A Night at the Opera

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by Rich Landesberg

Budapest seems to have gotten away from me, with no updates yet from Hungary. Our flights went well and our arrival in this beautiful old city heralded the start of our eastern journey through the European Union. The first night here was spent at the classic old opera house to see a production of Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss. Most of our students had never been to the opera and, at first blush, may have been disappointed when they found out the translated name of the opera, The Bat, was not the latest installment of the Twilight Saga. But if the building was not breathtaking enough, this opera blew everyone away. Despite the language issues–the dialogue was in Hungarian, with German subtitle; the music was in German, with Hungarian subtitle–everyone enjoyed the music, dancing and acting and most of us could follow a good chunk of the plot. Many of the students are now determined to make this only the first opera they have seen, not the last.

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The next morning, students were given a list of things they could do on their own in Budapest. I took a small group to the central market where Hungarians have been buying food for more than 100 years. It is a great place to eat, buy local food products and find souvenirs. Some readers of this blog may even be beneficiaries of our morning walk to the market. Dr. Morgan took one of our hardier students on a long walk across the bridge to Old Buda and up to one of the highest peaks where they had a grand view of snow showers rolling down into Pest, the lower part of the city.

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The afternoon was spent touring the grand old Parliament building and learning a bit about Hungarian history. Our walk over, created the route of the students who protested for freedom in 1956, only to be coldly shot and killed by the Soviet occupiers of Hungary. It was sobering moment. After Parliament we were off to European Central University where our students were exposed to the possibility of doing graduate studies here. Of course, between the two events we had to stop for coffee and what better place than Gerbaud, the famous 19th century coffee shop that has been serving intellectuals and coffee lovers for about 150 years. The evening featured a group dinner with typical Hungarian food at the Soul Cafe. A great way to top off a very full day.

By the way, the title of the entry today refers to a classic Marx Brothers movie. When we were in Brussels, we saw where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital. I made a crack about the place next door being where Groucho wrote A Day at the Races. There were nothing but blank stares from the group. I know that many of my generation “rediscovered” the Marx Brothers. Maybe it is time for this generation to do the same

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St. Stephens church by European Central University.

Next….Sunday in Budapest

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