travel diary [budapset 2005]
it's a funny story how this came about. grilly was going to be flying to ireland but found himself with a job interview instead. we talked about the possibilities of him changing his flight to somewhere nice and us both going away for a long weekend. it was a great idea and so we left it until the last minute (literally) to sort it out. we sat around his computer at 7:30am with half an hour before his check-in closed and his flight couldn't be altered. we said no to spain, italy, germany, greece, and every other country until there was only hungary left. it seemed a reasonable place to go so we booked it. i mean, they have a fun metro right?
27.10.2005 - An evening in Budapest
oh look, another travel journal. there's a problem though, and that's the more you travel the less in awe of every little detail you are. it doesn't effect your enjoyment, or make any of it less important, i just don't feel such a strong need to record every moment. so i just hope this doesn't end up seeming too forced. this is budapest though, proper eastern europe, a city just like all of the others. there are the usual subtle differences, in smell and architecture, but a city is always a dirty city on the surface. the interest lies in the details. those intricate pieces of culture and history. that's why you're here right? and not to be in awe of the fact you can organise a trip and get your butt across europe.
our journey here was easy, literally. we missed our train from brighton because we decided to stock up on quiche and chocolate tart (from the 'real patisserie, where aimee and nicola used to work) but we arrived in the departure lounge in good time. enough time to wander around and sample all the strange drinks at least - slightly disappointing flavours of baileys and also winter pimms (is that really necessary?). gatwick is such a lovely place. no really.
our flight was two hours and straight forward. the guy sitting next to me was reading "your hair" magazine like a guy which a pink tshirt and expensive designer ripped jeans would. we ate our pastries and grilly discouraged me from buying harry potter top trumps (until i'm really glad that i have that spare £4 i'm going to be very pissed off). the view out of our tiny window was unusually boring, have i got too used to flying? i did get quite excited while passing slowly over another planes vapour trail though, bisecting it at 90 degrees. it was like a giant vector grid in the sky, the perfectly straight line just hanging there amongst the clouds.
at the rather shiny airport a man was waiting for us with an "ashmore" sign. it was quite embarressing and i hope it never happens again. also i was told it'd be "laurence", which is much more friendly. they drive as crazy here as they do anywhere (perhaps it was because our flight was half an hour late) and we're soon at the agape guesthouse. from the street it looks like a proper dive. scaffolding and piss, it's all good. the receptionist is friendly and quite endearing in her apologetic explanation of the hotel being under construction. the stairs are covered in plastic sheets and there is dust everywhere (how come every time i go away it's dusty?).
our room is basic but perfectly decent. the third thing i do is climb out of the window and onto the scaffolding. from here there is a great view across our square (blaha lujza ter). well, great as long as you ignore the dead pigeon (but at least its fresh). i spent a fun fifteen minutes running up and down the ladders and taking photographs of the traffic and setting sun. on the street across the road someone is playing the most ridiculous chinese music over and over.
they neglected to tell us to bring our own shower curtain. we have a wet room for a toilet.
without any real plans we decide to wander through the city. we go west to the river and then head north. the view across the river really is quite impressive. the buda palace, the citadella (to the south) and everything in between them floats in the sky, all flood lit and beautiful. we turn back into pest and find ourselves standing outside the hare krishna restaurant 'govinda'. it's fate right? down below it smells of the best indian sweets and we lunch on a fantastic dinner. i didn't really understand the deal with the menu (can't i have a bit of everything?) but we managed just fine.
after studying the guide book we decided to investigate 'the portside of cuba', a reasonable sounding underground bar which was empty when we arrived but had cheap beer (especially for white beer). unfortunately the music was awful and someone had left it on repeat. after two beers the place had warmed up and we made the mistake of getting whiskey. it's good whiskey but costs more than all our previous drinks put together. the tiles in the toilets make me dizzy and i piss into the urinal with the spider sticker, which i don't really want to admit to stealing but nevermind. after the portside we would have found another bar but we decided it'd be too much effort.
the agape guesthouse has a lot of security - we have four keys and an access code to get back in. to even operate the lift you need a key, which needs to be inserted into the control panel and turned before you select your floor. trying to work this out was like the crystal maze. but now we're back in our room and 'a killing moon' is playing on vh1 (we gave up trying to find good tv long ago). grilly is playing ukulele - yes, he bought it with him.
our beds are made quite oddly. the duvet is folded in half and placed at a right angle to the mattress. it looks like you only have half a duvet to work with it. which i'm now planning on doing.
