Thursday, 12 November 2009
Day 3 - Danube Bend, Hungary
Part of my QI remit for this trip was to take some footage for the backgrounds on a possible H series of the show, and so, with today being my only forecasted sunny day in Hungary I headed out with the QI camera.
It was a chicken liver and pea pizza (my Hungarian landlord tells me it's traditional Hungarian pizza topping, but I think he may be pushing my "If it's Hungarian then I'll try it" ethos a little bit) and an early night yesterday - I have been told that early mornings are the best for videos - and so I was up for first light, taking videos of Hungarian flags blowing in the breeze and the sun rising above the Parliament Building. After a quick coffee I visited St Stephen's Basilica to climb the 146 steps and to shoot apparently the best view of the Buda side of the river. St Stephen was the first King of Hungary, crowned in 1000 AD. He ruled with an iron fist - on one occasion quartering the body of his elder cousin Koppány and leaving the remains around the city - but it is Stephen (István in Hungarian) whose mummified fist can now be seen at the back of the Cathedral, the most precious relic in the country.
The main shot would be in the afternoon - bus up The Danube to the small town of Viségrad which is supposed to have the best views of the famous river (the second longest in Europe and the world's most international - i.e. it goes through more countries than any other).
After a 30 minute tube ride, I arrived at the bus station: not the smallest one I've ever seen (that award goes to Ploce in Croatia a town that the locals call Antichrist due to its lack of a church and the fact that Bosnians often enter the country there) but tiny nonetheless. I asked at the first bus that arrived and was waved over to the other side of the road, a second bus driver gestured me back across the road, looking at me as if I was miles away. Hmmm. One shopkeeper and another busdriver looking at me blankly later and I was beginning to think I wouldn't make it. It was only when I saw a Jewish gentleman getting the same "over there" gesture, that I decided to follow him, and my skull-capped white rabbit took me through a tunnel to a much more bus-station-like bus station.
The Danube was worth the 2 hour trek. After half an hour or so looking for the perfect spot, the sun broke through enough to send a few rays over the river's bend and I got the shot; all being well you should see it some time during a future H-series episode of QI. An idea of the area can be seen in the photo above.
Tonight it's my Hungarian host's birthday, so some more local beverages seem to be in order. I left tomorrow's plans in the hands of Twitter and they voted that I go to Hortobágy national park - home to over 50 types of grass, no less - in the North of the country. It is close to the city of Eger, which is a famous wine region, so I think that could be the first stop.