Brothers and Sisters (Part 4 of 6)

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Many aspects of my sister Margo’s personality defy consistent characterization. One of her many peculiar choices was the decision to accompany me on an adventurous trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. She is far from a seasoned traveler, vacationing typically with her husband and four children on the beaches of North Carolina. Why she felt compelled to join me on a 12 day trip to Europe, I don’t know.  Still, it was an once-in-a-lifetime trip, as so many are. Margo does not complain, generally, and enjoys things without giving them too much thought, as long as they are different or entertaining. She is easy company, though I did exhaust her tolerance for art museums. We travelled in January. I prefer to travel in the off-season because of the reduction in both cost and number of tourists. For as much as I love people, I dislike crowds. Our trip began in Prague, a wonderfully charming and walkable place.Image

The apartment we rented exceeded our expectations, and the weather, though cold, was bright and sunny. We visited the Old Town and the New, explored Prague Castle, crossed the Charles Bridge, and ate and drank at inviting restaurants and pubs before reluctantly making our way to Vienna.

Vienna was planned as a quick stop, a midway point between Prague and Budapest. Vienna is exquisite, exciting, and enormous. A day and a half in Vienna was the result of my ignorance of the city’s grandeur. Nevertheless, our itinerary included one perfect item: attending a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Vienna Opera House! Our seats were literally numbers 3 and 4 in the first box. Though Margo doesn’t particularly care for opera, she went along happily, enjoying the glamour and the spectacle. The next day, we departed for Budapest, where our good fortune ran out. The first issue arose when the good-natured Margo mistakenly thought that the man who offered to carry her bags to the train would do so for free (Margo somehow still inhabits an enviable world where men do such things). Naturally, the strange man accompanied us onto the train, insisting a high payment for a task we had not requested of him. I was forced to give him the rest of our cash to get rid of him. Thankfully, I had packed some sandwiches and snacks; otherwise we would have had to go hungry, en route to. . .Hungary.

Budapest was not welcoming. The weather had turned colder and the region was swathed in shadowy fog. The view of Buda Castle across the Chain Bridge was nonexistent. The whole city was the color of dishwater.  Our search for a restaurant near our hostel was endless and fruitless. We walked aimlessly until we were forced to stop because Margo had to use the bathroom. We found a bar on a tiny avenue in Pest. Like most conscientious travelers, (especially those who want to avoid being labeled an “ugly American”), I abide by the rule that if you are going to use a bathroom, you must order something. So, while Margo rushed in the direction of the toilets, I ordered two beers at the bar and took them, with the glasses provided, to a nearby table. I waited patiently for Margo, feeling perfectly at ease, though clearly out of place. We were the only women in the bar. We were the only Americans in the bar. Only one other person spoke English, which he made clear when he approached and asked what had brought us there. He was friendly, but wanted to warn us that our presence was perceived as unusual. I planned to tell Margo we should drink our beers quickly. When she returned from the bathroom, her face looked a bit pained.

“The bathroom was gross,” she whispered.

When she saw the beer she asked, “We’re staying?”

I invoked the rule of good travelers, which she knew well by this point in our trip. She sat down and began to pour her beer into the glass provided. Then she looked at the glass. It was as clean as the rest of the place, which was not very.

“I shouldn’t have used the glass,” she said sadly, mostly to herself. 

Moved by her misery, I passed her my beer, which she finished in three desperate gulps, and we left.

As we walked back to our hostel, I asked Margo if, perhaps, she thought we should leave Budapest earlier than planned and go back to Prague.

Instantly transformed back to her animated self, Margo began to chant: “Back to Prague! Back to Prague! Back to Prague!”

One thing I can say for my sister Margo, she brings enthusiasm with her wherever she goes.

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