Let me begin with the beginning. I walked into Vészprem, a city which didn’t really look appealing from the side which I came. A lot of high flats, big shops and factories inside the town. It was late in the afternoon, every step send flashes of pain from my toes through my ankles to my knees. I knew there was no way of leaving this town before sunset, so after finding the monastery closed, I looked for a cheap hotel.
The next day when I stepped out of bed, I felt tears in my eyes when my feet hit the ground. The little massage I gave them in the evening did not do much good. But the weather was nice, and I just couldn’t afford staying in hotels too much, so I decided to walk. It was only 500 metres from my hotel till she halted me. She said something in Hungarian which I of course could not understand. “Do you speak English?”, I asked her. “Yes I do. Are you really walking to Istanbul?” “Well, I want to, but I’m tired and thinking about on going home from Budapest next week.” I told her. “Well, you can come to my house, you’ll have a bed and a warm meal and you can see the porcelain museum.” I doubted, the weather was really good, she lived out of town and I had some sort of schedule to make. And I was a bit flabbergasted by this out-of-the-blue hospitality. “Yes, why not.” I decided. After getting her father in the car, we were on our way to Herend, porcelain capital of Hungary.
So began my day of rest. Pearl put her dogs behind the fence and made me a place to sleep. When she was away to her work again, I was alone in this stranger’s house. In was struck by the perfect timing of the encounter, and by the total trust this woman showed. After struggling with the familiar questions of why I deserved this, and how these things happen, I made myself some pancakes. Pearl invited me to the porcelain factory where she works and showed me the treasure chamber. I never cared about porcelain, but seeing all this hand painted stuff created some kind of awe and respect in me. The drawers are really artists, the way they draw birds, trees, animals and people, amazing. After spending a good hour there I was on my way home again.
The next day Pearl, under influence if her daughter, brought us to town. Her daughter to go to school, me to walk. I had breakfast (two sandwiches made by Pearl) with an amazing view over a nice part of the city and headed for Balaton, Hungary’s great lake. The walk was nice, but at the end of the day my feet felt as two days before and with every step tears were forced out of my eyes. I laid on the grass at the lake side and looked through my options. Just as I was to fall asleep, my phone rang. “Hi Thomas, it’s Pearl, I found your sunglasses in my car. Where are you?” I didn’t want her to bring my glasses, I told her so. It would be an hours drive and I was used to loosing my sunglasses, those were my third already. “No, I can bring them to you. Do you already have a place to spend the night? We have a holiday home in Csopak, look on your map, its not too far away. If you want, I can bring you there.” I remembered rule number two, never turn down an offer and let myself enjoy her hospitality a bit more.
The house was amazing. Its a bit old and does not have the most convenient layout (the shower is in the living room, the kitchen is behind another sort of front door and one has to go outside to find the stairs to the sleeping room), but the view is amazing. After our second goodbyes of the day, I could not believe this actually happened. When I woke up the next day and gave my body a good stretch on the balcony, overlooking the lake, I knew I could not leave. I texted Pearl and am now here for my third (or is it fourth?) day in a row. Yesterday I went for a walk when I bumped in on Pearls car with her and two of her three daughters, Linda and Tamara in it. They brought pizza, wood, apples, cake, potatoes and eggs. They took me to town for an ice cream and a wine. They reassured me that I could stay as long as I wanted. My Facebook post in which I calculated how much I needed to walk a day to reach Istanbul before Christmas (22km average) made her come. I needn’t to calculate this, I should not walk for the ex-girlfriend and should only walk if I wanted, there’s no ‘must’. She was right, and she probably knows me better than she knows.
Moral of the story: angels don’t have wings. They look like normal people, like you and me. Its by their actions that you recognise them. I met one again…