Tour of Duty - Hungary

Next was our visit to Hungary. Hungarians are a strong willed people. They seem to have an idea of what they want, when they want it with the added expectation that YOU will give it to them no questions asked. Israelis are similar in energy and spirit so one must be prepared to understand the nature of the people when visiting and go with the flow. When in Rome...

The city rests along both sides of the Danube River with an imposing palace (now a museum) high atop a hill called, not surprisingly, Castle Hill. This area is filled with ancient architecture, shops and cafes that overlook the river views and city below. Beautiful park grounds filled with graceful mature trees and benches for a contemplative respite dot the hillside as you wind your way up to the top. Hungarian Goulash is a big soup in Budapest as well as giant soft pretzels with melted cheese sold on street corners everywhere. Of course I managed to sample both on more than one occasion.

We couldn’t resist the glorious sunny day, so we decided to walk, shop and enjoy the café society in and around Castle Hill. Herend Porcelain is the big local specialty there. She and I spent quite a while pointing, touching and ultimately purchasing some objects d’arts as mementos.

The American Embassy staff coordinated a well-planned trip around breast cancer awareness month. And similarly to Bucharest, I participated in bathing the famous Chain Bridge in pink light. I spoke several times that night both at a press cocktail party event (where Ambassadors to Hungary from many different countries were in attendance) as well as on the stage at the outdoor Breast Cancer Awareness Street Festival which took place at the foot of the bridge.

I marched across that pink bridge with the Hungarian First Lady and Prime Minister. Other notables like Hungarian celebrities accompanied, as a blaze of paparazzi walking backwards photographed us all as we marched forward. One of the fine art museums was opened to us, which was very special too. And as with all the countries, the ambassador honored me with either a luncheon or cocktail party where I had an opportunity to speak before many illustrious people accomplished in arts, entertainment, medicine and politics.

Wherever we went and whomever I talked to it remains true that rich or poor, young or old, educated professionals or working class laborers, poor health is the great equalizer and what we don’t know is killing us…