In the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to travel to Budapest, Hungary. This was my first time outside the U.S. (not counting a weekend trip to Victoria, Canada for a physics conference) and it was a sort of surprise trip. Long and the short of it, I got a call somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin and was asked “Would you like to go to Budapest in 4 weeks?”
During the trip I toured labs and science facilities, picked up bits and pieces of the difficult Hungarian language, did some research, learned about CNN (Cellular Neural Networks), saw some amazing buildings and historical sites, and many other things. I walked so much that my calves burned at the end of each day. Oh, I also got to stay in the top floor of a nunnery at 10 bíró utca.
From L to R: Kristy, Allen, Kate, Dr. Tamas Roska, Julia, Rebeca, Me, Dr. Arpad Csurgay
I, along with Kristy, Allen, Julia and Rebeca (the other students on the trip), often went to dinner with professors and grad students from the Peter Pazmany Catholic University. These dinners were some of the best parts of the trip. Not only did I get to have some great Hungarian food, but I was able to talk with them about international research, the culture and politics of Hungary, and the city of Budapest. These conversations made the trip real and present and were the counter-balance to the ancient sites that I visited. In talking to them, I got a better idea of the spirit of Hungary as it is now. This, however, takes away in no way from the sites we all on the trip visited (see below).
I presented my research to the students of the Pazmany University and to Dr. Roska. It’s weird, I can almost present at will for any project after touring with the Two-Photon experiment so often last year. I got my slides together, stood up and pretty much went into auto-pilot… I wonder if that’s the road to being a boring presenter?
On a different note, the site-seeing we did on the trip was eye-opening. Kate, a Budapestian… Budapestite?… was the ‘tour director’ and scheduled visits and weekend trips to the brim. She has ties to museums and historical sites in the Budapest area, and took us to pretty much everything there is to see. She also had a commanding knowledge of the history of Hungary, and related to us all many tales of the past.
People talk about the sense of history and the past in Europe, but never having been I didn’t understand it. After visiting the sites that we did, I was amazed at how the buildings and associated stories leaned into me. I could help but feel the weight of the past as I walked through the castle area of Budapest (on the Buda side), or as I hiked up to the fortress of Visegrad. I got a small glimpse of what how some people can speak of 1000 AD as if it were yesterday.
Taking a break in the shade in the Castle of Budapest. That is the Hungarian Parliament building in the background across the Danube River on the Pest side. Average Temp on the trip: 95 F.
All in all, it was an excellent trip and all the hosts (Gabor, Miklosh, Dr. Csurgay, Kate, Julia, Geolt, Barnabas, Kristof and others) displayed top-notch hospitality and care for me and the other REU students.