Hungary – Budapest Christmas 2015
Having heard via the grapevine, while I was away in India, that MAV Nostalgia were running a charter train on Tuesday 22nd December, featuring all 6 Nohabs that remained in service, a rather impromptu trip to Budapest for Christmas resulted after it actually seemed like a better idea to stay on after the tour as opposed to returning to the UK for Christmas.
With only 7 days to sort myself out after returning from India, all of which I was at work for, there wasn’t much time to sort out what we may or may not do while in Budapest and as it was we set off for London on the morning of the 20th December without much of a plan at all.
Booked through Wizz Air
W62206 1425 Luton – Budapest
W62209 1830 Budapest – Luton
Booked through Booking.com
Budapest – Hotel Marmara – is a 5-minute walk from Nyugati station and not far from Margaret’s Bridge. All the staff seemed to speak fluent English and we were soon checked in and in our “quiet” room on the 3rd floor. It wasn’t massive but was adequate, the AC worked ok and the room had all the mod-cons you’d expect; the only annoyance being that once the room card was placed in the slot the electric supply which ran the air-con made a constant noise and would only go off if the card was removed! The next biggest annoyance was that the hotel didn’t have a restaurant, it did breakfast but no other meals; which wouldn’t normally be an issue but with it being Christmas places to eat on Christmas Eve can be limited.
Luton – Holiday Inn Express Luton Airport – is about a 10-minute walk from Luton airport terminal building and is literally next to the runways, with planes parked overnight by the back fence! Check-in was simple enough but randomly our stay wasn’t a qualifying one for the IHG rewards scheme. Our room was on level -2 and was right over the road from the bus stop that we’d be sing the following morning to get to Luton Airport Parkway station. Surprisingly it wasn’t noisy, even though it was next to the main road. While the bathroom seemed to have a leak somewhere we overlooked it; more because we couldn’t be arsed! Food at the Holiday Inn was decent, and much needed. All in all, the room was a little rough around the edges and the duvet cover looked to have blood stains on it that hadn’t washed out!
MAV Nostalgia charter ticket booked direct – approx. £12
All other MAV tickets bought on the day from ticket machines
Sunday 20th December 2015 (Off to a good start!)
Our taxi had us at Doncaster station in good time to do the 0803 Doncaster – Sheffield throughout, the first train to Sheffield on a Sunday morning; and the only one that made the 0925 Sheffield – St Pancras, which we had to be on to get to Luton Airport in time to make our 1310 flight. We were all set for the off when the guard walked down the outside of the train and spoke to the driver, he then walked back to the rear of the train an announced that the train would be delayed by an hour due to overrunning engineering works on the Sheffield line.
Wasting no time, I was straight over to the Duty Station Manager’s office on platform 3B. Needless to say neither the signalbox or Northern Rail Control had mentioned the problem to them. However, 10 minutes later, after a few phone calls, we were put into a taxi outside the station front along with three other passengers; and dropped off outside Sheffield station 30 minutes later. The irony being that we were only 5 minutes later than we would have been if the train had run. At that point though it still hadn’t departed Doncaster.
With a bit of time to kill I tried to get a refund on the tickets I’d bought from Doncaster to Sheffield but the ticket office at Sheffield couldn’t do it so I had to send them off when I got back. While at the ticket office we witnessed someone else having a bad day; but his were all his own doing! While trying to buy a ticket with a railcard the guy serving him had noticed that the railcard was out of and refused to return it; the guy then began raising his voice and essentially kicking off, making himself look like a right idiot in the process as he demanded his railcard back. We didn’t stay around to see the outcome but regardless of his whining and raised voice it was blatantly evident how the situation was going to play out.
We had first class tickets courtesy of East Midlands Trains and were ultimately very glad of the fact as the Meridian we did to East midlands Parkway was quite full and the HST we did forward was wedged to the gunnels in 2nd and not much emptier in 1st class. Still, we were delivered to Luton Airport Parkway on time and soon aboard the free bus, which is only free with through tickets to the airport, which took less time to get us to the airport than it had done to negotiate the escalators to get out of the station!
