( haymaking in hungary )
Big Hot

Day 1. 18 July 2004

Sunday. Departing a cold, grey Oxfordshire via the extravagance of a taxi from door to Heathrow. Check-In is straightforward, and departure is on time, although I do have to run the gauntlet of a second security check after inadequate signage to Gate 21 leads me down a corridor down which I cannot return.

No more than a little over an hour later, we are flying over the cloudless Hungary, and I have drawn away from my book to gaze out the window at the flat, agricultural landscape, a patchwork of fields interrupted by little villages and straight roads. We follow the broad, silvery line of the Danube, a little to the west of Lake Balaton (the nearest thing Hungarians have to a coastline). Then across Budapest with it’s tall buildings and regimented streets, lined up in parallel and joined by right angles. Overshooting the city, we fly out again, over a huge cemetery, with it’s graves also in regimented lines but this time spreading outwards into a huge woodland, and other smaller outcrops of graves in other clearings.

Landing at Budapest Ferihegy Airport, I find its runway surrounded by trees, and beyond, a clean, new airport. A little later, standing at baggage reclaim, clutching my passport with its second stamp inside, I get a sinking feeling…

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