Under the heading of starting your blog with a bang...
I'll skip the details of our arrival in Budapest, our apartment search, our new place, and various adventures to begin with the Hideous Revenge of St Stephen, as experienced by Rick and I and the entire drunk population of Budapest on Sunday last. (If you start hanging out with british expatriates enough, you start to think in phrases like "Sunday last" without trying to be cute. I can't decide if this is a problem with or fringe benefit of our move.)
St. Stephen's Day is the Hungarian equivalent of the Fourth of July, St. Stephen being, apparently, the Patron Saint of Hungary. Rick and I learned all about his life by watching a psychedelic hungarian cartoon on MTV (that's Magyar TV) in honor of the holiday. Apparently St. Stephen was the leader of a pack of merry bad-ass tribal warriors who looted and pillaged their way across a gigantic medieval map of central europe, clashing frequently with (potentially Turkish?) barbarians adversaries. He enjoyed wild pagan ceremonies such as feasting on graves and watching men dance in gigantic masks made out of hair. At some point he converted to Christianity; we know this because he grew a halo, and because one of Stephen's fellow bad asses killed a barbarian warrior by imapling him through the eye with a cross. (Now that's gangsta.)
The climax of the story comes when St. Stephen, out hunting one day, has a vision of a giant golden stag. The stag's horns turn into candles, and then the face of the stag transforms into Jesus. The horns turn into wings, and when the stag speaks, the words (all gibberish to us) stream out of its mouth like climbing flower tendrils, which blossom and drift gently back to earth. St. Stephen decides to try to shoot the stag (!) and chases after it. The stag becomes a constellation, and St. Stephen and his buddies, chasing after it, also float up into the night sky, and their bodies become constellations too. For about three minutes they chases Antler-Candelabra-Jesus over hill and dale, across a huge river where they have to jump from ice floe to ice floe, until finally the stag turns into a sun-cross on top of a hill. This hill becomes (we think) the future site of the city of Buda. After the cartoon, Rick remembered that the Grateful Dead had written a song about St. Stephen, and I realized that this legend must be the source of the Jaegermeister logo.
At any rate, here's what happens on St. Stephen's day:
1. Catholics parade through the city with the withered hand of St. Stephen
2. There is an olden-timey air race with quaint daredevil airplanes, sponsoroed by Red Bull
It was a beautiful day:
As night fell, the entire population of the city walked down to the Danube to get a good view of the fireworks. We found a grassy seat with Ben and Elizabeth and a bunch of Swedish tourists, and prepared to watch the show. But about two minutes before the fireworks were slated to begin, we saw lighting over the Buda hills, and felt a cold breeze rushing towards us. About a minute into the fireworks, the wind started blowing water up the embankment into the streets. A few seconds later, the hardest, most driving rain I've ever felt. The entire crowd ran as fast as it could for shelter. The fireworks didn't stop (Rick tells me they'll go off even in water); they sounded like bombs. The wind blew the sparks through the streets. Branches flew off trees, cafe chairs hurdled through the air, Rick was hit in the head by a flying beer can. Within thirty seconds we were completely soaked, and the rain just didn't stop. "WHERE'S MY HAND???" Rick intoned.
It took about a half-hour to get home through streets flooded with water and people--everyone completely soaked, and disoriented, and trying to get home. Nice little tourist girls taking shelter in strip clubs, and families trying to stay together, and every intersection underpass packed to the gills with people. A disaster movie. We drank green tea and watched folkloric dancing and baton twirlers on TV, with breaks for trying to decipher St Stephen documentaries.
6 months ago