Run the equator: Budapest

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Yes, it was that cold!
Click photo to see slideshow
or here for the Budapest set

If we thought Romania was being hit by extreme winter temperatures, once we got to Hungary we realized that it could get much worse. It was so cold you wish you wore underpants. You wouldn’t want to let your dog out of the house for a leak. But since we were already there – after the uneventful 6 hour bus ride from Cluj – we tried to make the best out of it. Sure, the plan had been to walk the beautiful imperial streets of downtown Pest, to hike up to the Buda castle, to visit a museum or two and to try some of the famous goulash. But…

I got sick the day we arrived and wasn’t able to eat or do anything else on that evening (except maybe, to argue with Angela about what to do when the owner of the guest house did not answer the door bell as we arrived – he did, a little later). As for the rest of the days, although I felt better, they weren’t much more charged with activity. The hotel room was too cold, despite the heating working full-time, so we spent a lot of time under the blankets that were provided abundantly. We woke up late every day (who would be eager to go outside when even the walk across the room and into the bathroom seems like an arctic adventure?) and on our only day of real city walking we spent most of the time shopping on Vaci Utca without buying anything, which for once I didn’t mind, since the stores were, at least, well heated.

Lunch at the "Menza"

All this reluctance to going out materialized into a bit of financial woe… our hotel was near the Oktogon, on the majestic Terez Korut boulevard, right around the corner from the famous Ferenc Liszt Ter (Franz Liszt square) where all the posh restaurants are located. We did not have the nerve to go look for the few cheap eateries left in Budapest, so we ended up eating in the square every night. Although the Hungarian Forint is floating at a ridiculous rate to the dollar, something like 1 to 170, once you do the math there’s nothing left to laugh about – almost every meal we had seemed more expensive than it would have been at home. Prices for mixed drinks were astronomic. It actually made you think that the US is a cheap place… and to think that this was once a communist country…

Parliament corner

As it has sadly become the norm in recent weeks, I did not take almost any pictures in Budapest, except on the last day, when after taking Angela to the airport (she was going home for a few days) I spent an hour in town alone and reluctantly pulled the camera out of the bag, only to have my fingers frozen on the shutter a quarter of an hour later. As for the museums, they had the same fate as the other beautiful things in town: we ignored them all, except for the Terror Haza, The House of Terror (Museum of the Horrors of Fascism and Communism) which was interesting but would look a little baffling to people who didn’t already know the context. And of course, it could use some explanations in English - not many of the visitors seemed to understand Hungarian…

After Romania and Budapest, Angela and I hit a rough patch and we almost stopped the trip. The stress of these months of travel had built up slowly, unnoticed, and blew up in my face. We worked things out and we’re on the road again. Strange as it may sound, it feels good to be in a hotel room again…

Published from Istanbul.


Anonymous said...

hai sa te lovesc la nostalgie:


Big Fat Rat said...

Bah, se pare ca Istvan e inca la itm. Cred ca acuma a ajuns sa fie cel mai vechi dupa Bender... 11 ani de machinenwesen, mama!