July 11, 2004

Car trouble on the Danube

The last few days have been interesting learning experience. It took up way to much time to deal with the problem, something that should have taken care of itself - after all it is a rental car. The hotel receptionist pretty much saw the unfolding events around the bumper damage. We had called the car owner, he suggest that we try to get the hotel to settle the damage claim in friendly manner. He also suggested we get an estimate before trying to settle things with the hotel. So Wednesday morning we got an estimate of just $380. After that we checked out Pest's big green space park. We had planned to meet with the Hotel Carmen's owner between noon and one. We got back to the hotel at 12:30. The owner had come and gone. Was he avoiding us? In hindsight the answer is yes. But our receptionist, Kristina, gave us the name and address of the hotel's insurance company. So, in the afternoon we submitted a claim. We thought that the only problem would be whether or not it could be expedited - after all, didn't the hotel take responsibility when they passed on there insurance companies info? After the insurance company trip we went to Margaret Island. The whole island is a park that sits between Buda and Pest. It is a fantastic park with a hotel, swimming pools, some ruins and a great 19th century water tower. As the day ended we found a great restaurant around the corner from the hotel.

Thursday started with a call to the insurance company, but we got no answer. Then we went to the Buda castle area, which more like a little town on the top a large hill in the center of Buda. The entire area was more than 350 years old. It is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the city. People from all over the world and Hungary were exploring the ancient streets. We did not stay long, it was too Disneyland for us. Then we drove through some of the great residential neighborhoods that roll up in to the hills behind the city. After that we went to Szoborp's Statue Park, a strange place about twelve miles southeast of the city. It's really just a collection of socialist realist art. They charge you three bucks to view them. We met a couple of Italian boys whose fathers' were Communists. They could not understand why we would be there. But really the German couple we met in Eger told us about it and suggested we visit it. The pieces were beautiful and very impressive. We had a nice chat with these young men and we gave them a ride back into the city. We walked in another area of down town that we had not seen before. Pest has some awesome open spaces. It was nearly dark now, and we headed back to our hotel and that nearby restaurant for Hungarian soup and bread

Press HERE to see a slideshow from Hungary.

Castle in Pest's Central Park
Anonymous in the Park
In the Budas Castle Area.jpg
The Hungarian Parliment
Szoborp's Statue Park
Peace on Earth

Friday was really a day of reckoning. It was Kristina's day off. The replacement receptionist, Victor, did not speak English all that well. He was saying the hotel was not responsible for the damages. I could figure out where this was coming from. So, we drove over to the insurance company. We spent way to much time finding out that the hotel's policy did not cover this type of damage, and that the hotel owner was denying responsibility. Their official position was that since it never happened before, it could not have happened; like we say in the states: "Shit Happens!" We had no choice but to call the police and report what occurred. Of course none of them spoke a word of English. I tried my best, but who knows how they took it. No sooner had the police left than we were asked to pay now. I have got to say the hotel owner and Victor had a lot of gall given what had happened. I called my car rental guy. He said to just get temp fix and he will get it fixed when we return to Prague. God forbid, nothing will happen, because we did not get it fully repaired. The partial fix only cost $30.
We decide to spend the rest of the afternoon on a side trip to Szentendre, a wonderful little town like our Stillwater, except it is only 200 years older. This wonderfully beautiful 17th century village was full of tourists and handicraft sellers. I find that we are getting jaded by all the beauty, and we just are not taking photos like we should. There are just so many great old towns in central Europe. In the evening we went to the movies and saw Dirty Dancing 2. I really loved the Cuban setting and the fantastic Afro Cuban music.

Saturday we took another pleasant drive through the Magyar great plain with fields of corn, sunflowers, and wheat. Another thing that you can see a lot of in the countryside is storks, lots of storks. The mostly make their nests atop the power line poles. But we did see one with six large storks atop a chimney. We arrived in Debrecen where every weekend in the summer it has street programs. We had trouble getting a place but finally settled on a nice pension, Rózsa Motel. The owner's daughter, Katalin, spoke excellent English and we were able to get some good information on the city from her. The city was much bigger than we thought it would be - about 200,000 - with several colleges and some factories. It is the second largest city in Hungary. We were directed to an excellent restaurant called, Flaska. The food was wonderful and reasonably priced. After dinner we went to listen to music in the main square and met some good people. We really enjoyed there company and the wonderful music - a strange mix of Hungarian folk, blues, and Cajun music. The dance that accompanied the music was pretty incredible too. Again it was a mix of traditional folk dance and some pretty modern variations.

On the Danube in Szentenndre
Befote the Gate in Szentenndre
Storks' Nest Near Debrecen
Hotel and Fountain in Debrecen
Posted by bill at July 11, 2004 10:31 AM