So, this weekend I went on a small excursion with two of my friends to Budapest. It was our first trip by ourselves, without the guidance of the school and 177 other students wandering around with us, and it was good.
We started planning Thursday night, and we left Friday morning. They have a wonderful website that let’s you search how to get from wherever you are to anywhere else, and it shows you the trains and busses you’ll need to take, and the times and costs and everything! I love the website, it makes me happy.
Thursday night we planned our whole trip out, I mean, we found the route there and back, and we even booked a hostel! Then Friday morning I woke up at 5:15 am, to get ready for my 6:21am bus ride, and it was dark and cold and rainy outside. Fantastic. Just the kind of weather you want when you’re going to be traveling on trains and busses for 6 hours.
Undaunted by the dark stormy coldness outside, my two friends and I wandered out into the darkness toward the bus stop in the middle of town. It took us about 7 minutes to walk there, and my friends both had umbrellas, but I didn’t. So we arrived at the bus stop at 5:59, and we didn’t know if it was the right one, because of some complicated directions from some of the student life staff, and basically we ended up waiting in the rain 30 minutes, at the wrong stop, until we realized that we missed our bus.
This caused a general unrest amongst ourselves, and we decided to go back to the dormitory and figure out what to do (plus then I would be able to change my soaking wet shoes for sturdy dry boots). I convinced my friends that we should take the 7:19 bus and risk that we may not be able to buy tickets in the 5 minutes between arrival and our next departure. It was difficult, but they figured they could always hop another bus back if the trip onward seemed impossible, plus attempting the trip would make losing our 35 Euros in Hostel reservations (cancellation fee takes all the money from the first night, and we were only going to stay one night) less depressing.
Finally, against all odds, we made it to the 7:19 bus, as we found the correct station, and headed off to Scheibbs. In Scheibbs we had 5 minutes to hop off our bus onto the train, were able to buy tickets on board, and headed to St. Polten. In St. Polten we validated our Eurail passes, got Vorteils discount cards, and then had 2 hours to relax until our final train took us to Budapest.
While we waited we explored the train station. We looked in the gift store, and saw toys and Disney comic books in German, and birthday cards. There was also an entire table with little key chain attachable grim reapers. It took me a moment to figure out what they were, because it was a stuffed toy, that looked like a friar in a brown habbit, but instead of a face he just had a black felt patch in the hood, and he was holding a sickle. They also had notebooks and folders with the cartoon grim reaper and a sheep, and a notebook where you could see part of a dead cartoon figure with red cartoon blood and the grim reaper and the sheep. It was a very strange “cute” version of the grim reaper…
After the bookstore we went to McDonald’s! (Because they have McDonald’s everywhere in Europe.) Food was cheap, so we got some small things, I got coffee and fake pancake/mcgriddles, with Nutella…NUTELLA! The lady at the counter took my order and then asked “Would you like Nutella?” and I was partially confused, but then I figured that anytime anyone offers you Nutella, you should take the Nutella, so I said yes, and shared my strange pancakes covered in chocolate with my friends.
I also paid 50 euro cents to use the McDonald’s bathroom. It’s really annoying that you have to pay for bathrooms, I mean, “water closets”, here. I went up the three flights of stairs to the corner where the bathroom was, and I bought a little ticket from the machine, and then I looked at the turnstile and had no idea what I was supposed to do with the ticket or when to walk through the turnstile. So I started walking toward it, and it wasn’t moving, so I waved my little ticket in front of the strange black little orb camera/light thing on the turnstile, and then tried even more forcefully to walk through the turnstile, and it let me in.
Upon exiting I realized I had no idea of how to get out. There was a large green button with a picture of a person walking on it, and next to it a little glass fence thing, and then the turnstile that I entered through. I stood there a moment and looked at all of my options. I then decided to press the green person Button. Green buttons should be safe to press. I pressed the green button and it immediately turned red, a beeping alarm went off, and the gate opened. I pulled my ticket out of my pocket (as proof that I wasn’t a w/c non-payer/ thief) and quickly walked through the gate and kept walking. The beeping didn’t stop, but I got all the way back to the first floor and sat at my table with my friends, quietly clutching my ticket and hoping none of the staff members would notice the continuous high-pitched beep noise coming from upstairs. Eventually I saw a staff member with a mop head up the stairs, and then figured I was safe, and spent the next hour and a half talking to my friends and pretending that I wasn’t the American who set off the w/c alarm.
