Our trip to Hungary was as near perfect as any vacation we’ve ever taken.

There was just the one tiny exception on the last leg of our stay. We’d finished enjoying a busy week in Budapest followed by some relaxation at beautiful Lake Balaton, when we loaded up the car for the drive to Pecs in the southern part of the country. That’s when things went a little awry.

I’m usually organized to the nth degree on vacation. Before we leave home, I print out all of our necessary paperwork: flight itineraries, confirmation emails from the various places we’re staying, rental car information. I bundle these together with a big paper clip in the order in which we’ll need them, then as we move on to each phase of the trip I take the top sheet off and transfer it to the bottom. It’s a tried and true system. As long as I remember to pack it when we travel from one town to the next.

John and I didn’t discover the papers were missing until we arrived in Pecs early Sunday afternoon. While we did have our GPS at the ready to guide us to our small apartment, it wasn’t going to do us any good without a street address. We noticed a big map of the city at a busy intersection, pulled into a nearby alley to park the car and searched out a tourist information center. I at least remembered the name of the rental apartments, and we hoped the folks at the info office could lead us to them.

As luck would have it, we’d stopped only a couple blocks away from the large pedestrian area in Pecs and the information center. And while the tourist agent wasn’t familiar with the apartments offhand, he gave us a pamphlet that fortunately had them listed. We walked back to the car and discovered we’d not only parked in an alley parallel to the street where the apartments were located, but we were almost directly behind the complex itself!

We climbed back into the car, relieved at how easy it had been to find the place after all, and drove around to the front of the apartments. The street was a little seedy-looking, which made us a bit nervous, but at least we were there.

The small sign beside the door had two messages (thankfully in English as well as Hungarian). First, we needed to be aware that the door opened outwards. Second, it instructed that we ring the buzzer — ONCE ONLY — for reception.

We rang it. Once. And waited.

Soon enough, we recognized that no one was coming. With no neatly-stacked confirmation sheet to refer to, we didn’t have the phone number to call someone inside. We grabbed my laptop out of the car and headed back to the pedestrian area, where the tourist information agent told us we could find an internet cafe. We’d look up the number that way.

Leaving all our luggage behind in the tiny car we’d rented, we half-walked, half-jogged the many blocks to the internet cafe…only to find it was closed on Sundays. Dejected, we started heading back until John noticed a snazzy hotel on our right. “They’ll have internet in there,” he declared and we bolted inside. Two underdressed, sweaty, panic-stricken American tourists toting a bulky laptop.

The man at the front desk was speaking frantically into two telephones at once and wasn’t terribly sympathetic to our cause. Still, he motioned for us to take a seat at one of the plush couches and WiFi ourselves out of our mess. I turned on the computer.

The WiFi home page filled the screen in Hungarian. Can you read Hungarian? No, of course you can’t. It’s a crazy language. Nobody can read Hungarian unless they’re Hungarian. While Google promised it would translate for me — its little “thinking” symbol spinning round and round and round with no results — I fought back tears. All I could think about was my neatly clipped itineraries laying forgotten somewhere inside our Lake Balaton apartment.

John was the pinnacle of patience during all this. Had it been his fault instead, he’d have surely blown his stack by this point, but he could see the distress on my face (and the sweat trickling down my temples) and kept his cool. Finally, after a couple attempts at begging for assistance, the hotel manager brusquely pointed to the places I needed to double-click on my computer screen to bring up the internet.

I retrieved the apartment information and we tried to call. No luck. All we got was a recorded message saying it wasn’t a working number. In a last-ditch effort, we walked back to the apartment. We decided that after this try, if no one answered the door, we’d go find another place to stay. Provided our car hadn’t been broken into and all our luggage stolen.

When we got back, the car was intact (thank goodness for large favors). Standing at that apartment door again, we rang the buzzer, and in a fit of rebellion rang it twice. Nothing. As I began feeling the familiar burn of welling tears, John grabbed the door’s handle…and pulled it open.

The door was unlocked. It had been unlocked the entire time. Inside was a cute little courtyard and the nicest apartment manager you’d ever want to meet.

We didn’t tell her how we had spent the previous two hours.

Farmer John and I are indeed timid sometimes, but not usually so much on the farm. It can happen, however, and this fall’s spinach is a good example. Spinach seeds won’t germinate when it’s hot, so we hadn’t dared plant any before leaving on vacation. It was only after we’d come home and discovered one of our farmer friends already had spinach coming up that we decided we’d best get our own seeds sown. John went to work on it immediately and tiny seedlings are obediently popping up.

We were much bolder with the beets. Despite the fact that daily temps were still topping 100 degrees before we took off on our trip, Dana and Mary began planting the initial bed as our first plane left the ground. The resulting plants are surprisingly stunning.

They aren’t quite ready for harvest, but they will be soon. Real soon. Proof that even when you suspect there’s not much chance something will work, if you really want it, you might as well muster up the nerve and try anyway.

More often than not, it pays to go ahead and pull open that door.

* * *

How about that marvelous rain Sunday morning! The farm is revitalized, and we’re all happily working in the mud. For this Wednesday’s farm stand we’ll have:

Lots of Asian cucumbers; bunches of chard; bunches of Asian mustard greens; four varieties of summer squash (zucchini, Zephyr, yellow squash and Cousa); bags of arugula; Cubanelle peppers; three varieties of eggplant; spaghetti squash; and bags of frozen summer tomatoes for soups and sauces. (Run warm water over the tomatoes to peel off the skin, let thaw a few minutes then chop. Two cups chopped frozen tomatoes is equivalent to one store-bought can — though the frozens are way more delicious!).

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm

Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)