Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

London Diary 31

She gripped my head as we kissed. Eyes closed, tongues shared, emotions combined. The sight of each other after a while, maybe a while too long. Was it love or lust that forced our mouth together, I gripped her tight, bit her and clamped down.

Then release. Eyes open. Smiles. Giggles, another peck, a nibble here, a caress there. For that moment, that one brief moment, the rest of the world meant nothing. It was just us two.

Reality filters in, as we walked hand in hand. Maybe it was the sound of a car horn, the smell from the local fast food house, or the inane chatter of someone on their mobile. But that one brief kiss, that moment of raw passion is replaced by something less sanguine. We kiss again, but it is not the same. She still giggles, I still smile, but that magic spark in that one reunited kiss of two loves vanishes, not immediately, but slowly, it slips away, on the gust of the wind, little bits pass, and so by the end of the night, we are walking hand in hand, still amorous but more aware of our surroundings. No longer are we floating on air, two individuals locked tight, but just a couple of souls, wandering the streets of the city, lost in our lives...

Monday, 27 September 2010

Leaving London in Style - St. Pancras



There is another way to leave London. By train. Since the 1990's it has been possible to travel to both the Belgium and French capitals by train. More importantly, since the opening on the British side of our first (and only) High Speed railway, Europe's two largest cities are just over two hours away from each other. That's right, going from London to Paris is easier than traveling from North London to South London (my longest time has been 4 hours in a car).

A little history about the building. The gorgeous St Pancras (and my blurry 5am photos after two hours sleep do no justice to the place) in the 1860's, it was almost demolished in the 1960's but a campaign headed by John Betjeman saved the station from destruction, although it was run right into the ground, and by the beginning of the noughties it had become one of the more dilapidated stations in the Capital. But a quick injection of debt serviced cash came into the station and it was transformed, with Sir John given a wonderful little statue on the main concourse, and to be honest, it is the best public are installation in the station complex.



Size is the key to St Pancras International. Just how much is devoted to the Eurostar services to Brussels and Paris is extraordinary, but when you compare it to the dilapidated facilities in Paris' Gare du Nord, you realise that, yeah, we Londoners know how to send off in a little bit of style!



Okay, okay, back to the history of the station. So after the 1960's it was run down, with the remaining services being long distance trains to the East Midlands. But come the Early 2000's the station was shut down and rebuilt. Entirely. Look at the roof - it was black a few years ago. I know, this was a regular place for me to meet up with buddies, as I used to live round the corner from here. Now it is a gorgeous blue - allegedly the original colour. Plus the restoration has been astounding. With the additions too, St Pancras now boasts a colourful array of destinations - possibly the most varied of all the London termini. You can travel on local commuter services to both North and South London as well as the outlying suburbs. The East Midlands are still served and alongside the international trains to Europe, there are also High Speed services to the Kent countryside. Not bad for a station that was earmarked for the scrapheap. See how quickly things can change in a generation?


(The comedy of seeing Sutton and Paris on the same destination board - if only the rest of the world knew how far apart these two destinations really are...)

The attention to detail in St Pancras is exquisite. Is it a listed building so the rebuilding had to be very sympathetic to the original structure while vastly changing its role into a modern gateway for London. It handled 19 million people in 2008-9 compared to the 60 million in and out of Heathrow - and around 9 million of those punters at St Pancras are using the Eurostar services to the continent. So yeah, while it is big and huge, and all of that, it also has a great deal of style, because it enhanced and kept so many of the original pieces of the building, while also opening up a large amount of the station, such as the spaces underneath the platforms which now forms part of the waiting area for the train services!



I am out of here. Normal service has really got to resume on this blog, and after what has been one hell of a past month, I need to get some sleep. I am off to Sri Lanka next month - must see (part of) the family again after what was one hell of a long absence from that island. So expect me to resume my daily blog rants about how much I love/hate London, how the filming is going and the occasional journey to somewhere funky. But until then (tomorrow) here is one last look at what is probably London's best gateway.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Leaving London in Style - Terminal 5



Heathrow is a much maligned place to end up. But it is the main way for people to enter and leave the UK. Despite my frequent rants, I actually quite like Heathrow, and thanks to my recent travels to the Eastern End of Europe, I finally got to use the magnificent Terminal 5!

