On My Way to Amsterdam Part 2: The Bus Issue

Evening in a pedestrian side of a highway in Budapest. Though I finally found my way to Ferihegy station (here’s how, check this out), I faced the second challenge: where to catch the bus 200E to the airport.

Assuming that the crowds were the answer to my challenge, I followed them walking away from Ferihegy drop-off point (there’s no shelter, seats or anything else, so I don’t feel like calling it a station) to an intersection, side by side with the bushes, where there was another bus halted. That should be it, isn’t it? If so, I didn’t have to speak English with those who don’t speak one. I was (about to be) happy about that.

I lifted my suitcases and stepped in the bus. Then, I showed the ticket I purchased earlier to the driver.

yummy….

“To the airport?” I asked.

He responded me in Hungarian and pointed the rear window of the bus. Gosh, here we go again. I should have taken Hungarian 101 prior to the trip.

I repeated my question.

It was almost 8 pm. My flight would be at 9.30 pm and until now, I was still standing inside whatever bus that could take me somewhere only God knows. My heart started pounding. I found myself in the limelight among other passengers who watched me with great sympathy (or stupidity), yet somehow language barrier ceased them from helping me.

Finally, the man on the front seat voluntarily replied in stammered English, “You… ehm….. go that side….. for airport.”

funiculaire to buda castle

He referred that side to rear window. In other words, I had to return to the same area where I got off from the train. Soon after I left the bus, before dragging my suitcases too far, I looked back at the rear window for the last time. It was written 106, or 105 -if not mistaken-, not 200E. How come I missed such an important detail??

Strangers in the darkness were the only group of people I could count on to lead me to the right direction. Thank God one of them understood what airport means. The bus stand for 200E lied on the other side of the highway and the only way to get there was to cross the bridge, if stopping high-speed vehicles to give some space to walk is way too dangerous.

I stared at the pedestrian bridge in front of me for a moment. I mind the city’s incomplete facility for (world) travelers: where’s the elevator? I should have used a backpacker’s backpack, but it was too late.

The only thing I could think of was, “I have to be in the airport right away, I don’t care how!”

maimano house

So I did what I had not done in my entire life, and would not do it again in a million years. I took 40 steps up carefully in order not to slip off, while trying to balance my body with a 20 kg suitcase in my right hand, another 2 kg left. I bent my elbows a little bit to avoid them from hitting the aluminium stairs. It all worked out and I was immediately on top of the bridge. Wow, I was a gym class hero of the day.

What a (temporary) relief. I could extend the retractable handles again to drag my suitcases with more ease, releasing any tension from my muscles. After a few steps of walking, all of a sudden, eureka! An elevator!! Gosh, you have no idea how much I embraced it as my life saviour. I hurriedly pressed the arrow down button, let myself in the tube taking me down to the bus station.

But, hey! I think I had seen the Ferihegy signboard before, situated not far from my sight. Moreover, I saw the railroad stretched along the pavement where I stood. That’s right, train from Nyugati station dropped me in this place before I chased the wrong bus.

iron curtain, in front of house of terror

At the same time, a big red bus passed a few meters from another side of a highway. Damn, it was 200E! So the bus stand was next to the third lane of the highway, and I was still on the second lane. My goodness! Hopefully the time-lapse for the next bus wouldn’t last for an hour.

There was nothing else I could think of other than returning to my life saviour to lift me up. Before I knew it, a middle-aged local lady was with me, starting a conversation in a language beyond my comprehension. She did it attentively with her sharp eye gaze, as if she was trying to warn me about an armageddon that would struck in minutes. I nodded, thanking her for something I couldn’t figure out.

Farewell to my one and only dearest elevator. I walked further to find stairs, no elevator available, that directly linked to the bus stop. Same story, another 40 steps down with suitcases in both hands. Fortunately, going down was much easier.

st.stephen basilica

I found the schedule of bus 200E on the announcement board, saying that it would come within 15 minutes. It came on time and the driver nodded to my question whether his bus was going to the airport.

Still in the mood of suspicion, I kept staring at the digital board inside the bus. The text Ferenc Liszt International Airport finally appeared. Aha, so that’s the real name of the airport. I had always thought that Ferihegy is the one.

However, I wasn’t totally wrong in this case. Budapest Ferihegy International Airport was the old name before it changed into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport in 2011. Ferenc Liszt refers to one of the most notable classical musicians in the country, as well as the world, known as Franz Liszt in English (Hungarian: Liszt Ferenc).

