Innocence Abroad: Chapter 20



'Hey, Irv!' . . . Recognized in deepest Romania

Budapest: August 27, 1991...




onsidering Geza's rich humanitarian spirit, I was thoroughly surprised when he cautioned me on the dangers of my upcoming swing through Romania - referring, of course, to the people themselves. It wasn't the first hint I'd had of such sentiments between the two countries. Mrs. Maruka at the radio station had volunteered similar warnings. For that matter, a student friend in Seattle, a recent Romanian emigré, had once told me quite earnestly that she never wanted to return to her native land, not even for a visit.

How seriously should I regard it? Georghe had seemed a remarkably gentle man when I met him in Holland, but how representative was he? Geza hadn't even been to Romania, yet he assured me that the danger there of theft or worse was common knowledge. But his certainty, sincerity aside, had the self-invalidating ring of my host in Norwich who assured me that Ipswich wasn't worth seeing - never having gone there, herself.

Still, I recalled Georghe's own reflections, a year earlier, on his fear of revealing his affiliation with Good Neighbors. But that was political, a completely different sort of hazard. Anyway, I had no other reasonable way to get from Hungary to Greece, now that Yugoslavia had become a battleground. Airfare was out of the question.

My unease over the whole business contributed to a fortunate impulse to re-check the visa situation at our Embassy, two days before my intended departure from Budapest. The American Embassy in Berlin had assured me that anything necessary for entry could be taken care of at the Romanian border. Now I learned otherwise.

Cold War was still the operational reality at the American Embassy: a fortress mentality, with armed guards both inside and out and two locked doors that I had to pass through. I was told now that the visa for Romania had to be arranged right here in Budapest, and its $30 fee would be accepted in American currency only. How was I going to find thirty dollars in greenbacks?

American Express came first to mind, since I had their travelers checks. I went to the smaller of their two Budapest bureaus, but they had no dollars for trade; they suggested I try the city's prime tourist facility, the Inter-continental Hotel. That would likely mean a stiff fee. I went instead to the larger American Express agency - and there they could do it! They wanted, however, a 12% surcharge, since I had taken my travelers checks in British pounds, not American dollars. At that rate I'd have to cash £30 worth - much more than I needed, with a consequent increase in the rapacious penalty-fee. I turned it down and continued the search. At the Intercontinental Hotel, I was told they don't even make exchanges for a non-guest. They brushed off my pleas with a confidant assurance that the Romanian Embassy would certainly take travelers checks.

I consulted with Geza that evening, and he felt sure that some less pretentious hotel nearby would make the transaction, so we went out together to find one. Three out of four suggested the National Bank near the American Embassy. The fourth advised me to make a purchase at a duty-free store and insist on change in dollars. Fat chance, thought I, with dollars apparently more precious here than gold, itself. One day down, one to go, and a 12% ace - just in case - in the hole.

Reality is so fluid in Budapest that I had been given three different office-hour schedules for the Romanian Embassy. Wednesday was the only day common to all three, so the Embassy had to be my morning's first stop - just to clear the slight possibility that there might be an alternative to cash. It was a twenty-minute bus ride up a tree-lined avenue, heading away from the center of town. But I couldn't even get in. An iron wall shielding the half-block complex from view had the only entry and it was locked. But the sign beside it made everything perfectly clear: Cash, in dollars, and no substitute. And then my spirits took a ski-slope when I saw the posted hours. Closed tomorrow, and open today only until noon! I had exactly three hours to get the cash and get back here with it, or I'd likely be stuck in Budapest through the weekend.

It looked like the 12% tribute was my fate. But I headed first for the National Bank, in one last effort to avoid the galling penalty. By pure chance on my way there, I spotted another small bank that had also been mentioned as a remote possibility.

Wonder of wonders! I went in and discovered they would do it for only 6%. That meant I could slide by on a smaller exchange, cashing only £20 and paying only two dollars for the privilege. Done! I'm not sure what Geza thought of my expending so much effort just to save four dollars, but for me it was another great victory over the vicissitudes of improvisational tourism. Celebration, however, was premature; the day's vicissitudes had hardly begun.

I raced back to the Romanian Embassy, cash in hand, only to find a small crowd now gathered around the locked door, perhaps twenty people of assorted nationalities. It wasn't even a queue-line, and there was no way of knowing when the door would open, though it was now well into their morning hours at half past ten. But I had no other option than to wait there with the rest.

