Budapest Day 2

We awoke and went to breakfast. It was really nice though quite continental rather than Hungarian. Alizee informed me there was a Swedish camera crew filming something while we were staying so that was exciting.

Our first point of call was Buda Hill, where most sights are – including the Chain Bridge leading to it. We were going to take the funicular but the queue was insane so we walked instead. It wasn’t nearly as tiring as it looked and turned out to be quite refreshing, getting a better and better view of Pest as we climbed.

We walked around trying to find the Labyrinth under the castle, which we heard had a well of wine. We eventually found it via the Mathijs Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, but unfortunately it was closed for the season. Instead we walked to the castle that had become a museum and admired the gardens in the sun. It was amazing weather for the time of year with bright sunshine and blue skies.

Parliament was the next thing to see where we saw the Hungarian flag flying with a circle cut in the middle. I had also seen this while at the castle and wondered what it was about. It turned out that the next day was Revolution Day, when the Hungarian people stood up against the Soviets.

This in mind we found the house of terror of “Terror Hazza”, which I wanted to visit. It was the old HQ of Arrowhead and the SS i.e. the secret police who permitted many of the tortures and deaths of innocent Hungarians. It was a really good museum though Alizee and I did part of it in the wrong order, going to the basement first where they had mocked up the torture chambers. However I didn’t know this so peered in a room to discover a noose. It hurt your heart but it was very informative and seemed especially relevant due to Revolution Day. It made me realise that Hungary was probably one of the worse off countries during the wars.

In the First World War Germany had come in on their side but in the Second World War Germany was occupying them. However between these two times they had lost the war which meant they had land bigger than the British Isles taken by the Allies. After Germany lost the Second World War they were then occupied by the Soviets. Both played havoc with the people and essentially for 70 years of the 20th century the country was having a terrible time. The museum was really well thought out with pieces of paper with information for people to take in every room. I recommend it.

The Opera house was next and after that we grabbed some dinner. Here I had an amazing duck soup and also Goulash and dumplings for the main. On the way here we past an incredible sweet shop with lots of pudding made like other things like cars and popcorn. We decided we would go here afterwards. It turned out to not be as good as it looked but it was still fun. We were going to take a night cruise but we arrived at the hotel too late, so instead I collapsed. The non-stop early and late nights of the past week had caught up with me.

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Budapest Day 1

Budapest! My new record for furthest away from home and first time outside Western Europe! This morning I essentially awoke, grabbed some crumpets for breakfast and then my mum drove me to Luton airport. Another first would be flying by myself. I haven’t taken many flights before at all. I’ll double the amount in this week alone. The airport was confusing as I stood in the wrong place to catch the bus to the terminal. I had a little chuckle when I saw the buses headed for London. London Luton airport is a bit of a joke for the UK when it comes to airports. For it is hardly near London at all. It’s not even in the same county and a good hour and a half drive. It’s ridiculous to be called London.

I had a little scare when I got in as I thought I heard last call for Budapest, which after I’d gone through security realised was obviously not true. I boarded the plane and grabbed the seat by the window. This was the prettiest flight I had made as the sky was quite clear so I could see the ground passing below. I haven’t got over this yet.

At Budapest I found the airport company who would drive me to the hotel. Also a little scary to just follow a random guy to a car and have him drive you somewhere. I arrived though and to my eyes it didn’t look much different from a hostel lounge, I expected a four star hotel to be a bit more extravagant. A proper hotel is yet another first for me, as normally when we travel we stay at relative’s houses or camp.

I sat in the lounge and waited for Alizee to arrive. I wrote more about the hitchhike to pass the time. Then I saw her cheery face come through the door. Now to the room. Again I was a little disappointed but the room was more fancy with a hostel. Though it didn’t have the essentials you would expect. It turned out to have no shampoo or toothpaste but it did have shoe polish? We left our stuff and exchanged our stories so far and then decided to venture into the city.

We decide to go with flow and choose whichever way took our fancy. It turned out to not be the best choice in road but at least it was in the right direction. Having a vague map didn’t help either as we saw a nice building, but when we asked what it was to ourselves we had no clue. We later found out the first building was the market.

We had some dinner in what seemed like quite a local place which was nice and quite pub like. The food was very homely and I had pork stuffed with apples and cheese. From watching the other food come out it seemed the favourite was giant schnitzel. This was defiantly giant, taking up most of the plate. We paid, feeling super rich as we paid under €10 for two courses plus the fact that €1 = 300 HUF, so we could flash around our 20,000 notes.

We eventually came across the Danube River. It was very prettily lit. We had found Budapest’s picturesque part. The first part of our walk was a little backstreet-esque, so I was glad to find this part. We walked back to the hotel excited about our day ahead.

Lancaster to Home. For One Night Only.

Geoff didn’t set an alarm so he missed his first class, but I went with him to his next. Here I learned computer scientists are stupid and don’t bring pens to class. Useful. I also researched a winter adventure of Berlin, Prague and Vienna. I calculated accommodation and flights for €250 – bargain!

After this we were supposed to have a roast dinner, but Geoff put the oven on grill, so the chicken was not fully cooked and the potatoes were very crispy on one side and soft on the other. It was fine though and we had banoffee pie for afters. Sadly I now had to leave.

Funnily I had exactly the same seat back as I did on the way there. I thought it might even have been the same train. I listened to music and tried desperately not to fall asleep. At Milton Keynes, I couldn’t see my Dad – he was hiding behind some taxis and had neglected to tell me.

I chatted about my Dutch and hitchhike travels. We arrived home at 2.30am where there was Chinese waiting for me. I read my post and went to bed.

San Sebastian – Biarritz – London – Lancaster

Not a very interesting day. I awoke and met the others at reception and then we walked to the bus. We were there early as we weren’t all guaranteed tickets, but we managed to get them all and had some drinks and snacks at a coffee shop.

At Biarritz we had a bit of a kerfuffle trying to find the correct bus stop, but we eventually found it. Price: €1 to the airport! Here we discovered, ridiculously that Biarritz, Bayonne and another town’s airport were actually all the same place.

I sat and read a book as our flight didn’t leave till 15.30 and it was now about 11. Here I got harassed by some French girls trying to speak English and reading my book, saying what I look like and just generally being unpleasant and annoying. I tried to find somewhere else to go but it was a small airport, so I stood by a stationary closet. However they came laughing round the corner. Luckily at this point it was time to go through customs, so I left them back in arrivals.

I was very worried for the weight of my suitcase as it had to be under 10kg, but luckily it was only 7kg with me wearing most of my clothes. The flight was fun, I sat by the window and slept most of the way.

At Stanstead we all got some food. I had a Panini, which was expensive. Robert had to leave to get a coach so I left at the same time to get the train to Euston. Apparently Stanstead is not on the underground so I ran to a train that took 25 minutes to get to Tottenham Hale. I read my hitchhike adventure over the phone to my Dad and got to Euston two hours early. There were lots of shops so I looked around them, indulging in Millie’s, where I obviously bought cookies. I forgot I didn’t have pounds, but luckily I had my emergency £10 note in my wallet to save me. I really wanted soup, but no shop had it. I longed for Greggs and a sausage roll, but there wasn’t one. So I had to settle for a miso soup from a coffee shop and awaited my train.

I arrived in cold Lancaster at 23.30. Geoff and I got the bus to the University Campus where we washed my clothes and I had a deserved sleep.

Utrecht-San Sebastian hitchhike: Post-Post-Hitchhike

Our initial plan was to go to the beach again, but Urzi and Chris were planning a bike ride so we joined in. It turned out to be a reasonably sized group of nine who came along. This included UCUers who had arrived that very morning and were heading to Barcelona the next day. This made Klementina happy as she now had people to travel with in order to get her flight to Brussels.

The hostel map showed a good bike route and we decided to take this. First stop was the far end of the swimming beach where some sculptures were erected over the sea. We took lots of pictures of us climbing the monuments. The tide was coming in so we could see the spray of the waves hitting the rocks. Klementina and some guys climbed down to play in the spray. They had a good time though at a cost. Klementina soaked her shoes, Chris got hit by a full wave and another guy nearly had his shoes stolen by the sea. Luckily they retrieved them, but the sea had the last laugh, claiming his socks.

We then decided to go up the cliff as the funicular was nearby. Klementina, Chris and I were not fools and got the funicular to the top, while the others cycled up. Funny thing is they still had to spend €1.80, so in the end only saved €0.90. The view was stunning and we took many pictures. Chris and Klementina found a ball and played volleyball while waiting for the others. It only ended up going over the side once!

At this point everyone was hungry so we decided to get food en route, asking locals for advice. We ate at a place with three courses and wine for €10. So it was very good, unless you are vegetarian. Spaniards don’t seem to understand vegetarians. They’re perfectly capable at making a vegetarian dish, but then they put some ham on top for garnish. This meant Klementina’s green salad had tuna in it, so she had to do with lentils. Mine was very nice though.

Klementina and others had to buy their bus tickets as their coach for Barcelona was leaving tonight. It was also en route so it was no problem. Our cycle included going under a cliff in an extraordinarily long tunnel which was very fun. “Maybe China’s at the other end”. Funnily at one point we were supposed to go straight over a roundabout, but we ended up doing 360°, who knows how. At the bus station, I luckily saw my bus company too and confirmed a €6.60 bus was leaving for Biarritz the next morning.

At this point however, Klementina realised she had lost her camera with €50 in the case, probably back at the funicular. So while everyone went to the hostel we went back to check. Luckily the man didn’t charge us for the funicular, but alas it was not there. Our photos from yesterday were lost, but at least we still had the ones from mine. Plus now we could see the palace we missed earlier. Not really a palace, it was more a stately home, but still pretty.

We watched some surf kayaks and decided, even though it was dark, we couldn’t leave without going in the sea. We stripped to our bikinis and stood in the waves. We didn’t swim though as the waves, if they were in Cornwall, you would’ve happily surfed. Another objective achieved, we ate the rest of our bread on the promenade, then headed to the hostel. Here we chilled and packed our bags for the next day. Until Klementina realised that she suddenly had to leave to catch her bus and so, with a hasty goodbye, she did so.

I had to sort out my transport, but luckily some people from my intro week family were taking the same flight to London, in order to fly back to the Netherlands. They decided on a time to get the bus to Biarritz and agreed to meet at reception at 7.30am.

Others along with Chris and Urzi had gone to the beach for drinks and as I now had eight beers (mine plus Klementina’s) from yesterday, I went along. I needed to get rid of them as you aren’t allowed glass in hand luggage. Luckily Ilona was leaving the next morning too so we went together.

We found Urzi and Chris along with a few others sitting in a circle playing ring of fire. Unfortunately we were to be interrupted by a guy shouting at us in French wanting a cigarette. We said we didn’t have one, but that wasn’t the end, he came to the beach and joined in our circle. We ignored him, but he didn’t like that. He picked up one of the bottles and threatened us. We jumped and he ended up stealing a bottle of rum.

Although it was on the beach of course!

This kind of ruined our evening a little. We decided to move to a new place on the beach and continue to play. Instead we watched the same guy steal a blanket from someone else. It was a little ridiculous. As some people were quite drunk we thought we should go back to the hostel. Unfortunately part way we realised we had lost Ralph and so me and Ilona stayed with the drunkards. However Ilona then also realised she had left her bag on the beach that contained her passport. So then I was left with drunkards, who were pretending to be Spanish whilst speaking Dutch. These weren’t the most favourable circumstances for me to be looking after them, when I really had no clue what they were saying.

An awkward ten minutes followed, but Ilona returned saying she couldn’t find it. Hence we went back to the beach to search. We had hidden some bottles in the sand when we saw some police were nearby, so I started by looking for these. I found one; Ilona came over and also discovered her bag. Phew.

We made our way back to the hostel, the drunkards harassing locals on the way and generally being annoying. Eventually we left them as they had run away twice and we had to get up early. A day of constant travel was ahead.

