Christmas 2017 – Germany, Austria & Hungary (Munich incl Dachau, Vienna & Budapest incl Children’s Railway)
As has been the case for the previous two years, we were both off at Christmas again this year and so made plans to head out of the UK for it. With there being a rerun, albeit with a difference, of the MAV Nostalgia Christmas Nohab outing from Kelenfold to Tapolca, we tied our plans in with that.
We’d start in Munich, pretty much as it was the cheapest place I could find flights to, anywhere in Germany, on 23rd December; which would allow us to visit Dachau Memorial site, which continued our 2017 theme of visiting Nazi concentration camp sites. From there we’d head into Austria, with the original plan being to visit Mauthausen Memorial, near Linz, but as we’d done it in the Summer as a last-minute thing, we had no clear plan for Austria at all; but couldn’t change our plans as our hotel in Vienna was a pre-paid advance booking. Finally, we’d end up in Budapest, to cover the aforementioned MAV Nostalgia trip to Tapolca, and a trip on the Budapest Children’s Railway would no doubt feature.
Booked through British Airways
BA956 1720 Heathrow – Munich
BA869 1225 Heathrow – Budapest
Munich – Mercure Munich City Centre – is only a 5-minute walk; out of the exit by Burger King, turn left, first right and its 100m up the road on the left. The guy checking us in clearly had a bee in his bonnet about the UK leaving the EU as he told us our passports weren’t European ones anymore, he was only joking though. Although when I’d walked in and told him my name, he looked at me as if he needed more from me and I had to tell him we had a reservation, and then tell him I’d already checked in online; which was when he found my room key and details stuck on the wall behind him. He confirmed breakfast was included in our room rate and that the minibar was free in the room; which was something he didn’t have to tell a Yorkshireman twice! They weren’t shy either, with two beers, wine, two juices and two waters, along with nuts and chocolate wafers. There was a coffee maker as well, but unfortunately, no kettle! The room itself was huge, spotless and very modern. Left on the table for us was a personalized welcome card, two apples, two packets of Haribo sweets and a bottle of water. The following day there was a chocolate Santa waiting for us! A full range of toiletries were provided, and the room was quiet, and possibly one of the darkest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in; when the lights are out of course.
Vienna – Mercure Grand Hotel Biedermeier – out of Mitte station, turn left and the entrance to the hotel is about 5 minutes up the road on the right. We’d had a bad experience here earlier in the Summer. My complaints to the Accor Group had fallen on deaf ears three times, so as the booking was a pre-paid reservation, we had no choice but to stay, or lose the money on the whole reservation. Having checked in online, unlike our previous arrival, we were given our papers and room card immediately; and that was that. We’d booked a privilege room, which were bigger rooms, with seating areas to relax in. The room was clean and tidy, on the back of the hotel away from the main road, included a free minibar and had excellent free WiFi. Bathrobes & slippers, along with all the toiletries you could wish for, were provided, as were tea/coffee making facilities. Randomly, there was no inclusive breakfast in the rate and it would have cost €16 each.
Budapest – Novotel Budapest Centrum – a 10-minute walk, straight up the road from Keleti station. Again, I’d checked in online and after walking in, we were soon heading to our room as a result. We’d been spoilt by our previous two hotels on the trip, but the room wasn’t a bad one, it had a little road noise as it overlooked the main road, and the bed was only about a foot off the floor; other than that, it was clean, had tea/coffee making facilities and good WiFi. Breakfast was included in the room rate and we had yet another welcome drink voucher, which we never used, thanks to my Accor membership status.
Interrail Global Pass (1st Class – 7 Days in 1 Month)
Booked online at www.Interrail.eu
Saturday 23rd December 2017 (Travelling out to Munich)
A hectic morning lay ahead, after I left work at 0630, but I managed to get my shit in order before 1000; and even managed to cut my hair as well! I’d managed to get a certain person to do me some reservations on three trains from Doncaster to Kings Cross, where we’d make use of the outbound journey to our point of exit, on our 1st class Global Interrail. So, we were at the station to see how busy the 1047 to Kings Cross was; the answer being, not at all! We shared a 1st class coach with just two other people, all the way to London!
The tube journey to Heathrow was painful, mainly because the lack of sleep was catching up with me and my neck hurt by the time we got there; with all the nodding I was doing on the way. Security at Heathrow was very painless indeed, and we were through within 5 minutes of getting to departures. It did seem that we’d been ushered towards the fast-track though. Having then walked all the way to Wetherspoon’s at terminal 5, I was rather disappointed to find that its recent refit wasn’t complete and while it was open, it wasn’t serving food. So, it was back upstairs to Huxley’s for a decent bangers & mash, served in a giant Yorkshire pudding; right up my street.
I was falling asleep at the gate, waiting for our plane to board, and was grateful of the seat on board when we did. I could probably have slept standing up by that point if push came to shove. With BA’s new baggage policies having taken affect earlier in the month, they were taking wheeled suitcases off people when they boarded, all to go in the hold. It was announced before boarding and only that wheeled suitcases would be put in the hold; as we had rucksacks, we had no issue boarding at all and were among the first on. For a British Airways flight, I was surprised to find a child had been allocated an emergency exit row seat, as was the attendant near us. The look on his face was a picture of pure amazement. I was even more surprised when the father only had to move elsewhere with his child for takeoff and landing; yet it was ok to sit there for the remainder of the journey. Which sort of defeated the object of the emergency exit row and having able bodied people there to get people out quick enough, if a disaster did occur. Even more to the point, the noisy little shit kept waking me up and by the time we’d reached cruising altitude the aisles were like a kindergarten. This sort of shit you’d expect on Ryanair or Wizz Air but on BA flights? It was disappointing to say the least and I expect better. It seems that even BA is now succumbing to the low-cost airline ways. Nonetheless, they deposited us at Munich airport early and we were off the plane in minutes. It was only a short walk to immigration, where we were stopped in our tracks by the huge queues. Initially, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was going to take an age, but when a guy walked through an e-gate in front of me, I soon cottoned on that there was nobody queuing at them and was through the gate only 20 minutes after the plane had landed; and having bought single tickets into Munich from a machine, we were Munich bound at 2044; which isn’t bad for a 2015 flight arrival!
