Sunday, May 29, 2016


What a wonderfully clever, evocative and beautiful piece of public art. The perforated wheel spinning on the spine of this marble book throws a fountain spray across the pages. The illusion is that the page is being turned. It sits in a small and charming square directly opposite one of the many university buildings scattered throughout the city.

I spent the early part of Saturday, my last full day in Budapest, strolling about, drinking coffee and reading and snapping shots of buildings and billboards that amused me.

If you have a touch screen, you can enlarge a picture like this and zoom in on the windows or the murals or sculpture built right into a frontage.

The evening was entirely occupied by The Main Event - the symphony playing Aaron's wonderful composition.

The program began with a Wagner piece, then Aaron's work and after the intermission a fabulous Dvorak.

Of course, Aaron was called to the stage and the audience gave him five rounds of applause. Big hit!

Here he is with the lead viola player - old pals.

During the intermission, we spent some time with his friend, Francesca who, among other things, runs her own chamber orchestra and has now asked Aaron to write some musical expression of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Shocking, I know.

Up very early this morning, waiting on the silent abandoned main pedestrian mall for my Airport Transfer driver and then a few billion hours of airports and airplanes - Budapest-Frankfurt-YVR - and happily to home.

Friday, May 27, 2016


You may think that is Theodor Herzl looking wistfully over the Danube. Close, but no, this is Aaron Charloff, a friend for almost 60 years now. He also settled in Israel and continues to live there with his large family including grandchildren. Aaron, who is a composer and is known as Aharon Harlap professionally and in Israel, told me last summer when he and his wife, Haddasah , were visiting Vancouver, that a Budapest symphony had commissioned a piece of music from him. When they play that piece tomorrow night (Saturday), it will be the 5th occurence of such good fortune with that organization alone.

I tell you all this because Aaron is the reason that I organized this little jaunt to Prague and Budapest. Here we are walking about 10 kilometres yesterday, starting with crossing the White Bridge to Buda and returning to Pest eventually by the Chain Bridge.

That extraordinary structure above looks like it might be the world's greatest Gothic cathedral, eclipsing even the one in Koln. But no, it is a side view of the Parliament Buildings, themselves possibly the largest in the world.

This morning at 8:30, long before Budapest gets going, at least for sleepy tourists, I walked over to Aaron's Hotel.

This is not the hotel.It is just one of several thousand random buildings that I love to see. I think about living there in a spacious apartment with 12 foot ceilings. If someone flies through the window with a blazing machine gun, I will just have to defeat him with a ballpoint pen I find blindly on the desk behind me.

Then, I will dash across rooftops and hot-wire a car parked in the courtyard to make my getaway.

This has quickly become one of my favorite streets in the world.

"Why?" I hear you asking. Because it is big and brash and noisy and lined with great old buildings and it leads always to Aaron's hotel.

Now, today we were being taken by car to a rehearsal with Maestro Roberto Paternostro. Below is the outside cover and the first page of the conductor's sheet music, which Aaron's publishing company produces for him under such circumstances.

The orchestra was only about 80+ instruments including violins, violas, cellos, bass, woodwinds, trumpets, trombones, tuba and timpani, among others. I had decided to study the triangle.

The music is so wonderful and stirring and romantic and beautiful and I can't wait to hear it in concert a domani.

The rehearsal of 3 hours was darn close to a religious experience - hearing my friend's work come to life, volumes and times and rhythms being minutely adjusted on the fly. I just feel so privileged to be a quiet witness to such gorgeous human enterprise.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


First the quiet. I strolled on a warm afternoon along The Embankment. Finding a swanky and comfortable looking eatery, I chose a seat in the shade, ordered a bowl of goulash and kvelled for about an hour.  I kept muttering to myself, You are enjoying a most delicious bowl of soup and watching the Danube flow by. Wow!

On busy Vaci Utca (pronounced Va-tsee You-tsa) it is a bit livelier, especially with the presence of a condor and a cormorant. I hope they enjoyed their apple pie with ice cream as much as I enjoyed mine.

Then, in the early evening, a joyful noise! In St. Michael Church, directly across the street from my apartment, and evening of trumpet and organ, with glorious full-throated works of Albinoni, Bach (3 pieces), Handel, Charpentier, Frank, Ferenc and Purcell.

What a blessing to sit in the cool quiet of the church and let the music and passion and brilliance wash over you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


You say Buda and I say Pest,
You say Buda and I say Pest.
Buda, Buda. Pest, Pest.
Let's call the calling off off.
Let's call the whole thing off!

There was The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, Ultimatum and Legacy, and we all anxiously await Bourne Again, in which our intrepid hero joins a monastery in Nepal and still, yet, finds no peace. Ah well.

Ahead of them all, I bring you The Bourne to Stay in Tiny Studio Flats in ancient and mysterious European capitals.

This morning at precisely 8:32 a.m., this is what the large clock on the wall said. I thought Kafka was a Czech hero!

Every night at 11:30, after watching a movie on Netflix and eating my microwave popcorn, I leap into bed - literally. It is the only way to get up there.

In my wanderings yesterday, another of those ridiculous coincidences. I stared at this sign in front of a theatre for only a few minutes and then realized why it looked so familiar.

For the guy in the top left corner, think Alan Arkin, for the girl, Audrey Hepburn, and for the handsome guy on the bottom left, Richard Crenna. They were the stars of the movie version of the Frederick Knott ("Dial M for Murder") scary play, "Wait Until Dark." I did the Richard Crenna part at Metro Theatre in Vancouver only 42 years ago!

So much of yesterday was taken up with a visit to the largest synagogue in Europe and easily one of the most beautiful, the Dohany Street Synagogue. 

In the courtyard is the Holocaust Memorial by sculptor Imre Varga, a silver tree of life. 

Step closer and look at the leaves, each engraved with the name of yet another murdered.

As Henry Miller said in one of his great essays, "Remember to remember."

The day comes to a quiet close at the famed Central Kavehaz, where the request for a croissant with butter and jam produces three tiny fresh warm crescents with butter, jam and honey! No wonder this place has been famous for about one and a half centuries.