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Utrecht-San Sebastian hitchhike: Post-Hitchhike

We had our showers and then decided like everyone to head to the beach and stroll around town. I spied an ice cream shop and nothing goes better with the beach than ice cream. Even better it was Italian ice cream, but as usual no kiwi flavour (I had this once in Germany on a school trip and it was amazing). Instead I decided to have a multicoloured bubblegum flavour with a scoop of strawberry, it was very tasty.

As we walked through the streets I noted a coffee shop. I was a little bit surprised to see it there as I thought you only had them in the Netherlands. Apparently not. Strangely there weren’t many tourist shops for a surfing destination so when we saw a few I looked for a sew on badge to add to my collection ( I have a blanket which I started when I was about 13 for which I have badges from places I’ve visited and from scouts/guides. You’d think this would mean I have a lot but unfortunately they’re quite rare to find. It is quite impressive though). There were no Spain ones, so from this I gathered the Basque region, where San Sebastain resides, is not that keen on Spain. But they did have a badge of a flag that looked like the GB one, except the background was red, the cross was white and the diagonal was green. I guessed this was the Basque flag and this was confirmed. I bought it.

We went to the beach and it was tremendously beautiful, definitely picture postcard. We sat in the sun and had a little paddle in the sea. Here Klementina discovered the joys of a strong wave that pulls all the sand from under your feet. It even made her loose balance. We played this game for a bit and then we laid in the sand making sand sculptures.

After a doze, we went back into town where Klementina bought a bikini and in the process we stumbled across the Cathedral. Here I had another nap and some food. We thought we should head back as a group picnic was planned, but we hadn’t heard any information yet. We got back to discover nothing was going to be happening. Typical UCUers in last minute planning, or lack of it.

Klementina and I fancied some Basque food. Urzi and Chris told us they had had a great Basque lunch, three course meal and a bottle of wine for €10. We couldn’t pass that up and decided to go. Chris and Urzi decided to make their own dinner in the hostel kitchen. We went with them to the supermarket and got some beer. We were going to do something tonight even if the whole group had made no plans. Talk of drinks at the beach was on

When we had walked to the Basque restaurant we discovered it to be closed. However we’d seen a pizzeria on the way and had designated it plan B. We eventually found it again, but it was very empty with a dodgy man outside so we decided against it. We wandered around the streets trying to find good food and a menu we could understand. We came across a place with a huge menu and peered in. They had trays of food at the bar and the prices were good so we entered.

Everything was in Spanish so the restaurateur who spoke English came over. She explained the food was Tapas and that the restaurant was a wine bar. She went over the vegetarian options with Klementina. Though there wasn’t much, Klementina chose Gazpacho, artichokes and a type of lasagne. Then it was my turn. The lady said the favourite was a black pudding volcano. “Couldn’t I just choose things from around the bar”, I asked. “Yes”, she said, “Then you can see everything”.

Later I realised this was a bit of an error as I had cut myself off from all of the hot tapas they had. Never mind, we had a good dinner, I highly recommend it. When we got the bill we estimated €20, as each dish was €2-4. However we were happy to discover they’d undercharged us! Even better. We hastily left before they noticed.

We got back and Urzi and Chris were still cooking so we chatted for a bit and then went to play cards. Unfortunately we were about to get terrible news. Job – a UCUer – had been swimming in the sea, but hadn’t been seen for seven hours. The worst was expected. Everyone was going down to the beach to light candles. We said we would join. It was very moving and sad, but it was good that everyone had shown their respects and joined together. I hadn’t known Job but it was still a shocking tragedy and upsetting. We returned to our rooms and slept.

Utrecht-San Sebastian hitchhike: The end is near

The driver is wary of our decision, but we convince him. So thus we watch our perfect lift drive off into the night…

We would like to have finished our journey here, but it’s just the start of our ‘depressing phase #3’.

