Thursday, March 15, 2018

Home: A Narrative of Retirement Blog Post

We got home two weeks ago today.  Being at home in retirement presents very different challenges than travelling in retirement.  I will return to this statement  later in the post.

Two weeks ago we flew back from Budapest.  We were--wait for it--exhausted.  We had to get up early, make two connections (in Munich and Washington).  Everything went fine til we got to Washington and had to wait about five hours for a late connection to Louisville.  For me, flying west is always harder than flying east.  Going east, you can arrive in the afternoon, take a nap, have dinner, stay up til a reasonable  time and reset your body schedule.  Flying west, it is daytime all along and when you finally get home you crash into bed and get uup way too early.  And alongside jet lag comes the whole kit and kaboodle involved in returning home.

My retirement year is divided into three parts.  One part is travel.  Last year it was Budapest and Spain; this year Budapest and we hope the Baltic states.  Travel is exhilirating, if exhausting, and there's not much question of how  to spend your days.  You're travelling!  The second  part is the lake.  No problems there either.  The days have a rhythm:  walk with Cindy and the dogs, swim once it gets warm enough, work on my book, read, spend  time with friends, etc.  But Louisville is still a problem.  I just don't know how to shape my days here.  I do walk  and spend  time  (coffee, lunch ) with friends (but not regularly).  I do read and I WILL resume work on my book.  But my life feels kind of shapeless.  For example, here are my first two weeks in Louisville.

Susan and I went for a "looking for signs of spring" nature  walk in Bernheim Forest, a beautiful arboretum outside Louisville.  We have had a fairly cold  March, so there were precious few harbingers of spring.  Some interesting items, like a tree fungus, water drops on a spider web, and some geese.

Still it was a lot of fun to go out with Susan on a nature walk.  

Tony and  I saw two movies, neither of which we liked.   The Shape of Water.  Yes, we hated  it.  Pretentious, slow, basically boring.  (We are obviously in the minority here, as it won  the Oscar for best picture.)  Then yesterday Red Sparrow, which we  knew wouldn't be good (reviews stank) but it was filmed entirely in Budapaest, so we thought it would be fun to see the city on the screen.  Looking out for places we recognized was the best (actually only good) part of the movie.  This is how stupid.  English speaking actors spoke English with Russian accents even when  speaking with each other (presumably in Russian).  Logically, they should have spoken Russian with subtitles or spoken regular English.  It made no sense (as did the plot as well).  Also the whole movie was shot in Budapest, even the parts that were meant to be in Russia.  So if you have ever been to Budapest and visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Hero Square (a very recognizable site) you will know  this is not the theater (it's not even a theater) for the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.  Similarly, if you have ever been inside the Budapest Opera House you will know you are not in Russia.

Okay, moving along.  Other notable highlights. 

We bought a new mattress.  

We finished watching A French Village, the 7 season French TV series about a fictional village in Vichy France between 1940 and 1945 (with glimpses into the further future).  By the way, this is a great series: morally complex in so many ways and utterly compelling.  

I reconnected via email with my college roommate with whom  I had lost touch many years ago.  Writing and back and forth to her has been one of the real pleasures of returning home.  

I read the last chapter of my last graduate student's dissertation and will in May hood my last doctoral student.  This is especialy bittersweet.  

The above paragraphs offer a list of things  I am doing. (And it doesn't even  include the vast amounts of time I spend reading magazines and  watching MSNBC)  But that list doesn't really cohere into  a  story--a narrative. In truth, I  still  haven't figured out how to be retired in Louisville.  That's not to say that  I don't like living in Louisville.  I enjoy our condo, the movies, going out to eat, seeing more of Susan and other friends.  But I don't wake up each day with any real sense of what I want to get done.  Louisville is still the filler between travelling and the lake.  

The picture at the top of this post is from my window right after we got home.  The park is very bare.  But here is the picture  from oday.

The trees are starting to bud.  Spring is on its way.  We're having Passover with Doug and  Susan.   Next month Tony's sister Mags and her husband Ken are coming to Louisville.  Flowers will be blooming.  And we're only about two and a half months from leaving for Michigan!


