Bad times in Budapest - Hungary Travel Story
I had just finished my travels in Vienna when I got on a train and headed to Hungary. This is hands down the absolute worst country in all of Europe and does not deserve to be included in this club as far as I am concerned. In fact, they should change the motto for the EU as: The EU: All good countries except that blight on humanity known as Hungary.
Let me explain.
As I crossed the border to this god forsaken place I notice that the soil and ground became rockier and the foliage scrubbier. Also, the river Danube, one of the largest and fullest rivers to bless this continent suddenly fell to half its water mark. It is a sign that even mother nature knows that there is something inherently wrong with this place and in frantic desperation the very water from this river tries to either evaporate quickly or flow back upstream. The little water that does make it into this blasted land is then turned foul with nasty clouds of some toxins. finally, it seems the communist authorities decided to throw just about any ugly industrial structure on obscure parts of the river just to keep the whole “This place is hell on earth” theme going. The further in I went I noticed the usual suspects of postwar communist architecture gems but somehow more drab and rundown than usual. The buildings here are dirtier, uglier, and set out in an even more eye jarring fashion than is typical for the previous east European countries I have visited.
As I departed my train I noticed that almost everyone here is universally tanned and wearing flip-flops. At first I thought that this place is laid back and that is why everone is tanned and sporting easy going footwear. But no, that is not the case. It is most likely because they are so poor and have no sense of fashion that they decide to wear such things. Furthermore, the only reason they are tanned at all is due to the lack of clothes they can afford in conjunction with their penchant to be absolutely lazy and not work, rather sit around and think of way to rip foreigners off like the filthy gypsies they are.
Actually, I wouldn¢¥t deign to degrade gypsies by comparing them to these pieces of human crap.
Why am I so harsh on this place? I will tell you in a moment but first I must continue with my tirade about this place and why it belongs on my “Places to drop a nuclear weapon if I ever own one.”
The majority of people here are extremely unhelpful and unfriendly.
They possess a delightful combination of surliness with thinly veiled hostility. Trying to get information or help out of their diservice staff at tourist kiosks, rail stations, hostels, etc. is like trying to pull rotten teeth from a rottweiler with rabies. I felt like I was playing “Go Fish” with the information girl at one place. She never volunteered information and everytime I asked for more on a certain topic it seemed like I was ruining her day. Example: “Where is an internet cafe?” reply “Damn. Fine, I¢¥ll tell you.” This would be the repeated case throughout my 4 days here.
The majority of men here also seem to like wearing button up shirts. Unfortunately, they never button them up. Whether they are construction workers, doctors, politicians, etc. you will see fat, ungainly men walking about with shirts flaring wide open, beer guts falling out in rolling waves, and old flip-flop sandals attached to their feet. For some reason this scene seemed familiar, like I had seen it before . . . Oh wait, I have! Mexico!!! This place is the Mexico of Europe.
The capital, Budapest, is a conglomeration of really old building left to rot. The buildings here are massed together in a rabbit warren of claustrophobic city blocks accentuated by a building or two that was once nice but is now covered in grime, filth, and graffiti. Do not even get me started on the food. All in all this city, its bridges, and its people are the most miserable in Europe.
The story begins as I cross the border into this hole. Every time I ask for help or need to get information I am treated like a fungus. Their beady reptilian eyes seem to slide over you like in a greasy manner, always stopping to stare just over your shoulder or off to one side as they cannot seem to stare you in the eye unless they are apprassing you and just how they can rip you off.
Also, the trains, mass transit, city streets, and other everyday things of life are for some reason incomprehensibly ass backwards. I guess the idea of clearly marking things or the idea of intuitive process has not penetrated this last bastion of 13th century thinking. Anyway, I arrive in Budapest and fumble around for a long while trying to find my hostel.
After walking around and getting frustrated by the minute due to the crazy street address markings I finally manage to get to it. First, I have to walk through a garbage heap (no joke) in order to get through the main front door of this place. I guess the concept of putting garbage someplace OTHER than on your front door is considered backwards.
These Hungarians are SO smart!
Well, after a day of touring and making friends with fellow expatriates I decide to head out with a group of 3 other Americans. I have not been in the company of fellow expatriates in some time so I figure this is a good time. All 4 of us decide to go to a large open air dance club favored by fellow backpackers. We arrive at the place and begin to drink a bit and dance on the dance floor. Well, as luck would turn out 2 of the guys in the group meet 2 local girls and hit it off with them.
