First we went to Vienna where my friend saw the Breughels while I nursed my filthy cold and hacking cough in our room. My affliction synchronised nicely with the start of our holiday. It blasted in the dayI was to go to stay in Kent with her so I decided to hot toddy myself well and join her at St. Pancras.The day I set off for London I felt marginally worse & hacked & sputtered my way to Waterloo where Irene met me.
The Eurostar was a bit of a disappointment, a little snug to say the least – I had had visions of Orient Express luxury with nice gals wafting among us with flutes of Champagne. Not so but adequate and not as sardine – like as my trip to Cuba. We changed at Brussels and then at Cologne where we had a break of a couple of hours. We went to our couchette and realised why the ‘ette’ is the operative part of that word. It was tiny, the attendant had all the charm of a rattlesnake. An abrupt rattler at that. She informed us that we must get our bunks down NOW and bustled us into the corridor while she performed her ritual and we slunk back in. we had gift packs of odds and ends including flip flops and water, nicely done up in cellophane and finally we settled on our bunks, me barking and hacking only taking time out to blow my hooter. We did not find the temperature gauge and woke to dry mouths and aching heads. Dehydrated to a terrible degree.
Vienna is a rather lovely city but I was in no state to enjoy it and unfortunately at the sight of our hotel my brain started up a musical chant ‘Hotel motel holiday inn – say wha?’ a vacuous a song that I caught from Eve Ferret. This played itself out while we toured the city on a tram, while we ate a mediocre meal with no veggies and after a good night’s sleep interrupted by a few coughing fits the chant resumed. Only to be banished by a small boy singing ‘I want to move it! Move it! move it with my car’. Which took over.
We arrived at our hotel in Budapest and the room was big enough to run a yoga or tai chi class and the view from the seventh floor was of the Parliament building across the Danube. Even as I hacked my cough I was delighted. It was incredibly posh with two double beds, a mini bar & a safe. The breakfast was truly marvellous with all kinds of juices including beetroot, super muesli, fruit and not only croissants but all kinds of cake including marble cake, as well as bacon, tomatoes mushrooms hash browns and enough cold meat to make ourselves packed lunches. The staff, nearly all boys with nice adventurous haircuts were magnificent and clearly enjoyed their work I told one that I loved his quiff and we exchanged smiles for the rest of our stay.
The city is full of mystery – probably from old films seen long ago and I found it romantic, I could imagine spies lurking in corners and the Hungarians are some of the most interesting unique people I ever encountered. Their scowls are comparable with the Russians but they show even less inclination to smile, even the beggars glare. One female held out her clean palm for money with no apology at all and a terrifying snarl, she seemed to always be by the metro. All very unlike our own beggars with their tendency to grovel the Hungarians appear to be well adjusted to their role.
As an old commie I thought, when first venturing behind the Iron Curtain to Moscow that the people would all be smiley and joyful –like the propaganda posters of jolly peasants…(after all those years of equality) in fact they appear extremely grumpy as do the Hungarians and are as delightful once you talk to them. On every bus I was offered a seat by a smiling woman A marked difference to we Brits is their attitude to their dogs, they love them – so much so that if you have the temerity to approach the dog they snatch it away as if you might steal their love away! Here in Britain the normal reaction is to simper modestly and glow with pride when ones dog is admired. Like you made it yourself.
We found a vegan restaurant with very good food and the proprietor made special tea for me for my cough. The rest of the restaurant food lacked vegetables but mostly was enjoyable. On our way back in Vienna we went to a restaurant in a mall where the food was superb and where they kept Israeli wine, this upset me and I delivered a lecture on Gaza to my friend Irene, which was unforgivable of me but she forgave me.The food was Middle Eastern and delicious and I am afraid that it was Israeli. So much for my principles.
The spa was wonderful , if slightly confusing to begin with. On our way there we met an excellent woman who told us which bus to take and spoke perfect English which she had taught before she retired. She was fascinating and made it clear that all the Russians were not nasty and that she had Russian friends. She must have lived through the liberation by Russians and I have huge regret that we didn’t get her name and address – she had lost her husband in January and wanted to talk and such an interesting voice from the past. We left her on the bus and entered the spa following two old lads with their bags of towels.
We found the spa confusing in the extreme but finally found our way to the sauna after which we went for a shower – the ladies showers were closed so we joined the men in theirs. I stepped out of the shower to the sight of a guy towelling his back with his tackle flopping about, we ignored each other. Later we bought tiny rubber hats to swim in the pool with a vast variety of people of all types and sizes all of whom didn’t take any notice of each other. I had been nervous about going to the spa because I still had my cough hanging on in there; in fact my cough seemed to enjoy the fluctuating temperature and eased itself a little. It has returned since. On our way out we found ourselves trapped behind a barrier with two men who gallantly vaulted over the barrier and left us to it but we did escape, finally.
On Sunday afternoon I saw my first sign of St Patricks day in Buda and when we got to Pest we saw hundreds of people with green hats or Guinness symbols all fairly drunk and capering merrily. I wanted to point out that they had the wrong day but restrained myself and I have no idea what the celebration was about, but who cares? Everybody was happy and we finally found our first Ruin pub.
I LOVE Budapest it is charming, wayward and full of eccentrics who take not a blind bit of notice of you,a kind of freedom exists there and I thank my friend Irene for her company and I want to go back soon.
Our trip home was improved by a nice humorous Austrian male attendant and we turned the heat off and slept rather well until six when we went into the corridor and watched as we went along the Rhine valley saw odd castles on vertiginous hills covered in vines and now I am tempted to go on a river cruise – but I won’t I shall go back to Budapest….