Blogapest (Part III)

Ah, the final instalment of my trilogy, where all loose ends are tied-up, and our half-term city break in Budapest concludes.

If you haven’t yet read parts one and two, here are a couple of links, and the rest of us will have to wait while you catch up:

Part I – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Part II – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/03/06/blogapest-part-ii/

Ready? Off we go then….

Wednesday 19th February 2020

For our final full day in this gorgeous city, before our flight home the following lunchtime, we had decided to visit the ‘Buda’ side of the Danube (I wasn’t aware until relatively recently, that Hungary’s capital comprised the separate regions of ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, until their unification in 1873), as this is the ‘older’ side of the river, and with my wife being a History teacher, she was keen to check it out.

Amazingly, for a couple who had only arrived less than 48 hours earlier, we now felt confident enough on the excellent public transport system to metro and bus our way over the river, and having disembarked by the funicular cable car, we decided this method of transport was preferable to walking up the giant hill to the top (albeit considerably more expensive, for what was a two minute journey tops).

Once at the summit, we spent some time admiring the views over the city, then wandered around for a bit (at one point passing a museum that did nothing whatsoever to draw us in, although that might have been due to the pile of bin bags left by the entrance, which my wife complained ‘stank like shit’, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her the smell was actually the side-effects of my hangover mixing with the spicy hot dog sausages I had consumed for breakfast), and we then headed down the twisting streets of Buda towards the Matthias church.

En route, we passed an underground cave network, called – rather appropriately – ‘Labyrinth’ – and since I had read about this online before our trip, we decided to go in. Once inside, there were certain aspects of this ‘attraction’ I had been expecting (paying a fortune to get in, dark tunnels with low ceilings, creepy music in the background, etc.) but there were certainly other aspects which came as a big surprise.

In order of weirdness, they were:

  1. Being followed around by a creepy Albanian lady – who, I have to stress, was another visitor to the caves, rather than an employee stalking us;
  2. Several rooms of entirely unexplained waxwork figures, who were terrifying enough anyway (they would not have looked out of place on a particularly shit-your-pants episode of ‘Dr Who’), but I could have sworn I saw a few of them move slightly out of the corner of my eye;
  3. However, head and shoulders above everything else on the weird scale, was the laminated picture of three guinea pigs attached to one of the cave walls, with no explanation whatsoever as to why it was there.

On our way out, we noticed a sign proudly exclaiming that ‘Labyrinth’ had apparently been voted the eighth best attraction in the whole of Europe, which is nonsense, because it wasn’t even the eighth best attraction in Budapest.

From there, we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion (which was not, as I had first suspected, a seafood restaurant, but rather a large terrace offering terrific views of the capital), and sat down to enjoy a traditional ‘chimney cake’ with a hot chocolate.

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Chimney Cake

After a bit of exploring – during which, my wife was extremely pleased with herself for correctly identifying which saint had been portrayed in a statue (if only she had put as much effort into my ‘guess which former footballer died in my dream last night?’ game *eye roll*), and we then decided to pay to look around the Matthias church, even though I generally object to paying for the privilege of visiting a place of worship.

Now, I can enjoy a beautifully crafted church as much as the next man (assuming he enjoys a beautifully crafted church), and this was right up there with the prettiest, but I was far more taken with some of the weird-as-fuck statues and exhibits they had inside as we looked around. For example:

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My first reaction to this particular figurine was that the mother and baby have exactly the same face (I know parents often look like their children, but that kid is at least forty), and then I noticed the deranged potato-headed man ‘upskirting’ the mother.

For lunch, I was determined to source some traditional Hungarian goulash (for the uninitiated, this is a sort of spicy soup or stew), and having found two cafes serving the country’s most famous national dish – and following twenty minutes of walking between the two, because I am so indecisive – we finally settled ourselves at a table and waited to be served.