Another UC couple is there – Wouter and Willem are sitting in desperation in front of the gas station. “We’ve been here for hours”, they greet us. They have given up hope but we, still warmed up by the beer, are optimistic about getting a lift. This time the gas station is open.  We propose the policy of ‘we ask one car, they ask one’. They are having none of this and propose they get the first lift since they’ve been there for hours. We then talk, exchange stories and fill the night with laughter. They’re convinced girls get picked up more easily, but we argue against – they know French and that is far more helpful. Few trucks and cars stop by, but drivers are mostly just settling down for the night. The morale gets lower as the night gets longer and Willem decides to take a casual nap directly in front of the door. We finish our chocolate and crisps as we usually do in desperate situations.

Casual

Wouter gets more aggressive and asks every truck driver, but no luck. Tina suggests she goes next (as she’s a girl). She talks to a driver in Spanish (?). He patiently explains to her that his company is worried about ‘seguridad’, thus he can’t take us. Tina throws a sad glance at the huge, empty seats in the truck. We return to our desperate poses outside the station, looking pretty pitiful, homeless and like moneyless students. After thinking for a while, the truck driver turns to us: ‘OK, dos (2) si’. He gives a more elaborate talk where he mentions something about 5k – I am wary of this figure and ask Tina to clarify with him. From what we get, he tells us he can leave us in Irun, which is in 5k from the centre of San Sebastian. We consider what’s better: at the petrol station, 35k from SS, or somewhere 5k from SS? We choose the second (which was Crucial Mistake #2). Me and Tina realize we can’t just leave the guys. We flutter our eyelids and Tina shows 4 with her fingers and says pleadingly: ‘Pero no somos companeros’ (But we’re friends) and makes the Sad Face. After another short speech in Spanish, he says: Vamonos! We ask: ‘Dos?’, he replies: ‘Todos!’ (everyone). Lift 20talkative Spanish truck driver, breaking his company’s rules. Our driver went over to talk to a driver of an identical truck, as one of the guys exclaims: “If he’s going to ask that man, he has already said no to me” Apparently Lift 20 has excellent persuasion powers himself, as the other driver did take the two boys – maybe he used the sad face. We were happy to be seeing the back of the station, getting closer to San Sebastian.

Surprisingly, at 2 am, on a Sunday, the small town of Irun wasn’t a very lively place. After wandering around and deciding where is best to hitch, we ended up at a road leading to San Sebastian via the highway. Off of this was a roundabout where police were conducting a drug and alcohol check. We weighed up pros and cons of whether people would stop if there was police nearby. It didn’t really matter though, as there were no cars passing by. Klementina goes over to the police and asks if this is a good spot. They say it is, so we continue sitting there, happy that it’s not cold at all. A local passes by and tells us “when the police leave, they’re going back to San Sebastian”. We get excited, as not only will we make it to SS, but will do so in a police car. Of course, as usual, this is not happening. Tina checks with the policemen and they claim they’re from Irun. Looks like we’re not sleeping in a bed tonight.

However, the policemen do suggest we might have more luck in the centre of Irun, which is 5k away from there. (Aha! This is the ‘5k to the centre’ the truck driver was talking about. To the centre of Irun, not of SS!) We agree to walk as it wouldn’t take too much to improve our situation. After a long walk in which we discuss English jokes and why they are (not)funny, we come to a new roundabout. We set up there, right next to the sign pointing to SS, and true, there are a few more cars here, but still not a decent enough amount. We consider tactics and conclude that four hitchhikers is scaring the drivers, so the boys stay to try their luck and we sit by the exit lane… snacking. By this point, it has become extremely cold. Fewer and fewer cars are passing. Klementina and I think this is not working and everyone is tired as 3:30 is drawing near. We agree we should call it off for a while and have a sleep. But where? Klementina attempts to get into some buildings nearby – all locked. Plan B: in the middle of the roundabout there is a subway with a bit of grass and some benches. “Looks like we’ll be real hobos tonight”.

