No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


October 3, 2013

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One of the leading and most luxurious exports from Hungary is the beautiful hand-painted and gilded porcelain from the Herend company. There are multiple porcelain manufacturers in Hungary but none have the renown and quality of Herend and my mother Marta was keen to show off to my sister Michele, Kathy and myself the incredible Herend factory and museum.

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The factory is located about 45 minutes away from Budapest in the small town of Herend and is a popular tourist destination due to the award winning museum and factory tours that exhibit just how the incredible porcelain is created. We hired a taxi to take us for the day and headed off in to the country to see the factory.

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Founded in 1826, in Herend near the city of  Veszprem. In the mid-19th century it was purveyor to the Hapsburg Dynasty and aristocratic customers throughout Europe. Many of its classic patterns are still in production. After the fall of Communism in Hungary the factory was privatised and is now 75% owned by its management and workers. As of 2006, the factory is profitable and exports to over 60 countries of the world. Its main markets are Italy, Japan, Russia and the US.

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Herend porcelain is made from a hard paste using a mixture of Kaolin, feldspar and quartz.  After cleaning, decorating and drying, it is first fired at 830 degrees Celsius. The fired pieces are then immersed in a glaze and fired again, this time at 1410 degrees Celsius. This results in white, translucent porcelain. At this stage it is ready for painting by hand and then, depending whether it has been painted with colors or with gold, it is finished off with one or two more firings.

The design artists, potters, painters and modellers add the value that has won this porcelain 24 grand and gold prizes in world exhibitions between 1851 and 1937.Perhaps the most well known Herend pattern was presented at the London World Exhibition in 1851, the Chinese-style butterflies and flowery branches painted in joyful, lively colors.

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The factory tour goes through the painstaking and delicate process used to create the incredible porcelain products. Perfection is the standard that they strive for with each piece and if a piece is not deemed perfect it is tossed aside.  The tour finishes at the equally impressive gift shop where the porcelain is for sale and there is also a museum on hand that displays some of the most incredible porcelain you will ever see. I have never considered myself a nig porcelain fan, but it was very impressive.

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 photo 117_zpsec03b00b.jpg Michael & Michele

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On the way back to Budapest, we stopped at the small resort town of Tihany, which is on the banks of the beautiful Lake Balaton, actually at the end of a small peninsula. The lake, which is the largest in Hungary and one of the largest fresh water lakes in Europe is a popular resort destination for Hungarians and tourists alike who flock to “The Balaton” for fun and relaxation.

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The small city of Tihony thus has the same sort of feel as the Catskills in the US, very resort driven and touristy, yet beautiful and serene at the same time. Small gift shops and boutiques share the tight spaces with beautiful historic churches and buildings creating a funky mix with something for just about everyone. There is even a small version of the “Conch Train” there to give tourists quick tours of the area.

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When we did get back to Budapest, Kathy, Brian and I took an hour long boat tour of the Danube at night, which provided beautiful, if somewhat chilly views of the spectacular Budapest skyline at night. It is truly a lovely and worthwhile trip to make and it capped off yet another spectacular day in Hungary.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Old Friends

October 2, 2013

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Old Friends

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My mother Marta has many Hungarian friends, though none so special as one of her truly best friends Ebe, who she first met as a second grader many, many years ago. They were best friends as children and through time ,distance, and major world events such as World War II and the Soviet era of Hungary’s history lost touch for many years. In 1991, She and Marta reconnected and their friendship was renewed with  perhaps an even greater fondness than they had shared as children.

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Since that first reconnection, they have kept in touch and when Marta returns to Hungary she always takes time to visit with Ebe and her husband Pishta. In fact, when I was here three years ago, we spent a day together touring their childhood home of Szentes.  This year we were all meeting them along with their daughter Marta, who was named after my mother for dinner at the Carpatia Restaurant.

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The Carpathia specializes in traditional Hungarian cuisine and has actual gypsy singers who play traditional music in a very festive atmosphere. It was so festive in fact that it had Marta and Ebe singing along with traditional Hungarian songs that they recalled from their childhood. Marta even was able to convince a professional opera singer from Munich who she had befriended earlier in the day on the bus and just happened to be dining at the next table to sing a couple of songs- which was nothing short of amazing and had all of the patrons and staff of the place standing and cheering.

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 photo 197_zpsc4efd049.jpg Marta, Pishta & Ebe

It was another special evening celebrating old friends…and new ones and yet another night that I know will stay with me far longer than most. The trip was shaping up to be one of the best ever and to see my mother so joyous sharing stories and intimate moments with such a dear friend was worth the trip in itself.

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Of course there were a lot of other things of interest to see and much of our time was spent simply being the tourists that we are. We visited the Buda section across the Danube from the city center. This section is known as the Castle District due to the many palaces and castles that are found here. With a commanding view over the city center, the area offers incredible panoramas of Budapest, the Parliament and bridges that cross over the Danube.

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It is one of the most touristy areas of the city, but there is good reason as it is just an amazing area to see. Full of some of the most spectacular castles, buildings, art galleries, gift shops and restaurants it is easy to see why it is such a busy place and should be on everyone’s must see lists if they should visit Budapest. We had coffee and pastries at one of the oldest and best confectionaries in the city Ruszwurm and explored the Castle District.

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Budapest is also a city of contrasts with modern conventions sharing space with centuries old businesses. There is even a Hard Rock Café which was just down from our hotel, which we did check out and you even see a few McDonald’s and Burger Kings popping up around the city. The prevalent street food though is by far the Falafel and Gyro stands which seem to be everywhere. The ones we have tried are quite yummy indeed.

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