Once we had ordered our drinks (I was becoming quite accustomed to Hungarian beer by this point in our trip), my wife nipped to the toilet, and had not returned by the time the waiter brought our drinks over.

As he approached our table, he carefully placed my wife’s hot chocolate in front of her empty place, before lifting my pint off the tray in his hand, bringing a rather damp receipt stuck to the bottom of it. Then, as he passed my pint over to me, the receipt became unstuck, and we both watched as it slowly floated down and nestled gently on my crotch.

I know this was not intentional on his part, but I still looked up at him for a reaction, and he then looked back at me for the same. I stared at him, he stared at me. I stared down at the receipt on my crotch, and so did he. What felt like an age passed by, without either of us wanting to acknowledge the damp bit of paper clinging to the front of my jeans until, finally, he gleefully shouted “voila!” and walked off.

That unfortunate incident aside, my first experience of goulash was highly enjoyable, the selection of cakes for dessert was amazing (I opted for a slice of Kinder Bueno cake, which looked a little like the one below), and the cafe ended up playing both ‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Charles & Eddie and Roxette, so the music choices were impeccable as well. All in all, I would highly recommend this particular cafe, if only I could remember what the fuck it was called.

On our way back to the hotel, we briefly visited a BrewDog (like most Brits abroad, I cannot resist the temptation of trying something British to see if it’s the same in another country), but when I realised a half-pint of Punk IPA was going to set me back nearly £4, we moved swiftly on.

Having investigated plans for our final evening meal in Budapest, we decided to head to an American-style ‘Speakeasy’ bar called Fat Mo’s, and despite a brief mix-up when we initially entered the wrong part of the bar, and were quickly ushered elsewhere by a group of men who may well have been part of the Hungarian mafia, I have to say the recommendations online were bang on – the place was amazing.

Ok, it was deserted when we first got there, but in fairness it was only around 6.30pm, and the place soon filled up the nearer it got to the live music at 7.30pm. In fact, such was our enjoyment of the food, drinks and music on offer, we stayed there all night – and I racked up a bill of nearly £100 in the process. Oops.

In fact, the only thing which soured an otherwise enjoyable evening, was a trio of American men coming in and sitting at the bar, of which one was particularly sure of himself, and wanted the entire bar to know how wonderful and funny he was. Spoiler alert: he was a twat.

By way of example, at one point he asked the Hungarian barmaid if she knew any American phrases, and when she nervously replied with ‘erm…. what’s up?’, he bellowed, ‘Ha! What’s up? I’ll tell ya what’s fucking up, this fucking drink is what’s fucking up, sweetheart!’ Look, I enjoy swearing, perhaps more than most, but that’s just excessive.

Amazingly, however, he was not the most socially unacceptable American we would encounter on the remainder of our trip, as the following morning, while travelling on the shuttle bus back to the airport, my wife and I noticed a man with an American accent (and, from that, we deduced he was American), sat right behind the driver with a rucksack on his lap. Then, soon after leaving the city centre, he opened the rucksack and took out two items: a metal tin, and a giant red pepper, a bit like this one:

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He then proceeded to roll back the metal lid of the tin, filling the entire bus with the stench of fish paste (I’m assuming it was some form of mackerel), before dipping his giant pepper – not a euphemism – into the paste and eating it. What kind of delinquent sociopath eats pepper and fish paste as a snack, let alone on a crowded bus where at least one passenger was feeling delicate (and, therefore, homicidal) after consuming several rum and cokes in a speakeasy-themed bar the night before?

Even more amazingly, in the half hour journey to the airport, he devoured two of these giant peppers, dipped in four, yes four, tins of fish slop, which he then deposited on the floor of the bus. Who does that?

Thankfully, the shuttle bus arrived at the airport just before I resorted to inserting one of the peppers into him, and aside from an unusual incident inside the terminal, where one lady appeared to genuinely struggle with the normally straightforward concept of sitting down, our journey home was uneventful.

