Dining out alone one evening lately, I got into conversation with a couple of Canadian tourists who were on a driving holiday through the region. They seemed very impressed with Budapest, so I didn’t feel the need to switch into ambassadorial gear and sing its praises. We agreed that Prague, while interesting, was simply too full of tourists to be enjoyable. And we shared similar impressions of Vienna as an aging dowager who had lost some of her joie de vivre.

They still had two weeks left of their tour and were in the process of planning their route to Zagreb. I’m a pathetic poker player. If a thought registers in my head, it’s clearly visible on my face. I have learned to immediately shift into self-correction mode, and I am getting faster at adjusting the image presented, but if you’re looking at me and paying attention, I’m like an open book. They were looking at me and they were paying attention; they registered and correctly interpreted my ‘Zagreb? Are you mad?’ look.

I had hoped to be let off lightly with a blasé ‘as a city, it just doesn’t do it for me’ but they were obviously looking forward to their visit and my careless reaction had thrown a big wet blanket on their enthusiasm. I had been introduced to them by the restaurant manager as someone who travels extensively and they wanted details.

IMG_1447 (800x600)Zagreb really doesn’t do it for me. I thought it tired, listless, and somewhat jaded. No matter how much I tried to conjure up some of the magic that must have been there back in the days of the Orient Express, I failed miserably. Even staying in the fantastic Esplanade Hotel wasn’t enough to fill the void. I tried to find some contemporary Croatian writers in translation to see what I was missing, but sadly, what I found was far from inspiring. We did walk about, we did explore, and apart from its wonderful cemetery, I can’t remember anything else of note. I’m glad I visited, but I’m in no hurry back.

My Canadian travellers decided that as they’d already booked and paid for their accommodation, they’d press on regardless of the fact that to my mind, a couple of days in Subotica and then on to Belgrade would have been far more interesting and rewarding.

Later that evening, I stopped to reflect on how easily I offer up my unsolicited opinion. Some might find this charming and even a little engaging. But not everyone really needs to know what I think. At least with blogging (and indeed, this column) people can choose whether or not to read what I have to write. But when we’re in conversation – short of telling me to shut up – there’s little you can do but listen or walk away.

I think I might need to revisit the carelessness with which I sometimes venture forth and perhaps take a second or two to give some thought to the consequences of my comments. So, Zagreb mightn’t be up there on my list of places to visit, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. And while Budapest has its drawbacks, if you caught me on a bad day when nothing was going right and life in Outer Mongolia was looking positively attractive in comparison to yet another day in this city, I’d hate to think that my opinion on a given Tuesday might put you off coming to see it for yourself.

This week, I’m left wondering what sort of menu my comments would make if, as Robert Louis Stevenson once said: ‘Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.’

First published in the Budapest Times 26 September 2014

0 replies
  1. zolimely@chello.hu
    zolimely@chello.hu says:

    It wouldn’t be me, had I not done it. This is what I found:

    8) ‘Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences’

    This (and its variants) are mostly attributed to Stevenson on internet pages. The sentence, though not found in his works, is based on a genuine quotation from the essay ‘Old Mortality’: ‘Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing upon their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance and immediacy of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or heroic temper, to excite or to console; books of a large design, shadowing the complexity of that game of consequences to which we all sit down, the hanger-back not least.’ In contrast to the thousands of hits for spurious version, Stevenson’s actual quote gets only 4 hits.

    I like your version much better than the original, though… 🙂

    Nighty night for now.

    Reply
    • Mary
      Mary says:

      A favourite of mine – Being Irish he had an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains him through temporary periods of joy – has been attributed both to Yeats (my vote) and Wilde. Hard to know who said what. I blogged a while ago on Dorothy Parker and quoted her and had a comment from her fan club saying that she hadn’t said what I had said she said… but I wonder how it can be proved that she didn’t… the mind boggles

      Reply
    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Hah… that would give my PR people nightmares. Imagine a politician who said what was on her mind rather than what she should say …. 🙂 The glance thing – that’s in the genes 🙂

      Reply
      • stcoemgen
        stcoemgen says:

        I personally like a candidate that openly speak their mind. That way I actually know who the person is am actually voting for. Not some PR created CGI PC phony. We vote for Dr. Jekyll but get Mr Hyde in office.

        Honesty. We need more of that in politics.

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *