Journal of a Sabbatical

August 11, 1999

the total eclipse

Bird Sightings

3 bee eaters
5 white storks
1 gray heron
2 collared doves


Journal Index



Copyright © 1999, Janet I. Egan

eclipseWe got up really early this morning, fearing there would be a lot of traffic on the road to Lake Balaton for the eclipse. We threw food into the cars after a hurried breakfast and took off. Totality here we come!

Traffic turned out to be light and about halfway there, István decided we had time for a tour of Székesfehérvár.

We all took pictures of each other posing in front of the statue of Saint István, the national orb, the Art Nouveau orange house (the Lonely Planet guidebook says it's a salmon pink house but we all considered it definitely orange). We stopped for a moment at the monument to national poet Petòfi, who went blind looking at a solar eclipse.

We made a surprise stop at Marti's parents house where they served us home made sour cherry juice and coffee. We could smell the stuffed peppers cooking. They invited us back after the eclipse for a traditional Hungarian dinner (of stuffed peppers). We looked at some of the wedding pictures and then it was on to Lake Balaton: to Balatonszabadi where Zsolt's mother's house is, right in the path of totality.

Lake Balaton is celadon green and very shallow. And today it's lined with wall to wall sweltering people with various eclipse watching gear.

István handed out the eclipse glasses and we picnicked in the garden on hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches but no beverages. In our haste we'd forgotten them. Oh well.

The light began to change slowly. We glanced at the sun through the eclipse glasses and saw a sliver of shadow starting to cover the sun. Carol experimented with making pinholes in various materials for that camera obscura effect. Keith's hat had just the right size vent holes to project 4 little eclipse images onto the chair. On the terrace, the gaps between leaves of the trees projected dozens of eclipses.

As it got close totality, a flock of blackbirds flew to their night roost. The temperature dropped and air became still. At the moment of totality a huge cheer went up all around Lake Balaton. It was so loud I figured Bobby could hear it in Bosnia (where they only had a 95% eclipse). About 2 1/2 minutes later, as the sun began to return, the blackbirds flew back the way they had come - just doing what the photo period tells them to do. They must have thought it was the shortest night of their lives. That's assuming blackbirds think. The only thing I know about European blackbirds is they get baked into pies in nursery rhymes.

Once the sun returned, we got the detailed botanical tour of the garden - Zsolt's personal arboretum. Then a tour of the house, full of Transylvanian pottery and fabric. Zsolt's mother gave us each a little ceramic dish with a Transylvanian pattern on it. She hitched a ride back to Budapest with us by way of the Roman ruins at Gorsium and Marti's parents' house in Székesfehérvár.

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined myself sitting under a tree in Hungary drinking warm Pepsi among Roman ruins. Never. Not ever. Nope. But there I was. My first Roman ruins. My first bee eaters too. You never know where life will take you.

I loved Gorsium. The statues and stone carvings are exquisite. Besides that I got to use my Latin.

Dinner at Marti's parents' house included more sour cherry juice (which I am rapidly growing to LOVE), stuffed peppers, and palacsinta (pancakes) with apricot jam, sweetened cottage cheese, and chocolate. And more wedding pictures. One of Marti's sisters arrived, along with husband and kids and more wedding pictures, which were dutifully passed around. It's interesting how everybody takes the same pictures at weddings and yet everybody's pictures are wildly different. It was fun to try to find people we knew among the guests. Marti's parents are so warm and seemed so happy to entertain us. I really felt welcome. Stuffed with food and wedding pictures, it was time for us to go back to Budakeszi.

We have to move out of the hunting lodge - home of the wild boars - tomorrow. Edit claims to have rented the whole place to a group of Finns who are paying full price. The remainder of the evening was spent packing.