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Archive for September, 2011

We had our “szüret” (grape harvest) and wine making over the last week or so. We picked 185 Kg (about 400 lbs) from Tata’s garden–it’s amazing how many grapes can be packed into a moderate sized garden. After picking the grapes, we ran them through a grinder to separate the fruit from the skins and stems. After that the stems and other debris were removed and the “must” was placed in large containers for fermentation. Due to good weather, the first stage of the fermentation was over relatively quickly (about 5 days). After this the “lé” was filtered out and the skins were run through a press. All together we calculated roughly 120 liters of wine.
You can see highlights of the process in the following video montage:

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Tiny Travel Tails

Tiny’s Travel Journal

Today I woke up and licked my paws.

From Tiny Tails

Almost immediately after I shook myself and got out of bed my little sister asked me if I wanted to “Go For A Walk?” I raised my ears up cynically, just in time to hear my mom say, “Shh… it’s too early. Don’t get him all excited, we need to get dressed.” And so my family got dressed very, very slowly while I watched them with quizzical eyes. Presently I saw my little sister rush by. Her name is Noemi and she pretends that she’s my superior. The nerve! But I love her anyway and I protect her from anything that could potentially harm her including other dogs, cats, and occasionally other family members. She tells me that she doesn’t need protection because she is bigger than me but I don’t believe a word. I heard my little brother complaining that he didn’t want to Walk. Sometimes I just don’t understand my little brother. He also says that he is bigger than me, isn’t that weird? I protect him as well, because I love him and it just seems like he needs a body-guard like myself. My parents are good as they ask me if I Wanna Treat? and if I Wanna Go Outside? a lot. After a long, long while my mom took up my leash and my little sister said, “Do You Want To… Go For A Walk?”  To which I responded by  jumping up and quickly doing my yoga poses: Upward dog, Downward dog, and Stretching Dog. Then I sneezed, shook myself and wagged my tail twice to show that I was ready to Go. We walked into downtown Szolnok together where we chased pigeons and walked down the river-bank, and my parents and siblings yammered on and on. They also threw some of the fallen chestnuts into the river. I would have done the same, but the sad truth of the matter is that I don’t have opposable thumbs. Then my dad and little brother went running while me and the girls followed our noses to the bakery where my little sister bought a soft pretzel and a cherry roll, my mom and dad got walnut pastry’s, my brother also had a cherry roll. And me? Oh I had big chunks of everybody’s Food. We walked home and all-in-all it was a good Walk.

From Tiny Tails

Well before I sign off I’m going to share some interesting rumors that I have heard. One of them is that in two weeks my mom and dad are going to the big, noisy, yummy smelling city that the humans call Budapest, for several days. And I’m going to stay here with my siblings and Mama, (who is a Hungarian that knows how to pamper me). She is one of my favorite people ever ’cause she feeds me good. The other interesting piece of news I sniffed out is that we will be going to Austria soon. Hmmm… I wonder what that is all about.

Sending lots of licks to you all,

Tiny

(aided by Noemi’s imagination)

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From Croatia

I’m sure all of our readers have figured out that we went to Croatia, and it was officially awesome! But here is the trip from my perspective:
We woke up on Thursday morning promptly at 3:45 am, got everything ready, and set off at 4:30. The night was still dark and I fell asleep for a while. The 7 and a half our drive was long and by the time we got there we were exhausted! Our first stop was not the city of Pula itself but a neighboring town called Medulin. Apparently, Medulin has the ‘best sandy beach in Croatia’ so we decided to check it out. It was really an incredible beach, with the warm, clear water lapping at the shore, and lots of families splashing and playing. But we didn’t really appreciate it until afterwards when the only beaches to be found where either pebbly or rocky. We spent the first night there in Medulin, but the next morning we drove right to Pula. Pula was a very fun stop and I’m so glad we did go to check it out. It was “my city” because I chose it and did research on it before hand, and got the opportunity to lead my family around the city for the first time.

From Croatia

We visited the ancient Roman amphitheater, one of the best preserved roman amphitheaters or Colosseums outside of Rome. Pula has a long and interesting history and that is one of the reasons I chose it. Apparently they found evidence of Homo Erectus dating back to 1 million years ago in a cave outside the city. It was a well-known Roman city, but they believe it may also have been a Greek one before that, because archaeologists found a half-statue of Apollo and lots of Greek pottery and tools, as well as the fact that in the ancient Greek myths of Jason and Medea, when Jason allegedly stole the golden fleece, the Colchians chased him into the Adriatic sea, and when they couldn’t catch him, they took refuge in a city called Polai. This points to the fact that the Greeks attributed the foundation of the city now called Pula, to the Colchians. But anyway, after Pula was declared a Roman city, the Romans built the Arena (as they call it) for entertainment purposes. They created the city’s first water and sewage system as well, under the rule of Julius Caesar. They also built 10 gates around the city, so as to fortify it. Only four of the gates remain standing today and we saw two of them during our visit: the twin gates.

