Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Thursday, August 17, 2006

After the long journey with the CCRD sufferer we arrived to Sophia early in the morning. Reading our Let's Go guide book we realised there wasn't much to do here, so with this in mind we booked a train ticket onwards to Budapest for that afternoon. With about five hours to kill we walked into town and headed to the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral. It was pretty impressive. Outside there was a little flea market selling all kinds of Soviet memorabilia and old household items.

On our "express train" we learnt express doesn't mean anything. Basically the train stopped at any station that showed signs of life, even if the sign was a weed growing out of the concrete platform. So stopping at any and every rundown station platforms we crossed the border into Serbia, a country that wasn't exactly in our Europe travel plans. Stopping at the station (thankfully there was actually people waiting to get on the train, not just weeds), people raced off to fill their water bottles, buy food and have a cigarette. About 15 minutes later we were still there, an hour went past and we remained stationary, 2 hours later people were getting restless and all the locals appeared to get off and find other trains. Eventually a rumor went through the carriage, consisting of mostly English speaking backpackers, something had happened to the train engine and we would not be continuing the journey to Budapest. Instead we would be spending the next few hours backtracking (don't know how if the engine was broken), spend the night in Belgrade station on the train and arrive in Budapest sometime tomorrow afternoon. With nothing else to do and as it was getting pretty late we decided to try and catch up on some sleep so we hit the sack.

During the night the carriage was jostled and bumped repeatedly and in the morning we awoke to find ourselves in Belgrade station with no engine or other carriages attached. During the night we'd been de-coupled from the train and left on a siding. The conductor had locked the carriage doors and we'd spent the night in another country waiting for a new engine to arrive. We're still not sure what happened to the other one as it did take us all the way back to Belgrade. Finally at 10AM our lone carriage was joined to another train and we headed off to Budapest. A day's journey had turned into an overnight adventure. Serbia, what we saw of it racing by, was beautiful countryside with friendly people returning our waves from the window as we wizzed by.

In Budapest we wandered around and found out the city was starting their St. Stephen's Day celebrations (their National Day). On the Danube River stood their Parliament building, modeled on the House of Parliament in London. We also walked to St. Stephen's Basilica for a couple of photos then headed back into the main part of town. Near the banks of the Danube River they had setup a stage where the locals were being entertained by traditional dancing. We pulled up a seat and grabbed some local food and beer and watched the show.

Status of Rick's hair: Growth. Colour of scalp no longer white.
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