Bribary anyone? – Budapest, Hungary

The next morning, Matt and I walked around town but I didn`t want to wear runners (trainers or running shoes) so I wore my sandals. I know it was cold out but my feet didn`t feel like being constricted. Anyway, I can`t tell you how many looks I got from old ladies, kids, basically whoever was looking down at the ground. My red painted toenails. Well, that`s one way to get their attention and shock them into smiling. One guy almost got into an accident from the triple take from his car.

Anyway, there was a big church which had a mummified hand from some saint. I thought it was a bit strange and was really not all that impressed, perhaps because I have recently saw the whole deal in Egypt. I did however, enjoy sitting in the peace and heavy quietness of the church which is something I haven`t done much of since I was last in Europe.

Next, we ate some very pretty little open-faced sandwiches which were just as tasty as they looked. We walked over the huge chain bridge crossing over the Danube from Pest to Buda. Yes, they used to be two separate towns. The perfectionist bridge maker apparently jumped into the river in despair when he overheard some little boy asking his mom why the lions had no tongues.

Over the bridge and walking all around Buda castle only to find it was all closed up because it is Monday. Well, it was a nice crisp walk but definitely time to get home. Not before stopping by a store to get some pastries and chocolate. I discovered a lovely new dessert favorite which has the most peculiar but delicious (and highly addictive) sweet cottage cheese filling.

Back at the hostel, we got two new playmates from Australia who we ventured out with to the labyrinth which is a collection of maze-like passageways under the Buda Castle. It was fun hiding in the dark corners then jumping out at unsuspectings wandering by. There was even a strange fountain which poured out red wine, which according to Matt, was not bad.

Next, we navigated the metro to try and get to the baths. Just as our train pulled into our stop, we were accosted by some transit cops. We didn`t really know what was going on because we had tickets and everything. They told us that we needed two tickets (which the lady at the till failed to mention), one for each line. Altho it was clear that we were not trying to cheat the system, the two men were mean and rude demanding that we pay a fine. I couldn`t believe it!

When I asked them if they were trying to bribe us, they matter-of-factly admitted, yeah, that’s what this was. No way was I contributing to the corruption so I stood my ground and called their bluff. They told us that they would call the cops and we would have to go to jail. They said that because we were not carrying our passport with us, we would have to pay 100 times the original “fine” they had offered us. I was skeptical about how co-operative the cops would be as this was a still a communist country until only a few years ago.

So after we waited around for a while (minutes ticking away out of our bath time), we finally gave in when they cut the price down to half. It ended up being a 3000 forint lesson but altho I was upset at the whole principle of it, was not worth the time. I was disheartened and angry so ended up skipping the baths altogether as we now only had an hour left.

I would have expected something like this from Africa but not Europe…anyway, altho they said I couldn`t take their picture (I thought I should have the right as I paid a pretty penny for the whole experience and wanted a memory)I thought to myself, Well, I can play your game. We didn`t know we needed two tickets…well you didn`t ask, they said. They didn`t know I videotaped them with my camera…well they didn`t ask, I said.

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