Luton Airport was busy, as you’d expect with it being only a few days before Christmas, but things moved along and we were through to the haven of departures quite quickly considering. It was then that we discovered our plane to be an hour late. Once the gate was eventually advertised we ended up being towards the front of the non-speedy boarding queue and as with all low-cost airlines we then found ourselves queuing in the stairwell, down towards the front doors. I have no problem with this when it actually speeds things up but we were there for 40 minutes! Without any air, no explanation of what was going on and nowhere to sit down other than the stairs themselves; which reminded me exactly why I hate flying with low-cost airlines and avoid them as much as I can!
Once on board the plane we sat for another 30 minutes before the doors were eventually shut and the plane was ready for take-off. The result of whatever farce had occurred, which we were offered no explanation for, was our plane taking off 2 hours late and we didn’t pick much of it up either. Upon arrival into Budapest we didn’t hang around as we scurried through the airport, through security and out to the front of arrivals to where the 200E bus departed from, which runs from the airport to Kobanya Kispest, stopping right outside Ferihegy station on the way. None of the ticket machines would take money so I had to buy two tickets at HUF350 each on one of my cards, before validating them as we boarded the bus; which set off 2 minutes after we boarded.
The journey to Ferihegy only took 10 minutes and is only a few kilometers by road; which I followed all the way on my Hungarian ME Map download. Each stop is advertised on electronic displays anyway and announced, with the Ferihegy stop one of the more prominent announcements, so there’s no way you’ll miss the stop.
As we walked over the footbridge to the station there was a hauled train already in heading towards Budapest Nyugati but without any tickets we watched it leave as we walked down the platform to the ticket machine. 2nd class tickets from Ferihegy to Budapest Nyugati cost HUF370 each. To travel on express trains an express train supplement is needed, which costs HUF150 each, to travel on IC trains a reservation is also needed and costs even more. Some IC’s have both IC coaches and express coaches on them so both options are available; either way there’s a supplement to pay, which I opted to not bother with as we waited at Ferihegy for the next inbound loco-hauled train.
IC1623 1629 Zahony – Budapest Nyugati soon arrived, which we did to Kobanya Kispest and learnt a valuable lesson when a train, which I now can’t remember the number of, rolled in with a train I wasn’t expecting; which must have been late. It was on commuter stock and stopped quite short in the platform; which was ultimately why I asked the guard if it was going to Nyugati, to make sure it wasn’t a terminator. He spoke no English and all he barked at me was fast train or fast train ticket, then stood in my way as we attempted to board, all the while saying no, no, no to us; without ever having seen our tickets I might add!! Needless to say we waited for the next train into Nyugati as we watched the empty train roll out in front of us. Lesson learnt, I didn’t board anywhere near a guard for the rest of the trip and avoided eye contact with them all while boarding at stations! 16303 1445 Zajta – Budapest Nyugati dropped us into Budapest Nyugati and we headed straight off to the hotel.
We’d stayed at the Marmara the last time we’d been in Budapest. It was in a convenient location, near Nyugati station and not far from Margaret’s Bridge, and we’d had no issues during our last stay. All the staff seemed to speak fluent English and we were soon checked in and in our “quiet” room on the 3rd floor. It wasn’t massive but was adequate, the AC worked ok and the room had all the mod-cons you’d expect; the only annoyance being that once the room card was placed in the slot the electric supply which ran the air-con made a constant noise and would only go off if the card was removed! My earplugs kept said noise out though! The next biggest annoyance was that the hotel didn’t have a restaurant, it did breakfast but no other meals; which left us with no back-up if we couldn’t find somewhere to eat on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, something that we soon set about trying to deal with to put our minds at rest. Meanwhile, we dropped our stuff in the room and headed to the Okay Italia just up the road for some much needed food; which needless to say was closed on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day! The food was very average, compared to how it had been on our last visit, but the Tiramisu was still amazing. The most interesting thing in the place that night was some sort of catfish that lived in the pol beneath the stairs; it only managed to climb the vertical brick wall that lined one side, which had a waterfall, well trickle of water, running down it. By the time we went it was about 1.5m out of the water; which I’m guessing was going to smart a bit when it dropped back in? There was another less successful member of the species, which just kept popping its head above the water but didn’t actually manage to haul itself up the wall at all; unlike it’s mate!
