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Our minds clearly don't work in the Hungarian way.
We arrived in Budapest at 4 p.m. - plenty of time to get to the Best Hotel Service to find a room! Coming from Vienna, we arrived on the west side of Buda. "It's easy," I said, "just follow this road, we'll go across a bridge into the Pest side." We followed the road, which had occasional encouraging signs indicating that we were approaching the desired bridge, Erzsebet Hid. Then all of a sudden, still on the Buda side of the Danube, we were going under the bridge. We could see where we wanted to be, but couldn't see how to get there.
"Don't worry, we'll just take the next bridge," I said, in my professional navigator voice - you know, like the one that tells you 'the door is ajar.' "Just keep going north along the Danube and we can't miss." Famous last words! We missed the entrance to the next bridge, the chain bridge, altogether, as there is a tunnel leading up to it. My driver was beginning to get a little frustrated.
"Look, there is the Margit Hid - that's the bridge we need." I spouted enthusiastically. We followed the signs to this bridge, we saw parliament across the river - wow, we saw the bridge up ahead, and then... we were under it. The road we were on was a fast moving one, and at all the following intersections left turns were prohibited.
"Okay, there is a sign for the Arpad Hid. On the map here that is the next bridge - it'll be perfect." My tone wasn't quite as professional navigator by now, nor as enthusiastic. We followed the signs a little more slowly and somewhat leerily. Sure enough, we were under the bridge again! Are these signs only intended for the curious, who need to know a name for everything, like the signs on the motorway that tell you the name of every stream you cross over? This time we knew what to do. We found a place to turn left, and joined the traffic coming over from Pest, and drove a kilometer or so until we could make a U-turn. Having done so, we finally made it onto a bridge, and into Pest. Hurray!
Of course we were a bit further north than originally planned, but that would be recoverable. We headed south and towards the street that the Best Hotel Service was located on. "Go left here." Oops one way the wrong way. "We'll take the next left." Oops, dead-end. But there was a sign pointing down the pedestrian street for the tourist information office. So I got out and walked - it couldn't be more than a block or two, and after sitting all the way from Vienna it would be a pleasant change. After 6 blocks I turned around. I asked at the international book shop - followed thier directions off the pedestrian streets, but still couldn't see the info center. Finally, I gave up in frustration, and traded places with my driver. He wandered for a long time, and came back similarly frustrated.
"Okay, let's boot up your computer and find the Best Hotel Service on MS Autoroute - then we'll be able to find it," said my driver. I hate driving around navigating off the computer, my driver loves it. He was convinced that with a better map (I admit the one I'd been using was lousy!), we'd find it in a flash. In fact this had been a bone of contention during the entire bridge fiasco. We plugged in the address.
"Go right, then look for Kossuth Lajos Utca, where you should turn right again." The first time through, we missed Kossuth Lajos Utca, just blew right past it.
"That's okay, take the next right and we'll come back to it." The next right takes you through a warren of one way streets and dead ends, underneath Kossuth Lajos Utca, and back to the Kempinski Hotel.
"Okay, try it again." We turned on Kossuth Lajos Utca this time, and then turned into the pedestrian district, but couldn't find the road that the Best Hotel Service was on. There was a right fork on the MS Autoroute map that was missing in real life! So we drove the circluit again - Kempinski, church, big intersection with at least 30 pigeons on an electric wire, Kossuth Lajos Utca, pedestrian district and we found the missing fork - it was a walking street, which was incorrectly marked as a driving street! I hop out and we agree on a meeting spot in 10 minutes time. My driver has no luck finding parking, so he does the circuit two more times - Kempinski, church, big intersection with at least 40 pigeons on an electric wire, Kossuth Lajos Utca, pedestrian district. When we meet we conclude that we need to collect more information. We park the car in an illegal spot - so illegal in fact that a well meaning older Hungarian woman tells us, in broken German, that our car will be booted if we leave it here. So we do the circuit again Kempinski, church, big intersection with at least 40 pigeons on an electric wire and two nutty pigeons shaking back and forth violently trying to balance on some other wire, Kossuth Lajos Utca, pedestrian district. This time we find a spot we hope is legal, but just to be certain we take turns standing by the car, and running to look for a room.
Finally we know where our hotel is, we have it marked on a new detailed downtown Pest map. We just need to go back to Kossuth Lajos Utca, and then turn right a block later than where we've been turning.
"That should be easy enough." Kempinski, church, big intersection with 42 pigeons on an electric wire as the two nutty pigeons have wised up, Kossuth Lajos Utca, passed the road into the pedestrian district that we have grown so fond of...
"Oops, did I say one block later on Kossuth Lajos Utca? I should have said 2 blocks later."
Luckily, this one way street leads us back to an area we know pretty well - pedestrian fork in the road, Kempinski, church, big intersection (you don't think we were still counting pigeons at this point, do you?), Kossuth Lajos Utca, passed the road into the pedestrian district that we have grown so fond of, but here it gets a little scary. Kossuth Lajos Utca is the road leading to the Erzsebet Hid, the first bridge we missed from the other side. It doesn't look like we'll be able to get off before we end up back in Buda! The moment of panic passes as we see a right merge, which we take. It turns out to be a bus stop. Bummer. We merge back onto the Kossuth Lajos Utca and immediately see a sharp right turn, which we take. We are feeling pretty smug - look at us, we're going to find our hotel.
We turn left onto our one way street, and before you can say 'lost again!' we are past our street and on the next one. Say it isn't so, could we have missed it? Yep, we missed it. My driver prepared to back up this one way street, which was immediately vetoed by the navigator - how do you say 'bail' in Hungarian? We turned back towards Kossuth Lajos Utca, drive under it, pulled two quick lefts, come back under it and find that you could merge up onto Kossuth Lajos Utca, from here, which we did. We find our turn off, we stop on the street with our hotel on it, find the sign for it in 24 point font (really, about this big:
which is really not very big when seen from a distance! Try it - step away and see if you can read it while running past it - when you don't know where to look, by the way!)
Okay, I'm getting a little defensive here, it's been a long day!!! We spent as long driving from Vienna, excluding at the border, as we did driving around Budapest!!!
Anika would like it noted that she remembers none of it. "They really need a newspaper for the back of the car...it's kinda like Berlin."
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