28.10.2005 (i nearly wrote 2001) - Your first day in Budapest
the impact gets less and less, but i still love the feeling of waking up in another part of the world. of course budapest is far less glamorous than barcelona, but that's somewhat the point isn't it? it's a noisy city outside our window and the sun has only just risen across the buildings that surround our square. we're on the corner of 'rakaczi ut' and 'erzsebet korut', both very busy roads. the traffic seems to constantly grind by under our window, a mixture of dirty engines and crazy sirens.
breakfast was a simplified continental breakfast for three euros. we we're joined by a father and son staying in the room next to our hours. it's not bad for the price considering it's practically an all you can eat.
our problem is this, the only things we really know about budapest we know from 'kontroll', a hungarian movie which was filmed completely on the budapest underground. a likely story. so the first thing we do after breakfast is head under ground. the system here is simple if you want to do something simple, but it gets very complicated very quickly. to save us the hassle we get single trip tickets which need stamping before you even get on the platform. i believe you need another one of these if you have to change trains, but really i have no idea.
we catch the tube underneath the river danube to buda, the west half of the city, and walk south along the river. we walk from batthyany ter to the bottom of the funicular railway which takes you up to the buda palace. as it's a nice day we decide to walk instead, up through the autumn tree lined slope. we chose the perfect autumn weekend to visit budapest. the city is malting oranges, greens and reds.
we follow the tourist flow but skip the national gallery only to discover that the modern art gallery has been moved south of the city centre. the next attraction on our list is the neo-gothic matyas temple (matthias church). i find it nicely understated. it's large without being ridiculous, and the tiled patterned roof is coloured in suitable greens and oranges. my book doesn't say exactly how badly the church was damaged during the second world war, but it does say that after the war it was fully restored by the communists. they did a damn good job. grilly tries to get us in on a family ticket (cheaper than two adults) but it'll never work. instead of asking us who wants to be the wife they ask us where the kids are. "we left them at home" grilly tells them. needless to say they make us pay separately. inside it's not as flash as other churches you have to pay to view, but it's nice enough. the stone interior is richly painted from floor to ceiling with warm coloured geometric patterns. it's impressive in a "wow that must have taken hours" kind of way.
just behind the church is the fisherman's bastion, which vaguely makes up part of the castle wall and leads half of the way down the hill to the river. i can't help but be reminded of disney land. it has glorious winding, zigzag staircases and multi-layered ramparts, all constructed out of hard white stone. i could take photos of this shit all day. well, if it wasn't for the tourists constantly getting in the way. i put curses on at least three of them.
it was now about mid-day and time to find food, which proved to be quite difficult. these eastern europeans love their meat and hate their vegetarians. the menu outside each restaurant is broken down into various types of meat. bacon is not a vegetable, and we end up in the cave-like wine cellar of a tourist restaurant. you can tell it's traditional food for tourists but the fried sheep's cheese is good. the music is on repeat again but at least the americans left soon after we'd got there. actual conversation:
"how do i arrive at the truth?"
"you seek it".
for pudding we checked out the local convenience store and they actually stock peanut kitkats. fuck about nestle, i'll forgo any boycott for peanut flavoured love wrapped in chocolate and foil. they're amazing. believe (but only because grilly told me not to say that).
we've been putting off the underground labyrinth due to the lovely weather but there's only so long i can hold out. i mean, how can you resist catacombs under the buda palace? it sounds incredible, but in reality it's probably a bit lacking. some of it is cool, like the half buried head and the wine fountains (cool in a knightmare kind of way), but a lot of it is just silly. they didn't have to try so hard. at night (like it would make a difference) they do tours by oil lamp and the 'personal labyrinth' is opened. we felt a bit hard done by for missing this, but there was an area where we got to wander around in the pitch black, following a rope to the sun, so i was happy. it was equally entertaining and disorientating, the odd green light on the floor looks like an exit sign above a door so you feel you're always travelling down.
