One night in Budapest
Budapest Travel Blog› entry 9 of 10 › view all entries
March 9th, 2009 – by: cneoridium
For those looking for a cheaper way to get to Zagreb:
There's some agreement between Zagreb and Budapest where they have an a special round trip fare to promote trade, I guess. It was way cheaper to get the special round trip ticket than a regular one way fare. The plan would be to take a night train, only 5 hours and you get there in the morning... but I of course had to stay one last night so I took the 8-hour morning train with lots of stops.
I love traveling by train. The track goes where it goes, so it gives you a transect of the country.
After a while we arrived in Hungary - I could tell because the signs were now in ...Hungarian. It must have been training day, no less that 10 officials checked my papers - border guards, police, military, customs agents, immigration agents, others... all dressed in snappy uniforms and with lots of smiles and "apologies for the inconvenience".
Southern Hungary seems to be a sparsely populated place with a lot of trees. We rolled through long stretches of stark, bare winter forests. After a while the train kind of ground to a halt in the middle of nowhere and stayed there for over an hour.
There's a lot of water in Hugary. Well, being from Southern California, any water seems like a lot, but it's a pretty wet, fertile place. The tracks run along the banks of Lake Balaton for miles and miles. It took several hours to pass, stopping at mostly deserted summer resorts. It seems that most of the country must come here to escape the summer heat. Mile after mile of little resorts, restaurants, summer cottages, and boat rental docks rolled by.
North of the lake are wetlands. Vast wetlands! There were quite a few water birds out, spring migration had started. Pedestals with stork nests were everywhere, beside streets, on roof, on church steeples.
Budapest is a big place. The farmlands start becoming villages, then towns, then suburbs as you approach the city. Finally, after crossing the wide Danube River at the end of the day, and several false starts at "other" Budapest stations, I was there.
An old lady who I'd seen board the train back at the lake asked me if I needed a room as I got off. I was actually really happy to hear this as I was really sick by then (same cold I'd had the whole time in Croatia). We agreed on 10 Euros, which was kind of a lot for a place that was 20 minutes by subway and a long walk out into the suburbs, but I just wanted to get to bed.
It was late at night and cold, but when I walked down to a grocery stores for some red pepper paste, bread, and soft cheese product, I decided to keep going the half hour into downtown to look around. I like subway systems. You just get on them and they get you there, unlike busses. At the main station, I crawled up from deep under the ground and headed out into the city.
Budapest is a beautiful place, even in the middle of the night. In the past it was the seat of vast empires, which has left behind a series of impressive palaces, castles, and monuments. Since I had only a few hours until my flight out, and I still had to get a little sleep, I put my little Tom-Tom navigator to use (eastern european mapset.
The cities of Buda and Pest that make up Budapest are divided by the wide, swiftly flowing Danube River. I was on the Pest side, so of course the Buda side looked better (you know how that is...) I cross the Széchenyi "Chain Bridge" which is actually a really cool structure. It's supported by what are basically two giant bicycle chains (check the pictures), and like all of the other monuments around town are beautifully lit, even in the middle of the night.
This is getting long, so I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story... but I spent a couple hours exploring the Buda bank of the river. The Buda Castle is a massive structure of walls and ramparts and palaces and government seats built over the course of several empires.
I slept a few hours, got up before dawn, and started the hour and a half of subways and busses it takes to get to the airport, about 45 minutes outside of the city.
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