I’m pretty sure those were Julius Caesar’s immortal words right there.
However, the Pick Salami and Paprika Museum didn’t open up until 3 PM, so I still had a substantial amount of time to kill in Szeged. Now I had a very full belly and a map that I always end up reading backwards.
I wandered through the heart of town, away from the river, and discovered the Jewish synagogue, which is sadly rather empty even if it the second largest synagogue in Hungary after the main one in Budapest I’d visited just the day before. After WWII, not may Jewish families came back after being sent to death camps, so it’s another grand space in a small Jewish community, though they are trying to revive the local culture. The clouds gathered above it as I walked around the block, making it look imposing and ominous. Very few people were out. I felt like it was weighted with sadness from 2700 dead from forced labor camps or death camps to now only about 520 who attend (per the website Szeged Synagogue). I recommend reading about the history.
After the synagogue, I went through town wherever I will, discovering beautiful buildings and other points of interest such as Reök Palace, which had a great lot of interesting architectural details such as bright purple lilies on the white facade. It made me think of a nicely decorated wedding cake.
I stopped for a coffee at the fantastic A-Capella cafe, having some chocolate caramel ice cream and again, the world’s tiniest coffee. Needing more than the world’s tiniest coffee, I popped into a Cafe Frei across the street and got a Jamaican latte to go. I then continued on north along the river toward the salami and paprika museum, hoping to get there eventually around 3 PM. I was rather certain I might be the only person there.
Walking up the main street toward the museum, I walked around the front, then the side, then the back. I was trying to figure out where to go in, since I thought the front doorway was for the attached restaurant/deli, not the museum. However, as it turned out, it was for the museum, and I’d just killed fifteen minutes by walking in a giant circle, much to the chagrin of the construction workers across the street.
The lady at the museum’s front desk was very friendly. I was given a tour sheet in English, and at the end, there is a free sample of the famous winter salami, a free postcard, and a little sample of paprika. That seemed pretty cool for the admission – and you can take all the pictures you want.
The Pick Salami and Paprika Museum is laid out over two distinct floors, and it features the history of the two most popular light industries in the area. On the lower floor, it features the history of the Pick Salami company and how the salami was made in a rather labor-intensive process. After learning that process, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to eat salami again. The museum was well-done, with charts, graphs, history on the founding family (who were Jewish, obviously an issue during WWII), and stuffed mannequins. All of the men had large walrus mustaches that put the small mustaches of today to shame. I learned a lot about pig slaughter, too, which is helpful should I feel the need to raise my own bacon some day.
Upstairs is the history of paprika in the region. Hungary produces the world’s best and most sought-after “red-gold”. It showed the process of planting, farming, harvesting, drying, and grinding the paprika peppers. It looked just as labor-intensive as the salami downstairs. Again, it was well-laid out, and I could easily go through the museum in an hour with my little reading guide. Thankfully, I was there with a few other people, so I didn’t feel so lonesome.
I did feel strange, though, documenting my visit with a load of pictures, as I wanted to explain it to my students when I got back to Shanghai. They ended up thinking it was pretty cool when I went through the “weird history” part of my trip. “Weird history” is part of our debrief after holiday trips – next year I want to make it a competition for who can get the weirdest place during their trips. It makes for informative classes!
I wrote out a postcard to my mom from the museum and mailed it from there. Ironically, it took just about two months to go from Szeged, Hungary, to Chicago, Illinois. She received it only a week ago, at the beginning of June, when I sent it back in early April. Now that is some serious snail mail! I’m just glad I didn’t send a salami with the postcard…
After the tour, I enjoyed a very good sample of the winter salami, and I went right next door to the little deli and grocery store to buy some salami to bring back to China. I didn’t go for the winter salami stick (it was a little expensive for me at about $25ish USD, even with the coupon for it, not to mention heavy in the suitcase), but I got some small packets of the winter salami and the paprika salami (my actual favorite). I did get a small stick of paprika salami to bring back, and I just hoped that I wouldn’t have to explain to Customs what exactly was that item in my checked baggage.
Once I finished at the museum, I walked back toward town to get on the tram to take me to the train station. Thankfully, I’d bought a return ticket at the station. I can’t read or speak Hungarian, so I’d be at a loss as to how to get a ticket anyway.
I’ve found that in most countries, smiling and shrugging and offering to pay often gets decent results from bus drivers who know you’re not trying to scam the system. When you’re a tourist who has no idea what s/he is doing, they’re very forgiving and kind.
As I waited – and the chilling wind began to whip up around me – the tram station speakers played “Chariots of Fire.” Now that is awesome.
I hopped aboard the train, and we scooted peacefully along back to Budapest. I grabbed the Metro back to the hotel, and I dined well on butter crackers, salami, cheese, a cherry-flavored cake liberally soaked in brandy, and pickled peppers for dinner.
I washed all of this down with a nice Eger red wine called Bull’s Blood.
Ah, Eger. Because of your wine, I will be visiting you tomorrow.