Tag: Budapest

Abandoning the new life for Glory!

So, Friday in Budapest. The day I had come all this way for, though not yet the hour. It was another beautiful morning, so I went into town on the metro, and back out again, on a bus this time. I allowed plenty of leeway for mistakes, thus navigated flawlessly and ended up arriving an hour early. Had a nice chat with an American teacher, and a very small, horrendously strong coffee, though. Because being ferociously overcaffienated is the perfect mental state to go behave quietly underground.

Because I was at Palvolgyi cave! 40-million-year old fossil shells and sea urchins embedded in the walls! 20-million-year old crystal formations! Million-year-old carbon dioxide bubble holes the size of beach balls! ‘Baby’ stalactites, ‘only’ a hundred to a few thousand years old! Cute hibernating bats! Lovely tour guide (“This place was used as an air raid shelter in WWII but nothing happened and nobody died so don’t worry, there are no ghosts”).

That was worth the trip. I even walked all the way back (downhill) to the edge of town, where I got back on the train and went to see the Roman Ruins at Acquinum. Sadly, the museum was shut for refurbishments (until the day after I leave), but the ruins themselves were just sitting out along the side of the dual carriageway, so I got quite the gander at them for free.

A nap and a fair bit of quiet fretting later, and it was time to get ready to go see Gloryhammer. Again, the curly mum-cut from hell makes for massive personal paranoia! (Why don’t you just buy a wig? said one of my best friends. It was good advice. I did. I dared not put it on and have it slide off. I went with the mum-cut and kept my hood up.

Fun fact, my actual mum has also invested in wigs, recently, because she’s complaining her hair is too straight.)

I wasn’t just paranoid about the hair. I was paranoid about getting lost/ getting barred/ finding the e-ticket was for some reason invalid and getting shouted at in Hungarian and being unable to find any suitable phrases for reply in the phrasebook. I was paranoid about everybody staring at me. I was paranoid about everybody laughing at me when I got home, even though I firmly intended to spin whatever went wrong as a hilarious yarn, given enough time, because laughing with me is different, damn it, and if I make people laugh with me I can kid on they might not laugh at me afterwards.

While in the queue, this security guard shouted at me in Hungarian, only like right up close in my face, and with hindsight I realise he was probably only saying, Move your arse, doll, a car is trying to get through, but I was prepped for mortification and promptly went beetroot. And stayed beetroot. Thank god I never brought the wig, it and my face would have matched. Well, and it will be dark inside, right?

Nope, lights didn’t go down for another half hour. I hit the local cheapo beer, discovered it tasted like the local cheapo beer back home, discovered the Weissbier was pleasantly cheap as well (a move I was to regret, the next day) and necked that instead while thinking thoughts about ice-cubes, and penguins, and the Arctic and anything to try and make the blush of mortification go the feck away already. Which it didn’t. It never does, not while you’re still mortified, and you can’t not be mortified with it, and so round and round you go. Hopefully everyone just thought I was drunk.

Still, I was in.

Listening to Windrose, an Italian band, singing in Hungary, in the only language I speak, as well as addressing the crowd in it, was quite the revelation. What was even more fascinating was, although the singer was using the kinda standard rock lyric growl (hopefully somebody out there knows what I mean; the voice is made to fit the music. Like that time I went to the thrash extravaganza with the G Monster back in the day, at the ABC, and one band had this lovely wee teeny Aussie lead singer who alternated between a formidable, hellhound-esque bass that sounded like it was rising up from the Pit itself for the songs, and thanking us all in a very squeaky Aussie accent in between them).

This was not thrash-singing, just rock-singing, however, these notes I can only describe as Pavaroti-like just sort of sailed out of his throat every so often. I wondered if he had been classically trained. I wondered if maybe being Italian just made that happen to you, no matter who you were or what you were singing at the time. I wondered what effect that would have on the careers of Italian rappers. I wondered what the Scottish equivalent would be, like if you were making a serious speech and whenever you got even slightly passionate about it you were drowned out by mysterious bagpipes, ruining your presentation on interest rates. I wondered if maybe the Weissbier might be a bit strong and a bit of a mistake.

Up next, Nekrogoblikon. I tried, I just didn’t feel it. I am sure they are very good at what they do. Thrash metal really isn’t my thing (cue flummoxation from anyone reading this who is all, There are supposed to be differences in all this noise?) Also, I blame the Weissbier.

And then… the moment of truth.

Well hey, and was I not close enough to actually make out the people on the stage, this time?

Since my memories of that part of the night are an incoherent mess of pure delight, I will just say that according to my notes, that blew the Glasgow gig out of the water.

On my way home – my carefully planned, short as humanly possible, way home – disaster struck, because of course it did. You have to pay karma somehow, I suppose. Or, look where you’re going.

There were people crossing this large and empty road, so I decided it was safe to cross it too; while checking wildly that nothing was coming in either direction, because I was half deaf from the gig. All I saw was a lassie in immense stilettos running across the road in the other direction, extremely awkwardly. I assumed this was due to the stilettos. I did not realise it was due to the fact that this tram line (unlike every other tram line I had crossed in Budapest, and there have been a few), had these little flanges of tile sticking up on either side of the rails. The predictable happened, and I suddenly found myself smacked in the face by the tarmac. Wow, so much less awkward than the way she crossed the road, not.

