Bridges: Finding Places That Don't Charge Over The odds - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

October 28, 2013

Bridges: Finding Places That Don't Charge Over The odds

I leave Andrassy avenue in golden long shadows of late afternoon and cut off through the narrow streets towards the Jewish quarter, get lost for a bit before emerging on a familiar street again. I come out on a wide street near the Astoria hotel and enter a bookshop where a few days earlier I saw a book I want to buy, "A Spot Of Bother" by Mark Haddon. It's still there, so I make my purchase. It's only a few blocks more to the street the bike-shop's in. By now the sun has set leaving in its wake a deep-blue-sky afterglow.

The bike-shop has a wide selection of accessories. I buy the brake-pads I need; also a small Top Peak bag which attaches on top of the top-tube against the handle-bar stem with Velcro-straps. I'll use this for a spare inner-tube, tyre-levers, puncture-repair-kit and chain-lube, as it's nice to have these at hand. I hate going into a pannier at the roadside when I've a flat, or the chain suddenly needs oiled.

New riding partner for spare inner-tube, tyre-levers and chain-lube.
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The bag cost three-thousand five-hundred Florins, or a little over ten Sterling. And as I sit-down at an outside table to coffee afterwards, I've calculated my general expenses to be in the region of seven-thousand Florins per day, around twenty-two Sterling, for which I live well, eating out every day and going to bars most evenings.

But, whilst, I and others from the west have a nice old time of it in Budapest, the average salary here in Hungary is low. I've been told the equivalent of five-hundred Euros a month, which means for many it's a lot lower.

Meet Kenny, a German staying in the hostel, working in the restaurant industry and a man with leftover food which he bags at the end of a shift. He sat down when he came in after a shift yesterday and talked of how big companies such as two well-known burger-chains pay their staff in Hungary three-hundred Euros a month; yet, a hamburger in one of their establishments costs the same in Budapest as it does in Vienna where they're required to pay the high Austrian norm.

The food that is leftover he gives to Romany people he sees on the street. He said the woman he talked with, told him she gets twelve-thousand Florins a week from the social to support herself and her two children....... It certainly puts the seven-thousand I spend a day into perspective.

He talked of how his boss goes nowhere without his two bodyguards for fear for his personal safety, as there are desperate people out there that'll shoot someone just for fifty-thousand Florins, just over one-hundred and seventy Euros. There are girls that stand on the street-corner near the hostel which approach western-males passing by and offer sex. Kenny has found out from speaking with clients for sexual services, that there are girls selling themselves for three-thousand Florins, or ten Euros for a whole night.

There is a tourist economy, like this coffee: the waitress has just set down the bill which I see is eight-hundred Florins. Tourist pricing you could say. The popular ruin bars I've written about earlier that are full of people from everywhere are a good example of this, charging almost double the norm for drinks. And in some cases, they scam by not serving the full measure for a half litre of beer. On busy evenings, I've been charged for a normal half litre of beer even though, I was served in a plastic beaker holding only 400 ml. The bartender said there was no glasses left when I complained and was adamant that the beaker measure was half a litre.

Just round the corner from the hostel, there's a street of bars patronized only by locals. In one I ordered a wheat beer and when I'd drank that, the bartender set a second one on the table and refused payment. The young man that manages the place began talking to me when I first came in and the free drink was on him. He said he used to work in one of the most popular ruin bars and wasn't surprised when I mentioned the scam with the plastic beer beaker, saying they just don't care.

Bridge over the Danube between east and west, connecting Pest and Buda.
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The following three photos in the window of a restaurant are from the 1970s.
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