Sunday, March 09, 2008

On the train across the Austro-Hungarian Empire

I'm back in Romania for the first time since just before Christmas, and came via Budapest, now my preferred way into Transylvania.
The train is a wonderful mixture of the old Empire and the subsequent Communist regimes, laced with efforts at the New Improved Capitalism that is putatively espoused.
Two images stick out.
The first is what I assume was a university athletics team on it's way to a meet. It included the javelin throwers who were on the train complete with their javelins, well able to kill anyone within 100 mtrs - and no corks on the ends either. I can't help but think Elf 'n Safety would have been after them.
The other was the divi. This consisted of ALL the train officials, including drivers, guards, restaurant car AND the border guards etc etc, both from Hungary and Romania, getting together to divi-up everything that had been "begged borrowed or stolen" from the passengers. This was done in no-man's land - clearly because no-one had jurisdiction there.
I was talking to one of the senior men ( as defined by the amount of scrambled egg on his cap and uniform) about it over a beer, and told him it would not be something that could happen in the UK - at least not as openly.
" Ah" he said." But you do it secretly. I have been reading all about your MP's and how much they steal."
I remonstrated with him, saying that these expenses were, if not necessarily generally approved of, at least they were legal.
He smiled. " My friend, not so long ago, people who did in our country what your MPs do were shot. Now we only imprison them. And what we do? Everyone must live."
I'm not sure he regarded this as a forward step.


Winchester whisperer said...

How's the Mayor?

kinglear said...

ww- Mayor is extremely well, if a little overweight. He is up for reelection and although there are 9other candidates, no-one seriously believes he will have a problem.

Winchester whisperer said...

He should give Boris some tips