As we were arriving quite late, we nipped into the food plaza at München Hbf, for a quick slice of pizza, before heading to the Mercure München City Centre, which is only a 5-minute walk; out of the exit by Burger King, turn left, first right and its 100m up the road on the left. The guy checking us in clearly had a bee in his bonnet about the UK leaving the EU as he told us our passports weren’t European ones anymore, he was only joking though. Although when I’d walked in and told him my name, he looked at me as if he needed more from me and I had to tell him we had a reservation, and then tell him I’d already checked in online; which was when he found my room key and details stuck on the wall behind him. He confirmed breakfast was included in our room rate and that the minibar was free in the room; which was something he didn’t have to tell a Yorkshireman twice! The contents of it were soon removed and stashed in my bag, so it would get refilled again the following morning. They weren’t shy either, with two beers, wine, two juices and two waters, along with nuts and chocolate wafers. There was a coffee maker as well, but unfortunately, no kettle! The room itself was huge, spotless and very modern. Left on the table for us was a personalized welcome card, two apples, two packets of Haribo sweets and a bottle of water. The following day there was a chocolate Santa waiting for us! A full range of toiletries were provided, and the room was quiet, and possibly one of the darkest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in; when the lights are out of course.
After a bit of fucking about, sorting our crap out, as we were in Munich for three nights, we called it a day and had our stall set out for a quick exit strategy the following morning.
Sunday 24th December 2017 (A trip to Oberstdorf and then into Munich’s Christmas Market)
Breakfast was at 0630 and we were down by exactly then. The breakfast spread available was among the best I’ve seen but unfortunately the hot food all arrived just as we put our coats on to leave. There was everything anyone could wish for in the cold section, with cheese and meat to feed an army. Tea was made with fresh leaves and a strainer, and very good it was too, there were pastries, fruits, cereals and the hot food consisted of various sausages, very nice mini hash browns, bacon and various types of egg. We definitely weren’t going to starve over Christmas and I made a reservation at the restaurant for 7pm that night, on the way out, which would save us a lot of messing about later that evening, when we suspected most places would be shut to allow the locals to celebrate Christmas; as they did on Christmas Eve in most of Europe.
EC196 0714 München Hbf – Zurich Hbf had which had plenty of room available in 1st class. Alongside in the high numbered bay platforms, ALX84132 0720 München Hbf – Lindau Hbf was waiting to follow, which also had plenty of empty 1st class compos when it arrived into Kempten, shortly after EC196 had departed. As we departed Kempten, the extent of the overnight frost could be seen on the front of 223007 stabled in the sidings, which was that white-over that you couldn’t see in through the cab windscreen!
There was quite a covering of snow south of Kempten too, which made the journey quite pleasant and scenic as a result. An empty 1st class compo always helps and when we rounded the corner into Immenstadt, orange liveried SVG 2143.021 was waiting outside the station, ready to drop onto the rear of ALX84132 and form ALX84152 0914 Immenstadt – Oberstdorf; once the train had been split and the front portion was Lindau bound at 0911. Amazingly all the pull-down windows on the Alex sets still opened, and hadn’t been locked shut for the winter.
The run to Oberstdorf was pleasant in the snow and the morning sunshine made it all the nicer. The plus 2 at Oberstdorf, onto IC2084 0941 Oberstdorf – Augsburg, made easily, but we opted to do IC2012 0953 Oberstdorf – Hannover Hbf instead. If the plus 2 misses onto IC2012, IC2084 makes IC2012 at Immenstadt anyway, so it can be done forward to Kempten if need be. I’d toyed with the idea of getting off IC2084 at one of the shacks on the Oberstdorf branch, but the sun was all wrong for trains coming out of Oberstdorf, so we went through to Immenstadt; with a view to doing ALX84137 0958 Linda Hbf – München Hbf from there back to München. That plan soon went out of the window and we did IC2084 forward to Kempten, to await ALX84137’s arrival there instead. It was a pleasant run out in very festive weather and it was a shame there was no snow back in Munich.
Before heading to Marienplatz, where the München Christmas Market takes place, pizza sufficed for an afternoon snack, then we used the S-Bahn to whisk us across town to Marienplatz; which run every few minutes through the city. It was wedged by the time we got there and despite some folk taking down their decorations, in readiness to pack away for the season, things were still in full flow and the Glühwein was flowing everywhere it was being sold; and bloody good stuff it was too. Every area of the market sold the stuff in different drinking vessels, all of which commemorated your visit to the market. There were glasses, cups, mugs and even a boot shaped mug; which had us walking all over the market to find the stall that was selling them. Just when we thought we’d got close, when we found people drinking from them, we then couldn’t find the source of their purchase. In the end we asked some English-speaking folk, that were drinking from the boot-shaped mugs, and they directed us to the only stall that seemed to be selling them; which they themselves had sought out when figuring out which mug they wanted their Glühwein in!
We didn’t stay for too long and were back at the hotel early in the afternoon. I was that knackered that I even had a late afternoon snooze when I got back, while waiting for 7 o’clock to come around; at which point we presented ourselves at the hotel restaurant. The guy that showed us to our table explained the Christmas menu to us and emphasized that it was €69 per person without wine, or €80 per person with wine. He seemed very keen to take our order and we had to ask him to give us some time to decide, or at least read the bloody menu first. For a Christmas menu it was pretty shit, not only was it a fixed menu, with no choice whatsoever, it turned out that it was the only thing available that evening from the hotel restaurant; in which case, I was struggling to understand why the normal menu had been left out at all the tables as well. Feeling a little cheated out of our relaxing evening, we thanked the waiter for his help and explained that it might be a good idea that people are told in advance that the only meal available that night was going to involve no choice at all; then walked out.
Fully donned up, we were soon walking aimlessly towards Marienplatz, in the hope that we’d find a restaurant that was open, let alone full and with no room; which was what we’d attempted to avoid in the first place. As we approached Karlsplatz though, we spotted a Chinese restaurant over the way, which was on the 2nd floor of some building, that had life going on inside it. The Shanghai Chinese restaurant turned out to be quite busy but at least they had space for us. Service was relaxed, and the food took its time coming. The turnover looked to be quite good though so waiting for freshly cooked food can never be a bad thing. The food was good, and the waiters were pleasant and friendly, speaking both German and English. When we walked out, we were thankful for small mercies and the Shanghai had literally saved the day, on Christmas Eve.
It wasn’t a late night and we were all set for a bit of a lay in on Christmas morning, before heading out to Dachau for the morning.
Monday 25th December 2017 (A Christmas Day visit to Dachau Concentration Camp)
As we were later out of bed on Christmas morning, breakfast was already in full swing when we got to the restaurant. Unlike the previous morning though, where everything hot was being brought out as we were about to leave, everything was already in situ; and a plate of Nurnberg sausages and mini hash browns was just what Christmas morning needed.
As hauled trains to Nurnberg, calling at Dachau, are only hourly, with the odd extra Ingolstadt scattered throughout the day, we chose to do the 0924 München Hbf – Nurnberg; as the 0822 would have probably resulted in us hanging about at the gates of Dachau, waiting for the site to open. While München Hbf was quite busy for 9 o’clock on a Christmas morning, our train was far from it.