After McDonald’s, we hopped on our last train to Budapest, and got to the station at 2:50pm. We meandered around, trying to follow the confusing directions to take the metro and head to our hostel, and we eventually made it, only 4 minutes after we said we’d be there. The Hostel was nice, with many safely locked doors, and a bathroom that was barely big enough to stand up in. That night we ate gyros from a little shop, where the 50-60 year old gyros making man found out I was from America, and then from California, and then proceeded to talk about how he liked the “American Madame”, or Woman, and kept laughing every five seconds at my inability to understand his English through his accent.
After our 700 forint meal (200 HUF is almost 1 USD), my friends obliged my request that we go to a clothing store I had found in the guidebook (I was in desperate need of something that wasn’t jeans to wear for my mission trip to Lourdes, a week away!), and we started marching over there. We were just realizing that we had 7 more city blocks to go, in the rain, in the ever-increasing darkness, when my wonderful friend Mary spotted a discount clothing store. We wandered in, and after trying on 9 pairs of pants (in sets of 3, and having to take off and re-lace my boots every time) I found a pair of nice khakis for what ended up being 300 forints. It was perfect.
Then, being the partiers that we are, we headed back to our hostel and were all asleep by 8:30pm.
The next morning, we found our way to St. Stephens, hoping to make it to the 8am mass the guidebook advertised (as the church didn’t open for the public until (9:30), and after looking at the outside of the building for a while, and trying to find the best position for pictures of it, we entered a side door of the church, and found a mini side chapel with a tabernacle, and St. Stephen’s hand! As it was only 7:45, we prayed awhile in the pews, and waited for the mass that we hoped would come. Sadly, there was no 8am mass, as far as we could tell, so we headed back to our hostel, ate some convenience store purchased breakfast foods, checked out of our hostel, played with the one person elevator, and then started our trek to the Classical Art Museum.
For 1100 forints each, we got general admission to the Museum, and we got to see MUMMIES! After an hour of looking at mummies, there was an announcement for a FREE ENGLISH SPEAKING TOUR OF THE MUSEUM. So we ran over to that, met two Americans from Long Island, and were then led around the museum by a tour guide. It was pretty cool, and there was a lot of religious art, and it was funny hearing the Tour guide’s explanation of the religious art and why there are so many pictures of saints, and funny when the Long Island couple asked a question about the figures carved into the frame and my friend explained that one was a pope, and then awkward when the long island couple asked if the story of Judith cutting off the general’s head was a true story, and the tour guide simply responded that it was in the old testament, and the husband responded that that was an iffy source of truth.
Finally, after the tour, that required my extreme run on sentence, was over, we finished looking at the mummies, and then explored more of the museum by ourselves, and then headed back to the train station and were on our way home. We then realized that our ticket only took us to St. Polten, and we needed to go an additional 5 stops to Pochlarn, in order to get on a mini train from there to Scheibbs. We then discussed various scenarios and possible ways of us getting home without being thrown off of trains because we didn’t have the right tickets. Luckily, we stopped in Vienna and had 15 minutes to buy tickets that took us all the way to Pochlarn, and even found some of our fellow students who were returning to school from Vienna.
We then hopped on our train, got to Pochlarn, hopped off with the other 6 students, and the nine of us desperately tried to buy tickets in the 20 minutes we had from a machine that only let us buy one ticket at a time for our last train ride. We made it, until one of us realized she forgot to buy an additional ticket, and had 5 minutes to run to the ticket machine and run back. She made it, our train left late, and we arrived in Scheibbs safely, hopped on the only bus there, and made it back to the school!
And in all that time I haven’t studied at all for my midterms tomorrow, except for study that doesn’t really count as studying, and I’ve written a lot for you to read. So, I’ll go study and pray I don’t fail any midterms, and write you all some shorter more interesting blog at another date.
Family and friends, I love you and I’m praying for you, I don’t know if I’ll be writing anything more until after Lourdes, so pray for me! Bye!