Enjoy your trip?

Day 8 - Budapest

A Buda, a Pest, maybe a golden grand piano and a hidden treasure chest (i'd settle for a Nazi gold train though), we pulled out of Hauptbahnhof Station and were on our way to the country of the mighty magyars. Booked in an old fashioned cabin with 6 seats in a 3 + 3 facing arrangement I had the misfortune to be seated next to a grimble who had decided that now was the most opportune time to trim his fingernails. Being English I was unable to make any complaint louder than an internal 'tut' but there was a woman in the cabin of indeterminate origin who had no such social restrictions and soon called him to account. He shrugged in a nonchalant 'what could possibly be the problem' way and turned instead to his cyrillic newspaper. Decorum restored the soothing sway of movement lulled me. There is an unexpected luxuriousness to closing your eyes on a train, a delicious reduced consciousness softening the hard lines just beyond your eyelids. I can't sleep on a train and why would I want to when I can drift through this gentle haze, my febrile senses dulled, my aching extremities just distant memories. The world melts into a froth, it becomes a watercolour in the rain and it is seldom more tolerable to me.
Stepping out of the train we were given first-hand experience of the 'swarm' as our prime minister so sympathetically put it. Anyone of a darker complexion was being given extra scrutiny on the platform. Groups of men hung around outside the station planning the next step on their long journey to what they no doubt hoped would be a better place than from whence they came. It is so easy to forget how staggeringly fortunate you are, that you have won first prize in the lottery of life and the awful extremes of existance are confined to the pages of books, caged by bitter experience and exported woe. I think the pleasantness and ease of our lives is, in part, sustained by the suffering of others and have no blame for those who do not wish to live and die under that unequal system. You can only hope you never have to face the choices given to the 2,500 immigrants who entered Hungary the same day as us. Or to the Hungarian people who suffered under Nazi occupation at the end of the second world war and the 'liberation' by Soviet forces for the next 40 years. Budapest's 'House of Terror' is the building in which the secret police of both Nazi and Soviet regimes monitored, tortured and disappeared dissenters. It is a meandering, almost numbing journey that demonstrates the hollow triumph of VE day in this part of the continent. It leaves you wondering why Eastern Europe was left to its fate or if the allies truly knew the implications of the Soviet sphere of influence or, indeed, still had the energy to care. Churchill did saying in 1945, before his most famous application of the term, that "it is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain." I can't answer the question of whether more could have been done because I sit at a great distance, too easily filing the events of the past and decisions of people I've never known into binary categories of good and bad. Am I to judge those who collaborated in the subjugation of their countries when a national border is a line of a map and the only true border is the one drawn around the square foot of space each human being occupies? We live too short and stand too close to life to see the curvature of time. The romance of resistance should never overpower the horror of its failure.
Departing Budapest James and I left Matt to his book in our cabin and settled ourselves into the buffet car. James had acquired quite a taste for lemon beer and, finding the bar's stock to be warm, asked for a can or two to be placed into the fridge. This bemused the barman who did not seem to understand that we were going to be here for a while. Ordering a standard pilsner instead we sweetened it with a jäger chaser. This caught the attention of a couple seated to our right. Nestor was a doctor from Colombia via Mexico who was in Europe for a conference, accompanied by his wife Aurora. We chatted amiably for the next few hours covering subjects such as jägerbombs and...um....well there were few jägerbombs involved. He had acquired quite a taste for the stuff by the time we pulled back into Vienna. Back at the hotel and shortly before falling into a pizza-induced coma, James tagged Matt in and we spent the next few hours on our balcony covering subjects such as whiskey and....um....well there were a few whiskeys involved.

No comments:

Post a Comment