so saturday morning we woke up early and got ready for our trip to the countryside. i suppose it might be the european system to be a half hour late to the appointed time, but once everyone relies on being a half hour late, the system is broken. at least that’s what we hypothesized as a group. so we were a little bit late getting into the taxi.
we were going along really easily, crossing the bridge from pest into buda and getting on the freeway without any problems. the lanes started to become fewer and fewer as we neared the countryside until there was just one lane for each side. here is where the nightmare began. hungarians have no problem passing each other on the road by driving on the opposite side. this makes for multiple memorable moments. i think i tried to flash my life before my eyes at least 6 times in case i forgot anything when the actual time to die came. we narrowly missed a big rig coming our way by like 10 feet. when we finally got onto the dirt road of the country, which now only had one lane for traffic going both ways, our cab driver decided to turn on 90s pop and alicia keys. when we expressed excitement at knowing the songs, he did too and decided to swerve the car to the beat. now i was going to die in the hungarian countryside. in a cab. in a cab that was lost and nowhere near its destination.
and i thought the freeway had been bad.
we finally got to the ranch resort, which was AMAZING oh god it was beautiful. we each had our own queen sized feather beds and bathrooms. it sat on 50 acres of green, lush land and had an equestrian club with 47 horses. one of the best riders in the world and in all of hungary used to ride at the club. the extravagant ranch bed and breakfast was built by a yale som grad and was effectively the meeting place for the yale club of hungary. not a bad choice. not at all. we took a tour of the land, which was absolutely beautiful. it was like the green you see in movies, with the wind blowing in the trees, and a provincial air that is so pure you half expect to see everyone in straw hats and overalls. oh wait most of them were.
lunch was beautiful too. having not eaten real food consistently, gourmet italian rustic was SO good: pancetta and cream pasta, creamy tomato soup, adn tiramisu for dessert. i thought all of that near death was worth it after all, and what could be better than the fact that we had great company? one of the hungarian yalies worked as the advisor to the prime minister and knew everything about hungary’s military and political history. we talked about the attitudes of hungarian society and culture and its relationship with the germans, the turkish, the greek, the russians, and the austrians. one of the others had the most adorable family, with one of the BEST two year olds i have ever met. felix is a really, really smart two year old who is on his way to being a lady’s man. anyway. so after lunch we were headed off to a wine tasting in a horse drawn carriage. romantic, right?
that is, until we walked outside and the horse drawn carriage was actually a 19th century harvesting cart with two horses attached to it. in addition distant thunder signaled an impending thunderstorm and we were piling into a cart made of wood and steel, headed for nothing but dirt roads for at least the next hour to the vineyard. there were several blankets in the wagon bed and we joked about pneumonia because that’s the only thing you can do when you know it’s coming. tony’s dog chased after us until the thunder came closer, and he was smart enough to turn around and run back home as we trotted into the heart of the thunderstorm. we were all dressed in summer-wear and tented blankets on our heads to keep the water out of our skin for as long as we could. had this been southern california, someone would have ticketed the driver for transporting illegal migrant workers. as the wagon squeaked and nearly fell apart over bumps and ditches, we all swore that THIS time, THIS time, we would die. either of a lightning strike or of capsizing into fields full of lime ticks. after about an hour and our destination not in sight, our driver stopped by the side of the road, put a blanket over himself, stood there, and just waited. and so did we.
of course, nothing is good without a good ending. so we eventually DID get to the winehouse/vineyard and how funny is the world that the owner’s daughters actually went to q-pac? anyway so we took a tour of the winery and learned that there are two main ways to make it from reductions and from barreling. (at least i think that was it) we sampled five wines, my favorites of which were a pinot gris blend and her prized red wine, which was voted as the best in hungary last year. and hungary is known for its wines. i hadn’t felt that classy since karl lagerfeld asked me to walk in his runway show. wait, nevermind, that never actually happened.
for our way back we procured two cars and met up for dinner. which again, was exquisite. we talked for hours by the fireplace about everything in the world and then went to sleep for our morning horseback riding lessons.
so the last time i rode a horse, i was 6 and my family was in mexico. we were set to ride horses by the beach with a bunch of other tourists. my dad got his own horse and my mom and i shared one. a pregnant horse, apparently. the poor horse ahd to carry me AND my mom and her fetus horse. so while everyone else was running in a circle around the cliff, we got the slow treatment and slowly plodded around the narrow cliff head…i actually thought some passing horse was going to push us off and i would be found in the ravine a mangled mess, probably dead.
so this time, riding a horse was a much pleasanter experience. albeit a very, very sore one. three days later my thighs are still sore. but i’m really glad we went and that i rode the horse and met all these awesome people, nearly died 3 times, and took a lot of pictures!