Thursday, 3 March 2011

Birthday in Budapest

I was surprised to start the day by eating my breakfast in the basement of the hotel in a Comedy and Poker club and quite a lot of red velvet!  After re-packing my rucksack (only a few days until the great purge will occur!) I headed down to the river to plan out a cruise for the afternoon.  The architecture of Budapest is truly amazing and I would love to come back in warmer weather when the trees and flowers are in bloom.  I jumped onto the very efficient metro system to go and visit the public baths and was gutted not to have put my swimming cossie into my day bag.  What a wonderful setting – reason enough to return!

I jumped into a taxi to get to the train station and was driven there by a guy who used to work at Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street.  After arriving for the train, it started to snow – far prettier from inside a warm train than on the cold platform!  I was quite surprised to find myself in a 6 birth cabin even if there were only three of us in there.  I had had a long (admittedly broken English) conversation yesterday with the lady at the ticket booth – if there was one thing I made clear, it was that I wanted to pay more money so that I didn’t end up in a 6 birth cabin (4 is fine but she didn’t have any of those). Alas… So, when the guard came to check the tickets he mentioned that another three might join us, I decided to act.  Five minutes later I had upgraded to a double deluxe with shower – hurrah!  Definitely worth the money - I shall have to be more specific when I buy my next train ticket!  Maybe this unstylish backpacker look confused the ticket office lady and she decided that I could only afford the cheapo birth.

Dinner was an interesting and unusual affair.  I popped along to the dining car and found myself the only train passenger amongst all the beer drinking train guards who were listening to some great Romanian tunes.  Choices were limited – chicken or pork with beer, spirits or juice.  As my Forints had run out, I checked if I could pay with euros – “of course – this is an international train!”.  As birthday dinners go, this is one of the most random.  Despite the surreal ambience (and me reading “The State of Africa” by Martin Meredith thanks to a recommendation from Alex Fraser last Sat eve), the restaurant manager was most attentive and my chicken was perfectly grilled and served with potatoes and tinned veg salad, along with a side bowl of picked cabbage.  An Ursus Romanian beer completed the scene.  As I have free picture messages from O2 for a few days, quite a few of you received a picture of the meal!

I curled up back in my "Double Deluxe" and watched the snowy Bulgarian and then Romanian scenery pass by.

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