I laughed loudly, because some other people had seen me go over, lurched to my feet and sprinted away in case something finished the job by driving over me. I staggered the remaining hundred feet or so to the hotel, ordered a drink at the bar as nonchalantly as I could, and took it up to my room. I discovered in the lift mirror that I was covered in blood and had scuff marks all down me like I’d been pawed by an allosaurus. Yeah, classy. No wonder the barman was trying not to piss himself laughing.

On the other hand, if I’d had the wig on, I’d probably have had to abandon it in the street, so there is that.

Still worth it, however.

Building the new life part three – abandoning the new life and sodding off to Budapest (temporarily)

It has now been just over five months since I moved into Caisteal na Ialtag Gaileach. Before anyone wonders if the place is finished: no. It isn’t. Not remotely.

However, by February I was fortunate enough to have all the ceilings plastered and painted, a literal half-ton of flooring delivered, the bedrooms all stripped and the walls fixed and painted up, and even carpets in some of upstairs. Bathroom door’s still hanging on one hinge, but my mate had come over and helped me transform the kitchen from a dingy square room that, for some reason, had neither cupboard space nor room for actual appliances, to a slightly larger, dusty-ridden square which, um, ditto.

(Originally, the lack of space was largely due to some sort of what we think was supposed to be a pantry. It took up half of one wall, the back half of it couldn’t even be reached, since it was six feet by one, the sliding door only went three feet, you had to reach in at an angle, and it had a solitary shelf at the top that… yeah. I have no idea who designed that. And yet, presumably, every single one of these houses had one!) She had a plan for the electrics, drawn on the wall like some sort of charming modern cave-painting, and had plasterboarded some of the other walls. I was extremely grateful.

Not that that stopped me fecking off to Budapest for five days. I had realised back in the autumn that the winter in this place was going to be one long grind, and I would probably need something to look forward to. In fact, the “building a new life” part of that title is woefully misleading. After a miserable month in October when just none of the feelers I put out to find extra cash came up trumps, November finally let loose with both all the overtime I could handle at work, and a home audio-typing gig which, while paying somewhat less than minimum wage, was better than a poke in the eye, and at least didn’t have any overheads. My life from that point on had been a) work, b) some more work, c) a slightly different sort of work, d) packing, e) unpacking and f) DIY. Never let it be said that I’m a joyless cow, what.

Plus, I had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for months, because the bed frame has only so many turns of the screws left in it, and with the plasterers chasing me and my heap of possessions from room to room every couple of days, it seemed folly to waste them. Budapest, by comparison, had a hotel room. With a bed. With a shower! And also (this is the major draw) Gloryhammer were playing. I know there is a considerable risk in trying to recreate the most amazing gig of your life, and it’s never what the first time was, and expectations are notorious for killing what would otherwise be perfectly lovely experiences, but screw it.

There was even wi-fi in the hotel I had chosen for its proximity to the venue (no trying to flag down a cab in a foreign language in a city I don’t know on a Friday night, I’m walking) so I could spend some time on holiday at work! Wooooo! Business travel! Or, you know, something.

So, first things first, I was all, I have not been to Budapest in over twenty years! I wonder if you can still go in that cave? I wonder if those big, crablike, armoured spiders are still all over Charles Bridge?

That was Prague. Budapest is the one where I discovered I had come down with mumps.

It was a slight consolation that all my colleagues got them mixed up too. I even had to explain that Bucharest is an entirely different city, with nothing to do with either of them. Mind you, and I love all my colleagues dearly, I have been told I am regarded as being a tad Exotic in the office, on account of having lived in both Glasgow and Aberdeenshire.

It is worth saying that they all, also, thought I was absolutely off my rocker to be going on holiday abroad alone. As did all my relatives. I was a bit surprised, it being 2020 and all that, and Budapest is not, say, [name of place expunged so as not to cause offence] but I ended up faithfully promising that I would really, really try and scare up at least one friend to accompany me. Gloryhammer narrowed that down somewhat, admittedly. To one friend, who actually really, really would have, but her finances are actually more dire than mine right now. (I’ll PAY for you! I said, recklessly ignoring fiscal reality. AND your hubby! It’s GLORYHAMMER!

Mercifully, she declined.)

Budapest is apparently a haven of pickpockets in the touristy areas, so I was repeatedly informed. It’s off season! I said, though admittedly I was unsure whether this meant they had all closed up shop or if I would have a whole horde of them to myself; possibly wandering gormlessly down the street, camera in hand, gawking about, while fifty or so would-be thieves jockeyed for position.

(Nothing like that happened. The closest it came was when my city pass fell out of my pocket onto the floor as I was getting up to go for a smoke, and someone pointed it out to the waiter, and the waiter came sprinting out to the terrace and gave it back to me).