First let us go underground. London's newest extension to its mighty tube network is here at Terminal 5. London's newest underground station runs into the terminal itself, and like other stations opened in the last 15 years, it is big. Size matters and T5 from the very concept was designed to handle the bast crowds using Heathrow. The tube station is no different, built into the cokplex itself, it is light, fluffy and airy - very Noughties...



But let us get above ground to appreciate the vastness of Terminal 5. There are a lot of superlatives used to describe the building, most of them related to the word ginormous. You see, the UK has a lot of old buildings that we like to retrofit and so doing something quite new takes a whole new way of thinking. There is a lot of vertigo when inside, but it is a lush space!



And let us not foget the horizontal. It is a long building. And yeah, count the zones...a lot of them.



I have wanted to visit this place for a long while, but the excuse has never came until I flew out. But I am glad I finally made here to Terminal 5. We know about the teething troubles on opening, but you know what. After all of the hassle, the place actually works. We are not very good at blowing our own horn and sometimes the world has to know that you know what, Terminal 5 actually works, and it is a pretty good building! Who knows what may happen to Heathrow in the future, but for now, thanks to Terminal 5, it has become a lot more nicer to travel through...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Irfan Post 12

A quickie. Editing Sound, and the music is here, so inserting bits into bobs.

Will blog in more detail next week about Irfan's Post.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

London Diary 30

Slipping back to reality, I returned, a little wiser, a little happier and a little bit more sorrowful. Thinking of you, of the time spent together, briefly colliding, never long enough to leave a lasting imprint, but still, your smile it still remains vivid, your voice, your laugh, the way you gasped when I tickled your back, the touch of your cheeks on mine, the smell of your hair. And the way you made me smile. It is hard to meet someone who can make you laugh, whether inside or out. Not because of your great comic timing, but because, well, because of you...

I wish there was more time, always more time, and yet, I am still here, by the river, the same riverside that we strolled down, that I have strolled many times before, with many others, but now it is a lot more empty. The same crowds, the same passer-byes, the same buskers who were there a few days ago, are still there now. But as for us? While I remain in the city, you are far away. Maybe not as far as my dramatic prose may give the impression, but far enough, where we lead separate lives, separate desires and have separate destinations.

Just a couple of days...is that enough to make an impact, to change plans, ideas and beliefs, long held but in reality everything we do is merely temporary, not even a blot on the canvas of life. Is this then the meaning of adaptation, to change yourself for desire, for emotion, or is it just adrenaline? Speaking to me, or does my heart actually beat for a reason. Jpegs, voicemails, texts. Is this what you show to your offspring in place of pictures, postcards and letters? A whirlwind, brought together by chance, meeting in reality, keeping in touch virtually. For me, I want something more. Something to hold, to touch, to physically believe that there was something beyond a fleeting embrace. But we live apart, and while it becomes easier to forget, there are still moments that I catch myself, thinking, wishing, dreaming of the time we spent together. In each others arms, while looking across at the river...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - Train or Plane?

There are two ways you can realistically leave the UK. First, the main way out is by air. We have five airports, all of them useless and a pain in the neck to get to except Heathrow which just works in terms of ground transport. That is the only reason we want to fly out of there, because it is very easy (and cheap) to get to!!! New owners of Gatwick, you want us to use your crappy airport, then build the tube to the terminals! Thw plane is by far and away, the most popular way to leave London. After all, located on an island, we can't just do a road trip, unless you consider the M25 a thrilling way to escape?



There is an alternative? The train. Since the building of High Speed 1, using the Channel Tunnel is now a realistic proposal with fast taveling times to the continent and a lot less pain than the airports. We still have to pass through hoops to get on board, but compared to the plane, it is a most civilised way to travel...



I love travel by any means and over the past month, I ventured out by both plane and train. Recently in London, there has been the opening of two grand gateways. For planes, it has been Terminal 5 and for trains, St. Pancras International. As a Londoner, it was the first time that I had used either of these to travel from and so I got snap happy. Expect more pics later this week...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - Strasbourg



Oh yes, there was another place I have visited over the past month, and that is the pretty little town of Strasbourg in France. Unfortunately, time has been so short, that it has barely got a mention, but I was there for cinematic reasons as well, a week before BUSHO, and I managed to spend a couple of lovely days there sightseeing as well as seeing some great films and chatting to very cool film makers at the local film festival.

