Monday, August 21, 2006

Postcard from Budapest: Final Thoughts

Folk Festival Horses Heads at the Palace

The holiday weekend featured a two day Folk Festival in the grounds of the palace just down the road from our hotel so we visited it late on our second day. Hundreds of stalls were selling various national bits and pieces and there were lots of demonstrations of local folk art. The searing sun, rather than the large crowds, are the main problem in trying to make the best of the festival which is very impressive.
Weaver at work

We caught an hour of 'World Dance' on the main stage featured inside the grounds of the palace, which featured some very colourful dances and music - definitely the highlight of the different acts we saw on stage.

World dancers

On our final day we had to fill in time between hotel checkout and taxi collection time and caught an hour of local Hungarian music and dance, which depicted three 'acts' of a local wedding proposal and acceptance. It featured some wonderful costumes, demonstrating how much work goes into dressing the ladies with those endless petticoats, but came across very much as a Hungarian equivalent of Morris Dancing, with embarrassed looking participants and music that too often sounded like nails being scraped down a blackboard to these Western ears.

We returned to the hotel to get some great viewsof rehearsals for the Red Bull Air Race - just as well since the Hilton Hotel reneged on their promise of late checkout, claiming they'd had a sudden rush of new bookings after we'd checked in - not impressed! The day of the race itself we caught some skydivers and a few of acrobatic plane routines we'd aleady seen so don't feel we missed too much by refusing to stand in the heat with the manic crowds who lined the few vantage points across the river.

We left before the fireworks in the evening, which turned out to be a lucky break as tragedy struck the festival on Sunday night. Budapest is a beautiful city and well worth a visit - it's not hard to see why people fall in love with the place. But the tragedy that occurred the evening we left leaves a sad, sour footnote to our visit. Our plane hit the storm that was the cause of the tragedy, and was the most turbulent 15 minutes I've ever suffered on an international flight - but we thankfully arrived back safely on time (if only the same could be said for our baggage - the baggage handling delays at Heathrow are a national scandal that should have been sorted out years ago). Hearing the news of the deaths and injuries in Budapest after our departure, one wonders what local folk are making of the inability of the miraculous 'Holy Right Hand of St Stephen' to protect them on the day of celebration of their founder and miracle worker!

Red Bull Air Race rehearsal


Jen/AG said...

Glad to hear you got back safely, and weren't caught up in the awful tragedy.

Did your baggage end up somewhere else entirely, or was it just a long time coming through? I'm avoiding travelling internationally until things settle down - if they ever do *sigh*

Having said that; if you feel the urge to head across the Pond, there's always a spare bed for you here!

Ian said...

The baggage just took forever to arrive (an hour after landing they still hadn't announced which carousel would be used). The official "explanation" was that too many flights had arrived at the same time - but there's always some excuse. A few months back some relatives got stuck for over an hour and a half waiting for baggage - the last thing you need after a long flight. Heathrow is like the worst kind of third world airport compared with others across Europe (eg Budapest airport was very clean, modern and efficient).

Hoping to get across the pond next year but at the moment am trying to clear debts and save a bit, so might take you up on your generous offer next year if you're still in San Fran.

Jen said...

Eugh - that's ghastly. I hate waiting around for my luggage. Last time I flew, my cases were some of the last to come off, and I was convinced they'd ended up in Outer Mongolia!

We're likely to be here until at least late spring, maybe a bit longer. We were planning on heading home around now, but clearly that hasn't happened :) If we're still here, there's a bed with your name on it!

Francis said...

Ah, but without the holy hand of St. Stephen to protect them the casualties woud obviously have been far greater!

As a Magyar-by-marriage I'm delighted it all went more-or-less OK and you got back in one piece.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the details with the usually fabulous Ian touch! Glad you and your mom are safe.


Ian said...

LOL. That 'fabulous Ian touch' will be the 'it's late at night and I haven't got time to properly write this or proof-read it' presumably! Thanks for the kind thoughts anyway.