I finally arrived in front of the check-in counter at 8.35 pm, approximately 10 minutes before closing. Since the weight of my checked baggage was still far from its limit, the lady offered me if I would like to put my hand-carry there as well instead of the cabin. Well, I couldn’t agree more. I was more than happy to be empty-handed for several hours before landing in Amsterdam.

I didn’t miss the flight despite all the difficulties I experienced. Praise the Lord!

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On My Way To Amsterdam Part 1: The Train Issue

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.

food market

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.

maimano cafe

“Sorry?”

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?”

She nodded.

Wait a minute. Nobody said train this afternoon!

“Which one is first, bus or train?” I asked.

enjoying live music

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.

statue at szechenyi bath and spa

“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.”

st stephen’s basilica

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.

pub covered with business cards

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.

The Search for the Apartment: from 30 to 150 Minutes

Budapest Keleti pályaudvar looked quite shabby for an international railway station in Europe with lots of bird droppings on its chairs, stairs and floor. Well, I guess the shadow of comfort I got from Wien Westbahnhof in Vienna, the station from where I departed, was still all over me.

Budapest is the place to expect the unexpected, including finding the apartment I booked to stay for the next 3 nights. A free map from the tourist info marked with our apartment and subway locations didn’t do much of help either. The address I needed to go as stated on the top right side of Booking.com itinerary:

Belvárosi Apartmanok, Hold utca 29, 05 Belváros – Lipótváros, Budapest 1054. 

Having both hands dragging suitcases, each weighing 20 kgs and the other one 2, I couldn’t walk fast. Moreover, I had to go upstairs from Nyugati Station basement to the main street while lifting my suitcases up one at a time. The actual total staircases I had to climb, including heading back and forth to pick my luggage, was about 100 steps. I kept wondering why railway stations in Budapest are way too stingy to invest on those things.

Hold utca was a long street and having a bad orientation could lead me nowhere. I kept walking straight on the row of odd number buildings to keep me in track. Even though I passed the same street twice, which was such surely a waste a time and energy, the double-digit I was searching for had not appeared yet.

Nyugati Station

But suddenly I found the Andi Studio signboard, next to the building number 31, with a graphic image of a woman wearing an aerobic suit. I looked up and saw number 29 steel plaque above the gate in front of me. The number was too dark to see after the sun went down as there was no spotlight shining on it. OK, got it. But what now, a gym class?? I really wanted to call the contact number in the itinerary, yet unfortunately my mobile phone credit was not enough to make any international calls. Besides, there was no phone booth in the neighbourhood.

Keleti Station

On the right side of the wall, there were doorbell panels with tenant name plates next to them (strangely, Andi Studio plate wasn’t there). I pressed a doorbell button with Belvárosi Apartmanok plate several times. Since nobody responded, I pressed other bells regardless who the tenants were, including Herbalife office. I didn’t care. But still, no response.

The Parliament Gate

I knocked the thick wooden door in front of me, although I wasn’t sure anyone could hear it. Again, no response. I became so skeptical, blaming the website that it mislead me to a place that didn’t really exist. Guests’ testimonial saying that Belvárosi has a very strategic location and beautiful view, where does it come from?

I pressed my right ear to the door, waiting until I heard the sign of life behind it. Suddenly, I heard clinging sound of keys. Was anybody there? After that, I heard another sign of life: the sound of a key inserted into a keyhole. The left leaf door swung backward. I saw a man somewhere in mid 30’s and his girlfriend walking out from that door. What a relief!

I hurriedly approached them to get the answer of my confusion. The man, an Italian nationality teaching in an American university in Budapest, said I came to the right address and it is actually a residential apartment, not a hotel for tourists. Being a true gentleman, he initiated to call the number I previously intended to call. He spoke English with hints of Hungarian words on the phone with the apartment official.

Buda Castle at Night

His tone of voice sounded more certain, “So I can leave her there?” The other party replied briefly. Then, he ended the conversation, “Thank you, bye.”

“Well, you know, you should go to this address. They should tell you that in a better way.” His index finger pointed to some other digits and foreign words that I missed on the left side:

One-bedroom Apartment (3 adults) – 1055 Kossut tér 13-15

Hold utca 29 is the company office address, not the accommodation itself. Unless anyone gets the key from its employees, nobody will be able to enter the apartment. Later on, I noticed that the map shown on my paper belongs to 1055 Kossut tér 13-15, not Hold utca 29. That’s why I got it all wrong!

The next heroic thing he did was to walk with me, showing where 1055 Kossut tér 13-15 was. The place was right across the left-wing side of the famous Hungarian Parliament Building. In other words, Booking.com didn’t bully me at all on this one. I was instructed to wait in front of the real building I would sleep tonight to get the key. In the mean time, I received a text from my former schoolmates who was about to share the room with me, asking what Andi Studio signboard thingy got to do with the apartment. I replied that the address wasn’t the one they came and join me instead.

