It was a beautiful evening. Shades of blue and gray dominated the sky, with just a tinge of pink. The sun had disappeared behind clouds but the gleam of its light had painted a very small part of the sky in soft hues of yellow and orange. An occasional light breeze gently touched the serene lake.

I walked along the harbor at a leisurely pace. On my right, a bevy of swans gracefully glided though the water, leaving a trail of ripples on the blue waters of the lake. On the left, the silhouettes of sailboats against the colorful twilight sky and their reflection in the water made the place look like a beautiful painting. I found a quiet place and stood there, clicking numerous pictures in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the beauty of the sunset. None of those images seemed to do justice to what the eyes saw and so I kept clicking some more.

“Not enough?” I was startled by an unknown voice. Going by my experience in almost four weeks in other towns and cities in Hungary, I was hardly expecting anyone to approach me and strike a conversation, that too in fairly fluent English. I turned around to find a man with silver-gray hair smiling at me. He must’ve been in his sixties. Something about him – perhaps his smile or his overall personality – reminded me of Robert De Niro. Was just shorter than the movie star and slightly taller than me.

“Sorry?” Unsure of what the man meant, I asked.

“Can’t get enough of the sunset?” the man repeated.

“Oh… yes, it’s beautiful!” I said.

“You think this is beautiful?” he asked.

“Don’t you think so?”

“Well, I’ve seen better!” he said with a smile.  

Umm.. I wasn’t quite comparing it with any other sunsets I’d seen earlier. Doesn’t each lake, each sunset have its own beauty, its own charm?

“Where are you from?” he asked as I was about to turn to click some more pictures. I really wasn’t expecting it to go beyond a polite conversation lasting a minute.

“I’m from India,” I answered.

“India! What are you doing in Hungary?”

“Oh, I like to travel. Have been in Hungary for a couple of weeks now.”

“Alone?”

I nodded in response.

“Here?? Traveling alone??” he asked incredulously. “What are you searching for when you travel alone?” Wow! That was a rather deep question for a rather shallow person like me to answer! If “soul-searching” is the kind of answer anyone expects from me, my answer would probably end up being a rather disappointing one. I don’t really search for anything besides interesting places and interesting conversations, I wanted to respond, but just then, his phone started ringing. Indecisive about whether to stay or leave, I waited for a minute or so to say “bye” and eventually, just waved and left the place.

The day had been quite long and tiring. What would’ve normally taken just 2.5 hours had ended up being an 8-hour long journey. All because I didn’t want to get out of bed early in the morning in Tapolca… oh, and I didn’t want to miss my breakfast! You see, when you are trying to control your overall travel costs, it’s a crime to miss the breakfast that’s included in your total cost of stay! ? So, after having a tummy-full of breakfast, I’d taken a bus from Tapolca to Veszprem only to realize I’d just missed the bus from Veszprem to Siofok. A long wait and then a bus journey from Veszprem, and I had finally reached Siofok by 5-ish. After resting for a while, I’d almost forced myself to walk to lake Balaton late in the evening and the sunset at the lake had rewarded me with stunning views. It was only after I left the waterfront that I realized how famished and exhausted I was. I hogged as much as I could’ve and got to the room and crashed in bed.

I returned to the lake the next evening, hoping to experience another beautiful sunset. This time, only dark gray clouds dominated the sky and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Evenings like these have their own beauty, but on that specific day, I’d have preferred bright and colorful skies. The cloudy sky almost reflected the state of mind – gloomy, clouded with a million different thoughts. I chose not to walk around much but just sit by the lake and try to clear up the clutter in the mind.