The Romans also built the Temple of Augustus, which is also one of the ancient Roman relics left standing. I loved the beautifully carved Corinthian columns, the most detailed of three types of ancient columns. (Naturally we took tons of pictures!) The city was the taken over by tons of people, the Ostrogoths, the Franks, (under Charlemagne) The Austro-Hungarian too, and tons more. Which makes it all the more amazing that all these ancient Roman sites actually survived all those years to modern times.

From Croatia

We only stayed in Pula for a few hours, but I relished being able to set foot in a city with so much history. On the drive up to our final stop, Rovinj, we drove through Bale, a small town where they actually discovered dinosaur tracks! We even saw a statue there commemorating the event. Upon arrival in Rovinj, we immediately parked the car and wandered the winding cobblestone streets, before finding a place to stay. Eventually we found the perfect little place, a rental apartment attached to the owner’s home, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. From there we set off to the beach, which was, though pebbly, quite beautiful. With the smell of baking pine trees above us and the brilliant blue sea below, I think we all felt like we have been given a little slice of paradise. We swam and enjoyed the clear warm water and the view of Rovinj from afar.

From Croatia

In the evening we went back into the city and enjoyed some more shining cobblestone streets. It was like a maze, and though the city itself was small, it would have been easy to get lost. You would be walking down a tight, narrow, little street and then it would open up and you would find yourself in a busy square or maybe a restaurant.

From Croatia

We walked up to the top of the town, where Rovinj’s famous bell-tower stands. From there you could see everything: the town, the harbor, the ocean, the beaches, and even the tiny island of St. Catalina, all under the purple haze of twilight. We shuffled home, and I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

Our second day in Rovinj was spent much as the first. We went to the market which was wonderful and bought fresh grapes and figs as well as some soft pretzels for breakfast. We walked around the city much as we had the day before, and for lunch we picnicked on the beach. A lot of the rest of the afternoon was spent swimming and sunbathing and shell-collecting in bliss.

From Croatia

In the evening we went to a restaurant for dinner to celebrate the night before my birthday. We found the perfect restaurant, one with good prices, amazing food, and it wasn’t to crowded, as it was in one of the back streets. My dad and I shared a grilled meat plate, my brother had fettucine pasta with truffle sauce and my mom a seafood plate with plenty of squid (eurgh). But I think we all had an amazing meal in the perfect atmosphere.

From Croatia

The next day was my birthday, September 11th, and the day of coming home. It was a sad thing to be leaving this wonderful place after so short of a time but we were excited as well, to come home. We left at 5:30 am and were home by 2:30 in the afternoon. Waiting for us was the entire gang: grandparents, cousins, and uncle, as well as our beloved Tiny. We ate a delicious home-cooked meal and out came the surprise birthday cake that we weren’t expecting.

It was an incredible adventure, and we all learned so much!

Signing off,

Noemi

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Croatia Slideshow

We could fill pages with text about what we did and what we saw in Croatia, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, a slideshow with over 70 pictures should be worth at least 70 thousand…right?

Kriszti put the pictures together and I created the slideshow with another song from Andy (“Me Mr. Moo”)

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Ice Cream

From Croatia

Fagylalt, gelato, une glasse, an ice cream. Whatever you want to call it, it’s one of the tastiest substances ever created.

We’ve been here for a few weeks now, and I wanted to post about a subject that I think is near and dear to all of our hearts: ice cream. When in Europe, my family make a casual unspoken goal of eating as many scoops of the stuff as possible. We’ve eaten ice cream so many times that it has practically become family tradition, along with all the customs and habits that go along with ice cream.

From Selected Sabbatical Pix

Over the past few years we have eaten ice cream in cones and bowls, probably spanning a hundred or so flavors, and from various countries including the United States, Hungary, Italy, and most recently Croatia. I have to say that nothing so far has quite matched the delicious gelato we enjoyed at Roma Gelato in Rimini, Italy on our visit in 2009, but there are many other places that have come close including the Marcipán Cukrázda here in Szolnok.

According to wikipedia, the modern milk or cream based ice cream is Arabic in origin and was invented around the 9th or 10th century. It’s possible that this dessert was based on water-ice based chilled dessert recipes coming from ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Arabia, the earliest estimated dates being around 400 B.C. The Turks continued the practice of making chilled milk desserts, with the exception that they added rock salt during the creation process to aid its freezing and delay the melting. Italian merchants brought ice cream back to Europe during the renaissance, and was served only to nobles and royalty for several centuries because of the high cost of bringing ice in from the mountains, the only method of cooling available during the time period. It wasn’t until 1718 that the first known published recipe appeared in the famous London cookbook Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts. From the 1940s onwards, the cheap cost of refrigeration made it possible for ice cream to become a franchise. And that’s how we got the tasty treat we all enjoy today!

