Our Tauck Tour Begins


Fourth in a series of posts

August 18, Budapest — Our hotel room was equipped with a Rubik’s cube. This seemed a strange feature until the third mention of its inventor in the context of Hungary’s important creators and scientists. It was mentioned in the same breath as the developer of the ballpoint pen, the scientist who identified Vitamin C (isolated from paprika) and the “father of the Hydrogen bomb.” Nowhere else would the Hydrogen bomb and the Rubik’s cube appear in the same sentence.

Our “cruise” (a combination of land and river touring) kicked off that evening with a reception at the Akademia Club. We walked in to lively music played by what the tour guide described as a Gypsy band. (Much later in the trip there was a discussion about the appropriateness of using the term “Gypsy” rather than “Roma” but it seemed to be in wide colloquial use.)

They certainly looked the part, though the effect was a little dissonant when I realized they were playing “New York, New York.”

Waiters choreographed the service of the various courses, each of which was paired with a wine. When Todd tried to pass on the white that was meant for the soup course, the waiter made it very clear that white was the thing to be had.

Todd put his hand on top of the white wine glass and pointed at his red wine glass. “No white,” he said. “Red wine.”

“No,” said the waiter. “White wine.” His face clouded.

Then he whipped Todd’s red wine glass off the table.

After the waiter left the room, one of his colleagues glanced over his shoulder and brought Todd a fresh glass, then filled it with red wine.

Dinner was good: lettuce and grapefruit salad, cream of mushroom soup, veal, and chocolate ganache with vanilla ice cream. We particularly enjoyed MA’D, the off-dry white wine (felszaraz feher bor) wine from Tokaj Harslevelu, and the Signature red 2013 from Malatinsky Kuria, an organic wine estate in the Villany region.

Our tour guide, Hollie, tried to teach us how to say “cheers” in Hungarian but our American mouths collapsed on the vowels. “Egészségére” comes out something like “eggy sheg-eeruh.” Hungarian has 44 letters including 14 vowels and more than 20 different forms of verb conjugation. “Thank you,” thankfully, was easier. Köszönöm is pronounced “kuh se nem.”

Akademia Club Decor

Akademia Club Decor

Next: The Holy Hand, Tiny Blades of Grass and Ravens

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