To save a day on our interrail passes, we bought an MVV Group Day ticket, valid for the “entire network” area of Munich. These tickets are available for single people or groups of up to 5 people (which must remain together at all times) and can be purchased for different validity areas within the greater Munich area. The full details of the offers, prices, validity areas and much more are available on the very useful MVV website (www.mvv-muenchen.de/en). Our entire network ticket meant we were valid to Petershausen on the Nurnberg line, the stop after Dachau, and as all the MVV day tickets are valid on all modes of transport, it would have been rude not to use the bus to get from Dachau station to the memorial site; which is about 3km on foot. The bus stop for buses to Dachau Memorial is right outside the main station building; which, if coming from München Hbf by train, is down the stairs and under the underpass, to the opposite side of the station that you’ve just arrived on. Buses #726 & #744 operate frequently to the memorial site entrance and there was one waiting for us when we got there. Timetables are clearly displayed at both Dachau station and at the memorial site stop. The journey, depending on which bus you get, is between 10 & 16 minutes and you’re dropped off right by the visitors centre.
Entry to the Dachau Memorial site is free and at the visitors centre you can get maps, available in most languages, and can get audio guides. There are very clean public toilets in the visitors centre, and an excellent little book shop. From there, it’s a short walk to the main entrance to the memorial site and despite our bus from the station being full, we managed to get ahead of the group. The main entrance gate to the site has the very well known “Arbeit Macht Frei” across its top. Unfortunately, as we discovered during our walk around the site, the gate now in place is not the original gate. The original gate was stolen in November 2014 and it wasn’t until April 2015 that a replica gate could be completed to replace it. It wasn’t until December 2016 that an anonymous tip-off, to Norwegian police, resulted in the recovery of the gate, in Bergen, Norway! The gate was returned to Dachau in February 2017 and is now on display. The thieves have never been identified and caught!
When we walked into the camp grounds, there weren’t too many people about and we could walk around aimlessly, without much restriction on where we wanted to point our cameras. Dachau isn’t a complicated site like Auschwitz or Mauthausen, which we’d visited recently, with the site of the prisoner barracks dominating the site, two of which have been completely reconstructed and everything inside them is a replica of what they once housed.
The main building, dominating the site, is the Maintenance Building. This was where prisoners were forces to gather every morning to endure roll call. This often lasted for hours and inscribed on the roof of the building was “There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: obedience, honesty, cleanliness, sobriety, diligence, orderliness, self-sacrifice, truthfulness, love of the fatherland”.
Immediately behind the Maintenance building, hidden from the rest of the site’s view, is the Bunker. This is where defiant and rebellious prisoners were sent, to isolate them from the rest of the camp’s prisoners. The cells inside the Bunker are very well preserved and it’s said that sitting was prohibited in the cells, which, along with other forms of torture dished out by the SS, led to the deaths of many of the prisoners that ended up in the Bunker. The area between the Bunker and Maintenance building, known as the Courtyard, was used by the SS for punishing, torturing, or even executing prisoners. It was all out of sight of the rest of the camp’s occupants…
At the opposite end of the camp to the Bunker & Maintenance building is the execution site and crematorium. This site is tucked away, in a corner of the site, away from the barracks and was walled off from the rest of the site during the war. Today, the whole site remains intact as a memorial to the many thousands of people who died at the camp or were executed at the hands of the Nazi’s at Dachau. In 1942/43 the Nazi’s added “Barrack X” to the execution site, to make mass murder quicker and to enable them to cope with the ever-increasing number of people they that died, or who they murdered! This “Barrack X” had a disinfection chamber for clothing, dayrooms and sanitary facilities, as well as morgues and a gas chamber; the latter being disguised as a “shower bath”! While Barrack X had clearly been designed with mass murder in mind, the gas chamber was never used to execute prisoners using poisonous gas; the crematorium area was however, used as an execution site, with prisoners either being hung or shot in the back of the neck. Even with 4 furnaces, the crematorium couldn’t cope with demand at it’s height and bodies were piled high in the crematorium as a result.
On April 29th 1945, US soldiers liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp from the Nazi’s. Just two days before liberation, a train had arrived at Dachau, carrying prisoners from the Buchenwald camp. On board the open freight wagons were 4480 people and they’d been travelling for 21 days straight. Due to the lack of food and water, and the SS being trigger happy, only 816 people survived the transportation from Buchenwald to Dachau. Upon its arrival, the SS refused the train entry to the camp and it remained on the track, outside the main gates. Two days later, the US troops discovered it; a train full of more than 4000 bodies…
While the facts are very sobering, the walk around the Dachau site was quite pleasant, with not too many people around and as it was quite a dull day, it was quite apt. Having been to Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and now Dachau, within 8 months of each other, we were now very aware of how each camp operated in a completely different manner to the other; yet the resulting outcome was the same wherever we went, thousands upon thousands of people died, or were murdered, at the hands of a race of people that were clearly delusional in what they wanted to achieve, and the reasons why they were doing what they were! Unfortunately, it seems that the world hasn’t learnt its lessons and delusional people are still hell bent on eradicating certain factions of life on the planet. This is a fact that we will all live our lives with, probably until humanity is extinct on planet earth. I’d like to be proven wrong though…
We used the bus to get back to Dachau station and the train to get back to München Hbf and of a Christmas evening, we headed to Marienplatz to see what it was like during the hours of darkness. What we discovered was an almost deserted Marienplatz, with nothing open, and a well-lit Christmas tree, which was that miss-shaped that it didn’t look that Christmassy at all; other than for the lights! Our attempts at finding somewhere to eat in the vicinity of Marienplatz failed miserably, mostly because the places we tried were closed for the Christmas period! That resulted in us getting back on the S-Bahn to Karlsplatz and trying a different place to where we’d been the previous night. As this was also closed though, we ended up at the Shanghai Chinese restaurant again, which was emptier than it had been on Christmas Eve and was quite relaxed as a result; and a very good Christmas dinner was had in the process. Stuffed, we walked back to the hotel and called it a day.
Photos for Monday 25th December 2017
Tuesday 26th December 2017 (Boxing Day spent travelling from Munich to Vienna via Bregenz & Innsbruck)
At breakfast, it was busier than any other morning we’d been down, and it was only 0630! It seemed that most people there, were all catching an early train to another country, and some were even filling out their Interrail Passes while scoffing their breakfast. I always leave mine until the train I’m planning on doing gets on the move, just in case there’s a last-minute change of plan. Breakfast itself was as fresh as it comes and as we had a lengthy journey ahead of us, plenty came with us for the ride, including some of the beers from the mini-bar in the room.
