( haymaking in hungary )

Alistair Cooke’s Letter from Budapest

Day 2. 19 July 2004

Monday. I sleep well, although daylight does come early through the big double windows. Even in the early hours of morning, after a refreshing shower in my en-suite, the simple act of getting dry makes me stickily aware of the heat. Today is going to be another scorcher of a Budapest day.

As part of my Explorer package I get a free city bus tour on an open top bus. When I stop by reception to grab my breakfast voucher from the tin, I arrange with Dorika to phone through and arrange my voucher. Forever helpful, she passes me my voucher along with instructions to go to St Steven’s Basilika (the one with the panoramic view) at 10 o’clock and look for the man under the big yellow umbrella.

With thoughts of seeking out big yellow umbrellas going through my mind I head down to the vaulted basement via the back stairs, to where breakfast is served. Cereal, slabs of bread, cheese and cold meat are arranged on a table buffet style. I gather what I want and head to one of the cubicled tables to eat.

After breakfast I re-sort my bag up, and layer up on suntan lotion. Finally ready, I head out, turning left and left again out of the hostel, just as I had done last night when I had made my way to the Kék Rósza. This time, I follow the road down, turning right at the big mosque (in a strange way, reminiscent of Keble College, Oxford in it’s architectural style), and onto Karoly Korút – one of the main roads and tram routes through the city. A little further on, and I arrive at Deák F. tér – a Picadilly Circus of Budapest where all tram and metro lines seem to converge. In the distance across multiple lanes of travel I see a yellow umbrella, and make for it via the underpass, guessing (correctly) which steps to ascend out of the labyrinth…

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