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Budapest in 4 Days

Written on: Wednesday April 23rd, 2008

A journal entry from: Budapest, Hungary 2008

Budapest in four Days:


Budapest Hungary is a neat and tidy eastern European city. We chose to come here because of the possibility of an inexpensive taste of ex-Communist Europe with the benefits of a developing country; laxed drinking laws, third world haggling, corrupt officials, cheap beer and food, inexpensive taxis, and the thrill/adrenaline injections you get during a visit to an unsafe and unregulated society. Plus, Budapest is supposed to be one of the most beautifully river-set, castle dotted cities in Europe.


It was not cheap though-probably due to a mixture of the weak Dollar and the spread of affluent Western Europe.  The trip met my expectations though. Beers were less than $2 for a 20 oz can in a supermarket and up to 8 dollars in a pub. The Dreher and Saproni beers were average in taste not on par with German and Czech beers. The famous Goulash was overpriced in the city center restaurants but normally priced in outer towns and the beautiful central market. One night we ate at a fancier restaurant recommended in our guide book. It was as perfect a Goulash as you can get. Another noticeable thing was the lack of young people-this is an aged society.


We walked miles around the city and explored every damn castle and ancient building, church, museum and memorial. It was nice-sort of like DC or Rome. I think two days was enough. We walked in order to avoid the pricey taxi fares and eventually mastered the subway, bus and rail way systems. We had heard about the thugs who check your tickets and were unprepared when challenged by a plainclothed ticket checker. Apparently right when you get on the trains you are supposed to put your stub into a small mideval ticket puncher located in discreet parts of the train. As this was our first ride we did not. I sort of expected a conductor to come around and punch a hole in our tickets. Lili and I sat down on the riverside of the train and enjoyed the sunny view of the Danube river and the castles that lined the hills. We noticed a small shot haired man with dark complexion and a dark blue jacked eyeing us up. He approached and showed his ID and symbolic armband. He was bus ticket police. We handed him our newly purchased tickets expecting him to punch or ?validate them.? Instead he said said we had to pay $60 each in fines for not ?validating,? our tickets. He then told us to get off the train. We got off and identified ourselves as US Diplomats. He said we needed to pay. I said we were new and were not cheating. I reasoned that he saw us get on the bus and should have told us to validate our tickets. I also showed him our guidebooks that omitted placing your tickent in a small hidden rusty box to punch a hole in it. I told him to call his supervisor and Lili and I sat on a nice wall overlooking the beautiful river. Then a stocky bald thug in plainclothes got off another train and showed us his ID. I explained our circumstances and showed our credentials. He said he didn?t care and that our diplomatic status and police credentials were of no value in his country. I said fine, call the police and ignored his Hungarian threats. He was right in my face yelling threats and spittle. I told him, "I love you too," and repeatedly asked for the police. His friend pretended to call the police, and the bald Hungarian complained that it would cost more money if they came. He finally insinuated that we could bribe him and he would not have to write the tickets. I said, "let us go or call the police."

I then said this was becoming an international incident. Lili was calm-no way in hell would she pay the fine, but began to get baited into his argument. I told her to ignore the Bulgarian slurs and wait for the cops. Finally the bald thug conceited defeat and threw our crumpled tickets at us and yelld, ?Go back to America you Diplomats.? He also pushed my shoulder as a way for him to save face. For a second I refused to leave and asked for his ID again. I then waved my arms in the air calling for the police in my most distressed American act. Lili said, let?s go, and we walked off in victory. Two minutes later we saw the thugs accosting another tourist when the train passed us. I whistled and smiled at them as they passed.


Besides this small incident, I liked Budapest. The markets, scenery, and people are very kind. The food is pretty good too. On our third day we took a train to Vienna, Austria. It was very expensive, bland, and full of grand buildings. The train ride was 3 hours each way and comfortable.


Europe is neat for a short visit but I wonder why people chose to vacation/live in old, cold, bland, expensive climates, when they have a choice.