Maybe twenty minutes into this uncertainty the door in the iron wall opened and out stepped a pleasant, mustachioed man who began calling names from a list for entry. He clearly wasn't about to call mine, so I kept looking at him intently until he finally returned a quizzical look to me. I said I needed a visa. He established that I was an American, took my passport and the thirty dollars from me, and shut the door. In fifteen minutes he was back with my visa-stamped passport. The crowd looked at me with wonder and envy as I turned and went on my way . . . foolishly imagining that I had overcome the last of the vicissitudes.

The next one turned up at the railway station on my way back to Geza's, where I tried to arrange a Thursday morning passage to Timisoara. The only direct train was a six a.m. departure from the Buda station on the other side of the river, an ungodly hour for warm farewells and a dismal one for getting across town. As an alternative, I purchased a late morning departure from this station, with a train change just across the Romanian border at Arad. It all seemed nicely resolved . . . until I checked the details on the big schedule board and saw that my Arad train was headed for Belgrade. It seemed odd that a Belgrade train should be routed via Romania at all, and especially without going through Timisoara. Geza thought so, too, and returned later with me to check it out, only to have another ticket agent tell him exactly what I had been told.

It puzzled Geza enough to set him poring over an atlas at home, and what he saw didn't satisfy him at all. He put his expert assistant on it. Ancsi got on the phone, and somehow managed to ferret through levels of information hierarchy to learn that the Arad connection was available from a Bucharest train leaving two hours earlier. The train I almost took by mistake was going directly into Yugoslavia, just as we had supposed.

In view of the whole mixup, and everyone's warnings about Romania, I seriously wondered whether I needed more cash with me than the 640 Austrian schillings that constituted my remaining liquidity. It was hardly more than fifty dollars, and maybe I should have gotten more hard currency while I had the opportunity. But the momentary apprehension went nowhere; I was used to traveling on the financial edge, by this time, and reluctant to cash more travelers checks than I really needed. They seemed, after all, a sufficient wellspring of security unconverted. The gods of mischief laughed at the poor innocent fool, but I couldn't hear them.

PETER SAW ME to the station early the next morning - he demanded the privilege. I tried to press my last hundred-forint note on him, a bit more than a dollar, assuring him I'd have no further use for it; but he insisted that I keep it . . . "for memory," as he put it. He waited with me in the train until it was ready to pull out.

The moment he left, I was conscious of a strange sense of foreboding hovering about this train. My coach was not the usual compartment style, but an older one with open seating, and I contemplated the shawl-hooded country women who half-filled the car, sitting morbidly silent at their individual windows. It had the eerie feeling of an old Ingmar Bergman scenario. The train itself seemed hesitant about the journey, as it bucked and lugged a few feet, then stopped, repeating the pattern one or two times. Rain starting shortly after we left the depot added its own gloomy note.

Halfway along the Hungarian portion of the journey the train was held for an unusually long delay with no indication of cause. The brooding, dour-faced women were suddenly chatting in animated conversation, like hags over a witches brew, and I wondered what it was all about. Then at the small village of Gyoma, still in Hungary, most of them got off the train - destroying at a clean swipe my image of them as grim Romanians. I tried, then, to let go of these apprehensions foisted on me and getting tangled in my own vision. I wanted only to receive Romania for whatever it was.

At the border, it was a picket-posted line of sentries in camouflage-dappled gear and side-arms, standing along the track with rifles at the ready. Immigration officers boarded and made their way through the cars. But it was a polite and cheerful routine of inspection. Outside, the soldiers were soon bantering among themselves like soldiers do everywhere, with none of the grimness of a military stereotype. To Peter, in the train, I had said that people were just people, everywhere. The only troublesome ones were those whose eyes were glazed with the self-importance of authority. I told Peter it was always visible in their eyes . . . and I didn't see it in their eyes, here at the border.

A soldier was shouting, now, at an aging Romanian who apparently cared not a fig for these border formalities and was trying to get on board with his small grandson. He retreated, fuming at the restraint, his resentment peppered with political references: Ceaucescu . . . Gorbachev . . . democrazie . . . even Stalin got into it somewhere. He got on board a few moments later but it didn't silence him, to the obvious amusement of everyone around, even the soldiers outside. It was finally obvious that he, himself, was enjoying the sport of it.

