We don’t drive over here — and a recent commute reinforced that decision. As our busz was cruising through an intersection, a little hatchback cruised up as if to turn onto our street after we passed through — only it didn’t wait long enough, and sideswiped us at maybe 20 miles per hour. We happened to be right above where it hit, and after we came to a stop and scrambled off the busz, we looked at the “damage.” A slight scrape and a piece of rubber molding was dislodged. The car? Not so good. The physics of 1 ton of car impacting 15 tons of busz are relentlessly unfavorable.
Where was I? Oh, yes, on buszes, trams and trains instead of a car — we’re very glad to take advantage of the wonderful and very affordable public transport here. But whether we drive or they drive, there is this minor problem of giving and receiving directions against a backdrop of so many schizophrenic streets. The picture above is a good example. I’ve Google-mapped a route that circles Budapest using a typical sort of ring road — it’s called the Nagykörüt, or Grand Boulevard, on the Pest side, and it flows directly to the Buda side on both its northern and southern handoffs. As you can see, there are a few minor changes of direction along the way, but having ridden the entirety of this route in various sections, I can tell you it is indeed one road.
But I’m not the Namer of Streets. In reality, this one road is not one road. It’s not two roads, it’s not three — ok, enough build-up… it’s sixteen different street names. Count ’em, sixteen. We live just a bit north of one o’clock on this map, and use the Nagykörüt in both directions on practically a daily basis. Trying to tell friends about a new place we found is painful enough with our horrendous grasp of the language, but when you add a dozen or so name changes to the mix, it’s… an opportunity to adapt, which most of us do.
So we don’t use addresses, we use proximity to tram stops, saying things like “inside the körüt about a block this side of the Harminckettesek stop.” (And yes, I can actually SAY “Harminckettesek” without any giggling on either end of the transaction.)
And somehow we always get where we need to go, even when the busz takes a shot from the side. We felt so badly for both drivers. For the car driver, because it was totally, completely, and unquestionably her fault — and there were only about 60 or 70 eyewitnesses — and so she was looking at a fine on top of the cost of repairs, and for our busz driver, because he was probably looking at a half day’s worth of paperwork and procedures, all for a foot-long smudge of metal and a thirty-second application of industrial adhesive.
We left them to it, however, as another busz came along a couple of minutes later and whisked us down Budaörsi út — or was it Alkotás utca?