thank you dan,
using the joys of html i shall now show the magnificent map dan has sone for us
You can see a larger version of the image by clicking on the small version above
We are now in fact in Szeged the latest point on the map. Dan, there have already been jeers of ‘oh my god he’s so sad’ from the pc to my right but I’d like to say for one that I appreciate it. So that you can be sufficiently up to date with our travels the plan is to move on to the border town of Arad early tomorrow morning and then on to Brasov on the night train that evening where we hope to remain in the Carpathian mountains for a number of days.
Now where was I. Okay last you guys heard was when I had just arrived in Budapest on Sunday. That evening me and claudio went out for a meal into town, we were both starving and left around 6pm, however since my tightness [or financial shrewdness as I prefer to call it] has rubbed off on claudio a bit we both lumbered around the streets of Budapest looking for somewhere nice and cheap which wasn’t pizza. We failed on two accounts, it was pizza, it wasn’t that cheap [although was cheap by UK standards to be fair] however it was very nice. We shared between us some pasta and a pizza over half a litre of Soproni Rose, a local Hungarian wine which is rather superb and less than two quid a bottle [from the shops, just more than 2 quid for half a litre in the restaurant] – if you see it in sainsburys i thoroughly recommend it. The conversation flowed freely over dinner and we both reflected on how good it had been to spend half a day apart, since we’d both been living in each others pockets for more than a week.
The next day was spent exploring Buda the east side of the river Danube [dan oob, not dan ooo bee as I’d like to call it]. We went to a church in the mountain side and then up to a statue and onto a small castle like structure known as the citadel. From there we took lots of [probably soon to be regarded as boring] shots of the Budapest sky line and made our way down and onto the palace. To get up to the palace we took the venicular railway thingy [a box that goes up some very steep rails] to the top where we did pretty much the same thing again. All gravy.
That afternoon we sorted out travel to Pecs [pronounced Paich] and also enquired about the train from Budapest to Brasov via Arad. Seems we could hop on from bekescaba [see map] but we’d get charged a bomb, so to reduce mileage we’ve now decided to see if we can get from Szeged to Arad direct and not go back on ourselves. As it happens when we arrived here today we found we could, however its a 3 hr journey which leaves Szeged at 6:30am which if I do my maths means that we have 15 hrs to wait in Arad for the night train to take us the 600km to Brasov [when i think about it like that, thats a fair distance].
Anyway, back to Budapest. In the evening we went to the local baths at the city park. Basically big outdoor heated swimming pools. Good job they were heated is all i can say because the weather so far has been the pits. Most days in Budapest have struggled to get above 20 degrees, I’ve been wearing up to three layers at times! We had a good time soaking in the hot pool, going round and round in the whirl pool rapids thingy and heating our selves to the extremes in the menthol flavoured steam rooms [one could say that these things clear the system out and open up the airways, but whilst in the steam room it struck me that i might a. be inhaling other peoples’ sweat, and b. if one bugger has got a cold we’ve all got it now!!!]. That evening we hooked up with a couple of the lads from our hostel and over another bottle of wine – chardonnay this time – we had some hearty hungarian goulash, the best so far.
Tuesday, yesterday I believe, was a bit of a traveling day. We had to pack up our tent, which was a shame because after three nights you tend to get used to the cold and the hardness. Twas a bit of a dead morning other than that and gouging on cakes and coffee and a great little shop down the road which featured a server who we subsequently nick named chava girl. She wore a white peaked cap and when we went to the coffee/cake shop yesterday Claudio tried to order something to eat and she served him. I decided that maybe it might be the best of tactics to remember all the names of the pastries i wanted and then repeat them holding one finger out as the quantity. However, Claudio thought it best to ask if they spoke english, fair enough. However when they replied for what i presume was the Hungarian word for no, or in Chava girl’s case a no comment sulk, claudio preceded to point at the cakes he wanted and raise his voice whilst saying the quantity. To make matters worse chava girl picked the wrong one, which then required claudio to say ‘not that one, THAT one’ quite a complex sentence in makeshift sign language. After much cufaffle and some stares the Italian and his temperament got what he wanted and all was hunky dorey.
So back to Tuesday, around 2pm we headed over to the station, quite paranoid of ticket inspectors who dealt out 2000 Florent on the spot fines and who our dining friends last night had been the victim of after a little ‘black riding’ as the lonely planet calls it. We caught our train to Pecs on what I thought was a much larger train, its probably that cos all the tracks this neck of the woods got blown to kingdom come that they then had the forethought to lay wider tracks for larger carriages, something that the Victorians didn’t really think about when they layed the tracks that we still use today. Ahem. The other thing was we somehow managed to do was pick the smoking carriage -yes they still exist in some parts of the world. I found this out when playing with what i thought would have been a redundant ash tray from the days gone by when people were allowed to smoke on trains. After tipping the contents of said ash tray all over myself i realised those days hadn’t quite gone by yet. The carriage was also different from our last train journey [from Bratislava to Budapest] since it was more the style of tables and chairs like we have in Britain and not the little compartment with a slidey door routine that we had before and like you get in the James Bond movies and absolutely nowhere in Britain.
