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Pest inspection

21 °C

I got out of bed at 5am after about four hours sleep. I am always amazed at how easily I wake up and how energentic I am in the mornings when I travel but back home mornings are just pure misery.

I woke up so early because I had an 8:20am flight to catch. I packed all my things within half an hour, made an awful cup of instant coffee in my room - I'll do anything for a caffeine hit - and went down to the lobby to check out and catch the free hotel airport shuttle van at six o'clock.

The van arrived on time, I and other guests boarded, but the van just sat there, the South Asian driver arguing loudly with another employee. The driver than disappeared into the hotel for a long period and finally re-emerged after ten minutes, then we were on our way.

The van joined the main road, turned right, turned right again, turned right yet again and then we were back at the same hotel. The driver disappeared inside again without any explanation and ten minutes later came back, there were some straggling guests who missed the six o'clock departure. We were all getting very antsy. I had an 8:20 flight, others had an 8:10 flight, and we were openly wondering whether the driver would ever leave.

Finally we set off again at 6:25 and the driver put the pedal to the metal on the motorway to the airport while tailgating, moving three lanes over at once without indicating, and looking at his mobile phone. The van arrived at Hamad International Airport at 6:35.

Immigration and security aren't as time-consuming when leaving Qatar; and check-in is all self-service so there were no queues. I needn't have worried, I reached my gate for Qatar Airways Flight QR199 at seven on the dot with twenty minutes to spare before boarding commenced. Kingsford Smith Airport could learn something from the Qataris. My gate was one of those stupid gates where you have to board a bus that takes passengers out to the plane waiting in the middle of the apron hundreds of metres away from the terminal.

I climbed up the stairs onto the Airbus A330 and we departed on time. The plane was lightly loaded; only three of the eight seats in my row were occupied, and only four in the row in front of me. To avoid forbidden Saudi airspace the plane went northeast over the Persian Gulf and Iran. Enormous bald brown mountains kilometres high soared into the sky directly from the waters of the Gulf coastline, with row upon row of mountains behind it. Occasionally there was a hydroelectric dam in the steep canyons between the treeless Martian mountains, and the higher elevations were capped with snow. I had no idea that Iran looked so magnificent.

The A330 continued over the azure waters of Lake Van in Turkey, then over the Black Sea (it's not bkack at all but just as blue as any ocean! False advertising!), the checkerboard steppes of Bulgaria, the bald mountains of Transylvania, and began its descent to Ferihegy airport just east of Budapest. The plane did a big U-turn over Budapest with great views of the Danube, Buda Castle, Parliament and Heroes Square.

QR199 landed on time at 12:55 and immigration for me was swift. It was surprising because in front of me were two other passengers. One was an African lady and the immigration officer was putting her through the third degree. After about ten minutes she finally got her stamp. The next passenger was a Chinese man and he got the Perry Mason treatment too. After a small eternity he got his stamp. Then I prrsented my passport. The officer quickly looked at the photo to verify it was me, scanned the passport, flicked through the pages far too quickly to actually read the stamps, and then stamped me and waved me through. It took about twenty seconds. I know that immigration officers go harder on visitors from countries whose citizens are more likely to overstay or work illegally or lodge baseless asylum claims, but it was still shocking.

There was a very long wait for my backpack, the baggae claim carousels broke down for about twenty minutes resulting in hundreds of people jn a cramped, airless hall waiting with no sign that the carousels would start working again. Finally the belt started moving, I grabbed my backpack, withdrew some Hungarian forints, bought a five day transport pass for 4,550 ft. (note: 1 Australian dollar equals 203 Hungarian forints. To convert to Australian dollars, put a decimal point to the left of the second last digit and halve the result), and caught the 200E bus to Nagyvárad tér, the temporary terminus of the M3 metro line while a section of the line is being rebuilt.