When we got back to the Hotel we asked about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day restaurant opening and were told there would be plenty open for us to choose from and once we’d found one the hotel would ring and make any reservations we needed. With that we retired for the night, safe in the knowledge we weren’t going to starve on Christmas Eve.
Monday 21st December 2015 (Cold, damp and foggy; that was just how it stayed!)
We were among the last to breakfast after our long and tiring day the previous day. We had no plans at all and weren’t planning to do anything strenuous either way as we had to be up early the following day. So when we’d finished breakfast and got ourselves ready we braved the fog that blanketed Budapest and just set off on an aimless walk.
It had been very foggy when we’d come in to land the previous night and it wasn’t much better the morning after. We could at least see some sort of distance but from Margaret’s Bridge we couldn’t see the Citadella or the Royal Palace. It actually turned out to be a very miserable day as we walked down towards the Parliament and then over the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. By which time the fog had closed in even more and we struggled to see the Royal Palace from so close at some points. We’d had grand plans to head up to the Citadella, for the views of course, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen while it was foggy and as the fog and general miserable atmosphere put us off somewhat we found ourselves fooding at the Iguana Bar & Grill, Mexican Restaurant, just to get in from the outside. Another place we’d used before and was very popular with locals too but was also closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!
As an early night beckoned food was sought as close to the hotel as possible that evening and we found ourselves back at Okay Italia. There weren’t any fish trying to climb walls on this occasion and we were in and out quite quickly. Back at the hotel our attempts to prise out of the hotel staff just which restaurants might be open on Christmas Eve didn’t go as well as we expected and they could only tell us about one place, which was a Hungarian restaurant, which we didn’t fancy at all. The late evening was then spent searching the internet in a vain attempt to try and find what might or might not be open; it didn’t go as well as expected.
Photos from Budapest 21st December 2015
Tuesday 22nd December 2015 (MAV Nostalgia trip from Budapest to Tapolca & return)
Thanks to our early night we were brighter and breezier than we would have been normally had we got up at 0530. The MAV Nostalgia tour departed from Kelenfold at 0709 and after a lot of deliberation I’d decided that the Metro would suffice and having picked up a makeshift breakfast from reception we were Nyugati bond before 0600. Single tickets cost HUF350 and in doing line 3 to Kalvin Ter for line 4 to Kelenfold the whole journey only took 30 minutes and we had half an hour to spare at Kelenfold when we arrived.
There were a few people milling about with tripods evident in their back-packs, who blatantly looked like they were out to do a crank train. When a few folks turned up who looked to be involved in the tour I soon realised they were dishing tickets out; and having been told by Ferenc, who’d booked our tickets, that we had to check in on the platform, I was soon mythering to get our tickets. There were five of us in all including Ferenc and Redhill. It turned out we were booked in the front coach, which would lead on the way out apparently.
Nobody had a clue what platform the train was going to arrive on and everyone just hung around downstairs waiting for someone to tell them. Even when Redhill turned up he got the same answer; while it was likely to be platform 15, it may well be a different one! During the wait people were summoned for a group photo on the stairs up to one of the platforms, which we opted out of, and just as everyone was assembled the subway lights went out, plunging the stairwell into darkness and blowing the photo out god and proper!
