One week. That’s it. I have one week left. How surreal.
We’ve finally been getting really hot summer days, so the boys and I have been having almost daily water fights with some of the neighbors. It’s a little bit complicated since we didn’t have water guns at first, so we made do with buckets, but now we’ve got some pretty serious firepower and I’m looking forward to a rematch! One neighbor boy, Kevin, wouldn’t stop shooting me in the face as I was trying to put sunscreen on Jakob, so I warned him to stop. He didn’t. I warned him again, he kept shooting. I told him the next time it happened I was going to take his gun away. He shot me again. I ran him down, tackled him, stole his gun, and sprayed him for a good long time. Then I realized I was shooting a ten-year-old who was curled up in the fetal position to protect himself, so I gave the gun to his little sister. She continued shooting him. I felt less bad.
Elfa, my Icelandic friend who used to work here as an au pair, and her friend Fanney came to visit in May. They were doing a grand tour of Europe—Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London—and took a couple days to come visit tiny little Rheinzabern to see me! It was wonderful to see Elfa again, I’ve really missed her. We didn’t really do anything exciting, lots of talking and catching up, going out to eat/drink/get ice cream at all the places we used to go to, etc. but it was a ton of fun. Their last night here we went to Stoevchen, our favorite bar in Karlsruhe, with Alex and Bianka, and Elfa and Fanney tried to teach us Icelandic, while we tried to teach Fanney German. It was…hard. But hilarious. Fanney kept trying to practice her new German on our waitress and they ended up having this exchange at the end of the night:
Fanney: Ich moechte bitte bezahlen. (I would like to pay, please.)
Waitress: Moechtest nur du bezahlen oder alles? (Would only you like to pay, or everyone?)
Fanney: Um….Oh! Ja! Ja! Du moechte bezahlen! (Yes! You want to pay!)
Sadly, despite Fanney’s persuasive skills, the waitress did not pay our tab. The next day I drove them to the train station to send them on their way to Paris, and that was really sad because last time Elfa and I said goodbye it was like “Hey, see you in a couple months.” And this time it was like “Hey, see you….sometime. Eventually. I hope.” And that sucks. But it’s okay, it just means I have to save up enough money to go to Iceland after I’ve saved up enough money to go to Chile and before I save up enough money to come back and visit Germany. Or something.
I just got back yesterday from a four day trip to Budapest, and an overnight in Munich. Kirilee found super cheap Ryanair tickets to Budapest, so while her husband was in Spain and Rob was busy we decided to go on a girl’s trip to Hungary. It was fantastic. Our first night was funny. It was very relaxed, we flew in, found our hostel (eventually. Our vague directions turned a 3 minute walk into a half hour walk, but the people at McDonald’s were very helpful, which is probably the first and last time I will praise McDonald’s), and went out for dinner at a delicious vegetarian/vegan restaurant called…I can’t remember. Something starting with “M” that means “cat” in Magyar (Hungarian). But when we finally found the street our hostel was on, we turned the corner, and there was a man injecting something into his stomach with a huge needle. Kirilee made teased me about being a “naïve Nellie” the rest of the trip because I mentioned that he was probably diabetic and injecting insulin. Insulin or something more sinister, it was quite the “Welcome to Budapest!”
Budapest is a gorgeous old city straddling the Danube River. It’s actually two cities, Buda and Pest, one on each bank of the river, that have grown into one, so, while they are similar, there are some definite differences in ambiance between the two. We were staying in the younger, grungier Pest side, on the eastern shore, and our first day we hiked to almost all the major monuments in Pest. We saw the enormous synagogue, St. Stephen Basilica, Parliament, the Danube, Margret Island, Heroes Square, City Park, Andrassy Avenue, and the Szechenyi Baths, one of the Roman-style bath houses Budapest is famous for. By the time we reached the baths we’d been walking for something like ten hours, and a nice long soak was exactly what we needed. I’ve never been to a more beautiful swimming pool. Really, all of the monuments/places I just listed are breathtaking. I’d elaborate, but I think it would be easier with pictures, so I’ll post those soon! First I want to steal Kirilee’s, too, though, because she’s a rather more prolific photographer than I am… We went for dinner that night at a fancy vegan restaurant, and finally arrived back at the hostel after a 14 hour day. On the way back we passed a sketchy exchange of money/paper bags in a car on a small side street and Kirilee quipped “Look, Domino, an insulin deal!” Smart ass.
