Prior to the trip, I had booked the latest flight to Amsterdam at 9.30 pm to explore the rest of enchanting places Budapest offers to the world in my last day with no rush.
“By bus, twenty minutes.” replied the lady from the international ticket office at Nyugati Station in response to our question on how to get to the airport. Great, only twenty minutes. Deal.
Having visited The House of Terror and had lunch at McDonald’s, my friends caught their earlier flight at 3.30 pm. So, I quenched my thirst for aesthetic cultural heritage all by myself, from entering Franz Liszt‘s small yet exquisite apartment turned into a memorial museum to observing neo-gothic and art nouveau architecture, whose dark marks on wall surfaces hide (or some say accentuate) its real beauty. Listening to live music with Hungarian lyrics was an exceptional experience. Dining in my favourite Hungarian restaurant, Rèzkakas Bistro, satisfied my last but not least bucket list before leaving the country.
In a nutshell, I had a great day.
Time flew. A few minutes before 6 pm, I returned to Nyugati Station to collect my suitcases from the rented locker and purchase a ticket to the airport. She gave me two tickets and told me something in Hungarian while pointing both tickets interchangeably. I felt like a girl from Mars.
She repeated her sentences in Hungarian with two additional English words: bus, train.
I tried to confirm what I heard, “Do I need to take a bus and a train?”
Wait a minute. Nobody said train this afternoon!
“Which one is first, bus or train?” I asked.
She paused. She turned her head to her colleague next counter and talked to each other. Then, she looked back at me, continued speaking Hungarian and pointed at an entrance gate on the right side approximately five meters from her counter, while mentioning bus and train. Okay, probably she was trying to tell me where they were, but it wasn’t what I wanted to know at the moment.
“Bus first, or train first?”
She still didn’t get me. Neither did the co-worker next to her. Our conversation was not going anywhere. Somebody had to finish the story with a happy ending before closing the curtain. “First bus….” I extended my index finger vertically to represent number one. “…then train?” I made a victory sign to represent number two.
“Train…one, bus…two.” At the same time, she made the exactly same gesture as what I just did. Index finger for number one, both index and middle fingers for number two.
Now I got it. Take the train first, then the bus.
The train platforms had lack of lightning, leading to a bit of difficulty to find a signboard written either airport or Ferihegy. Fortunately, a security officer helped me to find my train. However, I had learned my lesson not to digest any information without verifying its accuracy, even after being on board.
“To the airport?”
The woman in the aisle seat replied with a soft, almost a whispering voice, “Yes.”
I was trying too hard to sit calm inside the train, whose interior needed some rejuvenation despite its decent condition. Being afraid of missing my next stop, I moved to the end of the coach where exit doors were, leaning my body against the wall that kept the seating and exit area apart.
A blond-haired man in his twenties appeared from the other side of the coach and stood right across me. Did he know how many more stops I had to wait before arriving in the airport? There was only one way to find out.
The young man’s grey cells must be working very hard to answer my question, I could tell from his face. His eyes looked up to the ceiling for a few seconds. His index finger swung slightly, forming half-circular motion in the air repeatedly. Was he counting?
He finally responded, “Two.” As soon as the train made its first stop, he got off.
On the way to the second stop, a controller from the train company checked my ticket. Just to make sure that I got everything right in the crucial situation, I asked him the same question as that to the young man.
“Four stops in ten minutes.”
It was two, and now four?? Really?
In ten minutes, I saw a huge and badly illuminated signboard from the exit door window that said Ferihegy while the train was approaching its fourth stop. The controller was right. Just a lucky guess, may be the young blond man thought that the Arabic numeral 4 in his mind means two in English.
I found myself stranded on the side of a highway, whose lighting could have been brighter at night. No sign of architectural constructions in my surroundings, except Ferihegy signboard, cars passing by in front of me and trees behind me. Neither a single roof to shelter nor seats available to give passengers more comfort. The place where I was standing was completely an open air drop-off point.
Overall, the gloomy atmosphere seemed perfect for dumping dead corpses without getting noticed.
I didn’t do my homework and learned the hard way that Ferihegy in this context was not an airport itself, but just a transit station (though I strongly disagreed to call it that way) to catch another bus to the actual airport. On top of it, I wasn’t even close to the airport neighbourhood. The clock was ticking.
Twenty minutes to the airport, my ass! I checked my watch and it took already twenty minutes from Nyugati Station to Ferihegy Station. Would I have enough time to find bus 200E or should I take a cab or even the next flight instead?
The investigation continued.