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Sitting: complicated

Thanks for reading x

p.s. – it was Peter Crouch who died in my dream.

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Blogapest (Part II)

Previously, on ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad’….

… this: https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Don’t be so fucking lazy and go read it for yourself.

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Following a delicious cooked breakfast in our hotel (although, why can none of our European neighbours do breakfast sausages properly? Spicy hot dog sausages with a cooked breakfast, really?), we headed out to explore Budapest – which, it has to be said, was far less intimidating than we had found the route to our hotel the night before.

In fairness, that may be because we took the wrong road from the bus stop (although, I maintain, only because they hadn’t labelled the map/streets properly) and ended up in what appeared to be their gangland district. It probably wasn’t, and was most likely just a not-quite-as-nice part of the city, away from the main tourist spots, but when you’re walking down a dark alley in a foreign country, and there are groups of men huddled together in the shadows, it’s hard not to be a little frightened. Look, I’ve seen Hostel (which was, admittedly, set in Slovakia, but it’s close enough).

Having wasted a couple of hours at two different shopping centres, looking for a Hungarian football shirt for Ollie’s collection, we then decided to visit The House of Terror; which is not – as the name might suggest – a form of jovial tourist attraction (like the dungeons in London and York), but a museum focusing on the fascist and communist regimes throughout Hungary’s 20th Century history (as well as being a fitting memorial to the victims).

Now, I try to keep my blog entries light-hearted and humourous whenever possible, and there is certainly nothing even remotely amusing about the interrogation and torture of innocent Hungarians, but our visit did feature two moments of inadvertent humour, both relating to pigs.

Firstly, one display featured an image of lots of pigs (the importance of which was not entirely clear) accompanied by the caption: “Proudly displaying their Porkers!” Now, call me childish if you like (and I’m sure you will), but to a man who enjoys nothing more than some genital-related innuendo, this was fucking gold.

Shortly afterwards, we entered a series of corridors, which twisted and turned through the museum, and all the walls appeared to be made of a white, wax-like substance. Sadly, photographs were prohibited inside the museum (and, if the solid-granite lump of security guard on the main door was anything to go by, I had no plans to risk a quick snap), but I have found the following image on Google:

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As my wife and I questioned what the waxy substance might be, a tour guide crept up behind us, then suddenly barked “PIG FAT!” at me, before walking away. Naturally, I responded with “Ok, love, no need to call me names”, but I don’t think she heard (NB: a similar incident once occurred when we were in a fabrics souk in Morocco, and I mistakenly assumed the trader was referring to me, when he shouted ‘cheap pouf’).

After a quick lunch at the highly-recommended Pizzica (I shall leave you to guess the cuisine yourselves), and an even quicker drink at the nearby ‘360 Bar’ – which offered stunning views from the rooftop – we headed to the magnificent Opera House, where we had tickets for the afternoon tour.

Now, I should stress from the outset, neither my wife nor I have ever been to the opera, neither of us have much of a desire to ever go to the opera, and neither of us have the first fucking clue what is going on at the opera (for some reason, it tends to be sung in Italian, which is all very lovely and romantic sounding compared to, say, scouse, but is also marginally harder to understand), however we had heard how impressive the building was, so we decided to go on a tour.

Unfortunately, it transpires that the main auditorium in Budapest’s Opera House has been closed for renovation for around two years (it was due to be finished by now, but rumour has it the work will take at least another two years to complete), however the tour still allowed us access to some impressive areas of the building, and I have found the following image online, to add to my own collection of photos:

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The ticket price also included a short operatic performance, and while I have no idea what they were singing about, from the way he seemed agitated during his lines, and from the photos I managed to snap throughout the performance, I can only assume the general gist was ‘Hurry the fuck up, and choose something to wear, we’re late for dinner’.

