On Monday at 4pm we canoed into Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia, a country we had just entered, it was well deserving of a visit yet had no campsite on offer. Bratislava did not have any water front hostels either. In fact, it was with great excitement that I booked us into the Fairway Botel. A botel! What could be better: it's on the water, so accessible, and it even got a good review from 'Stag-Do Steve' who said it was "well cheap and had good beer".
So we drifted in on the Danube and padlocked our canoe to the metal railings, a lock at either end. Then we wandered across the gangway and checked into the botel. The receptionist was most hospitable and our cabin was most inhabitable: it wasn't a tent and we wouldn't be in sleeping bags. With valuables packed into our small rucksack, we took to the streets of Bratislava and made the most of our time in the old city centre.
It was a good five hours later that we returned to the botel, it's exterior slightly rusted and drab with worn paintings of fish along the side, and we re entered our room slumping onto our beds. As we brushed our teeth we felt a slight shudder go through the room, enough to be noticed, yet not enough to be thought about. It was the shudder of a botel, we thought, and thought nothing more.
By 10:30 I was crawling under my grey duvet. I opened the window to let in a cool river breeze and noted the water moving far slower than I remembered. But in seconds my head was on the pillow and my eyes closed, I gazed only into the dark of the back of my eyelids and, as they swirled before me, lines in the darkness transformed into churning water that hurtled downstream. I was on a river, back in the canoe, and I was moving along as though a plughole in the far distance was draining the water away before me. Behind me Nathan had stopped paddling and I could hear him clattering around in the darkness. We drifted on and, with the yank of a chord, he spluttered an engine into existence. From where the engine had come neither I nor Nathan knew, but it helped us downstream and we were most pleased. The river grew darker and the engine's noise grew steadily louder whirring in my ears.
I awoke. The engine sound continued as I realized it was the botel gently humming away and I rolled over to face the wall, returning to a deeper slumber.
It was 6:35 on Tuesday morning when that deep slumber was next broken by Nathan, the real Nathan, shaking me suddenly awake. Through bleary eyes I looked confusedly up at him as he cried, "Jimmy, Jimmy, we're in Budapest!" To my horror I pulled back the curtains to look directly at a riverside hotel emblazoned with the words 'Hotel Buda', flickering in neon with the letter 'u' clearly broken years before. In those brief seconds I realized the signs at once: the shuddering of the botel moving out to the water, the slow pace of the river, really the moving boat downstream, and the sound of the engine that perforated my sleep and hummed in the night time.
And that was that. Budapest. Budapest in the space of one night time in which no canoeing was done. We worried and bickered but came to realize that our error was in booking a botel that was also a river cruise and the blame lay solely with me. I took that blame and accepted it but highlighted the week we now had off from canoeing enjoying the wonders of Hungary.
And so it was that we have spent the last few days flicking through old photos on the I-phone and instagramming pictures of France so that we can maintain a website that tells a tale of two graduates canoeing the continent. In the meantime we have walked the old streets of Buda and Pest, the two sides of the city, and even had a dip in the public baths. What is more, this will continue until enough time is passed that we could have actually canoed to Budapest, so tomorrow our intentions are to see our fourth cathedral and have coffee in a narrow street, standard stuff.
The only problem is... The canoe. We locked it, as I said, to the railings by the botel. That was back in Bratislava. How the hell are we to get the canoe down here for the end of the week when we will actually need to start paddling again? And so I must appeal. I appeal to all readers for help. If you know of anyone who is in Bratislava or lives there and may be able to help out please please let us know. My number is +44 (0) 7891 564 554 or email JamesWS@chilloutthealternativeblogisnotreal.com