The Great Budapest Race

Did you know that Budapest has 3 railway stations? Neither did I. Imagine my dismay and horror when I found out that my train to Zagreb, the only one for the day, which is scheduled to leave in 20 minutes, is departing from the Deli station on the Buda side. I, on the other hand, am standing in the Keleti station halfway across town on the Pest side, about a 30 minute drive from Deli. Oh shit!!

How did this come about?  I arrived at the Keleti station 3 days ago from Bratislava and went through great pains to remember how i got to the hostel from there so I can retrace my steps back when I leave. Fast forward 3 days later, and I found myself staring at the departure boards at Keleti wondering why my train isn’t listed yet even though it’s scheduled to leave in less than half an hour. I went in the MAV office to check if the train has been delayed or heaven forbid, cancelled. The clerk just looked at me blankly and told me I was at the wrong station.

I waited for him to smile and tell me that he was joking about my train leaving from the other side of town. No such luck. He just kept staring at me and told me that if jump on the Metro like now NOW, I should still make my train. Sounds easy, right? It would have been if it weren’t for the fact that I’m down to my last 300 HUF and the metro fare is 350HUF (1USD = 220 Hungarian Forint). I thought of just jumping through the Metro turnstiles until I remembered that the fine for being caught is 16.000 HUF, or a night in jail if you cant pay. Fuck, I’m screwed!!

I tried asking the MAV guy if he can spare me 50HUF, but he says no. I asked him if it’s because he’s not allowed to help me. He smiled and said “no, I just don’t want to give you any money.” I wanted to reach over the partition and smack the dumb look off his pudgy, sweaty, smug, self-satisfied face. Yes, I was in the throes of a major bitch fit. Ugh!! Whatever!

Refusing to miss my train, I did what any sensible person in my situation would do; I went outside the station and started going up to each and every single person begging for the 50HUF I desperately needed. God and luck must have been on my side that day because the third person I approached not only gave me my much needed 50HUF, but gave me 200HUF.  “Just in case”, he said. Ohmygod, I could have kissed the man!! I thanked him as much as I can while simultaneously running at breakneck speed towards the Metro station at the basement of Keleti.

Once down at the Metro, I decided to channel my inner NFL linebacker and started pushing and shoving people out of my way. Was I rude and obnoxious? Damn straight skippy! But I had a train to catch and I do not have the luxury of politeness and civility. While there is no cash prize for me making my train, the repercussions for missing it is quite severe, both for my financial and mental health. So off I go racing down the platform, running as fast as I can with a 20lb backpack on my back and a 20lb purse/gear bag strapped across my chest. The escalators in the Metro stations in Budapest are about 3 stories high and moves at a terrifying rate. How terrifying? Let’s put it this way, you need to have all your wits about you when stepping on so you don’t keel forward and tumble down three flights worth of rusty and filthy rungs. It moves about 5 times quicker than your average American escalator. After my first go at the escalators a couple of days earlier, I flatly refused to go on another one. That’s how much I feared for my safety and my life on those escalators. I would rather walk for miles. But on this day, I was beyond happy and grateful for the ridiculous speed those escalators move. Despite its speed though, I was still running down the escalators like a bat out of hell because I hear the train pulling up to the station. Once on the train, I refused to sit down or take off my pack. I needed to be ready to run up to the international platform 5 flights up from the Metro platform as soon as I got off Deli. I was getting a lot of hateful and annoyed looks from the other passengers but I simply didn’t care.

Lady, you can side eye me all you want, but I am not taking off this gigantic pack! I have a train to catch and I will run you over if you get in my way so help me god!!” Not gonna lie, that was not my finest moment, and I just aided in perpetuating the stereotype of the obnoxious American tourist.

As soon as I got off the Metro, I checked my watch and discovered I only had 2 minutes to make my train. Fuck! Fuck! Shit, I’m sooo screwed! And I had no idea where to go. I had to stop and ask people. Five minutes later, I arrive at the platform, locate my train, and jumped on the first car I saw. I figured I can locate my seats later on. What’s important was that I made it on the train in one piece. Another 5 minutes later, as I am stowing my luggage in my compartment and getting ready to settle in for the 8 hour trip, I realized that the train still wasn’t moving. “Oh shit! Did I get on the wrong train?” 

“No,” said the Spaniards I’m sharing the compartment with.This train never leaves on time. It’s always at least 30 minutes late.”

Me: *speechless*

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