One night in Budapest

Budapest Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 10 › view all entries
Saying goodbye as the train gets ready to roll out of Zagreb
As always, I wasn't ready to leave Croatia, but my bosses and the airline with their non-changeable ticket had other ideas. Zvonka and I rode the bus into town together, then she went on to work and I left on the train north.

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.
The train was empty except for me and a Turkish family about 5 cars down...
Northern Croatia is a sparsely populated patchwork of woods and farms. I was restless so explored the long line of cars on the train. I was about the only passenger after the first stop, besides a Turkish family about 5 cars down.

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.
Roaming the deserted cars as I crossed the endless farms of northern Croatia
By then some others had gotten on and we wandered around outside until the conductors signaled that it was time to go again.

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.
Hungary! I can tell because things are suddenly in Hungarian! No less that 14 officials checked my papers at the border - Immigration, customs, border police, army, I don't know who... all in pairs or threes. I think it was training day.
.. but were still unoccupied. Finally at the end of the day, a big flock of the huge birds landed in an agricultural field, returning from wintering in Africa. I marked a few spots with GPS waypoints, knowing that I'll need to come back and explore here some day.

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.
Little commuter trains share the tracks
I felt bad that I was coughing constantly, so paid another 5 euros for the private room to allow the Korean travelers in the shared room a little sleep : )

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.
There are a lot of forests in southern Hungary. The train stopped here in the middle of nowhere for an hour or so and people got out and walked around
..) It's really good for finding things fast, and even better for getting back to a random apartment in some obscure suburb.

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.
There's a really long lake in central Hungary - Lake Balaton, the "Hungarian Sea". It seemed like we rode along the bank all afternoon. No wonder, I looked it up and the narrow lake coveres 230 square miles!
It was completely deserted at midnight, it looked closed, but the gates were still open... Farther upstream is the Fisherman's Bastion, and neogothic ...wall, I guess it is, lining a section of the crest of the riverbank, high above the water. There are about a dozen fairytale towers guarding the length of it. Guards were shooing some kids out, so I went in one end while they were busy on the other. Finally it was right about at freezing, there was a 30 knot wind, and I was about coughing my lungs out, freezing despite 2 jackets, and I gave up and started the 40 minute trip home, really hoping that I could find that apartment again and get through all the gates and outer doors and inner doors and bedroom doors with my big ring of keys...

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.
Villages line the tracks - they mostly look like this...
The public transportation system is cheap and easy to navigate there, which was really nice. A few hours later I was flying back, over the arctic, on the 17 hours of flights back to California.

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Saying goodbye as the train gets r…
Saying goodbye as the train gets …
The train was empty except for me …
The train was empty except for me…
Roaming the deserted cars as I cro…
Roaming the deserted cars as I cr…
Hungary!  I can tell because thing…
Hungary! I can tell because thin…
Little commuter trains share the t…
Little commuter trains share the …
There are a lot of forests in sout…
There are a lot of forests in sou…
Theres a really long lake in cent…
There's a really long lake in cen…
Villages line the tracks - they mo…
Villages line the tracks - they m…
Its farther than I thought to Bud…
It's farther than I thought to Bu…
Haystacks - theres a lot of hay g…
Haystacks - there's a lot of hay …
There are a lot of wetlands too, i…
There are a lot of wetlands too, …
Sheep
Sheep
More wetlands... I took a GPS wayp…
More wetlands... I took a GPS way…
Suburb of Budapest at last!
Suburb of Budapest at last!
Crossing the wide Danube at dusk
Crossing the wide Danube at dusk
Down deep into the Budapest subway…
Down deep into the Budapest subwa…
Same lame TV shows as in the USA...
Same lame TV shows as in the USA...
An older lady getting off the trai…
An older lady getting off the tra…
A midnight walk around town... the…
A midnight walk around town... th…
The bug was full of olives linked …
The bug was full of olives linked…
Budapest at night
Sorry I have on…
Budapest at night Sorry I have o…
This tunnel, now a highway access …
This tunnel, now a highway access…
Buda Castle was deserted, but well…
Buda Castle was deserted, but wel…
Looking back at Pest from the ramp…
Looking back at Pest from the ram…
This huge griffin guards the palac…
This huge griffin guards the pala…
Pest, on a freezing, windy night
Pest, on a freezing, windy night
The Fishermans Bastion, another s…
The Fisherman's Bastion, another …
Empty halls of the Fishermans Bas…
Empty halls of the Fisherman's Ba…
Lookout across the river
Lookout across the river
Fierce Hungarian warriors from the…
Fierce Hungarian warriors from th…
Life sized knights and warriors li…
Life sized knights and warriors l…
Another of 12 or so of these turre…
Another of 12 or so of these turr…
I got off my deathbed in the apart…
I got off my deathbed in the apar…
Lions guard the Chain Bridge
Lions guard the Chain Bridge
Ah-ha!  These are the chain links.…
Ah-ha! These are the chain links…
Széchenyi Chain Bridge links Buda…
Széchenyi Chain Bridge links Bud…
Theyve gone to a lot of effort to…
They've gone to a lot of effort t…
The Danube is wide and deep here, …
The Danube is wide and deep here,…
Budapest
photo by: Chokk