Váci utca was packed with Budapest’s red-nosed and blue-eared revellers. People were variously armed with mouth horns that had metre-long cardboard cones attached; sparklers, laughter, rockets, tooters, children held high on their shoulders, booze and, seemingly universally, huge smiles.
I stopped regretting going to the street party when we stood in the street drinking the first of the red wines and I realised that being hit on the head with those cardboard cones was a local custom.
Every five minutes’ progress up Váci utca was interrupted with another wine-bottle-between-six length break. I’m still waiting for a copy of Sergio’s photo of 3 of us mooning (showing our arses to) the polite society members who were cocooned in the front of the Meridian Hotel. To their delight and rapturous applause, I might add.
Váci utca took a while to walk, but up at Vörösmarty Tér, there was a stage with a band and a laser show, lots of very happy people and presumably the music was okay. This is where it gets hazy… I recall that it was not very cold and that we were dancing a lot; that I was bashed over the head by a bashful 12 year old girl, and that I kidnapped her from her Dad for a dance with the rest of us; that it was about 23:20 when I last knew the time; that I incompletely vaulted a fence but rolled into a neat enough recovered stand on the other side of the fence.
This is where hazy becomes jet black. I was woken by a shake of the arm by a big friendly bouncer. I realised that I was in an emptying bar. And that I didn’t know where. Or how. My first words were an apology for sleeping in Hungarian and we exchanged New Year’s wishes. Then after stumbling through a vaguely recalled “Hány óra?” (“What time is it?”), he replied in English “Four o’clock”.
I went home.
The still jet black gap of four and a half hours has been filled in only in the vaguest of terms by the Slovenians and the Peruvian, with some reference to a good looking Turkish woman and her friend. It was the best Hogmanay that I’ve ever had, despite, or perhaps because of, not recalling it.
Budapest is a fantastic city – I leave on Sunday and, even now, I’m vaguely tempted to change my mind and stay. It’s full of lovely people, extremely safe, beautiful if a little dilapidated, generally affordable - even on the local wages and very interesting.
However, the best thing here has to be the music. The four bars that I’ve found and made regular haunts are soothing to my ears after travelling through so much Rammstein, German techno, Polish pop and the bloody, omnipresent Ketchup Song. There are enough people here who are into sleazy listening and breakbeats that there is a very cool and unpretentious music scene.
With peace, love and harmony in what’s already looking like a challenging year for all three,
May lang yer lums reek,