Working my way through the world’s great rivers I notched up number four today, having previously seen the St Lawrence, the Rhine and the Mekong. Two months earlier, before my trip to Indo-China, I had only managed two so it looked as though things were picking up fast. Where next, I wondered. I’ve always fancied the Yangtze Kiang to be honest. Oh Yangtze, river of my dreams, full of carp and perch . . . and bream. In Pythonesque terms Bill Shankly always spoke very highly of it and, if my memory serves me as it ought to, it was a great favourite of Gary Sprake of Leeds United and Phil Parkes of Wolves too. I love rivers so it was such I shame I was never a professional goalkeeper.
On this evening the Danube (or Duna) was my favourite, despite it not being the slightest bit blue. I suppose Johann Strauss II was just using a bit of poetic licence in his work, which is understandable really as he was never likely to have a hit with a tune called The Beautiful Brown Danube Waltz.
The journey, door to door, from Eger to Budapest via the airport to dispose of the rented car took exactly three hours which was much quicker than I had expected. This meant I had loads of time for an evening stroll to find my bearings in that fair city prior to the big cultural push the next day.
I walked for a little over four hours along one side of the Duna and back along the other, pausing only to take photographs and step out of the way of hurtling cyclists who were far too numerous to be accommodated by the cycle paths alone. The sun setting behind the towers of the fine old buildings high on the hill top in Buda was stunning but so were the lighting effects of its golden rays on the white stone of the Parliament building in Pest.
This seemed such a happy place to be. The people of Budapest seemed to come out in the evening to do whatever made them happy along the banks of their vast waterway. They were running, riding their bicycles, meditating, watching the sunset, sharing bottles of wine, drawing, asking for twenty Forint for a cup of tea or throwing stones at the ducks. Many more people were taking photographs because it was such a gorgeous, photogenic place.
More than two million people live in Budapest which is about one fifth of Hungary’s total population so I hadn’t expected it to be such a laid back place. I had expected culture shock after the peace and tranquillity of Lake Balaton but I was more than pleasantly surprised.
I took to Budapest like a duck takes to the Danube. As the sun finally disappeared I headed for the Metro station at Ferenciek Tere to catch a train to take me back to my hotel. Another wonderful day had drawn to a close and I couldn’t stop smiling.