The warm smell of paprika rising up through the air


Well here in Unicorn City we’re in the middle of the yearly Hungarian Days festival which is perfect timing as always because there are exactly three Romanians left in the city. It’s a week long festival that culminates perfectly with Saint Stephen’s Day, the greatest hero in Hungarian history.

I can’t say that I ever participate much in the Hungarian days festival, mostly because I don’t speak the language or eat Hungarian foods. I’ve certainly heard the concerts going every night from the central square and it’s kind of unusual and fun to walk down the street and not understand a gosh darn word people are saying.

That being said, if you’re looking for some fun, click on the link above (no English, just Ro/Hu) and you can see all the fun things going on this week.

Earlier today I was ambling along down the street when a car pulled up alongside me with a family inside. They didn’t speak one word of Romanian and all I could tell them with my pidgin Hungarian skills was that I was completely unable to give them directions, which is clearly what they wanted (Dad had a map on his lap). Luckily the kid in the back seat piped up and said, “English?” to which I replied, “A leeedle” (my all-time favorite joke) and I proceeded to head them in the right direction, which was back to the Magyarorszag.

It reminded me of a time years ago when some American friends of mine came to visit me here in Romania. They first flew to Budapest, where I met them. The next day we took a train to Unicorn City.

Before we crossed the border though, my friend’s wife decided to take a nap so my friend and I decided to explore the train. The cars in the rear were the international ones going into Romania but the front cars were part of a local train akin to a personal train where there were benches instead of assigned seats. The cars in the front of the train were incredibly crowded and it took us a good 20 minutes to carefully step over and around the people that were crammed into every square centimeter of the train.

By the time we got to the very front car we realized there was no way in hell we wanted to hop over all of those same people again to get back to the rear of the car. I proposed to my friend that we wait until the train stopped, get down from the train and then quickly run back to our car at the back. Even though it was winter and quite cold outside, I figured a quick jog along the platform wouldn’t be too bad and a far better alternative to brushing past some irritated Hungarians inside the train.

The train did indeed stop at a small little village and our plan worked perfectly until we heard the whistle blow and the train began to move way before we had made it back to our own car. I suddenly realized the predicament we were in – lost in the middle of Hungary with no jackets, neither of us being able to speak the language, without even a working phone in our possession and my friend’s wife snoozing blissfully in the back, completely unaware of what had happened to us.

Using superhuman powers, we leapt up the stairs to the nearest door, yanked it open and got inside safely. We spent the rest of the time while still inside Hungary aboard the train and I didn’t hop down to buy some snacks until after we had crossed into Oradea (Romania), where I spoke the language, had a phone that worked, and knew what the heck I was doing.

So… whoever you were, lost Hungarian family far from home that I met today, I certainly understand. I just hope that you had fun at our little festival :)

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  1. At Play in the Fields of Paprika | Eye on Romania | Ochiul pe România

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