emerging out into the autumn sunlight was so comforting, i'd say it's like being reborn but i wouldn't want to sound like a cock. we sat down on a grassy bend and i took a brief nap. we were on the other side of the buda palace and it was quieter here. you can see out across buda, which feels a lot more residential than what we've seen so far. we meander about while heading north and eventually find ourselves in the millennium park. it looks like they collected a bunch of artists and architects together to design a trendy pseudo-futuristic public space. there are trees sitting in holes in the middle of a pond, and lawns with elevated strips. there's a number of architectural sculptures, but what really gets me excited is the huge m-city wall, complete with bi-plane. it pains me to think how many hours it must have taken for them to stencil the (something like) twelve meter wall from end to end and top to bottom.
the sun is setting and the sky has turned a brilliant pink. i wonder what price the city has to pay to have the colours of their sunset and sunrise this beautiful. the nearest tube station is at moszkva ter (actually a triangle). when they regained their independence they were going to rename this square, but a feasibility study showed that the cost of changing the signs (which are all across the city) would have been too high. i like the name anyway.
to save money we buy our dinner from the 'match' supermarket situated across the road from the agape guesthouse. they have very little for us. we eat dry bread with too odd cheese and this disgusting potato dough foodstuff. never again. we also buy some white chocolate irish cream that's both nice and vile, but probably more vile. after half of the bottle and too much vh1 we went out in search of a decent bar. we turn down bar after cafe after bar and eventually find ourselves on the other side of town and underground again. we spent two beers playing imaginary top trumps before braving the cold back to our guesthouse.
something went wrong. a quarter of the way into the night i'm woken by agonizing stomach pains. the discomfort isn't going away and i curse myself for eating so much shit as i stagger into the bathroom. especially the weird white caramel chalky shit, i should never have eaten that. once in the toilet i'm too scared to leave, and two minutes later i'm being violently sick into the bowl. this happens another three times before morning and i'm rocking a fabulous temperature. every time i roll into a different position my stomach gurgles, demanding to be emptied. i've had far worse stomach bugs than this, and when grilly tells me his plans for the day i can't bear to stay in. i decide to risk it. i mean, it can't be worse than kilimanjaro right? right?
back in the 'match' i can't find any lucozade so have to settle for a coke. it's fucking disgusting but it's the nearest to what i need that i can find. first nestle and now this. we take the metro to deak ter and walk along the touristified shopping area (very slowly). i have to rest a couple of times but i'm generally okay. the shopping strip is dull though, at least until we get stopped by a charity mugger. i saw that he had "gouranga" on his board and he looked like a nice chap. the krishnas are raising money to feed the homeless children. i didn't want to give him money but it's not like he wanted me to sign up to anything, so sure he could have the few forints i had in change. we went on to dis his nike hat so he asks us who made our shoes. we flash him the v's and he's impressed that we're both vegetarians. no shit that it's very rare here. it's a shame that the only place he could recommend us to eat was the govinda, where we've already eaten. to compensate he gave us a nice sticker - "gouranga, be happy".
at the end of vaci utca we come to what looks like a train station, but what is actually the great market hall (or 'central market hall' depending on who you believe). i thought the market in barcelona was impressive, but this place is bigger than words and wider than pictures. the architecture is a complex network of angular stairs and walkways. it's beautifully stark and industrial. shafts of light pour through the huge dirty windows along each wall. and i still can't get over its size. it's bigger than a large stadium and completely open plan. most of the stalls are selling garlic and paprika, salami, russian dolls or traditional clothing. if i didn't want to be in bed or on the toilet i would have stayed there all day taking photographs, waiting for the perfect moment. waiting for the beams of the light to pierce through the windows and ceiling at the perfect angle.
once outside we stare at the cliff of gellert-hegy before heading over to the jewish ghetto.
if i'd have done my research i might have realised that everywhere is closed on saturday. this includes the main synagogue on dohany utca. we wander around the ghetto checking out the buildings and sculptures, my favourite being the monument to carl lutz - a golden angel swooping down to help a man on the ground. i'm not sure i fully understand it though, lutz gave swiss citizenship to many jews so they could escape, but quickly turned when he was leant on by the gestapo (that's what it says in my book anyway).
my legs hurt and i'm drained. i haven't eaten all day and as soon as we get back to our room i collapse for a few hours. when i awake grilly has been out and bought us tomato soup (in sachets - they don't seem to do tins in budapest). the soup goes down okay but there's no chance of me leaving the building, i'm just too tired. i swear this is the last time i go away without bringing my diarolyte and imodium. today i could have really done with it.
