On departure morning we had one more geo-political discussion over eggs sunny side up with Robert at Villa Korall and then loaded our car. We were not yet bound for our next stop, Croatia, though; once again we headed back to the Castle District. A friend of ours from Los Angeles was born in Hungary, and had arranged for us to meet his pal “Aniko,” who lives several blocks from the square with which we’d become so familiar. I cozied up to a local authority in order to park in a preferred space.
We met in front of the church and went for coffee at Pierrot, located “in the 13th Century Old Bakery House of the Medieval Castle District” according to its business card. Sitting en plein air, conversation was lively, and coffee meandered into lunch, which arrived in small but exquisite portions and was served with lovely local wine by an attentive staff.
As we were winding up our meal and meeting, a man hurried by our table. Hearing English, he stopped short. “Where are you from?” he asked. And so it began. We were about to get a world history lesson from this stranger, who revealed neither his name nor professional affiliation but spent the next thirty minutes arguing about the unjust
treatment of the Székelys (pronounced “say-kays”), a tribe mainly from eastern Transylvania, Romania. Asserting he was from aristocracy, and that land had been taken from his people, he is preparing to take legal action against responsible parties. We are
not talking about short term grudges here: he went back to the breaking of The
Golden Bull of 1326, to confiscation of lands under the Law of War, and more. Our new buddy argued heatedly with him about his take on the issues, but he repeatedly insulted her, disdainfully saying she held a typically “Magyar” view, and was ignorant of her own Hungarian history. I half-expected Keith to slap the guy in the face with his glove and arrange to duel at dawn, not on his own behalf (they were having a good dialogue), but on poor Aniko’s.
“That was amazing!” Keith said as we later drove out of town. “It was just like the book!” He was referring to Culture Shock Hungary: A Survival Guide to Etiquette and Customs by Zsuzsanna Ordó. In it she writes of the volatile encounters so representative of the Hungarian people. They will debate a point relentlessly until you think the participants will come to blows. Then it’s over and they part as though no disagreement ever occured. Too traumatic for my taste.
So it was nice to clear the air and drive through the emerald green farmland between Budapest and Zagreb. We arrived at about five o’clock in the late afternoon, and did a booking.com search, deciding on the Hotel Laguna. We got lost, saw a dead rat on the sidewalk, and finally located the hotel. Happy to be out of the car, we nonetheless were a bit trepidatious.
And this was a three star.
(Pierrot, www.pierrot.hu, open every day 11-midnight)