We arrived late in the afternoon and only ventured out of the hotel for a meal about 6pm, so there’s not a lot we’ve seen or can comment on about Budapest. But sometimes first impressions are important, so here goes.
First, Budapest’s taxi drivers. If our experience in trying to get from the train station to the hotel, a distance of 1.3km, is anything to judge by, then the city’s taxi drivers are a bunch of mean-spirited, thieving bastards. The first guy we met at the taxi rank just waited until he heard our destination before shaking his head and refusing to take us anywhere. The next guy wanted 25 Euro. I could get from our home in Greensborough to Melbourne Airport for that, so I said No. He offered 20 Euros and I said ‘No, still too much’, so he turned his back on us. We started walking, but it was awkward with our suitcases, so we found another taxi rank. After some haggling I agreed on 15 Euros, though still believing I was being ripped off. The hotel reception staff confirmed that this was definitely the case, and promised to arrange for us an honest taxi driver when we are about to leave. Prague’s taxi drivers might also charge a bit more than they should, but they are pleasant and great conversationalists. They’re a cut above their Budapest colleagues.
The streets we walked down have a completely different look and feel to them. We didn’t see cobblestones, the thoroughfares are broad and busy, the buildings look more modern, and there are no yobbo beer drinking tourists. Whereas Prague often looked medieval, Budapest looks 18th or 19th century.
We were disappointed to find the famous Opera House completely enshrouded in building site cladding while it undergoes restoration. I had been feeling quite pleased with myself for booking a hotel right next door to the grand opera house, but at the moment it seems I’ve simply booked a place to stay next to a building site. Just a few doors down the street, however, we found a cat cafe, so it’s good to know Budapest has a quirky side too.
Three upcoming concerts were advertised. Which one would I choose? Paul Anka? I thought he died years ago. He’s the guy whose song became a hit, believe it or not, for Ernie Sigley and Denise Drysdale. Slayer? Ah no, I’m no headbanger. But I’ll bet some of those beer drinking Brits in Prague would have bought tickets if they were in town, providing of course that beer would be served in the stadium. So I guess it would be Tom Jones, who at least was cool enough to record with Van Morrison. And Green, Green Grass of Home would be very fitting, as the Hungarian fields we passed through on our earlier train journey were a brilliant shade of green.
Tomorrow we’ll go for a long walk and see what we can find, but first impressions are that Budapest is looking good – apart from those bloody taxi drivers!