It has been an interesting couple of days. There is lots to see and do in a big city but we will be happy to have Budapest in our rear view mirror tomorrow. Nothing wrong with Budapest, we just find ourselves more at ease in smaller places.
We are staying in a quite large 3 bedroom apartment. Until yesterday afternoon we had the place to ourselves. The landlord doesn’t live here and no one who does notices us. Unlike Ljubljana, there isn’t a common area to hang out in or a bar right next door. In short, there aren’t any people to talk with around us. Of course, we talk to waiters and coffee servers, but hardly anyone we aren’t buying something from. We find that when we are out of big cities we have more chance to interact with the locals in a non-commercial way. Seems to make a big difference for us.
Budapest is a very clean city. There are a lot of folks going around with brooms and bins sweeping up the streets and gutters. Debb and I guess that 95% of what gets swept up is cigarette butts. Must be millions of them. I think more people smoke here than in the west. There are lots of places you can’t smoke but outside it seems like everyone does.
The sidewalks are completely empty. There are no scooters or motorcycles parked next to buildings or on wide sidewalks next to curbs. We see lots of two-wheeled machines running around but where they park is a mystery. Both of us think parking must be very strictly controlled.
Budapest is getting smaller, population-wise. The number of folks living in the city limits has dropped by 10% in the last 10 years. They are moving to the suburbs. Our landlady has two daughters who are MDs and she bought this place so they would have a place to practice. They are having none of it. When you get up to the top of a hill on the Buda side of the river you can see just how spread out the city is.
In one of my favorite movies, The English Patient, Ralph Fiennes plays the part of Hungarian Count Laszlo de Almásy. In the movie he has (what I would call) a quite severe haircut; cut short on the sides and long on top. A great many men in Budapest wear their hair exactly like that.
Tight pants and even tighter leggings here, for women. I think we have seen three women in a dress. Men, too; tight jeans or slacks with almost everything. Lots of men carry a small bag, and they all wear what I’m sure most American men would call ‘prissy’ shoes.
We did find a Starbucks so Debb could spend some time in her natural habitat. We found two, actually. I think there are 7 or 8 in downtown Budapest. There are several coffee places that are trying very hard to emulate Starbucks. Big block green letters, bigger than normal umbrella seating, and more ‘Americanized’ drinks. There are hundreds of coffee shops here.
In addition to all the euro brands of cars not imported into the US, there are lots of models that aren’t brought in by brands you know. Some are beautiful, others are wretched. A BMW 116D, available in two or four doors is awful. There is a Honda Civic model that is equally disgusting. Maybe the oddest is a Smart sports car. I have seen two and they were different years but both were very small and oh-so-ugly.
One little eastern-block junker had a slot in the passenger door window with a little basket attached inside. A sign taped to the window: “All donations will go toward my maintenance” I think I need one of those for my old XS650.
It has been quite cold here the last couple of days. We are hoping it warms up as we are headed north again.