I had to move to a forward coach so that the rear cars could be left at the border. The Romanians I was now among were a weather-bronzed peasant stock, recalling to me the earthy immigrants of San Francisco's pre-war ethnic neighborhoods. I had not thought of them in long years - their disappearance after the war had been absorbed, without reflection, as the supposed outcome of America's transition from depression to prosperity; but now I realized another possibility: the Iron Curtain had closed off this source of immigration. Our whole concept of ethnic immigrant minorities has shifted as a result, from peasantry seeking a 'land of opportunity' to castaways trying to crash our barriers and 'steal our jobs.' Yes, the prejudice was always there, but racism gives it a nastier twist.

The rail yard at Arad was chaos. For unknown reasons we stopped short of the platform, and passengers scrambled across rails and gravel, hauling bundles and sacks as they went. Out on the street it was even worse: the pavement almost entirely torn up, with people crossing anywhere in no kind of order, disregarding what was left of the vehicle and tram right-of-way. Here and there, vegetable vendors sat cross-legged beside a box of potatoes or a sack of onions - swarthy, shawled, looking more like beggars hawking pencils, than tradespeople. Or is this simply another foolish distinction reflecting the bias of my own culture?

I had about an hour until my train for Timisoara, and what I had to do in that time was get some Romanian currency. I would have to find a bank somewhere in town, for there was no exchange bureau in the station. To get a measure of how much I'd need in Romanian funds, I checked the price of a rail ticket to Bucharest - 500 lei - and then set out to follow a line of tram rails along the gentle curve of what had once been an avenue but was now a mass of potholes linked by irregular patches of pavement. The sidewalk, too, was torn up; people angled this way and that for level footing. It would seem to account for the jam-packed trams, passengers hanging out of every opening, some hanging in only by literally hanging on to others.

The bulging overflow struck me as both risky and shabby once the novelty of it subsided - like I had come into a land where even the basic utilities can't serve safely for people's needs. And then a shock of sudden recognition threw me back across the decades to old San Francisco, to streetcars embellished, front and rear, with ingenious things called cow-catchers, the delight of every nervy kid in town When lifted and out of use in the rear, they provided superb outdoor seating for up to three or four of us, shielded from view of the conductor by passengers packed into the trolley's back platform. Risky? Shabby? I certainly hadn't thought so in those unvarnished days!

The town improved steadily as I came to its center. It was shaping up as a respectable community. But nothing on my way looked like a bank and none of the few people I asked could understand what I wanted. At last I saw the word, Banco, across the street . . . only to find it closed for the day. But a watchman was on duty for the building above. Using every communicative trick in my bag, I got it across to him that I had to find a place to change money. He pointed up the street, repeating to me what sounded like "Hotel Astoria" - a name I hardly expected to hear in Romania.

Peering into one impressive building, I found myself eye to eye with a guard sitting just inside the door with an automatic rifle in his lap! I quickly asked if he spoke English - as much to cover my sudden alarm, as for wanting to know. He sullenly shook his head. But I had spoken loudly enough to be overheard by a woman at a desk down the hall, who was now waving a finger at me. I checked the impulse to hurry over and carefully made sure it was okay with the gunman.

She had a slight grasp of English, and we were quickly into what could loosely be termed a discussion as to where the Hotel Astoria might be. She took me outside to where a pair of taxis were parked, bringing the two drivers into our talk, and I at once tried to indicate that I had no local money with which to pay a fare - though it was really my knee-jerk mistrust of taxi drivers. But it may have been irrelevant to the situation anyway, for the woman shortly got into one of the cabs and then both taxis took off together, leaving me to wonder what it was all about in the first place.

I walked on, mindful of my time slipping steadily away, and was accosted at the corner by the ever-present do-it-yourself exchange entrepreneur, a hazard for unwary travelers in general and doubly so where such exchange is illegal - such as Romania. I backed away as quickly as possible, looking nervously to my rear toward the building with the man with the rifle.

On the next block, back a bit from the street, I finally spotted the Hotel Astoria, a touch of down-home charm in a light shade of yellow with white trim, attractively graced with a veranda porch. Inside, the lone clerk directed me across the lobby to a small exchange office, where someone soon appeared to assist me. And now I had to make a careful decision . . . or, really, a gambler's choice.

