Archives for May 2006

They all need to come home

Let me say a few words about Budapest: There are some very beautiful buildings and some truly lovely places in the city. The view from the Buda side of the Danube is is beautiful. But overall, perhaps because of where our apartment is located, it seems like a very sad place.

We are located in the section that has many of the Jewish communal organizations and facilities such as some of the synagogues, two kosher bakeries (one for cakes and one for bread), three kosher restaurants, and the mikveh. However, the area is full of tall, old buildings that almost uniformly are in need of major renovation. The streets smell from mildew, sewage, and garbage. They are narrow and there is no vegetation. To get into an apartment (not just our building, but also the building where our friends are staying) it requires multiple keys to doors and gates placed within the building.

When I think that there are significant numbers of people who call these buildings home, I wonder what it must be like for a child to feel so encased by cold concrete both inside and out. I wonder why the Jews of Hungary, most of whom live in Budapest, don’t just pack up and come to Israel where there is sun and parks and health and life.

The Jewish quarter of Vienna was nicer, but people there also lived in big buildings far from parks and play areas. They all need to come home.

Top Ten Reasons I’m Looking Forward to Going Home

10. Language I can understand and speak.
9. Free public restrooms
8. No need for 4 separate keys to get in and out of house (= fortress)
7. Toilet that flushes
6. Hot water from faucet
5. Ability to buy real food
4. Sunshine
3 . My land
2. My people
1. My children and grandchildren

Picture Perfect

Today we took a bus tour around Budapest. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to take pictures. I was something of a fiend when I used to take pictures in with a regular SLR. Family pictures always consisted of multiple pictures of the same subject. Trips would cost almost double when you factored in the printing of pictures. But now I am using a digital camera and there is no limit to the number of electrons I can use– and I do enjoy using them!

As we drove around today seeing beautiful sights, I would take out my camera and point it at something that I found beautiful. Sometimes I would want to frame the shot, allow it to be seen in context, next to other scenery: adjacent to a garden, a flower pot, a field, or a river. Usually I would find myself moving back, getting farther away so that I could see it better, understand it more, appreciate it in its wholeness. Sometimes I would wait until people left the foreground, wanting to get its essence without external interference, to appreciate its simplicity and uniqueness.

I began to think about how usually we do the opposite. When we want to really understand something we move in very close, look at all of the details, but often when we do that we lose the context, the completeness, the simplicity, indeed, the uniqueness. Getting in too close may expose the natural flaws that contribute to the uniqueness of the object or person, may lead us to see the irregularities as negative instead of special.

As a therapist, I often urge people to get closer to understand each other better. But there is also something to be said in favor of taking a step back from time to time and seeing things from a distance– framing as one would do with a picture.

From Hungary

For the first time since we began our trip I have internet access through my own laptop!

Until one hasn’t for a while, it’s hard to imagine what a difference it can make.

Yesterday and today we were at Lake Balaton, the largest fresh water lake in Europe outside of Scandanavia. To say it was magnificent would be so very inadequate. We stayed in a little village on a peninsula called Tihany. It was green and quiet and the flowers of all colors among the stone houses with the thatched roofs were beautiful. It was a place where one is inspired to dream… and dream I did… of a ride through the night with lights twinkling.

Today we set off for Budapest and stopped on our way at a lovely city with an unpronounceable name that served as capital of Hungary for several centuries. When we arrived in Budapest, we found our apartment waiting all ready for us except for one thing: hot water. We may yet visit one of those famous Budapest baths.

Scenery burnout

OK… I have seen tall mountains, I have seen lots of water falling, I have seen quaint chalets, horses and cows running by the side of the road, adorable villages and towns, even cute little trains running by the side of the road. I am suffering from scenery burnout. I promise you… if you come to visit I won’t make you look at the pictures.

A Stranger in Paradise

This will have to be short since I have spent my limited time deleting insurance ads and other spam comments.

Today we saw some more beautiful scenery, quiet villages, and very very high mountains where there are still several meters of snow on the ground, but from which flow heavy torrents of water down the mountains gathering in rushing rivers everywhere.

I grew up in the eastern part of the US where we had plenty of trees and water, but after almost 11 years of living in Israel, trees that have not been purposely planted and rushing water seem surreal. Can it really be that there are places on earth that are so naturally lush? I can’t get over all of the green and freshness.

But, to tell the truth, I miss home because as beautiful as it all is, it is not mine.

Lows and highs

Today we went back to the salt mines. Over 25 years ago, in a place not far from here, we took 4 little children to the salt mines and had a wonderful time dressing in uniforms, riding the little mine car, and sliding down the long chutes. Today we did it all again… walking kilometers under the ground, taking a ride on an underground lake, and laughing a lot. I wonder what the little ones would have thought of Saba and Savta sliding down the long chutes together!

Later in the day we went to another fortress, this one high above the town of Werfen. This fortress was known for its falconry and we were treated to a show put on by trained birds of prey. An altogether unbeatable day from the depths to the heights!

An Israeli in Austria

Today we made our way to Salzburg. It is a beautiful city. It is very green, very clean, and very old world. After wandering a while through the streets, we decided to ride the finicular up the the fortress. As we went to buy the tickets, we noticed that the group rate was less than the usual price, but we were only a group of 6 and not the minimum 10. As we discussed this along came a group of 4 Israelis who made our group number 10 and just as we were about to pay, along came two more….

The fortress called the Festung, overlooks all of Salzburg and every view is breathtaking.


Today we saw two amazing places… Liechtensteinklamm– a very large natural gorge where water from the mountains flows at enormous strength, and Eiseriesenwelt in Werfen, an ice cave, perhaps one of the longest in the world. The cave itself is 41 kilometers long and although we walked approximately 1400 steps (that’s up and down type steps) we only walked about a kilometer into the cave. It was, of course, below freezing in temperature, but not cold because there was no wind. It’s worth looking up on the web. It is situated at the top of a very high mountain and the view from there was amazing (we were 1663 meters above sea level).
It is very green and lush here. Greetings from Austria!


Traveling is a lot of fun. We have been seeing fields of yellow mustard growing in Hungary and Slovakia and Austria. We have seen quaint cobblestone streets in Bratislava and Vienna. We have seen alpen views of snow tipped mountains encased in clouds and the sun peeking out from behind. We have seen forsythia and lilacs and trees lush with apple blossoms. Ah… but what I would give for a keyboard that had the y and z where they are supposed to be….