How (Not) to Get to Budapest

Ruth Marie Landry
October 15, 2015
A train to Budapest
"Right now I’m sitting in the IES Center with Maya. There is a lot to like about the center—it is really well located in Mitte, right against the Spree and Museuminsel. There’s a wonderful döner store nearby that I eat at far too often, coffee shops in every direction, and it’s basically a straight shoot to my house as well as Alexanderplatz. We have a balcony which is nice to sit on between classes, tons of computers and printers, and comfortable couches that I think are used for naps just as often as they are used for sitting. Our wifi, however, rarely works, which is pretty inconvenient, especially right now, as Maya and I are trying to figure out where our train tickets to Budapest went.
We bought the tickets a week ago, and they could only be sent to us by mail. They were supposed to come in two day mail, but it’s been seven days now, and as of yesterday we’ve given up on them arriving in time and are trying to get a refund. However, to get a refund, we would have to send the tickets (which we don’t have) back. So I think we’re both out $80, and the moral we’re left with is never to count on the Deutsche Bahn to mail your tickets. Just buy them in person.
So I’m a little bitter and in a bad mood, but we hadn’t booked any hostels yet, so at least we didn’t lose that too. It is also raining, and I think the weather affects more of my mood than I usually realize.”
I wrote the above about six hours ago at maybe 3PM; clearly angry, tired, horrified by the state of my bank account, sick of the perpetual drizzle that has been stuck to Berlin for the past week, and disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to go to Budapest, a trip that I had been looking forward too. I finished up a draft of the blog post about an hour later, right about when Maya checked the mail, gasped, and turned to me, a little white in the face. “Ruth. Guess what’s here?” It was about 4:00PM and our train to Budapest, which we now had tickets for, left in about two hours at 6:23PM. I wasn’t even packed. “Should we at least try?” The answer was a resounding yes. So I dashed to my tram stop, got stuck in rush hour traffic, skidded over slippery stones to my apartment, where I arrived at 4:45. By 5:00 I had called my mom; thrown my passport, my laptop, and a random assortment of clothes into my travel backpack, meanwhile completely neglecting extra cash, food, toothbrush, bathing suit or phone charger in my haste; and ran to the S-bahn. I was at Friedrichstraße, only a stop away from the Hauptbahnhof, a large train station in western Berlin from which our train to Budapest would leave, when a voice came over the loud speaker, informing us that due to “police action” the next S-bahn heading west would be in 45 minutes. Of course, this was all said in German, but a nice man translated for me when he saw my panicked expression. So I pushed my way through the crowd and considered my next move. It was 5:23. Maya would be in class till 5:45. I sent her a text telling her about the uselessness of the S-bahn, and then ran from Friedrichstraße to the HBF, about a mile away. By running, I really mean a sad combination of jogging and skidding across slivery tiles,landing me at the HBF around 5:50. Once there, I ran to the DB office, confirmed that our tickets still worked (we had tried to cancel them online that morning, although unsuccessfully, much to my former distress and current relief), and then dashed down to find our platform, skidding to a halt in front of the train at exactly 6:00. I was only missing one thing. “Ruth!” And there she was! Only fifteen minutes after her class ended, Maya had managed to run over a mile across slippery pavement with a heavy backpack and find the platform for our train. So now, at 9:00, three hours into a twelve hour train ride, we’re more than a little stuck in disbelief that we’re actually here, on a train, going to Budapest. We’re also a little bit unprepared—we didn’t bring anything to entertain ourselves on this long trip, we don't know where we are going to stay once we get to Budapest, and we have really no concrete plans of what we want to do once we get there. The moral, future IES students—do not book a ticket for the DB online if it says that they have to mail it to you. Buy a ticket that you can print at home or go to their office and buy your ticket in person. You could also just, you know, fly. Or you could have a nerve-racking adventure like us—you could have a mad dash through Berlin in the rain, hop on a train that looks like it just left the 70’s and sit giggling, giddy with disbelief at your luck and your poor preparation, headed to Budapest, something that was impossible just six hours ago.

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Ruth Marie Landry

<p>Ruth Marie Landry is a junior majoring in the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. On campus, she works in the library and as a tutor for high school students. She is also a DJ for WJHU (Johns Hopkins&#39; only student radio station) and the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Vector Magazine, an online literary magazine. While growing up in New Orleans, she developed a love for spicy food, dancing to live music, and long, poorly planned road trips. Ruth enjoys big cities, Sphynx cats and Brutalist architecture.</p>

2015 Fall
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