Copyright © 1998 David C. Ha
Since Bratislava is basically a big, industrial city, it took us a while the next morning to get far enough out of town to get rides. So, again, we were on the road a little too late in the day for inter-city traffic. We wound up getting many small rides.
I had wanted to go to Vienna, but apparently there was a disease rampant
on one side of the border with Austria or the other (I never could find
out which) so crossing was more than usually complicated. So, I opted
for Budapest and turned out to be the better for it.
One ride took us to within a quarter mile of the Hungarian border, so we
wound up walking that distance and through passport control. It felt funny
to walk up to the border station,in the middle of acres of fields and
countryside, but it turned out to be no big deal.
Hungary did not require a visa, unlike Poland or Czechoslovakia.
Another ride got us maybe another twenty or thirty miles into the country.
Where we waited.
Come on now. Our car had to come along soon.
The sun went down. It got dark.
At one point Koji decided to go to the farmhouse across the road to get a
glass of water. Apparently, for all their apparent hospitality to him,
they were suspicious, because about twenty minutes later a motor scooter
put-putted up to us, stopped, and the portly equivalent of a Tijuana cop
walked up to us.
(Or words to that effect.)
Ok, Hay, now you've done it!
(After all, we had not inquired about hitch-hiking in Hungary.)
Suddenly I was asking myself once again just how exactly I found myself
in this place at this time. All my father's paranoia about the Communist
world and all those spy movies immediately leapt forward in my
consciousness. I had visions of never being heard from again.
So now whatcha gonna do?
After the longest silence with us simply staring at each other, Koji finally came forth with the obvious: "Ich bin Japonish". (This should not have been hard to guess. Beside his appearance there was the small fact that in the darkness we had been using a Japanese flag to try to stop motorists.)
This was sufficient to break the ice, though, so the cop grumbled "passport!" and we complied. Each of us had listed our occupation as "student", so after scrutinizing them for a few minutes, he handed them back to us, grunted, shook his head, and wandered back to his scooter, whereupon he took off.
I believe the expression is "whew!"
But this didn't solve our predicament. It was still dark. We were still standing there like idiots on the side of a Hungarian road, thousands of miles from home.
Excuse me, God. I don't have a sleeping bag. I can't sleep under a tree, you must understand.
To which God says, "So?"
So — we slept under a tree.
Koji actually had a sleeping bag, so I borrowed his youth hostel sleeping sack (two sheets sewn together), put my youth hostel sleeping sack inside it, and stuffed the space between with clothes. Not exactly the Waldorf, but it worked.
Budapest - first day and night
I did not have a good night's sleep. Fortunately, this meant that we were up with the sun. At this hour there is plenty of inter-city traffic and we were in Budapest by 7:00 am.
Bratislava to Budapest
Map copyright © National Geographic Society
Budapest (pronounced "Budapesht" by the locals) is a marvelous city. While
Prague is pretty, Budapest is fun. It is certainly attractive in its own
way, and there is a robustness about the place that you could feel just
walking down the street. The Danube (the "Duna" to them) runs through the
center of the city. separating the ancient cities of Buda and Pest, and
providing for lots of interesting bridges. Buda sits high on a cliff,
overlooking the river and the more level Pest. The Parliament Building is
a magnificent structure along the river in Pest, not unlike the Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament on the Danube
Many of the buildings still had bullet holes from the 1956 uprising.
From a combination of general fatigue and my less than ideal night's sleep, I wasn't exactly running on all cylinders that day. We met a couple of Americans and went out to dinner, but with the first sip of wine I suddenly was not well at all. I had to excuse myself to go pray to the ceramic god.
I had a perfectly awful night.
. . . not well at all . . .
The next morning, Koji moved on in his journey, and I staggered down to the front desk of our student hotel, trying to figure out how to ask for bicarbonate in Hungarian. Apparently my plight showed in my face, because the fellow took one look at me and beckoned me to follow him.
The lady in the check room
The luggage check room was run by a lady who seemed to be the house mother for the hotel. She proceeded to spend the day plying me with tea and carbon tablets (a secret Eastern European remedy for bad stomach — quite effective, by the way). We each spoke bad German, which was sufficient for us to communicate.
Pest from Buda
By the end of the day I felt better, and she proceeded to take me out on the town. She showed me some of the neighborhoods, and we had dinner in a restaurant in Buda, high above the Danube. It had a spectacular view of the bridges and Pest across the way! She even gave me a souvenir mug!
The Next Two Days . . .
On day three, I felt much better, and was finally ready to see the city. Unfortunately, the only guide book I was able to find was written in French. Fortunately, however, it was held by two very pleasant French girls. The three of us spent two marvelous days seeing everything there was to see in Budapest. This was truly a lovely time. We saw ancient Roman ruins. We saw the parliament buildings. We saw numerous quaint little back streets.
Your Correspondent in Budapest
Yes. An altogether satisfactory two days.