Birthday Blessings and Budapest.

I am 28!

I remember being 18. I was touring Europe with mom right after my birthday, thinking that I was old and so mature, that I already knew everything I needed to be successful in life, and that by 28 I would have accomplished all of my goals and dreams in life. How wrong my 18-year-old self was. Ten years later, I am just realizing how little I know. I think the only thing that lines up with my 18-year-old-way-of-seeing-into-the-future is that I married a really great guy and together we started out on a grand adventure. 

So, 28 - my first birthday in Serbia, but not my first birthday away from home. Not very many people knew that the day was anything special, but the people who knew, definitely made it a birthday that I will never forget.

The weekend started with an impromptu trip to Dibonis Winery on the evening before my birthday. Dibonis has quickly become one of my favorite Serbian spots, so when David asked if I wanted to meet him at the vineyard to pick up a few bottles for the weekend, I didn't hesitate to say yes. Silly me. I thought that I was just going to purchase a few bottles, pay, then get back in my car and drive home. 

Nope. Laszlo (the wine maker and owner) knows that I am super interested in the wine making process, so he let me mix the pinot noir grapes, and of course, let me drink some of the finished product. In fact, we spent about two full hours tasting and discussing wine before moving onto dinner at his restaurant, Shiraz.  

Dinner was amazing and for the first time in Serbia, I had fresh fish. We scraped our plates and sipped our chardonnay. I thought dinner was about over, but to my surprise and delight, the server appeared with an ice cream birthday cake for me! No one even knew that ice cream cake was my favorite. The traditional birthday song (sung in a mixture of Serbian, English and Hungarian) filled the air and a smile took over my face. The only missing piece was Chris. He was traveling for business and unfortunately had to miss the evening. I appreciate how hard he is working, but I missed having him there with me. 

I got home to an empty house, and was startled by the shrill chime of my door bell. Marko met me with this bouquet of flowers and a present wrapped in pink paper. As I struggled to hold all of my gifts, Marko read the note on the flowers to me. 

"To Lana, happy birthday. We love you - Mom and Dad."

I was so surprised that before I could ask how, my eyes started to water. Marko stood there with a huge grin and explained that mom had found Lela on Facebook and had arranged the whole thing. Ever since I was 13, mom and dad have found a way to send me flowers on my birthday. Serbia really tested their creativity because ProFlowers doesn't deliver, and they don't know our friends. Well, they still found a way to make it happen. I immediately skyped mom and dad!!

The next day I knew that I would see Chris and spend my actual birthday in Budapest with my best friend and travel partner. It was shaping up to be a fabulous first birthday in Serbia. 

It was the first time I had driven alone in Serbia, and also my first time driving on the freeway. I was a little nervous, but after about 2 hours, I got to the Budapest airport in one piece.

 I picked up my sexy 
business man and we headed into the city in search of our hotel. 

I would suggest the Opera Garden Apartments and Hotel to anyone! The hotel is located on the Pest side of the city and it is central to everything. They have an amazing roof top patio, fully functional kitchens in every room, free breakfast (with mimosas) and complementary sangria in the evenings. My kind of place!

My birthday started with a fabulous Mexican lunch at Iguana. The food was so spicy and so fabulous all at the same time. Chris knows that Mexican is one of my favorite foods, so he insisted that we go to this place before doing anything else. This is a great place to visit when you visit Budapest! We will be back again!

We were lucky to have amazing weather and since it was nearing the end of tourist season, the city was not over-crowded. We looked across the Danube River towards Buda Castle . . . 

 found our way across Chain Bridge, climbed a little mountain . . 

 and discovered Buda Castle and the picturesque Fisherman Bastion. 

And the jumping begins!
We will NEVER get sick of these pics! 

 As the sun set, we listed to a marching band in the city center, and wandered through cafe lined streets. 

 St. Stephen's Basilica in undeniably one of the most impressive sights in Budapest. 

Back to my Ukrainian roots??

After hours and hours of walking and exploring, we wrapped up my birthday with dinner at Liszt Ferenc Square. Chris researched where to eat (we learned our lesson after Prague), and he led us to the perfect spot. The Square had about 15 outdoor cafes and restaurants fully equipped with blankets and heaters just in case it got a little chilly. The twinkly lights cast a warm, romantic glow over the entire scene, and I thought that the evening could not be more perfect. Chris let me order a lovely bottle or red Hungarian wine, and we shared an asian-fusion-type meal. Over the course of the evening, we met the couple siting next to us. Mario was from Brazil, and his friend was from France. Mario spent much of his time in France as an artist, he spoke about 5 languages, and was returning to Brazil to open a boutique hotel in Sao Paolo. He invited us to visit Brazil, and we exchanged email addresses. 

Chris and I paid for dinner, but before we left, I was again surprised with a celebratory dessert and a wonderful arrangement of "happy birthday to you. . . ." This time, the song was delivered in English and French. I was all smiles, and so happy to share the moment with Chris and our new international friends. 

I hope that we meet again some day. Now that I am looking at this picture again, Mario looks a lot like George Clooney. It sounds pretty awesome to say that George Clooney bought me a birthday cake in Budapest! I will let you believe what you want. :)

Chris and I had an amazing weekend in Budapest. We are only 2 hours south of the city, so I am sure that Budapest will quickly become like a second home for us. 

I know I am not old at all, but the scary reality is that ten years passed so quickly, and I want to relish every moment of the next ten years. The main function of this blog is to document the moments so that they don't fade from my memory as time passes.