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Leaving Bratislava.
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The laptop doctor will see you now.

It was a grey wet day outside, which wasn’t so bad as today was a “bus day” anyway, and I even welcome the odd miserable day now and then. After a five star breakfast we checked out – gulp, the bill! Ness was feeling a bit coldy, maybe also a little tired after a couple of busy days. We drove out of Bratislava and back to Vienna, more or less along the same route – actually, no, in tidy Austria we tried a short cut, avoiding the motorway and instead taking the “normal” road which took us through several little market towns. Very tidy and full of that “life is good here, keep the rest of the world to yourself” feeling.

It was slow progress and we didn’t really save any time by taking the shortcut. Yesterday, or maybe the day before, AVMS (Sony) called to say the laptop had been fixed and we could pick it up. We made it to the service centre before the 2pm closing time. There was a minor disagreement/misunderstanding with the service centre staff (did we really need a completely new a/c adapter?) but then we were on our way again with our laptop. First we gave Eddie a much-needed clean at the service station next door. Hoovered and washed, and then we left Vienna again. To complete the “North American” morning we were having, we had a McDonalds on the outskirts of Vienna and then headed out onto the smooth motorway towards Hungary, our next and “last but one” country.

The border crossing into “number 28” (having added Slovakia as 26, and Austria as 27) was uneventful. There was a bit of a queue, and then we were through. We made sure that we bought a “vignette”, a permit to drive on the motorway, a toll basically, which has to be affixed to the window. Previously we had done the same in Slovakia, and we should have also done so in Austria but played dumb tourist instead. The Hungarian motorway was quick and we reached the outskirts of Budapest without problems. The traffic, predictably, got busier, especially as it was now getting towards 5pm. We followed the flow into the city, and it was clear that Budapest was a big “grown up” city.

We crossed the Danube, from the western Buda side to the Pest side on the eastern bank. Across the river was a vaguely Parisian city, with tall, six storeys, nineteenth century town blocks, most looking grimy and with crumbling plaster revealing exposed brickwork, and a six-lane wide avenue packed with traffic. At least it was flowing into town, the way we were going, but it was pretty clogged heading out of town. With a bit of trial and error, navigating the one-way streets of the grid layout of this part of town, we found our hotel. We had booked ahead and had gone for another smart one, “only” four stars this time, the Best Western Premier Hotel Parliament, in a restored smart white block, contrasting all the more with the grimy ones around it. Elegant and nineteenth century on the outside, and swish and stylishly hyper-modern on the inside. Eddie was parked right in front, on the street for once. We checked in and settled in, completely unpacking our backpacks as we were going to be here for four days, and then had a beer in the hotel bar.

Budapest was clearly going to have a lot going on and we would have to be selective, but for tonight we chose to eat locally and the hotel’s recommendation for a nearby restaurant came up trumps: a few streets away, in a big but convivial basement, a familiar place with decent Hungarian cooking and wine – yes, we’re back in wine country here!