Surrendering in Budapest

toddrappart merappart

Second in a series of posts…

August 17 —Wallace Stephens wrote of “Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair.” Though we were in Budapest, I recognized the feeling as my husband and I drank beer on a sunny deck by the river (even if it sounds less poetic).

It still seemed impossible: that a lumbering 747 could produce enough thrust to lift three-quarters of a million pounds (give or take) high into the sky. And keep it there. Or that the former kid from Tacoma, Washington would be have the money for travel or a husband of more than 30 years to share beer with in Budapest. Sometimes you think to yourself, “How did I get here?

The speakers of the Rappart bar thumped out something modern. Above us, three couples leaned against the concrete railing of the Chain Bridge. I admired them, young and in love (or at least lust). Lives were in progress here, on the other side of the planet. Which was a stupid thought. At any moment more than 7 billion lives are in progress. Less than a half percent of them live in the United States. I can’t even do the math for Sacramento.


When the waiter stopped by to see if we wanted to order food — thankfully he spoke English — I looked in consternation at the menu. I didn’t want to order something as American as a hamburger, but I had no idea what some of the items were. Normally I do research before a trip to find out about the local specialties. But this trip was different than our norm. We were going on a river cruise, where most of the decisions would be made for us. How do you prepare for seeing almost a country a day? Answer: you don’t. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about it, this canned kind of travel experience, but I also knew we needed a deep rest. Time to surrender.

So we ordered salad with smoked grilled cheese. I expected something like halloumi, but this was gamier, smokier. A few bites went a long way, but the bed of greens, lightly dressed in vinaigrette, hit the spot.

Before returning to the hotel, we walked across the bridge. Pedestrian lanes on both sides were crowded with workers, families, tourists like us. The breeze washed over all. No one seemed in any rush.


We slowed, admiring the bike-chain-like links that suspend the road platform between giant stone archways. And suddenly I remembered how the bike chain on my first three-speed bike used to always slip off. How my fingers would get greasy as I’d sit on the ground feeding the links around the teeth of the gear mechanism. The bike — my freedom — took me everywhere I could imagine going.

Next: Turned Around in Budapest

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