Thursday, October 19, 2006

Buddha Pesht

Budapest is truly a beautiful city. Up there with Prague, maybe even above it. There's beautiful old buildings lining every street, gothic churches and baroque castles on hills shouldering the Danube. It's a bit dirty and still a bit eastern european, but shit. You want to go somewhere different right? While having a healthy tourist industry, Budapest doesn’t have the same “seething with tourists” feeling Prague had. Granted, things are starting to cool down and the crowds aren’t as strong, but the city’s famous bridge is still in use and you can walk over it without seeing another tourist. And there are two towns here. Old Buda and new Pest. East si-ade and West si-ade. Buda, nestled among the hills on the west side of the Danube, has some cool buildings, with little some places retaining their 1,000-year-old Turkish roots. Pest, on the eastern flatter side of the river is the “newer” city, with buildings dating back only 600 years and most of the streets looking a bit like an unpainted Vienna. As with all the big Euro cities I’ve visited, there isn’t that much sprawl as most of the population lives in flats and apartments within or just around the heart of the city. (Can someone tell me the difference between the two, because I’ve always had the impression “apartment” was an Americanisation of the perfectly functional Australian word “flat”) – Being such compact places, riding a bike from A to B isn’t such a challenge. The cobblestones, non-grid city layout and crazy drivers who like to lean on their horns (prfftt – Slats slaps you on the shoulder), do make it more interesting. However, to totally trump my experience in Prague, I’m going to have to get locked in Parliament House.

Today I went for a big ride around the city. I first headed north, took a few random back streets and ended up back here, where I entered into the city properly on my way into Budapest. I got to see some of the Soviet style multilevel housing and follow some footworn tracks through fields to see where they ended up. One of them led me to a disused military base and rail yard, which has been converted to a place for scraping and recycling metal and other reusable stuff. Hidden amongst all of this I found Attila and Gustav, two homeless guys who lived together in an old rail car on the border between the train line and the scrap yard. They were burning old PCBs to melt down some of the aluminium they had found so they could resell it to the nearby yards. We shared handshakes, names and smiles, but due to the language barrier, not much else. As we gestured to each other in international why can’t they understand me charades, the toxic black smoke from their fire wafted over through the “conversation”. I coughed and tried to indicate that the smoke from the fire (complete with exploding capacitors and batteries), wasn’t too healthy to breath in. They just laughed at me and took big exaggerated breaths of the stuff. Oh well. These people had nothing, we couldn’t communicate and the smoke was probably going to give us all cancer. But sitting there in the sun sharing some apples I had, it really didn’t matter.

After that I headed over to Buda via the Castle on the hill. This ride is becoming one of my favourite bits of Budapest, with the old back roads leading up to the castle being pretty much devoid of traffic and the views always satisfying. Coming down the other side was entertaining, with a windy snake of a road, with multiple bends all hairier than Devils Elbow. I spent the afternoon in a café, drinking coffee and attempting to read what I think were magazines about Hungarian advertising. Then I rode back to the flat across a different bridge and was again surprised at just how good Frankenbike is. I did however lose my beanie, which was clamped to my rear rack. Another thing I like in Budapest but can’t be bothered weaving into a story (and my hands are starting to freeze), is watching the gulls on the Danube float down with the flow of the river, only to fly back upstream when they reach the shadow of the bridges.

My Host
How do you measure weight? Pounds or Kilos? Ounces or Grams? Imperial or Metric? I’m staying with someone who uses time and distance to measure weight. “I can lift 89 minutes, but the house record is 169 minutes”, says Vera, my latest Hospitality Club host. She works at an arty cinema as a projectionist and clerk. Over morning coffees, I can tell which work she’ll be doing during the day by what she is wearing: - Jeans, Docs, T-shirt = Projectionist - Dress over slacks, heeled boots, makeup = cashier (today, I dress like a woman). - Vera is a super chilled woman with a great laugh and plenty of good friends. For those with their minds in the gutter, there’s no funny business between us. Besides, she already has a Czechoslovakian lover who goes by the name Meo 5 XB.

The other night, Vera and I went out for a drink to a place call Szimple. This is a huge pub set in the courtyard and ground floor of an apartment building a few streets over from her flat. You walk in past security and you are greeted by an indoor hang up bike rack, which is something sadly missing from Australian establishments. The pub itself has a downstairs band/club area that fires up on weekends with the rest of the place decked out with a mish-mash or seats, couches, lamps and tables. We grabbed a table in the beer garden and Vera went to buy some beers. As I was sitting alone at the table, I became aware of a bunch of guys staring at me from within the pub. I did a few of the stretch/surreptitious looks, and yes, they were looking at me, occasionally pointing and nodding. Not knowing their intentions, I returned to looking at my hands and just as my fingernails had become interesting, the group approached the table and asked in a friendly American accent if they could join me. We ended up chatting about the wonders of Hungary and what we all thought of Budapest. They mentioned the renaming of the pedestrian bridge outside their campus The Steven Colbert Bridge, and the lefty political jokes began to flow free and fast. We all bounced our thoughts, impressions and questions off of Vera and she was happy to give us a Hungarian take on the world around us. A couple of Finnish girls joined the group, and I scored some brownie points with my Kiitos (thanks) and Getpissed (cheers), which are the only two words I remember from Finland. As I was getting up to return a broken glass to the bar, I fell over and scuffed my knee in a nasty way and ripped my trusty Hard Yakka pants. They were coming to the end of their serviceable life, but it was still a shit to rip them, and made me swear in Hungarian. This did give me an excuse to go shopping and I am now sporting a nice pair of brown cords, with a spare pair of army pants for bike riding. Total cost: 3200 Forint ($19 AUD). My knee still hurts. Oh.. While the weather during the day is dreamy, it is getting pretty chilly at night now. Almost time to crack out the gloves.