I am lucky that France is soooooo close to London. Thanks to the Channel Tunnel and all the bits attached to it, most of France is pretty easy for us Londoners to get to. Strasbourg was never the kind of town I thought I would end up traveling in, but that is exactly what I did. And it was not a decision that I regretted...



Strasbourg is a city criss crossed by canals and rivers. However, this is no Venice. Strasbourg's waterways are not crossed by gondolas although there are numerous tourist boats that do the trips around the city. As for me, the beauty was along the waterways of the city. Beautiful buildings, wonderful eateries and cobbled streets as well as plenty of greeneries line these rivers. Whether by cycle (a very popular mode of transport here) or by foot, Strasbourg's waterfront terraces are a realy special treat for visitor and local alike!



One of Strasbourg's most famous sights is its impressive Gothic Cathedral. A little known fact, it was the world's tallest building from 1647 until 1874, and remains the only building since the Pyramids in this group of 'tallest buildings' not to have been destroyed or damaged along the way!



But for us Brits, Strasbourg is linked to one thing in particular. The European Parliament. The most maligned institution in the EU, this gravy train should be the world's second largest exercise in democracy. Instead, it is little less than a talk shop, fronted by some of the most odious politicians on the continent - and that says a lot about the people that draw a pay packet from this monstrous institution! Located away from the centre of town, it necessitated a journey on the tram to see it. I had to, even though it was closed and not in session. Curiosity, not fascination, drew me here. At least I can say that I have been...



But overall, Strasbourg is a very pretty town. A great place to spend a couple of days just like I did. The food is pretty good, ad the locals are not a bad bunch. Plus, it is quicker for me to get here than it is for me to travel to Scotland...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Charlie Holiday - One last look at Bucharest...



Unlike Budapest, my time in Bucharest was well rushed. And like Budapest, it is a city that I want to return to someday soon, money and time permitting. Maybe, maybe, but who knows in the life of El Director where my wanderings will next take me?



Called the Paris of the East, much of Bucharest was modeled on the French Capital. Above is Romania's version of the Arcul de Triumf, the third such structure now built on this site. It has a rich and varied history, like much of the city. Grand structures are the order of the day, and Bucharest's wide boulevards are filled with memorials and monuments to many victories and events. Unlike Budapest, much of the past still exists in the Romanian capital and can be seen freely in the streets of Bucharest.



Nestled in the modern concrete jungle are many historic gems, mainly churches from the Orthodox faith, and they look simply stunning. Bucharest itself is a fairly modern city by European standards, its founding can be traced to just over 500 years ago. And so many of the buildings are not of an ancient stock, but still have an architectural marvel of their own. And it can be weird, amongst the brutalism of the modern city to see such structures nestled away.



But there has been restoration galore in Bucharest as well, and now in the EU, the city has its swing. It will take time, but in the next decade, Bucharest is going to become a tourist hotspot. It has it all - cultural attractions, fantastic food and a city with people who are very funky. There is a lot to see in this country, and for the first time visitor to Romania, Bucharest is one great place to start. The city is not the easiest to get around, and can be at times overwhelming. But persevere, and enjoy this great place. For a quick weekend, it beats a lot of other European city breaks and trust me, you will come back wanting more...

Friday, 17 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - Entering Bucharest



I spent just two days in this city, but it was my first taste of Romania, and to be blunt - I was not disappointed! Bucharest, often confused with Budapest (with regards to nomenclature), but no longer by me anyhow. One of Europe's most chaotic capitals, it also has a charm that has not been revealed by the guidebooks. Unlike the Prague's or even Budapest's of the New EU, Bucharest has been largely ignored. Now it is not a beautiful city, but it is funky, and it has personality. Plus as a capital, there is a lot to do culturally. Bucharest packs a punch and offers a lot more than dainty cafes and silly bars. The people are great and if you can get your head round the brutal communist architecture, there are a lot of gems in this wonderful city...

