3.9.96 (Tue)

Finally, I am on the train leaving Budapest for Wien. It will depart within minutes. This is a very comfortable German train on which I used to travel in previous trips. Air-conditioned and roomy seats. How I love it. And I am glad that I’m leaving Budapest at last.

On the whole, the stay in Budapest was not a nice one. The weather was not good. There was thunderstorm at night and it rained during the day. Even now it is cloudy and gloomy.

I arrived in Budapest early on the first day. I left my luggage at the station and started touring around the major sights. Since it rained I was not really in the mood. But I liked the Hero Square quite a lot. The Buda Castle was just average and so was the city park. Then I checked in the hotel in the afternoon and went back to the station to get my luggage. Then I walked around again. It was then that I discovered that I had lost my camera. I now suspect that it was stolen at the station.

I started off late yesterday (the second day in Budapest) because I had not quite recovered from the shock of losing the camera. I kept telling myself that it was only a camera; it could have been my wallet or passport then it could be far far worse. I spent the rest of the morning searching for a new camera. There were not many choices, naturally. Nothing like Fortress or Broadway at the places I went to. What I wanted was a camera with built-in flash and zoom functions (actually, what I really wanted was exactly my same old one). What passed the criteria however did not seem attractive, or reliable, or priced reasonably. And the disposable ones were quite expensive with basic functions only. Plus, they would be bulky to carry. Finally I bought a very basic Kodak camera at 13,990ft, i.e. about HKD750. That way I can still use the films I’ve brought with me. I will buy a better one when I return to Hong Kong.

After the shopping, I felt much better because things seemed to have more or less returned to track. I hurried to the Hero Square again to take a few snaps. Then I went to the Castle Hill again. The Fisherman’s Bastion was lovely. I took many photos there. What was more impressive was that what I first thought was music flowing out from the restaurants turned out to be violin played by a young man at the top of the Bastion. The music mixed so well with the view that it gave me such a romantic sensation that I considered it very reasonable to pay him. The rest of the Castle Hill was ordinary.

Then I took the cable car down the hill, took a tram, then a bus and then walked a distance to the Citadella, which turned out to be quite a disappointment. The fortress was not special, and the huge statue, though quite impressive because it was visible afar, was not beautiful at all. Well I know a beautiful statue when I see one. That one was obviously not. Plus, the weather was poor. When I came down, I bought some drinks in a supermarket. The queues at the cashiers were super-long and discouraging. For a purchase of around HKD5, I was in the line for about 20 minutes. I spent the time observing local people. One thing I could see was that they did not care much about the hygiene of their bread. They just put their huge pieces of bread inside the shopping baskets, with pieces of paper that could scarcely wrap the bread.

I then walked along the Danube river, the Chain Bridge and Vaci Utca again. I have never felt that Danube is a beautiful river. The rivers that run through Salzburg and Praha, and the Seine and the Cam rivers are beautiful. The Danube and the Rhine are not.

I then had dinner in a Pizza Hut on Vaci Utca. It was cheap. A spaghetti and a coke plus service charge were only 670ft, i.e. about HKD30. A man and a girl (both Asians) approached me at the Pizza Hut. The girl began with "sumimasen" and I instantly replied in Japanese that I was not a Japanese. The girl shut up at once. Then the man asked me in English if I was a Japanese living in Budapest because it would be good for the girl, a new student in Budapest, to have a friend from her own country. The man was from Hong Kong. And I explained to him in Cantonese that I could not help.

Then I returned to the hotel. When I was climbing the stairs from the metro to the street, I felt something touch my back. There were two men behind me. One of them obviously was trying to unzip my backpack. I was lucky that it was not easy because I was walking. But just when I turned to check what was going on, another man at the foot of the stairs shouted at them. Then they yelled at each other. People nearby watched. I think these two thieves had stolen something from that man or his pals and were discovered. What a mess with these thieves. I was frightened by strangers approaching me and so I ignored them, whoever they were. Once, these strangers turned out to be metro staff checking passengers’ tickets.

I like Praha much more than Budapest. No. I like Praha. I don’t like Budapest. I am so sorry that some of the pictures I took in Praha, especially those taken on the last night, were lost.

* * *

I am now in the restaurant in Wien Sudbahnhof. I have just had dinner here. The spaghetti was just average. But I want to stay here because there are still 1 1/2 hours to go before the departure of my train to Venezia.

Today was a wasted day. I had nothing to do here in Wien. I had seen everything I wanted to see last time. I just kept walking up and down between Karlsplatz and Stephansplatz, turning into the side streets from time to time. I spent about an hour standing in the British Book Shop reading. I was glad that I still remembered the way there. After the book shop, there was really nothing to do, so I just walked to and fro. My legs and feet almost fell off around 6 pm. I could walk no more at around 6:30 pm so I came to the station.

When I arrived at Wien Westbahnhof today, I met the Australians who had shared a train compartment with me from Berlin to Praha. They were going fine. Instead of taking a night train through Slovakia, they had taken a day train via Wien to Budapest. They liked Praha, just as I do, and they liked Budapest, too. I told them that I disliked Budapest for I had lost my camera there. They said they were sorry.

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