Sunday, September 06, 2015

What a difference a year makes....

 Almost a year ago, I wandered through this main downtown railway terminal in Budapest.

I was on a 5-country vacation trip in Central Europe.

This year this Keleti station in Hungary has been the center of worldwide migration attention.

Syrian refugees tried to pass through on their way to a new life in Austria or Germany.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were denied access to trains and "camped" trackside and in the spacious lobby.

My time there was brief.  The train from Bratislava, Slovakia, was very late and we finally arrived in Budapest well past midnight.

The station emptied quickly and we wandered around the huge space, looking for an ATM.

We had no local currency and finally found the machine we sought and withdrew 100,000 HUF, in Hungarian Forints.

I raised my eyebrows at having a hundred grand of any money in my hands  - and looked around nervously - but used my calculator and quickly saw it amounted to only about $355 USD.

The cab driver nodded when we gave the address of our rented 4-room flat at 29 Andrassy Ut. and, ten minutes later, we arrived safely at our private lodging for the next few days.

The added bonus of renting an apartment instead of another hotel room, was there was a washing machine in the kitchen.

The young man who was there to meet us with the keys - and to accept the rent in cash - had stuck around of course.

He walked us through the second floor apartment and quickly left.

It was 2:00 in the morning and it had been a long day.

We had started out from Vienna and got off the train in the capital of Slovakia to spend the day.

The late train was a bit frustrating but luckily, when it did suddenly arrive, we had our bags and tickets ready and had scrambled on board.

Later that day, we came out of our flat and saw the Opera House was right across the street.

Pretty classy neck of the woods, as they say.

Our rental had lots of brochures and suggestion on nearby places to eat. And to bar hop.

We had a late breakfast at a nice place around the corner and realized we were the only "tourists" in the place.

We ordered with a lot of smiles, nodding and pointing at pictures of items on the menu.

I'm looking back at how we fared a year ago compared to the anguish these migrating Syrians had to suffer as their stay in Budapest extended to many weeks, forcing many of those fleeing to pick up their scant possessions and start walking toward a new life at the Austrian frontier.

(Click on the photo and links for more details.)

I wrote a blog posting about this trip last year but the news breaking in this city - and the Hungarian government's reaction to a sudden flood of men, women and children - seemed reason enough to re-visit.

Have a happy and safe vacation everyone.

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At Sun Sep 06, 02:52:00 PM , Blogger Judy Reeves said...

Thanks for this story, Chuck. The comparisons, last year to this, are striking.


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