In Budapest for Fulbright Orientation

James and Margaret at Castle Hill on the "Buda" side of Budapest.

This post is mostly about our trip to Budapest.  You can go directly to a gallery of  Budapest photos here.

When we landed in Budapest a few weeks ago, it was overcast and hot, we were worn out from the flight over, and the cab ride from the airport to the train station was not was I would call particular “scenic.”  In fact, the place looked pretty beat up — overgrown weeds and out-of-control trees and bushes everywhere, and lots of run-down buildings.  The cab driver dropped us off at the train station (with our 5 giant pieces of luggage) and we shlepped to the train that would eventually, hopefully, take us to Pecs.  As the train pulled out of the station, I looked out the window (it was spitting rain, now), thinking, where is this wonderful city I’ve heard so much about? Then it occurred to me that someone flying into O’Hare won’t get any indication of what downtown Chicago is like just by stepping out of the airport.   So we left Budapest without really seeing “Budapest” and made our way to Pecs.

We came back to Budapest a few days later to begin 5 days of Fulbright Orientation — this is when we really got to see the city.  And it’s a BEAUTIFUL city.  The orientation mostly consisted of full days of  history/political/cultural lectures, language lessons a the Fulbright offices, plus meals and tours.  On Tuesday we attended a reception at the home of Ed Loo, the “Public Affairs Officer” from the American embassy and met the American Ambassador to Hungary (a woman who seemed too young to be an ambassador).  Ed Loo’s home is on the hilly, green “Buda” side of Budapast, across the Danube from the very urban, congested “Pest” (pronounced “Pesht”) side.

Margaret and I at the home of Ed Loo, the Embassy's Public Affairs Officer in Budapest.

Margaret discusses international affairs with someone at the Public Affairs Officer's home.

We also met Mark Canning, the US Embassy Budapest Office Attache for Environment, Science, Technology and Health at the reception – he looks to be around 50 and hasn’t lived in the US for nearly 30 years.  Every three years he’s sent to another country, along with his family, to oversee the State Department activities in those areas.  Very interesting guy — fluent in at least 6 languages (including Russian, Chinese and Farsi) — and he’s invited us back to Budapest to hang out with his family for a weekend (he has 14 and 16 year old sons).  Hopefully we’ll be able to do that.

Here are some photos from our time in Budapest:

This is the Hungarian Parliament building on the Danube in Budapest. I took the photo from Castle Hill on the other side of the river.

These shoes are part of a monument to the Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the Danube by the Arrow Cross Party in 1944.

You can learn more about this Shoes Monument here – its a pretty gruesome story.  I also have several more photos in the Budapest Gallery.

I didn't know that Hungary was a sort of Pepper capital of the world. They grow (and cook with) and amazing array of peppers.

It might be hard to see in the photo, but there's a part of this horse's anatomy that is shinier than the rest. That's because students rub this area for good luck before tests.

This keystone is atop the entrance of a small shop in Szentendre, a little town in the Danube Bend region north of Budapest. The 4 underneath the date was used to indicate the percentage profit the shopkeeper would add to all transactions. Talk about transparency -- maybe we should revisit this idea.

This is James standing high above the Danube in Visegrad, where Dracula (aka Vlad the Impaler) was imprisoned.

This building still has the pock-marks from bullets fired during the revolution of 1956 when students took to the streets.

I took this photo from the tour bus. Those are Roman ruins in front of the giant apartment complex. Does anyone else find that strange?

This is shot of the "Fulbrighters" and their families who are in Hungary this year -- they're a pretty amazing bunch. The photo was taken in Hero's Square in Budapest.


About patster66

I'm visiting Pécs, Hungary with my wife and son for the Fall 2010 semester. My wife, Margaret McMullan, received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and do research at the University of Pécs. My 13 year old son is attending a semi-bilingual school here called the ANK where I am teaching English Language and Drama to 4th - 8th graders 2 days a week.
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