My caveat here: This story is in no way representative of Budapest, Hungary or Europe. It simply is.
This morning I was on my way up St. Gellert Hill to see the revered man's statue. There are stairs along the hillside and I gather it's a fairly popular tourist destination, if only because it's so noticeable, although at 8:30 a.m. on a Monday there aren't many people out there. I make it up a few flights of stairs to the first platform, maybe 100 feet above the Danube.
There's a man in front of me who I don't think anything of until I realize what he's doing. To whit: unzipping his pants, pulling out his penis and making kissing noises at me. This is the international symbol for idiot horndog.
Part of my brain was thinking, "Just ignore him. He doesn't appear dangerous, you're out in public and would be heard if you started screaming, he'll go away if you ignore him." The other part was thinking, "?!?!?!?!?!?!"
Well, he stands there for a bit, I assume still hanging out, but I did not check, then zips up and walks away. I'm breathing a sigh of relief -- then this bozo walks behind me and smacks me on the rear. Unfortunately, I did not react in time to throw an elbow into his nose. I was too shocked. I stared at this idiot's back, wanting to throw something or yell curses and hoping he fell down the stairs.
Then he turned around and looked at me. I kept my go-to-hell stare solidly in place. He decided this meant I liked him and motioned for me to come. I considering flipping him off, which is also understood internationally, but that particular language has a couple of meanings, and Bozo the clown could too easily miss one for the other. I turned around and walked the other direction.
Bozo interpreted this to mean I wanted a little of his balloon animal. (Side note: I am curious as to whether his methods have ever worked. Surely not, right?) Unbeknownst to me, there were stairs on the other side as well, so while I went up to what I thought was escape from Bozo, Bozo went up those stairs. I saw him by St. Gellert, who surely would not have condoned such behavior, and turned around.
So that was how my day started. Fortunately, I was not accosted by any more clowns, though I did find myself plotting escape routes in places where there wasn't a crowd. I hope one day Bozo pulls that trick on a kickboxer and she pops his balloon animal.
Budapest really is a cool city, though. It does not get its just due amongst European cities to visit. This kind of works out well for me; there aren't lines, there are available beds, everything's not overpriced. That's not to say it's not plenty touristy; it has the double decker hop-on-and-off tour buses and tacky souvenir shops just like every other major European city. But it is not London, Paris, Dublin or Berlin.
After the Citadel, I went to Castle Hill, which includes Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastion and some amazing views of the city and the river. I rather unwisely went on a tour of these tunnels underneath the castle, which advertised something about Dracula. To make my decision even less sound, I looked at pictures from the caves and saw a coffin. I knew this was a bad idea.
Obviously I went anyway. I was so on edge about it that when someone coughed on the stairs behind me, still well in sight of the daylight, I jumped.
I got in and things were all right. There were wax figures from a Hungarian opera and it appeared to be mostly examples of the stonecutting around Budapest, which used to be a large artisanal industry. While reading about one type of rock and turned and discovered the coffin, which wasn't a coffin at all. I was feeling pretty good about my courage when I ducked under a low-hanging eave -- and saw a coffin.
I side-stepped away from it and hurried down the nearest hallway, relieved when a group caught up to me so I wouldn't have to keep going alone. Then the signs started talking about Dracula. He apparently became rather angry after he was imprisoned by his wife's cousin, the king, and she killed herself during his imprisonment. The vampiric rumors started after his death. It would have been interesting had I not been in a dark, scary cave, sure that Dracula was around every corner.
Guess who was around the next corner?
I thought about taking a picture of his grave, but I couldn't. Well, I didn't want to. It felt sort of evil.
On the non-scary side, I found a marzipan café today. If you've never had marzipan, try it. But be careful. Not everyone loves it. I tried several pieces. I also had dobos torte for lunch. I went in looking for real food, but that was the only thing that sounded good. I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I passed and walked away. I got across the street and realized that I'm on vacation, and I can have chocolate cake for lunch if I want to. And I went back to the café and got the torte. What can I say? I'm a maverick. And I love cake.
Hungary's Parliament building on the banks of the Danube