So we got Pecs. Absolutely beautiful. Its a uni town, like the Oxford or Cambridge of England. Wonderful baroque architecture, all the buildings gorgeous colours, yellows and pinks and oranges, which were even more impressive in the amazing sunshine which had at last decided to make an appearance, typically on a day where we spend 4 hrs on a train. We trundled on into town and eventually made it to the uni accommodation we had hoped to stay in on the main square in pecs. ‘Had’. Renovations apparently, but luckily a Hungarian lady spoke English who then spoke to the accom person who then pointed us down the way to what we hoped would be another college acom place. At first we thought it was a hospital, i went for a nose round and bumped into two people who i asked whether I could sleep there, they gave me a puzzled look and mumbled at each other in a language which I could be for sure wasn’t Hungarian…. but German. My goodness I’ve never been so grateful of that torturous year of lower 6th and those 5 hrs or more a week studying out of Auf Deutsch with Tim, Holly and that weird girl who I thought used to play footsy with me [i kept my legs well under my own chair] until i realised it was tim winding me up. All those registration periods with Ursula and being late for geography. It had all paid off. Well almost.
Basically I managed in very broken German to get across that i was looking for a place to stay for one night. I then managed just about to understand this old geeza and this woman who were trying to tell me that they were in charge of a group of hungarian children in the local area who had come to Pecs to learn traditional German folk dancing, and brush up on their language skills. This being the result of many german people migrating to this part of Hungary back in the days when Austria and Hungary were one empire – quite chuffed with that translation i thought. Anyway, more importantly they said that a guy who could let us know would be back any moment. We hung around and I tried to make small talk, which wasn’t great, because I doubt they were interested in what colour my cat was and what i did last weekend. I couldn’t even remember the word for ‘tomorrow’.
Anyway this German speaking hungarian guy came along who then had a chat with this fairly round white old hungarian chap in what for some reason were rather lowered voices. Add to that another Hungarian lass, a student from Pecs, who could speak a little English – or at least better English [or more useful English – dam the curriculum] than my German. After much nodding and trying to get the jist of what this hungarian chap was on about I was told that we were to wait until 7pm and then come back to the college whereupon we’d be able to get a room for 1500 each – the cheapest so far, but had to me be out by 6am the next day. Great! Either way we were grateful for the help. We came back at 7 and waited a little while outside until what I presume were the cleaners to leave and then it dawned on me. The cheeky old geeza was the caretaker and he was pocketing 3000Ft on the side, well hats off is all i can say. At least I had a bed for the night.
We dumped our stuff and went out that evening to a restaurant and another half litre of Soproni. We both realised that Pecs has a lot of money, people drive around in Saabs, Audis and brand new Opels. All the teenagers meet up with their girly mates of boyfriends and have dinner together. Needless to say this culminated in quite a posh and a little pricey restaurant [not too bad though] and a lot of rather superficial daddy’s little rich girl type eye candy. Not my cup of tea but claudio was in 7th heaven.
The next day, today in fact, was in early – i didn’t sleep well, and my feet stung the night before after applying moisturiser to them. Basically on my right foot the ball of my foot has developed splits in the flesh, on on the left and three on the right -its because I’ve been in sandals 10 days straight and my feet have dried out. They bleed occasionally but I’ve had it before and they should heal within a few weeks or so, what I really need is some black sea salt and sand to make em better – not for another weak yet though.
After saying good buy to what was quite a sweet old guy at the college we proceeded to do the sights of Pecs from 6am in the early dawn light – quite beautiful. We looked around the old battlements, the Cathedral, the Synagogue and the long since converted Mosque – a relic of the turkish influence on the austro-hungarian empire. We then caught the 9am bus to Szeged after some coffee and croissants which was a little embarrassing for me because I insisted on a rather attractive bakery attendant that it was a 2000 not a 200 note that I had given her, I was wrong of course and skulked out pretty pronto. Getting onto the bus was a nightmare. There are no queues this part of the world, just huddles, and the old people are the worst. Edging in round the side, elbow barging, moving in when you’re looking the other way. Thankfully both me and claudio managed to get seats for the 4hour journey. Not that it would have mattered since those that didn’t stood in the aisle – not safe at all, mind you, what was crazy is people were unwilling to move over to the window seat to let others sit down. Crazy. It was a coach type bus, not like an urban bus where that sometimes happens.
Anyways, I’m here in Szeged now. At an internet cafe, the first I have had to use since all the hostels bar last night up until now have had free net facilities. Whats more I’ve spent about 1:30 on this blog so I hope you’re grateful [dan!]. We’ve just been wandering most of the day, I wanted a nap in the park but you cant lie down on the grass – stupid. Hopefully this evening we will attend the reputed establishment known to many a local Szegedian as Sing Sing Disco. Could be fun, will most likely be carnage, although we cant afford to drink. Claudio has just found out he has to cut his 20 pounds a day budget he has been currently on to 13 quid. Not going to happen, not with places like Croatia up ahead, which charge as much for a place to camp as they do for a hostel over here.
I must dash, I was going to get some piccies up but have no time. Keep reading and remember you can leave comments at the bottom of each entry, although I would appreciate slightly more parent friendly user names [DAN!!!]. Mind you, its probably just dan reading this anyway, rather a complicated form of emailing someone i spose.
Until soon [probably Brasov or maybe Arad if i can find a place, will report on Sing Sing Disco]