30.10.2005 - recovery and hardcore sight seeing
it's now sunday evening and i'm back in it for action. outside it's been another fantastic day but we're beginning to feel the bite of winter. every day is a little colder. this is my punishment for drinking coke, eating unilever soup and munching a nestle kitkat.
after what can be described as a total fuck up with time this morning we ended up leaving our place quite early. the clocks went back and my phone (which i'd left on uk time) had decided to update itself to budapest time. i mean, because that's what i'd expect it to do right? i wasted a whole two pages explaining this in my diary but i simply refuse to type it up. it's too fucking stupid.
we headed on foot to the terror house (haza) museum, which is probably the coolest thing in budapest. it's housed inside what used to be the arrowcross headquarters (and then the secret police's after that), it's a terrifying and stylish depiction of hungary's political and bloody history. if only all museums were this slick. every single room has been meticulously planned and executed to impress, scare and educate you. the space has been used to maximum effect, and the building being so central to the atrocities it contains is the icing on the cake. it is perfect in every detail.
a guard outside opens the automatic door for you and your immediately sucked into their world of power and oppression. you're greeted by two imposing marble slabs, one carved with the arrowcross logo and the other with the kommunista star. ominous music plays as a video of a man recounting the death of his 18 year old boy is played continuously. the narrative decends again into tears every couple of minutes. in the centre of the building a grey tank sits in a pool of black water and infront of the wall of victims. stretching up all the way up the building's three floors are rows and rows of faces. it's menacing and cold in here and there's an odd smell that i can't quite figure out. we've only just begun and i'm feeling seriously unsettled.
you take the lift up to the top floor where the story begins. it's just after the first world war and hungary's borders are being butchered. they lost at least half of their land to their neighbours. through the second world war they last quite well, especially when their position between germany and russia is considered. they held their own while the countries around them fell to nazi occupation. really, this part of the war was never much covered in my history lessons, and i'll save the details for the museum, but the nazis finally rolled into budapest (destroying most of it on the way) and installed their arrowcross government into this very building. at the end of the war the country was left under soviet occupation and they suffered heavily under their second dictatorship.
it says "60 andrass boulevard has become a sculpture in the shape of a building, which is a monument to the victims". one room contains a maze constructed out of soap bricks, another has a christian cross dug up from under the floor boards, another is carpeted with a map of russia pierced by black cones showing the gulags (concentration camps). all of the sound bites and audio commentary is provided through black formica telephones and everything is in keeping with the two regimes. their stylised logos appear everywhere. there isn't a wax work in sight, that'd just be tasteless.
it's a shame we didn't visit the terror house first, it's a hard (but trendy) smack in the face. learning the country's grim history makes the rest of the city make much more sense, and seem much more important. unfortunately we couldn't waste the whole day here.
a quick walk east takes you past some lovely houses and to hosok tere (heroes square) with the almost impressive millenary monument. the park behind it is a bit sparse for such a lovely looking area on the map. the pretzels are especially shit. i love open air skate rinks and the castle is quite nice, but if it wasn't for the mass of falling orange leaves there'd be little point in being here. grilly spent a while being excited over a mystery circle of paper, only to find it was a "gouranga, be happy" sticker.
we catch the tube back to deak ter, which is very different to our previous tube experience. the stations on the m1 metro line are tiled with wood finishings. it feels kind of like a pirate boat, and much more like traditional eastern europe. from deak ter we walked back to the synagogue (which was closed yesterday) only to find it closed again. with our plan thrown into chaos we decide to visit the old part of buda, obuda. once across the river we take the hev line north a number of stops. this is very much suburbia and it looks nothing like an old part of town should. the roman amphitheatre is surrounded by busy roads and drab square buildings - this could be coventry. it's barely been looked after, it's all beer cans and cigarette butts. a bit further north the apartment blocks have grown exponentially. these are the biggest tenements i've ever seen. they're so communist it hurts. they loom over you and disappear into some impossible perspective.
in the middle of these somewhere is supposed to be more roman remains. against the odds (it's not even on the map) we manage to find it but it's closed. why is everything always closed? we find the next ruins buried below a massive fly over (over pass?) and they're more skate park than ancient rome. it's all a bit disappointing really. determined to find decent roman ruins we push on to the aquincum, which you're supposed to be able to see from the train station but you can't. our excursion isn't going very well. we eventually find it though, a minutes walk back from the train station, and it is quite incredible. if you like romans then the trip is well worth the effort. the area the ruins covers is huge, maybe the size of a large supermarket or a medium park (grilly says). they're easily some of the best ruins i've seen. they even have a chronoscope (don't get too excited).
