A-Z April Challenge – Budapest

I have visited Budapest three times – once in 2013 en route to Moldova by train, a weekend break with Mrs Wilbur in 2006 and as part of my third inter-rail trip in 1992 with my buddy Hamish.

It is the first occasion that is the subject of my piece today. ’92 was not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Hungarian capital was still in the early stages of transition. It definitely was not really set up to receive foreign visitors as the following will testify……..

We had arrived on the overnight train from Kraków and were met at the station by a scrum of accommodation touts. We accepted the advances of a chap named Bill and ended up staying in a room in his house for a few bucks.

Bill drove us to his place whilst delivering a wealth of tourist information, including the fact that tonight there would be a European Cup football match between Ferencvaros and Slovan Bratislava.

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We therefore hatched a plan to go to the stadium and try to procure tickets…….

Having completed the bus leg of the journey, we walked towards the metro station. I totally ignored the fat gypsy lady offering lucky heather and marched purposely towards our destination.

Turning to say something to Hamish, I found that he was not actually with me. I looked back behind me to find him surrounded by three huge Romany women shrieking loudly whilst what can best be described as roughly jostling him.

Unfortunately he was on the other side of a busy junction and effectively trapped. He could not barge forwards as the light was red for pedestrians and traffic streamed past. I was also stuck with no chance of forming a solo rescue party. To be honest I didn’t fancy my chances with the fat hags anyway!

After what seemed an age, the lights changed and I ambled over towards the commotion. Luckily Hamish took the opportunity to push past as the gaggle pinched him several times whilst laughing hysterically.

He was understandably shaken up by this episode. I showed plenty of sympathy (not) by lambasting him for being too polite for his own good. “Just be an ignorant sod like me,” I advised.

Apparently they had started with the heather offer, then moved on to hash and finally sex.

Hamish had declined all, despite one of his hecklers pulling her dress part way down to reveal her humongous breasts! Some sales pitch that.

They had their hands everywhere; clearly trying to steal whatever they could lay their hands on or perhaps trying to stimulate him in some perverse way. Sensibly Hamish had invested in a money belt, which they failed to detect, so all that they had lifted was a used bus ticket and a biro.

After five minutes or so he had recovered sufficiently for us to continue on our way. Metro tickets secured, we put them in the barrier and we were in.

We had to change lines, which included having to go even deeper underground via a precipitously steep, vertigo-inducing escalator.

Waiting at the bottom was a female ticket inspector, who singled-out and honed in on us obvious backpack carrying tourists.

“Tickets,” she commanded curtly. We happily handed them over, safe in the knowledge that we were legit. She shook her head, “tickets for vis line,” she demanded.

On seeing our blank expressions that she had no doubt witnessed on countless occasions before, she explained in her austere manner that we had needed to punch another ticket upon changing lines.

Upon receiving this unwelcome information, we started to argue with her and several locals tried to come to our aid, remonstrating with the inspector for picking on two unsuspecting foreigners who had innocently broken the rules.

This cut no ice with our assailant who now had possession of our passports that we had reluctantly but meekly surrendered when demanded. To be fair she did have a menacingly large wooden baton and definitely seemed the type who would use it first and ask questions second. This was borne out as she was now becoming unnecessarily aggressive towards us, pushing her face right into ours and snarling in autocratic Hungarian. How pleasant!

Showing us her transport police badge, she offered us a free escorted trip to the police station with her if we would rather have that outcome as opposed to an on-the-spot fine. She had us by the balls, the second time already that day that Hamish had physically or metaphorically been in that position.

Our protests died away as we realised we were done. Begrudgingly the fines were paid as we wished the inspector ill.

It had not sunk in yet that the fine was about £5 each. We were livid at the injustice of it all. If we had purposely fare dodged then fair cop, but this was a genuine mistake.

Such was our flustered state that we promptly got on the wrong train and ended up at the end of the line at some metro train sidings! This was when we finally laughed at our misfortune and the ice was broken.

We eventually made it to the home of the Hungarian football champions to find the game was sold out!

We did however manage to purchase tickets for ten times face value (about £10) from an ecstatic tout. Naturally the game was a boring nil nil draw!

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may be interested in downloading my e-book from Amazon. Click on On the Beaten Track – Travels in Eastern Europe for details.

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A Nicer Side Of Budapest

19 comments

  1. Tis is one of those travel stories that gets better with time!

  2. Wow – what a trip! I’ve never been to Budapest before, always wanted to go though. It seems like you could spend your life in Europe and never see everything.

    1. Europe is incredibly diverse, I absolutely love the Med countries, The Nordics and Eastern Europe in equal measure!

      1. I spent a few years in Germany and Italy and loved everywhere I went. Miss it a lot!

  3. Been dying to go to Budapest! Loved this post, and I have plenty of stories like that of the woman who fined you…

    1. Would like to read some of those stories!

  4. Great post! Never had the time for sightseeing while in Budapest, though.

  5. Sounds like a definite adventure! My husband often seems to end up in similar scapes, armed police at Charles De Gaulle airport springs to mind, they had to wake him up to have a go at him! Mind you you don’t argue with armed police, other passengers were incredibly sympathetic and were super nice to us afterwards!

    Mars xx
    @TrollbeadBlog from
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    1. Blimey. That must have been some wake up call!

  6. Hamish seems to get into some scrapes! Or am I being prematurely judgemental?

    Keith Channing A-Zing from http://keithkreates.com

    1. More than his fair share!

  7. Budapest is in my list…..and I am very interested about info on that town…
    Thanks for this post!

  8. Another good read! Budapest is definitely one of my favourite European capitals, I like it a whole lot better than Prague and I have never had your sort of bother there.

    1. It was very different in 92 but still great fun. My subsequent visits were brilliant.

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