Friday, still footsore, we decided to rent bikes. We cycled to the Central Market Hall (in Pest) to do a little shopping, and I got the most delicious/disgusting pastry I’ve ever eaten. It was a thin layer of eggy crust, an enormous slab of custard topped by an even more enormous slathering of whipped cream covered by a layer of caramel-y butterscotch-y candied sugar. YUM! It was so thick I literally never tasted all of the layers at once. Delicious. Then we biked across the Danube to Buda and cycled up Castle Hill, which is quite the climb but totally worth it. The views of the city from the top are beautiful, plus the Royal Palace, Matthias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion are all perched there. Again, I’ll elaborate more with pictures later.
Friday night we went to the Hungarian National Opera, which was amazingly cheap, and really, really good. We saw Verdi’s “Macbeth,” which I was unfamiliar with, and I can’t say it’s my favorite opera—the witches have a much more influential role in convincing Macbeth to kill King Duncan than Lady Macbeth does, which robs her character of a lot of depth and psychological layers, I think—but the music was phenomenal and the cast wonderful. Kirilee was a good sport about it. It was her first opera, and not exactly her thing, but she stayed without complaint until intermission, when we decided it was time to go out and experience some of Budapest’s famed nightlife (it’s considered one of the best party cities in Europe). We headed back to the hostel to pick up jackets and have a quick drink at the bar, and ended up meeting some of the hostel staff who invited us to go out with them. What better way to experience the authentic Budapest scene than with two Hungarians and a Frenchman who’s been living in Budapest for the past year? It started with Susie (nicknamed Sushi) the bartender at the hostel bar giving us complimentary shots of Palinka, Hungary’s national drink. Then Peter, her boss and the other Hungarian, springing for shots of higher quality poppy-flavored Palinka for all of us, then they took us out to two (three?) underground Budapest bars. Try as we might, they refused to let us buy any drinks, and were really interesting and excited to show us around the city. At the last bar Achoo (the Frenchman. I think his name was actually Artieu, but when he introduced himself all I heard was Achoo, so that’s what I called him all night. He didn’t seem to mind.) bought us shots of Absinthe, which is something I’ve been curious about since Ukraine when all of my friends drank it, and I did not, which was absolutely the right decision then, but since it’s illegal in the States and I’m obsessed with “Moulin Rouge!” it’s something that I felt like I had to try now that the opportunity had once again presented itself. It was awful. And I didn’t hallucinate a single green fairy. But now I can say I’ve tried it, and that was the point. We danced awhile, and then struck out in search of food. Ended up getting delicious falafel wraps at a kebab place where we met three really funny guys from Trinidad who were trying to find their hostel but didn’t know the address. After I proved that I knew where Trinidad was (in the Caribbean), and knew the capital (Port-of-Spain), they told me I was very smart for an American. Easily one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received. By then it was quite late (or early, depending on your point of view), so Achoo showed us back to the hostel, which was very nice considering we had no idea where in the city we were.
Saturday we caught our return flight to Munich, and I got to visit Tatiana in her new apartment finally! We had a quiet night in catching up, drinking sangria, and watching the second half of “The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns,” a hilarious “Romeo and Juliet”-esque TV movie from the 90’s that I think I wrote about before because we started it waaay back in like October or November and just now finished it. But if I haven’t mentioned it before, go find it on Netflix and watch it now. It’s so bad it’s amazing.
Sunday Tatiana showed me around some of the sights of Munich that I missed last time I was there. She took me to the University, the English Garden, another park I’ve forgotten the name of, and then we got incredible frozen yogurt. Then I had to leave, but it wasn’t goodbye because she’s moving back to Karlsruhe on the 6th! YAY!
Now I’m back in Rheinzabern and have spent most of the day catching up on sleep. The boys come home in a couple hours, though, so I should probably unpack so I can do laundry so I can start packing again in the next couple days… Eek! But I’m also starting to get really excited about seeing all my friends in NYC and then back in the Midwest. I’ve been away a long time.