the sun is setting as we head back to batthyany ter. we consult the guide for a good vege restaurant and head for the reasonably close 'ghandi'. we cross the szechenyi lanchid bridge and keep passing the same three people taking photos while their girlfriends stand and watch. we pause halfway across the danube to watch an armada of birds, some thousand strong, as they float towards the bridge. when one of them gets too close to us it ups and flies to the back.
where the gandhi restaurant should be is the govinda, and it's shut anyway. the addresses must have been mixed up. our second choice is the catchy titled 'marquis de salade'. the journey there takes us past the american embassy, around which the whole block has been completely fenced off. the stars and stripes waved proudly behind the "restricted zone. do not enter" sign, i just had to take a photograph. unfortunately i've been rumbled. someone is shouting at me in hungarian and there's a woman rushing towards me. i apologise for being english and that i was only taking a photo. i'm instructing to delete the said photo so i fiddle around with my camera and tell her that it's done. she demands that i show her that i've deleted it. i fumble around again and ask her in bad english how exactly am i'm supposed to show her that i've deleted it? exactly? but out of the corner of my eye i spot a second security guard and he's heading our way looking very unfriendly. possibly i'm starting to panic, so this time i actually delete the photo and put myself in the same position i was just in - how do i show her i've deleted it? i show her the last few photos i took (of the parliament and the bridge all lit up in beautiful lights). really this means nothing but it's all i can do and it's not worth the potential hassle. she still doesn't believe me, "you've really deleted it?" she asks me again. but there really is nothing else i can do. she okays us and we walk off right before the scary looking dude arrives.
only when we're around the corner do i realise my scarf's up over my face and i probably do look quite suspect. je suis ein terrorista. if only i'd have pulled it down the whole ordeal might have been much easier. stupid stupid. stupid. next time.
the 'marquis de salade' is a friendly cellar with moroccan carpets covering every surface. the food is good too, i have aubergine (the opposite of chicken), tomato and pepper (paprika) stuffed with rice stuff. have you spotted the theme of all the restaurants we've eaten in? they've all been underground and they've all played a short and irritating cd on repeat. we hear the same songs over and over again while we dine.
we're outside and the cold is beginning to hurt. we meander our way back to the guesthouse, past the odd sight that's all lit up for the perfect tourist photo opportunity, snap. our plan was to get a drink from the sports pub neighbouring us, but it's small, smelly and nasty. around corner is a nicer pub that's playing avril lavigne. they do chips (with mustard), which just about wraps up the day.
before i go to bed though i need to get something off my chest. the sirens in this city are crazy. police siren ray gun action. they wail and splurge, phasing and screaming along. random and chaotic. they vomit sound into the street. they strike fear in the hearts of the casual criminal. they make me i wish i had a sampler.
31.10.2005 - Trekking out into the buda hills
happy halloween. i'm sitting in the buda hills, at janos hegy station, waiting for the train. when i say "station" what i mean is nothing more than a place where the train stops. this is the children's railway (actual name) and it's run entirely by kids (13 to 17, except for the train drivers). it's so funny and clearly the most hilarious feature of budapest. these are the kids who want a career with the hungarian train company. it's "like a railway run by dwarves", grilly says.
we've just been up to the highest point in budapest. walking through thick forest in the middle of autumn, you wont find a more stunning bunch of trees than those in this sunset vista. we heard a woodpecker and ate hot salted corn on the cob.
we're now on the train, chugging along at a slow pace. and one of the children just check our invalid tickets (because we got off at janos) but he let us off. then this little girl in a stripy jumper wouldn't stop staring at me so i stuck my tongue out at her. it was funny except she ran crying to her mum. a minute later though and she's playing peek-a-boo with me, complete with sound and everything. how can kids be irritating and cute at the same time?
outside it's dark as we trundle slowly through the forest. this is the start of a particularly scary movie. or a studio ghibli film at least. our trip started with a tram ride from moszkva ter to the other end of the children's railway. we were supposed to get off much earlier but that's a different story altogether (and a rubbish one). we wandered around the end of the terminal looking for clues but found none. half an hour later we find the next station only to find that there's no trains running on working mondays from september onwards. it turns out that halloween is a national holiday so we purchase our tickets and board the train, only to miss our stop for the second time today. instead we left the train with everybody else at janos hegy. the view was worth it.
