Notes from one week

The taxi kiosk at the airport quoted a fare of 7700 forints (about $30 US) to the hotel, which was 300 forints more than the meter proved. This was significantly more than the website homesweethome mentioned in 2010 (4600 forints).

I’ve read many complaints about automobile drivers in Budapest, but my experience is that most are incredibly patient with pedestrians. Bicyclists seem less patient and like in The Netherlands, ya gotta watch out for’m. Horn-honking seems to be similar to whistling in Mexico:  there are distinctive honks for specific situations.

Unlike Mexico, where I sometimes felt invisible when walking on the street, except to other norteamericanos (Mexicans might have said “hello” in passing, but I wasn’t of their society, so they didn’t need to pay much attention beyond the “hello”).  Here, I seem less invisible, people seem to stare more (Mexicans love to watch people but Hungarians seem to cast a much longer glance, at least at me), yet Budapest being a big city, one does not say “hello”; San Miguel being a small town, people said “hello”.

Often, if I use a Hungarian word, people don’t understand what I’ve said and look at me blankly; I don’t think it’s a shock to them that I used a Hungarian word, they just don’t recognize it as one of their own due to my pronunciation.

Some apartments (some of which are listed as one bedroom) that are priced less than 500 eurosa month and especially those priced at 400 euros and less tend to have a “gallery” or platform where the bed and/or “bedroom” is located. This platform with stairs (or bunkbed-like ladder) may contain a chest of drawers or other furniture in addition to the bed and look like it hasn’t enough space in which an adult could stand erect. Many apartments aren’t air-conditioned, so I wonder how one can sleep so close to the ceiling during the summer.

Apartment rental prices often do not include the common charges or the utilities costs.  So a space that might be listed for 300 euros might have common charges of 20,000 forints (about 65 euros) or as little as 5,000 forints. Utilities might have a similar range, so the total cost for a living space might be 430 euros.  There are variations to this: what does one consider a utility?  Apartment heating and cooling, water, heating water, electricity, internet, wifi, television service? Some apartments are advertised with the utility costs rolled into the commons charges or vice versa.

Self-service laundromats are a somewhat new concept here. The one I went to was high-tech (central pay station, the machine provides all the cleaning solutions [although I saw one woman dump several liquids into wash load beforehand – it may be a little like smoking, there may be signs – like “no smoking” – but they don’t apparently apply to the individual reader]), although a lot of low-tech support was required to get my laundry done.  I didn’t have a small-enough denomination bill to pay, the computer had crashed and needed restarting, I moaned in despair when I saw the ASUS computer image appear on the screen (I have an incredibly slow-to-start ASUS), and the magnetic door latches on the machines require some human effort to stay closed. There were not many machines so I was glad I arrived as early as I did – doubly so because a very kind female customer helped me negotiate the process.  Some people wash at home and bring their laundry to dry as most people don’t have dryers, electricity and natural gas being expensive.

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