We swore we’d never tell anyone about this nasty experience in Budapest – I’ve changed my mind!

Heck, we did it – missed a night………. Aaargh – a reservations disaster!
Have you earned that T Shirt? Go on, fess up – you’ve done it, and slept under a bridge, on a bench at the station or lay on a manky mattress, squished into a dirty corner or even endured a floor in a rat and bed bug infested hovel? If you are faint of heart, don’t risk travelling with us – you’ll have a nervous breakdown, however I do promise you’ll treasure the adventurous memories. We either get lost, catch the wrong bus, choose cities hosting conventions – offering no available accommodation on spur of the moment arrival, or miss a motorway exit – forcing a change of itinerary (to a whole new destination).

We don’t actually “holiday” or “vacation”, instead we tour and run ourselves ragged, squeeze 25 hours out of every 24 away from home and encounter hairy moments from time to time.

This is how our time in HUNGARY – BUDAPEST went
A long day on a train from Belgrade – Serbia, behind us, we were both a bit jaded and grumpy, then the taxi driver ripped us off adding insult to injury and we couldn’t figure out how combination locks, hidden keys and passwords worked to access an enclosed courtyard to the apartment (a stranger noticed suspicious behaviour and saved the day). Once inside the 3 story “surround sound” courtyard it was pitch dark and unnavigable, making us fondle drainpipes, trip over uneven stone cobbles, squish through dog poop and ruin a small garden to find “our door”. Finally, opening the wrong door by mistake, we happened upon a couple in a compromising position. Quite a hair raising intro to Budapest!

We have been Booking.com fans and always travel with their app, earning discounts (up to 50 %), early book-ins and recommendations for touristy activities in each place we stay. I must tell you that travelling throughout Eastern Europe is less than half the price of any destination who trades in US or Australian Dollar, Pounds or Euro. The value is outstanding.

Chris had caught flu, he felt like his head had been inside a washing machine, so he showered and retired to bed………. guess what, Rozzie hit the town, with faithful jacket, passport, cash and the name of our apartment written down. Having been cooped up from sunrise to sunset, exercise and fresh air was calling. Closing the monstrous ornately carved wooden door to the courtyard behind me I notice the street lined with ice cream shops – beginning to wonder, do we find ice creams or do they find us? Was “Ice Cream” my last name in a previous life, haunting my hips in this?

ALWAYS FIND SOMETHING THAT STANDS OUT – a landmark
Initially I find a point of reference to navigate back home to, a tall building, billboard, station or perhaps a market – something to describe to a stranger if I get lost or can recognise easily myself. When in an unfamiliar setting, I am very cautious of park-like areas where vagrants can hide and also I dodge pub/night club buildings.

The first days in Budapest were overshadowed by buckets of snotty tissues and a poorly husband, so we decided to stay an additional three more days than planned – to catch buses and pummel the sidewalks feeling 100’s. Booking.com had let out ‘our’ apartment, forcing Chris to find another for the extra stay. He has a knack of finding the most amazing places – at just as amazing prices, this is always his allocated job on tour. Our Rand exchange rate is rather crippling, eg a 3rd world R21 buys one pound – bad bad bad for international travel, therefore having an instinctive nouse for good quality accommodation is vital (why not me you might ask – won’t “go there”!!!!!!!! Story for another time ….. maybe).

BITING BEDBUGS AND RUSTLING ROACHES
What happened next was a travellers’ worst nightmare. Waving goodbye to Ice Cream Heaven Avenue we made our way across the famous and beautiful Chain Bridge (designed by and English engineer and built by a Scottish engineer way back, 1840 – 1849) over the River Danube, from Buda (west) to Pest (east), to a new abode for 3 more nights.

Fact – this side oozes a completely different more casual and gentle atmosphere to the opposite prosperous side which boasts massive wealth and majestic architecture. To our dismay on check-in, the new abode was still occupied. What was wrong? Somehow we’d mistakenly overlooked SLEEPING SOMEWHERE the night of the 8th. To add insult to injury – there was no place at any inn – a huge Medical Convention was underway and even Radisons’ Hotels were full! #@&*

By mid afternoon we’d found a place, the courtyard stank like a sewer, faeces decorated the courtyard, loo seats were absent, the kitchenette electric wires were all dangling bare and dangerously, the milk in the fridge was wearing a disguise of a furry green scarf, the shower head was non existent…. and ho hum, the mattress was squeezed into a corner – on the filthy floor. What lurked? In utter misery we sat on the bed, waiting for blood sucking bed bugs and scabies critters to nestle and roaches scuttled around their territory in their brown undertakers coats. Even the indigo sky couldn’t summons a smile – all light bulbs had blown and darkness became a rat infested foe.


Around 9pm the door rattled, and two inebriated men bungled inside, jangling keys and toolboxes in hand. They had been sent, we worked out between fumes and Hungarian Magyar, to replace a light bulb. Replace a light bulb – a joke, right!? Half an hour later they announced their departure under the new entrance light, claiming to have repaired the dangerous exposed wires in the bathroom, attached a shower head and securing the toilet seat – on top of replacing bulbs. Woopie – not! When I sat on the loo, seat and I slid right off – unceremoniously landing me onto the slithery shower floor, atop of abandoned shower heads and plumbers tape.

Breathless gasps and whoops of laughter from Chris around the corner broke the spell of fury and – we survived to tell the story we swore never to confess to.

Some more adventures to come – In Prague we forgot the name of the rural park we were staying at, so we didn’t know which train siding to jump off at, at midnight (they were all overgrown and dark and left behind in the communist era). In Rome we missed the last train home to our caravan park on a Sunday afternoon. In Wales the wind was so strong our tent nearly blew off a cliff – luckily it was attached to the car ………… oh yes, once we missed, by a whisker, bomb threats and a complete shut-down at Heathrow Airport.

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Love locks and secrets whisper over River Miljacka, Sarajevo