Monday, March 17, 2014

35 SE Europe

To Hungary and Yugoslavia

In the mid 1980s our governments didn't have extremist Muslims to worry us with. What we had back then was russians and Communists invading Afghanistan and mucking around with the Olympics and winding up Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

It only seemed appropriate that I didn't believe all that was fed me via the Daily Mail. I wanted to see some of the metal mesh nets behind the Iron Curtain. I fancied getting over to some of the places that were off limits. Berlin. Moscow. Edgy spy cities.

As a student I didn't have the money. Uncle Phil and Jan had been to Moscow in the winter (the only time to do it in a real this is the USSR way) and they had to buy a complete winter wardrobe. I couldn't afford a winter wardrobe. I wore two summer wardrobes in winter, topped off with a winter jersey and a winter scarf and a winter woolly hat. Woolly gloves. Moscow and Berlin would have killed me in that kit. And then the visa applications and costs for those. Then air flights too. Too expensive for someone who had been living on grants for the last four years.

Looking at the maps I knew I could get to the USSR touched places by train. Hungary and Yugoslavia. I could sleep on the trains and save on hostel fees. Better still, by going in summer I would get a great coastal holiday in, and as socialist countrues were socialist it would be dirt cheap to eat and drink socialist beers. Back then - no Easy Jet or Ryannair or muppets who wrote stuff on internet sites to show off to their mates.

Hungary. Yugoslavia. Budapest. Belgrade. A month on the itner rail ticket. A good plan.

First stop Austria.

Into Hungary and buying ropey film that didn't work. Budapest and Moscva Ter and doughniuts and pastries and prospect refuge theories.

Pecs and other places

Mainly forgotten but the sensation still there

Into the refreshing heat of Yugoslavia and cheap socialist life and warm weather. Big noses, not so handsom women, and old architecture. Dubrovnik before bombed. People sitting around.

And then to Belgrade. No photos left int he camera. And not the place to photo anyway. Only remembered because of my bedroom box.

Belgrade, Yugoslavia. When I went it was. Yugoslavia was as far 'commie' that I could do with my student inter-rail-ticket-no-cash-left-over-for-extra-visas, back in the early 1980s. So Belgrade was whacked onto the itnerary as an important destination.

It's strange how we pick the places we're going to visit. All sorts of irrational criteria. Belgrade, Yugoslavia. That Tito fellah. Ooooeeeerrrr. Very dashing and daring. If you're not from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, or married to Tito, I suppose.

Not only is it strange how we tick the places we want to see and sniff, it is sometimes bonkers what we do when we get there in preparation for the coming back. Particularly when you are skint.

When you don't have the cash for a pint of lager in a pub you can't beat a museum for a rainy red afternoon. And Beo Town had more than its share of museums to shuffle around on the cheap.

You'd have to be sure that 'Muzek Revolucije Naroda I Narodnosti Jugoslavije' was well up for some budgetary out of the wet weather education. What with a name like that you would. A mere 10 din and you was in. For which they also tossed in a neat socialist people's ticket, on which was printed 'Trg Marksa i Engelsa II'. I'm not completely sure what that meant, but I'm assuming that's yer geezers Marx and Engels street or avenue or boulevard. Or something. Two fellahs adding to the 'it's not like Tory Britain here is it?' experience.

Just look at that pinky salmon ticket.

Doesn't thet design and cheap paper declare "Revolcije" to one and all?

The ticket for the National Museum was a tad more poncey, reflecting the tad more poncey entry fee. But for the extravagances of whacky alphabets and little sketches I think it justified the additional 40 din. Or as they wrote;40 stretched capital A, back to front N, H.

And there you have it. The reason why your dad was talking bollocks when he said that holding onto all your tickets and free foreign stuff and then keeping them in a big box in your bedroom just cluttered up the place. Because, without them two slips of paper, 25 years after I'd visited a country, and that that country has sort of disappeared, I could have forgotten I'd been there.

Even though Yugoslavia has gone, as will I one day, I remember that capital city as the first slightly dodgy out of the normal holiday place I ever popped into (Matlock aside).

I wonder if the Comrades in Body Odour City will remember me?

'No. 15758'

and later on

'B 046689'

They've probably forgotten. Unless they've got 'a box' in their cupboard too.

- - - -

And now I have mislaid the photo of the tickets in Yugoslavia! I will just have to believe there once was Yugoslavia and you will have to believe that I was once there.

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