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: travel@theaus­ 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.loc­c­i­

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