Eventually, a few minutes before the booked departure time, we were told that the train would depart from platform 15 after all and a mass migration followed. Soon after clambering up the steps a Nohab came into view, then another, then another; you get the picture!? Of course the first thing we did when the Nohabery came to a stand was audit them and we found all to be running, with crews in, except M61.020. The loco order was: M61.019, 001, 006, 010, 020 and 017 on the inside as it was the only one that could provide ETH.
What I hadn’t realised was that the stock would be heritage Pullman type stuff, which was very acceptable indeed and had plenty of room; and more importantly was lovely and warm, when the windows in the coach weren’t opened to the waist! Hot drinks were served in our coach on the journey and included in the ticket price; which was about £12! As with all things silly, like having 6 Nohabs on the point, everyone wanted their piece of the action; which for us was a good thing as the five running Nohabs were all powering out of Kelenfold; and let’s face it a good few of them were going to have to, to keep time as there would be a fair trailing weight if only one or two did the work!
The fog blanketing Budapest hadn’t lifted and evidently it wasn’t limited to the Budapest metropolitan area either; the run down lake Balaton was a good one for speed but we barely saw the lake due to the thick fog. It cleared for a very brief moment and during that time none of us could believe that we’d actually seen someone stood in the lake, up to his chest in water, photographing the train as it whizzed by; it must have been freezing but he’ll have certainly had a unique photo that day!
There were a few photo-stops at stations along the lake. There was no issue with wondering around on the track and to be honest the biggest issue was people’s lack of respect for others while they were getting their photo; with randoms seemingly thinking that wondering alongside the engines was a good idea while a group of people stood taking photos. Their complete oblivion to their stupidity when they were being shouted as just showed what a bubble they were in. Not a clue!
As we arrived into Tapolca, about 25’ late, the reason for the train running became evident as the remains of M61.004, originally to be the MAV museum loco before it derailed and ended up on its side, became visible; sticking out of a wall. It was all a bit Harry Potter with the platform 9 ¾ thing! Horns were blaring from every engine and even from some on the shed; where it was evident that things were being moved around to set up shop for the impending photo line-up.
With there being very little else to do in Tapolca, especially on a cold day, we walked the 2km into town to the main site in town; Tapolca Lake Cave. This is an underground lake, in a cave, as its name suggests. Entrance to the cave costs HUF2000 per person and the entry fee includes a tour round before you get to navigate your own rowing boat through the small cave section open to the public. The tour is narrated by a guide in Hungarian so we asked to skip it and were allowed straight down to the lake and were into our rowing boat in no time.
The temperature underground at the lake cave is a constant 19 degrees, which was a welcome change from the few above above zero it was outside; however, the moment I got my cold camera out it steamed up in the warmth and that was the end of that idea! Which was just as well really as I was shocking at steering our boat when it had my full attention so god only knows what would have been going on if I’d been attempting to take photos as well; we hit enough walls as it was and at points it was actually easier to navigate the tunnels using your hands and the wall anyway. It’s very peaceful underground, the water is crystal clear and the warmth was very much appreciated. Thankfully we exited before a group started to wobble into their boats.
Still with plenty of time to kill there was no rushing our lunch at the Dream Team Café & Restaurant, which was just round the corner from the caves. Afterwards we ambled back to the station to find the line-up of Nohabs having been disbanded and all were set up back in the station ready for the return journey; albeit the front 4 were split off to allow the crossing to be kept clear. 459021 was on display by the newly erected cab of M61.004 and there were people literally everywhere. It was just like being at works open day back home in the UK; not a chance of a photo without anyone in it.
When departure time came, so did the moment of truth with M61.020; and we were to be sorely disappointed after even Ferenc hadn’t been able to persuade the crew to use it instead of one of the others. Also not running on the return journey was M61.006 and the locos were in a slightly different order on the return journey with M61.010 & 020 swapping places. The order being M61.019, 001, 006, 020, 010 & 017 with the middle two of the six shut down completely, without crews in. Apparently as the crews had their family in the cab with them it was a hardship to shift cabs once they’d set up camp; and off we set with only the four working.
