Last weekend was a significant one here as it was the first time we had had visitors staying with us. Lucy and Paul arrived in Budapest on the Thursday morning on the sleeper from Berlin and stayed until the following Monday evening when they took the sleeper to Bucharest and Thessaloniki.
It was great having them here but they unfortunately arrived just as the Hungarian spring took a turn for the worse and we had wild rain and wind for three days without a break. Actually Hungary got off lightly, as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic had even worse weather and had extensive flooding. We are now seeing the results of this rain, as the Danube has risen considerably and muddy, log-strewn water is rushing through the city. Apparently it does flood occasionally here, but I think it might have peaked. I hope so anyway.
The rain put paid to plans to show them sights, and most days we just trudged around locally in the howling wet wind. But on Saturday evening we put on our sou’westers and went to a nearby Italian restaurant to celebrate my birthday – a delicious meal and good atmosphere. From there we walked to a local club to see a ‘spaghetti balkan’ band, Il Figli di Madre Ignota. They were a whole lot of fun, frenetic horn section, and played for 90 minutes to leave us exhausted.
Then on Sunday our cultural tourism took another turn and we went to the opera for an 11 a.m. performance of The Magic Flute. It was packed – they love their opera here.
The rest of Sunday passed with us at home taking turns to snooze and then drink Laphroaig until late into the evening.
I had to work on Monday, but Helen took Lucy and Paul to the wonderful Szechenyi Baths, open air hot water, where the continuing wind and rain were irrelevant.
We went with them to Keleti station that evening to see them off, and enjoyed waiting around for their train to arrive. We stood near the notice board, watching the huddles of men playing and watching games of chess on top of the walls at the end of the platforms. They seemed to be local people who had established this as a spot for games with anyone who turned up. A great custom, and one I’d love to see at St Pancras.
We were also fascinated by the parade of sleeper trains setting off for other parts of continental Europe. Apart from Lucy and Paul’s train, there were also trains setting off for Moscow, Zagreb and Berlin – we fantasised about doing it ourself and setting off for Istanbul. One day.