Affording these trips...A Tip!
One surefire way to avoid hidden costs with budget airlines is to take the long distance bus services from London, Victoria. There are several advantages to this method of travel. I find:
1, It can be cheaper, because of the lack of seat reservation charges (these are not honoured anyway on Flixbus and are included on RegioJet).
2. One big suitcase is included in the price as well as one hand luggage, This saves about 60 quid on the way there and back and allows you to take more with you.
3. The cost one way to Budapest on RegioJet including free intermittent waitress service tea and coffee for the full 29 hrs with snacks available at additional cost as of February 2019 was just £86. The return journey without the waitress cost just £45 on Flixbus 36 hrs via Paris. It takes just 8 hrs to Brussels and in 2018 London to Brussels with Flixbus cost just £16 one way with baggage if book one month in advance.
4. The pleasure is talking to the interesting characters you meet on the way. If they are women they really enjoy a chat and you can have the perfect 24 hr romance getting to know each other and then either keep in touch or just leave it and it's a real pleasure just to have that with an Eastern European girl. The Czech and Hungarian girls are so pro-conversation and they have no fear of strangers like in the UK. It's such fun just to feel for someone a little in a brief encounter on the way down.
Kicking Off at 10 am from the London Green Line Bus Terminus
Finding the Green Line Bus Terminus for the first time when you are used to departures from the main part of Victoria Bus Station is a very difficult and nerve racking task if you don't have a lot of time and you are adorned wiht a big whellie suitacase even wiht a Satnav on your phone, but it's actually behind the shopping mall directly opposite the station. It's fairly big in size3 but tucked away under a huge canopy. Luckily I found a RegioJet ticket booth from which to ask located at the front near the bus stops on the road or I would ahve panicked and never found my big yellow bus to Prag for the first 20 hr leg of the journey in time. That said the tour guide was attracitive and friendly and you have a seat assigned to you on RegioJet at no additional cost. So, there is no scramble for the seats you want but an orderly queue at the door. The seats are also a dammed sight more padded, bigger and more bum friendly than on the German Flixbus at the moment. Once you are half way down to the Eurotunnel she serves you with your first complimentary coffee and an English Language Newspaper or Du Monde of your choice. so you feel very proud and business like when you arrive for your passport check and Costa Coffee Sandwich in the Folkstone Tunnel Terminus. I normally get out of the bus on the train and stand in the vacant carriage just before the loo or sit by the loo itself because it get so hot and stuffy on the bus and there is complete lack of air. I've nearly died on there in the summer month before they air by the loos is breathable if a little smelly.
The First Leg to Prague
On the first leg to Prague I had a little chat with an older Czech lady who read some of my book about my trip across America and I got a compliment from her. I tried not to chat her up too much though especially when other seating became vacant and she moved so I played a bit of Chess with the computer in the back of the seat through the night and very nearly but didn't beat the 2500 rated computer. I tested out some weird opening moves to see what would happen like moving knight and rooks pawn to B2 and A2 repsectively. It was very nearly such an obscure move it won, but sadly he nailed me with the last rook and a bish. It does while away a bit of time but when I get tired I annoy other customer by beginning to swear at it through lack of sleep. Just past Stuttgart there was a driver's pause in the middle of the night, just one half hour where we could get our sustinace of 'Frikadelle mit Pommes' and the essential four pack of Sugar Free Red Bulls.
Playing chess seemed to make the time fly and I reached Prague at 6am. Got out, don't speak a word of Czech and realised that they don't use Euros yet; if at all. Moreover, there seemed little point in exchanging money for one hour in Prague bus station so I had to make do so as not to receive change in Czech Florins. Luckily, it was only a 1hr wait for the next bus down to Vienna, where I could use my euros again.
Leg Two: On to Vienna
Having to forgo breakfast with diabetes is horrible but when we got going there was another fresh round of drinks for us and I got coffee and a chocolate biscuit not enough but enough to keep me alive. I was feeling rather ill with hunger until I reached a Spa town in the south just near the Austrian boarder about 2hrs from Vienna when I was joined by a lovely Anna Mullerova who kept me going with conversation and received a copy of my America Book via email. She was off to live with a bloke in Spain I think. She was a trader or worked for a British trading company with offices in the Czech Republic. Nice girl, sadly we lost contact. A little bus romance.