Hot drinks were served again on the return journey and the heat was blasting out nicely, to keep us all warm. As it was dark there were no photo-stops but there was a phone call to Ferenc as we departed Polgardi-Ipartelepek, which I got the gist of and was very pleased to find out I’d understood correctly when he pulled the window down and announced that one of the crew had just rang to inform him at M61.020 had just joined the party! Sure enough, when the line curved, we could just about see something coming out of the top of the loco but either way a call from the man in the seat was good enough for us! The tour had now done what it had said on the tin and featured all 6 working Nohabs; of course we’ve all been there and what is advertised is sometimes nothing like what you end up with is it?!
A good day out seemed to be had by all and we were back into Kelenfold on time. There was no holding back as folk just crossed the tracks in front of the locos and stood with tripods set up in the adjacent yard area as the Nohabs set off ecs; of course if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! After we bode farewell to Redhill we headed straight back to Nyugati via the way we’d arrived in the morning, Metro line 4 to Kalvin Ter and then Metro line 3 to Nyugati; it was all very efficient and we were in Okay Italia by 1930, waiting to stuff our faces.
Back at the hotel we attempted to get them to ring and reserve us a place for Christmas Eve; needless to say all three places we wanted to try we closed over Christmas so we still had nowhere to eat on Christmas Eve; and issue we hoped to rectify the following morning.
Photos from Tapolca 22nd December 2015
Wednesday 23rd December 2015 (Cave visiting in Budapest)
A leisurely start, after the early morning we’d had the previous day, had us at breakfast quite late and then walking out into a blanket of fog as we headed towards the old town to try and rectify the issues we still had as regards eating on Christmas Eve. Parliament was shrouded in fog and when we got to the river banks we couldn’t see anything at all on the opposite side of the Danube; the fog had basically swallowed everything, engulfing it in its atmospheric mystery. We got to the Di Mario Italian restaurant just as they were about to open and two minutes later our names were in their reservation book, which was a monster of a book I might add, and we walked away happy that we’d now found somewhere to eat on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
It definitely wasn’t a day to be using one of Budapest’s many vantage points to gaze upon the many sights you could see from up above; so we decided to go down below instead, but not before heading up some very steep hills to get to the first of our chosen destinations. These things never look far on a map but bearing in mind we walked from essentially the Szechenyi Chain Bridge to Szemlohegyi Barlang (Caves) it was the best part of a 6km walk with the latter bit being up some steep hills. It’s an easy enough walk but in the freezing fog and constantly sweating when going uphill, it could well be a bit much for some but there are buses that go by the caves if you prefer that option.
Where very pleased to finally get to the entrance of the Szemlohegyi Barlang and I couldn’t have done it without ME Maps on my phone. Thankfully the next tour didn’t start for 15 minutes and we had time to rest and gather our thoughts while we waited. The tickets cost HUF1300 each and thankfully the family of four, that were in the reception when we arrived, didn’t join our tour; they just finished theirs thankfully. The tours are in Hungarian if the group is Hungarian but if there are foreigners involved English is also spoken. Our group was only four and was in English throughout. The girl taking us round told us that there is no maximum number for a tour group but with groups bigger than 30 things start to get messy; she’d taken a group of 100 round once; having been round the tour I can imagine it was complete carnage!
The tour round was very interesting and it was good to understand how the cave system was discovered, how it was turned into a tourist attraction and how the rocks within it had transformed the place into what it is now. When you’re actually walking round it’s hard to imagine that the passageways were once full of water, which of course made them what they are now! It was a good 30-minute tour round and inspired by the couple who’d been with us we headed out of the Szemlohegyi Barlang and let ME Maps guide us even further uphill to the Palvolgyi Barlang, just less than a kilometer away.
