Monday, October 15, 2012

Hungary - Jinxed From The Start

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Budapest train station. Photo credit:
10 miles – Wednesday, September 14

Three unfortunate events unfolded before we left the campground. My filling fell out while flossing my teeth. My mouth is a bit tender, but fortunately the hole is minor. Maybe it won’t be so bad for a while. I can always get it replaced in Switzerland. I also broke our pliers. I’d lost the rubber end caps on my front fender supports and since we had time before setting off to get train tickets, I tried bending the sharp metal points downward, away from vulnerable toes and shins. I’d made little progress before the multi-tool snapped. Ugh! The Leatherman is guaranteed for 25 years so we’ll mail it home later. Top that with what we’d discovered while packing the tent. I’d known that I had kneeled on something that made  a cracking sound. It happened to be Andy’s calculator. We weren't off to a great start.

Lines at the ticket booth. Photo credit: Wikipedia
All packed we set off for the five mile ride, crossing the Danube, then keeping an eye on the bikes inside the railroad station. There’s a line at the information booth. We wait, eventually getting a schedule. We get in an even longer one at the ticket booth, at least 15 deep. One customer moves forward every 10 minutes. It’s a test of our composure. The room is stifling and smoke permeates the air. Meanwhile, a small group of Russian U.N. troops (easily identified by green uniforms) are drinking beer in line ahead of us.  The guys were drunk, arms draped over each other.  Eventually a bottle drops and smashes on the marble floor. They stumbled forward through the puddle of beer, obliviously grinding glass beneath black boots. The alcohol reeks. We couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Two hours after entering the train station, we reach the front of the line, disappointed to find the 5:30 p.m. train to Vienna already filled. Other than a 5 a.m. departure (two trains per day include baggage cars) we see no other alternative but to book two seats for the following afternoon.

It was clear why the lines moved painstakingly slow. The attendant fills out 6 pieces of paperwork per reservation, using carbon sheets between each document. No computer, no NCR forms. It’s one glimpse into an antiquated Hungarian infrastructure. Andy remarked later how he’d expected such service in India or Nepal, but not in this country.

Shaking our heads, we left the building. We attempted to locate a hostel, something closer than the campground across the river, but eventually gave up after losing the directions. No wonder. We laughed. It seemed par for the course. Better off to start fresh in the morning. Andy claims there is some reason why everything happened today, though it has yet to reveal itself. We chuckle, retracing the roads and bike path to Romai Campground. We decide there have to be days like this to offset all the good ones.

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