Monday, June 14, 2004

accommodation adventures

A couple of weeks ago, we got back from Budapest, having enjoyed 9 days or so there and in Prague. It's always difficult to write about a trip afterwards, to evoke the joys, the frustrations, the disorientation and just plain weirdness of being in another place. Actually, the weirdness is usually a good place to start.

Top of the list has to be our "private room" in Budapest. We had left things a bit late, being assured by guidebooks (note to self: remember not to believe even half the things I read in guidebooks) that there was plentiful accommodation in the Hungarian capital. We hadn't banked on Pentecost (not mentioned by Lonely Planet, of course), a big holiday in Hungary. And, as the Hungarian Taylors often reminded us when we saw them, Budapest is the only place in Hungary worth visiting. So I guess everyone flocks to the city on holiday weekends.

This is why we ended up staying with a "nice German lady" in the Casanova building (apparently he stayed there once - should be a clue to the building's state of disrepair), on the Buda side of the river. We thought it would be OK, a kind of B and B type thing, heck there was even a private bathroom. The reality was just a bit too odd, however. The "picturesque double courtyard" onto which her apartment looked was currently a building site, complete with concrete mixers and cussing builders. The roof was being repaired and, lucky us, the contraption to lift tiles up to the roof was noisily situated right outside our bedroom window.

I say bedroom, but it was actually German granny's livingroom, complete with a life's worth of nicknacks, way too personal to be comfortable. We slept on her sofabed, and had to walk through a kitchen complete with boiling pots of chicken feet to get to our room. After assuring us the builders wouldn't be working the next day (via her neighbour as we don't speak any German), they started at 8am, right outside the window. Attempts to forcefeed us strange-looking chocolate cake for breakfast didn't help.

We felt bad about not staying the full 4 nights we had arranged (I'm sure she needs the money), but 2 nights was our limit!

The agency we booked through moved us to an apartment on the Pest side of the river, a bit handier for most things. Thankfully the only odd thing about this place was that it was on the half-floor. A wee bit John Malkovich. Midway between the grandiose elegance of the ground and first floors was a much more modestly proportioned half-floor, accessible by a separate, dark and slightly dingy set of stairs. If you have a look at this photo you might see what I mean.

Another strange accom experience was delivered by the Reeves in Prague. "Come stay with us", they said. "We have a sofabed." Yeah, right. I got to sleep on the couch (which did not, in any way, fold down to a bed), while A slept on a bed made of towels (the apartment had a lot of towels), a folded rug, under a tablecloth and more towels (we had 2 x sleepingbag liners, but only one sleepingbag - that will teach us not to travel so light!). He assured us all it was quite comfortable, but his multiple abortive efforts to move in the morning suggested otherwise. Still, it was good to see the twins & their girls...just like old times.

Friday, June 11, 2004

He has really big hands

Jonah Lomu, so he does. I was very excited to get the chance to shake them last week, at Ottakar's (a nice old-style, non-Waterstone's/Borders bookstore in Edinburgh - still a chain but a small one).

The big handed one (actually, he's big all over - I think he might have towered over me while sitting down) was in town to sign his book. I don't know if I would have gone to a signing in NZ, but there's something nice about doing it here. Almost as exciting was seeing my pic in Metro the next day. Metro is a free newspaper you get on buses and trains or generally on the way to work. It's not known for the quality of its journalism, but is worth a read for the generally bizarre letters pages. For example (and I quote the entire letter here):
Can you say hello to my Aunty Duncan?
Caroline, Glasgow

See what I mean?

Got to vote in the European elections yesterday. Have yet to meet anyone who has a clue what they are all about though.

All the holes are now filled, the walls of our bedroom are painted, and it doesn't feel so much like we're living in a worksite. Which is lucky, as it's visitor season...