I tooķ the crowded M3 train to the major interchange of Deák Ferenc tér. The M3 was built in the 1970s and every station on that line was just pure communist dreariness. I changed to an M1 train and was pleasantly surprised. The M1 is the oldest underground railway on Mainland Europe, opening in 1896. Trains are tiny yellow three-car things, basiczlly glorified trams, and run every two minutes on a line under Adrassy Avenue where the stations are only about three blocks apart. As my train pulled into my station I burst out laughing! Awww, look at this cutesy-wutesy widdle baby twainy-wainy pwaying with the big boys!

The stations were marvellous specimens of Art Nouveau architecture too, all brown and cream tiles and inlaid station names and brass balustrades and large semi-circles. I alighted at one of them, Vörösmarty utca, strapped my backpack on, and walked two blocks to my guesthouse in the upmarket, almost Parisian suburb of Terézváros.

It was advertised as a guesthouse on Booking.com but is actually an apartment, a five-bedroom flat with the owner living in one room and renting out the other four. I checked in at twenty past three and chilled out for a while. I hadn't had much sleep and even though five-and-a-half hours isn't that long a flight, it still takes the wind out of me, especially when you factor in getting to and from the airport at both ends.

It was about six o'clock when I went out hunting for dinner, I just grabbed a felafel plate from a kebab joint in the neighbourhood, and then I caught the M1 to Széchenyi Baths, the most famous mineral spa in a country renowned for hot springs. After a long and tiring journey a restorative soak in mineral-rich waters were just what I needed. The baths are located in a large Baroque Revival palace in City Park. I had brought my swimmers and a towel, but had left my thongs (what Australians call flip-flops) in my backpack in my room. Thongs were compulsory and I could have bought some for 3,000 forints but I decided to save my money and come back on another day.

So I caught the M1 to its city centre terminus at Vörösmarty tér and went for a long evenung walk along the Danube. Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow. This will test my ability to put my wonder into words, but here goes: imagine a wide river crossed by several bridges that aren't just utilitarian methods of transportation but serious works of art in themselves. All along the river are major landmarks - an enormous neo-Gothic Parliament with domes and vaults and buttresses, a massive castle on top of a very hugh rock, a concert hall, statues and monuments, all lit up in a pleasing gold colour. Imagine all of this reflected in the shimmering black river. Add bright yellow trams going up and down the promenade on each bank every couple of minutes. What an amazing walk.

I crossed the river on the relatively modern Elizabeth Bridge, went down as far south as the patina-green Liberty Bridge and walked back up the right bank past the interesting Széchenyi Chain Bridge as far as the Margaet Bridge, one of the more unusual bridges I have seen because it's a three-way bridge with an intersection and tram stop in the middle of it that connects Margaret Island to both banks of the Danube.

I caught the tram back to Terézváros and stopped in at a hipster pub across the street from my room. I enjoyed two decent Hungarian beers, very well-deserved after such a lengthy walk, and I was surprised that the pub was playing Australian indie rock songs from the early 2000s like "Black Betty" by Spiderbait and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?" by the Jets. What, did I step into a teleport by accident and get transported throigh the space-time continuum back to King Street, Newtown circa 2004?

Iranian mountains

Iranian mountains

Lake Van in Turkey

Lake Van in Turkey

Budapest from the air

Budapest from the air

Cute little train on the M1 line

Cute little train on the M1 line

Vörösmarty utca station on the M1 line

Vörösmarty utca station on the M1 line

Buda Castle

Buda Castle

Elizabeth Bridge

Elizabeth Bridge

Liberty Bridge

Liberty Bridge

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Queen Elizabeth statue

Queen Elizabeth statue

Hungarian Parliament

Hungarian Parliament

Margaret Bridge

Margaret Bridge

Soproni beer

Soproni beer

Posted by urbanreverie 08:32 Archived in Hungary Tagged bridges budapest beer danube metro baths qatar airways

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Comments

You remind I do have to pay a visit to Hungary, our neighboring country, some day...Thanks a lot!

by Vic_IV

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