Travel Journal Overview: Not knowing a thing about a city when you arrive can be good. But maybe not when you have a Lonely Planet as your guide.
I arrived from the train stacked up on Red Bull after a night of difficult sleep due to the door continuously sliding open. I made a makeshift plastic bag rope and tied it in place, but neither the train conductor nor border police found this to amusing as they tried to get it in. Yes I was lucky enough to get a compartment to myself, until 5.30am when some large Hungarian women barged in, still their body heat warmed up the compartment a bit I suppose.
First impression of Budapest, wow the train station is really beautiful, one had the slight feeling of stepping back in time when arriving. Little old women prowled the platform offering rooms, touts offered cheap Chinese goods, and a lone backpacker barged through them all heading straight for the tourist information office for my free map of this unexpected city.
The metro worked well, kind of. I bought a three ticket pass for around 3,000ft and had it inspected by a little man. Then the metro made little more sense. I think Budapest metro is the only one I have ever been to that does not have a little map to show you where you are going… yes I know its only three lines, but it still helps to know which direction you are going?!!
Surprisingly I made it to the right station in one go, then got quite lost as the directions to the hostel did not account for the building of a new metro line which had blocked off most of areas roads, so naturally I took off down the wrong road for 20mins. The hostel was 10Euro a night, single beds and non smoking, seemed fine. I had a shower, and managed to fall victim to the plumbing breaking and flooded the hostel… nice start… no wonder the girl in charge was not so keen on showing my the obligatory map areas of interest.
I headed out and my first impressions were how beautiful the architecture was all over this city, and how terrible my math is as I took money out too much money from the ATM. The buildings were decorated ornately, and reeked with a neo classical past. I know little about Hungary other than they sided with Germany during WW2. Maybe the British felt it was too beautiful to bomb?!! Speaking of beautiful, there seemed to be a drop in quality in the physical beauty of the ladies in Hungary (all beautiful inside I am sure), but this was made up for in the stunning buildings.
My tourist day started with a trip to Burger King, hey it was right there in front of me (in fact BK, McDonalds, Subway litter every main area).
I headed up to a giant multiplex mall in the hope of seeing the hot air balloon the Lonely Planet had suggested would give great views of the city. Of course it was not there like most things in the guide book, but I did discover a nice roof top garden park at the top of the 5 story building, not something I had seen before so I was strangely happy. Then I decided to make use of there rather nicely decorated toilets for some sitting time I was denied at the hostel.
I headed up a long shopping street in search of an out door store to buy a new hip bag (I refuse to call them bum, or fanny bags). And strangely enough I found one, not a perfect one, but it would do. the LP made mention of a tourist information office nearby and train ticket office. No ticket office, and the Tourist information guy said it was gone a long time.
I regard Guide books as a back up. A brief history, rough map, back up places to stay. I use the internet for most hostel searching to avoid the crowd that follow the travelers bible. But have been in enough places to know that there are times when there is not internet available. I also like to know where I am when I arrive. Though having met a few guide book writers, I also know the tricks of their trade. Both those forced upon them due to time and budgetary considerations as well as their own “ways”.
If you have money, then it’s no more than an inconvenience if the guide book is assways wrong. However when you truly are on a budget, then it can mess you up big time. It’s at those time I despise the guidebook writer who so blatantly only telephoned the hotels, local tourist office and used word of mouth to write flowery sentences. One year later the book is published and the writer hides behind the script of “It was different a year ago”
I walked back up the long road to the train station. Thankfully it was quite easy; Bosnia meant arriving at 10pm while Bucharest meant arriving at 10am… what’s more the train also stopped in Brasov. It seemed my destination was being laid out for me.
I decided to head for the Danube, and take a stroll. This is when I started to notice two things: 1. my feet were really starting to hurt, 2. I was developing a pain in my upper thighs, friction!! noo, not good.
The Danube was nice… but yes just a big river. I came across a giant impressive building and was denied access to it by numerous barricades and police guards, the LP told me it was the house of Parliament, aha, Government. Opposite it was something I got a little excited over, A World Press Photo Exhibition. Not quite worth the 1300ft to enter but it did inspire me to head back out and over to the house of parliament and annoy the police by taking close up photos of them standing around the building!
Links: Travel Guide to Hungary