I spent four days in Budapest last week. It’s a beautiful old town with breath-taking historical buildings and a romantic river, meandering through the heart of the city. As I soaked in the sights and smells all around me, I found myself traveling to places I had never expected.
The steaming hot lentil stew and sausage from a humble restaurant around the corner transported me into my grandma’s living room. I remembered how I would explore the depths of an iron pot with my fork to find the hidden sausage pieces, leaving only lentils for everyone else. It seemed like yesterday when Grandma would shake her head and, with a big, exasperated smile say, “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay”; then continue to let me fish for sausage pieces because she loved me too much to be concerned with trifles.
The rich, suddenly familiar aroma of gigantic bread loafs in Hungarian bakeries reminded me of how I had once come back from summer camp with a recipe for organic bread. I had run to my grandma and asked her to help me bake it. Grandma sacrificed a big lump of her pension money for the expensive ingredients. She then dedicated an entire afternoon to our endeavor, enduring my impatience with the baking process in Zen-like serenity. Self-absorbed, with true teenage obliviousness, I behaved horribly and shouted at her when the bread didn’t turn out the way I had expected.
Throughout my stay in Budapest, bitter-sweet memories flooded me. I watched the calmly flowing Danube River and wished I could jump on a float and be transported upstream towards a past horizon, into the arms of Grandma. One more, long hug, enveloping her like a warm, soft but firm cashmere blanket, letting her know from my adult self just how deeply grateful I was and always will be for her unconditional love.
Traveling is never just a search for new horizons. Inevitably, our sensory impressions along the way trigger memories and, while past and present merge in our minds, our sensual experiences become the true landmarks.