It’s snowing again. I’m sitting in Holy Coffee, the closest coffeeshop to my apartment, and sipping a flat white and eating a piece of chocolate cake because they’re out of croissants. It feels indulgent, but I tell myself it’s ok because it’s snowing and I’m alive.
Perhaps in an attempt to warm us up, the coffeeshop is playing Latin music. It reminds me that a year ago, I was with Hacker Paradise, sweating in Lima, Peru eating all the chirimoya fruit and ceviche I could get my hands on. Some of the markets here have smaller, paler versions of chirimoya. I walk by them and think about buying one, but I choose to give it more time in hopes that next time they’ll be just a little bit bigger and little bit greener. I should make a shirt that says “#checkingoutyourchirimoya” so the shop owners know why I’m creepin on their fruit stand. It is comforting, at least, to know that my favorite South American fruit exists here, in some form—a nice reminder that you don’t always have to say goodbye to the things you love.
It was snowy in Budapest and Vienna, too. A couple weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to travel with two of my best friends, Shane and Liz. I know both of them from Austin; Liz is still living there, while Shane is in Ukraine with the Peace Corps. I’m used to traveling by myself, and I’m used to traveling with strangers, but traveling with friends, especially best friends, doesn’t happen very often. It’s hard to coordinate schedules and finances and desires, so when this trip started coming together, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
Traveling with people who know you and love you is such a different experience. I didn’t have to introduce myself to anyone or explain my background or worry about protecting myself. This time, I wasn’t watching the group of friends in the restaurant laughing at their inside jokes; I was the group in the restaurant laughing at our inside jokes! I felt out-of-body at times, just taking observing of the uniqueness of the situation.
Budapest and Vienna were lovely. I’d go back to both places, but I was really impressed by Budapest. It was smaller than Vienna and a little less polished, but still beautiful and fascinating and really fun. Did you know that Buda and Pest were two different cities, divided by the Danube, until they were united in 1873? The current city logo that you’ll see on public transportation has “Buda” on the left, the city crest in the middle, and “Pest” on the right. Also, if you want to sound really in-the-know, make sure you pronounce Pest as “pesht.”
The Buda side of Budapest is the rich side. It has the old castle, now converted into museums, and the government buildings. The Pest side is the cool side. It has the great bars and restaurants and coffeeshops and nightlife. The Pest side has “ruin bars.” These are bars built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. When you visit, I highly recommend visiting Szimpla Kert. It’s floor after floor and room after room of different themes. One room was a typical bar setup with cocktails; the next room was a dance floor; the next room was jungle-themed; the next was a craft beer bar. One room was a game room, and another was setup for smoking shisha (hookah). It just went on and on.
I also highly recommend eating all the goulash soup that you can. It is the most delicious soup I’ve had outside of Thailand. It’s savory and meaty and sometimes served with noodles and sometimes not. The best version I had was at Paprika. I’m going to learn how to make this and include a recipe in Little Spoon book.
After a few days, we were off to Vienna. Vienna is like the classy, older brother of Berlin. It’s a beautiful city with great public transportation and great food and lots of history. It’s definitely more expensive than Budapest, but for eight years in a row, it’s been voted highest quality of life in Europe. I can understand why.
My favorite experience was the evensong we attended at the English-speaking church, Christ Church. The service was fine, but afterwards, we were invited to the community building for sherry. I wasn’t sure I had heard the priest correctly. Did he say sherry? I was confused. Do people drink sherry? I’ve only ever used cooking sherry for chicken recipes.
We were told that usually they have a community meal after evening service, but, once a month, they have snacks and sherry, because that’s just what you do when you’re British and Anglican. Adding to my gleeful culture shock, this sherry wasn’t served out of plastic cups like Americans would use but from stemmed, sherry glasses. It was all so endearingly cute and proper and lovely.
The people were absolutely welcoming. Most were older Brits with a few Americans and Africans sprinkled throughout. I felt like I’d walked into an episode of Downtown Abby meets Father Brown, and I asked for and received hugs from all the grandmother-types.
You can watch the trip highlight video (it’s less than five minutes) above.
No matter where in the world you are today, no matter what weather you have, I’m hoping you can find great hugs and beautiful spaces and your favorite fruit. And if your life isn’t currently what you’d hoped it would be, remember that everything has it’s own pace. Sometimes, we can influence that pace, but most of the time, we can’t. It’s a lesson in learning when we can and remaining present when we can’t.
Until next week,