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Janet’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 23 Sep 2007

Location: Budapest, Hungary

MapWell, I've had an eventful couple of weeks.

Last week I attended the company conference, which consisted of camping in Kent. I felt very lucky to be invited, as I am a contractor, so I did my best to get into the spirit of things. Which basically concerned the consumption of spirits and dancing like a knob with Phillip from Analytics. The weather was deceptively gorgeous - fairly warm during the day, but the temperature plummeted in the evening - and after nearly freezing to death in my tent (the sleeping bags provided were definitely not warm enough) I decided that there really is no need for me to camp ever again. And I mean EVER.

The adventurer Alan Chambers gave a fantastic motivational speech- I felt like I could do anything afterward! I guess the intention was to make us feel like we could achieve anything AT WORK, but it made me think about my travels, and how I should just get out there & do it. I literally cannot wait to get on the road now. If he can lead a team to the north pole, then I can lead myself to Rio. As long as there are no tents involved.

The next day I flew to Budapest and met Ben and Attila for one of the best weekends I've had on my trip so far (Bruges aside Dillon!).
We are old uni mates, and we hadnt all been together for nearly 4 years, when Attila left Sydney to finish his Masters in America. So our reunion commenced at midnight on Attila's balcony in Pest with the consumption of several bottles of beautiful Hungarian wine. It was excellent to catch up on the last few years, and so satisfying to know that whilst we've all grown & done different things, we are fundamentally unchanged. The old group dynamic was just like it used to be - basically constant laughing and taking the piss out of each other, broken up by the odd serious conversation. If we could just have added Anne to the mix it would have been perfect!

The next day we had lunch in the square in front of St Stephens, before climbing to the top and taking in a wonderful view of Budapest. Attila and his thoroughly divine girlfriend Magdi were at a wedding, so Ben and I wandered around Pest. Did some shopping for pyjamas (I had forgotten to pack mine) - so in the end I bought the dodgiest pair of boxer shorts in Eastern Europe, which we found hilarious. Those boxers are going around the world with me! We tried to work out the exchange rate by asking the sales assistant what the price would be in Euros, then tried to convert that to pounds. Not very scientific at all - you'd think that we could have just gone to a bank to work it out - but at the time it was quite amusing.

We went to the Castle district in Buda, where we took the funicular railway (love that word - infinitely prefer it to the unexciting alternative, 'cable car') and stumbled across a political rally. It was very exciting, despite the fact that we didnt understand a word. Again, a beautiful view from the top, across to the Pest side. I couldnt get over how beautiful the city is! I was just floored by the ornate architecture, the stunning squares, the beautiful chain bridge with the lion statues with no tongues - and so happy that it was still around to be enjoyed. It could so easily have been destroyed in the war.

We went out for dinner that night near the river, followed by drinks with Attila and Magdi in a fabulous bar. Ben was happy that he finally got to see his Eastern European ladies, and I was happy to be served beautiful wine by a sommelier - such a different experience to a pint in a boozer!

The next day we all slept in late, then, after walking around the very impressive Heroes Square, Ben and I took the Hungarians to a beautiful restaurant for a 3 hour lunch. I was in heaven - they serve fruit soup as an entree in Hungary! So bizarre- its like a smoothie but served in a bowl with a spoon. Definitely my oddest soup experience yet, but it one to remember! Afterward we went up to Gellert Hill to look at the Freedom Statue (it honours the Soviet liberation of Hungary from the Nazis during World War II). I couldnt imagine what it must have been like to live during that period...just horrifying to lose everything - homes, possessions, identities, lives. We did a cruise on the Danube and saw Budapest at night. Again, unutterably beautiful. I have to say - its a big call, but the city is now in my top 5.

Afterward we went to a pancake restaurant on the river and ate a cake made out of pancakes... yes, I understand why one would ask 'what is the point?' but, whilst it is not particularly healthy, it was a lot of fun!

On Monday, Ben and I went cycling with Magdi on Margit Island, which lies in the middle of the Danube. We saw St Margit's grave, some beautiful statues and gardens, and my favourite - a fountain synchronised to spout in time to the classical music being pumped out through speakers. So cool! And so... European!

We followed it with a trip to the baths, where we floated around the in the outdoor pool and reflected on a great weekend. Had lunch with Attila (again, a lovely restaurant by the river). I dont understand why people say the food in Hungary is not good! Maybe having a local make recommendations made all the the difference, but I got the distinct impression that the Hungarians love their food. And as a vege I was quite happy - loved the stuffed paprika.

So, after a wonderful 3 days I headed back to london and left the boys to enjoy the next couple of days together (they were rubbing in the fact that I had to go to work whilst they were going to get massages & hang out at the baths). Bastards.
There were rumblings about coming to meet me in Argentina (or Argentinia as I call it after a few wines) next year - I really really hope they do! Good mates & a beautiful city = an unforgettable weekend.

And then back to work, which was fine. Only thing remarkable about it was that I went out for lunch on Wednesday to Elena's L'etoile - a great little French restaurant in Charlotte St. I had fish & chips which cost $62! I know I have to stop converting back, but this was just ridiculous. People are starving in the world and then there are suckers like me who buy into this sort of thing. I feel guilty!

Two more excellent things happened this week -Gabrielle arrived back in London (hooray! Finally!) and Geelong got into the AFL grand final! Again, hooray! Finally! It means we are getting up at 5am next Saturday morning to go and stand in a skanky Walkabout pub to see the Cats bring it home. Cant wait!

Anyway, love to all
Jan xx