JTBL #16: A Pitstop in Budapest – Looking at the Same City Through Different Eyes
I can’t believe I’m back in budapest. I mean.. of course I can believe it, and I wasn’t gonna make this into a sort of cliché “what goes around comes around”-type of post, because that’s not what it is.
What Goes Around Comes Around-Post
Being a pragmatic logical minded nerdy type, I wanted to visit the city again and see if my perception had changed. Sure enough, it all smelled the same, and things were still where I left them nine months ago. I even had a sense of nostalgia, sitting in that rickety carriage of the Blue Line with the morning dew in my face.
Something was altogether different, though. I couldn’t quite place it.
It’s good to be back on the road, that’s for sure. Gets the idea juices running flowing even. If you ever find yourself stuck when writing something, walk around the block. If you find yourself stuck in life, walk around the world.
Due to horrible logistics on my part, I arrived at 4 am in the fucking morning. (I gotta stop doing that, seriously!) The driver was kind enough to take me to Ferihegy (Ferenc Liszt nowadays, I hear), where I could sit around until morning, and waste some hours doing nothing. As expected, no sleep was to be found and I eventually ran into the situation where I needed to recharge my phone.
So I sat down at one of the only sockets in the area and plugged in. for entertainment, I stared at the nearby analogue clock to see how many percentage points the battery would gain per minute. Then I had the weirdest deja vu. I had been sitting in the exact same spot just nine months before, doing the exact same thing.
The same spot. The same clock. Same phone, even. But different world.
So I’m on my way to Barcelona, with a more clear aim in mind. I’m determined to make this work, and my reason for existing is clear. Unlike nine months ago, when I was scared. A tiny (if large) Finnish boy arriving in a big city in an entirely foreign culture. Did the clock signify something different back then? Nah, it’s still just a clock and I was still killing time waiting to get to bed. But I wasn’t coming from a small town in Finland scared of everything new.
I’m coming from the world.
It’s been a strange nine months for sure. Not that the world had gotten smaller, but the people have turned from foreign strangers to just other persons on the road. I wasn’t apologizing for my existence anymore. My own reality had changed, and along with it my perception of the outside world.
Escape From Zagreb
My escape from Zagreb didn’t exactly go smoothly. My airbnb from the previous week was sketchy at best, mostly due to bad planning. No wifi and a shoddy apartment. I didn’t want to repeat my planning mistake, so I looked into travel arrangements three days before departure.
Hey three days is well planned in my book!
I checked train schedules at the station. Apparently trains to Budapest went twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday. That was rather strange to me, but since the lady said so, I didn’t have a reason to doubt. Besides, I preferred a bus. Strangely, they only had ONE bus working that connection.
Zagreb isn’t THAT small, and you’d think people make the trip to Budapest all the time. This all seemed highly unusual. I decided to wait for a Blablacar-connection to open up on my day of travel, since public transportation was giving me a huge middle finger at this point.
But Blablacar stayed silent. So one day before my departure, I went to buy a bus ticket.
The bus was full.
No trains, bus was full, and no Blablacar connections. This was worrying. Was I stuck in Zagreb?
There was one car leaving on the previous evening with one seat left. Not ideal, but I took it. So my airbnb host went ballistic for changes in itinerary. And I mean ballistic. The way a five-year old goes ballistic when something is displeasing. Sigh. Some people and their tiny comfort zones.
Of course I apologized for my sudden change of plans, but she would have none of it and spewed her personal issues at me like an abusive wife. I don’t take well to bullshit, so I gave her a colourful rendition of how customers are supposed to be treated, and how her personal issues are not my issues. Well, getting thrown out of an airbnb-apartment is a first.
Later I learned that there’s two trains daily. What the fuck.
Eventually I made it to Budapest though. Having had mostly zero sleep that night, it was wonderful to finally get to my apartment. This time my host was this lovely little lady – pretty much a polar opposite to the previous one. I finally had some time to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. We even had a fun chat and she told me stories of her tourist-guide days from the seventies.
