A couple of funny things happened today. The funniest by far was the chap who attempted to sit on air which he mistook for a seat at a tram stop. His wife/girlfriend/partner/sister who had successfully managed to sit on the bench burst into laughter, we smirked and other people on our side of the tram stop joined in the jollity. The poor chap with the bad bottom aim was very embarrassed but smiled along with the laughter. The woman who was with him was still laughing when she left the tram two stops later. It was very funny but I do think she went a bit far.
The other funny thing was something to do with translation. While we were waiting to buy tickets to a folklore dance evening, there was a group of people (who could have been Russian) already waiting behind a couple of, I think, Germans who were taking an awfully long time. Eventually, one of the possibly Russians, in broken English, following a chat in their own language, wondered whether they could quickly pay for their tickets because one of their party had to have her Insulin injection. One of the possibly Germans said she understood many languages and knew they were lying. This sent the possibly Russian guy into fits of laughter. Truly, I’ve never seen someone laugh so much.
The third funny thing was while we were sitting in the gloriously arte deco cafe at the Four Seasons Hotel. We had had coffee/tea cake and cheese and were just leaning back in our bucket seats, enjoying the ambience when a couple walked passed. It was a man and a woman, both in their mid to late 40’s. I’d never have noticed them except, as they passed, she proclaimed, loud and clear:
“Now I need to go for a wee-wee.”
It was quite disconcerting.
We were resting up in the Four Seasons after wandering around St Stephen’s Basilica and checking out his mummified hand which is kept in a box in an odd little chapel out the back. It’s brought out every year on the day of his feast and marched around the town. Of course, there’s no guarantee that it ever belonged to St Stephen but it was someone’s hand so…makes as much sense as praying to a cloud.
Actually, I could have done with a bit of St Stephen’s help this morning. Before we left the hotel, I managed to spill half a cup of coffee onto my laptop. There was a lot of frantic shaking, mopping and blow drying and, of course, the blue screen of death. I could only hope it would still work later (it did). Fortunately I managed to get my photographs off it before I closed it down.
So, ignoring that nasty thing, we headed down to Oktogon and caught the 105 bus down to St Stephen’s.
After a wander among the hundreds of tourists in the church, we headed out to the Christmas Market set up along Zrinyi Street and ending on the church steps. Mum managed to buy all of the tea towels and a snow globe before we found our way to the ticket office for the folklore tickets and the tickets for our dinner cruise.
The rest of the day we spent wandering around the Parliament area and trying to catch trams back to the hotel.
The problem with the trams is inexplicable. As we were waiting for a number 2 tram to take us in one direction, the one coming in the opposite direction told us there were no more going in the direction we wanted. We then ran into increasingly fewer trams the further away we travelled. It was a bit frustrating because there was no signage indicating that the trams were due to stop earlier than usual. But they did. Well, the number 2 tram did.
Back at the apartment we settled in for a bit of a rest before our special Christmas dinner cruise on the Danube.
* * * * * *
Well, THAT was awful. Possibly the worst Christmas Eve we’ve ever had. Though I think it was worse for Mr & Mrs Parka who sat opposite us and grimaced for most of it tightly and securely wrapped up in their fur lined Arctic jackets. Actually I felt so sorry for Mrs Parka (who clearly wasn’t well) I threw a Turkish Delight chocolate at her to make her smile. It worked.
What was wrong? Let me start with what was right. It ended. That’s it for what was right.
From the start it looked bad. We started queueing (as advertised) from 8:30 for a 9pm sailing of the Europa, dining on the Danube romantic experience. Just to make sure that everyone knows, the company is called either Duna Koncert Kft or ticket.info.hu or Danube Cruise Budapest. They should be called The Really, Really Appalling Cruise Company. As Mirinda said, if she was the owner she’d sack the manager. I’d also sack the rest of the staff. Except maybe the boat captain.
