I feel a bit sad that the New York Review Series is over. I suppose I should go on another holiday so that I have something to write about.
Last year, I spent 5 days in Budapest in Hungary with my mother. Budapest wasn't what I had expected, but it was OK. I organised it all myself instead of going through a travel agent. Yes, I am a sucker for punishment. The most surprising thing about Budapest was the heat. We hadn't expected it to be so warm and had naively thought that eastern bloc equals cold climate. It doesn't, it was scorching and in the late 20's early 30's the whole time (that's in centigrade).
As is the norm with me and my travels, hilarity occurred at what was meant to be a cultural event. Would you like to know what? No!! Are you sure? I think you sound unsure so I will regale you with my tale. If you make it through that then you will reach the photo's. So here goes...
In Budapest they have an Opera House, its in the centre and quite pretty to look at. During our stay, they were showing Shakespeare's Macbeth. I had never been to the opera before or watched one and so I had this great idea. Yes, that's right, we should go to the Opera. I told my mum about it and I said it would be OK because we know the story of Macbeth and so would be able to follow it even if we couldn't understand it. She agreed and we went to book tickets.
Now the tickets we asked for and the ones she gave us were different. This happens a lot there as they like to put all the tourists in the one area of the Opera House, the top balcony. I had read about this happening to people but I made her tell us exactly where our seats were before we bought them. They were not in the gods. Unfortunately, I was still totally conned and we were seated in the gods. But we didn't know this until we arrived.
In the evening when we reached the Opera House we were directed back out of the main entrance to a side entrance and told to go up the stairs. Now, my mother has arthritis in her knees and there is no lift - if there is a lift, we didn't see it and please don't tell me there was or my mother will cry! The stairs were very wide and deep and made from solid wood, very grand and beautiful but we must have climbed 7 flights of 20 stairs to reach the floor where our seats were. I wasn't sure my mother was going to make it!
One thing that you might not imagine I do, especially if you have read the New York review series, is I get the giggles. If I am with someone and we get lost, I giggle, if something goes wrong, I giggle - its only when I am on my own that I'm neurotic. So whilst we climbed the stairs, we really did climb them as my mum only has little legs, I was wetting myself. It was funny, so very funny that we had to climb all these stairs.
Anyway, we were met at the doorway by an usher who showed us to our seats. We were in the front row of the top balcony. I need to mention at this point that
I don't like heights!
The steps down to the front row of the balcony (where our seats were) were very steep - so steep in fact that they had a banister for you to hold onto, and unlike the stairs we had just climbed they were very narrow. Its a good job I have small feet! When we got to the row it was very much like in a cinema where you side walk along to your seat,
I was terrified.
The balcony part was very short and came probably to a mid-thigh level. If I was to lean forward even an inch I could see the sheer drop down into the stands. I didn't lean forward. I rather opted to stay in my seat gripping onto the balcony edge in sheer terror. To be fair it was hard not to. I am only 5'5" but my legs were jammed between seat and balcony, there was no room, everyone's knees were imprinted with the balcony. If you got up to get out at any point then you would need to lean forward and shimmy along - I never left my seat till I had to!
The Opera House itself was quite impressive inside, it wasn't that large width wise but it was tall. It was full too. Where our seats were on the row, there were two more people (a couple) between us and the walkway and we had arrived before them. Remember this point for later!
When the Opera started it was all quite strange as they had a subtitle machine but the words were in Hungarian, and they were singing in Hungarian.
As the curtain went up
A light bulb switched on in my head and I realised that I didn't know the story of Macbeth, I knew the story of Hamlet! So here I was for two and a half hours of a play of which I knew nothing about in a language I couldn't understand with my mother who hadn't really wanted to go and who had already had already loked death in the face climbing the stairs. Well, that was all I needed to set me off with the giggles. I told my mum that it was the wrong play. She looked at me aghast and said....
I climbed up those bloody stairs because you wanted to see this and you don't even know it!
I laughed some more, it was hard to hold it in because the whole row was shaking. My mum is an artist at keeping a straight face in hilarious situations, which has the effect of making you laugh even more. My mother knew the story of Macbeth and gave me a quick summary and I felt slightly better. I am not an expert on Opera and I can't sing but hells bells it was awful! One woman was singing at one part that I just had to look away and focus on the ceiling and lighting fixtures to stop from exploding in hysterics - you know what I mean, when they go
As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I whispered to my mum that at the intermission we should cut our losses and make a run for it. She agreed.
During intermission we debated whether we could stay till the end, we debated so much that when we decided that we had to get out quick, it was at the point that everyone had just sat back down for the second part. But I needed to leave. So my mum asked the woman next to her if she could get by. At this time they were still seated, the woman turned to her partner and asked him to move. As he stood up to get out of his chair he lent forward, as he did so, his glasses that he was wearing, fell off of his head into the stalls below!
It was unbearably funny - one minute they were there and the next they were gone, and they went so quickly that the man wasn't even sure they had, he was tapping his head in search of them and glancing at his girlfriend as if to say, did I have glasses? He then had a brief look around by his seat. Then (he was very tall) he tightly gripped the balcony edge and peered over to see if he could see them below. He then looked back at the woman and told her to have a look. She refused! I am laughing right now, it was like an episode of Fawlty Towers! My mum couldn't even keep a straight face. We carried on getting out of the row and headed up the stairs, as we reached the back of the section and the exit was in sight - the usher returned!
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
She was a walking talking cliche of eastern bloc culture and Yes! we were scared. My mum mumbled something about her knees hurting on the wood in the front row and the usher pointed at some empty seats in the back and barked
How could we refuse?! So we sat down, stifling our giggles, with the whole row shaking again, the opera singers wailing in the background, the usher woman on guard making sure we didn't make a run for it. The man went off to find his glasses at the start of the second half, the woman with him stayed in her seat, he never came back and she never went to look for him!
Finally we could leave and start our descent...oh how we laughed that night, just from the memory of the man and his glasses.
Here are some photo's from the trip, if you have questions then feel free to ask. Or better still, have you been to the Opera there? What was your experience?