Lunch in Vienna and Third Leg to Budapest
Upon reaching Vienna I was cream-crackered but had to keep going. I asked for an exchange booth and managed to get some more Euros in the information centre at the station. This enabled me to buy a couple or Viennese rolls one of them Schnitzel with mustard and the other ham, egg and remoulade which is a bit like tartare sauce together with a nice sugary muffin which came as a relief. We stopped in Györ and were an hour late getting into Budapest which is a massive city having got caught up in the rush hour we arrived at 5:30 or six. Which meant I completely missed the European Union march at Kalvin Tor at the start. The bus didn't travel all the way to the terminal at Nepliget but dumped us at a tram stop somewhere in a well to do suburb with no Florins or banks nearby and a good 1/2 hr from the centre. So I had to risk it. Schwarzfarhren for the first time in Budapest. Thankfully there were no inspectors. So, I took this lovely shot on the way in to the centre (above) and arrived in time for the start of the event at Andrassy Uni.
Arrival. The meeting and Andrassy University
I was so late arriving at Kalvin Tor in the centre of the city that I could do nothing but try and find the opening conference event, which turned out to be almost exclusively for Hungarians in Hungarian at Andrassy University. I only speak very few works of Hungarian I can order 2 beers and that's about it. So, all I could understand were the international words they were speaking that German, French and English have in common. some of Eszther's children spoke.
It took place in a beautiful old hall with an absolutely palatial chandelier. It was so big that it's radius covered half the room and it was a sizeable hall too. Some members of the hard left opposition and the government spoke probably about a Hungarian future in Europe. It seemed so palatial and opulent yet at the same time perfectly shabby chic and a bit run down. It's very charming in it's own way. They said I could leave my luggage in an open hallway downstairs but I didn't trust them, sexy though one of them appeared to me. I had to go out half way through to make sure I got to the exchange booth in time to convert money to Hungarian Florins. Because you never know what anything is in Hungarian Florins in either Euros or pounds you just get ripped off all the time. especially by the taxi drivers.
Dinner and the European Youth Centre
One of the people I had met the previous year at the conference in Mundo B in Brussels was the former advisor to the Deputy British PM; the American born Mark Depew. He was my room mate for this outing so we stuck together being some of the only English speakers on the conference. He lived alone in Bonn, but he was a nice guy. We decided to go to a local kebab shop to get something to eat as we weren't invited to eat with the Hungarian diplomats.
So, we had quite a nice Kebab which cost just 270 Florins which in our money is less than a pound. There were 330 florins to the pound when we were there in Hungary. After this we proceeded to to get a taxi to our accommodation which was in the European Youth Centre located on the other side of the River Danube in Pest. Andrassy University where the inaugural event took place was in the city centre near Kalvin Tor in Buda. Budapest is, in fact, an urban area created from two municipalities.
We drove across this amazing cast iron bridge because at Budapest the river Danube is roughly twice the width that the Thames is at the OXO Tower on the South Bank in London.After crossing the bridge the European Youth Centre built in 1994 is up the hill to the right in a really nice residential area of town. We checked into our room on the second floor. It had a balcony and TV and was ensuite and because we'd had a massively long day we just slept. the conference was also at the top of the building in the conference centre with amazing views of the city including the impressive parliament building.
A Full Day's Conferencing
I got up early and took some shots of a lovely view of the city at daybreak together with this video from the conferencing centre balcony in Pest at about twenty to six in the morning when I couldn't sleep.
The conferencing was mainly about the Central European Countries and their role in the Brexit debate. Hungary the Czech Republic and Poland were thinking of forming their own union to rival that of the EU.
Fidez the party of power in Hungary for a long time now have almost total control of the media. A number of pro-democracy and pro-EU presses have been forcibly shut down overnight.
Nevertheless I'm sympathetic to both sides because a number of big hitters from Hungarian Politics were there and they were very polite and nice to me personally. I'm certainly not going to say too much against Fidez because it's not my war. I'm trying to stay neutral in the debate. those people like Goerge Soros were nice to me personally and I'm not against them. Basically they are in my Quango and I have to get on with them, they are polite and well spoken and I don't have anything against them as people.
If the Central European Countries do from a Satellite Visgard Union it could be tremendously important to us as Brits and provide an alternative to the Franco/German model of governance.
Hungary is reaping the benefit of playing the political pigmy between their old allies Russia and the EU. I'm neutral in this debate personally. I like the Germans a lot but I've had two Russian girlfriends from St Petersburg whose memory I am fond of. I'm a bit upset about Russia being shut out of EU politics in recent years following the gas pipeline deal with Schröder up in the Baltic.