First, let us dispense with the ugly. There is no doubt that communism screwed this city over. Brutalism is the order of the day and no matter how far development has come, some twenty years after the fall of the old Soviet backed regime, Bucharest is still scarred by the sight of communism.



The Casa Poporulu, built (partly) by forced labour in five years and completed in 1989, it remains one of Bucharest's biggest sights, but horrific in many ways. Today it is used as part of the civil administration of the country, and believe it or not it is the second largest building in the world, after the USA's Pentagon. It is a landmark, but a pretty horrific one. But brutality aside, and there is a lot to choose from in Bucharest -



- there is also the pretty, and my, Bucharest can be a very pretty city. Firstly, it is green, pleasantly so and in the sunshine, there is nothing like walking through the many parks that cluster throughout the city. With trees shading the walkers, fountains providing cool drinking water and cycles to hire, these green lungs make Bucharest a much more humane place to visit and a remarkably relaxing place, far more than can be expected from a city of its size.



Cafe culture, as much as I despise it, does exist in Bucharest. That peaceful cup of coffee, that little cake and those elegant surroundings are easy to piece together. Sit down for an hour or two, watch the world go by. Of course, this is completely alien to me, so I will have my tea on the go!



Ah, the food of Bucharest! Some of the best I have tasted in Europe. Actually, scratch that, the best in Europe so far. French food is, well, French. German food is unappealing, Spanish food is nice, but pretty samey, Hungarian food is just a riff on Germany, Slovenian food was unmemorable but Romanian food is lush! Great munchies, a variety of cuisines and cheap to eat. Plus they have a great snacking culture there. It is easy to pick up something on the go or to sit down and nibble something more substantial...next year I may be in Poland and I am far more dubious about the food on offer here...

It was only two days that I spent here in Bucharest and so I did not see enough of the city. But I did take a lot of the sights in, and I think tomorrow I will spend a little more time on the photographic side. It was a fun place to visit!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - From Budapest to Bucharest

So it was with great sadness that I left Budapest. A piece of me shall remain there forever, but enough lamentation - there was a new adventure ahead of me and it was time to see the open road. Or in this case, the open rail and to set out on a new adventure, to a new country, my 32nd in fact. I was off to Romania, one of the two newest entrants to to the EU, only joining in 2007. And so my last view of Budapest was the magnificent Keleti Pályaudvar, and if there was any more fitting way to leave such a magnificent city this was it. Keleti may not have the grandeur of St Pancras, or the size of CST, but it is still a wonderful place to say farewell...



I do like trains. They are a fascinating way to travel. Normally I go by seater class, so this was only the third time in my life that I was traveling by sleeper carriage. I was to be joined by five other travelers and so it was to be a cosy arrangement of six people in a compartment. Traveling from Budapest to Bucharest was a popular journey and despite the plethora of planes and coaches, it was still possible to get on of three trains a day to the Romanian capital. There was only one night train, a great options as it saves on one night's accommodation - always a handy traveling tip!

I was to share my carriage with an unusual assortment of characters. A pair of Romanian siblings living in Germany since childhood were visiting their family in Romania. Part of a tour group including the tour leader, plus myself. The other five were getting off before Bucharest, so I was to get a few hours to myself in the carriage, but leaving the Hungarian capital was to be a cosy experience.



My fellow travel companions were an interesting lot. The Romanian siblings were really lovely, and for them it was their regular pilgrimage to see family - something I am going to do later this year. The tour group was, well, interesting. A lone Aussie with a penchant for great rail journeys, a Hong Konger with very few practical skills and an Italian with all the awful cliche's that come attached to his fellow countrymen, leading the tour group. I myself got the top bunk and settled in for the night. It was a nippy night too, but it was better to travel with an open window and the breeze of the Romanian countryside blowing through my face. Border control was painless for me, as an EU citizen, my passport got the glance than it was onto the next person. You know, while we may not get the pretty stamps filling up our passport, it is nice to breeze through so many nations. Some aspects of the EU are really good and the free movement of people, for me, is one of those very good ideas that has stayed the course throughout the European Union's history.

