The Budapest international airport , alternative name Franz Liszt Aiport, is rather unique if not quaint. A vast and desolate cracked concrete apron, tall barbwire fences with concrete posts painted in faded red and white stripes, a double storey terminal with a few air bridges, the only indication of 20th century infrastructure not to mention the parked sparse modern jets in the tarmac. It has a colourless, cold-war look and feel. I would not have been surprised if a DC3 landed and Humphrey Bogart disembarked, undid his trenchcoat and lite up a Camel… Or vice-a-versa.
But the cavernous arrival hall had more Hungarian security police than arriving passengers. At the foot of the stairs, before we reached immigration even, a couple of well endowed police persons (male and female) seemed to randomly pull across alighting passengers for a passport check. In truth it was far from random as the only criteria was that you were dressed in a burkah or bore a striking resemblence to Osama Bin Laden. Why on earth would you do this immediatley after the plane has safely landed? Other than this, the journey through customs and immigration was a cunundrum of contradiction, as I sped passed a bored immigration official, after a cursory glance at my passport and a mechanical stamp of an entry visa. My back pack was one of the first up the chute , yet another benefit of travelling Business.
The customs hall had the usual red and green path assuming that that you are truthful about your declaration, I took the green door, to see before me a desolate, endless and totally unmanned corridor. Eddys of wind swirled the detritious of a take away society into the corners of the concourse and a large black security X-ray machine, cracked, covered in dust and cobwebs, looked as though it had last been fired up during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.
Travelling Business Class with Emirates has the added bonus of a limousine pick up and drop off service. At Budapest I am greeted by a clean cut Hungarian man in a huge black BMW. He instantly reminds me of Osley Miraveti both in looks and his accent and spoken English. It is more than a little disconcerting.
Just outside the airport is a large open aviation museum with several static aeroplanes from vintage to modern large jet aircraft which my chauffeur explains are open to all for climbing both inside and out. I make a mental note to return.
The drive from airport to the centre of the city takes about 20 minutes and as it is Sunday the roads are relatively free of traffic. Huge concrete housing estates built in the 1950s line the streets and one has a sense of desolation, intensified by the avenues of dormant deciduous trees that to this australian, appear dead. But my first impression is that the residential parts of the city are similar in look and feel to East Berlin that I visited 2 years ago, but without the cancerous spreading graffiti of their more westernised european counterparts.
Residential appartments by night
The Zenit hotel Budapest is very central with a great restaurant specialising in ham. I had slept rather fitfully on the plane I perceived, yet despite a few brief disruptions I awoke around 8:30 am Adelaide time and just 3 hours from landing. Then after a shower at the hotel slept again for 3 hours then got up and did a brief introduction to Budapest by night…. During which I became hopelessly disorientated.