Monday, September 10, 2007

When it rains...

After Sarah and I posted our last two entries, we had a couple of hours left before we had to catch the train to Budapest. So, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat, and then do a little bit of last minute sightseeing.

The skies were beautiful that afternoon... but ominous.

After eating, as we made our way to the First Romanian School, we noticed some clouds building over the nearby mountain sides. While circling the school, we felt the first drop or two of rain, and could see the occasional distant flash of lightning. Then, as we began the long walk back to our room, Sarah announced it was time to put on her rain jacket.

No sooner had we both pulled our jackets on, than it began to rain. Or, rather, the heavens opened and unleashed a downpour of near Biblical proportion. Unfortunately, while the rain jackets tried their hardest, we were about 40 minutes from our room... so by the time we reached there, we were soaked to the bone.

Back at our room, we had a little over a half hour to dry off, but looking out the window we noticed the rain had stopped as suddenly as it began, so we hoisted our backpacks and decided to head to the station.

But, the weather wasn't going to let us off that easy, and no sooner had we made it a couple blocks, than the torrent returned. This time, it was possibly raining even harder. The sky was a light purple strobelight of lightning, and the streets had standing water which reached up over our ankles.

We reached the trainstation but everything was drenched. Even the insides of our packs were getting wet. In hopes of being vaguely comfortable on the train, we took turns going to the bathrooms and switching into dryer clothes. But, even our dry clothes were fairly damp.

Shortly, we boarded our train and squeezed into our cabin with three other travellers. We had the top two bunks, which actually worked out for us, since it allowed us to spread out our wet clothes and bags on the top storage shelfs; before we curled up to try to get some sleep.

Me, sitting on my top bunk next to the pile of wet bags and clothes.

Sometime around three in the morning, the train crossed the boarder in Hungary. The immigration officers, in turn, came to our cabin to check and stamp our passports. In the bunk across from me, I could see Sarah somehow managing to sleep even while the immigration officer checked her passport; her eyes closed and her sleep mask pushed up onto her forehead.

Arriving that morning in Budapest, we quickly made our way through the trainstation and into Budapest's underground. Somewhat shocked, we realized that this was the first subway we had ridden on since Santiago. Following directions Sarah had copied down from a hostels website, we made our way there hoping they had gotten the requested we'd emailed them for a room.

Unfortunately, they hadn't. And, they were full. But the guy working the front desk directed us to another nearby hostel. This hostel had a room, but it was only available for one night. In addition, the bathroom on that floor was broken, so we'd have to hike upstairs to shower and whatnot, but at least we had a whole room to spread the contents of our still damp bags out.

Because we'd planned on spending several nights in Budapest, but because the hostel only had a room for one night, we had to turn around and start hostel hunting again for a new place for the following night.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we hit the town looking for a hostel. Unfortunately, two things quickly became apparent: 1) Most of the hostels we full. And 2) things were a lot more expensive than we'd hoped in Budapest.

Oh yeah, and it had started to downpour again.

At one point, as we trudged through the rainy streets, after being turned away by yet another hostel, a car raced by and slattered my legs with muddy water. Defeated, I let my shoulders drop and growled to Sarah: "I hate Budapest."

But, really, I don't. And, shortly after I announced my hatred from Budapest, than things started to turn around. The next hostel we checked out had a whole flat available for us to rent for the next couple of days. It was a little more than we'd planned on spending, but (like our place in Brasov)it had a private bathroom, a TV and a kitchen.

Our luck -and the weather- starts to turn around in Budapest.

Boistered by this victory, we decided to check out the House of Hungarian Wines! Now, at this point, I'll ask you to see Sarah's next entry where she'll breakdown for you all the wonderful Hungarian wines we got to experience; but, needless to say, as we wandered out of the House of Wines a couple hours later, we were both enjoying Budapest quite a bit more.

Now, at this point, we weren't sure if it was because of the wine, or if it was a real phenomenon but: Budapest transforms at nighttime. All the dirt and hussle of the big city seems to fade away and be replaxed by a wonderful array of quiet, narrow streets, relaxing park boulevards and expertly-illuminated classical architecture. So, making our way slowly home, Sarah and I enjoyed the city and stopped frequently to take pictures of whatever caught our fancy.

The same view as above, but at night.

The royal palace, at night.

A detail of the royal palace.

A tram passes inot a tunnel under us.

We rode the funiclur down off of Castle Hill and wandered across the Chain Bridge. After stopping for a late night meal (well, by our standards, all the travelling has made it so that our bedtime is sometime shortly after 9pm), we returned to our hostel and climbed into bed for a sound nights rest.

The Chain Bridge, one of the bridges which spans the Danube and links Buda to Pest.

Gresham Palace, which sits at one end of the Chain Bridge.

I love this picture of Sarah laughing on the Chain Bridge. It's a little dark on the computer I'm using... hopefully your computers monitor is brighter.

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