Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

If I’m going to tell you about my summer, I suppose I had better hop in the time machine and go back to June when I wheedled my way into Hubby’s business trip to Budapest, Hungary. After convincing Hubby that he couldn’t possibly have fun without me in a new city while meeting up with several of our old friends from the Midwest, I packed my bags for what would turn out to be a fantastic European odyssey.

Budapest was the site of a conference that Hubby had been invited to speak at. (As a proud wife, I would now like to mention that Hubby won first place in the best paper competition at that conference. I married the biggest and cutest nerd in the room!) Since several of our friends were also scheduled to present papers at the same conference, we knew it would be an awesome week, especially since, for a change, I wasn’t going to be the only girl surrounded by sweet, brother-like boy nerds.

As our men were busy presenting papers, listening to talks, and otherwise justifying the long trip to Hungary, Sconni Girl, Pequeña, and I headed into the city to do some serious exploring. After hopping on a bus into town (more on that in another post) we found ourselves in the Castle District of Budapest.

This decidedly Eastern European city is steeped in history that North Americans like us found fascinating despite the constant and never-ending downpour that taunted our stay. During our first dry spell, we walked through Holy Trinity Square, past Matthias Church, and along the walls of Fishermen’s Bastion. From there we beheld the amazing panoramic views of the parliament building almost directly across the river from us to the beautiful architecture in virtually every direction and we snapped photos like the vaguely lame tourists we were. At least, we told ourselves, we weren’t lame enough to have paid to walk along the slightly higher parapets when the “free” view was just as impressive.

While we looked for a nice restaurant to have lunch we noticed a large group of people standing in front of a door to the palace. We immediately knew this was a tourist trap that we were too smart to be sucked into and started to walk in the opposite direction. At that moment, an old man stepped forward and told us that we only had until the bells finished chiming to watch the changing of the guards.

I want to state for the record that I was beyond dubious of the weird local guy and his ominous Cinderella-esque warnings but I ran over to the thronged crowds just as willingly as the Sconni Girl and Pequeña to catch the final moments of soldiers stomping and marching as the changing concluded. I confessed to the girls that I was ashamed for having doubted the Crazy Old Guy and needed to be less suspicious of strangers.

Immediately adjacent to our location was the famous funicular we had been told to look for by all the guidebooks. Although we deemed the price to go down a little steep (pardon the pun) we did enjoy further explorations of the views over Budapest. Well, we enjoyed them until the Crazy Old Guy showed up again.

Always go with your gut, Beloved Readers! If you think the weird old man is really a Crazy Old Guy, then he probably is!

COG proceeded to tell us that he was a tour guide and would take us around the area for a small fee. He claimed he knew the area (“Look at me!”) better than the other younger guides (“You are not paying attention!”) and was very friendly. Since the three of us weren’t really tour guide people and COG was starting to freak us out with his randomly yelled comments we tried to politely decline.

“No! I give good price!” Our attempts at good manners were failing when Pequeña took matters in her own hands and firmly explained to the Crazy Old Guy that we weren’t buying and that we wanted to leave. Sconni Girl and I congratulated Pequeña on ditching the Crazy Old Guy when he started muttering after us that we were impolite women. That’s when we declared it time to leave the funicular behind, and find some lunch.

The unbelievable part of the Crazy Old Guy story is that he found us again several days later when we returned with the boys. We stood in the same spot and were joking about the man’s insistent attitude when he showed up offering his guide services yet again. Some days, déjà vu really sucks.


Connie said...

Beautiful! I love the castles with the dark sky and the ohsogreen trees! How nice that you go to spend this time with friends too.

LadyFi said...

You're back! Hurray! Please don't disappear again.

Love the pics and the story of the old guy. Guess he was just trying to make a living...

honkeie2 said...

I am always a sucker for the COG!

Miss Footloose said...

Oh, but these COG's make such great stories! And of course, like much in travel adventures, it's even more fun in retrospect.

I wheedled my way into a hubby business trip to Belgrade, Serbia, and was yelled at nastily by a ferocious looking toilet lady for not paying her on the way out. She was sitting in the men's section and I didn't see anyone sitting in the women's section. Apparently she was Kommandant of both.

Nice to see you back!

Miss Footloose
Tales of the Globetrotting Life

Anonymous said...

And there was the COG at the Egyptian Museum --but he was actually good!
Budapest is one of the places we wnt to visit. AH well, one day...

Bluefish said...

I want to read more!

Gaston Studio said...

Wow, you've been MIA for a really long time!
I love COG stories too, and this one was great.

Little P said...

Hahaha - that is hilarious about the old man. Thankfully, I haven't come across him in Budapest, but I was there in April so maybe it was too cold :)
Isn't Budapest SOOOOO cool! This is the last place I had good 'culture shock' and I just find it so interesting!
Can't wait to hear more about how you are doing!

American in Norway said...

Loved loved loved Budapest... we need to plan a girls trip back! : )

Betty said...

Loved your pictures. COG sounds like a real menace!