Parliament Building at Night – birds (or moth, I’m not sure) flying high above the dome makes it look like a Gotham City
The view from the apartment window. Day and night constructions create loud and terrible noises in a goodnight sleep.

I utterly said millions of thanks to the Italian gentleman who spared his time to help the lost Asian gal standing on his doorstep. I thanked God for sending me someone with a decent profession who speaks excellent English to show me the way.

If only I called the apartment contact number earlier. If only Booking.com gave clearer (or additional) information in order not to confuse me. If only I were a bit smarter. The search of the apartment would take only 30 minutes, 45 minutes the latest, not 150 minutes! At 9.15 pm, the head office woman, who spoke whatever languages that came to her mind from English, German to French with the skills of merely touching the surface, arrived with the key and took us to our room on the 2nd floor.

The Apartment Ground Floor

My 2 gals asked me how I carried the heavy luggage all by myself. Their jaws dropped when I said I used stairs. As we headed to McDonald’s at Nyugati Station for dinner, they showed me descending slopes on the right and left-wing entrance of the station for those who drag suitcases like me! I guess I learned it the hard way.

A joyful reunion with my former schoolmates for the first time after graduation was an indescribable feeling. No matter what happened, I think it was the best painkiller of an enduring journey before a package meal from McDonald’s!

My dinner: Tzaziki McWrap

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!

Things I Shouldn’t Do While Travelling

Greetings from Budapest! Until the day I write this article, I’m still on the third week of my Eurotrip.

image

I post this through WordPress mobile version since I don’t bring my laptop. I promise to deliver more holiday pics as soon as I finish my journey.

So far, I’ve learned something from the trip, especially things I shouldn’t
do during the trip. Not something new to be honest, only things I forget and ignore.

DON’T BRING SPARE MEMORY CARDS
For those who are on a long trip and love taking pictures, not bringing spare memory cards is a disasterous decision. Resizing, sorting and deleting unwanted pics every night is a waste of time and energy. Moreover, bare in mind that if you have an old digital camera having less than 10 megapixels, you only can use a 2GB memory card. Higher capacity memory cards won’t comply with the old system. That’s why 4GB card doesn’t work on my 6 year old Lumix camera with 6 megapixels. It’s time consuming to search for an electronic store in touristic areas and 2GB cards are getting rare in the market nowadays.

LEAVE THE TOILET BOWL OPEN AFTER USE
It’s not about Feng Shui. I advise you to close the toilet bowl lid in wherever and whatever hotel you stay to keep your belongings away from the toilet bowl. When I was in Copenhagen, I accidentally dropped a 15 ml body lotion into a toilet bowl. What happened next was unexpected. That small bottle was sucked in automatically into the flushing hole instead of remaining still on the base of the bowl! I didn’t have time to catch the flowing bottle at all. In fact, the hotel toilet bowl has an automated vacuum capability, even without pressing the ‘flush’ button. Luckily the lotion was a complimentary from the hotel. What if it happens to your diamond ring??

CARELESS WITH SMALL CHANGES
Holiday is meant for relaxation. However, sometimes you just don’t want to sweat small stuff, including small changes you get from the store. I lost €20 change in Warnemunde just because I didn’t recount my changes before leaving the store. I spent approximately €7 in the cafe, then I gave the cashier lady a €50 banknote. After getting back to the cruise ship, I suddenly realized that I only had €23 left in my wallet! I supposed to have another €20 with me.

I wasn’t sure what was going on. Most probably the lady gave me wrong amount of change. However, I mostly suspected that my other €20 was gone with the wind. She put 2 times €20 bank notes and some coins on top. I grabbed the coins first and took too long to find my coin wallet. The wind was pretty strong at that time, the cashier was close to the exit door (no doors, btw) and the notes were brand new and smooth.

I believe one of them fell down because of the wind but I didn’t realize it. Nex time, grab the whole change all at once and arrange it in the proper place later on!

DO NOT LEARN FROM THE PAST
My history as a clumsy traveller repeats: I lost my 72 hour pass in Budapest on the second day! Years ago, I lost my ID card, ATM card, debit card, a few bucks of cash, public transportation monthly pass etc. It’s been my unwanted daily dose for a long time. I suppose to be more careful and do not hold maps, brochures and a card altogether at the same time. I’m sure it fell down, again….

Well, that’s all for now. I promise to tell you more stories of my journey after returning to Jakarta. Cheers!