Sunday, June 7, 2015

Living on a Hungarian Vineyard

How to describe my four days in Hungary, staying on a friend's family vineyard on top of a mountain overlooking the largest lake in Europe with full access to the cellars? Oof. None of my usual descriptors -- amazing, beautiful, spectacular, perfect, relaxing, luxurious, delightful -- quite seem to cut it. It was four days of clear skies, sweeping vistas, warm sunshine, the best of people, delicious food, and joy. 

We arrived in Budapest Sunday evening after a grueling journey that took us through Riga (oh hey Latvia, welcome to my country list!), and left us sans a single piece of luggage to our tired dirty names. Thus instead of seeing the Budapest sites upon arrival, we made a few necessary detours to H&M, Zara, and a series of drugstores for toiletries. On the brighter side, we added two additional friends to our crew that evening, and two more the following morning before we hopped in our rental cars and were on our way south. 

A few hours later our three-car train made its way up a hill and pulled into a vineyard with a spectacular view. We must be stopping here to take pictures, my carmates speculated as we piled out to take in the scenery. No wait, this is it?!? Are you serious? This is insane!!!

The 12 of us (two more met us there!) occupied three little houses on the property, which belongs to Chris's family. Lazy mornings reading on the deck, days lounging on the lake beach, sunset snacks (again with the view of course), and evenings drinking the vineyard's wine around a bonfire. I cannot believe this is my life. 

Our was not completely slothly though. The first morning we climbed to the ancient castle ruins on the mountain across the valley, and the second morning three of us ran 10 miles to the beach and back. The only downside of staying on top of a mountain is that every run ends on a brutal uphill!

One day we drove to a nearby spa town that has natural sulfur hot springs. To be honest, it was weird. Picture a huge pond full of elderly Hungarians bobbing up and down in floaties, soaking in the healing benefits of the lukewarm water. And then us 20-30-something Americans. Twelve of these things are not like the others...

On Thursday morning Chris's uncle came to give us at tour of the family's winemaking facilities up the hill. It's a tiny operation, housed in a cool stone building constructed 150 years ago. Our vintner explained (translated through Chris), that most of the tiny vineyards around are family-owned, and people don't want to sell them because they like keeping them as summer homes. The wine isn't long fermented because there isn't the local market for that (aged wine is more expensive). 

The grapes (as far as I understood) are Sauvignon blanc, and they produce a variety of red, white, and rose wines (both dry and sweet). For our impromptu 11 am tasting, the uncle used a small hose to siphon off a glass for each of us from the giant plastic tanks in the cold cellar room, while the more scientifically-inclined of us asked him more questions about the winemaking process. 

As a Northern Californian, vineyard landscapes are not new to me. However, calling a vineyard home for multiple days with 11 of my favorite humans and eating paprika-tastic Hungarian food the whole time really is special. (More about the food later!) We all said goodbye Friday morning -- some heading back to the U.S., many on to other places, and myself and three others to Croatia and Montenegro!