before all this happened it was this morning and there was no messing around. after breakfast we went straight to the dohany utca synagogue. even from a distance you can tell it's open, the queue goes back along the length of the street. we considered coming back later but lessons have been learnt, in the end the queue was only about ten minutes anyway. inside the synagogue hall you are requested to not take photographs (or use a video camera). this will be why there are so many flashes going off. it gets me so angry that people can ignore the request so blatantly. if they even cared a little they'd at least switch their flash off. after a few minutes i give in and subtly take a few of my own, it's not like anyone cares.
this is europe's largest synagogue (second in the world) and it's suitably stunning. i took a special fancy to the mathematical styled chandeliers. adjacent to the hall is a small and simple graveyard for the 2281 jews who died in 1944. sitting infront of this is a section of the wall that used to surround the jewish ghetto. they simply walled them in with bricks and barded wire. behind the graveyard is the raoul wallenberg memorial garden, featuring the holocaust memorial (a metal weeping willow, the leaves engraved with the names of families murdered by the nazis) and some striking stained glass (about which i failed to note any details, whoops).
back on the train again and we're almost at end of the children's railway. to get back into town we have to take the 'cogwheel railway', which was built in 1874 and originally steam powered. it would be pretty cool but it's now electric. it's also supposed to boast some impressive views, but probably not in the dark.
01.11.2005 - An eastern block halloween
i'm sitting in the eckerman cafe, which is situated next the rather unexciting opera house (i'm not too sure what people were taking photos of). we thought we'd get breakfast out this morning but most places are shut for all souls day. if our city break had a running joke it would be everywhere being closed. if that was funny, like. i'm eating a fat cheese croissant (with soft cheese trapped in its base, genius) and have a large soup bowl of latte. it's the second most amazing thing i've had all weekend (i'll get to the first in a minute). a bowl of coffee.
anyway, yesterday was halloween and we celebrated it in style. around all souls' day the local graveyards stay open late and thousands of candles are lit throughout them. from the cogwheel railway we walked back to moszkva ter and caught the underground to keleti station. it's quite a sight with the station looming over you while you're trying to figure exactly which way it is you're supposed to be going. in the middle of the square (that my vocabulary is only letting me describe as a huge open-air subway) people are milling about and playing chess. i would have thought it was too cold for that kind of thing. but they're happy enough. that or they have no choice, there is a real homelessness problem in budapest that you just can't ignore.
we walk south to the kerepesi cemetery, which was the nearest but also largest of the local cemeteries. we get a hot chocolate at the gate and this really is a bit special. it contains some of the best memorials i've seen, and definitely the largest. at night with them bathed in candle light they're all the more awe inspiring. the batthyany, kossuth and 'pantheon of the working class movement' monuments are exceptionally (and quite unnecessarily) huge, while the black obsidian like gravestones of the communist ministers and the antall memorial are quite chilling. the personal graves is where the real magic is though, with rows of fancy headstones covered in flowers and multi-coloured candles. they twinkle all around you, in the distance and inbetween the trees.
there are only two scary moments. standing infront of the heavy iron doors of kossuth's vault i gingerly press my ear up against the cold metal. i knock and wait, listening to whatever might be held within. the sound of my own stupid heart beat is more than i really wanted to hear. this is pure tender brandson, straight from the pages of chuck's 'survivor'. the second was when grilly was kneeling at a grave, trying to read the guide book in the dim candle light. i turn around and there's a man standing on the other side of the path, he's staring off into the distance. i know it can't be a person but in the darkness my brain interprets every perfect feature of his face. up close it didn't even look like anything.
actually, the scariest thing was that we nearly got locked in. that would have been a nightmare.
it was time for food and the next interesting restaurant on our list is still ghandi, but it's not where our guide book says govinda is (it gets confusing right?). instead we go to the not exactly interesting looking 'kaos cafe', which is an abominably bad name but they do a vege burrito. as we're both starving we also order soup. no ordinary soup though, this soup comes in a loaf. soup in a mother fuckin' loaf! the soup is in the bread. i still can't get over it. i thought they'd just translated the menu badly. for halloween it should have been in a pumpkin, but i'm not complaining because it was delicious. luckily the waiter had warned grilly against the honey and lime tagliatelle so we both had burritos. this was already too much food, but i had to try the mashed chestnuts. they were far from great and now i can't wait to get roasted chestnuts on the street.
