Bullied in Budapest
Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
74Trip End Sep 11, 2007
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Hope you all had a great Easter Break? I see you have taken the time to have a bit of a read about young Mr Cormack's adventures, well thank you! I hope you enjoy this rather little adventure, it is a bit lengthy, so top up your coffee, tell your boss you are going on a break or just put your feet on the desk and wait to be fired.
Before I begin, I have to admit a few little things, when my good old friend Jenny suggested a long weekend away somewhere from London, the idea of Budapest was suggested. What a great idea, yes Budapest. My next thought was, where the hell was Budapest?? So I will save you the same effort as I did with the atlas and tell you that is it is in Hungary.
So where do I begin? Perhaps Heathrow Airport?
Caught up with Jen at Heathrow with no major hassles, well I guess working 10 minutes from the terminal not much could go wrong. All checked in and off towards our first stop to Vienna. The Vienna airport is very nice; must come back and actually see the city next time! All going well and starting to believe that this travel thing is pretty easy, that was until the transfer bus took us from the terminal to our next connecting flight.
As the bus worked its way around the Airports makeshift roads, I saw ahead a small commercial aeroplane that looked lets say "private". Yes it appeared to be the shape of a Lear jet, one of those sexy planes where you can imagine long outstretched lounges, with champagne on ice to ensure the next part of your trip is perfect. This travel thing IS getting easier. As the bus manoeuvred beside the plane, I noticed something strange, our speed did not decrease. It drove past it.
What was stranger is that is pulled up next to a plane which represented a similar type of plane that I once jumped out of at 12,000 ft. For the next 50 minutes 15 or so passengers, were strapped into a sardine can with wings. This sardine can had a set of wings strapped to each side and on these wings were propellers. Yes, external propellers. Not your big 747 turbine engines, but more of your "Red Baron" World War II type propellers. I was not sure to take a seat or man the "gunners cockpit".
At one stage I am sure that I saw the pilot trying to "swing start" the propellers to get them going. What made the trip worse, is as we headed down the runway trying to get the minimum speed needed to allow take off, a large and uncomfortable looking man behind my seat, took this opportunity to say a little mumbled prayer and cross his chest in a sign to the lord above. Hell, if that is what it took to make sure we did not fall out the sky, sign me up to the big guy!!
You will all be happy to know that we made it to Budapest all ok. Sure a few air pockets that caused us to drop about 1000 ft a second and for my spleen to wedge in my throat but nothing I could not handle. ;-) It must be an age thing, because I know when I was a kid, this kind of stuff would have been so exciting, but now it just seems wrong! 50 minutes later as we landed safely. I am sure I heard some of the passengers clap.
Apparently everyone else on the plane seemed to be of Hungarian decent or had a passport that did not require any visas. So when I presented my passport with no Hungarian Visa, I was directed to the end counter. Explaining my situation with as little English as possible, I was handed a 10 page document to complete. Yes 10 pages. The Hungarian Customs House know now every single detail of my life. Past residents, friends and other few things which I thought customs people would not really want to know. Once I had completed my autobiography I waited for the officers return.
I then waited, waited a little more, then waited a little longer. 30 minutes past, I then approached the "bunch" of custom officers and broke into one of my finest charade efforts to date. I was then told to go over to the counter and wait. So I waited for a while longer. Meanwhile Jen, is on the other side of the glassed "customs prison" trying to work out the next part of the experience. Accommodation.
Just before I was going to make myself comfortable for the night, the officer returned and proceeded to take 86USD of me for the privilege of waiting for her. Not a bad hourly rate really. Then this is a another good bit, I was told to wait. Again!
The 2nd lot of arrivals came and went and I still waited. Jenny still waited. Just over an hour later I was presented with my passport back and a big colourful sticker in it. Guess that is worth 86USD. I was then freed - passport in hand. I was in Hungary and yes I was hungry. (You knew it was going to come eventually didn't you).
After a random selection of a hostel to try for accommodation, we got the mini bus into the city. This is what I love about arriving in a new country, the ride from the airport to the city. You get a really good idea about the place, looking at buildings, people in surrounding cars and on streets. Even trying to determine what the billboards are trying to advertise is fascinating. Into the hostel and luckily to get the last beds for the night. Since we had not eaten for the past 6 hours or so a quick call to the local pizza place and before you know it food and sleep in that order was on the menu.
Next morning up bright and early. That is 8am. We had decided to do a walking tour on the recommendation of a friend. This would help us get bearings and learn about the history of the city. And it did! What a great day, understanding the history of Budapest over 4 hours was amazing. Our guide (Chub) was just a treasure chest full of knowledge. Covering all areas from when Hungary ruled neighbouring countries that now have independence, right through the World Wars and the amazing change through communist/socialist/capitalist periods. Just to think that this little country had so much change over 100 of years and here is little ol Australia with about 200 years of white history, under it's belt. Makes you realise how lucky we are and also how young we are as a country.
