19 to 22 May 08
Our son Nick did a great job with the Russian Consul in Canberra and had our passports back with the courier within two days of their arrival in Canberra. With luck we would have them in Budapest by Tuesday 20 May leaving us a full 10 days to cover the 2000km north to the Russian border in Latvia to stay on our schedule.
Our problems getting Russian visas meant that we spent a little longer in Hungary than we planned and that we would have less time to spend with the Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians. This gave us a great chance to settle into Hungarian life and meet the locals.
In the village of Balatonfüred, we met Babi. When she saw the Elephant and the “Australia” sticker on the back we were whisked into the kitchen and given chilled brandy (at 1500hr the sun was over the yard arm) while we got out the computer and showed her some photos to make up for our lack of a common language.
We met István Winter in a service station just north of Budapest. He showed great interest in the Elephant and our travels, and we soon discovered that he was a member of the Hungarian Suzuki Burgman Club and had his immaculate 650cc scooter parked nearby.
We met Mariann when we stayed at a small pension on the outskirts of Budapest where the old apartment blocks tower over the suburbs in endless rows.
Mariann had a small menagerie of animals including this Australian lizard (Pogona vitticeps) known as Muffin. Once again, a few photos made up for a shortage of language skills.
It was also good to meet Australians Geoff and Chris from Adelaide who were lost in Eastern Europe in a camper. They seemed to be having a great time spending the kids' inheritance and didn't seem inclined to go home anytime soon.
Just when we were planning our final swoop into Budapest to rescue the passports from the courier's office, Jo received an SMS from an old friend, Jan Cashman, to say that she and husband Gavan were in Croatia and asking if we could meet in Hungary somewhere. This was too good an opportunity to miss so we adjusted the schedule again and headed back to the City Centre Apartments where we had stayed on two previous visits to the city. Our landlady Connie must have wondered if we would seek Hungarian residency after three visits in three weeks!
We had three great nights with the Cashmans while, during the day, they waded out among the tourists around the city. It turned out to be a fortuitous stop because the day before we arrived, our little computer went on strike. We think the problem was caused by a virus contracted from a Russian website but, whatever the reason, we were off the net until further notice.
Jo, Connie and Jan outside City Centre Apartments
We found a helpful technician who spent a full day trying to recover our system without success. Finally, at 2000hr I decided to run my recovery disc and reformat the drive. This meant that we lost all of the programs from our hard drive. We were able to save critical data before we wiped the disc, but it was still a significant setback.
Between 2000 and 0130 the next morning we rebuilt the computer using free-ware from all over the net. By the time we left Buda on Thursday 22 May, we had replaced all of our old software with the exception of our Garmin Mapsource programs. Not a bad effort and the total cost of the repair was 20 Euros.
We parted company with the Cashmans, who headed west into Austria, and hustled the Elephant north across Slovakia and Poland making good time with the awful roads and heavy traffic. As we post on Saturday evening 24 May we are1000km north overnighting in an hotel on the border with Lithuania. Our taste of spring weather seems to be over. It is 10 degrees C and raining, but we are still on schedule despite a few setbacks, and we have our Russian visas.
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