So Long, Slovenia

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Friday, July 16, 2010

Today was another basically uneventful travel day. I got up for a not unreasonably early 9:20am train ride to Budapest. For some reason, it was 7 euros cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket than one way, so I've got the option of returning to Ptuj if I start to miss it.

My ride was a direct train, and not having to switch was nice. The trip still took probably at least 8 hours. I say probably because I wasn't paying close attention to the time since mine was the final stop, but I did happen to notice at one stop were were almost an hour behind schedule.

For anyone keeping track, the A/C on this train was also not working, but it didn't seem as hot as the others. Maybe because my compartment wasn't in the sun for most of the trip. I sat by the window and was in a compartment alone or with just one other person for the whole trip and overall found the ride very pleasant with the breeze from the moving train.

Getting to my hotel from the train station took a little more thinking than I expected. Budapest was a major city with around 1.7 million people. It had several major train stations, one for each direction you could arrive from. I assumed my station (Budapest-Deli) would have a tourist center to provide me with tips on getting to my hotel, like in Ljubljana, but no such luck. Maybe they don't get a lot of tourists arriving from the south.

Another component that was unexpectedly missing was an ATM. There was a machine, but it didn't look like it was working. Plus, there was a guy sleeping in front of it, and I didn't really want to step over him. Even the unusually high speed of the metro escalators seemed designed
to throw me off my game.

To get back on track, I first changed my remaining non-souvenir kuna to forints so I'd have some
money. I didn't want to change any euros, though, because I'd need them again in Slovakia. With a small cushion of cash in hand, I went outside the station and found a working ATM to get the rest of the money I needed.

Like the kuna, the forint was another troublesome currency. There were around 230 forints to a dollar. I was hoping to not do a lot of math on my vacation, but I liked to know how much money I was actually spending. The compromise was "divide by 2 then drop 2 zeros". I'm sure I'll spend the next few weeks confused about what's expensive and what isn't.

After I had found money, I needed to find my hotel (food could come later). Fortunately, there was a metro station just below the train station, and I knew the metro stop for my hotel. Unfortunately, the line guide they had posted at the station entrance was pretty confusing, because it included tram lines and maybe bus lines as well. Once on the metro itself, however, the cars had a map of just the subway, so I could tell where I needed to change to a different line. The car also had an electronic display with the next station name, so I didn't have to try to hear what the announcements were saying.

Interestingly, the line I transferred to for the final leg of the trip seemed to have much older cars. The cars were tiny, maybe they fit thirty people if packed like Tokyo rush hour, they did not have doors between them to allow you to change cars in transit, the seat arrangement was more like a bus, with seats facing front and back rather than the sides, there was no electronic board with the stop names, and the hand-straps were worn leather. They did have A/C though, or at least they weren't hot.

Exiting the metro station, it was just a couple of blocks to my hotel. Actually, it was a hostel. Normally I avoided hostels because I'm too light of a sleeper for a dorm setting, but this one had individual rooms. I'm not actually sure what makes it a hostel--it was a lot more like the guest houses I stayed at--maybe it was the shared bathrooms...

At any rate, it was convienently located in the downtown area and very cheap. The cost was a nice change after several expensive hotels in a row. My bank account should also be helped when I pick up my rental car for Hungary next week. When I had a car, I chose hotels based on price (and parking), but without a car, I tended to chose on location, which led to a string of pricier hotels than I'd otherwise go for. Also, with the car, I moved more quickly between towns. So even when you account for the rental fees (assume gas and tickets cancel each other), I think it was actually cheaper per city with the car. For example, it cost me two nights of hotel in Ptuj without a car, with a car, I would have only needed one.

Unrelated, there's a brand of juice I'm having a bottle of now that they had in Croatia as well. The brand is called "Cappy" and every time I see it on the shelf at first glance I think it says "Crappy". It's a fine product, though.

While I'm throwing out random facts, Budapest is a Sister City of Ft. Worth. I'll have to see if that entitles me to any special benefits...
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