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One Night in Budapest

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The place where you can shoot a PKM Machine Gun in the afternoon and sing Aerosmith at a Karaoke Bar at 4am, oh and there's a bit of culture thrown in to.

With the Olympic road blocking behemoth bearing down on us like Boris Johnson's ego, the time may seem right for many people to give London a wide berth for a period of the games. A cheeky long weekend away where Olympic lanes and anti aircraft missiles on residential buildings are considered ludicrous fantasy would appear ideal. Ladies and Gentleman in my one and only attempt at travel journalism I give you my candidate for your consideration, the beaming beauty of Budapest.

If its oceans of culture and beautiful architecture you're seeking and then this city on the Danube has it in spades. The city seems to have been spared too much destruction during the war so there are plenty of 19th century masterpieces to marvel at including St. Stephen's Basilica in the centre of the city.

As ever with old religious buildings you get the opportunity to show how clever you are by attempting to translate the Latin phrases that adorn these buildings, someone may question it but who knows whose really right, it's a dead language after all.

If you want to see the city in all its splendour then a trek up to the Royal Palace on the hill is a must although be warned if you have the fitness levels of an asthmatic sloth like me, then you may be spending too much time trying to actually breathe rather than enjoying the incredible view.

Once you've patted yourself on the back for actually bothering to walk round a museum about the Soviet era and pretending to empathise about how bad it must have been to have one shoe or no curry houses, you can get to the real reason people travel to Eastern Europe, guns and booze.

Yes, I can now testify that firing a pump action shotgun actually really hurts, especially if you have weedy arms and shoulders like me. Don't worry though there will be an arsenal of weaponry to choose from and it won't just be rusting soviet era pieces either. They'll be a smorgasbord of armaments from all the best death dealers in the civilised world, in effect you'll be able to go on a gun tour from tiny James Bond style handguns to indiscriminate assault rifles.

Admittedly the setting for this gun show is a rather menacing old soviet era civic building on the outskirts of town. The grumpy bus driver drops you off outside and simply beckons you through a side door which looks straight out of the film Hostel.

Once you get inside the ominous feeling that this could be the last bit of sunlight you'll ever see doesn't abate as you descend down an endless flight of concrete stairs to a basement in which you are greeted by a prison cell door and a couple of tatty sofa's.

As you sit down, you can hear some faint voices then a noise that can only be described as like a small atomic bomb going off. Silence follows then a gruff squat man opens the heavy door and hands you a clip board, on it is one page of health and safety info and a line for your signature. A British health and safety officer would have a fit, the safety briefing on the gun range was no more detailed.

The strangely Dutch sounding instructor (in reality his role is gun loader) bluntly states there are only two rules, obey his instructions and point down range. I've literally had briefings on how to wear a high visibility jacket last longer.

After you've finished firing off the weapons you get to take the obligatory photos of you attempting to look tough holding an AK. In reality you come off looking like a subpar Anders Brevik wannabe, which in the current climate will probably get your door kicked in at 6am by the Anti-Terrorist Branch.

Future indefinite detention aside the whole experience is highly enjoyable and who wouldn't want to fire a PKM Machine Gun Rambo style even if you only have enough ammo for 2 seconds, it's enough believe me.

As with any major Eastern European city there are plenty of places to eat and drink copious amounts of steak and beer at Newcastle prices. The only concern to have is on the way to your chosen house of excess is to make sure the taxi driver doesn't eye up an opportunity to pay for his kids college tuition by charging a fee even a London cabbie would blush at.

This issue neatly sidestepped (or in my case not) you can really enjoy what you all suffered potential DVT for, dirt cheap lager and crazy locals. Yes you may get the occasional pint tasting like it's from a pipe that hasn't been cleaned since Archduke Franz Ferdinand got his comeuppance but overall it'll taste no worse than the water downed version in Weatherspoons.

Many of the bars and clubs have wildly differing areas within them so if you don't feel like looking massively uncomfortable shuffling to European techno you can chill in one of the more relaxed seating areas and just drink it all in.

If you're really lucky and get slightly confused about what bar you're supposed to be heading to you may end up in a karaoke bar where the locals are still belting out the classics, and some bizarre local numbers, at 4 in the morning.

If you've had a good night or even if you haven't, there's no better book end to the night's entertainment than murdering a classic tune in the form of Aerosmith's 'I don't want to miss a thing'. Even if you sound like you've been deaf from birth there will sure to be a local middle aged bespectacled IT consultant on hand to rescue the occasion and bring your night to a glorious finish.

After that the night could potentially take a bad turn when you start chanting 'one more song' at the clearly ready for bed DJ but common sense will definitely prevail when you see the ex cage fighter of a bouncer marching towards you.

Here ends my account of one experience of Budapest, I've clearly missed out loads of other cultural activities like the baths but anyway all you need to do is get on a dirt cheap flight and explore the city for yourself, it's great fun and it beats being stuck in a 2mile traffic jam on the M4.