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Message From Europe, The Fifth:

Still in Budapest, Hungary.

The friend with whom we are staying has a very interesting shower. It does not have the traditional tank of hot water, per se. Instead, the shower is attached to a large device, attached to the wall. There is a constantly lit pilot light inside, which, when called, bursts into life to heat water on the fly. This fire is visible via a hole in the side of the box. Thus, when you turn on the hot water, there is a loud roaring noise and an intense flame appears two feet from your head.

This serves to constantly remind one of two things:

i. In Europe, hot water is a scarce resource, which should be conserved.

and

ii. There is an intense flame two feet from your fucking head.

Normally, taking a shower requires finding the proper balance between the hot and cold water taps. This shower requires one to take into account a third axis on the shower continuum: balancing the taps in such a way as to keep the flame at such a level that it keeps producing hot water without being so intense that it proceeds to scald you.

Welcome to Eastern Europe.

(A friend who is much more well-travelled than us has since informed us that such a device is called a "Demand Heater". As in "It will Demand your constant attention, lest it give you second degree burns.")

In addition, there is a special sort of toilet here, a sort we have only ever observed in Hungary and the Soviet Union. So you KNOW this is going to be good.

We call it a shelf toilet. It works like this. There is a little bit of water at the bottom of the bowl. Then, halfway between this water and your ass, there is a shelf, high and dry, which fills most of the bowl. This shelf, hmm, how to put this delicately, catches any waste that goes in there, where it sits, pertly, far above the water, waiting for a flush to wash it away.

It is a fun game. You sit down and do what you came to do. It will sit suspended far above the water. Then you jump up and try to flush the toilet before the smell gets too far. It's an amusing race, and you will always lose.

How does something like this get invented? Was there, in the past, some combination plumber/health food nut who wanted to carefully inspect every passed solid before it was banished to the comforting, distant depths of the sewers?

Sorry we had to tell you about this, but, sometimes, the truth isn't pretty. If you can't quite picture how a shelf toilet works, don't worry. We have pictures, which will go into our photo album in the "Nightmares of Waste Management" section.

But not all in Hungary is bad. We found a restaurant that serves unbelievable huge portions of excellent, traditional Hungarian food, on wood platters, for four bucks a plate. Alas, because the Hungarians are not, by and large, a wealthy people, this restaurant is mostly frequented by tourists. But the food there kicks ass. Also, they have a dish which features cow lung. In sauce. No, we haven't, and no, we won't.

The name of this restaurant is Fatal, which is, of course, hilarious to anyone who speaks English.

Mariann, being Hungarian, is very happy here. Pasta is fine and good, and foo-foo French cuisine is nice for a change, but, to truly make her happy, it has to be heavy, pork-oriented, and cooked with bacon grease.

"Kanadai vagyok" is "I am Canadian" in Hungarian.


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