So I took off for Visegrad yesterday. The Danube, like many things in life, is strikingly beautiful when the sun hits it, and muddy upon further inspection.
I took a ferry across the river and into Visegrad, which is a charming town that winds with the river.
There is a castle at the top of the hill, but I only had ballet flats, thanks to rule # 2361 when travelling: don't be too prepared. Normally, I am not much for rules, but I follow this one to a T. No way were those puppies making it up the hill.
Look at this rusty green-capped building!
Pisti, whose qualifications include film afficianado, Hungarian literature teacher at the gimnazium, and my Hungarian tutor, took the same train as I did to Budapest. Thank goodness (or really, just thank Pisti), because I didn't really know where I was going. No big surprise there -- this is my usual state.
Dragon cloud about to chomp down on the moon!
I am tree, hear me roar! Or at least, look at my scowl.
Now that you've seen dragon cloud and grumpy tree, let's move onto the main event in my Visegrad stay: the jazz festival.
I saw a local flyer for a jazz festival, with a free show in the park, and I was stoked. My usual self/universe-congratulatory dialogue started: "Wow, my life is so great! This kind of thing is always happening to me! A jazz festival on the day I am in Visegrad? Shucks!"
I walked the path along the river, strolling past families splashing in the water and 2,000 too many couples sating their appetites for love (a.k.a sucking face; PDA is pandemic in Hungary) on picnic blankets, and that's when I heard it.
I would know it anywhere, and you would too.
You Can Leave Your Hat On
It totally makes sense that they played this song, this jazz classic, because hello! we're at a jazz festival.
Oh my god, Hungary, you make no sense!!
Let me set the scene for you. I was too entranced (or maybe dumbfounded) to take pictures.
We are in a "park" which is really just a patch of green grass. About 20 white plastic lawn chairs sit in front of the stage, and around 10 vendors are selling clothes, pottery, and sausages.
On stage, a guy who can only be described as "beefy" wears a black Harley Davidson t-shirt that hugs his mound of a belly, and a rock-star grimace. He thrusts his white handkerchief in the air before using it to wipe his forehead just above his glasses. He is trying to be Eddie Vedder, and it is not a success. To back him up, we have Bandanna-Man, a guy with long sandy brown hair covered with a black bandanna. He wears camouflage cargo shorts and his head rocks up and down as he stands in the power stance. He could be 14 years old, playing air guitar in his living room, and I kind of wish he was. Apparently, so does everyone else, because the applause is pitiful.
The drummer and bassist complete the band both musically and aesthetically. The drummer has impressive 70s-style-hair: long sun-blonde curls (I smell a perm) and the bassist is clearly the most bad-ass of them all. A shaved head, AC/DC shirt, and tattooed sleeves. They cover classic rock songs with gusto.
Where am I again? In Hungary, right? At a jazz festival?
Suddenly I am not too sure.
But either way, I'm amused.
I was positively charmed by these hillside houses.
I walked through the town to a local cemetery. Two women tend gravestone flowers. Teal plastic watering cans hang by their elbows, next to a hose. Jo napot kivanok, a woman smiles to me. I do the same. I am looking at all of the names and the dates, overgrown flowers pushing their way to the sun.
What I am really thinking about is the Holocaust, about all of the names and dates we don't know. I have been reading Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees, and I am queasy as I walk through the cemetery.
I wonder whose flowers she is tending.
I heard a story on NPR about a woman in Maine who goes to the cemetery to scrub grave stones, the shock green and black of lichen disguising the names. She spends hours each day scrubbing. At the time of the interview, she had cleaned over 1,000 gravestones. I wonder who will kneel in front of her grave, scrubbing.