we sat in the cafe for a while drinking cheap beer and reminiscing about how fucked up fun school was.
we could have gone to see 'dogora' but i couldn't figure out exactly where it was showing. also it would have been strange seeing the film in another foreign country, i wouldn't want it to become tradition.
back in our room we watch some vh1, a program about the least rock and roll moments. one of them is when ozzy osborne met george bush, and the women on the tv with the horrible boobs (and matching face) says "it was the meeting of polar opposites, the prince of darkness and the president of the usa". funny that.
anyway, we now have about three hours to kill before our flight.
the graffiti here is quite interesting. there isn't too much to shout about and what we have seen has been standard. it's also very much a tagged city. tagging is a real problem here, i can't work out if it's either extremely rife or just that no effort has made to clean it up. i guess tagging is where any graffiti culture starts and the city has a lot to offer. there's some good stickers and a few neat stencils, i think it's just a matter of time. my favourite character that keeps popping up looks like a little master shake, but is probably something more like an angel.
01.11.2005 - on a plane!
this is a pretty amazing flight in that it only takes 20 minutes. sort of. i'm actually in doubt now because we seem to have completely screwed up our timing and i have no idea how many hours budapest is supposed to be ahead of gmt. we made our flight though, and that's what counts.
and no that wasn't me who wrote "smell like a commercial whore" over the sarah jessica parker perfume advert in the inflight magazine.
after breakfast we decided we should really check out the baths, or at least see them. it seems to be the must do thing of budapest and we've completely wimped out. we cross the river on the erzbet hid bridge and climb the quick route up the cliff. halfway up is the state of st.gellert gazing out across the city. it's a bit strange though, especially with the artificial waterfall.
between there and the gellert baths there's a thin strip of grass at the base of the cliff, populated by bushes and trapped behind spiked railings. food and old meat has been dumped here and it's kind of gross until you noticed that it's actually home to a number of cats. they have little homes made out of cardboard boxes and everything.
the actual baths are far too complicated and we don't even make it past the lobby. i feel extremely lame about this but there is only so much you can achieve in a couple of days. and it's always good to leave something for next time, right?
after our final tube ride i can safely say that budapest is nothing like the film kontroll makes it out to be. not even the underground really resembles the nightmarish place in the film. what is strange though, despite every metro station having four escalators only two of them are ever running. and people haven't learnt the amazing london etiquette of standing on the right either. but it's no worry, i hate london anyway.
at the end of the line is our bus connection which we make reasonably smoothly. we miss the first bus because the machine wouldn't accept grilly's 100ft coin but they're every ten minutes anyway. once on the bus i promptly fell asleep and we missed our stop. freaking out a little we jump ship at the next stop and stare up and down the never ending road. my printout says we should be at terminal two, which is even further down the road, but everyone else got off before us. and also, might we have received a second email telling us the terminal had changed? we had nearly figured this out when the bus driver comes back along the other side of the road. he waves at us to get on, tells us to get off at the next stop, cross the road and take the next bus. we don't trust him though, we go straight to terminal one and it turns out to be the right choice. we even managed to post julie's and tommy's postcards. for a minute there i was worried they weren't going to get a hungarian post mark.
the rest of the story is the usual airport lark. blah blah blah. grilly buys some toffiee but he wont let me have any, the bastard (they are actually for his brother). and paprika crisps (walkers) don't taste of anything, nevermind of red pepper.
we're now floating around in the murky darkness, and below us there's an uncountable number of tiny orange lights congregating tightly together. like the candles in the cemetery last night on a much bigger scale. but actually more like bacteria in a giant petri dish. by the time you reach london the lights seem to go on forever. and the number of cars, like red and white blood cells pumping through the city's veins, is a frightening sight. watching traffic constantly pouring down a road is one thing, but watching traffic thunder along all of them is another.
and i realised that budapest is a beautiful city, even if it isn't immediately apparent. there's real substance in its history, and it's fascinating how it has propagated through the culture. this stuff is obvious, but in budapest it's displayed with such vigour. for a casual and quick visit i'm not sure how much you would get out of budapest, but if you make the effort it really is quite rewarding.
anyway, we're about to land.