BOB CORBETT'S TRAVEL JOURNAL -- 2007

Budapest 2: May 6, 2007 -- Last day in Budapest, one of the best of the wholetrip -- notes from Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:

Folks today was such a very special day it needs some background

I have traveled a great deal in Europe since 1972. Much of it alone and significant amounts of it with one or a very few of my kids when they were in college and I was teaching in Vienna and they studying. Well "studying" may be too strong, but they were attending university in Vienna. :)

My tendency was to travel without guide book or plans and almost never a map of the city. For example, my first visit to Rome was in 1983. I was alone and when I got to Termini train station I went outside to the gigantic bus depot and purchased a huge handful of bus tickets. They were, in those days, about 3 cents US. I would just get on a bus, any bus, and ride until I saw something interesting. Then get off and explore. If I went 15 or so minutes seeing nothing of interest I would get off at the next stop and take a bus in some other direction. After several days there on the way back to Vienna, I THEN got out my guide book and discovered I had "discovered" virtually everything the guide book recommend and so so much more.

That's been my way. Given that I have many favorite spots in most cities that just aren't in most guide books. This includes Budapest.

Now, Sally is the best person with a map I have ever met. Give her the map and she can get us anywhere. The problem is, some of these incredible places I have found I haven't any exact info on where they are. But, her skills and my FAULTY memory led to an incredible day.

Back in 1983 I came first to Budapest and stumbled into some park near a huge indoor sport's arena. This was the communist era in Budapest and this park had perhaps a dozen gigantic, simply gigantic sculptures of working class people. A very strong Marxist statement and the statues were awesome and moved me very much. Thus in 1985 when I came to Budapest with my oldest son Bob who was in college in Vienna, I wanted him to see those statues. Since it was just two years earlier, I found the statues and showed them to him, me in near tears of deep movement. Bob was unimpressed. When we got to the end of the line of statues we came to the arena. People were pouring in. We asked what was going on and it was a World Wrestling Championship. Not fake wrestling, but the real sport. We purchased tickets and went. Bob was just HORRIFIED by his father. In the heavy-weight division a Soviet wrestler was fighting an American guy. But, in the semi-final the American just struck me as arrogant, so I chose to root (and very loudly) for the Soviet. Bob was beside himself with being upset and denouncing his "commie" dad. Did no good.

I don't even know who won, nor did I really care.

That's the background. Today I wanted to show Sally those statues. I have never forgotten them, they are the most amazing testimony to working class people I have ever seen, and my roots are in the working class.

But I couldn't figure out where that park was. I hadn't been back to the statues since 1985 even though I had been to Budapest several times.

We picked a park on the map that SEEMED likely and Sally, the map wizard, got us there easily. We never did find the statues. But, walking in this amazing and beautiful large park we first stumbled on a gigantic flea market and we had a ball. Mainly we were just looking, even gawking. However, I do love old liquor glasses and I did have an eye out for schnapps glasses and such. Found nothing.

Sally and I separated to meet under some yellow umbrellas half hour later and we each had fun looking. I even priced a couple things but didn't buy.

Leaving there we were a bit exhausted and sat on a park bench for a while to rest. Over to our left was lots of noise and we decided to investigate. Sounded like it might have been a sporting match or something.

Well it was SOMETHING indeed. It was the annual day when the Budapest Fire Department has a festival for the people and especially the kids. This very large park area was surrounded by huge fire trucks with gigantic lifts on them to get people out of high buildings, and regular fire engines, and about a 50 foot tall tower built for the occasion. Kids could be strapped into a halter gear and could then CLIMB up that gigantic 50 foot tower and even then be hooked up to another chain and slide down -- all absolutely free. Fire wagons would load up with a shocking number of people, adults and kids and take off onto the Budapest streets, sirens blaring for free rides.

There was a stage and a large bank of oldsters were playing music from years ago, umpah pah music and polkas and such. Then came the fire departmentís marching band. Guys in gold brass WWI type helmets and bright red jackets with white sashes, blue pants with white stripes. They marched four abreast around the ground playing march music.

It was just awesome. There were many booths with free stuff about fire safety and such. Then came the food. Huge booths with delicious traditional Hungarian food. We decided to eat our main meal there. As did hundreds and hundreds of Hungarians. Sally got us a place in the shade of a picnic table with others, and I got in line. First the drink line. They had everything. All the soft drinks and water and beer, and then every imaginable mixed drink and whole bottles of lovely Hungarian wine. I chose a really lovely bottle of dry white wine. The woman got out two glasses, opened the bottle I had pointed to and was about to pour. I signaled, no, don't pour, I want the whole bottle. She asked here colleague and they decided on 700 Florint -- less than THREE EURO for this awesome wine. I spend 10 E for wine in the grocery store!!!!

Next I got in the food line. I ordered one large shish kabob, one 14 inch long grilled sausage and two Greek salads. The woman asked in I wanted French fries (which come with these meats) and she asked me about CHEEPS -- chips. I said no. Then assuming (rightly in the main) that more German would be spoken here than English I asked: Haben Sie brot? (Do you have bread). She looked at me, smiled and said in perfect slang English, "Yeah, we have good bread" We both had a good laugh.

This mound of delicious food was all of 5 dollars. Later, despite the fact of being really stuffed, I went back and got a roast chicken breast for us to split, as we had the shish kebab and sausage. We could barely walk out of there.

