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Published: April 6th 2018
Bratislava Main Station
Too cold outside but inside peopled scurried around rushing for trains, or were like our trainload who just stared gormlessly at the board ahead praying it didn’t change again.
Approaching the station by tram I couldn’t help but notice very few people about; strange for 8.40 on a weekday. Surely the Slovaks hadn’t gone on strike in solidarity with their European neighbors, the French. No, it soon became evident that the wind howling down from the blue icy sky had driven all the police, vagrants, touts and smokers into the main station to avoid becoming ice sculptures. It had become a demographic microcosm of everything Bratislava had to offer. Normally the authorities have little tolerance for any activity initiated by the disadvantagged on the streets (ie begging) but I don’t think they had the heart to send anyone back out into the cold. The folk of Bratislava had been deceived by the weather gods; yesterday’s golden warm sun had abandoned Bratislava, with rain predicted for later in the day. Hopefully the good weather had a ticket to Budapest.
Being one hour early to the train station to buy the tickets, have a coffee and chill out until the train arrives is not always a good plan. The schedule board indicated ‘ 9.51, Budapest, Track 1 ‘, so I bought a coffee outside and we sat in the icy wind
Coffee Cart At The Station
The best coffee we had in Bratislava
until we could bear it no more and then went inside to see ‘Delay 40 m‘ added to the board. A wait of 40 extra minutes. Then 50 m, then 60 m. It seemed to correspond to the arrival of a Prague train so we went to the prestigious Pressburg Pizza Cafe, the best of a bad row of dirty rundown cafes on the fringe of the station, to sit, drink something to justify our presence to the owner, and wait for our train. The cafe soon filled up and it resembled the cast of a train carriage to Budapest. Everyone had the same idea.
I read a book for most of this train journey as most of the scenery was completely flat farmland, and as I was facing the rear of the train, it was gone before I saw much. On the outskirts of Bratislava the residential area looked very poor and badly maintained. At quiet roadsides there were often loads of illegal rubbish dumped, and it’s a shame considering the charming, sanitised version of Bratislava that we visited over the past few days. It seems, like everywhere, everyone is equal, it’s just that some are more equal
Szob Station, “All Clear”
Note: in scrabble games in Eastern Europe, Z is not a high value letter! You can sneak it into plenty of words.
On the distant mountains , ski lift pylons grew out of the dark bare forest, waiting for another busy season to begin and it wasn’t long before the train followed the banks of the Danube all the way to Budapest, occasionally veering away to pass through a small village. The terrain was very flat and monotonous so I read a book most of the way, only to glance up occasionally to see if I had missed anything; I hadn’t.
As we approached Budapest, the land across the banks of the Danube rose to form mountains dotted with small settlements, but overall it was an uneventful, delayed journey. Within 30 minutes of alighting from the train we had caught a Metro link, and were standing at our accommodation in the old Jewish Quarter, Gozsdu Court. It is an early 20th century mix of shops and workshops running 240 metres between 2 main streets. It has a very lively feel and the alleyway dividing both sides boasts small music venues, market stalls and appartments for its full length. Among the items offered to guests of the appartments are ear plugs so we’ll see how sleeping goes. We stayed
here in 2014 and it was not as busy then, plus my hearing has deteriorated dramatically so I should be OK.
It’s funny how you remember places and recognise familiar sights but that’s what coming back was about. We have 4 full days to revisit favourites and fill in the blanks on places we missed out on last trip. I probably won’t be back so we had better cover it now.
Tim and Natalia have gone wandering and I may go for a walk to check out Budapest at night. Sue‘s staying in and is probably the smartest of us all.
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