Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chelsea in Budapest Part II

Saturday, October 26

We overslept our alarm just a little bit, and we got up around 9:30am. We again made a delicious breakfast, although slightly smaller than the previous day's. We got ready somewhat leisurely and finally made it out of the apartment around 1pm.

We headed straight for the train station to get our tickets for Monday to Bratislava. We walked to the station and we got a little lost in the underground area of the station, but finally found ticketing. The tickets ended up being slightly more expensive than we had thought, but bought them anyway. They were about 5250 HUF each. We could take any train on the day we had booked for, and she gave us a timetable. We decided to take the 1:25pm, since our checkout time was noon anyway.

When we left the station, we walked across the street to a bike rental place that I had found online. However, when we arrived at about 2:05pm, we found that they were closed from 1pm-3pm for lunch. Since the shortest amount of time we could rent for was 6 hours, and they closed at 6pm, we decided to wait until the next day to rent them, making sure to arrive there before noon. So, instead, we walked.

We headed first towards St. Stephen's Basilica. We had a basic map and a general sense of direction, so we managed to find it alright. Have I mentioned how fantastic the weather has been in Budapest? Again, it was incredible. Clear blue skies, temperatures around 75F.  I couldn't stop commenting how perfect it was and how happy I was. We walked around a park and I took a picture with a Ronald Reagan statue. We finally got to the Basilica and took some more pictures. We decided not to go inside since we were a bit tired of churches. Instead we walked towards the famous Chain Bridge that connects the Buda side with the Pest side (yes, they were once two separate towns and that's how the name Budapest came about!) across the Danube River.

I was enjoying the walk across the bridge, but Romeo seemed to find it smelly and loud, as the cars were passing next to the pedestrian walkway. I tried to take some photos, but he wasn't in the mood, which frustrated me. I was pretty annoyed that he seemed to be raining on my perfect weather parade, so when I walked away from him, I think he got frustrated with me. Basically, two stubborn people feeling indignant does not a pleasant experience make! We walked to this area where we could go up a hill to get some great views of the river and both sides of the city. We walked up in silence and after about 5 minutes, we each walked away from each other.

For the next hour, I walked around the hilly area. I believe it's called Castle Hill, because, you guessed it, there is a castle there. Well, I think it used to be a castle. There is still some building guarded by military guys with pointy guns, but it didn't look super prestigious. Rather, I enjoyed the views much more! There were so many areas to explore. I walked down the hill just a bit and found a bench with a view of the bridge. The area was relatively secluded with maybe 10 other people loitering about.

After about 5 minutes, an old lady asked in Hungarian if she could sit down next to me (I assume this is what she asked thanks to my superb body language reading skills honed by 13 months in Korea). I motioned yes, she could sit down. Maybe a minute later, she asked if I was Russian. I did not interpret this one from body language; I heard the word "Ruski" in her question. I shook my head and said "America". She nodded in understanding and went silent again. Once again, maybe 30 seconds later she pointed to herself and said "Hungarian" and "speak Ruski". I laughed and pointed to myself and said "speak English! No Ruski." She nodded, and said "Rusk" and made a dramatic spit at the ground, effectively spitting on all Russians and their homeland.

I couldn't help but laugh because I had no idea what else to do. (I wonder what she would have done/said if I HAD been Russian!). She then proceeded to explain Cyrillic to me by drawing letters on her hand, saying their sounds followed by "English?", waiting for me to nod my head, then saying another sound and saying "Cyrillic!". In effect, I think she was explaining that Cyrillic is hard because the English letters we know the sounds of (which are same in Hungarian) make completely different sounds in Russian. My mind was still spinning from my frustration with Romeo, and I didn't really have the patience or brain-power to actively participate in the conversation, so I just laughed and nodded each time she told me another character.

Eventually she told me that she was 66 years old, born in 1947 (these numbers written on her hand also), and once again spit on the ground as she said "Ruski". I assume, since she was born during the existence of the Soviet Union, and Hungary was part of the Soviet block, that she harbored some negative feelings towards Russia. I was starting to miss Romeo and speaking English in general, so I looked at my watch and pointed back towards the main lookout point up the hill, saying "My friend!" She smiled cheerfully and said "Bye bye!" The sum total of her English was "English" and "Bye bye".

I walked back to the point at which Romeo and I had split, but he wasn't there. I sat for a few minutes on a wall, then decided to walk some more. I found the best views and enjoyed them immensely, taking several photos. When I walked back again to the point I'd last seen Romeo, he was sitting on the wall there, exactly where I had sat about 20 minutes earlier waiting for him. We didn't say much but I dragged him to where the view was the best, and attempted to take a photo with him. However, my frustration and his stubbornness got the better of us and we headed back down the hill, photo-less.

At a few points in our journey down the hill and to the river, where we were to walk back to the apartment we almost broke our fight, but once more our stubbornness persevered and we barely spoke. When I paused along the river, hoping to come to a truce, his frustration got the better of him and he burst out with "Can we just go already?!" At that, a fire was lit inside me and I power walked the nearly 3 miles back to our apartment. By the time I got there, I had practically lost him in my dust. He knocked on the door about 15 minutes later (I had the only key). After a few minutes of ignoring each other, he came and sat next to me and apologized. How nice it is to hear a simple, "I'm sorry" after hours of frustration over virtually nothing. And how easy it is to feel also that you're sorry when you hear that. We hugged and it was over. Thank goodness.

Exhausted from the walk back, and also emotionally drained, we opted to go for dinner rather than cook. We wanted a nice, traditionally Hungarian meal. A google search revealed one in our neighborhood that got 4.5/5 stars on ratings. We decided to go there. It was a 2 minute walk, and after about 3 minutes of debating if it was worth the steep prices, we decided to splurge.

For starters we shared a portion of Hungarian goulash stew. It was fantastic and I knew if the entrees were of the same caliber, it was going to be a good meal! Romeo ordered bacon wrapped pork medallions with baked potatoes (essentially wedge-cut fries) and salad; I got zucchini stuffed turkey breasts with croquette potatoes and jasmine rice with a cheese sauce. Both plates were absolutely delicious and we split everything. When we finished, both plates were thoroughly.

We got the check; I put down 7575 HUF on a 7172 HUF bill. We waited for the change to come (which amounted to about $2, but since service was included in the total, we wanted that $2 back!). After maybe 5 minutes, I asked for the change. The waiter looked at me confused and I explained how much I paid and how much the bill was. He looked a little flabbergasted, but I stood my ground. He went over to the sullen-looking bartender who manned the register. Another 3-4 minutes past as he went about his business with his other tables.

Finally I flagged him down again and gave him a questioning look. He shrugged his shoulders and made some flustered sounds. I looked him dead in the eyes and said "I put down 7,575. You owe me 400." He rolled his eyes and walked to his tip jar and made a show of pulling out 400 in 20 cent increments and brought me a huge stack of change. I said if this was America, I would have a word with his manager about his attitude.

I collected my change and we walked to the door. As we walked by the bartender glared at us, which I tactfully ignored. Romeo, who had my back the entire time, told the bartender that they both needed to work on their attitudes and it was ridiculous. I was steaming mad by the time we got outside. Essentially, they ruined our otherwise fantastic meal.

We decided to go get some wine and forget about them, which is exactly what I needed. We got two more bottles of wine at the convenience store and turned in for the night. It had been a long and tiring day, and we were determined to make the most of our last day in Budapest the following day.

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