We talk for awhile and then talk about finding another club to check out as hidden local hotspots are usually much more fun than mass tourist gatherings. So we head off to a place suggested by one of these girls.
I felt a bit wary, but we were in a group of 4 people so I felt safe. Turns out these girls lead us to a seedy strip club. Alarm bells immediately went off in my head and I grabbed one of the other guys and said “We need to leave this place. Its a scam.” So we went in and grabbed the other two guys and headed to the door.
Sure enough 3 bouncers appeared to stop us. One of the guys made it out the door while the rest of us did not. We then got into a huge argument with the bouncers. We were given a large bill of 215,000 Forints. Now, that may not make much sense to those of you unaware of just how much this is in real money. This amount is equivalent to $1,010.00 . Yes.
Apparently, there was a “secret” cover charge we were not aware of and somehow there was gigantic amount of alcohol that was charged to us too. Basically all hell broke loose here as we all began to argue with these mafia club owners. I demanded an itemized receipt of what we drank. We did not get it. I demanded that they call the police. They refused. I grabbed a phone and tried to do it myself. They took it from my hand. So this is how it is going to be, hmmm? I knew what they where doing.
They hit us with the astronomically large bill to soften us up for negotiating it to a lower price, say $200 or so. I was not about to play this. I began to insult the guards, harrass other customers, insult the girls, and just knock things over as one of the other guys argued with the boss until he was ready to deal. Finally, I noticed a cell phone resting on the counter.
As slyly as I could, I swiped the cell phone and put it in the backside of my pants. I figured that we might not be let go at all and that the only way to get out of here is to call the police. After a few moments, it began to ring. In order to cover up my ringing backside I started to yell louder and louder at the bouncers until it stopped. When it did, I went to the bathroom and began to try to dial the police. Police numbers in Europe are usually between the numbers 110 and 120. Unfortunately, none of these numbers worked in my frustration I shattered the phone into small bits and flushed as much of it as possible, including the 2 simcards (the little chip that stores all your information and numbers on your phone). The stuff I could not flush, I slipped into the toilet reservoir. I came out whistling.
By this time, one of the guys had brokered a deal after being held here prisoner for about one hour. I refused to pay, but the others did and we were set free. As we got outside and began to run away, the guy who managed to get out without us earlier had returned with the cops. Thus, we were escorted BACK to the club and from there we were taken to a police station! We said we just wanted to go home and everything was settled but that did not work so we just waited in this polic station waiting room with a bunch of officers who said they did not speak English but turned out to be liars as they talked to us in very good english later. Figures. Everyone in this country is a liar and a thief.
We had to wait in this damn police station for about another 2 hours while they tried to get ahold of their official translator. We demanded why we were there when we did not do anything. They said we were to be held there for questioning concerning an unpaid bill. So we sat there and stewed in anger. A gypsy man was held with us and he spoke excellent English. We demanded that he interpret for us, but that did not work. Finally, one of us was taken into another room and had a face to face chat with the bouncers and the police. Of course nothing was resolved and no money was returned. However, we were told we were free to go.
Yet we were not released.
I demanded to see their boss and I demanded why we were being held. After awhile we were told that there was a missing cell phone. We were searched but nothing was found. Finally, a detective showed up with some guy I had never seen before. Apparently, he was the uber-mafia-boss in charge of the club. I was singled out of the group and led to another room. Here the man accused me of breaking his phone. I did not even deny it. I just changed the subject. “You falsley extorted money from us.” He kept repeating himself “You broke phone. Admit it. Tell detective here.” I kept repeating “You falsely imprisoned us.” I could see his temper rising and I was just as furious too. This was to be a clash of anger filled wills it seems. At first he reacted like I slapped him in the face when I refused to admit anything and kept calling him a criminal. The detective just sat there, bored, quietly smoking cigarettes. Finally, the mafiosa said he had me on video taking the phone. I said I did not believe him until I saw the video. He was stunned. I basically called him a liar! We then went back to the club and were led to a small video room where this jackass played on his computer and played back a grainy 5 second replay of the night. Sure enough, it was me swiping the phone, but I did not care. If I admitted to taking it I was screwed. I was not willing to sit in a jail and wait for trial to explain that the only reason I took the phone was to call the police. No. I just said “Why dont you show us the whole video where you would not let us out of the club. Why dont you show us the part of the video where I try to call the police but you wont let me?”
