My friend Anto in Pennsylvania—husband of my former design partner and dear friend, Carmen—urged me on several occasions to rent the film Gloomy Sunday, telling me he and Carmen were sure I’d absolutely love it. The first mention of the name, Gloomy Sunday, was a turn off. My mood at the time wasn’t responding to anything that sounded more depressing than what was going on in my life at the time, mainly some unresolved medical issues. Months later, Carmen and Anto brought the subject up again, saying, “Loretta, you’ve really got to see this film,” and proceeded to fill me in a bit more on the scenario. This time I was intrigued, simply because of their persistence, which was a little unusual. Since I didn’t subscribe to Netflix, I decided to see if I could find it on Amazon. I did, at a reasonable price—less than $25 back then, in 2009, as opposed to today, when I did a search, contemplating buying it for a friend, and found it would set me back a whopping 150 bucks, or more. Anyway, I made the purchase 8 years ago, watched the DVD… and watched it again. Then, when my daughter Gitiim visited me in Charlotte that Christmas, she sat down with me, and we watched it together. Besides the appealing, atypical cast of characters played against the backdrop of 1930s Budapest, the beginning of the Nazi era, on through the post-Holocaust period, I was drawn by the charm of an intimate little restaurant, noted for an exceptionally delectable dish of “beef rolls” that attracted locals, and visitors from far and wide, alike, including a few of the new invaders of Hungary, some German Nazi officials, one of whom fits prominently into the tragic bent the movie’s storyline takes.

In 2010, when the subject of a trip abroad the following spring first came up, I kept Budapest in mind, thinking some way, some how, we could perhaps squeeze a few days to this city with the Danube running through it, into our schedule. For inspiration, I downloaded various versions of Gloomy Sunday, the movie’s theme song, known as “the suicide song”, made a compilation CD of 5 or 6 renditions, and played it repeatedly, over a period of months, as I sat at my computer, researching, and plotting the course of our trip. As it turned out, Budapest fit nicely in the circle between Krakow and Milan, which preceded Madrid, the city on the tail end, from which we flew home to the States.

In 2013, we returned to the beguiling Budapest, but this time making it a central focus of our journey, and not just a side trip. What made this Budapest leg of the trip more fun this time around, was the added company joining us. My daughter’s paternal aunt, Lalam, originally from Uganda, and a German resident for over 40 years, flew to Budapest from her home in Munich. What’s more, we had the pleasure of meeting up with other relatives, Gitiim’s first cousin, Emmanuel, and his Hungarian born wife, Venusz, residents of Buda, the Castle Hill side of the city divided by the Danube. Being together and enjoying the company of our extended family in this totally fascinating city with such a rich history, was a rare and memorable treat, and most definitely a highlight of our 7½ week, 10 city tour.

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— Hungarian Parliament Building, and Matthias Church

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— View of the plaza from the steps of St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika)

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