A white, patchwork quilt

frozen european landscape

I flew into Budapest this morning for a short city break. Flying over the European hinterland, it looked very black and white. Like most of the world, Europe has had a long, tough winter and the landscape still shows this.

I have always liked cloud formations. I took these (fairly ordinary) pics thorough the window. I like big, white fluffy clouds.

clouds over europe

clouds

We flew on the Hungarian national carrier, Malev. Almost all Hungarians on board and very few English (a good thing in my book, recalling the awful Brits on the flight to Prague a few years ago who were getting pissed ahead of their stag dos). As I had read is Hungarian custom – the passengers did indeed break into whooping and applause when we arrived safely in Budapest.

We took the airport shuttle to the centre. About a 20 minute ride. The hotel is good (especially as it has free wifi). There is a sauna which we’re yet to try out plus full breakfast so will do all of that tomorrow. Budapest is the spa/hot springs capital of Europe and there are many very historic public baths, a couple of which Sheridan and I plan to go to. Some are sex-segregated and bathing was done in the nude up until June 2009 when the law changed. I think quite a lot changed when Hungary joined the EU in 2006.

I like Budapest so far. It has the expected European olde worlde capital feel to it (think Vienna or Prague) but also a strongly ‘former Communist’ feel too. The outskirts are graffitid and concrete and it feels very Eastern European.

We went to the Hungarian National Museum this afternoon which was good. A fraction of the size of, say, the British Museum, but lovely and quiet and I enjoyed the post-1900 exhibits. The country has an interesting (and troubled) history. Having sided with Austria and Nazi Germany, it lost a lot of its territory post-WW2 and was then swallowed up behind the Iron Curtain until it finally broke free in 1989.

After checking into the hotel, I looked out of the window and a blizzard was blowing. Eastern Europe in March is never going to be a warm proposition. The daytime temperature has been about +4c. It was -4c this evening walking back from the restaurant.

I’m still off the booze but may well crack. Tomorrow it will be 9 days. I’d talked about having a ‘dry March’ but am conscious I’m missing out on very good Hungarian wines (they have very good wine here and it’s a wine country rather than beer, as preferred by its neighbours). Dinner out was pretty good, though we went to a Hungarian ‘fusion’ restaurant and I think I’d have rather gone for traditional Hungarian (goulash, etc), rather than the fusion. S liked it more than me.

The people seem very pleasant. Just getting out of London and out of the UK is bliss. Even though Budapest is a capital city it seems sooooooooo much quieter and less frenetic than London. But almost everywhere feels quiet compared with there, I spose.