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What Do You Do When It's Cold and Snowy Outside? Go Have Lunch at Menza!

Menza is a great restaurant in Franz Liszt ter right off Andrassy.  (It's the bottom floor of an Emil Vidor building.)  Menza means "canteen" in Russian and was the name of places workers ate under Communism.  The restaurant is decorated in 1970-ish colors and decor, but its food is very much of the here and now.  

Here we are on our almost last day in  Budapest.  It's really cold and snowing.  What do we do?  We go out to lunch!

 Here we eat delicious duck tortellini  in truffle sauce.

We drink a nice bottle of Hungarian white wine.

And we once again bravely tackle the fried "cottage cheese" doughnuts with sour cream and blueberry marmelade.  

Flying home tomorrow.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Albert Kalman Korossy. The Walko Haus. Outside AND Inside.

The Walko Haus by Albert Kalman Korossy was built in 1901.  It sits at Aulich utca 3.  The beautiful figure at the top is a mosaic by Geza Maroti, one of Budapest's most important sculptors.

The figure is Eve, and below her is a veritable garden of Eden, filled with flowers and plants.

Squirrels, birds feeding their young, frogs, rabbits, peacocks (So Art Nouveau), and even a snake (and many more).\


This is one of the most famous Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest. Its facade is extravagant and beautiful.  But what does it look like inside?

Well, I was taking photos the other day and someone came out of the building.  I asked if I could step inside and take a photo and to my absolute shock she said yes.  So here it is.  Beautifully organic in so many ways.

From the flowered tile made to resemble a carpet.

The stucco decoations.

 The stairway column, carved to look like its growing  out of the building.

And the railings that look like twigs.

We were so excited, we took ourselves out to a great lunch at Klassz.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bela Lajta. The Vocational School. (Taking Pictures in the Rain)

Bela Lajta (1873-1920) was one of the most innovative and original architects of his time.  (He did the Jewish School for the Blind with its remarkable fence which I wrote about earlier.)  Although he trained with the masters (Alajos Hauszman and  Odon Lechner) he quickly went his own way.  He was highly individual and imaginative.  One of the hallmarks of his work is the intricate graphic design which makes the often  simple lines  of his buildings remarkable.

The tile above comes from the Technical School on Vas utca 9-11, which Lajta built between 1909 and 1913.  The building is fairly austere and relies more on graphic design than color to achieve its effect--a quality which makes it a good candidate for photographing on a cold, gray day. ( I mention this because we have had a lot of rain, sleet, and snow this visit, which has made for some creative thinking about how to spend our days.)  

However, close attention to its details awards.  What is particularly interesting is how technical  images woven  into more traditional organic imagery.

We were lucky to be allowed inside as well.

The original ceiling  decoration.

Tiles  and glass.

And on the facade these lovely owls, symbols of wisdom.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Schiller Villa by Jozsef Vago: An Interior Extraordinaire

The Schiller Villa was built in 1910-1912 by the renowned Hungarian architect Jozsef Vago for Miksa Schiffer, a railway engineer, entrepreneur, and art patron.  Vago conceived the villa as a gesamtkunstwerk, or a "total work of art."  He designed the exterior (which is greatly changed from its original appearance) and the interior (which has been restored based on contemporary photographs).  The interior is meant to highlight the best art in Hungary:  major artists working in a Hungarian tradition, including Kernstock Karoly (who designed the stained glass windows), the painter Rippl-Ronai, and Miklos Ligeti who contributed a sculpture.  All the design details of the house were Vago's and were based on traditions in Hungarian folk art.

Stained glass windows predominate in the villa:

Tiles by Zsolnay

Sculpture by Ligeti

And myriad architectural details, all created by Vago.

This house survived by a series of accidents.  It is currently the Museum of Tax and  Excise.  I think most people come to view the building though.  It is one of the very few extant Art Nouveau interiors not only in Hungary but Europe as a whole.  It is not well  known--doesn't appear in most of the tourist guides.  So it is a true hidden treasure.