Resting by the Road

The other three opt for sleeping on the bench as the grass is wet and will draw most of your heat. I agree this is true, but I don’t think I can sleep sitting up. So I place my towel on the ground and borrow a few of the boys’ card signs and try to sleep there. An hour passes and I awake to my hand completely cold and numb. I move it and feeling rushes back, phew. I see Klementina stirs as well. She says eight cars have passed since she’s awake – we should get back to the road. We wake up the boys – Willem is fast asleep as if he was in his bedroom, not on a freezing park bench. We start to hitch, this time me and Klementina, with new tactical positions. It’s not working out though, so we suggest the boys, instead of sitting by the side, to go and check lift opportunities on the nearby car park.  10 minutes later a car pulls up and says he can take four! Fantastic! Tina grabs the backpacks, I run over towards the park and call the boys. No answer. I can’t see them either, so I rush frantically trying to find them, but I can’t. I return to Klementina – the lift has gone. Thanks boys! If another car stops we’ll leave them! Tina goes to call after them. UCU! BOYS! HELLO UCU! (we don’t know their names).Nothing. What if they found a lift and they left us? We get back to hitch. 15 min later the ball and chain show up round the corner. I still don’t know what they were doing.

Another car pulls over and I rush again: San Sebastian?! Nope, it’s not a lift, it’s worse. The man claims they’re police and we’re not allowed to hitch here. Our jaws drop: “but the police at the drug check told us to come here!’’ Did they? The men are less stern now. Regretfully, we had to give in: if there’s a good place you can suggest, we’ll go there. But they can’t think of anywhere. “Take a bus”, they say. We can’t! They say something and go back in the car. I think they said ‘unlucky’, but Tina claims they said ‘good luck’. They drive off and we discuss what we should do. Rebelliously, we decide to stay in the same spot. Now we’re a bit more wary of the people in the approaching cars; perhaps the police will do a circle and come back to check if we’re gone.

Another car pulls over. Yells of excitement come from Tina, but she has to convince him to take four of us. Luckily we’ve had two days of practice in persuasion now, so he agrees.

Lift 21the knight in shining armour. Again, our story is not over here. He can’t take us to the hostel but can drop us ‘2km, maybe less’ from the centre. It’s good enough for us – we walked 5km earlier. We get dropped off near a train station. We asked locals for help to get oriented, and walked to the main road. Here we pulled out our SS map, kindly given by Google to us. With a little help of scissors and tape, it showed all the road names and was about a m2. Yet we didn’t need it, as Wouter had a smart phone and we were happy to follow his lead. We chatted and walked. and walked, and walked…

“This is definitely further than the 5km before. Where is this bridge we’re trying to find?” Obviously, Spaniards vastly underestimate distances. Eventually we got to the bridge and celebrated with taking photos. We were impressed by the surfable waves on the river, let alone the massive ones on the surf beach. San Sebastian was beautiful!

We decided to head to the hostel, our beds were calling us. Maybe we end this here? Nope. We arrive at the hostel to find out that we could not get a room at that time. But we can sleep in the lounge. Begrudgingly, we traipse over to switch on the light. but we quickly switch it off again, as we see the room is full of other sleeping UCUers. There are two couches free: Wouter grabs one, and Klementina the other. We go chat in reception  and come back – Willem had stolen Klementina’s sofa. Now we only get chairs to sleep on – so comfy. We both decline this option: I decide to sleep on the floor and Klementina goes back on the short sofa at the reception. Luckily, the reception has provided us with blankets (Tina is excluded from this luxury). I take one and then we sleep.

I wake in the night and there is still a spare blanket so I take it. Tina also wakes in the night.. to see a team who arrived after us getting a room! Dicks! Later – Willem steals my blanket! Bastard!

In the morning, Klementina had a nasty talk with the receptionist lady. Remember the couple who got a room before us? Well, that was the last available room! We now have to wait till 1pm, she told Tina. When the two of us greet in the morning, we’re both a little annoyed. “Have you put your name down on the list for a room at reception?” we get asked. Now we’re even more annoyed! I go, as Klementina is scarred by her previous interaction. Turns out we have to doss around in the hostel till one. Willem is still sleeping.

We grab some breakfast and at one we get our key and that shower we’ve been longing for. Our room is full with UCUers, which is nice. We head out to start enjoying our two days in San Sebastian before taking our separate ways. Klementina: Barcelona -> Brussels. Me: England -> Budapest. We grab a celebratory ice cream and lounge around on the picturesque beach. We had made it!