Today we began the sight seeing in earnest. We have walked miles looking at beautiful buildings, views and statues. We ended up at St Stephens Basilica, an amazing church which dominates the Budapest sky line. I was sent as the recce party to see if we needed to pay. It was a donation, but it was less than a quid a head and we could get a a good 20 minute warm out of it (the temperatures here are now in the minus figures in the evening and low single figures in the daytime). However to get in you had to get past the dancing priest. This man was like something out of father Ted. He was so keen to make sure you donated he was leaping around telling people about the restoration of the church and making sure they put something into collecting tin. He individually assaulted an entire tour as they entered. It was like watching Billy Whizz from the Beano. We stuck our donation in and were granted admission. Blimey, I thought, they were keen for their money. I hadn’t realised just how keen.
In the side chapel they have a very special artefact. It’s the mummified hand of King Istavan. However it’s a bit dark. If you want to see it better (or take its picture), for 500 forints (about £1.50) they will turn the light on! Genius. Why more places don’t use this wheeze to make more money I don’t know. “What…you actually want to see the Mona Lisa? For €5 we’ll pop the light on”. After that it was lunch time.
The food in Hungary has so far been very good. Just not very warm. Yesterday when we got here we called into a cafe en route to the town centre. It reminded me of a student refectory. The food was presented in trays under lamps (I stop short of describing them as heat lamps) and a person served you. There was a good selection of meals, stews, goulash etc. and it was certainly reasonably priced. They plated up your selection and then popped it into the microwave to heat it up. A couple of minutes later they passed it to you and off you popped to pay for it. Now alarm bells should really have started ringing when they passed the plate to me and the plate wasn’t warm but it was only when we all sat down to eat our meals that we realised that actually they were all lukewarm. As we sat and tucked into our tepid meals I also released
a) I never head the microwave make a noise
b) I never saw any clock counting down and
c) I never heard it ping!
We also noticed that they were putting up the Christmas decorations and that all the microwaves had little illuminated Christmas trees flashing on top them. All we can think that has happened is that they disconnected the microwaves for the decorations! We assumed this must be a one off mainly due to the class of the establishment which we chose to eat in, but last night we ate in a very nice place (tablecloths, proper cutlery, the works) and again the food wasn’t exactly scorching. This morning at breakfast, the hot elements of the breakfast was just warm and the soup at lunch was lovely, but there was no risk of us suing due to burnt mouths!
The highlight of lunch though wasn’t the meal (which was really, really nice) but the diners on the next table. There were 4 of them, in their 50’s to 60’s and were English. They were chattering away oblivious to the rest of the restaurant, not in an obnoxious way, just in a “we could be anywhere in the world, but we are still chatting as though were sat in our homes” kind of a way. I muttered “that’ll be us in a few years time” to which the response “that’s us now!” came back.
We learnt all sorts of; how they nearly got stuck in Pisa; all about their villa; their cruises and something about Jensen Button. However the piece de resistance was when, (in relation to what we don’t know) the chatty man in the group uttered “It was totally useless to me with my non elasticised pyjamas”. At that point, the 4 us nearly creased. Food was rammed into our mouths to stop us laughing, eyes looked resolutely down at the table, tears ran down our cheeks.
We have no idea where we are eating tonight yet but I just have 2 requests: the food is hot and those 4 are sat within earshot.
PS: today’s cake in the cakeation was Dobos torta. The layers of sponge with chocolate cream and caramel brittle on top. Best cake so far.