Saturday, October 04, 2008

Budapest then Roma

Right! We finally made it to Roma! We were a bit worried for a while there with Alitalia and their ongoing financial woes. That'll teach us not to check the operating balance sheet for an airline before we purchase tickets in future, won't it? Anyway, their license to fly was renewed until March so we got to Roma and we'll probably never fly with them again.

But would you believe it... at Roma airport we were waiting for our luggage and mine turned up but P's.... well, didn't. I felt so bad for her. It was such a nightmare in Vienna and here it was happening again in Roma. How could one person be so unlucky? The flight was very empty so everyone else had quickly retrieved their bags and left. We stayed around for a bit longer and then suddenly, there is was! Yay... but... how strange.

We made it to our accomodation by bus - I found the traffic very amusing. There was a large roundabout where the rule appeared to be "if you're on the roundabout, give way to anyone who wants to get ON to the roundabout". Now, I'm no Queuing Theory expert (I wish I were) but it doesn't take a genius to figure out what you end up with if you implement that kind of rule. You end up with a horrendous mess. Fortunately, it was hilarious and once again we didn't die.

We had some pizza for dinner (as you do) and bought some umbrellas from the friendly but abundant umbrella sellers because the absolutely torrential rain threatened to dampen our spirits (and our clothes). Apparently when it's sunny the umbrellas turn into roses so I'm excited to see what my new umbrella will smell like tomorrow if the weather fines up...

Anyway, BUDAPEST... that's what I wanted to write about now I've got access to a sensible keyboard.

Budapest is the result of a union between two old cities - Buda and Pest. Now, I have no idea if that's actually true but it sounds good and besides, Prague is named after the discovery of some random dude who was building his front door lintel at the time (Praha means door threshold) so it's hardly out of character. There may have been a third city involved too... but it's obviously not important. The Danube river runs through the middle of it and it looks beautiful in the dawn light.

The city is huge - about 2 million inhabitants and geographically the city is too big to walk around. All the other cities we have visited so far are small enough to walk around and see all the main sites. But Budapest is huge. Which leads me to getting around.

The public transport seems to work pretty well but it's a bit expensive. It's also dangerous because if you make a mistake you can get a nice big fine from a friendly Hungarian Metro Inspector. At one point we decided to jump off a tram and make a run for it because we couldn't get the ticket machine onboard to work...

The language is nuts. I know a bit of German, a little Czech, a little Polish even. They all have things in common because of their Latin roots. Unfortunately Hungarian is completely alien to me. Absolutely nothing looks familiar. Apparently it's derived from whatever they speak in Finland which explains the lack of Latin influence. The people (mainly the Magyars) seem like a nice bunch. Most I talked to spoke English, otherwise the conversation ended very abruptly. I did learn one word - mosoda - which means laundrette - that I got to say many, many times during the course of one morning. We did find one eventually.

Interestingly, the Magyars have the same blood type as the Japanese. Their language contains sounds that (along with whatever they speak in Finland) sound Japanese too. There may be some sort of connection there...

Hungary lost the largest number of Jews in the Holocaust by a huge margin. Out of interest, we visited the main Jewish Synagogue, the second largest one in the world. That was interesting as I've never been in a synagogue before, at least as far as I can remember. It resembled a church in many ways, but lacks the pictures and statues so common in Roman Catholic churches. It's also much simpler externally, with no elaborate decoration. It's still a very impressive place however.

Both P and I really liked Budapest. We would have loved to have spent a few more days there. Unfortunately, it's not possible to do everything so we'll just have to come back one day instead!

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