Of course, not every moment of a roadtrip is spent shuffling round sewers, hiding from security guards in the Metro and climbing bridges. There’s the mandatory derping, train play, police intervention, angry foreigner interaction, budget food seeking, ‘prohobo’, sleep deprivation, automobile incidents and general swagger of the Brit abroad. Marc brought his gallic flair to the party, teaching us to speak ‘forrin’ whilst myself and NC Kapita incorrectly assumed that everybody east of Vienna would look and speak like Borat.
Day one and we’d managed to arrive in a suburb of Bratislava that was sufficiently foreign to justify pointing and miming anything we wanted to communicate, before Marc took it upon himself to actually speak to the locals to find out where the fishing shop was, where waders could be purchased. Bratislava looked interesting, but the targets were centred around Budapest and as such, we set the satnav for the infall of Devil’s Ditch.
As is often the case with these more easterly of trips, as soon as you hit the motorways, there’s something interesting on the horizon. Barely 6 miles into Hungary, we spotted a giant derelict concrete thing in the town of Mosonmagyaróvár and pulled over. After skirting around the back avoiding what looked like ancient security cameras, we realised it might simply be easier to walk in the front gate and into the buildings like we were supposed to be there. The buildings were sandy and worn, the unimpressed local we met on the way out told us that the building was a gunpowder factory during World War Two and that if we came back on a Sunday, he would show us around. With bigger fish to fry, we politely declined.
Later on in the evening, having endured the stink of the Devil’s Ditch, we went to the city centre for a play on The Szabadság bridge, a metal green hulk across The Danube. Although its possible to just wander up the sloped suspension cables/chains of the structure, we elected to climb underneath it through the metalwork making up the span, and then up the verticals to the highest internal point. While this didn’t afford us views quite as high as those obtained from walking the span, we enjoyed exploring the structure of the bridge, finding the points one could stop and just watch the roads and river beneath us.
Sleep is always required, unfortunately our only attempts to find somewhere to sleep had discovered for us a steep hill where we hoped a hospital building was – not suitable! We slept in the car and were awoken by some angry police in the morning, asking us if we were Slovaks or Deutsch. Obviously neither, we flashed our passports, showed our documents and ventured on to the nearby Tokol airbase, where a man drove at us very fast in an expensive Merc and shouted ‘Vit?’ at us until we stopped talking and apologised for driving onto his disused Soviet base.
Moving swiftly on, we took a walk down a railway line and into a car factory. The walk along the tracks was a novelty, passengers waved at us as we went and when we saw the line fork off towards the factory, the obvious decision was to follow it. Guarded like most of the derps in Hungary, we had to wait for the patrolling secca to disappear round the corner before we could enter, stomping over a load of old parts through the only obvious open door.
Despite the noise we made, we amazingly didn’t get seen, so we spent a while wandering around the stripped factory rooms in the sunshine. Hungary was full of places like this, totally fucked and stripped out, but still guarded. I guess there’s somebody that cares about them enough to try but there’s definitely a vibe of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Somewhere on the way back to the city there was a collection of planes sat in a yard, with an active looking building by it. We entered In contrast to the derelictions, the workers here were friendly, waving at us and not even bothering to come over. There was a MIG, several Soviet helicopters and a biplane – sadly some of these had been vandalised but it was nice to see somebody taking care of them to some degree.
In Budapest itself, we arrived at McDonalds and leeched off the free wifi for a few hours, before aborting our first crack at the Metro expansion. After spending a good hour or so in and around the site we left it, and went to sleep in a ditch by the services.
While the ditch was comfortable it was certainly cold. October was mild but when it’s 4am and you’re in a sleeping bag in the outdoors, there’s a certain part of you that wonders what the hell you’re doing with your time off work. I’ve never regretted a trip like this; the free accommodation facilitates the journey and looking back, it’s always memorable. The following morning was spent in a place that we believed was a bunker – it was actually an old train workshop. The derelictions we did get into in Hungary were pretty boring to be honest.
Following this little excursion, we went in a trainyard, went for a touristy walk along The Danube, walked through the tram tunnels, went into the outfall of the Devil’s Ditch, climbed the Chain Bridge, went into the Metro expansion and then slept in an old goods train. Then it was Vienna…