While sitting at a restaurant tonight, an old man near me exclaimed, "Anything is better than American!"
He was talking about food, I'm pretty sure, and I sort of agree. America is lacking a defining food.
The thing is, I think he's Scottish. The Scottish menu is, well, something I tried to avoid while I was there. To act like haggis is better than a cheeseburger just does not fly.
I, however, ate neither haggis nor a burger tonight. I ate Transylvanian goulash. (Bet you didn't know that Dracula was actually Hungarian.) Goulash is a traditional Hungarian dish that I did not like when my mom made it when I was growing up. This goulash, which I did like, had a few advantages -- authentic Hungarian ingredients, authentic Hungarian cook, not being consumed by a bratty child.
There was also something on the menu called greasy bread. I didn't order it. I will not be ordering it.
Budapest thus far is quite nice. For one thing, I ate outside at 8 p.m. It hasn't been pleasant to be out at 8 since I left Utah. I also got to see some of the city trekking to my hostel, since I, unbeknownst to me, picked the farthest train station from said hostel.
And, when I was walking around tonight with my map and my usual confused air, I attracted the attention of an off-duty tour guide, who showed me the largest synagogue in Europe, pointed out the areas that sell overpriced Chinese imports to tourists and told me what sights to make sure and visit. He did not rob me. I was relieved.
He did, however, tell me that there was a science experiment done in a cave under Budapest wherein 20 male scientists and 20 female scientists were left there for two months and their sexual behavior observed. Apparently lack of sunlight is bad for sex drives. I don't know if he shares that on his regular tours.
My morning in Keszthely was mostly uneventful, although I did get menaced by a swan. I'd just put my things down on a bench when it approached and growled. Yes, tge swan growled. It also hissed at a dog later. Thing was scary. I went on a boat ride around Lake Balaton, the largest lake in continental Europe outside of Scandinavia. I got on the right train, which shouldn't have been that hard because my train was the only one leaving in the 1 p.m. hour, but there were two trains on the same track and I kept second-guessing which direction I was going. I eventually decided to just get on the same train the other people were getting on. Like I said, it was the only train leaving in the next hour.
The first stop was the same station where I sat on the wrong car as my train left.
Except something was wrong. We stopped, and stayed stopped. People had opened up the windows and were looking out. The train shut off. I heard noises eerily similar to those of last night when the train was being separated. And I sort of freaked out. For the next 25 minutes, I sat as people got on and off, I looked out the window and I wondered why the train god thought this was a funny joke.
Then we started going again and everything was fine.
I'm very excited about tomorrow. There's going to be some hill climbing and another castle and lots of new history. And maybe more people to comment on my European name. (Twice today someone pointed out that my last name is Hungarian, once that my first name is German. I only told three people my name today.)
Oh, the bathroom stories! I forgot this last night and can add onto it today. Yesterday at the shady train station I followed the WC signs to the bathroom. They're in the back, in a separate building, looking even shadier. We're talking beyond rural highway gas station questionable. I walked into the women's bathroom just as a man was walking out of one of the stalls. I apologized, backed out, looked at the signs, confirmed I was in the women's, waited a second for him to come out, walked a few steps then turned back. The man had come through a door connecting the two and was watching me. Like I was the weirdo. I could see the bathroom from the track, and the man just sat outside it. I don't know if he was collecting money, but I do know that I will not be using a bathroom in a foreign country guarded by a strange man. Get a machine!
I remembered this today at the beach as I walked toward a bathroom and discovered a young man standing outside if it. I was beginning to wonder what on earth was wrong with these people. He, I discovered a few minutes later, was just waiting for a friend. Way less creepy. I doubled back only to find the women's bathroom locked.
So I did what any reasonable person would do. I used the men's and tried not to touch anything.