Anyway, enough of the serious stuff! Working our way back to the Hostel to confirm our next nights accom, we were politely told that there was nothing available in the hostel and other surrounding hostels. Oh shit. Well I guess this is all about the travel thing isn't it, I tell myself. Jen acts as guard of the stuff and I head down to the local internet place to find some accommodation in the next couple of hours. After about 30 minutes surfing to get nothing, survival and caveman mode started to kick in. As I went to pay for the internet time, I asked the guy if he knew of any available places to stay at as a stab in the dark....
His reply was (in your best Hungarian accent) :-
"Accommodation hmmmm....Oh, well you are not going to believe this but I am working at a guest house at the moment, well it is a guest house that is still being built, in a kind of way. Oh it is a couple metro stops out of the city, oh of course there is clean sheets and hot water, oh I will have to call my best friends mate's brother to confirm the room - hang on, you will need to stay for two nights - ten thousand is a good price for you both?? ....."
- Something like that.
Hmm this to me sounded to me very very dodgy. All my instincts said, turn around and walk away. But instead I said something like
"Great, my name is Jay and perhaps you can point this place out on my map" as I reached for my back packet and produced the city map. A few squiggles and markings on the map, a shake of the man's (George) hand and the deal was done. I would call it one of my first international negotiations to go that smoothly.
All happy and proud of myself, yes the caveman had hunted, and the caveman had gathered. My next obstacle was to try and explain to Jenny about the situation. I chose to explain it when we were on our way.... on the Metro. We bought our tickets for the metro and headed to our destination station.
The problem, we apparently had bought tickets, but had not validated the tickets before boarding. Information we could have done with earlier. Who pointed that out. Well the Metro Police, of course. Yep yours truly was in trouble again. Normally you read about times like this that you should pay or bribe the guys and let things go, but this started to piss me off, them being all unfair and not speaking English. So Jen and I argued our little hearts out, about not knowing and why would we buy tickets, if we were trying to rip the system off. All this was no good, because they could not speak English and as they attempted to call in re-enforcements - Plan B was implemented. In times of distress and breaking the law in a foreign country do what they do in the movies. Become fugitives.
A decision, to get away very quickly was not taken lightly, a mouthful abusive thrown our way as we exited the station. I would love to say that we got out of the station, broke into the nearest car which happened to be a Porsche and sped away into the sunset. But we didn't, we escaped on foot. Once we had regained our composure and got our directions, I realised that the metro had taken us to downtown.... Baghdad. "Yes we were a little away from Kansas now."
Walking down the main 5 lane highway, trying to explain to Jen that things will be ok, I saw my friend, my pal, my international agreement man - George. Another confident shake of the hand and he led us through the oversized and locked door. No barbwire that is a good sign... I guess.
To our surprise behind the run down buildings, stood a very nice brick guest house. Sure it was a little bit in the state of "Work in Progress" but it was nice. If you ignored the canyon sized cracks and the chunks of paint missing it was a very nice home. And everything stated was delivered, beds, fridge, heater and shower. All for about 80% less than the hostel! Now this is a better travel experience. Home sweet home for the next 3 days.
And the next 3 days were great, we explored the city, drank coffee, met a great English couple (yes they still exist) who we shared a very nice meal with and spent hours in a bar covering all topics of conversation from Hungarian Politics & Socialism all the way to David Beckham and Posh Spice. A very entertaining evening had by all I have to admit!
But I have to say that a highlight for me was the thermal baths and hot baths. The first place we visited was very outdoor and with the waters at a constant 36 degrees it was nothing short of heaven. But the most entertaining thing for me, was the second Baths we visited had segregated men's and women's area. Trust me I have no problems with nakedness of any kind, but the idea of trying to relax on a pool of naked Hungarian and Foreign men with more hair on their bodies than a brown bear does make me feel a little uncomfortable. But hey it was worth it! Highly recommend it to anyone and everyone (well not the naked and hair bit).
Before we knew it was time to go back to old London town and after a little wait in Hungarian airport we were whisked away in the transfer bus towards our "Sardine Plane" for another flight back to Vienna. After the initial safety demonstration, I heard words from the hostess which will haunt me from this day on:-
"Ladies and gentleman, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our celebrity passengers for this short flight to Vienna. Austrian Airlines would like to welcome, Mr Buddy Holly, Mr Ritchie Valens, Mr John Denver and Mr John F Kennedy Jnr......."
Take care and chat to everyone soon. Next stop the land of Ice (yep you got it Iceland).