Budapest, Hungary: Is it only Day 3? This is a normal feeling for us while attending a 9-10 day athletic event. So much is happening, so much excitement, but the getting there and back, finding food, the heat and humidity (93 degrees/60% - brutal) can wear an old gal down.
In some ways, today seemed like our first day in Budapest because we were finally able to explore the city during the day. It poured rain Saturday and we caught the morning track session on television. Sunday was a national holiday, so everything was closed (and we wanted to watch the morning session on television). No excuses today. We did notice hundreds of men dismantling stages and other temporary structures used for the celebrations last night.
Between our hotel and the Danube River, is the largest synagogue in Europe, the Dohány Street Synagogue (it has several names), and My Tour Guide (Dave) wanted this to be our first stop. The temple has a most interesting and most sad (always) history. Built in 1854, the synagogue was designed to appear very much as a Christian church, even with two pulpits, and the bima resembling an altar. This congregation wanted to assimilate into the community. And they did.
Once inside the Orthodox temple, we joined a group of about 20 for an introduction (in English). The guide explained this massive structure also contains two things not normally allowed/found in Jewish congregations. The first is an organ. The organ is hidden from sight behind the front of the building and a non-Jewish organist was hired to play as Jews are not permitted to work on Shabbat. The other thing not allowed on the grounds of a temple are graves. However, the friendly Nazi's walled-in the synagogue during WWII, and forced thousands of Jews inside this new ghetto to starve and freeze to death. The dead (constant, daily) had to be buried. Some bodies were removed to a Jewish cemetery after the Soviets liberated the people of Budapest, but hundreds remain in a grassy courtyard next to the temple to this day. A constant reminder of the holocaust.
After this moving experience, we continued toward the river, finding fancy department stores and trendy restaurants along the way. Budapest is certainly a stunning city - and we are on the "flat" side of the river, Pest.
Time for some food - our first taken outside the hotel or stadium in three days. There are so many pretty little restaurants lining the river near the bridge, and Dear Reader, I chose the absolute worst. (It's a skill.) How was I to ever know a restaurant did not have a kitchen? Who has ever heard of such a thing? Most of the places had the same Hungarian dishes - goulash, paprikash, etc. - and most had three-course luncheon specials. I chose one. (This is where Johnny Carson says: Wrong, paprika breath.)
We both ordered the prix fixe luncheon with onion soup (it was creamy and cold), Chicken Paprikash and a strudel for dessert, Ft 5000 Hungarian Forint, ($14 US dollars). The paprikash was also cold and very free of flavor. I swear, the chicken paprikash I make in my crockpot is better. Plus we had to wait and wait and wait and wait for our cold food. And why was it cold? Because it was being prepared somewhere else and carried from somewhere else around the corner in metal boxes! No kidding. We couldn't get an answer about this situation. Was there a kitchen fire and the cooking facilities were under repair? Was someone's mom cooking the food in her nearby apartment? Who knew. When the strudel appeared (gummy crust and crumbling-odd filling), we hit the road back to our hotel, happy we had wasted only $30. The 90 minutes spent, however, were the biggest waste of all. So sad, such a lovely setting and supreme people watching. (Panorama Terrace - do not eat here.)
On the way back to the hotel, My Tour Guide wanted to see the Ruin Bars - a group of maybe 20 or so dive-bars carved out of rooms in abandoned buildings. These establishments are very popular with the young crowd of Budapest. It was very interesting, but I can't imagine trying to stumble my way around this place after dark.
Another thing I will comment on (though I probably shouldn't... but it's my blog) is the smoking. It was bad in Paris, but terrible here. It seems (super generalization) women vape and men smoke cigarettes. Not allowed indoors, but every outdoor café terrace has an ashtray. It's like being transported back in time.
After a short rest (cooling down in air conditioning!), it was back to the track. Only an evening session today, basically from 7-10p. Again we used the BOLT (Uber in Hungary) taxi service, arrived to again be greeted with an icy cold flute of bubbly in our hospitality pavilion, before making our way to our seats.
Our seats were far from the women's pole vault qualifying scene, and the stadium was very lax is showing results on their 4 Big Screens, but all three Americans advanced to the Wednesday final. American women also advanced in the 400m hurdles. The men's 400m hurdles semis were a bit more challenging for the stars and stripes. (The first two finishers in each of the three heats automatically advance, and the next two fastest times fill-in the last two lanes.) Rai Benjamin easily advanced to the Wednesday final, but CJ Allen had to wait to see if his time was the 7th or 8th fastest to make the cut. Not only do the "bubble" athletes have to wait, they have to wait in a room (with two leather sofas) just behind the stands... and, while they are waiting, occasionally a camera is pointed on them and they are shown in all their anxiety on the Big Screen. Cruel and unusual punishment? It is fun though, when we get to see an athlete react to making the final.
Second heat in the women’s 100m semi-final was a bit dramatic. Finishing so close, the women were suspended in time, huddled at the finish line awaiting results. Was it possible the last world champion, American Sha’Carri Richardson, would not make the final? Oh. The. Drama. Richardson was determined to have finished 3rd. Sha’Carri had to wait under the stands on the sofa for her fate. The second heat was the fastest, so Richardson did advance and was placed in an outside lane.
There were three finals tonight. The men's triple jump (also held on the opposite side of the track, but with better Big Screen coverage, was very entertaining to us as a Duck was competing for Italy. Emmanuel Ihemeje finished in eighth place, behind Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso and two Cubans. American triple jump foundation, Will Claye was 7th with a seasons-best jump. There was huge excitement in the men's discus final this evening. On his last throw, Sweden's Daniel Stahl tossed out a monster (71.46 meters/over 234 feet), breaking the championship record and winning the gold medal. The crowd went wild with excited cheering for the huge man.
The other final, and the last event of the evening, was the women's 100m. The gun went off and the women flew down the track in a photo finish – which hilariously shows Sha’Carri celebrating as she crosses the line. And she barely made the final! In her post-race interview, the Fastest Women in the World proclaimed: I’m not back, I’m better.
Another fabulous evening of The One True Sport. Dang, there is just so much excitement and so many emotions running through my thoughts... and someone's thrown-in-excitement beer running down my leg into my shoe (from a guy in a seat IN FRONT OF US HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?) this evening. (It dried.)
We will be back at it again tomorrow. Until my next update, I remain, your sloshy correspondent.
FINAL HILARY REPORT: The storm has passed through the Coachella Valley. 3.5 inches of rain in La Quinta. Our house seems to have suffered no damage, but I can't see the back garden so have no idea of any damage until I hear from our gardener. The usual trouble spot for puddling has completely drained and we never lost power. Now the community is faced with clean-up.
Pedometer: 20,000 steps