So I had five days in Budapest, if you count the ones spent mostly travelling, and was worried this would not be anywhere near enough time, honestly, since the list of “things I wanted to see” had overrun onto the second side of a page of A4. Also, while it had been freezing rain, sleet, and ice in Central Scotland, making the short days even shorter, for approximately, ooh, forever, from the moment I arrived in the continental weather system, it was bright, straw-pale sunlight and bright, biting winds as far as the (watering) eye could see.

I had brought thermals. I always do.

I also, to my great sense of personal accomplishment, managed to get the city pass in the first place (and miserably failed to tan the crap out of it, thereby getting my money’s worth, but it did provide the peace of mind of all public transport being pre-paid, and you can’t have everything), and then navigate public transport all the way to nearly-the-hotel. Even though this involved quite a series of busses and underground trains, some of which were off. Since the bags were much more annoying than I had anticipated, I was glad I hadn’t stuck to my original plan of just walking half way there.

I can’t really remember the last time I was properly Abroad, let alone Abroad Alone. Ten years? As usual, the first thing that struck me was how many of the signs and billboards were in English. The second thing that struck me was how much of the graffiti was in English. The third thing that struck me was how this is always the first, and second, thing that strikes me about being Abroad, but hell, there’s not much else to look at on the bus from the airport.

The hotel has a bed. The hotel has a hot shower. The hotel has a buffet breakfast that features almost everything you could conceive as breakfast, and a few that nobody but me would (salad, olives, pickles) and yes, my colleagues, who I love dearly, are also horrified by my habit of eating quiche or, god forbid, pot noodles for breakfast. I shall be single the rest of my life. It shall be awesome.

The hotel also has a pleasing selection of goth/electronica crossover playing in the lift. I have no idea why.

The first morning, I got up early, took advantage of the city pass and went a wander into town. Now, I was lucky to not be on so much of a budget as I have been in the past (being way too old for hostels, a fact I discovered, erm, ten years ago, in fact), so knowing that I could do almost anything I wanted and not have to regret it until I actually got home was very freeing. I went on the funicular up to the castle, for instance, though I could have walked it instead. (Free with city pass on weekends only, it turned out). I wandered around the castle, I wandered along the river, I wandered around the Fisherman’s Bastion, (which is amazingly pretty, think Rivendell if a bunch of Middle Earth dwarves had seen Rivendell and said, You know, lads, we can do twee better than that. I spent literally five whole minutes unable to get leave down a flight of white stone stairs, as wide as a bus is long, for all the people taking selfies on them.)

Having finally escaped down the stairs, I discovered there was an actual nuclear bunker, with an actual hospital in (called the Hospital in the Rock, appropriately enough) only five minutes back the way I had come. Sigh. Sorry, fellow tourists, coming through.

I had just missed a tour, but it was also late enough in the morning that I could go have a mulled wine to take the chill off, in an adorable little family-run cafe. I practiced saying, Thank you, and so forth in Polish. It is not pronounced anything like the phrase book claims.

The Hospital in the Rock is awesome. If a tad alarmingly NOT underground by very much at all, I mean, there wasn’t even a lift we had to go down. I could pretty much turf over my roof and have the same amount of effect. Lots and lots of history, though, and they had scads of the original stuff left there, and lots of mocked up history, and a big display on nuclear war at the end that was really a bit traumatic (as it should be, frankly). My one regret was not buying a gas mask, as they were cheap and totally worth it. (What would I use it for though? I said, Coronavirus being a blissful month off in the future.)

Let’s see my notes from it at the time.

Me: “Things have been a bit stressful recently. I will go see my favourite band in Budapest! But FIRST, I will take a few days and go to things like this nuclear bunker, because I am sick of blowing my nose black on account of living in a building site that hasn’t been renovated since being built in the early sixties!”

Nuclear bunker tour guide: “This nuclear bunker was completed in the early sixties. Also, be aware of your health! It is full of dust since it is being renovated!”

Plus ca change.

Yeah, I still agree with that sentiment.

I wandered into the centre of town, found a Ruin Bar (I had heard fantastic, amazing things about Ruin Bars), found it did not take cards, found a cash machine, went through at least three apps trying to load up me Monzo card so I could withdraw cash, finally went for a drink in said Ruin Bar and discovered it was very much like, say, The Thirteenth Note in Glasgow. Which is a perfectly good place to drink, I’ve been doing it off and on for years, and seen a lot of awesome gigs there, but, yeah.

Well, it was a thing off the list. While in there, I took advantage of finally being abroad with some sort of smart phone worthy of the name, booked a ticket on a “cruise of the river with a Free Mulled Wine”, finished my drink and sauntered over to the docks.

There was not especially any free mulled wine, but the drinks were a whole quid each, so I could not complain. Also, it was a bit of a sit down, which was nice. I do appear to be approximately the only person in the entire city holidaying on my own, I did notice, but I chalked that up to the sort of paranoia people who aren’t yet entirely comfortable in their own skin feel about that sort of thing.

And after that, I wandered the other way along the docks until I found a metro station, and went back to the hotel for dinner, drinks and some work. And bed! In an actual bed! LIVING THE DREAM!