All he could do was say “My friend, where I come from it is crime to break phone.” I stuck my face about a couple of inches from his and replied: “Where I come from its a crime to hold people against their will. Its called false imprisonment. Furthermore, where I come from you would be in prison because you are a criminal.” Whoah! That pissed him off! His face turned crimson red, veins began to bulge and run riot on his face. The detective just shook his head. By this time I was done playing the game. We both wanted the other to admit they were wrong and had started this whole farce but were at an impasse. So, I looked at the detective and told him I want to talk to him alone. We went outside and I asked him how to end this now with no problems. Basically, this is a polite, diplomatic way of saying “How much for the bribe, buddy?”. He shrugged and said talk to the mafia club guy. I turned around and told him how much for the phone. He did not care about the phone. He just wanted the sim cards.
aha! I guess all his drug buddies, other mafia friends, and other assorted trash was on that phone. And I trashed it. That made me feel REALL, REALLY GOOOOOOOOOOD! I told him I did not have them. He did not believe me. I began to strip all my clothes off on a crowded street while yelling “See them? I do not have them!” By this time the police were trying to stop me from doing this and even the mafiosa was embarrassed as people were starting to stare. Finally, he relented and just took about $50 from me and then we went back to the station under his wrathful gaze.
The detective began to laugh uncontrollably along with his police friend in the car. I said it was not funny because now these guys would come looking for me tomorrow. This is when the detective said something not funny: No, not tomorrow. In about 3-4 days. I should think about leaving the country.
Maybe they were joking but I did not think it was funny. Thus, when we got back to the station I grabbed the other 3 guys and said we are leaving, lets go, NOW! As we were jogging down the street I half explained what happened when a car started to pull up on us and 3 guys began to run towards us.
I ran as fast as I possibly could! I lost my sandals and began to run on bare feet soon turned bloody and cut as I ran god knows where. Finally, I found a taxi and said: “American embassy!” The taxi guy did the usual unhelpful bit but I was not about to have any of it. “Take me to the damn embassy now or I will take your taxi from you and drive myself there!” Apparently, the only way to get a Hungarian to cooperate is to threaten or insult them. In fact, I think the way you greet someone in Hungaria is to say “I hope your entire family dies from cancer.” Anyway, this got me to the embassy and upon limping up to the building I demanded to talk to an American. Of course, the Hunagarian asses out front did their unhelpful bit so I had to demand “I want to see the United States Marine on duty and I refuse to talk to you. Also, I have more of a right to be here than you do seeing as how an embassy is officially considered American soil!” This worked. I got to talk to an FSO here and was directed by him to get my stuff from my hostel and come back. I did not want to do this alone but he could not help. The embassy official opening hours were at 8 am. It was 5 am. I needed to wait. Great. Way to help me out, America!
I grabbed a taxi and went back to the hostel, collected my stuff and ran into the guys I had left. Turns out the people running after us were the police. They wanted to get our passports, place we were staying, and REAL names (we told them all lies considering we knew they were corrupt and on par with the mafia). They then took the other 3 guys back to the hostel and as they were driving over they said just how they should stay in Hungary ¢¥cuz its a beautiful place and it is a great country. I wish I was in that car because I would have let him have about “His beautiful country”. Anyway, I advised them to leave the country as that is what I was doing after filing a report at the embassy. Oh yeah, they also told me that if they found me they would arrest me. I guess the mafia guy called in some favors at the police station and I barely got away before I could be stopped.
So, I went back to the embassy, filed a report and then took the FSO¢¥s advice and left this horrible place.
First time in my life I was kicked out of a country
The thing that is important to remember here is that I am probably the first person to stand up to this mafia thug. I bet no one in their life has stood up to this guy and it INFURIATED him. Yet, he brought it on himself by making it a lifestyle of screwing tourists. In the end we broke even: All the money he took from us that night will only buy one new cell phone. Also, the info lost on those simcards was probably invaluable. Yet, I believe he truly felt he was not screwing anybody. He truly felt he was wronged for no reason. Well, he never met a redneck someone from Nevada before. You can only push so long until someone pushes back.