I’m back in Edinburgh, back at The McGregor, and looking for a place to live. I’ve decided, for now, to move into a hostel until I have a bit more money, thus delaying my dream of putting my clothes in a drawer (ohhhh, the luxury).
Today I opened up my notebook from my two-month trip and decided to post here some entries, to fill in some of the gaps. I’ll start with when I was staying with Irina in Zalagaerszeg, Hungary.
October 20, 2009
I took the bus to Heviz for the day, and spent a few hours in the mineral lake. The pool inside, down in a pit it seemed, was 31 degrees and full of seniors and families, all clinging to metal railings around the outside. When a bell chimed, to the tune of the grace we used to sing at Girl Guide camp, everyone would shift one space to the left. (So no one hogged the good railing spots? I don’t know). One man had a great laugh – a rolling chuckle – a purple swim cap, sun glasses, a white mustache and side burns that grew down past his jawline. The canteen sold kebabs, beer, and Jager shots.
Outside in the lake was 27 degrees, and I doggy paddled around the building, past flowering lily pads and the bobbing, brightly-coloured swim-capped heads of Hungarian pensioners. I had one side of the lake to myself, and lay on my back; with my ears underwater I could hear only the metallic slap of my feet in the water as I paddled in circles. I stared up at the thickly-clouded grey sky and tried to think, really think, about what I want to do with my life. I didn’t get very far.
I’m on the train to Zagreb, sipping grape juice that’s on its way to being wine. Irina gave it to me. I am in love with these Hungarian women who have looked after me this week – who have housed and fed me, made me laugh hysterically, shown and taught me so much. I’ve eaten scads of Hungarian food and have no idea what any of it is called – like the greasy potato pancake that was so tasty but would have killed me if I’d eaten all of it, smothered as it was in sour cream, fried onions, cheese and pork. Pastries filled with cottage cheese or walnuts or cakes layered with chocolate. Pasta + potatoes + paprika.
Hungarians are polite, welcoming, willing to play charades with hopelessly English-speaking backpackers. If Judit and Irina are any indication, they will give you everything they have without hesitation or question, make you feel as if you’ve always known them, and then kiss you on both cheeks and get you to your train on time.