It must’ve been half an hour… or an hour perhaps… can’t recall how long I just sat in silence looking at the lake. In some time, I saw the Hungarian Robert De Niro walking towards me, holding his bicycle with one hand and excitedly waving at me with another. “Hello! We meet again!”, he exclaimed as he approached closer. “I hated answering the call yesterday, but I had to take it!” he said rather apologetically. I assured him it was alright and then, we resumed the chat from where we’d left it a day earlier. He asked me questions about India, about which part of India I belonged to, about how and why Bombay became Mumbai, about the “Indian languages” that I speak (I was surprised by his pronunciation of the word “Marathi” when he repeated it after me. His pronunciation of words in Hindi and Marathi was far better than his pronunciation of English words). He told me a bit about himself – he was 60 years old, a Hungarian who had moved to some other country with his wife and kids – “I’m married, sorry to break your heart!”, he joked as he told me about his family. He showed me a picture of his sons. He was in Siofok to look after the place he owned. I told him I was disappointed by the cloudy evening and he said it looked almost stormy. “I love stormy weather. I used to get a holiday on such days”, he said further adding that he used to be a sailor or something. He did face difficulty in expressing his thoughts at times – “My English… not very good,” he’d say each time he struggled to find the right words.

When it started getting dark, I said a goodbye and was about to leave. It looked like he wanted to say something, so I stopped, but he said nothing. I turned around when he asked hesitantly if I write e-mails. Oh well, if only he knew how wordy I am capable of getting and how long my e-mails are! “I will not bother you much. I’ll just write sometimes.”, he said. He shared his email ID. Didn’t ask for mine though. Said he’d respond if I wrote to him.

I’m not quite sure how long we had ended up chatting, but the chat had definitely changed my mood for better. It had calmed down the mind. I think I had been starving for a conversation with someone… anyone. In that city full of strangers, it felt good to have someone to talk to and laugh with. When traveling solo, especially in countries where you’re likely to face language barrier, it’s conversations like these that keep you going.

Have I written to him? Not yet! Do I intend do? I don’t think so. I guess sometimes it’s just nice to have conversations with strangers for some time and let them remain just that…conversations… with strangers.


14 Comments

Amruta · August 9, 2019 at 5:00 am

Lovely! I have had such experiences. It leaves you with a smile…

    thebimblebee · August 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Indeed! Thanks for sparing time to read the post and leave a comment, Amruta! Would love to read about your experiences! 🙂

Sangeeta · August 9, 2019 at 5:51 am

Heeeey Namrata!!! Awesome blog!!! I enjoyed a lot!! Keep writing!!! Eager to know how many handsome strangers you met ?!!!! Ha ha ha!!!!

    thebimblebee · August 9, 2019 at 6:41 am

    Hey Sangeeta! So glad you enjoyed the post. I do hope to keep writing. Thanks a bunch! 🙂 How many handsome strangers have I met? I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep track of the count now that I’ve started writing. :p 😀

Kaushal · August 9, 2019 at 7:15 am

Really enjoyed reading the blog! The pictures transported me to the scene momentarily! ?

    thebimblebee · August 9, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Thanks a lot for the encouraging words, Kaushal. So glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

Gayatri · August 9, 2019 at 10:48 pm

Very nice read Namrata! Loved your pics too, keep going n keep meeting more strangers to further pep up your journies!!

    thebimblebee · August 10, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Thank you, Gayatri, for the kind words. 🙂

Tejas · August 10, 2019 at 7:36 pm

Very nicely written. I liked the style. You have summed it up beautifully. It’s always fun to travel and meet new people.. the conversations that follow.. discussions that we would never have in our routine. Reminds me of meeting an Englishman (70+ yr old) in Paris. He was an Arsenal fan for more than 50 years 😀 Had a nice chat, clicked a pic with him and that’s it.. have an unforgettable memory!
Keep writing 🙂

    thebimblebee · August 11, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Indeed, it’s fun to travel and meet new people. Sometimes, you end up getting a completely different perspective about things. Thank you for reading the post, Tejas! Appreciate your comments. 🙂

Suresh · August 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Stunning pics and a breezy read, good show. Btw it’s Robert De Niro, not Di Nero 🙂

    thebimblebee · August 11, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Yikes! Fixed the mistake! Thank you so much for pointing it out, Suresh! And thanks for reading the post. 🙂

Sayani Panday · August 11, 2019 at 8:48 pm

Wow Namrata! So beautifully you have crafted your feelings into words. Liked it to every bit. You have a good style of writing. Hope to read more. Much love and good wishes to you.

    thebimblebee · August 15, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Hey Sayani! Thank you so very much for those lovely words and your wishes! Much love to you. 🙂

Comments are closed.