Our EC196 0714 München Hbf – Zurich Hbf had quite a few reservations in the rear 1st Class coach but the panorama 1st Class coach, next to it, had none at all and only has us and one other family in it, all the way to Lindau. It was a very peaceful journey and it was nice to head through the snow again in the Kempten/Immenstadt area; to give the day that Christmassy feel.
As we neared the German/Austrian border it became foggy and on arrival at Lindau it was quite think. While SBB Cargo’s Re421, 421394, dropped onto the opposite end of the stock, I went scurrying off to the buffer stops to get some photos and by the time I legged it back, the Re421 was already attached and the shunter was about to get on his bike and ride back up the platform, to the warmth of his cabin.
As we eased into Bregenz, now in Austria, OBB’s Railjet 1116238 was sat at the top end of the platform with the set for RJ867 1040 Bregenz – Flughafen Wien, which we’d planned to do all the way to Wien Hbf. As we were expecting a heavy travel day, getting on at the origin point of the train would help our cause, in getting a seat. There were hardly any people in 1st class from Bregenz but most seats were reserved, albeit with some only reserved from Salzburg or Linz. There were a whole bunch of seats showing “last minute reservation” in the electronic display above them; which was a bit ambiguous for my liking and I wasn’t sure if that meant that someone could reserve them en-route at a ticket office, or not. So, while I plonked Danielle in a pair of seats reserved from Linz to Wien Hbf, I attempted to see if I could get a couple of reservations before the train departed. I was told by the booking office staff that it was too late though. Thankfully, the train manager was in his little office, in the 1st class area, when I got back; he confirmed that we could take whichever seats we liked in the “last minute reservation” area, and we’d be ok there all the way to Wien. So that’s exactly what we did!
It was a nice journey through the mountains from Bregenz to Innsbruck but from Innsbruck to Salzburg, via Rosenheim in Germany, was a bit boring. The train got busier as it progressed, and the restaurant car staff pretty much stopped bothering serving 1st class passengers at their seat, once the train was full. I’m guessing the restaurant was that busy that they didn’t get a chance to? Luckily, we’d brought our own dinner with us and that sufficed for the journey. At Salzburg Hbf, or RJ867 coupled with RJ67 1330 München Hbf – Budapest Keleti, worked by OBB’s 1116201. The two sets would split again at Wien Hbf. At this point, we’d been on the go from München Hbf 6h16m longer that the Railjet we’d just coupled to and had probably covered five times the distance that it had, since it had left München!
As we left Salzburg, we decided that we’d been on board RJ867 for long enough and 20 minutes behind us, from Linz Hbf, was D721 1626 Linz Hbf – Wien Hbf; which had been sat over the back of the station when we’d stopped at Linz. I was a little skeptical about seating availability on board D721, when we got off at St Polten to wait for it, especially after figuring out from the train formation board on the platform, that it was only formed of 2nd class coaches. When D721 arrived with the load 5 rake of Night Jet stock, it was immediately evident that our concerns had been needless, and the front coach was almost empty; so, we ended up with an empty compartment to ourselves for the journey to Wien Meidling. Where, shortly afterwards, OBB’s R2352 1711 Wiener Neustadt – Breclav whisked us through the tunnels to Wien Mitte.
We were staying at the Mercure Grand Hotel Biedermeier, where we’d had a bad experience earlier in the Summer. My complaints to the Accor Group had fallen on deaf ears three times, so as the booking was a pre-paid reservation, we had no choice but to stay, or lose the money on the whole reservation. Having checked in online, unlike our previous arrival, we were given our papers and room card immediately; and that was that. We’d booked a privilege room, which were bigger rooms, with seating areas to relax in. The room was clean and tidy, on the back of the hotel away from the main road, included a free minibar and had excellent free WiFi. Bathrobes & slippers, along with all the toiletries you could wish for, were provided, as were tea/coffee making facilities. Randomly, there was no inclusive breakfast in the rate and it would have cost €16 each for breakfast; so, breakfast from a bakery would suffice each morning, along with tea provided by the hotel!
Not wanting to walk too far for food, after our long, pretty much 12-hour, journey from Munich, we found a decent Italian restaurant nearby to our hotel. The Restaurant Pizzeria Pergola wasn’t full when we arrived but did fill up during our time there. It was a quaint little place, with a relaxed atmosphere and the service was good. The spag-bol was excellent and the Tiramisu that followed, even better! It was a very satisfying meal but one that finished us off for the day; it wasn’t a late night, which was becoming a theme on this trip…
Wednesday 27th December 2017 (A relaxing day in Vienna with lunch in Bratislava)
Early nights always resulted in one thing, a lack of sleep the following morning and being up at the crack of dawn! This morning was no exception, and even though my alarm was set for 5am, I was up before it and creeping around the room in the pitch black, trying to get dressed quietly; before I tiptoed out of the room and hot footed it to Wien Mitte to cover the whole of the morning peak services, through the Wien Tunnels.
The highlight of the morning had to be watching people trying to carry 50-inch, plus, sized TV’s down the escalators and onto the morning peak trains. When I eventually headed back upstairs at Mittle station, I realised where they were all coming from, as there seemed to be quite a gathering of large TV’s, right outside the entrance to the shopping centre above Mitte station. Some people even had two, and god only knows how they were going to carry them as they were huge, including their box. As I walked into the shopping centre, I was glad that the large supermarket, just opposite the main doors was open and breakfast was sought from one of the bakeries before heading back to the hotel to deliver it. A well-deserved couple of croissants and a cuppa later, we were heading back out; and were off to Bratislava for dinner, because we could!
Unfortunately, the sets on the Wien Hbf – Bratislava Hlavna Stanica services don’t have any 1st class, so we had to slum it in 2nd. When we got on at the front it was empty, by the time the train departed it was full and standing; apart from two seats in the bay opposite us. Some well-to-do ignorant ada managed to keep the bay to her husband and herself by spreading out all her bags and coats, and then telling some girls that the seats were occupied, when she asked. The 70-minute journey flew by and it was quite a pleasant day as we breezed through the countryside, and upon arrival into Bratislava H.S. we set off in search of a place which would apparently offer some of the best food in Bratislava; but not the best service!
