Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Night Train to Budapest

In addition to the "Semi-Unwise Foodie Road Trip Through Eastern Europe," Briana and I also called our trip a mixture of a James Bond/90s sitcom/Korean soap opera. 

All of these descriptions were encompassed in our Night Train to Budapest. 

I mean, "a night train to Budapest" just exudes romanticism. "Oh, you know, we just took a night train to Budapest . . ." 

It's in every spy novel ever. 

Anyway. Briana and I took a night train to Budapest. 

[Not the night train. This is the Prague train station, around 11 pm. Our train left at 11:59 pm. Briana is being the responsible adult and sleeping while I'm staying up past my bedtime.]

When we got on the train, we thought that we had a compartment all to ourselves, and we were so relieved, because that meant--well, it meant that there wouldn't be any creepy men as compartment mates, in the first place. It also meant that we didn't have to adhere to anyone else's schedule, we would have the sink and closet to ourselves . . . the list goes on and on. 

Just when we were celebrating, thinking that we had the compartment ourselves, there was a knock on the door. 

"Excuse me? I have this compartment." 

"Uhhhh, what?" 

It wasn't a creepy man. It was a Korean girl. But there was a lot of confusion as we tried to figure out 1) Were we all in the right compartment, and 2) If so, where were we all going to sleep? 

We found out that there was another bunk bed at the very top of the compartment, and that we had to pull that one down and the middle one, so we all ended up having about six inches of head space. 

We all ended up getting to sleep eventually. (The Korean girl had a very strict beauty regiment that included showering twice--which, honestly, based on how Briana and I stunk, maybe our Korean friend had the right idea.) 

And the next morning . . . we woke up in Hungary. (Which, honestly, I think night trains are so cool for that reason--you wake up in a completely different place.) 

[This is how I felt after our night train and walking around Budapest sweaty, stinky, and hungry. But don't worry. This face does not symbolize how I felt about Budapest overall. Just that moment. And my face was much happier after eating food.]

Hungary is fascinating (and that includes its insanely complicated language). Budapest feels heavier than Prague, if that makes any sense. Again, it is saturated in history--oppression, revolution, and hopes for freedom bleed into the Danube which cuts between Buda and Pest. 

[On the Pest side.]

[On the Buda side. It was a dream of mine to walk on both sides of Budapest.]

[The Danube.]

Some interesting things about Budapest: 

[My name is everywhere there. I have no idea what it means. Except I just checked Google Translate and apparently it means "more." Cool.]

[The houses and apartments show their age here. You can still see the bullet holes from 1956 on some of the buildings.]

[This view never gets old. It's also in every Cold War spy movie ever.]

[Minas Tirith is actually in Budapest.]

[Here's another shot if you didn't believe me. It's actually Minas Tirith. Surprise.]

One of the most moving things I saw in Budapest was the Shoe Memorial on the Danube River. It was made in 2005 to memorialize Jews who were lined up and shot into the Danube during the years of the Arrow Cross terror (Arrow Cross was a fascist group in Budapest). The people were taken to the Danube, told to take off their shoes, and then shot into the river. 

The shoes--their sizes, shapes, and styles--were varied. There were some shoes that looked exactly my size and the kind of shoes I like wearing, and that made the terror of the past even closer to me. I think that often we don't think that things like this could ever happen to us, but unfortunately, we never know the twists and turns history will take . . . and how close tragedy will strike. The memorial was a reminder to me of my need to stand up against oppression and to be brave.

We didn't have very much time in Budapest (unfortunately), and I hope to have a chance to come back someday and get some more time to soak in the city . . . and learn some Hungarian phrases. There is empowerment that comes when you know even just a little bit of a country's language. The same is true when you know some of the country's history or culture. It helps you actually embrace the world instead of just tasting it. 

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