The next tour at Palvolgyi Barlang started 15 minutes after we got there so it appears tours at the two locations are staggered to allow you to get between the two if you wish. Tickets cost a little more than at Szemlohegyi and were HUF1400 each. Despite us being the only English people on this tour, which only had about 8 people, the tour was again done in English as all were tourists. One girl in the group was Italian, she listened to the tour in English and then translated it to Spanish for her friend! I wished I could translate one language, let along translate from one into another, neither of which are your natural one!
The big difference between the two caves is the amount of climbing to be done and at Palvolgyi Caves you’re presented with a note when you buy your tickets, which advises that the temperature is a constant 10 degrees inside and during the trip you will climb more than 400 steps and a 7-meter-long ladder. There wasn’t much climbing at all at Szemlohegyi at all in comparison. The climate at Palvolgyi Caves is a wet one, unlike at Szemlohegyi, which was dry. As a result, the features were completely different throughout and in some cases better developed and more spectacular just due to their sheer nature. There were stalagmites & stalactites, pools of water and even evidence of when the caves were part of a sea world; with fossil shells and sea urchins being visible in the rocks. We were even treated to a very rare close-up of a sleeping bat; which was just hanging upside down in a tiny crevasse. It was only a tiny thing, smaller than the palm of my hand, and oblivious to the cameras being pointed at it.
Having had an unexpected morning caving on the outskirts of the city we headed back to town, which was a far easier walk back downhill that it was uphill; and stopped for a bite a McDonald’s just off Margaret’s Bridge. After that Danielle went to recover while I headed to Nyugati to see what was on offer.
As we wanted to go and have a look at one of the trams that Budapest City had decorated for Christmas we chose to eat at the Iguana Bar & Grill again as it was close to the Parliament buildings. There were two trams operating with Christmas decorations on them, one on the No.4 route and one on the No.2 route; the times for which were on every tram stop. We basically picked the last decorated No.2 to run before Christmas and managed to get a couple of photos while it paused for 10 seconds at one of the stops by Parliament.
Food at the Iguana was a lot more enjoyable than it had been two days previous and when we finally managed to get out, as it was very busy, we had an amble round Parliament; which when lit up at night looks way more spectacular than it does during the day. It was still very foggy and when we got to Margaret’s Bridge we couldn’t see Parliament again, despite it being lit up, and nothing at all was visible on the opposite side of the river. By the time we got back to the hotel one of our apps was telling us we’d walked a staggering 21km during the day; and both our bodies would agree! They were in need of a rest!
Photos from Szemlohegyi Caves Budapest 23rd December 2015
Photos from Palvolgyi Caves Budapest 23rd December 2015
Photos from Budapest 23rd December 2015
Thursday 24th December 2015 (Christmas Eve in Budapest)
With everything shutting up shop for Christmas quite early on Christmas Eve in Hungary, whatever we did we had to get done by 1400. After breakfast a walk down to the Official Budapest Christmas Fair in Vorosmarty Square proved to be quite interesting. Its stalls were very colourful and there were different smells from all around, and some not so nice I might add, as food stalls prepared their best, and worst, en-masse! To say Budapest shuts up shop early on Christmas Eve, you’d think everyone would be heading to the Christmas Fair with the amount of food on the go. Of course it was all Hungarian Cuisine with traditional goulash in hollowed out bread being the most common dish on offer. There were also some sweeter dishes as well and everywhere had mulled wine on the go as well; and good stuff it turned out to be too.
As it was a little clearer than it had been any other day, immediately evident by the fact we could actually see the opposite side of the Danube, we opted for a ride up the Budapest – Castle Funicular. This climbs up Castle Hill, to save your legs the hassle, just off the Szechenyi Chain Bridge on the Castle side. There’s easy access to the Royal Palace from the top too. The queues outside it didn’t seem to be going down very fast but that just seemed to be due to people’s lack of preparedness when they got to the front; as usual!