The Primo Amore Pizzeria is only a short walk from the Presidential Palace and took us a steady 15 minutes to reach from Bratislava station. From the outside the place looks like a bit of a dive, and to be honest, once through the door impressions didn’t change much. The place gives the initial impression of a local café, until you look around the corner to find other areas to sit. I was a little skeptical that food was being served initially and asked the staff for a couple of menus, to see what was on offer before we sat down, that brought the first scowl, and when we picked our stuff up to move around the corner, that brought the second. Had I been in the right frame of mind, we’d have walked out then, and I even said to the staff that it wouldn’t hurt to smile! We only stayed as I was adamant at that point, that they were going to do some work, and serve us whether they liked it or not! Attitudes didn’t improve much when we ordered our food and that didn’t change, right up to the moment we left. The food turned out to be average at best, the service was absolutely shocking, and we left vowing to never return. The one thing that we can say, is that the restaurant’s toilets are nowhere near as shocking as people’s reviews make out!
Back in Wien, later that evening, we wanted to have a look at St Stephens Cathedral, to see how it looked at Christmas, and were a little disappointed with what we found. Not a Christmas light in sight, and to be honest, it couldn’t have been less Christmassy if it tried! There wasn’t even a Christmas tree in the vicinity, not on the side we walked up to anyway, so we ambled back towards the hotel and called in at a place we’d used before, Da Capo Pizzeria. To say it was wedged was an understatement, but thankfully space was found for us and we had the pleasure of being beside an Asian couple, who spent €50 on a small bottle of wine, only for the dregs to end up being poured into the woman’s remaining pasta; which she’d been shoving around her plate for the previous 10 minutes. Her husband should have been the size of a sumo wrestler after finishing every course she had put in front of her, as well as his own, and drinking the wine and beer that they’d had too. We were content with our very good pizzas and my tiramisu finished off a good evening out; with our whole bill coming to less than the bottle of wine on the adjacent table!
Back at the hotel, we were packing again. The following day we were moving on once again, for the last time of the trip, to Budapest, and would end up back in the UK before we knew it.
Thursday 28th December 2017 (Heading from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary)
Breakfast was sought from the bakery near Mitte station and there was time for a bit of relaxation before we had to bid Vienna farewell. I’d had grand plans of getting to Hungary via many weird and wonderful routes, including into Slovakia and walking over the border from Komarno, Slovakia to Komarom, Hungary, and then onwards to Budapest, or via Wiener Neustadt to Sopron and then onwards to Budapest via Gyor. In the end though, with trains starting to become wedged with people getting to where they needed to be for the New Year, common sense prevailed; and a wise plan was hatched.
I’d decided on the 1140 Railjet departure from Wien Hbf, direct to Budapest and get the most out of our 1st class travel benefit. A brainwave had us heading to Meidling to get on there, which would give us a bit of bonus time to find a seat if the train was full and that bonus time was just what we needed as there weren’t any free seats in 1st class from Wien Hbf. When I walked down to check the loco on the rear Railjet set at Wien Hbf, it was absolute carnage on the platform. People were queuing out of the doors in the 2nd class, which resulted in us departing about 30’ late from Wien Hbf; after announcements had been made for all those without reservations to leave the train and wait for the next service! Security staff had been deployed on the platform to manage the situation, it was full and standing in 1st class, so god only knows what type of wedge-out was occurring in steerage.
On departure from Wien Hbf, the flustered restaurant car staff came through 1st class taking orders and 15 minutes later I had a very good chilly chicken delivered to my seat and Danielle had a nice panini. As soon as we entered Hungary, at Hegyeshalom, the tone on board changed as the Hungarian train crew got to grips with the train, in their usual antagonistic manner. They’re too keen for their own good, and when people are already stressed with standing up, a good bit of customer service wouldn’t go amiss. But no, by Gyor they’d managed to throw one poor guy off the train, who clearly had a ticket on his phone but according to the crew e-tickets are allowed in Austria but not accepted in Hungary. They wanted to charge him over €40 for a new ticket, which quite rightly he wasn’t too keen on. When push came to shove, after the doors had opened at Gyor, he relented and attempted to buy a ticket from the ignorant crew, who basically shunned him and very impolitely told him to get off the train. At that point I’d have been a lot less calm than he was and if he’d spent less time trying to force the point, he could have been on the train immediately behind, having spent a lot, lot, less money on a ticket to Budapest. Shortly after departure from Gyor it was the restaurant car girl’s that started to get stressed and have people’s frustration thrown their way. People standing in 1st class pretty much demanded seats, when clearly there weren’t any and all the poor girls could do was tell them they couldn’t help as all they did was deal with the restaurant. I added to their woes when they asked me to pay my bill, but then wouldn’t accept card payments. I had no Hungarian money at this point and was about 50c short in Euro’s. When she told me I still had to pay the rest, I offered English money as an alternative, but she told me I had to pay in Euro’s; I think she got the message when I stressed the fact that she was in possession of all the Euro’s I had, and I wasn’t going to manufacture any out of thin air, nor was I going to start begging for some!
Despite the wedge-factor on board, having recovered a fair bit of time along the way, all of it was lost again as we approached Kelenfold. Initially, it wasn’t evident what was causing the delay, and the ever-helpful Hungarian crew weren’t in the mood to advertise why over the PA, even if I couldn’t understand a word they might have said. When we got on the move though, the mass of emergency services parked by the railway, alongside the front end of another Railjet set, which looked to be heading out of Budapest, gave the impression that it might well have been involved in a fatality. Having trickled by at walking pace, we were soon up to line speed again after the incident and then soon slowing down for Kelenfold. Upon arrival into Budapest Keleti, we were among the first off the train and I was straight up to the nearest ATM to get some Hungarian Florint. While withdrawing my cash, I hadn’t noticed the queue building up behind me, and when we walked away it was at least 10-deep! Had anyone cared to look, they could have saved themselves some time by using one of the many other ATM’s scattered around Budapest Keleti station.
Our hotel, the Novotel Budapest Centrum, was about a 10-minute walk, straight up the road from Keleti station. Again, I’d checked in online and after walking in, we were soon heading to our room as a result. We’d been spoilt by our previous two hotels on the trip, but the room wasn’t a bad one, it had a little road noise as it overlooked the main road, and the bed was only about a foot off the floor; other than that, it was clean, had tea/coffee making facilities and good WiFi. Breakfast was included in the room rate and we had yet another welcome drink voucher, which we never used, thanks to my Accor membership status.
As usual, while i spent a bit of time doing trains of an afternoon, Danielle had been scouting out places to eat while I’d been out and a cracking choice she came up with. A nice Italian restaurant, tucked away down a side street, about 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel. The Il Terzo Cerchio was already in full swing when we got there, and it looked like we might be out of luck. The staff sounded disappointed to only be able to offer us a table downstairs, but it was a smaller room than the upstairs and was a lot more peaceful, with less background noise. I’d been banging on to Danielle about Rigatoni Al Forno, which I’d had at a restaurant in the Ukraine earlier in the year, and bless her, she’d been through the menu while waiting for me to get back; and it was only bloody on it! That was me sorted!
