It’s 6:00 in the morning. We’ve all had the best part of 6 hours kip as we simultaneously conked out on impact with the beds after our night out in the lager capital of Europe. All except the poor lass who went to bed in an empty cabin only to awake to the horrific reality of us lot snoring and farting our way over the north-south European watershed between the Rhine and Danube river basins.
We are on the approaches to the first of our three capitals today. The day is organized around Budapest, which turns out to be excellent planning. This means alas we are paying lip service to Vienna with a whistle stop visit to Stefanplatz and a platform stop in Bratislava.
I had intended to have coffee and pastries at Aida just off Stefenplatz before hurtling back down the U-Bahn for our nip into Slovakia en-route to Hungary. I cant find Aida, and worse still Stefanplatz at 6:45 in the morning has the most appalling smell. They were called honey wagons in Blighty, used when and where sewage drains were as yet to be built. We beat a hasty retreat to Sudbahnhof.
Aboard the train to , a somewhat futile excursion. We have barely enough time to view the taxi stand outside the station. It does allow us to readjust a notch. We are entering Eastern Europe proper now. During our 20 minute stop in Bratsilava while awaiting the service to Budapest, (the same service we caught the day before down to Prague), a bloke is busted for smoking on the platform by some railway cop. The poor guy, a native, cant believe he’s being stung. My e-fag would be a cast iron excuse for an “on the spot fine”. I recalibrate. On the down side, small indiscretions can now have expensive consequences. On the upside, if needed I should be able to bribe our way onto anything that moves over the next week or so.
We rejoin the Danube. A pleasant enough view with the odd castle. In Budapest the group bifurcates. Some of us go for heavy metal theme pubs, (if you dig Monowar please read Darren’s account of the day). The rest head for Paul’s recommendation, a huge bathing complex known as Széchenyi Thermal Baths. It’s fab. Blokes playing chess in the pool. If we weren’t in such a hurry I would so love to give them a duel. Multiple saunas and various pools of varying temperatures and chemical composition. We soak up this treasure of Budapest, and wash away yesterday’s Bohemian excesses.
Back at the Central Market we reconvene as a group. Goose legs and home made beer are being consumed. My Chief Gastronomy Officer and I execute 20 minutes of man-shopping on the main concourse and fill up five shopping bags with the usual picnic fodder and a range of wines and spirits. I then exhibit the first signs of management stress and bawl out one of us for leaving the group without written permission. I come close to shattering group integrity with my outburst.
We make it back to the main station. It’s hot. I just want to sit down on a nice train. Eventually the platform is declared and we can all shift off to make camp on the Ister Express to Bucuresti.
I am shattered and, after a shot or two of palinka I settle into an upper berth. I am awoken by Stoytcho, “get yourself into the bar, there’s a party going on”. I do so. There is. Well schooled in the etiquette of the region I return to our cabin to slice up bread, cheese and salami and anything else we have going. That is taken back for distribution. I make my return with our best bottle of palinka (plum brandy). The train manager’s eyes light up. He asks for a shot. But of course. But not in a shitty plastic cup mate, we’ve got a bag full of shot glasses. I return with a nice glass, and then he asks for one for his mate. Again I go back and fetch another shot glass, then another, then another. Before long the bottle is all but dry, the entire staff have had a shot of the best palinka we could find in Budapest Central market, and I have performed what would turn out to be a vitally important act of gratification.
The party continues. Mandolins are played. We toast all and anything. We all get drunk. Some more drunker than others. I retreat. When all is spent so do the rest.
It has been an enormous day. We started on the Viennese U-Bahn, blinked at Bratislava, and via a fantastic six hours in Budapest end up in a mobile pub lock-in somewhere in Romania.
Start: On the platform in Praha
Train 15 – 00:01 Prague to Vienna sleeper
Train 16 – 08:27 Vienna to Bratislava
Train 17 – 09:50 Bratislava to Budapest
Train 18 – 19:30 Budapest to Bucharest
Finish: Rolling drunk rolling through Romania
Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634617463103/
Lloyd’s Blog http://www.lloydshepherd.com/2013/07/12/day-seven-having-a-bath/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/oh-boy.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/mittel-europa.html