Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off

Talking about music, consciousness, silent film, Italian food, travel, good books, married life, kids, and more

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Odessa and Budapest

Dear Family,

Safe in our familiar room at the Hotel Palace in
Bologna. We really enjoyed Budapest, ate well and
cheaply in little cafes and hole-in-the-wall
restaurants. Visited the synagogue (so who was there
among you ? Deb, did you sing there? Mom & Dad?) One
more day and we could have made it to the Holocaust
memorial, but too much to do in two short days when
one's first priority is....EATING! Only slightly
kidding. The strudel was phenomenal (carried some
here and had it for lunch dessert today) and had an
amazing dish of some kind of cabbage, rice and meat
yesterday. Tried to find a tiny Jewish restaurant
we'd read about, but after winding through little
streets discovered it was closed for renovations for
a month, and the Jewish bakery we'd been recommended
to was only open MWF and it was Th. Oh well. Next
time. We'd go back. Our hotel was just terrific, a
very light and spacious two room suite with
skylights, a balcony where we ran a clothesline I'd
brought. Nick slept on the day bed and
we had a separate bedroom where the rain thundered
on the pulldown windows last night, the first rain
of our trip. In the morning the doves coo,
"Adooooooooopt me, A dooooooopt me, " or "I
loooooooove you," or "A struuuuuuuuuuuudel," or "The
Czaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar stinks," depending on your frame
of mind.

Odessa was quite interesting and beautiful around
the harbor where we walked down the famous steps and
across to the harbor, then huffed and puffed back up
the steps. Strolled around the souvenir market and
bought trinkets and a beautiful Matrozhka (nesting
doll) with a suite Ukrainian face, skipping the ones
of Kerry and Bush and Star Wars.

Ate in a great cafe where you can get green borscht
for 35 cents a bowl. Our meals cost $5 total on the
average, maybe 8 if we splurged.

Tuesday we slept late in the hotel our driver (a
young Ukrainian entrepreneur friend of our Lakeville
friend Jake) had found for us. We had tried to get
Valentina to make a reservation for us at the
Victoria Hotel without success. When we got there
Monday morning after a memorable overnight train
ride from Simferopol we'll tell you about at length
sometime, the Victoria was filled up. So Oleg drove
us to a second nearby place where the desk clerk
couldn't even be bothered to come out but spoke to
him from back in her room around the corner (where
she was probably too lazy to get up, it being
6:30am). She said we could look at a room upstairs.
A look was all it took. Peeling wallpaper, two
narrow beds. We took off in a hurry. Next place
turned out to be just fine, a two room suite with
two TVs and balcony, good hot water and even toilet
paper, which in public places is nonexistent.

So then Oleg and his English-speaking wife Natalya
drove us to the airport, stopping first at a
gigantic superstore, Walmart-sized, two years old,
where we saw more stuff than we'd seen in a week. It
was astonishing to compare the 21st century inside
the store with the 19th we'd left in the Sevastopol
market, though to be fair there was plenty of
wonderful produce in both places. But this was like
being in a major American supermarket, except
everything at a fraction of the price. We bought big
chocolate bars for 40 cents. Great cheese at two
dollars or less a pound. AA batteries for 20

No toilet paper in the airport johns.

Flew Hungarian airline Malev to Budapest, short taxi
ride to our hotel we had found on the web. $92 a
night for aforementioned accommodations, including
great buffet breakfast.

Spent three hours Wednesday in the gigantic indoor
market, then walked across the Danube to the
renowned Hotel Gellert, a big Victorian spa, where
we tried to get an appointment for a Thai massage
but there wasn't enough time. Ate strudel at a
nearby cafe instead. Walked home so as not to feel
too guilty.

Thursday was the synagogue as I said before, as well
as a long visit to the free National Historical
Museum, very beautiful and interesting, and other
walking around, and then last night went to a folk
dance concert which we were able to videotape a good
deal of, since nobody seemed to mind and other
people took pictures too. National folk ensemble,
gorgeous costumes, singing, dancing, live music.

Left very early this morning, the hotel kindly
packing up bkfst for us since it was too early to

So here we are in Bologna. I'm typing this at the
free Internet computers at the city information
bureau right on the Piazza Maggiore, where we will
probably go see Master and Commander tonight at 10
outside as a prelude to the festival, which starts
tomorrow. I have 10 shows, and you can see all the
info online at

I'm going to buy some olive oil and tomatoes and lettuce
and cheese and peppers at the big nearby market, and
dine in our room minus the strudel :-(

We feel extraordinarily lucky to have the freedom
and finances to do all that we are doing on this
trip. The Ukrainians we met (though the gangsters
building starter mansions in Odessa are certainly
the exception) cannot make ends meet on one job,
they really have to hustle just to survive, let
alone do anything like go to a movie or take a trip
somewhere, and evidently US tourist visas are
extremely difficult to get. We would like to help
the people we met there in any way we can. When you see these faces and hear
their voices, you'll know what we mean.