving attention and compliments and love?