Saturday, April 14, 2007

A villamos hajóm tele van angolnákkal

Under Parliament's cupola

The little princess (on the rails, not with the tongue)

Central market; Danube, looking north

Outside the Central Market, a woman came rushing up to Bondi, exclaiming "I'm so nice!", a delightful pronoun mix-up that brought to mind a similar incident pertaining to a classmate in the Lacunza Spanish school in San Sebastian. Caroline was trying on some shoes, but decided she couldn't afford them. She took them back to the counter, smiled sweetly and said "Soy bonita!" (I'm pretty) and walked off.

Don't get on a tram with this woman!

Bondi and I boarded a tram downtown, standing near the doorway. A woman started talking to me, and I said "Nem ertem Magyar" (pron: nem airtem Modyar; "I don't understand Hungarian") which is my oft-time mantra here. She raised her voice and continued. "Nem ertem Magyar" I repeated, which just made her angry.

At this point I noticed that she had some sort of insignia on her sleeve and thought she might be a ticket inspector (I did have tickets for both of us) although my guides warn me against fakes operating scams on Budapest trams, and that they should always be working in pairs. She refused to show me the ID, so if it is ID it may as well be for espresso machine repair as much as anything else. We came to the next stop at this point, and she pushed me down the stairs off the tram, shouting at me. I tried to take a photo of her to report her to police or transport officials, which made her even angrier.

On the platform, a passenger sitting in the window translated "She says your dog has to have a muzzle" - which was news to me, as he's been travelling all week without one, and I had yet to see any of the many other tram-riding dogs wear one either, large or small (Budapest supposedly has about 400,000 dogs). I mentioned the word "police" to the angry woman (ticket inspector or not) and she became half-crazed, making obscene gestures with her hands and groin, before leaving us alone. She had called some guy over, but he had no visible uniform or ID either and he spoke no English (apparently the transport people are expected to know a few words to deal with the tourists that they tend to focus upon). I told the story to a few locals, and they were not surprised.

Two days earlier I went to a Metro station to get weekly passes for myself and for Bondi. I hadn't been able to work out what was needed from either the Metro's website or the signage around the station. Ticket vending machines either ate my coins or produced the message "This machine is out of work." I eventually found someone on staff who spoke English and got him to explain what was needed to the ticket seller. The ticket seller went inside his booth, becoming almost invisible in the process as they use highly-reflective, nearly mirrored glass and communication came to a standstill as he kept pushing back the notes of various denominations that I offered. "Was it not enough, too big to change, or what?" I found the English-speaker again and got him to walk the ticket seller through the weekly pass for me, and book of 10 tickets for Bondi.

This morning I discovered that I'd actually been sold a day pass for me rather than a week pass, and had inadvertently travelled free for over a day. I went to another Metro station to buy a 3day tourist pass for my time there. At this station, it wasn't quite clear which booth sold tickets, and the machine was "out of work" again. I did a little dance, in tandem with a group of German tourists, up and down from various windows, trying to figure out what they sold and who sold them. Eventually with a combination of "tourist" and 3 fingers shown, I got the necessary pass.

Taking bows for The Four Seasons

Early in the evening I booked tickets for a tour of the Parliament building, with a chamber concert in the room under the large Cupola. The building is a bit over a hundred years old, and was state of the art for its time (1902 construction completion), being one of the first such buildings to be all-electrical from the outset. The entrance halls are elaborately decorated, with gold-leaf spread throughout. The large pink columns are fake marble, which cost 4 times as much as real marble at the time, but was necessary to reduce weight as half the building actually stands over the Danube.

The concert was standard tourist fare, Vivaldi violin & cello concerto, Saint-Säens' The Swan, and back to Vivaldi with The Four Seasons. The playing was fine, but the acoustics of this beautiful room were not. I wondered if the cellist was looking to the ceiling in musical rapture, or to figure out where all her notes had gone.

Government Chamber; Matchstick Parliament

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