My room at Lukács Vendégház in Eger was out of this world. It was a place right out of my vivid imagination; a place from my fantasy world; a place where I could imagine a late nineteenth century Bohemian poet might have lived with his writing and his whore; but most of all, a place where I might live far, far away from my runner’s up place in the rat race. I loved that room the second that Lajos the Hotelier unlocked the door and showed me in.
Lajos the Hotelier said, quite clearly in English, that he only spoke Hungarian and Russian so I didn’t expect the banter to flow quite as freely as it had done with Ferenc the Hotelier at my previous hotel who only spoke Hungarian and German. Lajos asked for my papers, took my passport and room booking email off me and disappeared. ‘Very Soviet border guard’, I thought and might as well have said out loud because he only spoke Hungarian and Russian so it was unlikely that I would upset him. In his absence I looked around and wondered if there had been a terrible misunderstanding and I had been allocated the wrong lodgings. The room was a bit shabby in many ways but the cherry on my rétes in many others.
At the end of a roughly built, stone outbuilding at the bottom of an overgrown but enchantingly overgrown Central European garden, with walls more than half a metre in thickness, huge windows with wooden shutters, dark wood antique furniture, a dark metal antique air conditioning unit, a plethora of handmade rugs on the floor, a small 1970s Soviet built television set, the biggest bed in the world made up with the most colourful bedcovers in the world, huge orange cotton curtains and a perfect view of the wild garden, this for me was a dream come true.
The best curtains in the whole of Hungary.
Lajos returned twenty minutes later with the news that if I wanted a shower I had to leave the hot water tap running for a good five minutes to get hot water because the tank was twenty metres away but the hot water would only last about two minutes because the tank was very small and that his wife was at the doctor’s and that there was an ABC (convenience shop) two hundred metres away where I could buy my breakfast and have a nice day even though he could still only speak Hungarian and Russian.
For the time being, I unpacked only the essentials, i.e. my corkscrew and my bottle of Egri Bikavér which I had brought all the way to the town where it was made from the cut price Penny Market in Balatonalmádi. I drank a toast to Hungary and, feeling hungry, I then nipped out into the midst of a fierce thunder storm for a plate of goose livers and cabbage at a café in the town's main street. Later, I wandered around in the light rain for hours, admiring the glow of the subdued setting sunlight on the magnificent baroque buildings.
When I returned to my lodgings a Hungarian looking carafe of Hungarian looking red wine had been placed on the table by my door and stuck to its neck was a Booking.com post-it note bearing the word ‘Cheers!’ Obviously a gift from Lajos . . . how Hungarianly kind.
For the remainder of the night I sat in my massive bed, in my wonderful room, only four hundred metres from a minaret, in a town dominated by Baroque architecture, drinking Bull’s Blood and tapping a toe to the loveliest of Baroque music on Terry’s Terrific Travel Juke Box (my iPod).
The only imperfection in my evening arrangements was the lack of tunes by local boys Ferenc Liszt and Béla Bartók to liszten to. I had music of theirs on CDs at home and I had the tour t-shirts and all that but I had never got round to copying these CDs onto my iPod, the world’s greatest traveller’s handy travelling record library . . . but slightly flawed.
I could have lived in that room permanently, you know. It was beautiful beyond my wildest understanding of beautiful, in a Terry Mullan sort of way. I could imagine its beauty enhanced by my books and pictures and clutter and whiskey bottles. The daily rental rate including utilities and, it would appear, free wine, worked out at about £790 per month which was a damned sight less than my current mortgage repayments. In my head, cogs and gears whirred!
As I lay beneath the lush plush bed covers, drifting off into a contented sleep, I could hear distant thunder and the sound of summer rain falling gently on the garden. When I awoke I could hear only the sound of wild birds singing as the sunlight flooded my room through the thin fabric of the curtains. The perfect way to end a day and to begin a new one.
Oh I loved my room in Eger. ‘Can we keep it Dad? Can we keep it? Please can we keep it?’ I said to the man selling warm breakfast croissants in the ABC shop situated only four hundred metres from my room.