Before I jump into the story I want you to imagine a dark, dilapidated train station deep behind the Iron Curtain in the 70’s. You’re going to need this mental image later in the story.
In May/June 2012 I took a mini Eurotrip with one of my best friends from work, Steve. We had a great trip planned. Flying into Berlin, then Budapest, Prague, and Crete, before we had to go our separate ways. We got a cheap EasyJet flight from Berlin to Budapest. Now with all of the city hopping, there were a lot of logistics to plan. Mainly get from our housing to the airports or bus stations, and visa verse upon arrival. I was in charge of getting to transportation, Steve was in charge of getting us to the hostels.
Steve did his homework for Budapest. From the airport to the city center we were going to take the train, which is cheap, fast and easy. These were the directions we had, directly to the hostel:
Get the train straight from the airport which takes you to Nyugati station (every 20 minutes, journey takes around 25 minutes). When you are at Nyugati station come out and turn left along Teréz körút. You pass straight over Podmaniczky utca and then when you get to the next corner, take a left onto Szobi utca. We are on SZOBI (not Szondi) utca number 5 (the building opposite Parazs Presszo with the orange fire sign) on the top floor (up 100 steps so tell us if you want a hand with your bags!), PLEASE RING DOORBELL NUMBER 13. Please note, as we are in a heritage protected building, there is no sign on the door.
So we arrived in Budapest no problem. Maybe we were a little delayed. I can’t remember. We got our bags, bought train tickets, and went right to the train station at the airport, where we conveniently saw a sign that said NYUGATI with an arrow. We waited a few minutes for the train and got right on. The train was a little old fashioned but nice. We even got to sit in our own compartment.
A few minutes later the conductor came around and we presented him with our tickets. The look on his face was all we needed. We were on the train in the wrong direction. He spoke enough English to make things easy for us. We just had to get off at the next station and wait for the first train going in the other direction.
By the time we got off it was dark out. This is where that image of the Soviet train station comes in. We were just sitting on a concrete platform with our bags around us. There was a flickering lamp somewhere off in the distance, along with some feral barking dogs. Occasionally some unsavory characters would stroll past and sneer at us. Steve’s Kindle Fire still had some battery though, so we definitely got some quality Angry Birds time in. The bagel chips, if I remember correctly, that we picked up in Berlin, were finished while we waited on that platform.
We must have spent an hour and a half waiting for the next train. It did eventually come, and we made it to the hostel that night no problem. and Budapest was awesome! Even though we had been travelling for days and were beat and tired we went out that night and I remember coming home with the sun coming up. Plus I have a bunch of friends from camp that live in Budapest and it was awesome getting to see them all.
Budapest is also a lovely city with tons to see and do. All I wish is that we had more time there, or more time to see other parts of Hungary, not just the capital.
At this point you may be asking yourself, “How did Eric and Steve get on the wrong train? It said Nyugati, and that’s where they were heading, right?”
Not exactly. I later found out that Nyugati means “North” in the Hungarian language. The Nyugati train station is so named because it is on the north side of Budapest. However, the airport is to the north of the city. Therefore, the sign we mistook for Nyugati train station was really just indicating the side of the tracks that took passengers north, as opposed to south, where we were headed.
Incidents of Travel Past: