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Socially Distanced in Budapest: Sebastian’s Story

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I usually wake up quite late, 9-ish. Since I have no dogs or kids to wake me up in the morning, I take my chance and sleep as long as I can. I live with my wife, Jessica, in a 45 m2 apartment in the Buda-half of Budapest. We live in a very quiet neighborhood, so there’s not a lot of street-noise, apart from the family with small children who live across from us. They have a nice garden and the kids usually play outside. Recently they started building a pool (yes, during quarantine) so the noise has been quite intense these days. Our building is small, with just 9 units, and also has a garden. I usually never go there, but during these stay-at-home days I’ve been going every few days, to get some sun and enjoy the quiet vibes of the Buda hills.

We live in a one-and-a-half-room apartment, as the Hungarians call it. The big room where we sleep, watch TV (and from where I write this) is the “one” room. The “half-room” is a dining-room that connects to the small kitchen. There, we have a sofa, a wine cabinet, and a small dining table. To enter the kitchen, you have to cross this “half-room”. We’ve been cooking (and washing a lot of dishes) quite a lot these days. I’m not just a wine guy. I’m also a trained chef, and I’ve been putting that knowledge to work. We’ve baked and cooked quite a few things: lasagna, lemon shortbread, two types of brownies, Colombian cheese scones, burgers, chicken wings, etc. The washing-the-dishes part we don’t really enjoy.

We try only to leave the house to get groceries. If we do leave the house, we never take public transport, we either walk (down and up the hill) or go by bike. Sometimes I have to go to The Tasting Table to do some work, so go there by bike. It’s a 30 minute-ride. Down the hill is great! Back up the hill to get home… not so good. Budapest is a truly remarkable city. The beauty of it hits you in the face every time you go out. To get to The Tasting Table from home I have to cross the Danube, ride next to some iconic buildings and see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of downtown Budapest, every time. It’s quite surreal to see the city empty, like never before. Barely anybody is in the streets. The Great Market Hall and Váci utca (Fashion Street) are completely empty. Váci utca is usually so full of people, that you have a hard time walking there.

My wife is really into sports, so she has helped me (rather, pushed me in a loving way) into doing some work-outs at home too. One of my good friends from Colombia recommended the Orange Theory Fitness videos. A 30-minute video work out, published every day, that can be done from home. I try to work-out four times a week. When all of this started I called my good friends and family almost every day. This has been a good opportunity to get back in touch with the people I care the most and get to see their faces (online) again.

Not everything has been great. The Tasting Table is living really tough days. We have no customers, no tours, no tastings. What does a sommelier do when you have nobody to pour wine to? How do you keep people excited about wines? We had to shift from a wine-tasting place to a wine-delivery service. We’ve put a lot of work and ideas to make this happen. Usually I spend 2-6 hours of my days putting wine-packages together, creating new content about wines, doing online wine tastings and working on administrative tasks.

I also started publishing some short videos, explaining wine-stuff to my friends that are interested in wine: what makes a wine expensive? What is natural wine? Cork or screw cap? I did these videos in the hope that, when all of this is over, people are going to be excited about wines, would like to taste new things and people like me (wine professionals) will still have work. If you are curious about these subjects, you can watch the videos on my Instagram @setigiraldo

I’ve sipped a bottle-or-two during this time as well. I had the biggest amount of wine I’ve ever owned (12-ish bottles) before all of this started. I’ve had most of them by now. Among others I’ve enjoyed Nánai Kékfrankos from Sebestyén winery, Soave Classico from Inama winery, Kadarka from Sebestyén winery, Hárslevelü from Somlói Vándor winery, Chianti Rufina from Nipozzano winery, Retsina wine from Greece, among others. Also, a friend of mine coordinated an online “blind-tasting-game”. He delivered to our homes 8 small bottles (200ml) of wines without any labels. The game was to guess what was the grape, region and style of the wines. That was fun!

I haven’t been reading as much as I would like to during all of this. I started re-reading a book I bought at Bogota’s airport the first time in moved to Hungary, back in 2008. The book’s name is quite appropriate: “Budapest” by the Brazilian bossa-nova and samba singer Chico Buarque. The interesting fact about this book is, he has never been in Budapest himself, but he still wrote a book about this city. Much recommended.

My greatest concern about this crisis, apart from the economy/work issues, is the health of my lovely wife. She suffered from asthma when she was a kid and I still haven’t been able to get her a Hungarian health insurance (she is Colombian, and Hungarian health insurance paper-work is a nightmare). So, if I have to point out something that I take care about a lot these days is to stay at home as much as I can, wash my hands every time we go out, in order to keep my incredible and loving wife nice and safe. She is very healthy and I want to keep her that way.

I feel very blessed to have Jessica with me. She is great company, loving a caring, and these days I’ve confirmed—after being next to each other 24/7 for a few weeks—that we get along quite well. Let this short article be in honor to her! What I miss? Being next to my friends, hugging them (I’m a hugger… I am half-Latino after all), pouring great wines to people, having a beer outside in a bar. My birthday is next week, so I guess I’ll miss the company of my friends too. We will have time for that, and much more. For now, I’m just enjoying being at home in these sunny spring days. I’ll go back to my garden now. Egészségedre!