14th August 2016 - Going Hungary Again
Sunday 14th August 2016
This trip was one of those that started off with one idea and just grew and grew until it morphed into something lasting a whole month! Our rostered annual leave was in August this year and we had toyed with the idea of trying to swap it for something earlier but this was easier said than done so we stuck with what had been given. The PTG tour in Sweden started less than a week after the leave period finished and taking rest days into account we would have been returning to work for just two days before heading back for that. We had enough leave to cover these two days so these were applied for and granted so, deep breath, two large suitcases packed and off we go.
The first port of call was Hungary as we were hoping that the M61 would have a turn round Lake Balaton again but not this year. Never mind, there was still plenty of things we wanted to do in that country so it was off to Budapest on a late morning flight from Luton to Budapest with Wizz, fighting our way through the huge queue of traffic trying to get up to the bus station and drop-off point. You would have thought that such major work woud have been scheduled for outside of the holiday period but this looked as if it was so extensive that the whole project would take well over a year to complete
The flight was pretty full and notable only for one person who rocked up at the gate with a handbag and a small suitcase so instantly got "chinged" for the extra bag at the gate. We arrived about 5 minutes early, waited for about as long as we expected for the luggage then went to the BKK office in the arrivals hall and bought two tickets to Ferihegy station, a flat fare of 350 HUF each (around £1). It is possible to buy them from the driver but this costs an extra 100 HUF each.
Bus 200E runs every 7 to 8 minutes and one turned up just as we got to the relevant bus stop. There was a bit of a scrum to get on, not helped by all the passengers having to enter via the front door past the driver then many displaying a reluctance to move along to the far end of the vehicle (it was a "bendy bus"). The bus dropped us on the opposite side of the road from Ferihegy station, near the huge footbridge spanning the busy throughfare and we were not best pleased, to put it mildly, to find the lift on this side was out of order. Fortunately, the lift on the other side was working and the ticket office, housed in a shipping container, was on the same side that our train went from. The lady there couldn't speak English but we had anticipated this and had written our requirements on a piece of paper which we pushed through the hatch along with our FIP cards with two tickets for the 15:43 IC train to Debrecen being produced in return. We had been given seats 67 and 68 whch we thought were side-by-side but they were actually diagonally opposite each other in a bay of four. Being a Sunday afternoon, the train was very busy and we did consider that we might have been lucky to get any seats at all, let alone be seated in close proximity to each other. We did ponder the question if these trains ever get fully booked and what happens then, we've been "bowled" like that in Spain in the past, hearing the dreaded word "completo" when trying to book tickets for longer distance trains.
We arrived around five minutes late at Debrecen and had our first laugh at the expense of a "normal" passenger. The train was booked to stand for five minutes to detach a portion for Mátészalka and this was quickly done but just as the Záhony portion was dispatched a man came dashing up the subway steps, waving his arms and shouting. He might have just turned up too late and missed it but as he appeared rather frantic we got the impression that he may have nipped over to the station for something and his family / luggage may have been off to Záhony without him. It did cross our minds that they might have been on the Mátészalka portion and he didn't realise that it was still in the platform but the arrival of a class 418 from the opposite direction diverted our attention.
Our hotel for the next few days was the Centrum Hotel, about a mile down the road but there was a tram service with tickets costing 300 HUF or 400 HUF from the driver. There was a ticket office inside the terminal loop outside the station and we easily purchased some tickets from the nice young lady in there who could speak good English. The hotel was quite nice but had a strange arrangement where the reception was on the ground floor in the middle of a row of shops and all the rooms were above the shops. The building was an odd shape which meant the interior was rather like a rabbit warren with the breakfast room being a little hard to find down one end.
We asked the receptionist for recommendations of where to have an evening meal and he marked out three on a city map but we were flummoxed when it came to finding the nearest two (or read his writing for one of them!) so went to the furthest (Csokonai) which was his highest recommendation. The menu was in Hungarian and English with pictures and some dishes were available as half portions which was probably a good idea looking at the size of some of the servings. Two starters, two mains and three drinks cost the equivalent of under £30, so hardly likely to break the bank by eating here.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed an interesting looking ice cream parlour so went in to try it as a treat seeing that it was our first night. Once inside we saw that it was self service with about half a dozen different flavours of ice cream dispensed by pump with a large selection of toppings in containers to choose from. You started off by choosing the desired size of tub which you then filled with whatever you wanted with the price being worked out by weight, an interesting and, judging by the number of people inside, popular idea.
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