Nine months before, you might recall a certain nightclub incident between two attractive girls and myself. Turns out, that the next day, on my way to the casino, I accidentally ran into the girls on the metro. I mean, you gotta understand that Budapest isn’t exactly a tiny city. That was.. an incredible coincidence.
I wanted to see this one particular lovely lady, but she was mostly busy and had no time for even a cuppa tea. Shame, that. I always felt we had a bit of a connection and I wanted to find out more about that. But these things happen, timing doesn’t always work out.
It seems that fate had a different idea of timing, though.
I was heading downtown with the metro. Just random stuff, I wanted to see the refugee crisis at Keleti Palayaudvar. But as I was hopping off the train, I met a familiar face. It was the same woman.
“We gotta stop meeting like this.”
“Haha! So cool to see you!”
So I had my 15 minutes with this lovely lady.
Be seeing you on the Blue Line next time I’m in town, Agi!
Saturday Night Poker Bad Beat
So I turned 31 that night. I had this grand plan of hitting a nightclub hard and turning it into a massive birthday party. It would’ve been glorious, but for some reason my motivation in this admittedly brilliant idea waned quickly, and I decided to rather go out and play some poker in the good old Universum Poker Club. After all, games would be good on a Saturday night.
The last metro had gone already, so my only choices were the rather skanky blue line-bus or a taxi. Being the stingy type, I picked up some cash and sat in the bus. I’d take the metro back. Perfect plan. What could go wrong?
The bus turned out to be the wrong one, as I quickly realized, following the path from my trusty Spidersense Maps (c). But it was the correct general direction, and a bit of walking wouldn’t hurt if the end goal would be me sitting at a poker table. After 40 minutes of sitting in a doddling creaky bus avoiding drunken Hungarians, I finally found what seemed to be the nearest bus stop to the casino.
Nearest being 2 km away.
Time for a skipping walk then! After all, I’d be playing poker in no time. This would all be worth it. Hiking through the dark eerily empty Budapestian suburbs would ALL be worth it. Don’t look at those guys, they’re probably not dealing anything shady in that alleyway. That odd looking figure? It’s totally probably not Slenderman. Just keep a good pace.
Ahh Duna Plaza, finally. Just cross the road and you’re there. Wait.. how do I get in the casino when the mall is closed? Oh, must be through the parking hall. Just to the second floor and.. why is it so quiet?
Why is the casino hallway so dark?
Wait. IS IT FUCKING CLOSED??
So yeah. After personally finding out that the poker room is NOT open on a Saturday night, I took a cab back downtown and went to have a glass of wine and regroup. Real wine, mind. Not that spritzer shit. It was 2.30 in the morning. A vodka shot later I decided that this was enough adventure and made myself homeward.
Who the hell came up with the idea of closing a poker room on a Saturday night, seriously..
I happened to pass by the Szimpla Bar, this cool ruin pub that everyone keeps raving about. I figured I’d never been in there and I probably wasn’t going to return to Budapest any time soon. So I headed in!
The bar was quite cool, and would probably be a great place to hang around more often. I wandered through the grey mass of bar patrons and was ready to leave when, like a brilliantly shining light, this gorgeous brunette on the other side of the room grabbed my attention.
I felt my feet taking assertive steps that way. Here we go again..
She turned out to be a dancer from Miami. An incredibly smart and insightful dancer as well. I felt she had this relaxed grounded vibe. We had a cool conversation about pursuing our own dreams and living with our passions. What an enchanting girl.
Not single though. (WAAAAAGGHHH)
Nah, not really. I was leaving the next day, and I wouldn’t have wanted a one night stand with this person anyway. We exchanged facebooks, which I never do, and shot the shit for another 45 minutes before the first bus left. It remains to be seen if our paths ever cross again.
Awesome birthday. Awesome time in Budapest. Next stop: Barcelona.