Xpat Report: 2015's First Grandhouse Luncheon

  • 30 Jan 2015 8:00 AM
Xpat Report: 2015's First Grandhouse Luncheon
The first monthly Grandhouse luncheon of the season on January 21, 2015, held as usual in the restrained elegance of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences dining hall, met with the largest attendance of the past two years. Ambassadors Gordan Radman (Croatia), Gajus Scheltema (Holland), Kevin Dowling (Ireland), Igor Esmerov (Macedonia) and Rastilav Káer (Slovakia) were among the distinguished guests and members, graced by Archduke György Habsburg, representing the once great Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire.

Little wonder that such notables convened to hear Dr. Tibor Frank’s stimulating presentation: “Can the European Union be Compared to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy?”

Between sips of Szekszárdi Cabernet Franc 2011, compliments of wine connoisseur Dr. József Hruby, and bites that included liver paté, Brassó roast pork, and hunters’ style turkey with dumplings on nouvelle salad plates, the eminent professor of history and founding director of the School of English and American Studies at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), as well as a former Fulbright visiting professor of history at UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and Columbia University, Dr. Frank outlined how the once great “Empire and Kingdom” (K.u.K. Monarchy) having ruled for over 700 years was the second most powerful in Europe until 1918 and the fifth in worldwide military supremacy.

On the part of Hungary, this might was reflected in the size and grandeur of its Parliament building, symbolic of the self-assured willingness to build a Hungarian nation. But times change, and with them their demands.

The EU’s original mission to build a better Europe was similar to the Empire’s wish to contribute to a better life for its subjects, to have the appropriate concept, and the proper time and wherewithal to implement it. The speaker compared the structure and functioning of both these entities that boasted a mixture of nationalities and languages leading to a healthy diversity and economic power. Will the EU develop into a global economic force just as the K.u.K. was once a powerhouse of Europe? It is too early to come to conclusions, the speaker suggested.

Over dessert that also displayed the venerable Kaiserschmarrn with homemade apricot jam, we listened to thoughtful Q and A comments from György Habsburg and some of the Ambassadors, who as club president Albert Royaards remarked equaled mini presentations themselves. Mr. Royaards thanked the speaker with a gift of a miniature house from Delft, filled with liqueur. In return, Prof. Frank gave a special memento of a bottle of wine from Eötvös University’s 375th anniversary celebrations a few years ago.

In summary, the short answer to the conjecture is “Yes, but….” The butt being, will the EU survive as well as the Austro-Hungarian Empire did for so many years, or simply be remembered in some future time as mere sweet crumbs from the table of a once great Empire. In any case, (and I hope I am not betraying confidences), my honorable table companion, the Archduke, in answer to my quip about the appropriateness of his modest dish of Kaiserschmarrn smiled brightly and said, “It is one of my favorites. But I make it better.” I guess one must be genetically predisposed, I thought mine was tasty enough.

Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor’s Crumbs) by Amy Módly

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