Sadly, once the performance was over, so was the tour, and we were ushered out of the building before I had chance to try on one of the dresses (I don’t know what it is, but place me near to some elaborate dressing-up, and the urge to put on a dress is incredibly overwhelming):

Before dinner (for which I had special plans), we returned to our hotel, where I suggested my wife rest for a bit while I braved the nearby Post Office, to try and change my out-of-date currency. Fortunately, I located the Post Office without too much trouble, but that is where my luck ended, because once inside I had no idea what to do.

Having stood around for a while, I realised that everyone around me was holding a ticket in order to visit the correct cashier, but the only machine I could see turned out to be dispensing lottery tickets, so off I went in search of something else.

I then discovered what I assumed must be the correct machine and, having watched over the shoulder of the person in front, I discovered how to change the language settings, and my fortunes seemed to be improving. Only, once I had got the instructions into English, I was presented with eight different services, none of which seemed to cater for currency exchange. So, I opted for ‘personal banking’, assuming that was the closest to what I needed, and nervously took my ticket.

As I joined the queue, however, it struck me that only one of the ten counters seemed to be dealing with tickets starting with ‘8’, as mine was, and the person in front of me had been sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Indeed, at least twenty minutes passed, before a cashier at a different counter took pity and called me over.

Unfortunately, as I approached her she noticed my ticket and the old currency I was holding, and starting repeatedly shouting “NUMBER TWO!” directly into my face. I briefly contemplated explaining that I didn’t require the lavatory, thank you very much, but thought better of it. Thankfully, when she realised I was (a) English, and (b) utterly clueless, she quickly swapped my notes and ushered me away to fuck up someone else’s day.

Purely out of curiosity, I went back to the machine on my way out and, having checked again, it transpired the second option (“NUMBER TWO!”), referred in very small letters to ‘currency’, which I might have spotted had I not been so flustered in the first place. Oh well, I never needed to come back, and having considered turning back to the cashier to show her I understood what she meant by putting two fingers up, I inadvertently dispensed another ticket from the machine, and scarpered.

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For dinner that evening, I had reserved a table on the Legenda Candlelit Cruise (I’m quite the romantic at times), which was a two-and-a-half hour, four-course, dinner cruise down the Danube.

I had only made our reservation the week earlier, and having noticed reviews online suggesting a table by the window offered the best views (well, duh), I contacted the company via Facebook to enquire whether it was possible to reserve such a table. To their credit, they responded within a matter of hours, to state that tables tended to be allocated in the order of booking, so I had no chance. However, when I replied to explain that the cruise was for my wife’s 40th, they said they would see what they could do.

Sure enough, as we boarded the boat, the kind people at Legenda had indeed reserved a seat right next to the window for us and, having ordered our complimentary drink, we sat down to enjoy the cruise.

In short, the meal was fantastic, the views stunning, and since there was an open-air section at the back of the boat, we decided to try and get a photo of the two of us with the spectacular Parliament building behind us as we sailed past.

Only, while stood outside awaiting the perfect moment for our selfie, my wife glanced back inside the boat and noticed a flustered looking waitress stood by our empty table. The couple to the right then pointed in our direction, the waitress spotted us out on the deck, and started to head our way – carrying my wife’s dessert with a candle in it. Typically, I had once again made a cock of things, by suggesting we pop outside the boat at the very moment they were bringing a birthday surprise for her.

In my defence, I probably spared her the embarrassment of the entire boat singing ‘Happy Birthday’ (which she would have hated), and how was I to know the organisers had decided to do this for her? Still, it was very sweet, and if you ever travel to Budapest I can highly recommend this particular cruise (perhaps, if my blog ever takes off, I might one day get paid for these plugs).

Anyway, we then took the tram and metro back to our hotel, decided to brave the bar one more time (only to find it was the same barman as the evening before, and he still hadn’t forgiven me for accidentally tipping him 25p) and then called it a night.

To be concluded….

