Bye Bye, Budapest

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

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Flag of Hungary  , Pest,
Monday, August 2, 2010

Today I turned in my rental car (2332 km) and started on my way out of Hungary. Returning the car was just a little trickier than I was hoping. Renting it from the downtown area worked out well for picking it up, and getting to the train after I dropped it off, but traffic was very slow down Rákóczi' utica in Budapest. I never saw a real reason, in fact, traffic speed actually picked up before the Elizabeth Bridge, so I'm blaming bad traffic light timing. I've been down streets in the middle of Manhattan with no problem because NYC lights are timed well, but it took two or sometimes three cycles for me to make it through the Rákóczi' utica lights. I did get a bit of a boost by driving in the bus lane, which I didn't realize was only for buses and cabs until buses started flashing their lights at me. Ooops. At least I didn't get a ticket.

The other problem was major pot holes on the road I intended to take leaving my hotel. After giving it a try for a kilometer or two, I decided it wasn't going to get any better and I should backtrack and go the long way around. I had been over the alternate route yesterday and knew the potholes on that section were annoying, but not as bad. Highways (major and secondary, basically any road assigned a number) have been fine, but getting off of major roads, especially in the northern half of the country was slow going on this trip. I don't think I ended up saving time in the end, because farther south, on a part of the road I hadn't been on before, they were doing construction. I probably saved my tires and shocks, though.

None of that was a big deal, of course. I managed to make it to the rental counter exactly on time, and I assume there was some leeway for the return before extra charges applied anyway. I also made it onto the train for my next stop just in time as well. There were trains several times an hour, but not having to wait for the direct train was nice. I also found out you didn't need to buy a transfer ticket to change metro lines, just if you were changing to a different form of transportation. I think I'll survive the loss of the extra dollar I spent, though.

Today I was in my last Hungarian town: Vác. Vác was a relatively (for Hungary) small town north of Budapest. It was less than an hour by train and something like 36km from the downtown, so it may be a commuter town. It was usually mentioned in the guidebooks as a day trip from Budapest, usually in the same section as the underwhelming Szentendre, but I liked Vác much better.

Vác's old town had a large square featuring the foundation of the ruined St. Micheal's Church and surrounded by buildings in typical Hungarian styles. They weren't the most outstanding buildings I'd seen in Hungary, but all together they made a pleasant square. There was also a large park running alongside the Danube. Both of those made me like it more than Szentendre, but Vác had one unusual attraction to make it stand-out: mummies.

The "mummies" were not intentionally mummified, but were citizens buried during the 18th century inside of a crypt that was hermetically sealed when it was closed by bricks at a later time. The conditions in the crypt caused the bodies of the dead to mummify. Their clothes and accessories were also well preserved. The crypt was only reopened in 1994, and the discovery of mummies the allowed scholars significant insight into life at the time of their burials.

Several of the mummies were on display outside of Vác (from internet articles, at least one currently appears to be traveling the globe as part of an international mummy exhibition), but many were in a local Vác museum. Unfortunately, today was Monday, so the museum was closed. I'd stick around tomorrow morning to see it, but I'm supposed to be meeting a friend at noon in Bratislava. I left a few other things undone in Budapest, and I'll just have to include Vác mummies on that sad list.

So I didn't have to worry about it in the morning, I went ahead and bought my ticket on to Bratislava. It was apparently a much more unusual request than I expected. I showed the woman where I had written the train number and the time I wanted, along with the Bratislava station name. The flipped through a little book, then wrote two times on a piece of paper and slid it over to me. The times were the departure time from Vác and the arrivial time at Bratislava. I said something like "yes" or "okay" and nodded, and she gave me a look that said "Great. Then we're done."

After a few seconds waiting to confirm she thought I just wanted her to transcribe the info I already had, I asked to buy a ticket. She went to a cabinet and pulled out a stack of blank tickets. Then she made a phone call, I assume she wasn't entirely sure how to fill them out. That was followed by a lot of calculator usage, then a round of stamping. I got the ticket, but I was a little surprised that an international ticket wasn't more common as Vác was pretty far in the north of Hungary. The international ticket from Ptuj to Budapest wasn't a problem, and the woman helping me today looked old enough to have been working at the station a long time. I'm glad I went ahead and got the ticket today since I'm meeting someone in Bratislava, it would be bad if I missed the train because I couldn't find anyone in the morning who knew how to write the ticket.

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