Budapest 2019 Tour Report
Following the success of previous tours to Poland and South Africa, 2019 saw 30 of USTARFC’s finest jet off to the Hungarian capital of Budapest on the Spring Break ‘mini tour’. Whilst not a country famed for its rugby, it provided the perfect destination for the boys to let of some steam and enjoy each other’s company at the end of a long season.
After weeks of preparation and organisation, the touring party assembled on Sunday 17th March at the Brewco Sports bar for the traditional pre-tour meal. After some burgers and beers- the group were shocked with the surprise arrival of 2017/18 Club Captain Ben Peddie, who conducted the t-shirt presentation and provided some insight and advice to some of the novice tourists. The presentations were followed by dice-rolls and tour haircuts for those silly enough to miss payment instalments. Club secretary Archie Boyes emerged from the evening sporting the ‘Ronaldo 2002 world cup’ look, whilst Matt Phillipson’s mohawk transformed the cute and cuddly 2nd year into a doppelganger of Call of Duty’s Soap McTavish. After the formalities had finished, most boys took the sensible decision to rest their livers and call it an early night in anticipation for what was to come.
The troops assembled bright and early the next morning by the picturesque St Salvator’s Quad where we jumped on the coach bound for the airport. In keeping with tour etiquette, the boys completed their ‘1 before 11, or 11 before 1’ with ruthless efficiency. After an early check-in, we settled into the airport Wetherspoons to ease the pre-flight nerves, where we were joined by the trio of de Rome, Morrison and Kelly arriving from watching Scotland’s heroic Calcutta cup comeback at Twickenham. The Jet2 flight was seamless and incident-free, with the exception of Kelvin Chen clapping as the plane landed.
As we landed in the Hungarian Capital, we arrived at the cheap and cheerful ‘Grandio Party hostel’, which despite not being the classiest of establishments provided a cheap bar and relaxed staff, as well as easy access to the local nightlife. We wasted no time in getting stuck in and shortly headed out to experience the local street food market and plethora of watering holes.
After a strong effort from all involved, the team were up early again and ready for our first excursion of the week. After 2 mini-busses arrived outside the hotel, we spent 45 minutes driving through countless Communist tower blocks before stopping in the middle of a forest. A few eyebrows were raised over where tour-convenor Appleton had taken us. It was revealed that we were going paintballing in an abandoned Soviet Airbase- and it did not disappoint. What the airbase lacked in health and safety regulation, it certainly made up for in fun. This was highlighted with Myles’ Keane’s dice roll to be shot at by the other 29 tourists as he ran down a gauntlet. He emerged a bruised and broken man, with his skin resembling that of a dalmatian for the remainder of the tour. As we returned to the hostel, we were greeted by the welcome arrival of Roland Walker fresh off the plane from Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. This was to be Mr Walker’s fifth and final tour, showing from the outset he was keen to go out with a bang. The afternoon activity involved a walking tour of Budapest, culminating in a climb to the top of Budapest castle where we enjoyed delightful sunset views over the city. For dinner we separated into our respective rooms before heading back to the hostel bar, with the night ending in the ‘Morrisons 2’ nightclub, where the local public were treated to the USTARFC’s sub-par karaoke skills.
After a much needed long-lie, our second day in Budapest sae us descend upon the world famous Szechenyi Thermal baths. This provided the opportunity to sweat out the many toxins accumulated over the preceding 2 days, as well off show off our athletic physiques to the many envious onlookers- with Social Sec Stobo catching the eyes of many as he strutted his stuff in custom USTARFC Budgie-Smugglers. With our heads clear and muscles relaxed, it was time to play our 1 and only fixture of the tour against the Budapesti Kosok Rams. We arrived at the lovely sports ground and were welcomed by the club’s members, who gained particular joy and bemusement from Hamish Brady’s bagpiping. Being one of two rugby clubs in the city, and one of nine in the whole country, the match proved fairly 1 sided and culminated in a 90-0 victory for the Saints. However, the day’s real winner was rugby, as we shared a few beers and a delicious home-cooked Goulash with the opposition after the game. Their Club President described our visit as ‘the proudest day in the club’s history’ which meant a lot for many of the Saints players. We look forward to welcoming the Kosoks to Uni Park for the return fixture, whenever that may be.
Our final day involved a visit to the ‘Museum of terror’, and interactive tourist attraction at the old headquarters of the Hungarian Secret police. Whilst not your classic rugby tour excursion, it certainly provided us with a great insight into Hungary’s fascinating history and provided some perspective on the tour. This was followed up by a whistle-stop tour of the Hungarian parliament building, the 2nd largest in the world, before enjoying some evening pints on a boat looking over the stunning Danube river. With a combined 10 hours of sleep over 3 days, a monumental rally was needed to make it out again, with the final night proving the most enjoyable, if eventful yet. Alex Lockie was found fast asleep at the bar on numerous occasions, whilst Walker got to know the local bouncers rather well on his final night as a USTARFC tourist.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of the week was getting u for our 11am flight home, and by some miracle all 30 members made the flight home. After numerous nominations, Doug Hamilton took home the ‘man of tour’ award after a flawless first outing, with 2018 MOT Jack Terrett and sole Fresher DJ Grisel receiving honourable mentions respectively. ‘Bore of tour’ was equally as hotly contested with many fine candidates. Jamie Newgreen excelled at putting those around him to sleep with needless political drivel, whilst South Africa’s bore of tour Hamish Brady tried his best for 2 years in a row after being unable to go 12 hours without a FaceTime home to the Mrs. The award was eventually won by Richard de Rome for his general lack of company, wit and personal hygiene. We look forward to him being on a year abroad for the 2020 tour.
Overall, the tour was a roaring success and credit must be given to each and every member of the tour for making my job so easy and enjoyable over the 4 days. I gladly hand the baton over to Jack Terrett, and eagerly look forward to what he has in store for us as we tour South America next Summer.