A Non-Traditional Valentine's Day (Part 2)
On Valentine’s Day this year, I left my hostel early to catch a mid-morning flight connecting in Switzerland, and landing in the grandiose city of Budapest (which the Hungarians pronounce “Buda-pesht”). Flying over the Swiss Alps, any fatigue from a short night’s sleep was completely eradicated by the adrenaline rush I only get before visiting a new place I’ve never seen.
As I’ve always said and always will, I freaking love meeting new people (call it a hereditary favor from my paternal grandmother), so it’s always my favorite part of taking trips. Depending on the travel companion of choice, something about flying stag tends to make it easier to meet lots of new people. So for dinner that night, heeding the recommendation from my Airbnb host, I trekked over to Gettó Gulyás to take a bite out of the Hungarian gastro scene.
It was a nice 20 minute jaunt from where I was staying, so it made for both a brisk walk in the chilly cold and a chance to practice using Budapest’s public transportation system. Super easy! This Airbnb was a convenient five-minute walk from the bus/tram stops, which take you anywhere you need to get on either side of the Danube River. Luckily, I had a highly knowledgeable tour guide who informed me that when it comes to the public transit in Budapest, there was a way to do it right…which is not what I did.
(Later he showed me how to purchase a daily pass and thus remedy the risk of a hefty fine by freeloading tram rides.)
Anyway, hopping off the tram and strolling the dim streets of the city, I looked up from pensively staring at the sidewalk and found it - a softly lit restaurant with wood paneling and accents of greenery both outside and inside, exhibiting both a modern and agricultural feel. Having rolled up with no reservation, I was brought to the bar, where I could still enjoy the delightful decor, a combination of vintage-classic (rich wood shelves, wax-drizzled candle holders, silver bread baskets) with fresh and contemporary (white vases, fresh flowers, various plants, and chalkboard menus). The seated me directly next to another woman, who was already enjoying her first glass of wine.
I asked what she had - it was a glass of Morgan, a Hungarian red - and ordered the same. We sat quietly at first, as the guy next to my left first asked if I spoke English, then if I’d recommend my order once my dinner came out (veal, with bacon-wrapped potato patties and gravy). I learned that he was from the Bronx, a student at Miami University, studying abroad in Paris and meeting with friends in Budapest for the weekend.
Sharing how much I’d loved studying abroad in Lyon when I was in college, we both gushed about France, admitted our struggles with speaking French, and reminisced on what a wonderful country it was and what a wonderful country ours was.
Eventually after chatting back and forth between the New York college kid to my left and the Japanese woman to my right, the three of us started to chat together, the other two comparing their living experience in New York, and what they thought of Budapest so far (by then I’d only had an hour to see it).
The New Yorker left, bidding us both good luck a fun stay in the city, and she and I resumed our chat…and did so through the rest of dinner and our second glasses of wine. I learned that she and her husband were both professional dancers, met through their traveling troupe, got married a year earlier, and just had their first baby two months ago. With her husband at home with the baby, she was taking her first vacation since giving birth.
And so we talked. About motherhood, relationships, marriage, ambitions for our single years, self identity. And faith - turns out she was also a Christian like me! We reinforced many of the same thoughts, desires, and fears shared by women everywhere, regardless of cultural background, language, or demographic. As a second-generation Japanese Christian, she admitted the struggles of growing up in a secular country, and we both expressed our gratitude for parents who raised their families to know Christ.
Over a wonderful meal and red wine, two women bonded over life’s ups and downs and everywhere in between where God steps in to be with us. As I shared in my last post on Valentine’s Day, this year I wanted to celebrate love and the types that are unconventional, and under-celebrated. This Valentine’s Day, for a few short hours, God brought me a sweet new friend with whom to celebrate the best of life, love, and faith. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.