A couple of nights ago, we returned to Szimple, but this time with Veronica, an old friend of Vera’s. We took up a cosy spot on a big couch and started chatting about the world. About one beer into the conversation, I could hear some English floating in from the other room, and the nasal but slightly British accent with the occasional sentence ending on a high alerted me to South Australians. I did what I usually do when I think I hear an Australian accent and slowly walk past for a second listen. Yep, they’re from Adelaide. I sit down and say “so which bit of Australia do you come from?” The girls answer in unison “Adelaide”, and I say “Shit, me too”. This is where my fellow Adelaidians disappointed me. Rather than asking “so what do you think of Hungary?” or “isn’t this a crazy co-winky-dink?”, the bullshit Adelaide question of “so, what school did you go to?” gets pulled out. Now, in some parts of the world, this question is used to get a frame of reference or locality for the enquirer as to determine if they might live near or know these people in some other way. Not in Adelaide. It is the question that is asked to determine your financial status or place of your parents within society. The great thing is, the only people who ask this question can only have gone to one of about 10 schools, with gender, clothing and annunciation narrowing down the selection even further. Besides, I went to a shitty day care state school and whenever Adelaide people ask me this and I tell them the name of my school, they get this confused look on their face, shrug and ask “where’s that?”. I say “near Port Adelaide” and they respond “oh.. Port Adelaide.. I see”. In the hope that these Adelaide peeps might want to veer away from the script, I say “C’mon. Like that matters. We’re in Hungary. Isn’t this cool we ran into each other? So, what do you think of Budapest?”. Sorry, not good enough.

“Nah.. What school did you go to?”
“Le Fevre High”
Confused look, shrugged shoulders
“Where’s that?”
“Near Port Adelaide”
“oh.. Port Adelaide.. I see”

After getting slapped for suggesting the girls went to Walford, I returned to Vera and Veronica’s table in a bit of a stink and explained what had just happened. About an hour later, the two Adelaide girls came over and asked if they could join us. By that time, I had gotten over my little working class badge wearing and offered them a chair. We talked for a while and we started to compare Adelaide notes, actually using where and what we studied to determine if we did know each other and not the brand of daddy’s car. There was this weird sense of recognition and after a bit of Q&A, it finally clicked. One of the Mercedes girls and I had shared a tute last year in Marxism in the 21st Century, one the lefty subjects offered by the brilliant but recently deceased Paul Nursery Grey. When I thought about it the next day, the coincidence of meeting someone from uni in a random backstreet bar in Budapest was only outdone by the irony of what we studied together and the opening question about what school I went to.

As my previous post said I just finished a video I haven’t touched for a while. This was fun and has helped put me in a moving on/life continues mood. Slight tech problem though. Adobe Premier isn’t doing so well putting the footage back to the camera. This is a pain in the arse, as I would like to keep the footage, but not have it taking up about 14gigs on my hard drive. If any geeks out there could suggest a simple dump to tape program I can use to output this DV footage back to the camera, I would be most appreciative.

I keep getting asked "So, What is the Australian "Cheers"? Up ya bum last time I checked. But be careful how you say the Hungarian version of cheers - Egészségedre. Most non-Hungarians pronounce it ag-a-shag-a-der, which roughly translates to with your whole arse. Close enough.


fartine said...

see - i told you the 'getting locked in buildings' thing would soon turn into an unfortunate fetish. i've been eyeing off the santos building, but i think they have security guards who would rescue me too soon. ahem.

Eleanora Martinez said...

Funny that you think that the school question is so much about class . . had a funny experience of the same kind in Kyoto. The previous week there'd not been a single Auslandian except myself, but the next week all the people at the hostel seemed to be Auskids . . and there were two boys from Adelaide. We tried the "what school did you go to?" to discover the expected link . . . but to no avail. Weird!

Further to the Adelaide 2 degreesness . . . I knew a girl in Hiroshima for about 4 months before I realised that I knew her sister . . and we thought we didn't have an connection.
Sasuga Adelaide!

Nice one with the kittos . . the only other word I recall from my time in Finland is 'hissi'.

You've really got me wanting to get to Europia asap with all this exciting blogginess! Budapest sounds great!

Must be time to go explore A-town . . it still feels pretty foreign at times.
Here I come Rundle Mall . . .

dan murphy said...

Fartine: try the Shultz Building at Adelaide Uni. Security is pretty lax and there's plenty of confined spaces where you can easily be trapped for at least one night.

Ellie: I guess the question could have been better phrased "So what class are you in?" - Ah Adelaide. How I miss thee. Give the balls a big kiss from me. Hang on.

Eric(K) Wahlrab said...

Dear Dan( I'm the guy you met yesterday at the laptop convention in lawries,)

an apartment is a flat which a rich person lives in while students and poor people live in flats, i hope that's kinda clear?

apartment rich/poser
flat poor/ realist(?)

my 3rd year geography teacher taught me that