The journey up the hill seems to take seconds but the views from the top are good, not as good as from Budapest Castle itself, but still worth paying the HUF800 round trip price to go and have a look; just for the views of Parliament if nothing else. We didn’t spend long up top and headed back down in the opposite car to that which we’d ridden up in. While waiting at the top I read about the history of the funicular; which was opened in 1870, was the second ever funicular to open in the world after Lyon made the first, it was then destroyed in the second world war and didn’t open again until 1986 and has been operating ever since.
When we got back over the Szechenyi Chain Bridge we headed off for a mosey round town and ended up walking back through the Christmas Fair and down one of the posher streets in Budapest, which had designer shops on it. By the time we’d finished a bite to eat in a rather handy Burger King everything that had been open as we’d walk along the street was now closed; it looked like Budapest was coming to a close so we headed back to the hotel.
As seemed to be the theme for the day the fog seemed to stay away so an evening walk, the long way round, to the Da Mario Italian Restaurant was in order. Rather than walk straight to it, it seemed like a sensible idea to get to it by crossing the Danube at the Margaret’s Bridge, walking down the opposite side and then crossing back over via Szechenyi Chain Bridge! As I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time but it took a lot longer than I anticipated and we only just got to the Da Mario for our reservation time. The photos were well worth it though; the Parliament buildings really are stunning when lit up at night and we could also see the Royal Palace and Budapest Castle lit up for the first time since we’d arrived.
Our Christmas Eve at the Da Mario was nice and relaxing and in true British style we overindulged to the max! Everyone that turned up on spec was turned away as the place was fully booked. The staff were great, and all spoke good English; other than the owner who just barked orders in Italian apparently. One of the waitresses told us he spoke to everyone in Italian and yet none of them could understand a word he was saying! Either way all three of our courses were good and we left having thoroughly enjoyed our evening. I couldn’t resist a few more photos of Parliament as we walked by on our way to the hotel. It would soon be Christmas……..
Photos from Budapest Christmas Fair 24th December 2015
Photos from Budapest 24th December 2015
Friday 25th December 2015 (Christmas Day at the Children’s Railway in Budapest)
It didn’t quite feel like Christmas when we got up at 0700 and went down for breakfast. It did when we walked out of the hotel though, the streets were deserted; yet something was missing! The fog had almost cleared, although it wasn’t going to be cleared everywhere; as we later found out.
The plan for the morning was to head to the Budapest Children’s Railway and we set about doing so by using the No.4 tram to get to Szell Kalman ter, where we changed to get a No.61 forward to Huvosvolgy. Unlike on our previous journey to the Children’s Railway I managed to validate the tickets I’d bought for the trip; which was a complete and utter waste of time mind.
When we got off the tram we used the steps at the Budapest end of the platforms to get up to the Children’s Railway, which is a lot shorter route than using the road to get there. In doing so I found something we didn’t see on our last visit; the nose end of Mk45-2010 stuck on the wall outside one of the classrooms.
Huvosvolgy station was completely deserted when we got there and it was only after we bought our tickets to Szechenyihegy that Mk45-2002 brought the two coaches in to form the 1010 service to Szechenyihegy; which was actually the second departure of the day with the first being at 0910! It was freezing cold outside and red hot inside the stock, a very welcome relief as I’d half expected it to have not warmed up yet and it being one of “those” journeys.
With ticket pricing being a bit random on the Children’s Railway, where a full line single is HUF700 but part singles are HUF600, I’d decided on doing the first train all the way to see what we crossed on the other set, that way if it was dud there would be a saving of HUF500 each. The fog I mentioned earlier returned to spoil our view the moment we left Huvosvolgy; we were the only people on the train but for the train crew and the only other person in our coach was the young girl that gripped us and announced each station as we approached; she even spoke a bit of English.
