S. Rabbani: literary fiction, instructional articles, essays & translations
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From Budapest

By Sahand Rabbani


from Budapest: Hungarian goulash


Dear Friends,

Budapest, Hungary is a remarkable city: every block is dense with beautiful and colorful buildings. The people are kind. The drivers stop for even the most unentitled pedestrians. Unlike the cities in Romania, Budapest has an obvious vitality that reminds the visitor that it is constantly growing.

I arrived in Budapest on a flight from Köln-Bonn, Germany on the morning of the sixteenth day (May 6). Just coming off of the Romanian plague, I was careful with what I ate, but my throbbing craving for a delicious Hungarian goulash, which had followed me since the famine in Romania, threatened my recent progress. But I could not resist. Across the street from the recommended Carpe Noctem hostel was a small Thai-Hungarian bar that served free beer to hostel guests and also made a phenomenal goulash: a brothy stew of veal or beef with cooked carrots and potatoes and a generous serving of bread. In my two nights and three days in Budapest, I had four orders of this meal.

In Budapest, we formed a five-person team consisting of a recent Berkeley graduate, two '01 college grads from the States that had met up for a few weeks of travel, and a nineteen-year-old British boy on his gap year before uni. We explored the city together for three days before we headed our separate ways. Main activities included good Hungarian food, a night at the ballet, walks in the park, nights at the pub, and other exciting activities.

I joined the two '01 grads, Mary and Erin, on the train to Croatia on the eighteenth day (May 8). Mary is currently living in Rome, Italy pulling random jobs. Erin is finishing pharmacy school and has been working the last month in the UK. They are both American, classmates from college.

The train to the Croatian capital of Zagreb was to depart at 17:00. We had gotten to the station with fifteen minutes remaining, but the international rail ticket line was moving very slowly. We were convinced that we would not make the last train to Zagreb that night.

There was a large family and a single woman in front of us in line. The spokesperson for the family was discussing at length in Hungarian what seemed to be less than urgent matters. What was more, two women bound for Romania appeared in line and tried to wedge themselves in front of us with the excuse that their train was about to leave. I explained that our problem was urgent too and I secretly thought that there were worse things than missing a train to Romania.

The woman in front of us urged us to go ahead, and we rushed to buy our train tickets, Mary simply paying for mine to be repaid later since two transactions would have taken too long. We grabbed our tickets and emerged before the tracks at 17:00. Our platform was too far to reach by conventional methods if we were to catch the train. The conductor directed us to cross the train tracks to get to our platform. We threw our bags on board and jumped the vertical five-foot distance from the rail to the car in a manner redolent of the heroic feats of Indiana Jones. I was first on the train with my massive backpack. My companions then handed me the remainder of the luggage and boarded afterward.

The train started to move almost as soon as we had cleared the doors. I busted into one of the compartments and frantically and shamelessly yelled, "Zagreb?" A few people turned around and nodded. If we had been in Bulgaria, the nod would have had a sadder meaning, but we were fortunate to be on the correct train. The train was modern and clean in contrast to the train that runs the Transbalkan line that I had ridden from Sofia to Bucharest.

Sahand









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