I’m fully adjusted to life in the tropics. I’m used to days that are almost exactly half light and half dark year round, and annual temperatures that vary less than 10°C from the year’s low to its high. However, I just got back from Hungary, and was reminded of some of the redeeming features of the great, white, whitest-of-white north.
Fortunately, we were eased into the winter experience. When we arrived, it looked like this:
By the end it looked more like this:
So beyond visiting family, why travel into the arctic chill?
9.) Christmas markets: If you’re tired of this year’s mass-produced doodads and gizmos churned out of massive factories in China, you can see some new and interesting wares within these markets (though there’s no escaping mass-produced tsotchkes altogether.) In Budapest’s markets, you can even find blacksmiths to custom make your metal needs.
8.) Skating and winter sports / activities: In India one has three choices for viewing or participating in sports: cricket, soccer, or–did I mention–cricket. It was refreshing to see skiing, skating, etc. on TV and in practice.
7.) Vivid sunsets: Something about the high latitude and proclivity for cloud cover made for brilliant colors, and you can’t miss the sunset because it happens at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
6.) Street food: There are so many outstanding high-calorie food options too keep your internal furnace burning.
5.) Color: There’s no place that outdoes India in the brilliant colors department, but villages like Szentendre are no strangers to vivid colors–though not necessarily ones that assault the eyes. Besides the warm yellow-orange that is ubiquitous throughout the region, there are a range of colors that one doesn’t see everyday and that I–as a straight man–have no idea of the names of.
4.) Concerts: Music is big in Hungary, and there are bills for Christmas concerts all over the place. That said, we missed most of the Christmas music in favor of going to hear a popular Dixieland Jazz band and a New Years Concert that mostly rock-and-roll cover songs. Dixieland Jazz isn’t what one expects in Hungary, but it’s nice to see American art forms other than Hollywood cinema and television programming that have a huge following abroad.
3.) Finding your inner child: If you grew up in a wintery place–as I did–the cold, colors, and lights of the holiday season transport one back to the simple and energetic time of one’s youth.
2.) Hot beverages: You develop a renewed appreciation for coffee, tea, mulled wine, and hot cocoa when it’s freezing.
1.) Kürtőskalács: If you don’t know what this is, it’s worth the visit for it alone. It’s one of the best wintertime snacks anywhere in the world, and is hand’s down the best cylindrical food in existence.