Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Day 12: Vienna -> Budapest

We started out our second and final day in Vienna by wandering around the centre of town a bit more, and heading to the Freud museum. I thought the museum was reasonably good, but it wasn't what I was expecting. It was in his house, and was filled with a reconstruction of his study and the like, and basically consisted of various items in cabinets on the walls which documented his history and a few of his passions. I quite liked the autobiographical stuff, and some of the stuff on the anti-semetic years (Freud was Jewish) in Austria leading up to his exile before WWII were fairly interesting, but I'd have liked there to be a bit more in the museum about his work as well as just his life.

From the Freud museum we went back to the hostel to pick up our stuff and catch a train to Budapest.

Travelling to Hungary marked the first point in the trip of moving outside the language bubble. Everywhere we'd visited so far was populated by people who on the whole spoke pretty good English. When they didn't, we were decent enough with Italian/German to get by. Budapest is not only a place where English-speakers are much thinner on the ground, but the Hungarian language is also pretty much compeletely unintelligible for the four of us. We could figure out signs written in German or Italian, but when they're in Hungarian it's just entirely out of our range. With so many diacritics and odd combinations of consonants scattered all over the place I don't even have the faintest clue if I can pronounce it right, let alone know what it means.

Hungary is also our first stop that lies outside the Eurozone, meaning that we have to deal with an entirely new set of coins. On the bright side, shit is cheap in Hungary, so said coins do tend to go quite a long way. We weren't helped by the fact that our first cash withdrawal each was given to us in a single 10,000 HUF note (about £30), which meant we had to pay for the hostel in Euros (though they were decent with the exchange rate) because they couldn't give us change.

All of this unfamiliarity was offset by one thing though: Tesco. Apparently Tesco have a fairly good presence in Hungary, and pretty much the first thing we did in Budapest was stumble upon a Tesco Express and stock up on vital foodstuffs (cheap chocolate mostly) and water. We could have possibly found a less recognisable chain of supermarket, but as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as much as you can to do exactly as you do back home. And we absolutely decimated the cashier by each paying for around 1200 HUF of stuff with our 10,000 notes.

(This was actually a different one, in the middle of the city. Note the superfluous "z")

Stocked up on supplies we walked to the Heroes' Square, a pretty impressive monument and square at the top of an absolutely massive straight road up the hill (the Andrássy út, which is about 2.5km long). The monument is also the inital point of the Budapest underground system, which is the second oldest underground train network in the world (the first being the London Underground). The place is also a World Heritage site, as was pretty blatantly marked out in the tourist map we'd been given at the hostel.

There's quite a large garden behind the Heroes' Monument, which we wandered around a bit, before walking the whole length of the Andrássy út into the centre of the town to find somewhere to eat. This took us to the Danube around sunset, which gave us some pretty spectacular views of the city (Buda - the east side of the river being Pest) on the other side of the river.

On our search for somewhere to eat we stumbled across an Irish bar and restaurant called Jack Doyle's (a superb name), which happened to be showing Liverpool v Valencia and therefore naturally became my top preference as a place to eat, but I was shot down and we ended up at a fairly nice-but-reasonably-priced Hungarian restaurant.

From there we moved on to a bar near the train station which was massively cheap - with pints of beer being around a quid each, got reasonably merry, and went back to the hostel.

The hostel itself was near to the main Budapest station, which meant it was actually in a pretty shitty area of the town. I'm not too bothered by walking past various establishments called "Sex shop" on the way to the hostel, but there was a definite moment of unease when we were first coming from the station and one of the buildings on the street of the hostel had most of its lower windows smashed through. The hostel itself was on the third floor of a place which had a pretty run-down looking entrance hall and staircase with graffiti all over it, but once we were up in the hostel it was OK and the rooms and bathrooms were fine (though a little old). The guy who actually owned the place didn't speak any English whatsoever, but his son (I think?) did, and he was pretty friendly. Either way, I slept well enough and nothing got damaged or stolen, which is pretty much all I actually care about.

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