The 500-lei railroad fare to Bucharest - a full day's journey - was the equivalent of $2.50. My fifty-plus dollars in schillings was tied up in four bills: a 500, a 100, and two twenties. I could either trade the 500 schilling note ($40), which seemed far more than I'd likely need for a four-day hosted stay and my transportation needs, combined. Or I could exchange the three lesser bills, though their $11.20 value would be a pretty tight fit. If I chose high, anything left over was thrown away. But if I chose low and it was not enough, I'd be forced to change the larger bill anyway, thus losing even more and leaving none of the schillings for Bulgaria.

The safest choice seemed obvious: go for the high figure, and so I traded my 500 schilling note for 8000 lei, in a land where one-sixteenth of it would get me clear across the country and I'd hardly need half the rest. The choice became a ticking time-bomb that would eventually leave me completely without cash resources in Bulgaria - the very development I wanted to forestall - with results that I couldn't possibly foresee. Had I not been so tight about those travelers checks, I might have realized that they offered a third (and best) option: each of the £10 checks was worth 3300 lei, so that one of them could have seen me nicely through Romania and left my schilling liquidity entirely intact.

For now, however, I could afford a taxi back to the depot, which seemed necessary in view of how much time had elapsed. In the tradition of cabbies everywhere, this one asked where my train was going and then offered to take me to Timisoara for only 1500 lei - $7.50 for 32 miles. Not a bad deal for someone with more lei on his hands than he could readily spend; but habits of austerity are not so easily broken. And I'm glad, for I'd have missed a rare and unforgettable experience at the railroad station.

It was hazardously near train time when I got back there - considering that I had yet to figure out how to find the right train to board. I was soon engaged in one of those frustrating semi-conversations with a station employee, asking which of several train-occupied tracks was number 2. He kept pointing dumbly at the ground, when suddenly it struck me that he wasn't being dull, but trying to point out an access tunnel beneath the rails, which had earlier eluded me. I hurried through it, spotting stairway number 2 and surfacing at my track, and . . . sure enough, the train there had a Timisoara placard on its closest coach.

Always on the cautious side, I looked for confirmation somewhere and tried to ask a passenger getting on board. But at my mention of Timisoara, he shook his head in the negative. I pointed to the sign on the coach, but he only replied in a babble of Romanian and shook his head the harder. Was it possible he hadn't understood me? I fumbled for pen and paper to write the name out, when from somewhere in the background I thought I heard my name being called . . .

"Hey, Irv."

I heard it, but it made no sense . . . like a voice filtering into a dream from some other world . . . as if I were being pulled out of sleep. But I wasn't asleep, I was here in a Romanian railway station . . . Wasn't I? It was an eerie moment, and I forced myself back to the issue at hand, as though the call hadn't really happened.

But again, and more insistently, it rang out . . . "Hey, Irv!"

I looked around, now, in a state of queasy confusion, momentarily uncertain of where I really was - two worlds contending for my attention, for my very reality! Halfway down the car I was trying to board were two young people hanging out of a coach window and they were clearly waving at ME - waving like old friends, but . . . neither face was familiar. They were total strangers!

I walked slowly closer, abandoning the poor fellow I'd been struggling with, to his own undoubted relief. I must have looked as stunned as I felt, for the two fellows I approached were laughing. "You don't know us, Irv . . . but Georghe told us all about you."

It was certainly too crazy to be real. These kids - there were three of them, as it turned out, all from Seattle! - had just come from Timisoara, where Georghe had put them up, and he had shown them the GN letter of introduction I had given him at Carty's, in June, with my photo on it. And here they were, spotting me on the platform at a train stop bent upon boarding their very car in the mistaken impression the train was going to Timisoara instead of coming from there.

But if I had the right track, how come it was the wrong train? These guys gave me that answer, too . . . I had the wrong time! It was an hour earlier than I thought. I had entered another time zone coming across the border - but I never knew it until now.

By tricks and quirks of mistaken timing and thoughtless error, corners turned and wrong-turned, accidents and misunderstandings, the impossible connection is made. Like running into Albert in Krakow . . . or finding myself in the same London office as a woman with whom I had an entirely separate connection, though neither of us at the time knew it . . . or plugging into the perfect Berkeley hospitality situation for a two-week stay by dropping in on the only one who knew of it, two hundred miles away.

What does it all mean? The magical intersection happens far too often - in my world, at least - to justify the millions-to-one odds often quoted for such things.

