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The Good Life in Aggtelek National Park Part 115: Fiddler on the Roof, and Best Chinese Food in Hungary

dulo restaurantFor our birthdays last year, Kata and I received tickets to director Robert Alföldi's new production of Fiddler on the Roof from Jeroen and Lennard. Before the musical, we all went for dinner at the Dülő Retaurant in Miskolc, which along with Végallomás which I mentioned in my previous post, is one of the two best restaurants in the region. Kata and I had never been in before, but I had met the restaurant manager at a national park certified product event during the summer when she spoke about the restaurant's use of local products. If we had gone earlier in the season we could have enjoyed the outside seating in the back garden. It was very quiet when we arrived, but we were there for an early dinner because of the musical, and it began to fill up later. Kata had the trout and I had cheese curd ravioli with bolette mushroom sauce. There was no salad on the menu so I asked if a fresh salad was possible and it was no problem. We were all very satisfied with our meals, and the choice of St.Andrea Áldás Bikavér 2016 wine the boys bought for the table. The only complaint about an otherwise excellent meal was that the salad was drowned in dressing - a case where less would have been more.

fiddler on the roof

Fiddler was put on at the Arena, a building normally employed for sporting events that we had never even noticed in Miskolc. It was a very low budget setting, but it was a full house and as such, it could not have accommodated so many people anywhere else in the area. Actor/director Alföldi got into some deep water for his avant-garde productions during his term as head of the National Theatre, so I expected something quite daring or different from his take on Fiddler, but it was a very normal production. I was very surprised to see Andras Stohl as the lead fiddler on the roofTevye the Milkman. The role is traditionally filled by an older, portly actor and Stohl is neither. He was remarkably good as Tevye, and his singing voice was a revelation. Singer Gabi Tóth made a walk-on for one number, but Alföldi should have spared his budget and invested more in the set, which he probably spent a whole 10000 huf on. The dirty sheet backdrop was a mystery until the final scene when the village is fleeing from the pogrom and the faces were projected head-on upon the sheet. Other notable performances included the Russian officer and the voice of the actor who played a young Russian soldier and sang a solo.

During the week, I had to make two trips to Budapest to see two friends from Bates College in town for a day, neither one knowing that the other was coming to town. Eric came to Budapest with me in the original Bates group of about 9 graduating students in 1990. With the exception of me and Laura Strong who are both still here, none of the others stayed for more than 3-6 months. This was the first time I had seen Eric in 27 years. We spent the day being tourists, trying to find the places he remembered. We began with breakfast at the Central Market Hall, walked across the bridge and up Gellért Hill to the Citadella, then down and back up Castle Hill through the newly renovated YBL Garden before having lunch at Nagyi Palacsinta at Moszkva tér. After lunch we took the tram across to Pest and Nyugati Station and down Bajcsy Zs. and the site of the former ILS language school where we both had worked and the reason we had come to Budapest. The bakery where we used to get rolls, cream cheese and little pots (half pints) of school milk was long gone, as was the poster store on the corner where we always bought postcards to send home, and the plastic store just to the right where we bought our essential milk-bag holders so they would not flop and spill all over the fridge. We ended the walk at Deák tér with a beer at the Aquarium before I caught my train home.

A couple days later I was back to see Stephen. We met at his hotel on Margit Sziget and I was amazed to see the renovations on the island. I was informed that the new restaurant kiosks, public toilets and other changes had been made as part of the preparations for this summer's World Swimming Championships. The toilets in particular are an enormous change, since until now there had only ever been one toilet on the island and it was only sporadically open.

We made a grand tour of the island, and just at the end came across the lovely Japanese garden. Twenty-seven years and god knows how many times on Margit Sziget and I never had any inkling about this hidden gem across from the hotels. Ponds, statues, a waterfall, little bridges, flowers, all hiding in plain sight. I would have sadly continued to be ignorant if the new signs had not been put up for the swimming. I will definitely have to return in better weather.

nanjing chinese restaurant

The last night in Budapest, Kata, Stephen and I joined Chris and Nora at the Nanjing Chinese Restaurant just behind Keleti Station (Kerepesi ut 8.) by the trolley buses. Chris and I had tried to get in at the beginning of October but the place was unusually packed at that hour - probably due to the Chinese autumn festival. From the outside, and from the location, this is a place I never would have thought to set foot into, but Chris assured us that the food was good. This turned out to be a British understatement, because the food was some of the best I have ever had in my 27 years in Hungary. Be sure to get both menus, the text based and the picture based because they are quite different. I do not remember what we all had, but in included a tofu dish, something based on eggplant, something with does not matter, it was all excellent. Tin Tin the manager told us that she came as a young girl in the early 90s with her family. Her father worked at the Chinese market before opening the restaurant about 20 years ago. The table got some free mandarin oranges at the end, and Kata's vanilla ice cream was also free because the freezer was broken and it was half melted. The rest of us ended the meal with bean curd balls.