Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Off to the country of the Magyars

So after the chilled week in Rome and the mad, impulsive spontaneity that was our dash to Dubai for a ring, we were now set for the second of the (as originally planned) week long holidays in Europe.

Budapest, in Hungary, the country of my parents, was the destination and to be frank, I was a bit nervous as to how my Hungarian would hold up and if we would be able to meet up with any of my family out there.

What with all the rushing around from holiday to holiday, I didn't get a chance to ring my relatives in Hungary up until the week before we were due to go.

Essentially there are two groups of people that I generally visit whenever I've gone in the past (the last time having been two years ago now:

Those in Ujszasz
I go to this small town, 84km South East of Budapest, where my mum grew up, to visit my uncle, Gabi (short for Gabor) and his family (including my God-son Gabriel), my grandma and our old neighbours, Pista (Steve) and Veronka (Veronica) who used to be one of my mum's best friends in school.

Those in Ozd
I go to this town in the hills near the border with Slovakia and close to a beautiful national park, to visit my Godmother (also one of my mum's best friends) and her husband (both now in their 70s) . It's much more peaceful up in the hills but alas there are a lot less things to do too.

So I ring my uncle's number and I get a message (strangely in English) telling me that that is no longer a recognised number. I'm bemused...I try his mobile number. That also fails. "What?!"

So, brilliant. I'm coming to Hungary and I now have no way of sorting out a meeting with them!

I look up the train details on how to get to the town. It's only a 75 minute journey, so decide that regardless of whether or not I can get hold of them, we'll go along and see if they're in. If not, it'd be a nice trip to the countryside anyway...

Next I ring my Godmother. It connects. Hoorah! I talk to her and it turns out they will be home if I get a chance to come. The problem is that afterwards, I look up how I can get there and it turns out that it's a four hour journey by train, followed by a one hour car/bus journey. I seriously start to doubt that we'll get a chance to meet up with them as it would use up two days of our five day trip with one day already set aside for the much easier to get to Ujszasz.

I groan inwardly as I know my Godmother won't be very happy that I didn't come to see her. I've yet to call her up to apologise as I fear that I lack the language skills to explain myself fully.

Anyway, the journey to Budapest from Gatwick goes smoothly enough. It's early in the morning and we get a mini-cab to Victoria and then get the Gatwick Express out to the airport.

Confusion sets in for a while as "Malev", the Hungarian airline, isn't on the board listing which zone to go to for checking in. We have to go further into the airport to find a set of screens listing individual flights and check in zones. Quirkily, the zones go something like A-F and then skip to Z, which is the one that I need for my flight.

The plane was comfortable, (more so than 'Emirates' which I am starting to think is rather over-rated) the journey less than two hours and incredibly, for the first time in a month, our luggage comes out quickly.

Out impressive looking hotel atriumI have to rely on my Hungarian language skills a lot sooner than I thought I would as it turns out that the driver of the cab I've arranged to take us to our hotel, the Sofitel, doesn't really speak English.

The other half looks on impressed as I gab on in Hungarian and sort out our return journey too and I feel relieved that I've managed to deal with the situation without too much hassle.

It's hot, 30+, and sunny outside and there's not a lot of traffic, August 20th being a national holiday in Hungary for St Stephen's Day, and we only really slow down a bit as we approach the hotel overlooking the Danube when there are some crowds for the Red Bull Air Race that is taking place a bit later.

Unfortunately we then had to wait an hour for our room to be made ready but are given complimentary drinks vouchers. The hotel's atrium looks very impressive and we marvel at the model of an old plane suspended from the ceiling.

Eventually, post-drinks we make it to our room and it's very good too. We look out the large windows and see a beautiful view of the Danube and the chain bridge across it.

An hour later and the Red Bull planes start to whizz by, We watch from our window whilst we relax after the journey. They'll also be a big fireworks display at 9pm tonight.

It's a great start to the holiday and I can't believe how well things have worked out for us over the past weeks...

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