Curiously, the common factor is connections between people, suggesting a vast inter-personal psychic linkage beyond the grasp of reason. Is this what the right-brain and its irrational prompting is all about: a person-to-person communion network, unsuspected until it surfaces in the fashion of synchronicities, angels and benevolent flashes of Providence . . . a function that must be 'explained away' with disclaimer terms like coincidence and the mathematical odds of chance, because we are too intimidated by rationalism to take it at face value? If so, what an incredible gift! And what an incredible forfeiture of well-being if we leave it unrealized.

I FINALLY REACHED Timisoara and took a taxi, for the second time that day, not for feeling rich but because the heavens let loose a downpour of truly Biblical proportions shortly after I got there. I was on my way by foot to find Georghe's home, and getting lost at it when the skies opened up and dissolved all further hope of doing it on my own. When a telephone failed to work for me, a pair of 'dangerous Romanians' took the trouble to hail a taxi for me and tell the driver where I was going. How could Geza have been so woefully wrong about these people?

I hadn't sent Georghe any word of my impending arrival. I wanted to surprise him completely. I even deprived him of his own attempt at surprise - that only the day before, he had been speaking of me with three young Americans. But none of that mattered at all, he was so gleeful at actually seeing me at his door. Georghe's features quite ordinarily radiated contentment and the calm joy of a steady course in life; but when he had reason to be especially happy he fairly beamed, like a cat on a purring spree.

The sharp reduction of street noise when I entered his home seemed magical, for this was not an inner-court apartment like Geza's. It was a ground-floor unit just off the street, old and massive - much like the place I stayed at in Leipzig, with the very same gift of sacrosanct inner space that has vanished from our concept of apartment living. Three great bedrooms edged the street, shielded from its noise by double windows and heavy drapes. These rooms, in turn, were buffers for their central living area allowing not a whisper of street noise into the home's inner sanctum.

I had arrived the day after Moldavia, the Soviet buffer province between the Ukraine and Romania, had declared its independence, and that evening a TV musical spectacular from the Black Sea resort city of Constantia began, and went on for several nights. The sheer number of pop performers featured, all of them Romanian, made a deep impression, for I had come to think that Europe - east and west - was slavishly addicted to American pop. I watched with Georghe, Elena, and their grown daughter, Otilia, while we dined at a linen-spread table for the occasion of my visit.

Elena had prepared eggplant, among other dishes, in a country-style virtually unknown in the U.S. - but familiar to me, for it was exactly how my mother used to prepare it. The eggplant is baked in its own skin - Mom used to do it directly over a very low burner, turning it every ten minutes or so - then separated from the burnt skin, drained of its juice, chopped with onions and olive oil and served chilled as an appetizer or salad. It had been many years since I last tasted it that way. I had always supposed it was a Jewish dish, but now realized that it must be regional, for my family had emigrated from the Ukraine, just a few hundred miles away.

I had to tell Elena these things by translation, for she could speak no English at all. Otilia, on the other hand, was as fluent in English as Georghe, himself. She had a strangely quiet kind of vitality . . . an alive-to-life young woman in her early twenties, but yet so different from the hyperactive fashion of American youth. She seemed to epitomize freshly gained maturity, free of marketplace manipulation or the narrowing of consciousness so common in a fad-driven, peer-pressured culture. Talking with her, in fact, set off a remarkable resonance in me, taking me to that time in my own past, and I could feel her awareness of life's infinite possibilities . . . as if it were still my very own.

All three of them, for that matter, seemed radiant in a world that might have superficially appeared drab. I became conscious in this household - more than anywhere I had been - that everything is a part of all it touches. I couldn't be sure, for example, that Otilia's personality was not partly a subtle reflection of the peacefulness of their home . . . or that this, in turn, wasn't just an extended construct of the contrast immediately sensed on coming in from the busy street outside. Things here seemed to grade into one another, almost like an Escher drawing - each losing a bit of its own substance, each lending substance to everything around it. I had no idea why the effect should be felt so strongly in this particularly simple environment, except maybe for the clarity inherent in simplicity.

