31/10/2008 – 8:55
Right, so, I’m on a night train heading to Venice. The train left Budapest at 5pm and will arrive in Venice at 7am tomorrow. Its my first real experience with train travel in Eastern Europe – I’d be lying if I said its anywhere as close to glamorous as Western Europe train travel. This being said, its cheap, its efficient, and its definitely an experience.
My ever so trustworthy Lonely Planet has provided me thus far with great advice for my travels in Scotland, Ireland, Spain, and Prague. For those trips I had specific books aimed at each previously mentioned country or city. The Lonely Planet book I’m traveling with now is the ‘Europe On a Shoestring’ edition. While not as useful as other editions, it does have the added advantage of covering all European countries and most towns or cites that deserve to make it on a map.
I digress. One of the sections in the Shoestring book talks about the potential dangers of train travel. Namely, trains in Eastern Europe. Similar to an over-protective parent, Lonely Planet makes sure to cover all potential hazards that a traveler could encounter while jumping across Europe. Currency exchange scams, pick pocketing, nightlife scams, and the dangers of train travel – specifically, overnight train travel in Eastern Europe. For the most part, I had disregarded most of these threats as being a bit over the top. That is, until I hopped on the Budapest – Venice overnight train.
Significantly older and dirtier, and smelling quite distinctively of old cigarette smoke this train is potentially the perfect venue for some of Shoestring’s ‘worst case scenarios.’ Baggage theft, druggings, and the situation which I find most far-fetched; the situation in which a potential thief opens your compartment door in the middle of the night and tosses in a canister, or pill, or something which releases gas and completely knocks out the passengers so said theft can steal all the traveler’s belongings. I don’t imagine it will happen – not with broken lock on our compartment door anyway… All part of the journey, right?
Budapest was for lack of a better word, amazing. Brian and I had only intended on staying for two nights but ended up sleeping in ‘Pest for one extra night. Budapest is a lovely place full of natural thermal spas, very interesting and recent history, and – most importantly – an extremely cheap place to spend a couple nights. Budapest is situated on top of a number of natural, hot springs. Above many of these, there are beautiful thermal spas. Budapestians (?) believe the waters from these springs bring you many natural health benefits. Many locals wake up, head to their local spa, and ‘soak’ for a couple hours before heading to the office. After spending a day at the Szechini Spa in Budapest City Park, I gather that many of the old, retired, locals spend most of their waking hours there as well. The Szechini Spa is the largest spa in Europe, and for 2600ft (£10), I was able to spend the day soaking in thermal baths, healing in medicinal pools, and lounging in saunas and steam rooms. Somehow, I was exhausted by the end of the day.
This is probably an epic point to finish this post. Just moments ago, the train stopped in seemingly the middle of nowhere. It turns out, we were at the Hungary – Croatia border. Soon after the train stopped, our compartment door jolted open and a uniformed officer appeared. “(mumbling in a language I didn’t understand), Passport.” This happened another two times before the train again started moving.
Venice, here I come. mk
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