Budapest, Hungary

Trip Start Aug 04, 2006
Trip End Aug 27, 2006

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

After another late start to avoid the full heat of mid-day I crossed over the Danube and went over to the Buda side - my hostel is very central in Pest. Climbed up and up Gellert Hill to take a photo of the Lady Freedom statue only to get turned back by the police. There had either been a fire up there and the fireman I could see were just damping down the remains or something else I'm not quite sure. So had to go down a bit again and then went up to the other hill to look at Matthias Church and Fishermans Bastion which are both beautiful although obviously heaving with tourists. There were some really good views of the Budapest skyline too so I'll upload those as soon as I can. While I was doing all this the Red Bull Air race was going on over the Danube below me. The air race is a time trial of tricks and gates and loop the loops and all that jazz. The sight and sound of a plane diving straight down and under a bridge (flying 3m above the water and 8m below the bridge!) nearly had me a gibbering wreck. But it turns out that was just the first round so it was happening all over again as I came down from the hill. Scary scary. So I hung aroung anyway as there was a fireworks display. Sunday was a national holiday to celebrate the founding of Hungary, canonisation of the founder King Stephen or something or other. The fireworks start at 9 and they are shaping up to be quite possibly the best fireworks I've ever seen with the possible exception of London NYE of the Millenium. And then 5 minutes later it starts to spit with rain. Big drops. Then it really rains, people start to squeal and scurry for cover but a lot of us start yelling and whooping glad of a bit of respite from the heat. Then it all turns a bit nasty, suddenly the most almighty wind picks up and the sky turns brown, presumably with dust as Budapest is a seriously dusty city. Then we cant actually see the other side of the river anymore (bear in mind that the Danube is about the same width as the Thames) or the fireworks because the sky and air is just full of god knows what. At this point us foolhardy rainworshippers got a bit scared and started to run for cover too. It was at this point the hail started which seriously hurt and we noticed the tram tracks had been turned into a river and tiles were coming off of a nearby roof. The water was probably about ankle deep and not knowing where I was going and with restricted visibility I managed to find the edge of an underpass to hide under. There was one point where the water was waist deep and this guy was trying to pass his son out and over to a fireman. I was probably up to almost my knees in water at some points. The rain let off a bit and I set off for one of the bridges to get back to my side of the river. But two of the bridges had had the fireworks on them so they were still closed so we had to slosh our way to a bridge further down the river. There were police and fire brigade everywhere but they weren't telling us where to go or anything. So I eventually get to a bridge and cross over, but the wind is fierce and making my sopping wet clothes even colder so I start singing 'Bring Me Sunshine' to take my mind off of it! People probably thought I was nuts but it made me feel better. Seems some people have been injured or something cos there's ambulances everywhere and i see a few people hooked up to drips and all that which is a bit scary. I pass firemen trying to move a tree and a lamp post which have been flung onto some poor sods car and stuff thrown about everywhere. I'm ashamed to say I took a photo of the poor blokes car, luckily my camera was ok even though it was in my soaking wet pocket. I'm a bit lost as I'm off the edge of my map but eventually get back to the hostel, the reception of which has also been flooded out. So after stripping and washing the silty water off my legs I fall under a duvet..... Have looked at the BBC news this morning and its on the front page of their European section apparently a couple of poor sods were hit by a falling tree and died and about a hundred people have ben injured...
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