Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Name:
Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Now I travel extensively, and have been to more than 65 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on amazon.com. I have made friends from all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met, past, present and hopefully in the future.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Busy Four Months in Budapest

I returned from Athens on January 4, 2009. I didn’t do any more traveling until late April, when I decided to spend a month in Spain. I’d been to Madrid and Barcelona, but never to southern Spain, so I thought I’d base in Sevilla and venture out from there. I hopped on the Internet and found a room in a flat near central Seville, at the amazing price of just 380 euro for a month! Incredible. Plus, the flight I found there was only a touch over $400, so my month was already a bargain-hunter’s dream. Until then, I’ll hunker down and save some money and enjoy the winter social season in Budapest.
Which, by the way, turned out to be a whirl through mid-April. There were times when I was out every night for a week or more on end. Parties, dinners, meetings, pubs, concerts, rugby, football, soirees, wine-tastings, chambers of commerce events, movies, theater – it never seemed to end. After somewhat of a social drought since my trip to Malta, it was back in the saddle again. The Viking Club still meets the first Thursday of each month, and I caught most of their pub gatherings. Lots of new people, and many old friends. I also got the chance to attend some salon concerts sponsored by a Finnish friend. I hadn’t been to these in awhile, but it was nice to get back. One such concert featured old friend Hiroko Ishimoto, a Japanese pianist I’ve known for several years.
The Britannia Club also welcomed us all back on January 9. By January 23, the Friday night crowds had grown to 40-plus, and the Club seems to be well on its way back to the glory days of the early 21st Century. Membership is up again and people are coming back. We had another pub quiz evening in March, put on by the Club and emceed by myself and friend Stuart McAlister, as we’ve done in the past.
During January my then-newest book also came out; it’s entitled Travels with Myself and is available on amazon.com. It is a collection of all of my Newsletters and Blogs since leaving Los Angeles in 1985, 23 years of adventures, moves, travels and general fun stuff. For interested parties, I now also have a personal book website: www.glukatch.com. Look me up and find out something about all of my books. It appears I now have an oeuvre. In addition, yet another of my new books appeared on the Net in late March: If You Can’t Take a Joke…, a collection of jokes and stories and other humorous material received by me over the years via email. Good for reading a few pages then putting down until the mood strikes you again. Excellent companionship for those lonely hours in the bathroom.
On January 20 I gathered at Beckett’s Irish pub with several hundred other American expats to watch the swearing-in of America’s 44th President, Barack Obama. The crowd watched every move expectantly, but after the inauguration speech most people just drifted away. Not much camaraderie in the American expat community around here. Then on Sunday, January 25, our favorite Scottish pub, the Caledonia, held its annual event celebrating the birth of Robert Burns. This year it was a Burns’ Brunch, with the traditional pipers, haggis, neeps and tatties, and an amazing Glen Moray Chocolate truffle Torte – on a par with the legendary Sacher Torte, but almost too rich to finish. Not to be outdone, the following Tuesday, January 27, was the “Wee” Burns Supper, a toned-down version of the monster annual charity ball held at a posh Budapest hotel. I’ve been to all but one of these dinners since I came here. There was the usual sellout crowd and this year even some new participants. The reel dancing was, as always, a highlight of the evening.
About this time I was asked by the editor of Xpatloop, a local ezine (for, who else, expatriates in Budapest), to write some short articles on whatever struck my fancy, including pubs to visit (or not!), restaurants, things expats never discovered, etc. So I did. You can find all my articles by pulling up the ezine on the Net at www.Xpatloop.com, then doing a search for my name. All my articles should appear, and you can happily while away the minutes perusing them. It’s been fun doing them and I hope to continue for awhile.
Several new events, gatherings and happy hours raised their happy heads during this time. The Italian Chamber of Commerce sponsors a monthly happy hour, and another Italian happy hour put on by a local Italian restaurant also started advertising its Monday-evening gatherings. There goes my only night of rest each week! But it’s good to get out to new events and to meet new people. We have lost so many of our old friends I need to replace them with new ones. It’s still slow going, but has been made easier by the wonderfully outgoing nature of almost all of the expats here. And, of course, the fact that so many are beautiful young women doesn’t hurt either.
The Six Nations rugby tournament started in early February, so it was back to Champs sports pub until late March for the matches. Good crowds, lots of beer consumed, excellent rugby, and the BRWBDF even managed to raise over a million forints (about $5,000 at today’s exchange rates) for Hungarian youth rugby.
Two Curry Club dinners and two boys’ nights out also dotted the social landscape in the first quarter of 2009. On February 24 there was a wine tasting with Xpatloop and the Zwack company (which makes Unicum). It was another well-attended event, where I got to meet even more new people, including newly-arrived expats from France, Italy, Russia, Sweden, etc. One especially-welcome arrival was Ekaterina Naumenko from Moscow, a beautiful young Russian woman who functions well on either side of the camera. Check her photos out on my Facebook site.
I thought you might like to see some of the interesting dishes we were served along with the many different wines during the tasting, so here they are:
* Home-made dill flavored goat cheese with avocado in extra virgin olive oil
* Salmon and smoked sword fish carpaccio with fresh figs
* Rosé breast of duck in porcini mushroom oil served with duck liver stuffed sun-dried plums
* Serrano ham with shaved peccorino and pear flavored onion chutney
* Goose liver paté in Tokaj jelly with pistachio and apricot
Yummy, hah?