The next morning, the carriage empties as promised and for a few hours I was left alone. I headed to the buffet carriage and got myself breakfast. Awful, truly it was, the worst meal in on the trip. But thankfully, this was not representative of Romanian cuisine - far from it! But on that journey, what greeted me was a lukewarm tea and a sandwich made of processed cheese and ham. Ugh. Considering how much I despise pork, this really was a lousy breakfast, but hunger strikes and to be honest, I was not going to sit for hours with a rumbling stomach. And the energy it provided allowed me to chat with the assortment of local people in the train - always the best thing about train travel. Never the food, but the company.



The countryside passed through and it could be seen that Romania is a lush and beautiful place. One thing that is very different to Western Europe is how much wild and open spaces there are here in this part of the world. These guys have forests, proper land with trees. Yes they have farmland, but when you travel through Eastern Europe, you realise just how much of the land is uncultivated, unexploited, and maybe how the continent looked millennia ago. Europe is a crowded place and sometime sit is hard to appreciate the beauty in the landscape. But, on my recommendation and on what I saw, if you want some real wild countryside, then head to Romania.



Romania unfortunately in the UK is not famed for its countryside. Instead it is famed for its brutal communist regime, its subsequent and violent disposal, and the tragic case of its orphans left behind in the 1990's. It is a tourist destination that is really not in the psyche of British travelers, although it is easy to get to and cheap to wander around. It was one of the reasons that I wanted to see this country as well. After working and meeting Romanians in London, I wanted to see their country, even if it was only the briefest of visits to their capital city that I was going to partake in. Unfortunately, time meant that I could only spend the briefest of moments in this cast country, so I headed to Bucharest a magnet for many Romanians in themselves, but not so much on the tourist hot stop. And what did I think of Romania's capital city, a place that I spent two days in and really, what was to be my only taster of Romania. I arrived in Gara du Nord, not that much worse for wear but ready to experience a new city, a new country and a new adventure...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Irfan Post 11 - Time to slot in the sound



Before I left for BUSHO and Strasbourg, I managed to get the dubs completed for Sippy who plays Irfan/ That has meant that every character is now sound checked and ready for the clean up. Added to that the receipt of the first draft of the soundtrack from Nick and it looks like I am rocking and rolling.

Apologies to my cast and crew. I promised a press pack by the end of August. That kind of got delayed due to the Film Festivals. So I now promise that by the end of September ;), unless there is another film festival - a wish, but I doubt that will happen in such short notice.

Unfortunately, film festivals are not just swanning around in soirees but there is a lot of prep beforehand, including the delivery of final tapes to the festival, publicity as well as the invariable need to book and plan accommodation and time off from the 'day job'. But it is worthwhile, and I hope for 'Irfan' to have greater success when it is completed later this year.

Toodles, I'm back off to the editing!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday/Crossings of the River Danube 1 - The Széchenyi Chain Bridge



The mighty Danube cuts through Budapest like a knife through butter. Splitting the city into two, it is easy to forget that once upon a time, there was no Budapest, but two very separate and distinct municipalities, Buda to the west overlooking the flat Pest to the east of the river. The situation changed in 1873 when the city was merged. No doubt it was this bridge, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (opened in 1849) that played a key part in the restructuring of the city. In a city as beautiful as Budapest it is as iconic to the city as the Brooklyn Bridge is to New York or Tower Bridge to London - no small feat! But also, it crosses the mighty Danube, the longest river in Europe, and on my travels around the world, this was the first time that I had seen this great river. So it was with great excitement that I ventured towards Budapest's first solid crossing over the Danube River!

To us Brits, this bridge may have a familiar look to it. That is because it is an exact replica of the Marlow Bridge found over the River Thames, about twenty/thirty miles to the west of London. Both crossing points were designed by William Tierney Clark and are the only two surviving examples of his work that exist today.



Clark is lionised far more in Hungary than in the UK, and even has a public square named after him on the Buda side of the river Danube. In Clark Adam Ter (Square) also lies the 0 KM Stone. Similar to many Point Zeroes around the world, this is the marker from which all distances are measured from in Hungary. A pretty little park, at the foot of the hills of Buda and the start of this crossing point over the Danube.



