I'm having a bit of trouble with the Hungarian keyboards and it's causing me problems with logging on to my e-mail. I can do it from some internet cafes, but not others, and I'm not sure why.
Keyboards have not been my only problem. I've had an enormous problem with using ATMs here. I've tried virtually every bank in town with no success. It was weighing on my mind so much that I had dreams about it last night.
This morning I got up deciding to solve the problem once and for all. I heard from a tourist at the spa yesterday that he had luck with Citibank. No problem, just find the ATM, right? But all he could remember was that it was in downtown Pest. I checked the phonebook this morning and started walking. Two hours later I was no closer to finding it. I finally decided to get some pastry and tea to boost my spirits, and what do you know? There it was, right across the square from Gerbaud's! Mission accomplished. I've found the one ATM in Budapest I can use.
Instead of getting pastry, I decided to just go get an early lunch. On my way to a restaurant in the Jewish quarter known for serving "home-style" cooking, I stumbled onto the Rumbach St. synagogue, which is undergoing restorations. There were some people already there and one was describing the way it used to look when he was a boy. Turns out he and his wife live in England, but both survived the Holocaust. He was 9 when in 1944, he was imprisoned in the Budapest ghetto. His wife was from Vienna and she asked me if I visited the 2nd district. I showed her my photos of the deportation square in Vienna and she told me that that was her school (the Nazis had used the Jewish school as their headquarters for liquidating the Jewish community of Vienna). We all talked for quite a while and then left.
So in the end it worked out. If I hadn't done all that running around earlier, I wouldn't have been in a position to meet them.
I made my way to Klauzel ter, where the restaurant is. This part of the VII district was the center of the ghetto and the buildings look like they haven't been repaired since. The restaurant, Kadar Etkezde, specializes in country cooking. I decided to order off the Hungarian menu and got something called Vardas. It was slices of pot roast accompanied by two large dumplings and covered in a paprika sauce. I like paprika, but they tend to overdue it a bit here so that paprika becomes the only flavor. The meal wasn't bad, though, and I got a kick out of the seltzer bottles on the table (which I used).
Afterwards, I stopped at a Cukraszda for dessert. I think it's Hungarian for "sweet shop." I got something called meggyes retes. It was delicious. It's basically a bar-shaped dessert, with the bottom layer being flaky pastry dough, then a layer of sweet poppy seeds, then a layer of sour cherries, and finally a pastry dough latice on top. Yummy (and only 120 forint, or about 60 cents).
I decided to try the second spa, the Kiraly, so went back to my hotel to get my swim suit and towel. This spa is single-sex and is only open to men certain days of the week. The main reason I wanted to see it was that it dates from the Ottoman period (the dome over the main pool is something like 500 years old. The clientele, however, were basically what we call AKs (almost no one under 70). The water had a faint smell of rotten eggs to it, which means it has sulfer in it (like the spa at Ein Gedi in Israel, but not as intense). I stayed for a while and went back to the hotel to change.
I went to the Hungarian State Opera tonight. I saw on Sunday that they were doing Mozart's Cosi fan Tutti, and decided to get a ticket. I was in nose bleed seats, but I had a good view of the stage and the sound was great. The Opera House was built in the last quarter of the 19th century and is incredible. Lots of gold leaf and flying puttis and cherubs. Supposedly there are lots of masonic symbols in the frescoes but I didn't recognize them.
I went for an early dinner before the curtain. I wanted something lighter and had a nice beef broth soup and then pasta with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, pignoli and parmesan. It hit the spot. I'm going to get a last dessert now and then head back to the hotel before the trams stop running.