All keyed up in Budapest
We arrived at our accommodation in Budapest on a Friday afternoon and were greeted by an elderly gentleman who spoke no English. As we knew no Hungarian, this made communication challenging. He handed us a front door key each and managed to convey that not only were we the only guests but he was leaving and would not be back until Monday. It felt a bit spooky that night, staying at an otherwise deserted hostel in a very quiet street.
Next morning we enjoyed a walking tour of Pest, on the east bank of the Danube, then headed back to our quarters to rest before a planned night cruise. I inserted my key into each of the deadlocks on the huge wooden front door (the same key opened both locks). But despite feeling the locks turn, I could not open the door. My friend had a go, but it wouldn’t budge. After 10 minutes we had exhausted every combination of key turning and were beginning to feel anxious. We then remembered we had a copy of our booking confirmation; we could try the phone number. After a few minutes listening to the phone ring inside the empty building we realised that wasn’t going to help.
Eventually I found a local man further down the street and with a lot of pointing and imaginary key turning, I communicated our problem. He proceeded to try all the combinations we had already tried and eventually reached for his mobile phone. Was he calling the police, I asked? “Oh no,” he replied. “My wife.” A moment later, said woman appeared around the corner and she started key turning, without success. By now we were having visions of spending the next two nights out on the street as we had limited money and no ID with us. And then … a miracle; his wife gave one final turn and the door opened.
The trick was that after opening the two deadlocks, the key had to be given a final quarter turn to retract the tongue of the latch. We spent the next five minutes checking and rechecking the sequence. Yes, we had cracked it and now we could enjoy our Danube cruise. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: email@example.com. Columnists receive L’Occitane his-and-her treats of Cedrat After-Shave Cream Gel with notes of bergamot, nutmeg and cedar; and a limited edition Rose Shea Handcream released to mark L’Occitane’s 40th anniversary this year; $82. More: au.loccitane.com