The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge. A pretty impressive one at that. Although there is a weight limit imposed on the bridge, it still carries traffic across the Danube. One lane in each direction plus the multitude of pedestrians and tourists that decide to wander or rush across on their way to somewhere or nowhere in particular. Either for a romantic stroll or for a vacationing gawp, it serves its purpose well, still linking two sides of a city over the river. There is traffic on the bridge still, even though the Chain Bridge has been joined by a multitude of crossings over the Danube, or as it is called in this part of the world, the Duna.



Oh yes, let us take a look at the Danube itself. This murky stretch of water beneath our feet. For some reason, a lot of people in Eastern Europe treat it with disdain. For me, it is different. I do not mock the 'greeny' river or the dirty waterway as it is called by many. Sure, it may have a dubious effect on your health should you decide to take a dive, but for me, it is not the content of the river that is important, but the essence of what it entails with regard to civilisation. The Danube once marked the border of the Roman Empire, and today marks the border of many European states. Not only Budapest, but the cities of Vienna (Austria's capital), Bratislava (Slovakia's capital) and Belgrade (Serbia's capital) all lie on the river. Flowing through four capital cities, it links more governments than any other city in the world before tipping into the Black Sea. But that delta is many miles from the Chain Bridge itself.



Back to the bridge, and take a look at the ornamental lions. Yep, they have no tongues. Whether this is a deliberate intention, or an oversight of the original design, I could not tell you. But yeah, that is a fact, teeth but nothing with which they can swallow!



Getting there and away:

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is located in the heart of Budapest. The nearest trams are the historic Route 2 (the most sceneic tram ride in the world?) on the Pest side and tram routes 19 and 41 on the Buda side. The nearest metro station is Vörösmarty tér on the Pest side on the historic Metro Line 1.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - The Best of BUSHO 3 - And the rest...



Time passes and once again all good things come to an end...and this was one hell of a festival. The people loved our little film - and we were the only film in the festival to get an applause from the audience. The humour translated well into a different culture and in fact it has given me a new impetus with regards to Caution Wet Paint. The future is bright, the future is milky...

And so I bought a ticket out of Budapest. The beautiful Keleti Pályaudvar was to be my final sight of this great capital. A ticket out to a different city, to a different country, a new destination. But I felt that I was leaving something behind. Something fun and joyous - a moment in my life that I would not be able to recapture. Budapest was special to me, in so many ways. It was a place where I got to interact with audience, film makers and festival organisers as an equal. I was able to learn so much from this fantastic festival. A lot was put into the organisation of BUSHO, and I got a hell of a lot out of it! What I learned from Budapest has accelerated my film making more than any other festival or seminar in my small film making career.



But it was not all filming. There were little gems hidden in the streets and the backwaters of the city. Some are more popular destinations, littered with tourists, others are parts reached by the many.



And culture that is so accessible. In London, we are so consumed by our own petty lives, that we rarely take time out to enjoy the city. Even here in Budapest, I did not spend as much time as I wanted immersed in the local culture. Budapest is a beautiful city, and a wonderful place to spend a few days. I spent a week here, I wish it was a lot longer. But like all good things, they must come back to an end. Already, I have been back for two days in London, and I remember very little of my life in East Europe. The sights, the smells, even the currency now a long and distant memory. Travel is great for the sould but it can also be heartbreaking when you leave. And that is what I feel about Budapest. However, I now will never get Budapest and Bucharest confused as I did in the past. Two wonderful cities, and as I left Budapest onward to the Romanian capital, my journey was tinged with a little sadness. I do not cry, but inside, I wept as I left this wonderful city. Thank you BUSHO and thank you Budapest for the memories and the wonderful time that I spent here. And I hope one day to return, a little bit wiser (hopefully) and a lot more successful (the dream)...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Charlie's Holiday - The Best of BUSHO (2) - 'Buda' and 'Pest'



There was a lot more than movies to be seen at the Budapest Short Film Festival - BUSHO. There was a city to explore. While there were movies galore in the afternoon and seminars (coupled with parties) in the evening, the mornings were usually free...to explore Budapest itself! And what a city to explore. With our hands held by the organisers of the festival, we got to see not just the popular bits and bobs, but also experience a few, well, I got to spa! Yeah, my first time in the steam room, all as a guest of a film festival. This is the high life!

