When you have a flight at 7 am in the morning it is painful. You have to wake up very early. Very early being 4 am. But if it is a low-cost flight and you paid the price of a lunch for it, you feel pretty alright.
So I was in Budapest, in a hostel not very far from Nyugati railway station. Location of an airport is rather problematic when you’re going there from the city centre at 4 am. If you are an ordinary traveller with some money in your pocket you can try taking a taxi. If you are a budget traveller as me, you would have to take a train and then change for a bus. Sounds simple? Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. Here’s how this voyage played out for me.
“Try walking central Budapest streets at late night/early morning – truly an enchanting experience”
First thing’s first, I had to reach the Nyugati railway station, which was somewhat 10 minutes walk from my hostel. So I walked the walk. Let me tell you something, try walking central Budapest streets at late night/early morning – truly an enchanting experience. The lights are low, the streets are empty. Everything seems to just stop and only the flashing traffic lights remind you of the motion of a big city. The elegant yet tarnished splendour of perfectly symmetrical houses evokes the nostalgia for the glorious imperial past. Here and there you can see the statues. Some are beautiful and shiny from the recent renovations. Some are half-broken, full of cracks. All of them observe you from their fixed decorative positions. Feels rather creepy.
All the night feelings apart, it’s time to hit the road. I’m entering Nyugati pályaudvar. There is something scary about Nyugati for me. This railway station serves all the trains going and coming from the Eastern destinations. Being from Ukraine I have used it many times. It looks splendid on postcards, in tourist photos, from the window of a tram. The architecture is stunning. But once you really step inside it unfolds its inner dark side. One thing if you do it during the day, during the night it has a somewhat sinister atmosphere. Questionable people wander around the station, lights are dull and cold. At 4 am it is still there, the trains are standing in silence, the travellers are lazily starting to emerge from the Budapest night.
It is time to take the train.
It is quite easy to find the right train. Even without preparation, you will be likely to see the plane sign next to the train number at the computerised schedule at the station. So I took the right one. It was full of people who either were going to the airport or further to the cities and villages of the Eastern Hungary. I took a free place on a train and felt relaxed.
“If you’re going anywhere in Budapest by transport you should be prepared”
It was a mistake. If you’re going anywhere in Budapest by transport you should be prepared. I wasn’t. That’s why when the train started stopping every 5 minutes at some dark stations I got a bit anxious about where I was going. The reason for my anxiety was the fact that the stations weren’t announced and the train kept going into the darkness. I asked the man standing next to me when would be the changing station for the airport bus. He replied in broken English that I had to wait for 3 more stations. I did. And without any back thoughts stepped out of the train on a third one.
At first, I didn’t think about anything wrong. The train doors closed behind me and I was ready to go. But then I looked around and realised that I was the only person that got out at that station. As a matter of fact, it was poorly lit and completely deserted. What a dreadful feeling I felt that night. It wasn’t a changing station. I got out in a middle of nowhere with my flight in just an hour.
What would you do in this kind of situation? Needless to say, the internet didn’t work, I had no map and I had no idea of where I was. So I started running. Quite bizarrely at the entrance of the station stood a lonely bus. The driver sat inside. I approached the man, tried to ask about the airport in English. Didn’t work. Then I started to imitate a plane. It did work but the driver just smiled sadly. It looked very bad for me. All odds against me taking my flight.
“I was running into the unknown”
With no help from the bus driver, I started running again. Somewhere on a level of intuition I decided in which direction I had to run. So I just went on. I ran through some kind of a deserted prospect with nobody around. I didn’t know what is my destination and how it all will play out. For me running seemed as some kind of solution. Stupid solution to a helpless situation.
Suddenly I saw a person and a bus stop in the distance. That was a ray of hope that cold dark Budapest night. I started running even faster. I can only imagine what kind of surprise was my night run to a man standing at the bus stop. Not every day you see a Ukrainian desperately running in a Hungarian suburb in a middle of the night.
Guess what, the man worked at the airport, the bus stop was the right one. I took the bus and didn’t miss my flight. That was my Budapest night adventure. Not something I would tell to my grandchildren but still quite curious not to forget.
Thank you for reading!
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