And from darkness, light.

19:30 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

10th April 8.25am Easyhotel Budapest

There is only one opportunity to make a first impression and for me, Budapest absolutely bombed. I arrived at the train station, which would best be described as a relic. It was undergoing reconstruction but it felt like it had been destroyed by war and was uncomfortable to be in. The staffing and information provision was also pretty pathetic, but I did eventually find the metro station. I tried to buy a tourist ticket but the attendants just refused. I was directed to several different stations and information points which were equally useless; at one info point an attendant began to print a ticket and then refused me once I go my wallet out! My first impressions of Hungarians was that they are unhelpful, intentionally difficult and rude. I asked one attendant for a map and he looked at me disgustedly and waved me away. I was shocked. I try not to judge people, especially when I'm visiting their city, but this guy was an absolute useless c... well, you know. I hope I meet some more Hungarians who change my initial impressions.

Finally, I bought a ticket for the metro and began my journey to the hotel. The metro is so out of date it's actually really funny. The stations seemed to be styled in a sort of surreal 1930s art-deco style and I'm sure the vehicles are the same ones that were operating when the first line opened in 1896. Whenever the train doors closed, a horribly loud siren rang, like a rollercoaster which is about to start. I felt like it had all been influenced by Eraserhead and the BBC comedy Bottom. I could have sworn I was on a set for some steam-punk film.

picture from here

Once at the hotel, I couldn't believe I'd be so cheap and booked myself into an Easyhotel (the Easyjet version of hotels). There was barely room to put my bag down!

With things not going so well, I decided to go for a run and clear my head. I ran along Andrassy Ut to Heroes Square. Andrassy Ut is a grand boulevard lined large and imposing buildings, all in states of disrepair. I imagine Berlin looked like this once before all the investment and Gentrification.

As I didn't know anyone in Budapest, in the evening I decided to go and visit the Castle. The castle is perfectly situated on top of a large hill. I ran up the first few sets of stairs up the hill, but it was a big hill and I lost my wind and had to walk to the rest of the way. I found a rather sinister staircase that took me through the castle walls and onto the main castle grounds.

It was reasonably late and the street lighting barely penetrated the darkness. Along the castle walls loomed a series of cannon and heavy weaponry which added to the unsettling atmosphere.

I followed the castle wall and began to explore the castle grounds. I hadn't seen anyone for about 20 minutes and then suddenly there were to shadowy characters ahead of me. My first thought was "Oh no, security. I'm going to get arrested for trespassing". I decided to carry on though because turning around would only look more suspicious. As the silhouettes came into view I realised there were actually two hard looking locals who seemed pretty unhappy to see me. I was a tourist in darkened castle alleyway, with no help within 100 metres. The way the day had been going, getting mugged wouldn't have been a surprise. I was ready to run. I didn't change my pace but I braced myself in order to be ready to sprint. I didn't look directly at the guys either but I kept them in the corner of my eye. My legs were tired from running up all those staircases earlier and my heart pounding. The path ahead began to narrow and my heart sunk because I thought I'd walked into a dead end. The guys, now behind me, watched my movements. Luckily I turned the corner into an illuminated street. The moment I was out of the their view, I ran. I ran for about a minute and stumbled into the most beautiful sight I'd seen on my journey.

The Fisherman's Bastion is a wonderful place. It's a neo-Gothic lookout over the city of Budapest. The whole site was beautifully illuminated but was totally devoid of people, except for a lone violinist. I sat and listened to him play. He played a few songs and I tipped him a fairly healthy tip. I'd been having the worst day of the trip so far, I was about to get mugged and suddenly I was in a sublime, unexpected and solitary moment. Budapest had seduced me.


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