I was quietly paying my bill at the hotel bar when he introduced himself.
I turned. Sat at the bar, in three different types of tartan flannel was a very large, very old American man.
"Yes! You! You'll have a drink with me!"
I stared at him, glassily. I've reached that stage in life where I only drink with strangers if they're dashing young men, or mad old dears.
"No, sir! Sit! You travelling alone? What's wrong with you? Barman! This man will have a beer."
ME: "I really think not, if you don't mind."
"Damn you!" he roared. "No one has ever turned me down for a drink. Barman! Pour that damn beer!"
"Thank you, but no, and please, not beer. I don't drink beer."
"DontDrinkBeer?" he banged his fist in a bowl of peanuts and roared. "You're quite the damndest rudest... sit down, I tell you!"
Weakly, I sat down. I'm normally terribly good at fending off old men - but then they're either wearing towels, or we're stood behind a box hedge. I suddenly realised I have absolutely no experience of saying "no" in social surroundings.
The barman gives me a look. For a second, I mistook it for "I, Ustlav the devastatingly attractive barman, have realised that I must do the sweet filthy with you, lucky visiting tourist." Then I realised the look meant, "Thank fuck! Someone else for the old bore to talk to."
Ustlav vanished. Leaving me alone with Hubert Hubert (as far as I can work out, that really was his name). Hubert wanted to bellow about a lot of things, but generally about money. Oh, and killing things.
Hubert was a hunter, and very pleased with listing how many sweet, fluffy things he'd shot, and how much it had cost to hunt each one, either a lot ("5,000 euros a day to shoot boar. Imagine that, my friend...") or not very much ("The Count, why, he's a rich man and he won't take a penny off of me. Not even for elephant").
I didn't really say much to that. I considered meakly muttering, "But aren't elephants, you know, rather nice..." but didn't really see an opening.
Then Hubert moved on to shouting about the opera. "Jeez, man, seats for NOTHING. I mean NOTHING for orchestra seats at the opera. I tell you man. Like 30 euros. Nothing to you. I went tonight. You should go."
"Uh, Puccini something. Anyway - seats were NOTHING. Can you imagine?"
At that point, any desire to go to the opera died.
"Now, my friend, I'm gonna write for you the name of a restaurant. You're gonna go there - unless you're too chickenshit to drink wine. Great food, and the prices are dirt. Really good hungarian stuff. I'll let you in to a secret - tell the manager you know me and you're in for a treat."
Not liking snot in my soup, I demurred.
"Are you going to the baths?" he asked. Fool! Of course I was going to the baths - 500 years old, and full of nudey lovelies looking for jollies. "Amazing, my friend. The massage is a steal - like 10 bucks, and these big burly men - They pound you with their fists and it's like nothing on earth. You can barely walk afterwards."
He had my giddy attention.
"Course, they had a lot of problems with homos there, so they've now got guards to stop that shit. But all the same - don't stare too long at the scenery, if you know what I mean. heheheh."
The baths vanished off my itinerary. Who wants to go to a sauna for their skin?
"Now, what is it you Englanders have against George Bush, anyway...?"