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Blogapest (Part I)

My friends, family, and those of you on Facebook who have been paying attention, should be aware that I recently took my wife to Budapest for a few days in half-term, as part of her 40th birthday present. In truth, she was forty in November, nearly six weeks prior to my own big birthday (so help me, I do like an older woman), but she hates surprises, so I gave her the tickets in November, along with a guide book to this beautiful city, in order that she could plan the trip with me.

And, since I seemingly cannot go anywhere without becoming embroiled in some sort of comical or embarrassing incident (I appear to be a magnet for the unusual, and bear in mind we didn’t have Isaac with us this time), I thought I would tell you all about it – in the form of a postcard home to my followers. Ok, we’ve been back more than a week, but when was the last time a postcard got back to the UK before you did? Exactly.

Enjoy.

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Monday 17th February 2020

In order to make my wife’s birthday trip extra special, I decided to book the ‘Escape Lounge’ at Manchester airport, where, for around £20 each (I had a discount code), we could relax in style before our flight to Budapest, with all the complimentary food and drink we could manage. And, yes, that did include alcohol, but, fortunately, I still hadn’t fully recovered from my own birthday celebrations the weekend before (psychologically, rather than physically), so there was no danger of my becoming too inebriated to board the flight.

Anyway, when I booked this special treat just a few weeks earlier, I was blissfully unaware that I would be receiving my own ‘special treat’ before we even reached the lounge, in the form of getting felt up by a security guard at the baggage check. Look, I have flown before (albeit, not for a few years), so I am aware of the standard procedure for removing one’s belt – and sometimes shoes – before being patted down by a humourless airport employee, but on this occasion the chap in question insisted on running his gloved hands around the inside of my jeans waistband and then boxers, and in doing so caressed one of his long latex-clad fingers across my chap.

Worse, not only did he fail to react to becoming intimate with my intimates (so I assume it was intentional, rather than accidental), but when I made the snap decision to lighten the mood by giggling nervously and saying ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a weapon’, his facial expression remained entirely stoic. I therefore opted against suggesting he should take me for dinner before touching me up again in the future.

Following my own personal ‘baggage check’, The Escape Lounge itself was very nice, and the lady who greeted us perfectly pleasant, but it soon transpired that they would do everything possible to prevent me from getting my money’s worth out of the unlimited food and drink. Not only were the plates for the breakfast buffet ludicrously small (I smirked to myself when recalling the scene from I’m Alan Partridge, where Alan takes his own ‘big plate’ down to breakfast), but after I had been up twice the food started to run out – much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers – long before the lunch service was due to start.

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Then, when I made the decision that 11am was a perfectly acceptable time for a beer (at airports, time is irrelevant, so you can start drinking at 5am if you so wish), I approached the bar to see what draught beer they had on offer. Fortunately, the one beer available was acceptable, so I asked for a pint of that.

“I’m afraid we only serve halves, Sir.”

“But it’s unlimited, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, I’ll have two halves, please.”

Soon after I had worked my way through a few halves of beer (not to mention eyeing up the recently served lunch menu at the buffet table, with less than half an hour to our flight), we went to our gate and boarded the Jet2 plane waiting to take a load of Brits to Budapest.

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Obligatory plane photo

And, it would seem, a load of Brits cannot board a plane without entirely fucking it up, because not only did a group of people (I believe the technical term is ‘morons’), ignore the boarding procedure – leading to those in the front few rows holding up the entire queue while they fannied about loading their bags and taking their seats with no sense of urgency whatsoever – but shortly after my wife and I correctly took our seats (when instructed to do so), it quickly became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the plane.

It later transpired, one couple had either accidentally or deliberately ignored their seat allocation (either way, I despised them), but when the passengers who should have been in those seats boarded the plane, they simply followed suit and sat somewhere else, rather than tell them to fuck off.

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Worse, Brits being Brits, all the remaining passengers then did exactly the same, rather than create a scene, which eventually created a scene anyway, as the final couple to board could not sit together – let alone anywhere near their original seats.

