Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend of Celebrations!

This weekend was full of celebrations.

Saturday was Diane's 'name day.' Name days are a tradition celebrated in many countries in Europe and Latin America. Everybody has at least one day where friends and family can celebrate one's given name.

Names are an interesting thing in Hungary, you can only name your children using government approved names. So if you want to name your little girl Amanda, you are out of luck. You can request from the government that the name be allowed. New names are occasionally allowed such as Jennifer which becomes Dzsenifer.

On Sunday, we also celebrated the "first time we met" anniversary. 19 years ago today, Steven and his best friend, Jim, entered a bar/dance club in Cincinnati where Diane and her best friend, Mindy, were hanging-out. By the end of the night Diane and Steven fell in love...or at least that is how the story is embellished these days. The rest is history!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Budapest International Wine Festival!

This past weekend, we visited Budapest's biggest wine festival. It features Hungary's top wines which by the way are underrated in the wine world. On one hand, this underrated situation benefits us local wine drinkers, but of course for winemakers it is not a desired situation. Even more unfortunate, the wines that often make outside of Hungary are very poor quality.

Here are some photos...!

Festival takes place in Budapest's Castle District.
You can see the Daube River on the left here.

We joined our good friends Susan and Bill.

Hungarian sausage, mustard, bread and a pickle. Yum! This is a very basic and traditional meal in Hungary. Steven sometimes hits the local market for lunch and eats this meal. Cost = 600 HUF or about $3...and it is all freshly made.

Beautiful location for a wine festival!

Too many options! Each little kiosk offers wine tastings.

As we waited for the bus, the Matthias Church stood beautifully by.

Waiting for the bus...that will take us to the metro...
that will take us to the bus...that will take us home!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Two Year Anniversary!

September 10 was our two year anniversary of arriving to Budapest, Hungary. After several years of planning, we left our home in Seattle in August 2008, drove across the country to Ohio--4-days on the road!--and then arrived in Budapest in September.

Diane said best on her Facebook page:

"It is hard to believe that two years ago we arrived in Budapest with no home, no jobs, and no friends. Now look at us. We have a created a nice life here with a wonderful flat, a successful business and have meet the nicest and most interesting friends along the way. Cheers to Budapest!"

We celebrated modestly by toasting a couple glasses of wine at one of our favorite pubs called Jelen. Jelen reminds us so much of Hattie's Hat in Seattle. It feels familiar...without the fisherman at the bar.

p.s. After a full-month of blogging silence, we will be posting more often!

Photo of Jelen facing the bar. We usually grab a seat the bar.
They have a great kitchen with one of the few places in town offering genuine pub food (finger food).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Somewhere over the rainbow!

While in Estonia, we saw a beautiful full, double rainbow. We think this type of rainbow is called a supernumerary rainbow which is a rare sighting. Living in Ohio most of our lives, we seldom saw full rainbows, but in Estonia (and Seattle) they are frequent.

The video is taken from Tiiu & Guido's 2nd floor terrace. You get a good sense for how wonderful their backyard is as it edges up against the Emajõgi river in Tartu, Estonia.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Talking Heads at KUMU

Although the title of this blog might suggest we saw the music group, Talking Heads, while in Estonia last week, we actually visited the Estonian Art Museum also known as KUMU. In one large room, the museum cleverly exhibits several busts or heads of different people ranging from historical actors to common folks. And the heads are talking! Several voices in the room can be heard as if the heads are talking to you or at least with each other. See the video below.

The museum is new only just opened in 2006. Finnish architect Pekka Vapaavuori designed a beautiful building inside and out. KUMU won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2008. The museum is a must-see if you are in the area.

Look closely at the 'head' at the end of the video. The woman's gaze is powerful. You feel awkward for starting at her, as if she is looking back you.

View of KUMU from outside.
Photo credit to Kaido Haagen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What we bring home from Estonia

As most of you know Steven loves most things Estonian. Diane loves it too especially the chocolate! We thought it would be humorous to take a picture of all of the food we brought back from our recent trip to Estonia. If we could there would be much more food in the picture such as Tiiu's tomatoes (for Diane!), herring, sour cream (Estonian sour cream is the best), porridge, smoked fish, blueberries (they are plentiful and much cheaper then in Budapest), Tiiu's fresh dill pickles and the list goes on.