The food was very good, Tiramisu obviously followed the main course, and the waiter was excellent. It was a rather nice evening out and as we left, people were queuing out of the door to wait for tables to become available; which would unfortunately be us the following two nights! As we walked back through the underpass, where the access to Blaha Lujza Metro is, there were still people slumming it in the underpass; seemingly having made up a mini home for themselves, with beds, covers, clothes and food parcels that had been left by people; but they were all drowning their sorrows on strong beer.
We had a relaxing morning to look forward to and didn’t feel the need for an alarm to get us up; but set one anyway, just in case we managed to stay asleep long enough to not make it down in time for breakfast.
Friday 29th December 2017 (A day in Budapest, including a visit to the Children’s Railway)
Breakfast at the Novotel was interesting and was very busy by the time we got in on the act. The selection was good but the amount of people in the place had resulted in a lot of the hot stuff running out and the staff couldn’t manage to keep it topped up. Thankfully, we managed to find a table on the upper level, out of the way of the scrum on the main floor. There were a lot of very ignorant people around the place that morning and we were glad to be sat out of the way of it all and couldn’t get out quick enough.
We bought Budapest 24-hour travelcards for the day, which would allow us to use them to get to Kelenfold the following morning as well. They’re easy to get out of the ticket machines on the tram stations and cost HUF1650 per person. Our first port of call for the day would be the Budapest Children’s Railway, which is on the outskirts of town. There are two ways of getting to it, by using Tram No.4 or 6 to Szell Kalman ter and then changing to Tram No.61 to Huvosvolgy. Turning back on yourself at Huvosvolgy tram stop (the end of the line) reveals sets of steps on your right-hand side. These lead up to the Huvosvolgy station of the Budapest Children’s Railway. From Szell Kalman ter, there is also the option to use tram No.59 or 61 to Varosmajor and then take the cogwheel railway, which is shown on transport maps as tram route No.60, up to Szechenyihegy, which is at the opposite end of the Budapest Children’s Railway. To get from the cogwheel railway station to the Children’s Railway, simply turn left out of the cogwheel station and walk up the hill. The Children’s Railway is only about 200m up the hill. As most people tend to do, and as we ended up doing, its easy to head to one end or the other, do a one-way journey of the line, and then head back from the other end. If considering this, note that its uphill all the way from Huvosvolgy to Szechenyihegy.
As Huvosvolgy tram station was full when we approached, our driver stopped short of the platform, opened the doors and disappeared off to the toilet, so everyone got off. He’d stopped right at the bottom of the steps that lead up to the Children’s Railway, so did us a favour. As we walked up to the station it started to snow and it was a pretty dull day, but the sun did attempt to get through the clouds every now and again.
Huvosvolgy station was deserted when we got onto the platform and when Mk45-2005 arrived 15 minutes late with the 1003 Szechenyihegy – Huvosvolgy, that was our cue to get tickets for the return working, the 1110 Huvosvolgy – Szechenyihegy. Single tickets the length of the line are HUF700, with single tickets to intermediate stops being HUF600. So, if you want to break your journey along the route it will cost you HUF1200. The Children’s Railway official website had details confirming that this pricing structure would change from 1st January 2018, with some fares increasing. By the time we were in possession of our tickets for the 1110 departure, which aren’t train specific and can be bought on board if need be, the Mk45 had run-round its two coaches and there were quite a few people in the front one already. The rear one was empty though, so we set up home in that instead.
The front coach of the two had a wood burning fire to provide heating but the rear one didn’t, it was still very toasty inside though. As the little train snaked through the woods towards Szepjuhaszne, the ground became whiter and whiter the higher the train climbed and by Szepjuhaszne station, there was quite a sprinkling. After Mk45-2002 arrived with the 1003 Szechenyihegy – Huvosvolgy, we continued on our way and it was nice trundling along in our mini winter wonderland. I spent most of the journey stood, with the window down taking photos; and getting dripped on as the snow melted off the carriage roof! There was still a slight covering of snow at Szechenyihegy and as I legged it over the tracks to get a photo, the sun even made an appearance; which only highlighted the dark clouds looming in the distance. As we’d had Mk45-2002 on a previous trip, there was no need to hang around for an hour to do it back down to Huvosvolgy and we walked the 200m down the hill to the Szechenyihegy cogwheel railway station.
I wasn’t sure how often the cogwheel services operated but a brainwave had me checking my phone, when I realised the timetable was on the opposite platform to where we were stood. Google had been sending me notifications throughout our trip, with live departures of transport services, whenever we got to a station, bus stop, tram stop or metro station. This time was no different, and there on my screen was the live departure information for the Szechenyihegy cogwheel station; with departures from Szechenyihegy every 20 minutes at xx:02, 22 & 42. It was a pleasant journey downhill to Varosmajor, and we nearly ended up going back up the hill; having only realised we were actually at Varosmajor when everyone else was walking away from the cars.
It was soon time for lunch and we made use of our 24-hour travelcard, using tram No.61 back from Varosmajor to Szell Kalman ter and then train No.4 to Jaszai Mari ter, where the cross-road connection to tram No.2 had us being dropped off outside the Budapest Parliament building in less than 30 minutes. The Da Mario restaurant is only a short walk away and was where we’d had Christmas dinner a couple of years ago. We had a nice table upstairs, not far from a large family. They were no bother to us, but the poor old waiter looked like he could have throttled the spokesperson for the group, who pretty much spoke to him like a piece of shit! It didn’t affect our service though and the food served was very good and in a very nice atmosphere.
After lunch we had a walk to St Stephen’s Basilica and had a scan around the Christmas market, which still had a surprising number of stalls open, with food stalls being in full swing. The official Budapest Christmas Market, in Vorosmarty Square, had a lot more going on and the amount of food on offer in the central fooderies was phenomenal. It would have been rude not to have a rum punch while we were there though and while walking back to Deak Ferenc ter Metro station we decided that returning to the area later that night might be worth it, if only to see the Christmas tree lit up outside the Parliament building.
Back in town of an evening, we soon learned the error of our ways, but not before checking out Budapest at night. A walk down Deak Ferenc utca would have sufficed for the night, which was very strikingly decorated for the festive period, but very tastefully as well. The sights and sounds in Vorosmarty Square were very pleasant as well and the amount of food on offer was probably greater than that on offer earlier in the afternoon. And despite the cold weather, people were content enough to sit outside and eat their plate of food, while supping a cold beer as well.
