After a 3-hour ride, we arrived at Keleti Station in Budapest about an hour before sunset. Keleti is a magnificent station, and would have appeared so then, if they had ever taken the time to clean the coal suet off the walls and ceilings. Again, my mind raced, good G-d I have taken my wife into the heart of communist hell.
Gathering our senses we took our excessive luggage and headed for the front entrance of the station. Upon walking outside it was a beautiful, cool, sunny afternoon and... wait!; a short, stocky, mustached, stereotypical communist looking gentleman was grabbing at the luggage! “Crap!,” the soldier, the gun, the Turul, “now what,” I thought as the panic began to set in. Before I could react, and to my astonishment, a taxi drives up over the curb and onto the side walk. The driver, a kid in his early 20’s, gets out and runs to our rescue. He and the angry commie begin arguing, arms waving as they get up in each other’s faces. Then as abruptly as it had begun it ended. Hell, it was two cabbies fighting over a fare; us! We chose the kid because I thought that if needed I could win a fight with him.
The kid knew maybe six words in English, but after some of our efforts he stopped insisting, “no tuuuuuur guide”, and he understood that we just wanted to be driven around town. Remember we had done no research and had no idea where we were. Once he understood this was on the taxi meter he was happy to oblige. This was probably the first opportunity he ever had to run up a fare with thepermission of the customers.
For nearly an hour he drove us through amazing neighborhoods, down great avenues and along the banks of the Danube. Our faces were plastered to the taxi window as we gawked and expressed amazement at how beautiful this city was. Old and dark and in need of a lot of love, but stunningly beautiful at the same time. We quickly realized that we had found what was lacking in Vienna.
Then we crossed the Chain Bridge, drove through a great tunnel, and began climbing higher and higher as it got darker and darker. I suggested maybe we should head for the hotel, but the driver either didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand. Darker, higher, more remote. Now pitch dark and I knew the outcome. We were being hijacked for a mugging and robbery. Of course, we were behind the Iron Curtain and these were commies; what should I have expected?
As predicted he pulled to the side along a deserted stretch of road and ordered us out of the car. We did as directed. Then he demanded we turn with our backs to the car.