The Britannia Club also put on a Farsang party in late February, sort of like Mardi Gras. There were only around 160 guests this time, as compared to over 350 at the last event. Ekaterina and her Italian friend Patrizia showed up looking wonderful. Lots of people wore costumes, but I did my simple yet elegant Russian Cossack dancer in a shirt I’d bought in St. Petersburg.
On March 7 old friend Mike Chew was in town from Aberdeen. We met for dinner at Pata Negra tapas bar, then hit the For Sale pub for “one or two” beers; of course, an Irish party turned up during our second beer, and I ended up leaving around 1 AM. Damn! Shortly thereafter, I was invited to dinner with some new friends at their place, and I never turn down home-cooked food! They have a really nice flat, also inhabited by a very cool large cat, a Mancoon (sp?), named Fenway.
My Serbian friend Sanja had her annual birthday and spring party the next weekend, which is always a fun happening. The Serbs, with their Mediterranean attitude, are usually loud and fun and crazy and happy, and there is always lots of food and drink to fuel the fun. I gorged once again.
Monday, March 23, had me attending another new expat gathering at InterNations on a Danube boat. This is a new group I’d never heard of, but it appears it’s a world-wide organization and hopes to be expanding here in Budapest. BTW - Lest you think there were major gaps in my social whirl, please be assured that most weeks I only got to spend one or two nights at home. Just too many things to list here, and I don’t want to bore anyone with an ongoing recital of all the fun things I do to fill up my nights. But they are legion.
After the Britannia Club’s Pub Quiz, I was asked by one of the organizers of the English-Speaking Union to be a judge for their Annual Speech Contest at the British Embassy. There were eight finalists from all over Hungary; luckily, the speeches were in English, hence the name of the sponsoring group.
The last Sunday in April saw the playing of the Central European Rugby Cup by Hungarian and other teams. The style and level of play were quite good for these non-professional teams, and, even though it rained intermittently during the matches, it was still a nice way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.
The social scene continued to corrupt most of my time through mid-April. Footie matches at Caledonia, spring parties, dinners, brunches, comedy clubs, visits by old friends, Viking Club, etc. Budapest had its annual one-day spring on April 2, then it was on into summer. Which is especially nice this year. In previous years, it’s continued to be cold and rainy until mid-June, when a short summer finally arrives. This year, however, we were pleasantly surprised by a very early bout of nice weather beginning early April and, we all hope, continuing on through a late summer. It’s about time. As long as it lasts until April 25, however, I’m happy. That’s the day I leave for my one-month holiday in Seville.
So, I think it’s time to close my first Blog of 2009. I realize it’s been a long and somewhat dull one, at least as far as travel is concerned, but things should begin to pick up with my Spanish adventure. More to come, Gang, so watch this page for wonderful tales.

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