All the historical buildings in Budapest are always very well lit at night with both Buda Castle and the Parliament buildings well wroth a look at of a night time. Unlike our last visit at Christmas, in 2015, there was no fog blanketing the city and the full extent of the city’s sights could be seen at night. The Christmas tree outside the Parliament building had exactly the same decorations as it had two years previous and looked the part. From there were used our travelcards to head down the river to Fovam ter and walked the short distance to the Bangkok Thai Etterem, only to be turned away as it was full. That was our first disappointment for the night and after returning to the locale of our hotel, we soon discovered that turning up anywhere in Budapest after 1830-1900 of an evening, without a reservation, would result in disappointment. Having been denied at the Curry House Indian Restaurant, not far from our Novotel, then having heard the staff at the Il Terzo Cerchio telling people waiting that it would be an hour before tables would be available, we resorted to the fast food option.
Our jaunt up the road, towards Nyugati station, where there was a KFC right opposite one of the tram stops, turned out to be quite pleasant and not for the first time, KFC saved the day! Not to mention a load of money. Quite pleased with our evening out, and more than satisfied with our evening meal choice, we retired to the hotel for a good old cuppa! Needing to be at Kelenfold, for the main event of the Budapest festive calendar, by 0855, we had an early-ish start ahead of the following morning and alarms were set for 0630.
Photos for Friday 29th December 2017 (Budapest Children’s Railway)
Photos for Friday 29th December 2017 (Budapest City)
Saturday 30th December 2017 (The annual MAV Nostalgia Nohab trip to Tapolca)
Being up early didn’t mean we got away with the morning breakfast saga, but it did mean there was some fresh food out, and still plenty of it left when we got there. Afterwards, we used the Metro line 3, straight to Budapest Deli and were going to do D972 0800 Budapest Deli – Tapolca, to Kelenfold for the Nohab tour, but when 431074 was discovered at the front, there wasn’t the need to risk it on our Budapest 24-hour travelcards. I had no issue doing it, but I didn’t want Danielle getting into trouble if we got gripped. Having seen a few other English cranks heading to the front of the train, I decided to ask one of the grippers to confirm if the Budapest travelcards are valid on “fast” trains. All the details on the website say that the travelcards are valid on trains in the region of validity and the map of the Budapest area has the railway lines clearly shown on it. Nowhere, can you find the actual details of which trains the tickets are actually valid on, but common sense would assume is only on the local trains, and definitely not IC/EC trains, which require a reservation as well as a fast train supplement. The gripper confirmed to me that our travelcards were not valid on fast trains, and since then I figured out from a ticket machine that they actually are, as long as you buy a fast train supplement; which costs next to nothing for short distances and would have been about HUF140 (40p) for the journey to Kelenfold. There is an option on the ticket machines, which asks if you’re travelling with a Budapest card, once in that display screen you can tell it where you want to go, and it lists the available trains that you’re valid on. Fast trains were on the list, with a cost for the supplement, but IC trains didn’t appear at all. In the end, we did the 0810 EMU from Deli to Kelenfold.
MAV Nostalgia had been very good at posting updates about the Nohab tours on their Facebook page and thankfully, I’d booked my tickets for the train I wanted to do almost as soon as they were advertised. Unlike the previous two years, this year MAV Nostalgia wanted to do something different, so in stead of running one train with all the available Nohabs they could muster, 6 in 2015 & 8 in 2016, they opted to run two trains, both with 4 Nohabs on each. There are only 8 Nohabs in Hungary, 6 original MAV ones, M61-001, 006, 010, 017, 019 & 020, and 2 ex Danish ones that are owned and operated by Karpat for infrastructure work, 459021 & 459022. Having had the 6 MAV ones in 2015, I was quite pleased that both the Karpat ones had been advertised for the same train; with all 8 Nohabs having been allocated to specific trains right from the moment the trains were advertised.
The two trains were titled Panorama Fast & Vulcan Fast, with M61-001, 006, 010 & 020 being allocated to the Panorama Fast and M61-017, 019, 459021 & 459022 being allocated to the Vulcan Fast. Not only were there two trains planned, both trains would take different routes to/from Tapolca and each would return the way the other had gone out, so the Panorama was routed via the south shore of Lake Balaton on the way out and via the north shore on the return, with the Vulcan doing the opposite. Both trains were also times to depart Kelenfold simultaneously and run parallel to where the lines split. They would then meet up again at Szekesfehervar, depart there at the same time and run parallel for as long as possible and then, finally, both were time to arrive into Tapolca at the same time, running parallel into adjacent platforms! It was a complex operation but sounded so simple!
Thanks to Facebook updates, everyone knew what platform their respective train would depart from, what the stock formation was, what the loco formations would be and what time the trains would arrive into Kelenfold. I joined the growing group of people stood at the bottom end of the platform and waited for the first train to arrive into Kelenfold; which just so happened to be our Vulcan Fast. By the time the train appeared around the corner, people had been vying for their photographic position for a while and yet one woman seemed hell bent of being a complete twat and getting in the way of everyone; and actually thought she could get away with walking across the line of people, and picking her spot, not giving a shit about who she stood in front of. Let’s just say, it was a bloody good job she didn’t stand in front of me!
As the locos ran by, it was evident, even though Nohabs are very quiet locos, that 459022 wasn’t running, and it was had to tell if M61017 was as well, over its ETH generator; which was louder than it was! Locos not running had been a factor during the Christmas 2015 Nohab tour, but all 6 had eventually worked by the time we got back to Kelenfold; so, I wasn’t that concerned. Those that needed locos on both trains however, were a little more concerned as they had decisions to make, whereas I could sit in the same seat all day and let the farce unfold. As we were only 1 coach back from the locos too, it was easy enough to see which were producing a heat haze along the journey. Let’s face it, it would have been almost impossible to tell which were working just by listening to them!
I’d booked premier class on the Vulcan Fast, of which there was only 1 coach, but I’d booked early enough to get us a couple of side seats together, and we didn’t have to sit in a bay of four with anyone else then. The stock was in good condition, the seats were comfy, the heating was working a treat and the coach attendant was soon taking orders. Premier class came with an at seat service and tea/coffee were complimentary throughout the day; which we more than abused! It was a free-for-all off the end of the platform, with people milling about all over the tracks. By departure time, 0855, the second set had only just arrived, and people were still boarding when the station staff were, very keenly, trying to get our train away. As we eased out of Kelenfold, with the Panorama Fast still boarding, that was the first hurdle missed. That wasn’t an issue though as the driver simply trickled along at a low speed until the other train caught us up and then it was parallel running, with plenty of bellowing out of windows, lots of noise from the loco horns and plenty of waving from one train to the other; imagine that being two crank trains in the UK, with different classes of loco on each…
Once the trains diverged, things settled down and it was a good run to Szekesfehervar, where the Panorama Fast was already in, waiting. This time, both train did depart simultaneously, and the parallel running was for quite a way; and there were locals out at every station along the route to either video or photograph the spectacle. There were a raft of photographers following our train along the lake too, crawling over each other on the roads as they tried to get back in front of the train, with one guy doing a lot of videoing out of the car sunroof, as it hammered along. How there wasn’t an accident along the roads that morning, is a miracle. The interest in the trains running was phenomenal, and you have to understand that 95% of the people on the train were just normals having a day out and supporting their local Nostalgia group; if only that kind of support would occur in the UK!
