Budapest part 3, spirit

[Budapest part 2, curiosity]

Continuing on from last time, there was little else of note that evening, save for two things.

First, the level of homelessness is surprising. I’ve seen homeless beggars on the streets of London and Cambridge, but always isolated. One under a bridge on one side of the river, the next on the far side of the river. In Budapest, I found a dozen grouped together around sleeping bags on the corner of Erzsébet krt. and Rákóczi út, by what Google Street View says is CIB bank (I wasn’t looking at the signage when I went past).

Second, the path I took back to the Airbnb went past the Budapest-Nyugati railway station — The crossroads outside the station has an underground plaza, lined with shops. The only other time I’ve seen such a thing, that I recall, was next to a train station in Nürnberg. I am a fan of such architecture, placing roads and pedestrians on separate levels, while still using the pedestrian level for shops.

Once Sunday came upon us, Sadie had recovered the energy to explore with me and we took the tram to Vörösmarty tér. All the shops were shut, leaving only the restaurants and bars. Sunday trading laws had stopped the rest.

The restaurant we picked was a typical tourist restaurant, in that it had large TV screens playing random content that annoyed Sadie. We drank a hot chocolate and used our smartphones to find other places to eat. Sadie was particularly interested in a soup restaurant that had good reviews, because soup requires no chewing and her jaw still hurt.

On the way there, we passed a street market filling the pedestrianised length of Deák Ferenc utca, still open even though it was Sunday (the rules only force shops to close if they’re big). Lots of interesting trinkets to see (albeit with tourist prices), cute and friendly, with a sense of permanence to the vendor’s huts that I’ve not seen on any other street market, except perhaps a few of those in the Camden Market area of London. I wish I’d taken a photo.

The soup restaurant was in the Jewish quarter of the city, so naturally we passed by the famous Dohany street great synagogue, which is completely underwhelming from the outside. Sadie was hungry, so we didn’t stop to check out the inside. Unfortunately, at the next turn, Sadie’s phone crashed, and we struggled to remember the name of the restaurant we were going to. Not that it made much difference, as when we did remember the name and found the place, it was stuffed full of customers and there was no chance of getting a table to sit at and rest. Instead, we went next door, into a small quiet generic place, the sort of restaurant that would be a kebab shop or chippy if it were in the UK. Pleasant enough, and even here English was understood and spoken. Which was lucky, because Google translate needs an internet connection to do voice translations. Or perhaps it was just good business, as the restaurant advertised “escape the dungeon” events in English, and was probably being the best tourist spot it knew how to be.

Sadie’s teeth came out in two goes. Left side, then right side a few days later. Very painful, despite the anaesthetic, and once out we could see why — one of the teeth looked like it had twisted 180° between the roots and the surface. The dentists were kind to her throughout, but we still don’t know why they used permanent stitches and then told us to have them removed exactly one week after the teeth came out instead of using dissolving stitches.

On the last night before the teeth came out and she was back to soup, we found and visited a nice a vegan restaurant, Kozmosz Vegán Étterem. I had a bean goulash to finally find out what goulash tastes like (I’m vegetarian, so real goulash is off the menu for me)… and it was instantly familiar. I’ve must have already tried it at some point without realising it. The desserts were really not my thing, but that’s a problem I often find with vegan desserts.

The taxi transfer was included in the cost of the dental treatment, but we had to go back to the dentists’ lobby to wait for it. While waiting, we saw the first reports of the Brussels attacks. The reports at the time turned out to be wrong, but that’s normal when reporters are clamouring for the latest big news. By the time we got to the airport departure lounge, the Airbnb host had emailed us to ask if we needed to stay longer — they had heard, incorrectly, that all flights had been cancelled.

Ryanair’s departure hall was exactly what you’d expect, and not worth commenting on. Once we took to the air, we got some lovely views — there’s something cool about seeing a tiny line on the ground, recognising it, and being able to say “I’ve walked the entire length of that street”.

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