I was invited briefly into Otilia's own room, and it left the deepest impression on me of the entire house, for there was an irrepressible sense of some long-ago past in my life - not even, so much, of any real place I had known, as of another whole world that I had once lived in. Walking into that room, even gazing in from the doorway, pulled me into a timewarp in the same fashion that old music can sometimes do. It would be useless even to attempt a reconstruction, for description could not capture it. It was a mood . . . the mood of a world where time and space have not become issues, for they are endless and given. The mood of inner peace, and a future so immaculate with promise that each day may be taken in wholeness, accepted as complete - busy or idle - without the least concern for anything missed. I don't know if Otilia felt it so, but that's what I saw in her world . . . a world that somewhere, some long time ago, was once mine.

I stayed a second and a third night at Georghe's - I simply could not resist the spell of their home, though it was hard upon September and I knew I must be on my way. The town, itself, was very ordinary, its most intriguing downtown attraction a newly opened department store complete with escalators (not yet in operation) and incredible bargains in clothing - like seventy-five cents for two pair of wool socks, and fifty cents for a little red hat that I had no use for but could not resist. I picked up a small bouquet of nine carnations for Elena, for only twenty-five cents.

On the way back, I discovered a colorful orthodox cathedral, a blend of Byzantine and Gothic styles, not very old but quite decorative in its patterned green turrets and steeple. Inside I saw, for the first time, a place of worship with no seating - a startling effect, yet I imagine it may have been the common temple style long centuries ago, when religion was a more humbling experience than today, and the connection between people and the earth much more real and celebrated - even by the simple, oft-forgotten act of sitting directly on it.

Georghe made a tub of soap on the night before my departure. I don't mean a tub of suds - he made his own solid bar soap! That, too, brought back a memory of kid times, when I played at chemistry and had a big formula book with such things in it. Make-it-yourself recipes for everything from toothpaste to rat poison, from glue to fireworks to . . . soap. I could almost remember the formula as I watched him: ashes, cooking-fat remains and lye, or some such, stirred mightily until it begins to thicken, and then left overnight to harden and be chopped in the morning into bars. It was a game and a learning when I was young, but for Georghe it was real life. And I looked at this mellow old guy, straining every sinew to swirl the thickening brown mix in the tub, and I thought about those sun-bronzed people on the train, tough and hardy . . . and I couldn't help wondering which end of the world's economic imbalance is really closer to living 'the Good Life.'

I asked Georghe how he felt about the Hungarians.

"Strange people," he said, after a moment's reflection. "They leave us alone, and we leave them alone."

To my next question, as to whether he'd hosted any Hungarian GN visitors, he shook his head. "They don't like to come down here."

"And what about you, Georghe? Do you ever travel up there?"

He shook his head again, this time with a sheepish look on his face. He knew what I was getting at. "This is a very tormented part of the world, you know. Distrust runs deep, here, with so much hatred. History has trampled us over and over again, and many resentments have taken root. I had some friends . . . in Yugoslavia . . ." He left the subject hanging with a helpless shrug of the shoulders. I suddenly felt a sharp, deep pain for him that almost brought tears up; and the aspect of Good Neighbors that I, as an American, could only understand up to now had become visceral.

On my last exploratory walk through town, that day, I had bought my passage on to Bucharest without realizing that they only sell same-day tickets at the station. In mock seriousness, Georghe chided me for wasting money on a ticket that was useless the next day - realizing as well as I that the loss to me was so minimal as to be almost meaningless. It was uncomfortable feeling 'wealthy' in his presence; but he, himself, took the disparity between us with grace. He had just had his salary as an electrical engineer tripled, in response to inflation, from 4000 lei per month to 12,000 - or, from twenty dollars to sixty.

He rose with me at the crack of dawn on Sunday. He wanted to accompany me to the station to make sure I'd have no trouble exchanging the ticket I had mistakenly bought. We walked a bit out of the way, to go by the building where the revolution of 1989 had begun - the revolution that freed the country from Ceaucescu's government. Troops had tried to take a popular Turkish priest who had claimed sanctuary here, and people gathered to protect him. Shots were fired and word traveled quickly across the country - not very different from the famous old Boston Massacre that inflamed our own revolution. And Georghe had been right where it happened.

He waited for the train with me, and my last impression of him, standing there on the platform, was that beaming, magnificent grin.

The week's accounting had begun back in Budapest, midway through my visit with Geza. What with paying $30 for the visa and the $25 fare to Timisoara, my costs had soared past budget all the way to $118.49. My twelve-week average was now up at $96.12. It wasn't crowding me; I felt innocently confident of an easy week ahead of me.



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