The queueing lasted for an hour and a half while the staff aboard the Europa tidied up after the previous passengers. Somehow the queue kept squidging up even though the door to the boat was closed securely. I’m thinking we probably lost a few in the freezing river. The temperature was very low while we stood shivering and shuffling and generally trying to avoid hypothermia.
When the queue squidged to the point where we were shoved onto the boarding ramp (and the boat remained closed off to us all) Mirinda declared she was going to wait on the shore for the end of the queue which, by this time, had stretched back to the UK. The reason she refused to stand on the ramp was because it was creaking and groaning with the addition of each few hundred starving tourists wanting to get warm.
It was difficult at times remembering we’d paid to do this.
Finally, after Santa had had a fag and the crowd had started singing gospel songs about death and despair, the boat doors opened…then closed again. The crowd groaned in disbelief but then the doors opened again and they started pushing forward. Not that it lasted too long. After the first six people boarded, the crowd stopped as they were processed. And so we slowly crept forwards.
By the time we reached the pontoon at the bottom, mum wanted to wait for Mirinda. I told her she’d be ages because she was going to be last onboard. At this time we still couldn’t see the end of the queue. We could see Mirinda because of her big Russian cat…sorry, hat. Mirinda’s text threat put paid to that so we once more joined the throng and stepped aboard the boat.
The reason for the hold-up at the entrance was two-fold. Firstly in order to process the people who only had emails and not tickets (probably because the office had closed and no-one thought to tell them) and secondly because the staff are clearly inept. Still, we had tickets and were eventually shown to a table (26) then, before we could complete a sit, were moved to the next table (27) which was in the corner of the stern.
This was the best bit. The position of the table. Ignoring the decorations which continually blocked our view, the bits of the view we managed to see were lovely…if somewhat foggy.
Anyway, I left mum in her seat and went and stood by the entrance to the boat, waiting for Mirinda. This took a while but eventually she stepped onto the boat. She WAS last. Santa tried to give her a chocolate and the steward at the door tried to wish her Merry Christmas but she brushed them both aside with aplomb and wit. In effect she told them they had ruined her Christmas and could just piss off.
Finally she made it to our table which we were sharing with a French family (daughter, mum and son with serious self hair love), Mr & Mrs Parka and their Goth-ish daughter and three girls who could have been Russian. Apart from mum making life long friends with the French daughter, we never really said much to any of them. Still, they all seemed to suffer as much as we did so it wasn’t just us.
As the boat finally started moving along the Danube, a woman from the Company came over and introduced herself as…I have no idea what she said except that she was our hostess. She then went on to tell us all sorts of stuff that we didn’t understand or hear. Possibly she was saying something like:
“Leave all your expectations of delight on the banks of the Danube for you’ll not be needing them tonight. This is your Nine Circles of Hell Cruise and I am Satan.”
That was the last we saw of her until the very end when she came around and tried to make us buy and drink liquors. She had no takers and the next we saw of her was just before the end when she’d been demoted to carrying the tray of alcohol while another woman (possibly her boss) showed her how to do it.
Now, call me insane but I figured the food would be organised so that certain tables would be told to get up and feed then sit down again (there was about a thousand people onboard, after all) but no. This is way too obvious. Much more fun to just blow a whistle and watch the people dive at the troughs, trying to grab as much of the good stuff as possible. Fun they may have been anticipating but it’s not what they got.
There was a bit of mayhem as people looked mystified, wandering round with expressions as vacant as the plates grasped in their tentative hands. In fact, once people realised what was happening it was all rather civilised. It was as if everyone was so pissed off at the company that they were all just going through the motions with nothing but love and empathy for their fellow prisoners…sorry, passengers.
To be fair, the food was pretty nice (most of it) and plentiful. Actually it was so plentiful that I reckon the staff will be eating it well into 2016.
I’m not going to continue. The litany has gone on long enough. Let’s leave it with the fact that it was the worst special Christmas Eve we’ve ever had…and that includes the Year of the Carp and the Lakes.