Chain Bridge, Budapest

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Final Math Schedule, Library, and Kadar Eatery

I'm now in the third week of math classes and the final week of the pre-registration period. I officially register for classes on Thursday afternoon. I plan on taking combinatorics, intro to algebra, analytical number theory, and mathematical problem solving for a grade along with auditing graph theory. I'm also going to take the intensive intermediate Hungarian language class for a grade. That may seem like a lot -- it is -- but the BSM class registration is super convenient. Auditing means that I have to attend most of the classes but don't have to turn in any homework or take any tests, and my transcript shows that I attended the class. Additionally, I can switch any class to audit up to the second to last week of class, right before finals. So, worst case scenario, I can't handle four math classes, then I switch one to audit and concentrate on the others. I still want to attend the classes since the BSM offers such a great opportunity to learn from amazing professors and be exposed to math topics that I couldn't get back at UT, which accounts for nearly all those classes listed above. That course schedule makes my school week look like this: 

10am - 12 noon: Intro to Algebra
12 noon - 2 pm: Mathematical Problem Solving
2pm - 5pm: Intermediate Hungarian

8am - 10am: Combinatorics
10am - 12 noon: Graph Theory (audit)

12 noon - 2pm: Analytical Number Theory

10 am - 12 noon: Graph Theory (audit)
12 noon - 2 pm: Analytical Number Theory

8 am - 10 am: Combinatorics
10 am - 12 noon: Intro to Algebra
12 noon - 2 pm: Mathematical Problem Solving

My Mondays and Fridays are going to be hard, but I have an easy middle of the week to make up for it. I got the last textbook that I needed today, so I'm ready to go.

Another thing that happened yesterday: my bed got fixed! I have an IKEA-style bed with a wooden bed frame that supports a ladder of wooden slats that the mattress rests on that rests loosely on the frame. The slats were shifting around while I slept and eventually fell through the bed frame. While I waited for my landlady to nail the slats to the bed frame I had put my mattress on the floor, cluttering my room as you can imagine. I came home Monday to find my mattress back onto my fixed bed frame and my room suddenly spacious and expansive. (So much room for activities!) My room was as good as new. About time too. My homework is getting incredibly hard and I can't think straight when I'm in a cluttered area. Some of you might not believe that having seen my bedroom from time to time, but trust me, I would go work in the library or a coffee shop whenever it was THAT messy. Anywhere but there.

Speaking of coffee shops, I'm in the middle of a quest to find a suitable location for studying and doing extensive math homework at late hours on weekdays and weekends. There doesn't seem to be a late night study area or cafe or coffee shop anywhere. All of the coffee shops here also serve hard liquor and beer and turn into beer joints or smoke filled lounges at night. For those familiar to Austin, I have yet to find an Epoch Coffee or a Cafe Bennu 24-hr coffee shop. The weather in Budapest has taken a turn for the better -- also, about time -- so it's more amenable to walking around outside aimlessly in search of a such a place. For the mean time, though, I've found a very acceptable temporary solution. 

The school where I take math classes is not a proper university. I think it used to be a school for Jewish deaf and otherwise handicapped students, and has its own interesting history. It has a small reading room, but no library. Plus the building closes at 6pm every weekday and isn't open on the weekend. While walking in between classes, I saw a flyer for a library near downtown and closer to where I lived. Yesterday I walked over there after class to check it out for myself. Turns out its not just any library, but the National Library of Foreign Literature and it has an extensive collection of English language books for loan. They charge a student reduced price of 3,150 forints ($15.80) for a year of use and access to the entire collection, which includes music CD's and DVD's, books, and a language studio, where you can use a computer and headset to practice over 80 different languages including Hungarian. The library is open until 8 p.m. on weekdays but is closed on weekends like everything else in this country. It's in a very old building and has wooden tables, a large reading room, and group study areas. Today I bought a library pass, did some math homework there, and checked out Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian author and one of the Jews profiled in Kati Marton's book The Great Escape, which I talked about in a previous post. 

The one weird thing about the library is their strict security. You must either have a membership card or talk to the registrar to gain access to the library at all. You must also check your coat and your backpack: no bags are allowed in the library. A few books are immediately accessible on the shelves, but for most of them you must fill out a request form and give it to the librarian, who then sends it down the book elevator chute to someone in the stacks who fetches the book and sends it back up the chute. The whole process takes about 6 to 10 minutes. I'm not sure if this is unique to this particular library, or its a Hungarian or European thing, or maybe these books are just valuable and they need to be protected. In order to get a library card I had to present my passport and have my passport number recorded into the system. I can imagine trying to leave Hungary and getting stopped at a border checkpoint for an overdue book. The border control officer would say "Sorry sir, but I'm afraid you have a bar on your travel privileges. You need to return Darkness at Noon or pay a $35 fine. No, we don't take Bevo Bucks, and don't even think about registering for classes next semester."

However, before I went to library today I went back to the best, so far, food in Budapest at Kadar Etkezde. I first went to eat there four weeks ago with my Hungarian language class before math classes started. Our teacher took us there because it was an authentic place serving authentic Hungarian food at authentic prices. Last week my Uncle Ben Larry sent me a podcast from the Tablet Magazine website about Jewish-Hungarian food in Budapest, in which Kadar featured, not knowing that I had already eaten there. The podcast revealed how the history of Budapest's Jewish community is ingrained into the local food, particularly at Kadar, which is located at the heart of the Jewish Quarter and the middle of the old Jewish ghetto. I had only known about the amazing food on my plate, not the heritage behind it. I posted the podcast earlier in my blog and here it is again, courtesy of Uncle Ben Larry: Tablet Mag: Beyond Goulash.     

By coincidence, I'm wearing Ben's old Lone Star Beer "Texas Gold" t-shirt from 1976 that he gave me. You can see the spewing oil well of Lone Star on my blue shirt. "Etkezde" (ATE-kez-de) means eatery. To my right is Heidi from San Diego. To my left is Sarah Goldstein from Minnesota and Sarah Loeb from Washington State. If anyone want's to visit Budapest on a Tuesday, go to Kadar and order the vadas marha and the maglyarakas dessert. I dare you to leave not in a good mood. 


  1. Samuel, you look good in the t-shirt. I'm glad you enjoyed the podcast. Vox Tablet produces excellent podcasts on Jewish subjects. We are all enjoying your blog.

  2. Yo SIF, how's class? Let us know what's going on. Its been over a month since your last post. You lazy tahat.