Monday, July 21, 2008

Better Oppressors: Turks or Hapsburgs?

For the Hungarians, the answer is the Turks, because they did not forcably convert the people they conquered, and they imported wonderful things like baths and hygiene. Whereas those crazy inbreeding Hapsburgs were oppressive Catholics that were afraid of water.

We finally made it out of Bled. The train trip to Budapest started off well enough, sharing one leg with our favourite Aussies and their leftover booze, which we all finished off mixed with some ridiculously expensive train Cokes. But two train connections later, we're on our last leg of the journey, only to find we're sharing our train cabin with an Iraqi, whose way of informing us who he was, was,"Saddam Hussein? Saddam Hussien!" pointing to himself, and then waving as if he is not personally Saddam Hussiem, but indeed similar. He laughed when he found out we were American. Yeah, I wasn't freaked out at all after that one. As we were waiting to get off the train, some Nederlanders we met informed us that there were Gypsies on the train that were stealing things.  Exit, stage left!

We finally arrived in Budapest at 11:30 at night, and let’s just say that was not the best thing to do, since there were many slightly scary characters around the train station. Luckily we met a nice lawyer lady named Olga from Moldova, who called us a cab and stayed with us til it came.

The next day, there was a festival of some kind on the bridge in front of the castle, so we did a little shopping at the vendors and listened to the music, and bought this pastry thing that was roasted on a grill with vanilla sugar on the outside, shaped like someone's calf. I know cannibalism is wrong but this was one yummy leg! We went up the castle which was more of a small town on top of the hill, when they turned on the lights and it was absolutely beautiful at night fell. It reminded me of Rome, how they both get lit up at night.The only bad thing about this place is that the men all wear speedos, and large Hungarian men just don't need to be doing that. Oh well.

Who would think that something named the House of TERROR would turn out to be one of the highlights of the trip? It was all about how the Hungarians survived the double reigns of terror under Nazism and then Communism. There was one room that was lined with wood panelling, and had plasma TVs hung at head height at even intervals down the length of the room. They showed testimonials by survivors of Nazi and Soviet atrocities, and then all the same time ended and cut to a video loop that made it look like you were inside a train car looking out at the country side beyond, on your way to some god-forsaken back-of-beyond labor camp or worse. Gave me the chills. They had Nazi and Soviet uniforms on display as well. Turns out the Hungarians were pretty stomped on as a people. Another thing our history books forgot to tell us!

Today we "took the waters" down at one of the many public baths. This one, can't spell the name for the life of me because Hungarian is the craziest language I've ever encountered, is the nicest one, housed in a Baroque style complex with huge pools to splash around in. The whole thing was surprisingly easy to figure out too, for us foreigners. We spent all of our time in the hot pool, which was much better than your normal hot tub. This thing was ginormous enough to do laps in, had fun spouts and jets, and steps all around to kick back on.

We took ourselves back to the Hilton and resigned ourselves to watching BBC World news all night, because it was the only thing of any interest in English besides MTV, and we have suffered enough of that for 8 lifetimes. The Hilton is nice, great beds and lots of space and all, but we do miss having people around at the hostels, and being more in the middle of the action. And of couse we miss the Aussies! Off to Paris tomorrow on a 14 hour layover before heading home.

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