Friday, April 4, 2014

The Hungary Games

It turns out that Budapest's neighborhoods are numbered districts.  For example, we were staying in District VI.  District VII has a lot of abandoned buildings turned into pubs and District VIII has a lot of students.  Does each district pay tribute to the capital?  If so, we didn't notice.  We were too busy playing Budapest's games.

We did the cheesy-but-awesome game of Íjászat (Magyar word for archery).  Up on the heights of Gellért Hill in District I, a bit past the soviet liberation statue and the citadel, a tunic-clad dude awaits to teach you how to shoot plastic arrows at bales of hay.  My first shot was the best - the others tended to go too high.  But now I can defend myself in style.

The buildings in District V are not allowed to be higher than the cathedral of Szent István (St. Stephen, the first Christian king of Hungary).  So it affords an excellent view when you climb up to the top of the dome.  Note the Hungarian Parliament building to the left of Josh's head.  We went with our Estonian friend Uku who has lived in Budapest for several years but had never been up here.  The part of this that felt like a game was crawling through the rickety staircases through the double dome (Josh says doubling is pretty common with domes - I had no idea!) so that we were in the space between the dome you see from the outside and the dome you see from the inside.  It felt like being somewhere secret.

And of course, we played a room escape game, which are a specialty in Budapest.  We went with our new friend Cléber to an address given to us over email, and rang doorbell number 10 at exactly 7:30 pm.  Once we were in the right apartment, the door locked behind us and we had to solve puzzles and clues to get back out.  We had exactly one hour and very little idea where to begin.  The hair dryer here and the postage stamps were essential.  The puzzles also involved wrenches, a magnet, lots of antique locks and keys, a toy train, and golf balls.  It was awesome, especially because we beat the game in 58 minutes, right in the nick of time.  As we were leaving, the staff told us that only 30℅ of the players figure it out.

We went to Margit Island in the middle of the Danube (district unknown) and witnessed many many games.  Frisbee and bocce yes, but also some inexplicable variants.  English-speaking men were playing something involving beer bottles and sticks.  And a massive group of Thai-speaking men and women were playing a game with a handkerchief in a tree.  We played none of these, but were stumped by the puzzle of Margit Island's poultry.  This chicken: How did it get so fluffy?

We spent a full nine days in Budapest and it was worth every minute!  They have found ways to turn an old and serious looking Hapsburg capital into a fun and relaxed city.  Our next stop will take us north, across the Baltic sea from Hungary's distant linguistic cousin, Finland.  Sweden, here we come!

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