Stone Guardians

Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
Trip End Aug 06, 2013

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Friday, July 19, 2013

On the train to Budapest, I was prepared. I wore jeans and brought my sweater and socks. The Romanians like to refrigerate their passengers so they arrive all fresh and preserved. I sat across from two very euro boys heading for a fun night out on the town, perhaps at the discoteque. They had their hair gel, cologne, muscle shirts.

The dark-haired boy looked vaguely like a young Joseph Fiennes. The lighter one resembled a buff Anthony Michael Hall, like how he looked in "Six Degrees of Separation". Kind of.  JF was hilarious and spiritual, and talked about being vegetarian and avoiding cell phone waves to protect his brain. AMH was a conspiracy theorist who had a FOX-worthy back story about everything we discussed. Midway through our trip, AMH was caught without his seat ticket. I guess you need to buy a seat ticket as well as a train ticket. The conductress gave him a hard time, telling him to pay her 10 euros or get off at the next station.

AMH didn't have euros and JF only had a larger bill. A boisterous discussion ensued once she left the car, as other passengers got involved in solving the problem. There were negotiations for changing money. There were accusations and allegations. There were dramatic reenactments. While this was all done in Romanian, the one word I did understand was "mafia."

We rolled past industrial ghost towns and sunflower fields of Slovenia and into Hungary. JF asked how I liked Bucharest. Of course I liked it, particularly the buildings in the old town. JF laughed and said wait til I get to Budapest, where I wouldn't have to worry about concrete falling on my head if I walked too close to the wall. He said it happens all the time because it's such a hassle to maintain buildings in Romania with all the permits, bribes, preservation laws,etc. I suggested that each citizen be given a helmet.

We arrived in Budapest with no further problems from the conductress. I walked to my new apartment but was a little early, so I sat and read at a park at the end of the street. I had a banana and felt like a real traveler sitting there with my backpack.

I was met by Attila (his real name), who showed me to the apartment once he was done with his cigarette. Imagine a Hungarian version of a former Jersey Shore spring breaker, 20 years of beer and gambling later.  He was very helpful; he went with me to the station to buy a ticket to Prague. He showed me the best place to exchange money, the grocery store, the drug store.
We then went for what turned out to be a really long stroll around the city while he told me how he'd spent time working in hotels in North Carolina and in Pittsburgh, and do I have any job leads for him? Apparently, Hungarian women are the most beautiful in the world. Men come from everywhere to find Hungarian women. American women? Ugly. Attila only saw two beautiful women during his time in the US, both in New York. And they didn't want to meet him! 
Did I have any leads for a job for him? What would be good pay for a job in the US? How about an apartment? I could help him find one with roommates, using the want ads of the paper. He just made a bunch of money on the football games. He knows everything about football so he can make money. He has three apartments he rents out for travelers. His daughter is a model.
After almost three hours I was able to extricate myself and wander the street. It rained. The moisture quickly evaporated and hung in the air like one big invisible wet sock. The heat wave had begun.
I noticed most Hungarian children are accompanied by their dads, in strollers, playgrounds and stores. There are more small dogs than I'd seen as yet.  Most women wear clothes that fit and sensible shoes. There are terrific bike lanes; sometimes a tree-lined median is dedicated to bikes and pedestrians. Trees are plentiful. 
There are many more tourists in Budapest than in Romania. I had mixed feelings about hearing English again. It's always a relief to understand, but it's also less exotic. Also, I don't really care about what tourists like to discuss with each other as they look at their maps and count their money. 
The stone guardians of Budapest handle their positions with varying attitudes. Some are annoyed, some angry, and some are put upon, literally, by the stone burdens they bear. Some seem downright bored. I wonder if the window guardians on apartment buildings reflect the personality of the inhabitants inside. I'd like to think so! For hundreds of years, faces have gazed, glowered, slept over the populace below. How does that affect people? I wonder that in towns like Seattle, where the mountain is omnipresent. Do the people feel watched? Protected? Comforted? I felt entertained, personally.
I made it back to the apartment. I was exhausted! The hot, hot apartment. I had some rose', which Attila was kind enough to provide. A couple of glasses later, I realized how uncomfortable I was in there. The bathtub was filthy. With the windows open, I could hear the lives of everyone else, as they all opened their windows and doors around the center courtyard, hoping to catch a breeze. SO hot. Imagine a pile of hot wet towels about ten feet high. Now imagine sitting under that pile, trying to breathe one tiny ounce of fresh cool air. Please? This was my night. That and the people in the complex talking, fighting, crying and
 watching TV. 
I had to get outta there! I'm in Budapest for 5 days!!

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