I’ve spent the last couple days meandering the countryside east of Budapest, with Uncle John and his vintage Honda Accord. He prides himself on his organizational skills, and to the untrained eye you might be fooled into believing that he’s on top of everything. But put him behind the wheel of a car and you’re bound to get lost whilst listening to Lawrence Welk-inspired seafaring tunes and the hypnotic beat of the turn signal he’s forgotten to turn off. Despite all this, my days were pleasant, informative and reasonably well-fed. But more importantly, I got to meet up with some interesting relatives and old family friends that made me feel connected to something important.
You may recall a little earlier in my road trip, back in Minnesota, when I was doing a little research into my grandfather, Captain Andy, and his voyages from Hungary to the Port of Duluth. Well, now I’m on the other end of that trip, getting to know where his love of sailing came from, almost a hundred years ago. In short, it began on this small lake in Tata (pictured above), where he lived as a young boy and went to secondary school. His mother wanted him to be a mining engineer. Dutifully, begrudingly, he followed his mothers wishes to university in Sopron, but he never stopped planning his great escape to sea. It wasn’t until his uncle’s chance meeting with esteemed Admiral Horthy that young Andras got his first real assignment, and with that, a colorful career that his family and countrymen will tell tales about for a long time to come. Some taller than others.
While in Sopron, we also met up with a distant cousin, Tomas, and his family. They have just recently completed construction on a beautiful house on a small apple orchard near the center of town. The whole family are accomplished skiers, with a basement outfitted with dozens of skis and a state-of-the-art workshop for waxing, tuning and wedging. I made that last one up. However, there was one rather peculiar aspect to the house that Tomas was very proud to show us—a design feature that is very popular in Hungarian homes I am told. Well, when I say popular, I mean it’s something that many men would aspire to have in their home. Wine cellar? Big screen TV? Stripper pole? Nope. A tower. A place, presumably, for male egos to keep watch over their domain. Or perhaps the neighbor’s wife.