A NIGERIAN MAN IN HUNGARY - PART 1 - BY GBENGA AFOLABI



Travelling to Hungary is a dream come true for me. I say this because I feel so blessed going to a country I have heard little or actually nothing about until I met my wife, Emese. But there I was at the airport in Manchester cradling my son and with my wife in tow. We were on our way to Debrecen via Budapest. The trip went without much fuss until we were about to land and baby Kornel started to ball probably because of the pressure building up in his ear. Need I mention about the face of Emese almost had with other passengers who were complaining about Kornel's crying. Anyway, there we were at the border controll being quizzed by the immigration officer asking for additional permission and documentations. Thankfully we scaled through that and we were soon on our way to Debrecen after been picked up by Eva (Emese's mum).

My first impression of Hungary was that more often than not it reminds me of my native country, Nigeria. The imperial mode of calibrating distance in kilometers. It was a fairly cool night just the way I like it. As we were

sat at the back of the car tucking into sandwiches made for us by Eva and drinking soda from a tap-like bottle.
Weirdly I had a feeling of apprehension throughout the three hours journey to Debrecn. It wasn't ubtil much later when I discovered why. In the UK, cars are driven on the left hand side of the road whilst in Hungary the opposite holds bear, just like in Nigeria. So I continued to feel like something wasn't right and silently prayed for a safe arrival at our destination. Thankfully we arrived safely.


On the second day after we arrived we visited Eva's workplace where she works as the secretary to a court judge. The reception couldn't have been better as Kornel absolutely and totally stole the show. He was the darling of the numerous ladies both young and old that worked at the court. Lest I forget I was a bit surprised when the court security asked if I was there for a case, instantly subtracting me from the party which I apparently was part of. It kind of introduced me to the perception of black people in Hungary.


On leaving the court we headed into town where we visited the Big Church right at the heart of the city after that we proceeded to relish a popular Hungarian snack, Langos. It was delicious especially eaten with tomato ketchup and cheese. In the afternoon we still had time to go to University of Debrecen where Emese used to study German language and literature and meeting Emese's old university friends. The surrounding of the university is indeed beautiful as the autumn leaves fell off the trees to the ground creating a perfect postcard picture scene. Inside was even more impressing. Dotted by students studying on the corridors of the university. All in all I was very impressed. I was surprised seeing that there were few black students around which I really didn't expect. I spoke to one of them who was coincidentally from Nigeria and was studying medicine. He told me that the university catered for foreign students and they have the opportunity to study in English however they have to learn basic Hungarian if they were to work in the hospital in Hungary.

Train journey to Budapest



On the third day which was on the Thursday I was convinced by Emese to visit the capital city , Budapest. Emese, Dia (Emese's sister) and I took the train from Debrecen train station and I was amazed by the kind of trains that operated on this route. It was an old fashioned cabin car train and to say I enjoyed the journey is an understatement. We had so much fun, singing, chatting, learning Yoruba songs and just generally fooling about while taking loads of pictures.





At some point the train fainted for an hour and it was so interesting that no announcements were made to explain to us what was going on. Eventually we alighted safely in Budapest.

First we visited the Margaret Island were we hired a quadricycle which we rode around the beautiful Island. It was hilarious as I was almost knocked down by Emese and Dia. Later we went to the Heroes' square which is a famous landmark in Budapest.

Cruise on the river Danube with a voucher for Palinka
At the Heroes' square we were accosted by two ladies who told us about the boat cruise on the river Danube. It sounded fun so we bought our tickets that also included voucher for the famous Hungarian alcoholic drink Palinka and many more pictures and videos after we were on our way to Danube Promenade (Dunakorz├│).

Soon we were cruising on the ship with earphones we were furnished with the history of Budapest, the great Parlament , the Central Market and all the interesting facts of this wonderful city. It was breathtakingly beautiful seeing the Buda Castle, Elizabeth Bridge, Sz├ęchenyi Chain Bridge and Liberty Bridge.

After our ship experience we went in search of the Palinka bar which was impossible to find. After spending almost two hours looking for it we met two guys, one black, one white. Without thinking, Emese, speaking to them in Hungarian asked about the Palinka bar which they like others that we'd asked earlier did not know where it was. Apparently the black guy was a mixed race person whose mother was from Hungary and his father was from Ghana. It was quite interesting meeting a mixed raced Hungarian person who also spoke perfect English. We decided to proceed to the train station as we were on the verge of missing our train back to Debrecen. We boarded the same tram as our black Hungarian friend who told us about his experiences in Hungary. The day ended as quickly as it started and soon we were back in Debrecen but it was a great day which we terrible enjoyed.

A NIGERIAN MAN IN HUNGARY - PART 2 - BY GBENGA AFOLABI


Meeting my father in law

On the fourth day in Hungary finally I managed to meet Emese's dad, Laszlo who surprisingly could speak a bit of English. It is really rare to find people from older generation that can speak any English. In the olden days people had to learn Russian at school because of the Russian influence. It was something that they had to do even if they didn't want to.

