Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Europe, part I

11 September 2009
Budapest-Vienna, 11.30am

If I am travelling to Vienna it follows that I must have spent the last two nights in Budapest! And I did. Not without hiccups, but successfully spent two nights in a foreign city. I say foreign as opposed to London, which doesn’t really feel foreign. Would I have managed, or retained my sanity, without Katie? I don’t know.

I spent most of Wednesday sitting around waiting to go. The flight didn’t leave until 4.45pm but it basically took the whole day out once you factor in getting to the airport and my anal-retentiveness about getting to things like this early. Finally got on the plane, following a group of boys talking about who had shagged whom – haw haw haw – and followed by a man with a very public school accent talking on his cellphone: “and when I am dead” (dripping with irony and enunciation) “you will receive half, and my two children will receive a quarter each. I see no reason to pay several hundred pounds to change a perfectly good document. Now will you please stop, you are worrying my wife…”

On the plane with me (unfortunately not beside me) was Rufus Sewell, the actor from Amazing Grace, Helen of Troy, etc. Saw him again when we got off and were waiting for bags – looking rather inconspicuous for a famous actor but also really good-looking!

All this faded to horror, however, when I tried to get money out at Ferihegy Airport and my card was rejected by the ATMs. Panicked a little, considered crying, then – thank God! I had £30, which I got changed to forints. Katie had texted ahead the correct train line to get onto, which despite all my careful planning was not Déak Ferenc but Nyugati, and feeling stressed and anxious I got on – but it made me feel a heck of a lot better to see her waiting at the end of it! Resolved to deal with credit card issues the next day, and just to get some rest, [plug] at the very comfortable Unity Hostel [/plug]. [Actually it was very nice, and if you like waking up to the strains of flute practice at the Franz Liszt Music School, you should stay here too!]

Unfortunately for Katie, we spent until 10.30 the next morning (Wednesday) simply trying to call the emergency number of my bank. Finally managed to sort out the issues, but no thanks to my bank, who will be getting a strongly worded letter when I return to New Zealand. And then by 11am it was time to catch a bus to Memento Park…

…which is a collection of all the old Soviet-era statues, gathered into one area instead of destroyed. It was quite hot by this time. We wandered around all, posing flippantly with some, taking quite a few photos. One of the weirder was a single pair of boots high on a podium – Stalin’s boots – the rest of him smashed by Hungarians in 1956. There were no more Stalins in the park but plenty of Lenins, Bela Kuns and nameless workers or soldiers. I spent 2000 forints (about $20) on a very small badge with Lenin’s face on it, and later in the day saw a better one for cheaper. Typical.

The bus left again at 1pm, dropping us back in Déak Ferenc Square, where we had a bit of lunch and then set off for Buda, on the other side of the Danube, which is much more hilly than flat Pest. We climbed up instead of taking the overpriced cable car, stopping on the way at a sort of promontory overhanging the river, where lovers dangled legs, and geckos basked in the sun. At the top – something different around every corner – amazingly beautiful old buildings, Byzantine-looking churches, very Eastern European statues, a slight Mediterranean feel… I think the quote for the day was definitely “That is such a cool statue!”

An awkward moment – sitting in ex-cloisters now café overlooking the Danube, heavenly, a four-piece gypsy band starts playing, even more so – BROKEN irreparably when the violinist comes over, starts playing/singing in our ears – oh no! We are completely clueless about etiquette in this situation – are we expected to pay him? Finally it comes out – his CD, 5000 forints in the stores, but for you, 2500 forints. [Erm, well, not really interested.] I can see you are young girls, therefore, for you, 2000 forints.

Ended up deciding no; he was not impressed. Very embarrassing.

Walking back, VERY thirsty in all the heat, bought Coca-Cola, collapsed in a green patch near the river – lovely.

Went out for dinner on the street near the hostel which was crowded with restaurants spilling out onto the street; Caesar salad check, orange juice check, service – not fantastic but we still tipped. And yes, it was not exactly Hungarian food, but I had the beginnings of a horrible cold and felt like something light.

This morning we checked out, dragged our bags down to City Park (the spectacular Heroes Square and a castle), then over to Keleti Station and got on this train. Managed to embarrass ourselves again by sitting in the correct seat numbers, but in first class – oh dear. Had to do a walk of shame down the entire train. And here I am now, in second class, still in Hungary, I think. Lunchtime!

1 comment:

heidikins said...

These photos look like they are straight out of a fairy tale! Swoon!