The "Must" bread is Estonia's delicious black bread. We can buy German-style black bread at Aldi in Budapest but it isn't the same. Lots of chocolate! Of course some Estonian vodka. And over 2L of Vana Tallinn which is a yummy liqueur.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Check out Diane's blog for France photos!

Diane is posting photos from France over on her blog. Check it out:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sunset in Estonia

Sunset off the island of Vormsi, Estonia. This view was just a few yards/meters away from the summer house where we all stayed.

River boating on the Emajõgi

While in Tartu, we made several trips by Guido's boat. On one trip back to the house, we ran out of gas and had to switch the second gas tank. While drifting in the river for a few minutes, Tiiu "drove" the boat the old-fashioned way!

Joonas goes swimming!

Kadi & Jaan's son, Joonas, went swimming in Tartu's Emajõgi (Mother River). Joonas has been a little afraid of the water so this was a big day.

In the video you hear Tiiu (Joonas' grandmother) saying, "You are a good boy!" to Joonas. Joonas replies, "I swam nicely!" Joonas has such a proud walk!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to Steven!

We are spending the day doing everything he loves to do....

We started the day in Voru with our friend Tiina making Estonian pancakes (more like crepes that American pancakes) filled with fresh berries!

We arrive in Tartu and had lunch and went for a swim in the river.
Tiiu spent the afternoon making kringle for Steven. A tasty (and labor intensive) treat! Tiiu fills the kringle with raisins, apples, pineapple and raspberries...and lets not forget the chocolate! Three rolls are made.

The rolls waiting to be braided.

Braided Kringle
magic is happening!
topped off with chocolate! Photos of eating coming soon!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Greetings from Estonia!

A few photos from Vormsi, Estonia. The island was great despite the biting flies and mosquitos. Diane learned on the boat ride to Vormsi that "Vormsi" is swedish for "snake island" - no snakes were seen. More photos and stories coming soon....

arriving on Vormsi Island
the view from the house we rented-not bad
Diane and Kadi - You would think these two are sisters since they share the same love for nature and bugs.
Estonian hot tub - do you see the beer can and that black pole? This is where the logs and fire are started. The "furnace" heats the water. No electric, all natural.
The dining room we ate in every night. The most amazing view of the sea and the sunset!
Tiiu and Diane
Kaitlyn and Lee
Steven and Kail
Ivo barbecuing the chicken...a true barbecue
Tiiu and Guido
Finding and eating the most flavorful wild strawberries.
There is more flavor in these little guys than in any store bought strawberry.
Jonas missing his dad who could not able to join us.
Diane did a bit of work. The view was really inspiring for her.
The most beautiful sunsets!
A good vacation so far. More coming soon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On our way home...

We just had a great "New York" pizza dinner with our good friends Bill & Sue. There is a great pizza place in town called New York Pizza and it is as close to the 'real thing' as it can get. The pizza oven was brought over by the owner who used to work in NYC making pizzas!

At Deák Ferenc tér on our way home.

Catching the metro!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This is amazing!

Roza playing piano.
She is only 13-years old!

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July...Hungarian style

We started celebrating the July 4th at the US Embassy's 'official July 4th party' made-up of VIPs and dignitaries. We are still wondering how we got invited! The party was in the Castle District at a property that is amazing--view of the entire city looking down onto the Danube River.

On Sunday, we visited our friend's Támas and Szilvi. Their daughter, Roza, joined us as well as their (and our) friend Laci and another family friend with the same name, Laci. We had a traditional Hungarian cookout with lecsó and grilled meat...and of course delicious Hungarian wines. Diane made some 'American' chocolate chip cookies which we had with ice cream and sour cherries. The lecsó was a tasty treat!

We ended the evening with a private piano recital by Támas and Szilvi's daughter, Roza. She is an amazing classic pianist. We'll post tomorrow a short video of Roza playing. You will not believe that she is only 13-years old!

Laci, Roza and Támas - checking-out the camera. Laci is a good photographer. Hopefully, we'll have some more photos that we can post later.

Szilvi and Támas.