We never did find the park with the statues. No matter to me. Today was one of the most exciting and wonderful days of the trip. For those of you from Dogtown, this little fireman's festival in the park was EXACTLY like our St. James School picnics in the 1940s. People so friendly, games and participation, lots of love, fun and laughter. We seemed to be the only foreigners in the whole place. What a lovely day. We are now stuffed to the gills. We had planned to find some fancy and lovely restaurant for tonight, but we are finished eating.

At home in the room I do have a very lovely bottle of red wine, some strawberries, two apples, and some chocolate-chip biscotti left over from Italy. Ah, we're ready to call it a day, rest of and tomorrow morning we head on to Vienna.

Oh me, I do so love Budapest........

Bob



Sally's note

Hi Everybody,

Well, its just 2 pm in Budapest as we write our email notes here in the Internet Point.

Our last day has been so fun, and I know that Bob will be telling you all about the two items that we had on our 'to do' list for today, Sunday May 6th, I think. Isn't it interesting how easy it is to lose track of the day of the week, and the date when the days are so busy and full?

We had another lovely breakfast at the hotel this morning, and then went upstairs to our room to dress in our vest and take our jackets. Its still chilly here and overcast. Though throughout the day there have been some tiny peeks of sunshine. Very, very tiny peeks of sunshine, but sunshine.

We got on the tram in front of our hotel and rode it to the end line, where we got the tram that took us in an arc thru the Pest side to the Buda side of the city. We didnít have much of a plan at that time so we just took an early Sunday morning ride first to see what was happening on a Sunday morning here.

We were talking to each other about what tram we would take next when the couple across from us asked where we were from. It was a very nice US couple from Texas, donít know where in Texas.

We got to talking to them and I completely forgot where we were. Turned out we stopped at the end line again, and parted, them wishing us a fun day and us wishing them the same. Their son works for an airline so they get their tickets from him, both plane and train. They too are leaving tomorrow for Vienna, though they we will be taking the 9:30 AM train, they wont be leaving until afternoon.

After that we decided to find a tram that would take us to the area near the stadium, where Bob saw an Olympic event, wrestling with his son Bob. Bob was so impressed by some statuary that he wanted to go back there and see if we could find that area again.

We always have fun doing that kind of exploration. Bob the best at just taking off and doing a free exploration, me better at checking the map for the route that would get us where we wanted to go. And we of course had another discussion about the value of each, and how well we compliment each other. :)

So, we walked around the corner and found the 61 tram and took it over the bridge to where we would find a number 70 tram which would take us to a park like area very near the stadium. It turned out to be a wonderful plan, and we found ourselves at a wonderful park. Bob likened it to Marguerite Island where we didnít go this trip, but itís a park that is devoted to sports here, and is a separate island between the Buda and Pest sides of the city. Itís better taken care of per Bob. But this park had some different areas of fun and we enjoyed it so much.

First we headed for a little outside refreshment stand where as Bob will talk about we got him a beer and me a water. Not because we were thirsty, but because we needed to use the WC, Europe's term for toilette or bathroom.

Then right around the corner, there was a huge outdoor yard sale. There was an entry fee to get in, but once in you had access to a hundred tables or booths of everything you can imagine. There was everything from coin collectors to CDs and DVDs, clothes and collectables.

Well, we didnít buy a thing, but had an hour of delight looking around at all the tables of 'treasures'. At one point I said, Bob why donít we split and meet somewhere in 15 minutes, that way you donít have to watch over me to make sure Iím right behind you. So thatís what we did, and it worked out very well.

Then after that we found a bench where we rested a while after our walking through the flea market, and we kept hearing a voice on some kind of a microphone. Bob said, letís go find out where that is, and what they are doing.

We did that, and we found a neighborhood emergency 'fair'. The police and the firemen brought equipment, dogs, and they set up a huge area with booths and games for the kids. The kids could ride in the buckets in the fire rescue equipment. They could also climb up rock walls where first they would be outfitted with rescue ropes and belts.

There was even a bandstand, where eventually there was a band that played mostly music we didnít recognize. Though one American song came through quite clearly, Louie Prima's song, ĎJust a Gigolo' and then after that of course, 'I ainít got nobody'. How funny!!

After walking around their fair area and seeing the homemade food that was offered at several of the booths, Bob and I decided to 'go for it'. And I found a place at one of the picnic benches under the umbrellas (it was very overcast and looked as though it could rain any second)and Bob stood in line to order our mid day meal.

It turned out to be quite reasonable and very tasty!! We each had a nice Greek salad with a large piece of bakery bread, then we split a large 'polish' type sausage, a tasty shish kabob and a large Hungarian grilled chicken breast. Oh, and a bottle of wine from a local Budapest winery, a very nice wine.

Well, what a great day so far, and now we are sitting here at the very nice internet place that Bob found for us yesterday. Itís clean and nicely set up with each tower inside a wooden box that protects it, and that has a number for each computer station.

We will likely head back to the hotel after this, will rest a while, pack up for our train ride tomorrow and then have some dessert before we call it a night.

Bob is hoping that there will be a European soccer match televised later this afternoon or tonight and of course he would positively love it if it was either Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool.

Tomorrow -- to Vienna for the remaining days of our trip. There is also a chance that we will take a day trip or two from there. Melk and Graz are the two cities that Bob wants me to see if at all possible.

Sally Ryan Sharamitaro

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