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Chocolate Snails

October 11, 2010 at 6:34 pm
By Collin Hazlett

(In which St. Steven's Day is celebrated, ruins are explored, a useful and dangerous suffix is explained, and chocolate snails and hobbits are eaten.)

It seems like the time that I've spent here in Budapest can be divided into two distinct epochs. The first was the long-ago Pre-Netian Period, when I had a fair amount of time on my hands to do non-math-related things, but no internet connection to tell you about them. The second is the present Crazimathican Age, when I do have an internet connection, but I have so much math to do that any activity other than doing math must be carefully planned and is bought at the expense of such things as sleep.

While experts have varying opinions as to when exactly the Crazimathican Age began, most of them agree that if an artifact is found beneath the two-foot thick geological layer of scribbled notes, half-completed diagrams, class handouts and partially completed assignments that has accumulated over the floor of our apartment, then it must date from before the Crazimathican Age.

In a recent archeological dig, I unearthed some photos- which I gather, from their depth beneath the surface, must be from the Pre-Netian Period. I was sadly unable to upload those photos back then, since in that primitive time the technology necessary to upload photos (i.e. a reliable internet connection) had not been discovered.

However, now we do have that technology, and so these never-before-seen photos from the distant past can finally be exhibited to the public!



These first two are of the fireworks display on St. Steven's Day, which happened the second weekend we were in Budapest. St. Steven's Day is sort of like the Hungarian Fourth of July. St. Steven was the king of Hungary in 1000 AD, notable for, among other things, fighting his uncle for control of Hungary, winning, and then chopping him up into four chunks and sending them on four separate trips throughout the countryside. Besides the fireworks, another holiday tradition is to go get St. Steven's hand and parade it through the city. There seems to be a family knack for getting carried around in pieces.

Fisherman's Bastion 

This is the from the Fisherman's Bastion, a very pretty part of the very large Castle. The Castle and Parliament look at each other from opposite sides of the Danube, which divides the city into Buda (the hilly side with the castle) and Pest (the more urbanized side with Parliament). I live in Pest, right next to the school where the program is located.

Parliament from Bridge

This is Parliament, as seen from the bridge to Margaret Island. The bridge, as you can see, is under construction, but I decided the picture was good enough to show you anyway.


These are the partially restored ruins of a medieval convent on Margaret Island, a big island in the middle of the Danube. There was a Saint Margaret who spent her life here and got the island named after her.


This is a bowl of goulash. I ordered it at a fancy restaurant we went to, because goulash and paprika were the only things I knew were featured in Hungarian cuisine before I came here. It tastes like mildly spicy, slightly meaty tomato soup, which I suppose is how it should taste.

I have since discovered, though, a wonderful kind of pastry called a Kakaos Csiga, which is a spiral cinnamon-roll type pastry - except that, instead of cinnamon, it features coconut flakes and chocolate. "Kakaos Csiga" translates to "Cocoa Snail." There is also a "Pizzas Csiga" (Pizza Snail), which is like a cinnamon roll with pizza sauce and cheese instead of cinnamon and sugar. I've only tried one Pizza Snail, but I have eaten many Cocoa Snails.

I have also eaten some dry, crumbly chocolate cookie / biscuit things I bought in a supermarket, which are called "Hobbits." I bought them just because of the name, but have since developed a liking for them. They were next to a package of thin chocolate flaky things labeled "U.F.O."

As long as I'm on the subject of funny words, I should tell you about my favorite part of the Hungarian language: the suffix -izik. When you put -izik on the end of a noun, it turns it into a verb. We have a suffix kind of like this in English, -ify, but to X-ify something usually means to turn it into X: liquify means to turn to liquid, spaghettify means to turn to spaghetti, and so on.

-izik works differently. It usually turns a noun into the verb most commonly associated with that noun. For instance, "reggelt" means morning, so "reggelizik" means to eat breakfast.So -izik is really useful, especially if you don't know many verbs.

However, you need to be careful about using -izik, because occasionally it transforms the noun into some kind of vulgar expression or swear word instead of turning it into the verb you wanted. Strangely enough, using -izik on words that are already swear words can give them non-obscene meanings. One fairly dirty noun, when you add -izik to it, becomes a verb which means to spend way more time on something than you should. This had nothing to do with the original meaning of the noun.

Everyone who was in the language program agrees that -izik should be adopted into English.

There are many, many more crazy suffixes in Hungarian. Instead of having prepositions, they have suffixes which tell the relationship of the words in the sentence to each other- not just spatially (under, over, behind), but in regards to movement (coming-down-from, going-up-on, coming-in-from, and every other possibility you can think of). There are also suffixes which say the grammatical relationship of the words to each other: there's a suffix which tags the direct object as the direct object, and then even if you move it somewhere else in the sentence you still know what its role is. However, my conversations in Hungarian are usually limited to one of the following two scenarios:


Me: Hello!
Shopkeeper: Hello, how can I help you?
Me: I'd like this, please.
Shopkeeper: That will be (some number of) forints, please.
Me: Here you go!
Shopkeeper: (Something in Hungarian I don't understand)
Me: Uhhh...
Shopkeeper: (In English) Would you like a bag for that?
Me: (In English) Oh, no thank you.
Shopkeeper: Thank you! Goodbye!
Me: Goodbye!


(not translated)

Bum: Van egy cigarettát?
Me: Nem.
Bum: Tienes una cigarrillo?
Me: No.
Bum: Avez-vous une cigarette?
Me: Non.
Bum: A cigarette! A cigarette! Do you have a cigarette?
Me: No, I don't.
Bum: (mumbles something in Hungarian and walks off)

This sounds like I made it up, but I didn't. It happens all the time. Actually, they don't usually try Spanish and French, they usually ask in Hungarian first, and then in English, and then a couple more times in English just to make sure. But I did meet a bum once who asked in Hungarian, then French and Spanish. There aren't that many people begging for money in Budapest, but there sure are a lot begging for cigarettes.

On that weird note, I think it's time for me to toothbrushizik and then pillowizik. All this mathematiziking is making me very sleepy.


  • October 12 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Delicious Cocoa Snails and multi-lingual bums... Hungary sounds like tomatoes (I mean paradise)! Thank you so much for the great post. It is fantastic to read about your adventures abroad.

  • October 12 2010 at 9:55 pm
    Christopher Tassava
    Great post. I enjoyed readizik.
  • October 13 2010 at 3:20 am
    Grammar Police
    *¿Tienes UN cigarillo? Unless you are quoting verbatim and the bum also mixed up the gender of his Spanish indefinite articles. Also, you have a way with writing. I really enjoy reading your posts. I think you should bring back this -izik concept when you back to campus!
  • October 13 2010 at 2:57 pm

    You are brilliant. This was an awesome post!