All of us in the garden.

Roza practicing with batons.

A sneak peek! We'll post a video clip tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

USA vs. Ghana

USA played well this round of World Cup. Hats off to them!

But... :-(

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jaanipä Budapest!

We celebrated Jaanipäev on the eve of this important Estonian midsummer holiday. Our Canadian friend Bill got us an invitation to a Jaanipäev event at the Estonian Embassy in Budapest. The Ambassador of Estonian, H.E. Mr. Miko Haljas & Mrs. Marika Haljas, were generous hosts. There was delicious food, drinks and entertainment. Later last year the Ambassador had opened a new location for the embassy in a tree-lined neighborhood in Buda.

The entertainment was best! But not just any entertainment. Lauri Saatpalu and Peeter Rebane of the rather famous Estonian band Dagö was performing. This was an amazing feat! How the Ambassador got Dagö to visit Hungary on Jaanipäev is unbelievable. Diane and I got to talk with Lauri and Peeter. They were humorous about the fact they were in Budapest performing for people that knew nothing about them--save a small group of us that very much appreciated their performance.

Steven met a colleague at the party—an Estonian! We stayed late into the night sitting near a tiny Jaanipäev fire…but it was still nice to be by a fire on a cool summer night drinking a beer and talking with friends.

The night ended when the Ambassador kindly asking us to leave. He was very nice about it and seemed a little sad that he had to close the party down before dusk and dawn cross-over which is a symbolic time during Jaanipäev.

Lauri Saatpalu and Peeter Rebane from the band, Dagö.

Our Jaanipäev fire.
(photo taken from our mobile phone)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Starbucks in Budapest!

Starbucks is here! After several years of rumors, demands and false starts... The photo below would have you believe that Hungary has no quality coffee which isn't true. It will be nostalgic to see the shop...nice reminder of Seattle. We just a Starbucks coffee cup that says "Budapest" on it!

McDonalds 1998 in Budapest (top photo)
Starbucks 2010 in Budapest (bottom photo)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dreams do come true!

OK, the title of this post is melodramatic...but we now have a Nespresso sitting in our kitchen and the novelty is exciting. For those of you unaware of Nespresso, it is a coffee machine that uses a variety coffee pods to produce wonderful espresso. The consistency and quality are impressive given this is an automatic, pod-coffee machine which are usually uneventful. Nespresso cannot replace well-drawn coffee from an espresso machine, but it is close to the real-thing...and very convenient.

Steven was in Brussels a couple of weeks for a conference where our friends, David & Eva, sold their Nespresso machine to him. They had graduated to a traditional espresso machine that produces amazing coffee albeit it takes some time and there is art-science to making a good cup.

Steven then had to pack the somewhat large and heavy coffee machine in his luggage and drag it to Warsaw where he had another conference to attend. So this coffee machine is well travelled.

Once the machine made in Budapest, Diane stopped by the Nespresso boutique to buy the coffee pods. Yes...that is right...there is a "coffee pod" boutique. This goes to prove that you can market about anything these days. Diane bought a few boxes and registered with Nespresso's loyalty program. It is the frequent flyer program of coffee drinking!

A US Peace Corps friend of Steven's--Dan Migden--was in town and helped us inaugurate the first use. The machine is dangerous because it takes just a few minutes to enjoy a tasty espresso. We'll have to be careful how much we drink.

Our pride and joy!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mini Vacation: Döbrönte, Hungary

We took a short trip to a spa in Döbrönte, Hungary. We spent Thursday-Saturday walking to a castle, playing tennis, laying by the pool drinking mohito's and getting sunburned, eating, swimming, taking a carriage ride and playing cards. A great few days spent with dear friends talking, laughing, sharing and as our friend Bonnie would say...creating new memories. A fantastic trip! We stayed at Hotel Hasik. A fantastic hotel with everything....except comfortable beds...they were a bit too hard for all of us. One of the best parts of this short trip - no one was at this hotel. It was like we had a staff of 20 to serve just the four of us.

Here are a few photos...more coming soon....

Hotel Hasik - view from our room (castle in the background)
the coolest gutter!
the castle
Stevenour very photogenic traveling partners: Jeremy and Zsuzsaaround town