Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Budapest - Saturday

We awoke to a grey rainy sky, the street and sidewalks glistened with a dull sheen amongst the gloom. Luckily for us we live in the gloom capitol of the US and were not about to be put of by a little drizzle. After eating a breakfast consisting of eggs cooked in lard (did you know that Hungarians eat 1 lb of lard a week?). Interestingly enough it was tasty. First on the tourist list was a visit to the great market. This only required a quick subway trip to the south end of Vatica Utca. The market is a huge late 19th century brick and glass building filled with dozens of stalls selling cheeses, meats, vegetables, and sweets. Just imagine the local farmers market on steroids. The upstairs consisted of food stalls selling interesting creations as well as tons of knick knack sellers. My favorite item had to be the gutted baby pig wearing sunglasses. The next stop was going to be the national Museum, a quick metro stop to the big city park, right next to the spas. When we got to the metro transfer station, the M1 line, it was closed for some reason. When we went street side to take a bus, we noticed that the Andrassy Utca was completely closed too, in fact there were police everywhere. Hmm, not a good sign when you are in the former Eastern block. Our friends from Dresden said it looked like it might be because of a demonstration. I thought it might be because they were closing down the street for the Budapest marathon that was the next day. In any case, we high tailed it out of there to find an alternative route to the Museum. A couple of blocks north we were able to exit the police blockade and were able to pick up a bus that went right to the museum. The museum was just off heroes plaza, and when we got there the scene was even more chaotic. The entire area was garrisoned off with tons of police in full riot gear and squads of K9s everywhere. WTF? The museum was blocked off, but I noticed people passing through a bit of a checkpoint. Being a student of third world checkpoints I wasted no time going up and seeing if we could get to the museum. No problem, we walked up to heroes square which was strangely deserted except for about a thousand cops, and entered the museum. The best thing about the museum was the building itself. It was built for their millennium celebration and was pretty grand indeed. The inner rooms where they displayed their paintings were painted in serious colors. After looking at painting for a couple of hours we headed back out. Holy crap, there are even more police and they are all sporting riot gear. In fact, none of the people that were milling about are around. Time to beat a hasty retreat. We head out of the plaza and actually have a bit of a time getting out. The plaza is ringed wall to wall with the policia and we are finally able to break our way free and find a bus out of the may em. Over the course of the next couple of days we realize that a big protest was planned. In fact, they had a huge riot on September 20th, complete with tear gas from a similar protest. It was the biggest civil disturbance since the iron curtain fell. Turns out a lot of people don't like their leader on account of him lying about the economy before he got re-elected. The protesters are calling for his resignation. Anyway, the government was expecting a big repeat of the events two weekends ago, hence the crack down. You just got to love it. Never a dull moment. The bus that we picked us tooks us within a block of our hotel. Since the weather was still on the cool side, we headed back to the hotel to mellow out from our ordeal.
For dinner, we wanted to go back to the Franz Liszt square area, but it was smack dab in the middle of the riot area. We had the hotel call and the riot was all cleared up. No problem. In fact when we took the metro back out there about an hour and a half after we were there before, there was not a sign that anything had happened. Friggin' weird.
The place we went to was called Karma and was hip and trendy. Afterward we sat in the plaza under the heat lamps and people watched. Kathy wanted to check out an Iirish pub that was close by, so we set off in the streets in search of this pub. Did I mention that it was dark? Did I mention that it was slightly raining? Somehow, after following the accurate, but not so good instructions from the previous place we found it. Of course the band had stopped playing and it was a smoke pit. Quickly we KO'd the place and decided to head back to our standby Belgium place.
Since all of the public transportation had closed down and most cabs are crooked, we decided to hoof it. This took a bit of time, but we were still able to make it the pub next to the hotel for one too many drinks. Note to readers: if someone offers you a Belgium beer called Kwak, just say no. It is extremely tasty, is served in a yard glass (think high class beer bong) and will eventually make you quack like a duck. Events after that are hazy, but the hotel was next store, so all was mostly good.


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