It was a nice journey round the north shore of Lake Balaton and was quite a clear day until we approached Tapolca and headed inland a little. There’d been a cracking photo-stop, well actually pathing stop, at Aszofo, and as we approached Tapolca, the horns of the “other” Nohabs could be heard as they came off the line from the south shore and both trains lined up for the grand entrance into Tapolca; where there were hundreds of people waiting to watch the two trains arrive side-by-side. And all while the one that got away, poked its nose out of the building adjacent to Tapolca station; M61-004, which should have been part of the MAV Nostalgia fleet had it not derailed, and then been scrapped, only months after being assigned to the heritage fleet!
As the two trains crept down opposite sides of the island platform at Tapolca, I’d never seen anything like it. There were more people coming out to watch a few heritage diesels arrive into Tapolca, than there would be coming out to see the Flying Scotsman in the UK. Thanks to us being right t the front of the train on arrival, I was the first off and legged it to the front to get a photo, or fifty, before the hoards turned the whole of Tapolca railway station and surrounding tracks into a free for all. After which we made ourselves scarce and disappeared towards town, before the locos had even been detached from the trains.
With the amount of people descending on Tapolca, let alone the amount that were already there, the town centre was going to struggle to cope with demand, so we made our bid to find somewhere to eat, before everyone else attempted the same. Our 2015 jaunt had resulted in us using the Dream Team Café, which we found around the corner from the Tapolca Lake Caves; and with not much else being on offer until that part of town, that’s where we headed.
We entered the Dream Team Café through the side door, and not the main entrance, had we done so through the main entrance we’d have been bowled for a table. The place was busy with a big group, but just as we walked in a table was being cleared, so we swooped in; which meant those waiting out front were going to have to wait a bit longer. The menus were in English, the staff spoke good English, the food was good, and the service was good, for a place that was very busy. The only issue was that the large group had a large group of kids with them, and they were all sat on the table behind us. When they became restless, they became a pain in the arse and I eventually stopped one of them from messing about behind my chair and told him to “do one”! This got the attention of the adults and 5 minutes later they’d all gone; leaving everyone else to a peaceful venue.
Back at Tapolca station, we had about an hour before both trains would depart. It was still busy with people and all the 8 Nohabs were lined up at one of the station, in a loading dock type area, with people all over the place. The battery box was open on Karpat’s 459022 but there was no noise coming from it. It was ultimately dumped on shed at Tapolca, resulting in our Vulcan Fast returning to Kelenfold with only 3 Nohabs, M61-017, 019 & 459021. The four on the Panorama fast were all ok and had no issues during the day. It turned out that 459022 had blown a battery cell on start-up that morning. The staff had tried to get it started at Tapolca but failed; and as we departed Tapolca a battery charger had been connected on shed. Too little, too late, and a right bloody pain in the arse that it hadn’t worked, especially if you only needed that one; which a few people did!
Departure from Tapolca was parallel, as was arrival into Szekesfehervar, and departure from it. As we were at the rear of the train for the journey back to Kelenfold, it was a more sedate run but those in the restaurant cars still had plenty of energy to bellow at each other when the trains were side-by-side. All the English cranks went back on the Panorama Fast, thanks to Ferenc securing room in the restaurant car for them, which left us at the only English cranks on board the Vulcan Fast. There was plenty of tea for us though and the journey was a bit more sedate than the outwards had been. As our Vulcan Fast arrived into Kelenfold first, we’d bought 24-hour Budapest Travelcards and got some photos, before the Panorama Fast was even on the horizon; and were away on the metro back towards our hotel.
Our luck wasn’t in at the Il Terzo Cerchio, and again people were queuing to wait for tables. KFC saved the day, for the second night in a row, and we were grateful we’d got travelcards at Kelenfold as a result. Back at the hotel, it was pretty much the end of the trip. I’d checked in for our BA flight home, as we were approaching Tapolca, and we’d attempted to pack the previous night; so were all set for the journey home when we went to bed.
Photos for Saturday 30th December 2017
Sunday 31st December 2017 (The journey home from Budapest to Doncaster)
Breakfast was no different to any other morning at the hotel and it seemed that the pressure of trying to keep up with things was taking its toll on the staff, judging by the attitude one had while throwing teapots onto the table; all because she couldn’t barge her way through.
As luck did, or didn’t have it, depending on your take of the situation, one of the Gysev locos had been swapped and Vonatinfo showed 430329 heading to Budapest with IC909 0605 Szombathely – Budapest Deli; so off I went, and a successful short jaunt it was.
Checking out of the Novotel was simple and we were soon on a tram to Nyugati, where 480023 presented itself on IC1654 1023 Budapest Nyugati – Nyiregyhaza; so, we did that out to Ferihegy and waited 2 minutes for a 200E bus to Ferihegy Airport, which Google kindly notified me of as we arrived into Ferihegy station.
The airport arrival was busy with people heading to Budapest for their New Year and once we got through to departures, that soon began to fill up. It wasn’t a straightforward run through security and my big winter boots had to come off and be rescanned. After waiting for 5 minutes for them to come though, I asked where they were, only to be told they’d be through shortly; at the second time of asking, I was pointed to them, on the other belt, where they’d been for 5 minutes!
The flight back was a bit crap, not really due to the staff or anything, but more the fact that BA is becoming ever more like a low-cost airline. They were introducing a new in-flight menu from New Years Day but to save themselves time, but confuse everyone on board, both were in the at-seat pockets! And even then, hardly anything was available; and nothing that we wanted was, so it was a cuppa and like it! Thanks to a very stern wind at Heathrow too, our flight had to be held on the tarmac at Budapest for 40 minutes and the 100mph headwind, most of the way home, didn’t help. The fact that we were late arriving did help my cause a little though as we ended up at Kings Cross for the 1705 Kings Cross – Leeds; which finished the year off nicely. The 1st class was almost deserted, and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful; and I’m pretty sure would have tipped the contents of the trolley into our bags, had there been room. Unfortunately, I had to work the following day, my first day shift for nearly 3 years. I still had 3 days on our Interrail passes to worry about too and a trip to Germany had been booked, to get them used up, the day before we’d set off on this trip. Waste not, want not, and remember I’m from Yorkshire…..