Runaway Spoon

Make Way For The Hungarians

January 23, 2017

Ambassador Dr. Reka Szemerkenyi (Photo by: Jay Snap for The Hungarian Embassy) Ambassador Dr. Reka Szemerkenyi

Outta the woods and into the mainstream.  Here come the Hungarians.

A post-inaugural reception the day after President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office drew transition team representatives and members of Congress to the future home of the Hungarian embassy.

It was a high-regard tip of the hat to the new Trump Administration.  Even, a Hungarian dog showed love. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nebraska, said he got a “juicy, warm kiss” from the big Komondor dog named Chauncy at the entrance.

It was far more than symbolism. Speaker after speaker, including the Hungarian ambassador, Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, spoke of their beliefs – not unwarranted -- that economic and cultural ties between the two countries will get stronger under the Trump Administration.

Hungarian Ambassador Szemerkenyi with George Pataki (Photo by: Jay Snap for The Hungarian Embassy) Hungarian Ambassador Szemerkenyi with George Pataki

To be expected, since the Trump family has roots in Eastern and Central Europe. First Lady Melania Trump is Slovenia-born. The President’s paternal side is German stock.  His three oldest children have Czech heritage.

Hungary’s embassy is moving its official digs out of a hard-to-find wooded place near Rock Creek Park. Its new location is a huge mansion on Rhode Island NW between 15th and 16th  streets near Scott Circle.

The Feast (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) The Feast

The mansion is still a work in progress, with the name of the old tenant, American Coatings Association, yet remaining outside. The clues to the days ahead are evident: The Hungarian flag flies overhead. A statue of a Freedom Fighter with the engraving “Budapest 1956” is at the front.

The subtle, beautifully decorated reception rooms speak of elegant Old World class. Appropriately so, a string band played soft music at the reception.  YES! guests could hear one another. The cuisine was the center of attention, with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs cooked perfectly; hearty bacon strips, breads, quiche, desserts, and more.

To raise its diplomatic profile in the Trump Administration, in Congress, and around town, the embassy is planning concerts, seminars, and other get-togethers at its new location.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that after Hungary came out from under the yoke of communism, many consider Hungary “the gold standard of Europe….President Trump opens the door for all of us. We look forward to working with his administration.”

Former New York Gov. George Pataki, of Hungarian descent, praised the fresh start.  “Hungary has always been a great friend of the United States…But “sadly,” he said, the U.S. has not always been a great friend to Hungary. “But that will change,” predicted Pataki, a Republican. Adding: “This new administration, just as Hungary has, will control its borders.”

The new Hungarian Embassy (Photo by: Jay Snap for The Hungarian Embassy) The new Hungarian Embassy

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., also said he, too, foresees deeper cooperation between the two countries.  Travelling specifically to D.C. for the reception was Deputy Assistant Secretary Kristof Altusz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.

Others attending included  Piodtr Wilczek of Poland,  Amb. Petr Kmec of Slovakia,  DCM Zdenek Beranek of the Czech Republic, European Union Ambassador to the USA David O'Sullivan, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.,  Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.,  Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and former Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D.  Both Blackburn and Nunes are on the Trump transition team, as were other attendees from the president's presidential campaign.

Others among the 400 guests were American Heritage VP and head of personnel transition in State Department James Carafano former FBI Director William Webster  and event planner Lynda Webster;  and PEN/Faulker Foundation executive VP Willee Lewis and  journalist Findley Lewis.  

Rep. French Hill, R-Ark) a member of the Hungarian-American Caucus, spoke at an evening concert at the embassy.




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Melania's Homeland Rules At A Trump-Era Inaugural Party

January 18, 2017

Ever sipped wines or vodka from Melania Trump’s homeland? Likely not. In fact, most Americans probably can’t find Slovenia on a map.

To put an emphasis on the Eastern European nation, 450 guests gathered at the Sister Cities International’s gala Tuesday night as Slovenian Ambassador Dr. Božo Cerar kicked off one of the first black-tie inaugural balls of the week in honor of President-elect Donald J. Trump.  More than 40 foreign diplomats attended.

Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook (left) & Dr. Denise Mitchem (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook (left) & Dr. Denise Mitchem

Quick-stepping violin music set the mood.

How did the liquor sit with the palates of the distinguished guests?

“Very nice, outstanding,” pronounced one guest sipping a darkish red Slovenian Premium Wine. Another described Slovenia Vodka as a bit “more powerful” but smoother (because of the main ingredient, buckwheat) than its Russian counterpart.

Melania’s new status as the future first lady is a source of national pride.  Although she wasn’t at the party, her glamorous presence was still felt ... from the remarks onstage to the conversations over clinking glasses.

Through and through, it was Slovenia’s night at the Organization of American States. A buffet of international cuisine included various Slovenian dumplings (meat and vegetarian)  and other Eastern European dishes. 

Mary Kane, Sister Cities president, and Slovenia's Ambassador Bozo Cerar (Photo by: Patricia McDougall) Mary Kane, Sister Cities president, and Slovenia's Ambassador Bozo Cerar

Sister Cities International President and CEO Mary D. Kane commented, “We are delighted to celebrate this tradition of presidential support as well as showcase the important role of people-to-people citizen diplomacy in furthering peace and prosperity on a global scale at our Inaugural Gala.”

Spotted were Trump transition team staffers and an executive from the new MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino.

Event co-sponsors with the Embassy of Slovenia included the International Economic Alliance. Partnering organizations were American Women for International Understanding, Anciens Association of the NATO Defense College, and the Washington, DC Chamber of Commerce. The honorary host committee was comprised of more than 30 ambassadors, including Dr. Hamdullah Mohib of Afghanistan, Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner of Austria, Ambassador Tiena Coulibaly of Mali, and Ambassador Carlos Manuel Sada Solana of Mexico.

P.S.  Slovenia is northeast from Italy.

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Hungarian Musical Genius Feted

January 16, 2017

Aniko Gaal Schott (left), Alexandra de Borchgrave & Joann Mason (Photo by: Michelle Belliveau) Aniko Gaal Schott (left), Alexandra de Borchgrave & Joann Mason

With Hungary’s ambassador in attendance, D.C. hostess and interior design executive The Hon. Aniko Gaal Schott hosted an intimate reception Saturday night to introduce Csaba Káel, CEO of Hungary’s  famous Müpa Budapest (Palace of The Arts), the equivalent of the Kennedy Center.

Káel also is chairman of the organization that runs both the Budapest Spring Festival and the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival. He has directed and produced numerous Hungarian films and directed more than 40 operas worldwide, include in Shanghai, China. He is currently working on yet another opera production, Kalman's Die Csardasfurstin.

The ambassador to the USA, Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, was joined by her husband who only hours before arrived from Budapest. Among the 40 or so invited guests were social writer Mary Bird, Joann Mason, Washington Life senior editor Kevin Chaffee, Diane and Roland Flamini, and Alexandria de Borchgrave.

from left: Julius Varallyai, Mrs. Spiro, Gene Spiro (in back), Peter Galyari, Krisztina & Csaba Kael (Photo by: Michelle Belliveau) from left: Julius Varallyai, Mrs. Spiro, Gene Spiro (in back), Peter Galyari, Krisztina & Csaba Kael

Hungarian fare at the reception at the Schott's Foxhall home consisted of caviar, smoked salmon, bite-sized pancakes, and cream-filled pastry, among other delicacies.

Schott is an American-Hungarian and is active in Hungarian cultural events and celebrations.  She spends significant time in President-Elect Donald Trump’s social hotspot of Palm Beach, Fla., dubbed the to-be Winter White House.

Perhaps partly due to Trump’s Slovenia-born wife Melania, it might be conceivable that Eastern European folks will be so “in” for four years, and, who can predict, maybe more.  Could be, in the entire scheme of things nowadays, you might get extra points if you can speak with an Eastern European accent or live in Kalorama.

An exclusive post-inaugural brunch, “Salute to Freedom,” will be held Saturday, January 21 by the Hungarian embassy to celebrate the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. 


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