While we were waiting for the waitress to take our order, I noticed a small group of chatting policemen in riot gear. Earlier at the airport we had heard rumours of a baggage handlers strike so we wondered if there if was some sort of demonstration or protest happening today. A few minutes later there was the sound of remarkably tuneful male singing, a football chant perhaps, but sadly the waitress had no idea what event was passing through the picturesque square where we were having a late lunch.
Just as I was finishing my cappuccino (Budapest has excellent coffee), the singing turned to shouting, followed by banging, and then suddenly the people who had been idling in the middle of the square were running, like a tide heading for the beach, towards the same corner past the policemen who were buckling on their helmets and making their way in the opposite direction.
With the trouble at the other end of the square, no one on the café’s idyllic terrace looked perturbed so we continued to enjoy our lunch. There were some more bangs from the centre of the square, and then another wave of people, this time in uniform black t-shirts, ran past our café towards the same exit to the square as the original wave of bystanders—it looked like the police had broken things up. Thinking the incident over, we were about to return to our previous conversation when the people in front of us started to hold their noses, seconds later we could also smell bleach, and people started to move towards the café’s interior. As my nose started to tingle and run, it became obvious this was not an over-zealous cleaner, but some chemical the police had used to disperse the troublemakers, and there was a full-scale dash for the inside. Fortunately the effects were dispensed with by a good nose blow, and by the time we stepped outside again 15 minutes later, the air was clear again and the café’s terrace refilling.