---


Where to start? Of course I knew beforehand that Budapest was a beautiful city, but just how beautiful I did not realise until I entered the city itself. Wow, what a city! Especially the central area. With the Danube dividing the city into the hilly Buda on the west bank and the flat plains of Pest on the eastern shore, this is a great setting for any city. It was interesting to note that while many of my continental (and local) co-conspirators on our sightseeing rounds were highly cynical about the Danube (it is green/filthy/boring etc), I was well impressed. Europe's longest waterway, much of it in recent history closed off to Westerners, and this mighty river flowing through the middle of this great city. I got a thing for rivers, the lifelines of humanity where we can trace so much of history along, and culturally they are an important part of society as a whole. Plus, in Budapest, the Danube is the great marker post of the city. If you find the river, you can find your way back...



Once you hit the city itself, you had to figure a way to get around. Believe it or not, Budapest is a small town, and it is better to cover it on foot. Taxi drivers are not even worth the hassle, even during the latest of nights when you are wandering the city. And when my poor feet got tired then it was easy to hop on one of the city's many trams that still crisscross the urban sprawl Fast, cheap and extensive, they are one of the most fun ways of getting about. Plus the fact that I was staying a two minute walk from a tram halt meant that it just made pure common sense to hop on one of this contraptions anytime that I was in a hurry. And trust me, much of the time, I was, but only because I had to get back to the movies! Also, if you compare Budapest's trams to London's own depressing network. They may not be as busy as South London's workhorse, but they pass through far more scenic streets! Hey, what would you choose - Croydon's Fairfield Halls, or Buda's Point '0'?



But what were the really cool things to see in Budapest? First, Buda. Castle in the hills, views overlooking the city, the rich, the posh, the swagger. Imagine Belgravia, but perched over the city, lording itself over the denizens below. It is a little snooty, a little tourist trinky but it is very pretty.



A few hours, a few days could be spent wandering its cobbled streets that wind around the walls and grand old buildings. A little village within the city, the air of the settlement is most definitely posh, but there are quirks to be found even on these tiny lanes that wind around Buda. It seems these posh gits have a sense of irony too...



But there is another side to the city. Fun, frenetic, and where the the lieks of you and me live, work and play. This is Pest, and this is the part of the city that entertains us once the monuments have been duly seen and ticked off on the list. The East bank of the Danube, flat but far from featureless is where you go to have fun! Bars, clubs, restaurants, plus trams galore ;) But of course, our time is up for one day. The sights of Budapest's more funky half I barely cratched. Imagine one whole boulevard of the city closed to allow piano playing and cafes to spring up along the entire stretch? Museums that cover everything from are to torture? Or the world's second oldest underground line?



Oh yes, Pest is far from a pest (allow me this pun!) on the time of the tourist. Add to this one of the most distinctive Jewish quarters in existence on the continent including the famed Synagogue which is reported to be the largest in Europe!



Buda may have the castle and the hills, but Pest can match its twin any day when it comes to architectural splendor. Thankfully the city was spared the worst ravages of both WW2 and the Soviet occupation, unlike many other parts of Eastern Europe. And to be honest, no blog post on Budapet would be complete without a pic of one of the most stunning pieces of political architecture on the planet - the Hungarian Parliament building. Personally, I despise all politicians with they forked tongues and honey coated words. But, I do like the opulence they attach themselves too, even if they are sponging our taxes. In Hungary it is no different. A beautiful building with cringe worthy inhabitants. Still, they are lucky, they only have one set of wankers to deal with...



All right, I am out of here. There is a lot more to say about this city than one blog post can provide. And my brief stay here cannot hope to even do this grand settlement. I will return to Budapest one day. A lot of memories here, most of them not just good, but damn good! Jay and Kay have caused me a hell of a lot of aggro, but getting Budapest was worth a lot of the pain endured for these two little guys. And hey, you never know where next the films may carry me. But before I go, here is one more shot, of one Budapest's prettiest structures - the Szabadság híd, but even this pretty dainty thing is not as iconic as its older and more famed cousin upstream. Oh, and that will be another blog post tomorrow...