I’ve moved in next door to some Romanians and they’re not liking it one bit. They seem to think I’m lowering the tone of the neighbourhood and they have a point. I’ve managed not to steal their babies but I think I blotted my copybook by burning tyres in the garden. I pretended I was doing it to keep warm, but really it was just great fun. Very stuffy, these embassy types.
Otherwise the trip is going pretty well. I’ve been out 10 days or so and I haven’t had a heart attack yet (Claire), I dodged a bullet by heading south and missing Krakow, which is apparently now well below zero, and Tottenham have just given the Hammers a well-deserved thumping.
I had the choice of watching the game in an English pub called John Bull or an Irish pub called Irish Pub. I’d had a coffee in the John Bull yesterday, having popped in to confirm that they would be showing the game but when I saw a friendly Guinness sign this afternoon, I thought I’d take a chance there as the atmosphere could hardly be worse than in the charmless doily-laden John Bull. I was right, but only just.
In fact the only blemish in my life at the moment is the backlog of posts piling unwritten up like overdue library books. There’s got to be one from the Ruhrgebiet in Germany, where I spent three very pleasant days with Martin and Babette, when I wasn’t battling the arcane email setup in WordPress (or is it my server?) and since then I’ve passed four very happy days in Prague, which I imagine I could stretch out to a bit more than a clause in a post about Budapest.
Just as the realisation dawned that I was doomed to be forever a week behind in my blogging, a solution came to me. Just jack the whole thing in and have a holiday. (No, just kidding.) Since I’d already nicked my blog’s subtitle from Quentin Tarantino, maybe I could also borrow the timeline he used in Pulp Fiction. So, dear Reader, feel free to take a pair of scissors and rearrange the posts in chronological order, but bear in mind that you’ll be messing with Art.
So, Budapest. (Remember Budapest? This is a post about Budapest.) It seems appropriate that I’m reading a biography of Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who hoped to free his people from the Austro-Hungarian empire with his assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand and instead precipitated the first world war. For all its recent history within the Warsaw Pact, Budapest still feels like the capital city of a major empire, retaining many of its great and beautiful buildings and shrugging off its communist past like a bad dream. Or so it seems. The city feels very wealthy and cultured.
Only football has forced me into crap pubs, all the other places I’ve visited have been pleasant and welcoming without being cloying. I’ve found a great cafe in the Jewish Quarter that makes a proper cup of coffee and today I also had lunch there. In general though, I’ve had enough of mitteleuropean food. The fried cheese with his handmade tartare sauce in Prague pretty much did me in, and a Vienna schnitzel on my first night here sealed it with a burp. Great beer, though. I’ve more or less become an alcoholic by my pathetic standards. Anyway, I’ve found an excellent Chinese restaurant where the food is cheap and tasty, and the service reassuring abrupt.
Tomorrow I plan to wallow in a nearby spa and plot the journey to Sarajevo, my next major destination. Until now I’ve been AirBnbing it, which is great for comfort, relatively cheap (£11 a night in Prague – slap-dab in the centre – and not much more here in the heart of Budapest’s embassyland) but not so good for the social life. I discovered today that I’m losing my voice for want of using it.