It is time to leave the rest of Budapest for you to discover for yourself. If I don't move on to Montenegro, I'll still be writing these travel entries six months from now.
Saturday means another PhotoHunt assignment. This week -- BEAUTIFUL. And I have the perfect picture from our trip to represent that thought.
We met a gentleman on our train ride from Belgrade to Podgorica. I'd seen him on the platform in Belgrade. Four or five people stood around him with solemn faces as he prepared to board. A young boy of about seven or eight was clinging to his leg and crying. It was obvious that he was well loved and missed before he was gone.
He sought us out within ten minutes of our departure from Belgrade. He came to our coach, and welcomed us to the train as he shook our hands. A two-fisted shaker, like an evangelist, he grabbed my right hand with his and covered both of them with his left. It felt like I was receiving some sort of benediction with that handshake. His hands were surprisingly soft and smooth. I would have expected rough calloused hands to match the rest of his appearance.
His English was thickly accented, but grammatically flawless. He switched from English to either Serbian or Montenegrin (I couldn't tell) effortlessly as he divided his attention between us and our Montenegrin couch mates.
We learned nothing about him. He never bothered to ask our names and never shared his, or anything about himself. The only thing he let slip was an offhand comment about an important historical event. That allowed me to do the math in my head to make an educated guess at his age. Otherwise, he skillfully deflected all inquiries.
Keeping up a running one-sided dialogue, he touched on everything from astronomy to engineering to river navigation to beekeeping.
He bounced from deep philosophical comments on national identity to the nature of the animal-human bond to his admiration for Mark Twain and Marlon Brando.
Without asking if any of us suffered with the problem, he highly recommendation an herbal preparation of Wormwood leaves as a treatment for intestinal parasites.
He seemed enthralled with Native Americans. He was quite pleased to learn that my great-great-grandmother was 1/2 Cherokee. Then he launched into a disertation on the Trail of Tears.
He wondered from car to car, leaving us for an hour at a time, then reappearing and picking up the conversation where he had left off.
He left the train about three hours before Podgorica at a desolate looking stop with no visible town. Just a small concrete shelter next to the tracks. He had been in a different car when he stepped off the train, and we didn't realize he was leaving. Just as the wheels started moving again, I stood up to lean out the window for some photos. He called up to me, "Aren't your going to take my picture, my new friend?" So, I did.
I have no idea who the woman was. Perhaps his daughter come to collect him. Maybe she had been on the train all along and just didn't participate in his ambassadorial strolls through the train cars. She had a bored but patient look of someone who had been through this many times before. She didn't bother to look up at us.
You know when you meet a spirit that is too big for its body? The eyes flash a fire of restless intelligence and every line on the face testifies to a perpetual smile. That's what made this man so beautiful.
So, how did I figure out his aproximate age? During his discussion of national identity, he let it slip that he was just old enough to join the resistance in time to participate in the great Christmas Uprising. That would have been early January of 1919.
I don't know what age would have been considered "old enough" to be a resistance fighter in 1919, but I'm guessing somewhere between 14 and 18.
And the reason I'm guessing that the woman with him might be his daughter (or even granddaughter) rather than his wife? She looks too young to have a husband who is at least 103 years old, doesn't she?