Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Please keep your arms and legs outside the vehicle while it is in motion (Budapest)

Signs on Hungarian train windows (sorry for the bad picture but circumstances were difficult).So, my best interpretation is: DO lean out the window, and DO throw objects, including bottles, out of the windows. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't obey the signs, but the fat school children in my train car certainly did.

Did I take a train or a time machine to get to Hungary?
OK, to be fair, I'd estimate that only 1/5 to 1/4 of cars on the road here look like that. Everything else is quite modern - if you judge by the number of McDonalds and Burger Kings (and why not?) then this is the most modern city I have ever visited. That being said, the hot water in my hostel is produced by gas fires burning in boxes above the faucets. It produces wicked hot water. Since I'm accustomed to hostels where you really have to crank up the hot water, I nearly scalded myself when I first took a shower.

The above picture sums up much of the buildings in Budapest. Splendid but neglected. These doors are typical of entry ways to apartment buildings here, but as you can see the wood's in need of some treatment and there's graffiti. Hungarians, like the Portuguese, have a lot to say through spray paint (at least those aren't bubble letters). Even in the downtown, on pretty fancy shopping streets, you see graffiti.

The building that my hostel is in has a fancy wrought iron railing on the stair case that has gotten rusty and someone has attached an old can to it for use as an ashtray. The wallpaper which was once cream with a gold leaf pattern is water damaged and stained, as are the walls. There's stained glass windows from which the paint is flaking and panels are broken away. This city was very rich once, but they just can't keep it up like they used to.

Turkish baths are popular in Hungary, and they seem to have a lot of natural thermal springs so that works well. I went to the Szechenyi Baths one day, the largest one in Budapest. I didn't have my camera with me, so see the link for a photo. It was beautiful and definitely relaxing. In the outdoor pools, one is cooler, around 25-27 degrees Celcius, and the hot pool is 38 degrees Celcius and stays that warm even in winter. I spoke to an elderly Hungarian man who goes to the baths of senior discount days about 3 times a week year round and plays chess with his buddies (they hadn't shown up that day so he was bored and talking to me). He credits the minerals in the baths waters to his good health.

I liked this lion sculpture, and later read that when they first appeared on a bridge crossing the Danube (there are four lion sculptures), the sculptor was ridiculed because you can't see their tongues (they're in the backs of their mouths). He was so traumatized that he lept to his death from the bridge. Poor guy. I like his lions.

I went to the Castle district of Buda with two American girls, Meredith and Ellen, one night. It was magical with everything lit up, only a handful of people wandering about, and the air completely calm.

The bridge with the lions (chain bridge):

Just liked the way this looked - statue near the palace.
I went out to Statue Park, where the government placed all the old Soviet monuments from Budapest after the fall of the communist government. My favourite, that I couldn't get a picture of owing to it's size and orientation (on the ground), showed Communist soldiers shaking hands with the people, and one soldier holding a small child!

I went out to the town of Eger, north of Budapest, for the day. I strolled around the town, went to the baths for the hottest part of the day, and attempted to go out to see the vineyards but was thwarted by a flash rain and hail storm. This is part of the basilica; I took this because of the deep yellow colour that is used frequently in the town and that I really like (my bedroom walls in PEI are this colour).The square where everyone seems to bring their toddler so that he/she can ride around on his/her push trike. Eger Castle is in the background; it's famous for holding back the Turks I believe.

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