BUDAPEST

So, we arrived in Budapest WITHOUT ANY OF OUR LUGGAGE, including the checked instruments (cello, bass and cymbals). Our connection in Warsaw was very tight (we had to run the entire length of the airport and then were popped onto a bus which carefully drove back the entire way we had just run, out onto the tarmac to the fully loaded plane waiting for us) and none of our bags made it. By the time we had done the paperwork to track our gear it was noon, with our soundcheck scheduled for 3:00 pm, and our gracious hosts scrambling to find instruments for us to borrow...

As luck would have it, our stuff (minus Ronda’s suitcase) arrived about an hour before the start of the concert. We did our soundcheck during intermission after our hosts (the awesome band Djabe) finished their set. Joanna lent Ronda clothes and cosmetics and we were good to go (with Ronda fervently channelling Joanna’s glamour!). Budapest Jazz Club is a gorgeous venue, incorporating an auditorium (where we played), a cozy bistro and a jazz cafe. Our green room was under an octagonal wooden platform, atop of which was the setting for the bistro, where we sat and ate an amazing dinner and listened to yet more live music after the main show in the auditorium.

The next day, we walked all over Budapest under the guidance of Attila (the honey!) Egerhazi, the leader of Djabe. The city is stunningly beautiful and yet refreshingly unselfconscious about it. It's lovely to visit such a place and not be assailed at every corner by souvenir shops and hordes of other tourists.

 After a full day of walking, we returned to the hotel with just time to spare to grab our bags (Ronda’s suitcase had caught up with us an hour earlier) and head to the train station for the overnight train to Poland. We all were fantasizing about a leisurely and civilized dinner aboard the dining car when we discovered, as we were boarding, that the train only had a very limited snack bar! The kiosks in the station did not accept MasterCard and we had used up all our Hungarian money, so we pooled our limited supply of Polish money, cleaned out the snack bar (the only thing left partially standing was a sad little bag of pretzels...) and picnicked on our sleeping bunks.

As it turns out, our long day wasn't quite finished. As we entered the train, the snack bar lady warned us to chain the doors of our compartments overnight since as a band of thieves regularly come though the sleeping cars while the train is in the Czech Republic. Right on schedule, in the middle of the night, they made an appearance. Joanna, who was unable to sleep, saw the door to her and Ronda’s room slowly open and a flashlight shine in, before the chain caught. Then, having woken Ronda up with the memorable words, “Ronda, wake up: the thieves are here...!”, she and Ronda sat on the bunk keeping watch as the thieves tried two more times to get the door to open. They pounded on the door and swore in at least two languages to let the thieves know they were awake, but it didn't seem to lessen the thieves’ enthusiasm. When the train finally pulled into a station, Joanna and Ronda opened the window to call for help, but found that not only were they facing the tracks rather than the platform, but the door to the sleeping car was open and one of the thieves was standing in it, apparently having a cigarette break! They tried phoning the rest of the band to warn them, and managed to reach Jamie, who woke up Clayton with yet another great quote: “Clayton, wake up! We might have to use those big guns of yours...!” Meanwhile, John had woken up needing to go to the washroom, and upon opening the door to his room had come nose to nose with one of the thieves, trying to gain entry. John said “hello...”, the thief replied, “hello....”, and then John wisely stepped back and locked and chained the door.

During the next long stopover, we managed to connect with each other. Everybody had kept their door latched, so fortunately none of us had anything stolen. We learned from the snack bar lady that this station was traditionally the thieves' last stop. According to her, the robbers have been working these night trains for 30 years, prompting us to speculate that some of them must be in retirement by now!! She wisely locks and chains herself into her room every night.

So, needless to say, none of us got much sleep during the night... except Barry, who blissfully slept through the whole thing! 

(by Ronda Metszies)