Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 3 in Budapest & Travel Day

I woke up at 5:00 am this morning to catch what I thought was a 6:15 am train from Budapests Keliti Train Station to Zagreb, Croatia. I got to the train station and went to the information desk, the woman told me there was no direct train to Zagreb from Keliti station.  She told me there was a train at 13:20 pm from Budapest Deli station, I asked her again, there is no 6:15 train to Zagreb, she said there was not.  I lost the paper tickets I had for the trains, I swore I was scheduled for another early morning train, this time going to Zagreb.  The Zagreb train was not listed on the departure board, there was nothing I could do but wait until 13:20 for the train from Deli.

I decided to go back to my hostel, Budapest train stations are not modern and not a place I wanted to sit for 7 hours waiting for a train to Zagreb.   I knew at the hostel I could leave my luggage in the locked luggage room and  go sightseeing until it was time to go to the train station for my 13:20 train to Zagreb. My hostel was only two stops from Keliti Station, when I got back I asked the man at the reception desk if I could check my luggage, he asked me what happened, did you miss your train? I told him I got the times wrong, my train did not leave until this afternoon, he told me I could go back to my room.

I was surprised the Wombat's Hostel staff was letting me go back to my room, so surprised I argued with him about it.  I told the hostel staff, I had already taken my sheets off the bed, he said, not a problem, I'll give you new sheets.   I told him not to worry about it, I will sit in the lounge and I planned to go sightseeing.  The hostel staff insisted letting me go back to my room was not a problem, I knew I needed the sleep, I was grateful for their kindness.

I took the new set of sheets and went back to my room to make up my bed, I tried to be quiet, I did not want to wake my hostel mates.  I made up the bottom bunk, then went back downstairs to buy some water.  I ate the breakfast I had bought  from a bakery yesterday for my early morning train ride, cheese bread, then I laid down and went back to sleep.

I woke up around 9 am when my hostel mates phone alarm went off, I was half awake already, not sure how deeply I fell asleep this morning.  Check out time was 10 am, so I decided to get up, I was already dressed, I got online and then headed downstairs to the common area.  I used the internet in the common area, looked up the Great Synagogue hours, read about it again in the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget, then asked the hostel staff for directions.  The hostel staff told me we were in the Jewish Quarter and walk down the street, turn left and the Great Synagogue would be about 100 meters down the road on the left.

I put my luggage in the luggage storage room and headed out for my last sightseeing excursion in Budapest, the Great Synagogue.  When I go to the synagogue there was a line to buy tickets and a line to get into the synagogue with the tickets.  I checked the time on my cell phone, it was just after 10:30 am, the line was moving fast enough, I had time to go inside the synagogue and still make my 13:20 train to Zagreb.

Lynnae in front of the Great Synagogue 
The Great Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and is the central place of worship for Central Europe's largest Jewish community according to the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget. The Great Synagogue was on my list of sights to see in Budapest, I did not think I would make it, but my train mix up gave me time to visit.

There is a lot of history at the Great Synagogue, I started my self-guided tour in the Synagogue, there were many people on guided tours getting a history lesson on the synagogue, a few of the groups were English speaking.  I chose to walk through the synagogue on my own so I could control the pace, I had a train to catch.  

The Great Synagogue 

After viewing the interior of the, I walked to the courtyard where over 2000 Jews killed between 1944 and 1945 are buried in a mass grave.  I looked at the photos and read the information that lined the walkway of the courtyard, the placards said some of those who died were identified and tombstones were placed to make them, others remained unidentified, but later tombstones were placed to recognized them.  There were many memorial signs with the inscription, "Never Again!"

Jewish Cemetery at the Great Synagogue

Holocaust Memorial at the Great Synagogue
After viewing the Jewish Cemetery I walked around the Garden of Remembrance.  I saw the memorial to the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs, a memorial to Raoul Wallenberg, and the Swedish diplomat who rescued many Jews during WWII.  I thought this was the end of my self-guided tour and began to look for an exit, I did not realize the exit to the Great Synagogue was in the Garden of Remembered.  Looking for the exit I found a museum, there were Jewish artifacts, some background on Judaism and a section on the Holocaust.

Raoul Wallenberg in Jewish Museum at the Great Synagogue
After I viewed the museum, I found a map that pointed the way to the exit of the museum.  I check my cell phone, I was making good time.  I stopped and got some money from an ATM, then debated buying some food, and decided to wait until I got to the train station.  I had not traveled on a train in Europe with only my Eurail pass, I always had a paper ticket too.  I wanted to get to the train station early in case I needed to pay a fee or if a reservation was required. I went to my hostel, got my luggage, and walked to the subway. 

