Archive for the ‘Andy’ Category

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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We did indeed visit a lake for two days while we have been here, the magnificent lake Balaton. I think our greatest motivation for going was the heat, although we jumped at an opportunity to rent a house at the Balaton. Like all large lakes, it enjoys a slightly cooler micro-climate. Seeing as how the temperature has hardly dipped under 90 degrees the whole time we’ve been here, it was a welcome escape. And one must not forget that the Balaton is one of the family’s (and my) favorite destinations anywhere, let alone here in Hungary.

From Balaton 2011

Instead of posting about our visit to the Balaton, which was enjoyable regardless of coverage and will doubtless be covered anyway, I plan on discussing the lake itself–mostly stuff I found out about its history–for this post. I will, however, summarize it in bare-bones form.

A brief overview of our trip: we left from Szolnok around 10:00 in the morning on the Friday the 26th and arrived at our rental house in Balatonlelle (the name of the town) around 1:00, went to the beach and had a delicious lunch (consisting of lángos, which is a traditional fried flabread eaten with cheese, sour cream, salt and garlic), spent the afternoon there, went back to the house and changed clothes, had a nice restaurant dinner, came back and went to bed. We spent the whole next day at the beach including lunch–apart from a walk we took downtown–and had another restaurant dinner. On the 28th we got up, took a windy early morning walk on the marina, not far from the beach we had spent the previous day at, had breakfast, went souvenir shopping (not me; I was too tired and sunburned to walk by the end of it), and drove back arriving as always back home in time for a late lunch (notice any theme here?). 🙂

So, lake Balaton is a famous tourist destination amongst Central Europeans today, but it also has a history. One resort called Balatonfüred (which we’ve been to before) had been used by aristocrats as a medicinal bath and resort since the 15th century during the first Hapsburg dynasty, although records show the use of several locations around the lake as baths since Roman times. It started catering to middle class tourists in the mid 1800’s.

From Balaton 2011

The lake has seen war too. Archaeological evidence indicates that several different battles occurred in various parts of the lake region between the 12th and 13th centuries B.C.E., possibly between resident Slavic or Illyrian tribes. In World War Two a joint counter attack between the German and Hungarian forces assaulted a recently established British/Soviet stronghold on the lake in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture oil reserves. This attack that has become known as the “Lake Balaton Offensive” or “Operation Frühlingserwachen.”

Badacsony, a region named after a large hill on the north side of the lake is known for its great wines, which have also been here since Roman times. Viniculture is hugely successful in the region because the lake reflects sunlight back onto the hills, allowing the grapes to recieve more. My dad says we’ve visited a few times, but it must have been when I was younger because I don’t really remember.

I got some of this information from wikipedia, some from a Hungarian website called congraf.hu, and some just from knowledge, but I’m not planning on citing these posts unless I’m made to. That’s all for today. Fun trip. Awesome lake.

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Day 13 of the trip and I have returned from our four-day foray into Debrecen, the 2nd largest urban area in Hungary. My favorite part of the stay was the ice cream (as always), but I also enjoyed walking around “Kossuth Lajos tér” (Lajos Kossuth was a famous Hungarian political figure; tér means “square” as in a city square), visiting the nagyerdö (big forest), going inside the huge marble university building, watching the fireworks on August 20th–the biggest Hungarian national holiday–playing darts (mostly just me throwing darts at the board by myself because nobody else seemed to like it), and just spending time with family.

From Selected Sabbatical Pix

Debrecen is big, but by American standards, not huge. Wikipedia says 207,000 residents last year. I’ve heard several people say that the greater metropolitan area is closer to 300,000, but that still puts the figure far away from what you would expect for the second biggest city in the country. It just reminds you what kind of quiet little farm country this really is.

We arrived, once again, by train, which is an easier, simpler, sometimes cheaper and ultimately more fun way to travel long distances in Hungary than by car. The house we stayed at–my uncle’s–was larger than the apartment here at Bajtárs utca, but significantly smaller than our house in Sherwood, Oregon. It was located about twenty minutes walk from downtown, so we did walk once or twice, but instead of suffering almost an hour of walking plus the hours downtown, we went by bus or car when we could. The second full day was when we took our most extensive trip, making a long loop around town through the cobblestone streets of old town and the big nagyerdö city park. We visited a lot of sights downtown. I’m not going to try to remember all of them. On the fourth day (the fifth day if you count our first partial day as day one), we got up, ate a leisurely breakfast, waited for anya (mom) and my sister to get back from the dentist–did I mention my uncle is a dentist?–and took the noontime train back to Szolnok in time for a late lunch.

Since we’re going to be living here for five months, I think I will try to familiarize myself with the history of this and other parts of the country to a greater level. I don’t know much about Debrecen but I found this brief visit fun. I realize this post was shorter than the previous two, and perhaps the shortest post I will write, but its closer to the size I want to make my posts over the next few weeks.

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I am pleased to say that our journey went well. Better than expected, in fact. I love it here in Hungary, as I always have. There seems to be much more to do here on a daily basis than at home. The size of the apartment, the harder European beds and the lack of ice water are the only meager minuses in this equation, and the pluses include better food, more scenic environment, awesome grandparents, better TV programming (hehe), so all in all I am having fun!

By request of my parents, my schooling (which we are now referring to as roadschooling) will be supplemented by a bi- or tri-weekly blog post. This can be considered the first.

We arrived about a week ago, on August 10th, having left the previous day. The day of arrival was–as my comic Hungarian uncle Zoltán says–“kómás” or “comatose,” and consequently more memorable for my brain’s less than fully functioning state than for the arrival itself. I ended up sleeping half the afternoon that day, which is the most chronic and unfortunate symptom of a 14-hour string of flights and layovers that starts at about 3 AM, especially when the flight is to somewhere as pleasant as here.

That morning we awoke on the flight to Frankfurt at around 3 AM local time once more (at least I did), laid over in Frankfurt until 6:30, got to the Ferihegy airport somewhere around 8:00. Having looked at tickets online back home, we got on our train as planned, but we had to take an unexpected stop in Cegléd before arriving at Szolnok Vasútállomás (Szolnok train station). Imagine our impatience when we arrived via taxi here at their apartment and find that mama and tata were not home! So we called them on a cell phone we borrowed from our taxi driver, waited for about 10 minutes for them to get back from the store and finally were able to rest. After eating fresh local bakery bread, Trapista sajt (a mild Hungarian cheese), kolbász (spicy Hungarian sausage that is the equivalent of a string of pepperoni except thinner and tastier), and drinking ripe, summer peach juice, we retired and slept soundly… only to get up at 3 AM local time again!

The second day we went for a walk down the Tisza, a river that runs through Szolnok which is much bluer than the Danube, trust you me! I really wanted ice cream but apparently it was too early, so we arrived back in time for lunch at mama and tata’s other house on “tigris utca”–“tiger street;” they own a second home: a family house that is only slightly bigger than their first home that they only keep for the garden and as a house for when guests come. We talked, swang on swings and stayed for dinner.

Day three we went shopping, then ate ice cream. Apart from the ice cream, there isn’t much to say.

Day four and five we were spent entertaining my mom’s brother’s family: my uncle Zoltán, and my cousins Boglárka and Dominika, both of whom are younger than my sister.

From August 2011

Day six (yesterday) we walked downtown and bought grapes at the farmers market, called the “piac.” My mom (Noemi and I call her “anya,” which means mom in Hungarian) absentmindedly asked for 2 kilos. We got ice cream again.

Today I am blogging. Nothing has happened yet and probably we will just be doing another walk and some other mild things today, but we are planning on going to Debrecen tomorrow. That will probably be my next post. Until then, I’ll be having fun here on my dad’s radical sabbatical!

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I started a blog–andymanmusic–to follow our blog here today, August 2nd 2011. My main goal with this is to catalog for myself and the world everything that happens to me on our European adventure. I will later come back to my blog and post some samples of my art and music here, but I think I will most likely end up posting much more frequently on theradicalsabbatical for the moment being. The site couldn’t connect me to my about page right away, so just in case I won’t be able to find it here’s a brief introduction. (I’ll probably just end up copying this over if/when I find my about page, but here goes.)

My name is Andy VanSlyke. My birth name is Andras, courtesy of my Hungarian heritage. I am a 15-year old male teen amateur musician, author, playwright, and–most recently–blogger, currently living in greater Portland, Oregon. We are soon to relocate to Szolnok, Hungary to be with my grandparents until Christmas. We plan to leave in one week, exactly August 9th. I tried a small sample of high school, but didn’t like as much as I thought I would, so for these past six months I have been home-schooled (or more appropriately have been schooling myself at home).

I’m related to everyone else on this blog in the following way: my parents are Tim and Kriszti and my sister is Noemi.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m enthusiastically, happily a nerd. I love almost all types of music (except the more electronic types of pop and hip-hop–which I don’t really consider to be music anyway–or any punk or metal that has crossed the threshold from music into thrash insanity. But we’ll get to all that later). I am in the process of starting a one-man project–one that I hope will grow to be a band–called “Type B.” Don’t ask me how I thought of the name; it just came to me. I love progressive rock, classic rock, alternative rock, blues, ballad, classical, jazz, grunge and ambient music, so while I’m still finding my sound, it is likely to start out as some mixture of a few of these. So far I have mainly been using Apple’s garageband software to compose because I can’t really afford (and don’t really need) any more expensive programs at this stage. I have drums, a midi keyboard and an electric guitar at home, which I use often to augment my composition. My favorite part of composing mixing soft and loud dynamics. My biggest goal for music on my trip is buying a decent acoustic guitar and learning to become a shredding, whammy-ing rock virtuoso with some awesome online guitar lessons I’ve found. I’m interested in any classical or jazz/blues guitar as well, but I think the rock guitar technical knowledge will help me most.

Wow, did I say brief introduction? I’m so sorry! It just kind of came out. Anyway my blog is AndyManMusic at wordpress.com and this message is there too. More later.

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