Back to my visit in Nyirabrany where Emese's dad lives I was amazed by the big gardens that people have in Hungary. The garden is about seven times bigger than the average English garden. You can grow plants , keep dogs and have loads vegetation. We actually chose to sit in the garden on a blanket as the weather was really hot on that day.
We had lovely food at my father in law's house and I'm convinced again that the best cooks in the world are men. I've been introduced to Hungarian culinary specialties such as the famous Gulyas soup, Chicken soup, fasirt (meatball) and kokuszgolyo ( coconut ball ) and of course toltott kaposzta ( stuffed cabbage ) that I actually find to be more common than the well known Gulyash as I had it everywhere I visited.

Mamus

On the same day we visited Emese's grandmother, Mamus and Emese's aunty, Agi and her family. This was the second time that I met Mamus  because she came to England a few months ago to see her great grandson. She's a  very jovial happy go luck person, a really funny character. When she came to see us in she actually literally shocked me with a "shocking pen" that starts working when you try to use it. We had a great fun that time and it continued in Hungary. She showed me her house which was a hundred and fifty years old and her poultry. And of course we had a lot of food. However, my personal favorite was szolo (grapes) that I could eat directly from the branches. This was the first time I've ever seen grapes tree by the way.

Emese's aunty lives just next door and I've been lucky to met the whole family from Emese's cousins to aunties and even friends. After a lot of food and laughter we decided to go out on the night as we had constant babysitter for our little one.

Clubbing in Debrecen is very different to England. Places open at 11.00 pm and that's when everybody wants to get in the night club at the same time. I even got into an argument with some guys because of their attitude and because nobody seemed to learn how to queue. The design of the nightclub (called Deep) was alright however some barmen definitely need to learn some manners. We ordered 2 bottles of diet coke but we received jack Daniels and diet coke which we obviously didn't want to pay for. In England it wouldn't be a problem to solve the problem and probably the barman would say sorry but in Hungary it was different as the barman was rude to us,

We got tired of clubbing very early so we were about to call Emese's mum to pick us up. But when we got to the cloak room a guy wanted my wife to join them for the night. When I pulled my wife away the guy said "Micsoda?" that means "what?". As I learnt later the guy was probably surprised to see a white girl with a black guy. It was more than enough for me to decide not to go out  in Hungary any more.

Sausage making competition

On the fifth day, on Saturday we were invited to a sausage making competition organised by Emese's sister, Diana's church. First time in my life I could see how they make real sausage exclusively from meat without adding any bread or to it. I also met great people from the congregation. Kornel was the star of the ocassion as everyone want to hold or take pictures of him.




In the afternoon we had a short nap and I found myself being convinced by Emese to go out again.I can't blame her as she hadn't been out since she gave birth to Kornel. So we headed to town  again, people didn't stop staring at us and life went on. We had an ok night

.




A NIGERIAN MAN IN HUNGARY - PART 3 - BY GBENGA AFOLABI

Surprise party

On the sixth day we had a surprise party organised for Melinda, Emese's older sister who turned to 27. Many relatives came to celebrate together and we cooked Gulyas soup outside in the garden. The weather was lovely which is unusual in October but we definitely enjoyed it.





Emese's former home is located next to the forest so I used the opportunity to make a short "horror film" with the younger members of the family. I can tell it was really funny rather then scary.
In the afternoon we went to church that I also enjoyed as I could sing along with the choir , of course in English. I have to say that I met the nicest people in there. Some people even gave some home made toys for Kornel and we had some lovely conversations with some English speaking members.

Even though I was really tired in the afternoon I was able to convinced Emese to go for a bike ride in the area. I can't describe the freedom that I felt on the bike. There is not much traffic on Sundays in Debrecen so we could just enjoy ourselves on the sidewalk. Once we stopped for a drink at a pub and I had a bottle of "Borsodi", Hungarian beer that tasted great. I only found out later that there is zero alcohol tolerance in Hungary even for cyclists.
Luckily we did't meet any police of them.



Thermal bath
On our last day, we went to experience one of Hungary's world-famous thermal baths in Debrecen. In the spa we could have the choice of 7 different types of treatments in the indoor and outdoor pools with different temperatures-One of the pool was 40 degree-, steam and sauna. The water is used against different diseases like traumatic extended care, certain heart disturbances and nervous complaints. I will recommend the thermal bath to anyone that is planning to go to Hungary. The only thing is that being the only African at the bath, I got quite a lot of attention from people who could help but stare at me, and since most people don't speak English, all the did was stare without uttering a word which made very conscious of my skin colour whilst there.

Fela Kuti in Hungary

After the bath we had a lunch invitation from Melinda in a nice french restaurant and I couldn't believe when I heard Fela Kuti being played on the sound system. At that point it didn't really matter if anyone stared at me as I was really proud to be an African. .

On Tuesday we chose to stay at home before the journey back home. At 3 pm we found ourselves at Liszt Ferenc (old Ferihegy) airport with full of memories from Hungary. In Hungary the border officers still tried to ask for all sort of documents and family card and it was obvious that some of them didn't know what they supposed to do. Once they found what they needed to find and we showed our marriage certificate we were okay to get on board. Baby Kornel behaved very well on the way home and he actually slept off just before we landed back in the UK.

When we arrived in England we went to queue at the "non-European passport" because of my Nigerian passport but soon we were educated by the officer that I should be treated as a Hungarian citizen - because of the my status as the spouse of an Hungarian citizen. All in all I really enjoyed my holiday in Hungary and I've learnt a lot.