Friday, August 13, 2004


Zsolty asked me to the Sziget festival Tuesday night with him and his wife Anita. We were all a little tired at the outset. As we looked at the never-ending queue of cars all headed to the island in front of us, Zsolty and I grumbled that we didn't like sweaty people touching us. Part of me wished I had just stayed home and read, and I wondered if I was too old to be still going to these things. But I felt like I needed to go, to experience this music festival that has become a Budapest summer tradition.

It took an hour just to get our tickets and get through the two checkpoints for the armbands. Once we were inside, we ate at Wabisabi, a vegetarian restaurant on the Pest side which had a venue at the festival. They had tents and tables set up with bean bags and candlelight, and the three of us ate our pesto paella and ginger rice, drank our "spicy lemonade," and we all perked up. The island was swarming. Zsolty wanted to know if it qualified as "pandemonium." Apparently, it was more crowded than the other nights, maybe because it was the last night of the festival or maybe because everyone wanted to see Faithless. Before we went to the main stage, we stockpiled wine in plastic jugs at a wine bar and met up with some other Hungarian friends. Then we headed for the main stage, and by then the spicy lemonade, the wine, the night, the swarming, the sweatiness, and the music all made for buzzing giggling excitement.

I didn't know who Faithless was, to the incredulity of my friends. I'm pretty sure that to them admitting this was tantamount to saying, "Hi, I'm the biggest nerd east of the Danube." After the show, I heard my friends speaking, and I kept hearing them say kurtoskolacs, kurtoskolacs,..I don't know how to type an o or u with the little dots, but written phonetically it would be something like kurtushkolloch. It's a Transylvanian specialty I think. (Transylvania was a part of Hungary before the 1919 Treaty). Traditionally, dough is wrapped around a bottle and baked in an extremely hot oven. But sometimes and at the Sziget festival, it's baked around a metal pipe. Then you choose what sort of condiment you want it rolled in: nuts or cinnamon sugar.

I'm so glad I went. I've heard some other expats complain that it's difficult to make Hungarian friends, and this is probably true, so I feel lucky to have Zsolty and Anita as friends. They're not simply useful guides into the Hungarian culture. I would be friends with them anywhere and under any circumstances, even amongst sweaty people.


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