The nicest trains we have ridden on (so far) have been the Austrian ÖBB trains. The seats in the first class cabin are leather and have a large amount of legroom. You can order meals from the menu for reasonable prices that are delivered right to your seat. On the trip from Prague to Vienna we were given free bottles of water. However, we were charged for water going from Vienna to Budapest. The ride to Budapest was only 2:20 long; our shortest journey yet!
There are 3 train stations in Budapest. Not knowing any better, we chose the one closest to our hotel, Kelenföld. We (incorrectly) assumed that all of the train stations would be comparable. Not so.
There were only a handful of people in our first class compartment, and when the train stopped at the Kelenföld station, another woman debarked with us. We followed her down the stairs; she looked like she knew where she was going. When we reached the bottom of the cement staircase, we entered a cement tunnel. The tunnel leading to the right led straight to the train tracks; the one to the left led us out to a parking lot.
There was obviously no train station here; at least not like the ones we had been to in every other city we had visited. The train stations in Europe are basically shopping malls. Most are multiple levels and serve as hubs for other transit, such as subways and buses. Kelenföld was nothing like the other stations.
Our plan for arrival included having lunch at the train station to kill a little time because our apartment would not be available until 2-3 pm. Though we booked it through Booking.com, it seemed to be more like an airbnb set up. We had to call the owner one hour before arrival so he could meet us to let us into the apartment. I had asked for early check-in because our train was arriving at noon and we had no place to store our luggage. We were told that this would be impossible and that 2 pm would be the soonest we could be let in.
Since there was no place to eat (it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere) we decided to use our taxify app to get us in to town. In the other countries we have used the app, we were able to set our current location and enter our destination before getting a cost estimate for the ride. At that point, we could proceed with booking a taxi. Not here! Standing side by side, Clayton and I tried to use the app. The locator put us at two completely different addresses. When we tried to set the destination, a cab was automatically called with no estimate of price. This was a bit disconcerting; we had no idea of how much the cab ride would cost. He cancelled his ride (we didn’t need two taxis) and looked for a logical place to be picked up. There was a taxi stand, which seemed like a good place to wait for a taxi. Apparently we were now at the bus station as there were multiple large buses in the parking lot.
Our driver, Marcell, would be there in 5 minutes to pick us up. We watched his progress on the app and were excited when we could see that he was one minute away. We were much less excited when he turned around and went the other way. Two minutes away, four minutes away, five minutes away…
We decided to try again so reentered our destination. Our driver would be arriving in five minutes and his name was Marcell. Once again, we watched his car approach. This time, the app said that he had arrived. I am not sure exactly where he arrived because it was not where we were standing! I called him and fortunately, he spoke English. I told him where we were standing and what we looked like. A couple of minutes later, we could see his cab come close to us. We waved at him; he drove right past us. I guess he could not pick us up where we were standing so we hauled our suitcases out to a different street; he eventually located us there. It was a huge hassle. And, like everywhere else we have been in Europe this summer, the temperature was in the 90’s, which made the situation so much worse.
The drive to our apartment took about 20 minutes. The drive in gave us a little taste of what Budapest was like – we approached from the Buda side and crossed the Danube to reach Pest, passing some lovely buildings on the way. We didn’t know until after we were dropped off how much we were going to be charged, but it turned out to only be around $10. At least it was economical!
Even though it was only 1 pm, I called Andras, our host for the apartment. He told me we were much too early but that he would drive in to meet us in about 20 minutes. We could drop our luggage off but not actually use the apartment until 3 pm because it was being cleaned. We waited out in the heat for his arrival.
Our first impressions of the apartment building were not good. The building itself is 4 stories tall and quite old. We walked through a dilapidated courtyard and up a few steps to the elevator. I can only assume it is a remnant of the soviet era here. Besides the lovely graffiti decorating every surface, it made all kinds of interesting noises that made the ride unnerving. When you stepped on, the elevator dropped a few inches. When it arrived at our floor, it dropped again, making a thunking noise. But, it was easier than climbing 4 flights of stairs to reach our place!
We dropped off our bags; Andras briefly showed us around the apartment. The apartment itself was very modern. The bedroom was tiny (Clayton had to climb over me to reach the opposite side of the bed), but the living area was fairly large; it not only had a full kitchen, it had a washing machine! Hallelujah! Time for some clean clothes! So glad we brought laundry pods along.
There was a ductless mini-split (heat pump) but it was not sufficient for the task of cooling the place off. The thermometer in the room said it was 29° Celsius (84.2° Fahrenheit) when we arrived; it never got any cooler than 27° (80.2° Fahrenheit), despite us running it night and day.
We headed out to find a place to eat lunch while the cleaning lady finished her tasks. We were in an excellent location, surrounded by many restaurants and cafes within a few blocks. We also found an ATM to pick up some local currency. We had read that credit cards are widely accepted in Budapest but it is always a good idea to have cash, just in case.
After lunch we went back to unpack, unwind, and plan how to spend the next couple of days here. We had originally planned on some walking tours, but between the continued heat and the problems I have been having with my back, we decided against them. Instead, we will take the HOHO one day and meander around town on foot the following day. Then, we take a FlixBus to Zagreb, Croatia.