One poor flight attendant then had to make a quarter of the plane stand up and switch around, all because of the original couple who, to my horror, were not then thrown out of the fucking door at twenty-thousand feet as a punishment. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why I would not make for a good flight attendant (indeed, any public service position requires at least rudimentary patience with the public, and I generally hate people at the best of times, let alone Brits going abroad).

Thankfully, this incident only slightly delayed our flight taking off, and we actually landed ahead of schedule, thanks to the tail-end of Storm Dennis (shit name) getting behind our tail-end, escorting us on our way across Europe a little faster than expected. Bless ‘im.

Upon arrival at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, the passport check was mercifully brief (aside from a plane load of confused Brits all questioning whether we should now join the EU or non-EU queue), and having collected our bags, I managed to purchase two travel passes for our three-day visit, as well as tickets for the airport shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. Thankfully, most Hungarians speak excellent English (far better than most of the Brits on our plane, as it happens), otherwise I might very well have found myself conjuring up a mime for ‘bus’, which is a situation I was happy to avoid.

Once we had checked in to our hotel (which was lovely), we then decided to brave the city for dinner and a few drinks.

Having taken advice before leaving, one place I was keen to check out was ‘Szimpla Kert’, one of the very first (if not the first) ‘ruin bars’ in the city. It was essentially an old factory, which had been transformed into a network of tiny bars and eateries (some without a roof, such was the dilapidation of the building), and having wandered around for a bit, we stumbled upon a tiny alcove bar serving burgers and other bar type food.

Having pondered the menu and our new ‘funny money’, we ordered, and then took our seats on a shared table with a few other couples.

Sadly, soon after taking the first few sips of my Hungarian beer, I realised the couple to my left were also British (I realised this, because they were extremely loud southerners) and, having caught my eye, the man decided to bring me into their ‘discussion’ over some of the artwork on the wall.

“Awight mate, help me out ‘ere, will ya? That picture up there, it’s a fackin’ man, right? The missus says it’s a woman.”

“Sorry, it IS a woman.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s not my fackin’ fault I can’t see properleeeee. That fackin’ barman gave me some fackin’ Plinko, dinne, and now I’m fackin’ pissed out me ‘ead.”

Lovely fella.

Turns out, he was half right. The drink he had previously been served (apparently around 2pm, and by now it was nearly 8pm), was actually Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy (of sorts), but he was quite correct about one thing – being pissed. Annihilated, as it happens.

In fact, he was so drunk, at one point he knocked over his empty pint glass but failed to realise, and then a full ten minutes later accused his wife/girlfriend (who was also drunk, but not to his level of inebriation), of spilling it. She then pointed out he had finished it some time ago, before knocking the empty glass over himself, and he decided on that basis it was time to leave.

And not a moment too soon, either, as the group of pleasant Hungarians to my right were clearly starting to think we knew this couple, and were travelling as a foursome, so I wanted to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. Besides which, I had a very strong feeling he was probably a Chelsea fan, which only made me dislike him all the more.

After dinner and a few drinks in Szimpla Kert (where I, rather annoyingly, discovered some of the currency I had brought with me was no longer legal tender, and I would need to change it at a bank), we wandered back to our hotel, passing a curious looking Indian Restaurant called ‘Bum Bum Hole’ on the way (it was actually called ‘Bum Bum Bole’, but I was by now a few beers warmer myself, so I misread the sign, and Bum Bum Bole is nowhere near as funny).

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Having enjoyed one further drink in the hotel bar (and realising, retrospectively, that I had accidentally tipped the barman around 25p, as I had not yet got to grips with the exchange rate), we retired to the room where I found some German football channel on the TV (the only British channel appeared to be BBC World News, which was all doom-and-gloom).

And, rather amazingly, the German for ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’, is apparently ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’.  Who knew?

To be continued…

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