I got to Budapest's Deli Station around noon.  I found the international ticketing counter and went and spoke to the representative, and showed her my Eurail pass. The representative commented on the poor state of my pass, said it was in bad condition and gave me holder to keep it in, she laughed.  She told me I did not need a reservation, just show my Eurail pass the the conductors. 

I was hungry, I found a Chinese noodle shop for lunch, I ordered the fried noodles with zesty crispy chicken, it was 990 Hungarian Forints.  I found a corner in the eating area of Budapest's very old looking rail station and ate my noodles, they were good.  

My lunch at Budapest's Deli Train Station 
I waited until about 1 pm to board the train, I realized I could have boarded sooner. I asked a conductor where my seating area was and showed him my Eurail pass.  The conductor did not speak English but a man also asking him a question translated for me, he said only the last three cars would go to Zagreb. I am glad the man gave me this information, it is possible I would have gone to the front of the train, that is where first class typically is, and with Eurail my reservations are for first class.  I found a seat in a compartment with a Ukrainian woman who did not speak any English. I realized there was no first class on this very old, Soviet era looking train.

Me on Train to Zagreb 
The train ride was uneventful, there was no air conditioning, the windows were rolled down in all the compartments of the train. Each train compartment seats 6 people, there are two rows, 3 seats on each side facing each other.  For most of the ride it was me and the Ukrainian, a man joined us midway through our journey, and exited at a stop before Zagreb.  When we crossed into Croatia, immigration officials boarded the train to check out documents.  I showed my passport to at least two officials and opened my bag once.  We had a long pause at the Croatian boarder and then the train resumed.

At some point we lost the extra cars on the train and were left with 3 cars, the restaurant car was removed from the train and the back of the train became the front. I realized the restaurant car was removed when I went looking for a snack several hours into the train ride, after we entered Croatia.  As we neared Zagreb the train filled up, our compartment was full.  There were a few people on the train without seats, standing in the hall.  

When we arrived at Zagreb the tracks were wet and it was sprinkling outside, I was starving and found an ATM to withdraw money so I could buy something to eat. I went to the information desk first, the woman did not speak English and did not help me, she just handed me a map.  She also told me the ticket offices were closed.  After I bought food, a Croatian Salami calzone that was very good, I walked around the station and found the international ticketing booth, it was open. 

I ate my calzone and waited for the ticketing representative to get off the phone.  I was still eating when she finished her call, I told the man behind me he could go ahead of me.  After he bought his ticket, I told the woman I wanted to book a ticket to Munich on the overnight train, she told me it left at 21:00, I told her I wanted tomorrow's train.  She gave me the earliest time, I told her I wanted to night train, finally we understood each other. 

I checked my phone to confirm tomorrow's date and I told her the 22nd, she said 22? I said yes.  She asked me if I wanted  a 6 or 4 room berth, I went with 6, I figured that would be cheaper.  She quoted me the price in Croatian Kuna and Euros, it seemed cheap.  I did not confirm how cheap, $17, until I got to my hostel.  When I tried to book this ticket in France, the representative was getting a price of 90 Euros, he recommended I wait until I was in Zagreb to reserve my bed on the night train, he was right, it was much cheaper. 

I thanked the rail representative for her help and set out to find my hostel.  The Zagreb station is tiny, the trams were immediately in front of the station, I went and looked for the trams headed in the direction of my hostel.  I approached someone, asked if they spoke English, they pointed me in the right direction. 

I did not have a ticket for the tram when I boarded, each country handles paying for public transportation differently.  I asked other riders on the tram where I could be the ticket, I did not have any change and a woman on the tram gave me change so I could get to my destination.  They were all very nice, helpful, even concerned that I get to where I was going, I have to say the Croatians tie or surpass the Dutch for friendliness.

When I reached the station, the people on the tram made sure I got off at the right destination, it was only one stop from the main station, the lady who gave me money, asked me if someone was meeting me there. I told her no, I was going to a hostel, she looked at my directions and pointed me in the right direction.  I thanked her again, she smiled and we parted ways. 

I found the hostel without any problems.  There seems to be an older, mature crowd at this hostel, for the past couple of hostels I have been around mostly college students.  The hostel is great, check out time is 12 pm, plenty of time to sleep in, I lucked out and got my own room again too. The staff was friendly, showed me to my room, etc. My only regret, I am not staying in Croatia longer, I leave for Munich tomorrow on the night train.  I will come back to Croatia one day.  

Day 3 in Budapest/Travel Day Photo Album 

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