From Selected Sabbatical Pix

I have to say that when it comes to ice cream, I do have my own preferences. Here’s where personal opinion comes in. I’m not picky about what flavor of ice cream you enjoy best, as long as you enjoy it. Whatever floats your boat, I say. Nonetheless, I decided to take a poll about my family’s favorite flavors, just for fun. Here’s what I found out. My favorites are lemon (citrom) and hazelnut, although the Italian “pompello rossa” is pretty close. My dad said grapefruit (pompello rosso in Italian) and lemon, anya (my mom) said kókusz (Hungarian for coconut) and wild berry, and my sister’s are cantaloupe and zöldalma (green apple). Funny enough, most experienced ice cream eaters like ourselves seem to enjoy fruit flavors. I don’t know about the rest of our family. I’ll ask mama and tata about theirs at the nearest opportunity.

From August 2011

Although they are not nearly as famous for it as Italy, France or other Mediterranean countries, I would think–based on my experience–that Hungary is a pretty decent producer of ice cream, both by quantity and quality. You can go almost anywhere in the country and find little indie ice cream places, and the only chains available are American and other foreign brands that have overflowed. You can bet that for every 5,000 or so people living in a town, there will be at least one ice cream place. Though some are more commercial than others, walking around we have found at least 20 locations of ice cream vendors in Szolnok alone. Only time will tell if we will try them all.

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Thursday last week we decided to borrow the family Fiat and drive down to the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. It is about a nine-hour drive with stops along the way, so we decided to leave early in the morning (4:30 AM-ish). We were through Budapest before 6 and in Croatia by 9. I was doing the driving, and when we stopped for gas just over the border (after about five hours driving), I was definitely needing some coffee (in Croatian it is called “kava”).
The problem was I didn’t have any Croatian money (Kuna). I paid for gas by card and didn’t want to use it again just for coffee.
Back in the car I told the family my dilemma, and it wasn’t much later we were driving down the road singing:

No Kuna, no kava
What a wonderful phrase
No Kuna, no kava
Ain’t no passing craze
It’s a caffeine free philosophy
No Kuna, no kava…

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Hello readers! I’m sitting down to fill you in with all the things that have happened and in doing so, completing my weekly blogpost! Well I’ll start by saying last week was “Szolnok Napja” or “Szolnok Day” here in Szolnok. It’s the city’s ‘birthday,’ So to speak, and this year our cute little city of Szolnok has turned 936 years old! We went to several of the many events and mini-celebrations that abounded last week.

Just to give you an idea of Szolnok before I go on to tell you about the events: Szolnok is one of the top ten largest cities in Hungary I believe, and though I wouldn’t say that it’s HUGE (because in American standards, it’s pretty small) but it has everything one would need to get by. One of my favorite things about it is the market, called the “Piac” in Hungarian. A Piac is a common thing in Hungary, almost every single town has one. In Szolnok’s case it is an outdoor-indoor market place, that goes on every day all year round, though some days are better market days than others. All of the vendors are local farmers, come to sell their fruits and vegetables, or meat and cheese, or whatever they’re products are.

From August 2011

Szolnok isn’t perfect, and it’s not stunningly beautiful either, (although I still love it) but it’s being improved everyday. Just last week they where filling in all the pot holes on our street. They have been painting and improving a lot of the buildings around town, and last year they built a brand-new ultra-modern bridge crossing the Tisza, one of the two rivers here in town.

Anyway about the events… My mom, Andy, and I went to visit the city’s museum to get some back-round history about Szolnok as part of roadschool. It was a beautiful building near the main square. When we stepped inside we noticed we were the only people there and we got tickets without waiting in-line and got to tour the museum alone. Since we were a bit pressed for time we visited the Archeology and “Ném Rajz” (which I’m not sure of the translation but it was a study of how people lived long ago) sections. It was really fun to see the all the archeological discoveries found around Szolnok. There where things like tools and pottery and even a human skeleton, preserved very well, found a few miles from here. Then in the second section it showed models of clothes and displays of furniture and art and even money. I loved seeing the gigantic hoop skirt that was made to emulate the dress of a lady of higher status. And all the small thin silver coins about the size of a penny. All in all a very interesting visit.

From August 2011

A few days later was a my favorite event the “mécses úsztatás” which was where people brought candles to light and float upon the water of the overlooking the river.

From Szolnok

I loved the atmosphere here. The next day there was a concert near the train station. We walked down to where it was taking place and enjoyed listening to the Hungarian singer’s version of songs like ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ in English. Then, just a few days ago after coming of the library we witnessed a marching band parading down the road. I love how the Hungarians have so much spirit!

This past weekend we went to Vác by train to visit my great-uncle and aunt, but that is a long, long story so I’ll leave it to someone else. Before I finish up I just wanted to talk very briefly about what kind of schooling we do here at “roadschool”. These days I usually do a lot of internet reasearch for subjects like math, science and history. Right now more specifically I’m starting Algebra for math, and doing some biology and earth science. History is my favorite and writing now I’m learning about the middle ages. I’m reading a novel in Hungarian and two in English (I like to read…hehehe) Emma, by Jane Austin and Sherlock Holmes. In Hungarian I’m reading a translated version of a book I read back home, called Percy Jackson. I’m also starting Italian.

Well Ciao for now!

(And thanks Mia for sending us our very first comment!!)

Noemi

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