20th January 2016 - Hungary for more
Wednesday 20th January 2016
Time for our first trip of the year which we had hoped would be somewhere comparatively warm, in other words Portugal, but 1805 still wasn’t ready for service meaning no tour so other plans had to be hatched. We did consider the Czech Republic or Slovakia but decided that as we had already made quite good inroads into both track and locos in Hungary we would carry on there, then make our way to Switzerland via Slovenia to mop up a few bits and pieces that needed doing sooner rather than later.
We were lucky enough to get a flight to Budapest from Luton with Wizz costing about £60 each, not bad with just under a month to go before the flight, but the early departure time meant that we had to order a taxi to Luton. Everything went smoothly until everyone was queuing to get onto the plane when there was a delay; we think due to an elderly lady waiting for the medical unit to help her on board the aircraft. This was an almost brand new A321 which left just over 20 minutes late but we were decanted onto the tarmac at BUD less than 10 late so no complaints.
The journey from the airport to the hotel caused a little head-scratching as the Airportshuttle.hu minibus service we had used last time had ceased and a replacement was not yet available to book. Not really wanting to faff about with luggage using the cheapest option, a Budapest Travel Card, which would mean a bus then two Metros a bit of digging on-line found a fare of €20 / £15 for both of us door to door in a shared minibus booked through Wizz themselves. Unfortunately it wasn’t too clear until after we had booked that the allocated bus for our flight wasn’t until 13:05 meaning a bit of a wait so we went and had a hot drink in the airport café, only venturing out into the cold about 15 minutes before departure. The driver appeared brandishing a clip-board, took the details from our printed e-ticket, ticked us off a list and loaded the cases in the rear. The other passengers were 8 English-speaking girls, who were dropped off first at the end of one of the tram routes near Nyugati station and three “natives”, two of whom were left on board after we were dropped off outside the Mercure Budapest Buda near Déli station.
This hotel was a change from our previous favourite, the Mercure Metropol near Keleti station, as it was in a quieter location and our plans were based round catching trains from Nyugati and Déli. After checking in and freshening up it was off to the station to purchase a 72 hour Budapest Travel Card, efficiently issued by the English-speaking booking clerk who slipped the flimsy tickets into a clear plastic wallet for us.
Putting the tickets straight into use, we headed to Nyugati station for the 15:18 diesel hauled service to Lajosmizse. These trains had been mostly worked by DMUs off the Esztergom line which had been closed for rebuilding during our last couple of visits so we were looking forward to covering both lines for the first time. It was too late in the day to go all the way to Lajosmizse and the loco on the 15:18 was dud anyway so we got on the 15:03 departure to Cegléd instead which had a required class 432 electric. As it would be getting dark very shortly there wasn’t much point in doing anything beyond trying to scratch a few locos in so we got off at what must rate as one of the worst major stations in the whole of Europe, Kőbánya-Kispest. This is a major interchange with both Metro system and busses and is an absolute tip featuring leaking roofs and canopies, broken escalators and uneven stairs. Perhaps we should consider ourselves fortunate that this dump of a station had platform indicator boards but all they showed was the next train; there wasn’t a current list of departures that we could see or even anything to show if a train was running late.
There was no sign of the train we were looking for from Lajosmizse so we gave it up as a bad job when another new 432 arrived on a train from Cegléd. This train had wi-fi so we checked the “Vonat Droid” app and found out that the diesel hauled service was running 37 minutes late and had a dud loco on anyway. We did manage to track down a couple of required diesels and quickly scooped them in just in case they disappeared over the next couple of days before heading to the Okay Italia restaurant opposite Nyugati station.
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