Friday, August 18, 2006

a magyar parable

Ten years ago, I spent a couple days in Budapest on my way back from a mission trip to Chisinau. One afternoon, after we’d spent all morning on a bus tour of the city, my friend and I were browsing around a sort of arts and crafts mall, or gargantuan flea market that was a renovated train station. I spent all the Hungarian money I had with me, which wasn’t much, and we left the market as they were closing at 4:00pm.
As it turns out, most everyplace closed at 4:00pm – most importantly the banks and currency exchanges. So my friend and I found ourselves across the Danube and 10 miles from our hotel in a foreign city without even the 35 cents required to ride the train, and the only Hungarian word we knew was, “dahling”.
So we walked toward the river, crossed and headed in the general direction we believed would lead us to our hotel. We meandered, backtracked, circled, climbed, and eventually found ourselves at our hotel, exhausted, hungry and thankful fairly late at night. We found the concierge, changed dollars to forints and headed back out on foot to find a pizza. When we crashed late that night, we had become fairly familiar with both Buda and Pest and could probably have been dropped off blind folded anywhere in the city and found our way back.

Several years later, I found myself back in Budapest again, for the third time, fairly familiar with the locations of the popular buildings and attractions. This time, we landed late, found the hotel and went back out for a bite and a stroll. The restaurant where we were to eat was quite a distance from the hotel, so we descended a couple levels below the streets a caught a train. After we ate we walked around looking at the beautiful sites and sights and the Danube. I, having spent so much time strolling around a few years before, recognized everything and had a strong sense of direction and location. Soon I began to become confused because it felt that everything I was seeing, I remembered as being on the other side of the river. I commented several times that I couldn’t figure out why I remembered everything backward. The feeling was so strong that it stole some of the enjoyment of the evening.
It wasn’t until we headed back to our hotel and had to cross the river that I realized that we’d gone under the river on the train to get to the restaurant. When we’d surfaced from the subway, I had no idea when crossed to the other side. All those buildings were in fact, on the right side of the river, it was I who was on the opposite side from where I thought I was.
Ok, it’s a boring story, but I know a whole lot of people who don’t realize they’ve crossed the river, but are accusing the buildings of having moved.

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