I like Merkel for being pro-EU but I would guess she is fervently as anti-Russian as she is anti-GDR. I differ from her on this issue. I have no real personal vendetta against the Russian state as a Brit or personally as I have had Russian and Belarusian friends and girlfriends. In Germany, they were the girls that normally gave me the chance the Eastern Europeans. they were lovely to me, but I am pro German as well. Having Russian cards in the pack could improve the security issue in the nuclear arms race for example. With over 7000 nukes at Russia's disposal no-one is likely to step on European toes. Russia's capital is in Europe and it is a bridge with Asia.
Merkel is leaving office this year. She is a beautifully idealistically pro-Western leader. Very talented too. The trouble is the odds in the future are stacked rather against her politically. I think we need to be more Swiss about it in Europe. In exchange for them making money in Europe we could have more financial and political security ourselves. Perhaps a Visguard / British / Canadian alliance could lead on this issue. If they can get out using article 9. It could mean more power for us to provide an alternative to the Franco-German model for pan European co-operation.
It could be constructive in the sense that we could use that competition creatively to promote our vision for the world in Europe. The problem with Hungary is how to achieve it without rocking the boat with the goose that lays golden eggs which for them is the EU as well as Russia. The common agricultural policy is key to the wealth of the elite class in Hungary and it is central to Fidez holding so much power in Brussels. Many Brussels diplomats are holding their noses at the fact that Fidez is in the European Peoples Party the EPP and in permanent power with Merkel in Brussels despite its connections with Putin.
This is why the Germans want to boot them and the Polish out of the EU for being extremists under Article 9 of the EU constitution. The Poles and Hungarians work together in their own interest. One proposes and seconds the other or uses their veto to block things if needs be. It's a bit underhand but understandable in a way. They want power over their politics and it's very difficult to get in in the EU as 27 together rather than 15 or 20. We expanded too fast to wolf down Russian territory and we appear to have assimilated what we don't like about Eastern influence in the process too fast. That was dumb in my opinion as it has infinitely destabilised the EU. I think that was seen across Eastern Europe but even in the former GDR. It destabilised the core of German society and it's just about survived because of the 3 trillion marks the west poured in after reunification (about 1 trillion pounds) so that the West is now the new East. In my day as a teacher in Wuppertal I was still using a chalk board in a state run night school with not even a whiteboard in sight let alone an interactive one and that was 2005. The Ossis are now taxed to pay to rebuild the West. My flatmate in Wuppertal said of the Berlin Wall that it should be built again ten times the height for that reason.
So, as a means to an end it is my personal view that to have two effective smaller craft for now might build a better pan European state in the future. As a Northern Alliance did filter into the Prussian state naturally through the conquests and diplomacy of Bismark. We are too rough a mould as a continent to be unified yet I think having a Visgard - British and Franco German alliance might be a means to an end of sorting out our differences. This idea goes back to the very heart of governance in Europe at the time of King Charlamange in which he ceded the whole of Europe to 3 sons, one the king of France, one the King of Germany and one the King of Austria and Switzerland. The modern equivalent for stability and power in Europe for now might be the above two alliances working in close co-operation along similar ideals which can be gradually evolved into a union rather than via an all engulfing revolution of power shifting away from Russia to Brussels which isn't in it's best interest and which it naturally opposes. Russia is welcome in my opinion they are European too.
I want anti-Russian snobbery to end in the EU. They are corrupt but we can be a force for good if we work together as well in the interests of our civilisation combined. Controversial but that's my view. We do want a lively, quality based democracy like we have now, but we need powerful friends.
A fifth of humanity is Chinese unless we think further in a more Pro-Western alliance everyone together 4/5 of the world we might not ensure the survival of our cultures. I think Chinese influence is good in many ways but we need to show strength or we we'll be polishing their yachts and bullshit we'll be their wing man and we need them to at least mature if that happens at all. Sorry China I do like you. I just want us to maintain some financial and cultural independence. We need to be equal players at a table with an equal amount of chips otherwise one will always lead the other. At the moment China seems destined to hoover up the enitre pack. I'd like to think we can show enough strength to survive against them. Much as I love and respect them and my one Chinese girlfriend. She was very kind and considerate and I like that about China as a superpower; we have just got to ask ourselves; do we want to really be a worldwide nanny state (like China) or choose our own adventures?
I do want Chinese people to lead but not to overpower. I don't want them to be what we were. I want us to develop a world style in co-operation with them and showing strength and financial muscle is essential in that.
You wouldn't know how out of place I felt at the big Chinese restaurant in London near old street called My Old Place. As the only Western customers I was made to feel distinctly out of place in my own capital. We don't want to be plebs who can't travel on our own high speed trains.
