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Tuesday, April 9, 2013


When my sister Liz, my friends Marie and Julie, and I were in Budapest, we stayed in an apartment on the Vaci Utca, a pedestrian-only street. There were shops and restaurants nestled next to centuries-old churches. The first day, we discovered what was to be one of our favorite shops. When we walked in, a man greeted us in wonderful Hungarian-accented English, "Hello! I am Steve!" I answered, "Hello, Istvan!" He was happy as well as impressed. "Oh, you are Hungarian?" I explained that I was the only member of my family that was not born in Hungary, and soon we were like old friends. I told him that my sister, who would arrive in Budapest the next day, and I were there to try and find our relatives. We didn't know where they lived or who they were, but we were headed their way.

We (okay I) had come up with Hungarian nicknames for our trip, and I introduced us all by these names. The one I used was Kata, a nickname I still sometimes use. Within a day or two, when we walked into the shop, Istvan would greet me with, "Kataka!" which warmed my heart, because adding the "ka" to the end of my name was a gesture of great warmth and friendship. Every day, he showed us something different and told us how it was made, and where in Hungary it came from. One day I was looking at some gorgeous pashminas and asked, in so-so Hungarian, "How much do these cost?" He beamed at me and answered, "Is 2500 forint, but for you, I give friend price, only 2000 forint." My travel companions were thrilled, and from that day on it was my duty to ask about the cost so that they could get the friend prices as well!

One day, Istvan showed me racks of beautiful traditional clothing. There were all sorts of skirts, trousers, blouses, and vests with hand embroidery. He said to me, very quietly, "If you get, you do not want this color. Is not traditional. More traditional color is burrrgundy." We all fell in love with the way he said burrrgundy with that lovely rolling r. After that, we seemed to see the color everywhere we went, and loved the opportunity to say burrrgundy. Having spent a couple of years studying Spanish, I think I may have had an unfair advantage with that one. Mrs. Snow, AKA Sra. Nieve, would have been so proud!

Even when we moved on to Paris, we saw lots of burgundy. There were some days when it seemed like every third woman had dyed her hair burgundy. It almost turned into a game, the hair-color version of slug-a-bug. What made it even more fun was that Marie just can't get her mouth wrapped around that rrr. To this day, the closest she can get to saying burrrgundy is "boogundy," bless her heart. Luckily she is as amused by it as the rest of us, and gets a good hearty laugh out of it. I still try to get her to say it whenever possible. When we were in Florida, I told her that I thought we would just have to change the pronunciation to "boogundy." Marie, I have to tell you that I didn't lie, I changed my mind. It's just too much fun to hear you trying to give a Hungarian twist to burgundy!