And so I have journeyed across Hungary to Sopron which is very near the Austrian border. A three hour journey on a high speed train from central Budapest. We travelled through beautiful flat lands with fields of yellow and green and the occasional tree, Very picturesque and painterly. On arrival I took a taxi for the short 3km trip out to the monastery.
He suddenly stops on a little flag-stone road outside a church…. ‘Oh this is it?’ It is indeed. They don’t really do signage, and certainly no flags or neon lights, there are huge timber double doors with wrought iron handles that close behind with a satisfying clunk… not as solid I expect as it would have been if you family had decided to drop you off here indefinitely! The monastery has actually been both a Pauline monks centre and a Carmelite nuns convent for a group of ‘discalced’ nuns – who also didn’t talk. There is some discussion about whether these nuns wore shoes – now I like barefeet as much as the next person but seriously, they also got up for church in the middle of the night AND pre-dawn……did they need to make it more miserable? (Just saying….The church with yoga is sounding better every day!)
For my arrival not a nun, but a charming young reception man leads me through the cloister to my cell …ah room, and asks me what time I would like to go to the Refectory for dinner. It is quiet, beautifully decorated, and smells of polished wood. You can hear birds out in the garden and the occasional thunk of someone’s door and a swishing as someone disappears away. There are people here, but they are the respectful quiet Austrian types. Well travelled, well mannered and well dressed, couples having a short weekend break before the summer.
And so to my room – it is wonderful. I purposefully chose a single – to be more authentic to the monk experience. Unlike the original, the cell next door has been converted into a stylish tiled ensuite. It has double windows and shutters and so at night is completely pitch black, and beautiful white linen, globe lamps and a seat and footstool under the window for quiet contemplation. It is a retreat centre after all. Then I almost have a panic attack. Do they have wifi – surely I didn’t book in somewhere for 3 long days without technology. There is no password sign and now I’m frazzled. I ransack the drawers for the compendium and there it is: ‘Wifi is available in the loft lounge, (where I write this blog) with the password ‘monastery’ and you can use phones but please don’t talk on them in public places’. Deal!… and relief. Thank God it’s not verboten!
After I shower and change, I wonder if it is too quiet for me to put on my heels to walk downstairs for dinner, (I decided no and tip-toed along the cloisters) as I descend the well worn/indented stone stairs to the restaurant/ refectory which is beautiful. What would those barefoot nuns have made of that?
The waiting staff speak German!
It’s not that I don’t understand German, but it is a LONG time since any came out of my mouth. I did manage the important things though with a tri-lingual response: “si, rot wein thanks” Something has gone wrong in my lingual memory bank where all languages except English have been mixed. Words come out, but sometimes I’m not sure what language, and if any speaks to me in ANY foreign language I am likely to answer in Spanish….. which is not that helpful in this part of the world.
Anyway, I manage to order dinner off the menu written in Hungarian, German and English but everyone else is speaking German. I’d forgotten about the whole; danke shön, bitte shön verbal dance. Cute.
I have also remembered ‘Frühstuck’ and ‘Caffe und Kuchen’ so I have a few meals covered. I don’t panic about the spelling especially the little ümlats – although I have found them on apple keyboard. V.handy for the trilingual person.
It is late and I missed a meal today with a rush to get from art class to the train in Budapest, so after my dinner and rot wein, I head back to my cell, check my technology, close my shutters and call it a day. I’m a blissfully happy novice monkess tonight…..( I went for the monk because I’m not sure that any kind of nun option would have suited me at all – but if I had to be one, the Mother Superior is the obvious choice! She probably also had an ensuite!)
Gute Nacht – see it’s all coming back now.