A Night Out
After a full days conferencing Eszther Nagy very kindly arranged a three course silver service meal on a Danube Barge on the pest side of the river. We travelled down there on the characteristic ex communist GDR tram system. It’s quite dangerous getting to it and crossing some pretty hair raising main roads without a crossing but we all survived.
They had a Britpop band playing cheesy 90s Westlife covers. I sat with Helene’s friend and former partner Balint and chatted to him about a few things. we drifted off into French and talking about the best place to learn French in Brussels being the Institute Française adjacent to the palace building. Apparently, there it is subsidised and quite cheap. The guy sitting opposite me at the table directly was a tutor at the French speaking university of Brussels ULB. After this Alex Gunter, Anita Sepreyani and I went on to a club to see one of us sing and then I returned to bed at the youth centre,
On Sunday morning I talked briefly to George Soros on the veranda, he seemed like a nice guy. He was friends with the Trumps apparently, we then went into a workshop session on control mechanisms for enforcing article nine to potentially exclude Poland, Hungary and CZ from the EU. After which I bought a federalist key ring and pin from the reception.
I can’t remember whether it was at this stage that Mark Depew’s mobile was taken from our room and he thought it might have been me but it wasn’t. He was in a panic and a strop and so was I because I thought they’d tried to blame it on me. I called Eszther and she called the phone and we found it in the downstairs loo obviously or should I say too obviously stolen by a cleaner. So, I was let off the hook. Orban had sent me a message coming into town across the boarder about how he was going to discuss Europe with me I thought that was part of the deal as some of the guys in there had their free press shut down over night and liquidated by the Orban’s but they were invited to the conference by Eszther who is broadly allied with the opposition. The Hungarians got a nuclear power plant from the Russians and all the safety systems from the EU so they play the best of both worlds all the time. Orban’s Party though essentially EU critical is in the EPP faction which is the governing party and largest faction within the EU parliament. But I feel the EU are lying about economic growth in Hungary because according to them it’s growing by 4% a year they just don’t want to put it about but essentially that’s why the opposition can’t budge Fidez from power even if they want to.
Orban was quite friendly towards me and I liked him. When I signed up for my music conference in 2020 Görgy Orban’s piano works published by EMB Budapest popped up as an ad and I felt obliged to buy them which I did and I’ve played some of them I’m his book Veni Sol fantastic jazz classical fusion he plays with Roby Lakatos I think. I also discovered Holdviola which is an amazing Hungarian band and this single Erdö Erdö which I think is about the environment.
The Remainer of the Day
After the conference I went down into Pest and into one of the finest Kebab shops in the capital where I had a donner and salad for seven florins fifty about 3 or four pounds which was very reasonable he was quite friendly in there and I watched a bit of handball with them. Then I walked over the Danube bridge onto St Margaret’s Island which is a communist park of Russian design with decaying tennis facilities and swimming pools, statues of communist leaders like Stalin and a swimming pool, sculpture and carts that you can drive around. Then I went to the Hungarian House of History in the parliament building because there were no more time slots to see the building itself. Did you know? The Hungarians were Angevin part of the French empire of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine of England. So, we were actually part of the same country in the Middle Ages. The lions are Hungarian as well. They are also the second country in the world to have a manga carta in the same century.
I wondered around a bit more and then in the evening I went for a meal at a slap up bar that did Hungarian food. I chatted up the bar maid too much and someone called the boss rang up and slapped another fiver on my meal which I paid without too much complaint. After the call she wasn’t allowed to speak to me again. Two years later she appeared on Facebook she was a photographer who had a kid with a pianist and musician.
On the way to the bus terminus at Nepliget I learned the word for bus stop becuase it says it automatically at every stop Busaromage which is clearly related to arret I’m French. After two hrs I met the most amazing old man called Tibor Boros he was leaving Hungary for a better life with two bags with all his worldly possessions in. It turned out he was an ex lecturer in communist times and had studied philosophy in the USSR. He was a fascinating chap but I got cold feet when he started banging on about Oscar Wilde. He was off to work in a dog meat factory in Stuttgart.
Being a diabetic and having no breaks whatsoever for 30 hrs to Paris for food because we were running late I spent my last forty euros on a slap up meal in a cafe just outside the stadium for Paris St Germain I just about got there in time before passing out I got my steak and chips and ordered correctly remembering my GCSE French for once, then got the bus back to London overnight.
More pics and music below I also treated myself to the two Hungarian Piano School Books I used at college in Wuppertal as a result of the trip.