My train left Vienna at 7:03 am, I found the first class car, after an announcement in English. First class was at the back of the train, I had to sprint to be sure I boarded the train before it departed. The train only stopped briefly in Vienna, it arrived just after 7 am for the 7:03 am departure. First class was nice on this train, leather (or leather like) reclining seats and plenty of leg room. I showed my ticket to the conductor and settled in for the ride.
|Lynnae on train to Budapest|
Luckily, I have my Eurail Global Pass, all I have to do is re-book my trains, only problem, how much of my itinerary do I remember. Losing my tickets could be a blessing in disguise, I may decide to change my trip, extend my stay in some places, have paper tickets, mentally tied me into a fixed schedule.
The WIFI went out halfway through the train ride to Budapest. I realized after the WIFI went out that I did not have directions to the hostel in Budapest, these were in my folder. I repeatedly tried to get online, I decided I would figure it out when I arrived in Budapest and worst case, I would take a taxi instead of the metro, which is what happened.
I had interesting conversations with Hungarians after arriving in Budapest, my first conversation off the train was about race in America. A Hungarian man asked, Blacks and Whites are different in the US, aren't they?
I was not sure what he was talking about, he clarified, he had watched TV and saw Blacks were mistreated in the US, he said he felt badly about it, as always something was lost in translation. I gave this man one of my CIA/FBI cards and we had a conversation about CIA corruption, he was not surprised by my story. He was very happy to get one of my CIA/FBI cards and repeatedly thanked me for it and offered his support.
I took a taxi from Budapest's main station to my hostel and I paid the tourist price, I was fleeced, even with a metered "official" cab. Even with the tourist tax the cabbie added, he did not drop me off in front of my hostel, he left me close to it but in the wrong place. The cab driver said the hostel was on a street inaccessible by cars, turns out he got the location wrong, most cab drivers in the US, even when they rip you off, get your to the right destination.
I got to my hostel about 15 minutes before 11 am, I got directions to the hostel from the multiple tour guides lining the streets of central Budapest. My hostels was not far from where the tourist fleecing cabbie dropped me off. I also got information on the free Budapest tour offered daily at 11 am and 1 pm. I got to my hostel and did a preliminary check-in, the official check-in time was 2 pm, my room was not ready so I left my luggage in the locked luggage room. I decided to charge my computer battery and do some research into lost train tickets, try to book my train ticket to Zagreb, and wait until 1 pm to go on the free Budapest walking tour.
At 1 pm I went on the free Budapest walking tour, led by a Budapest native. Most of the tours I have gone on in Europe have been led by people from countries other than where the tour is being conducted, they are good tours, but always nice to get a native's perspective on his or her city.
The tour group was small, four tourists, plus the tour guide. The other tourists were three American college students studying abroad in Madrid. We started the tour with the tour guide explaining Budapest is comprised of two cities, Buda and Pest, our tour started in Pest. We went to the Budapest opera house, our tour guide explained the architect was instructed to make it smaller than the opera house in Vienna, we went past several churches, I cannot remember all the names. We went past a statue near the Danube that brings good luck if you touch its knees, double good luck if you touch both, I touched both knees, I am in need of good luck.
|Lynnae with Guard outside the Presidential Residence|
|Me with Soviet Trabant in Buda|
I did not like the idea of trying to get a free ride on the Budapest bus line, I asked a driver where I could buy a ticket, he directed me to tourist buildings. I asked a couple of people who worked in shops, nobody was selling bus tickets and I could not locate the building they were directing me to. I decided to walk back to the hostel, I had a map and the route we took from Pest to Buda was straightforward.
On my way back, I walked around Buda some more, I asked a man to take a picture of me, we started talking and I told him I was former CIA, he said he was former CIA too. I have never met a former CIA officer outside of DC, I certainly was not expecting the man taking my picture to say he was also former CIA. Our conversation was interrupted when some Spanish speakers asked me to take their picture. I walked around Buda some more, took a few more pics, crossed the Chain Bridge and headed back to my hostel.
|Me on Chain Bridge|
I went to get dinner after checking into my hostel, I was starving, had only had the ham and cheese croissant this morning for breakfast. I knew I wanted to try Hungary's National Dish, Goulash and I remembered passing a restaurant that served it during the walking tour earlier today. I found the restaurant, asked the waitress what Goulash was, sounded good so I ordered it. Goulash was not what I expected, I thought it was a creamy, hearty stew, it was a soup with a thin broth, but very good. The Goulash was served with a container of paprika spread and two slices of white bread.
|My Hungarian Goulash Dinner|
Budapest Day 1 Photo Album