It was a little miserable heading through the woods on a cold, foggy Christmas morning and at Szepjuhaszne, where we were held to await the late running 1003 Szechenyihegy – Huvosvolgy arrive, the fog was very thick. Out of it, some 20 minutes late, emerged Mk45-2004 with the other set; which meant a simple out and back trip to Szechenyihegy for us. It too was empty and didn’t have a single fare-paying passenger on board by the look of it!
The fog didn’t ease at all on the journey up to Szechenyihegy and while the little Mk45 was running round it actually got lost in the fog and ended up out of sight for a while. Despite the late arrival the run-round was very efficient and we were only a couple of minutes late departing; and were still the only people on the train but for the train crew. We had been joined by an extra member of staff though, a cleaner, who really was going to probably have the easiest day of her year if the morning rush was anything to go by!
Mk45-2004 was already sat waiting for us at Szepjuhaszne with 135 1110 Huvosvolgy – Szechenyihegy and our run back into Huvosvolgy was completed in good time. I was expecting a few more people around when we got back but there was just one person on the platform when we arrived. Bidding farewell to the Children’s Railway we headed back to Budapest via the same means we’d got to the railway; the No.61 tram to Szell Kalman ter for a No.4 tram to Nyugati.
Unlike the previous evening the Da Mario was relatively empty and there’d been no need to reserve a table; in fact, none had reserved signs on them anyway. The staff were pretty much the same as those that had been on duty the previous night and the food was as good. Pizza for Christmas dinner was definitely a first for me but enjoyable nonetheless, and the surroundings were a lot calmer and relaxing than they had been the previous night.
After dinner we enjoyed a walk round in the dark, where we could actually see most of Budapest for a change; even the Citadella was visible from Margaret’s Bridge! It was a fitting end to what had been an excellent Christmas break; all we now had to look forward to was packing and flying home the following evening.
Photos from Budapest Children’s Railway 25th December 2015
Photos from Budapest 25th December 2015
Sunday 26th December 2015 (The fog returns to Budapest….!)
Boxing Day was nothing but a day where we had time to kill before heading home; you know the days I mean! We were in no hurry to get out of the hotel as a result and pretty much stayed until kick-out time, after having a late and lengthy breakfast. Our big bags were left there while we had one last walk round Budapest; to kill time more than anything else.
The fog had returned and the clear day the previous day was short-lived. We’d been trying to find a stall in the Christmas markets that sold very well decorated glass Christmas baubles but hadn’t seen the guy since Christmas Eve so a fruitless attempt to find him again followed and only really resulted in a mug of Christmas punch being consumed, while admiring the sheer volume of food being prepared again.
A last meal at the Ok Italia followed, before we collected our bags from the hotel and started our journey back to the UK; I’d like to say home but we all know what happens in the UK over the Christmas period as regards public transport don’t we! The result of that was us having to stay in Luton overnight and head home the following morning.
Having bought our tickets and express supplement to Ferihegy we did 6206 1428 Budapest Nyugati – Zahony out of Nyugati. At Ferihegy the 200E bus to the airport goes from the stop by the Nyugati bound platform and one was soon along. Tickets were purchased from the driver on board the bus and we were at the airport 10 minutes later.
As can be expected after Christmas it was busy at the airport; just as Luton had been on the way out. Everything was moving though and once our gate was put on screen we were among the first to it. Then the queuing commenced! There was queuing at the gate and once through that we were allowed to walk out into the freezing cold fog and across to what can only be described as a holding pen, where we queued some more; a bit like cattle being sold at auction. Finally, we were allowed out onto the runway and to the plane, or not as the case was; we were actually allowed out onto the runway to stand at a barrier for 15 minutes in the freezing fog. I do understand the need to move people along and try to be efficient but have I ever said that I hate flying with low-cost airlines! It’s just a chore and pretty much more hassle than its worth!
Eventually we were all aboard and the cattle were transferred to Luton, a little later than advertised. Back in the UK we soon noticed that the crap weather we’d left behind hadn’t gone anywhere and we were battered by wind as we approached to land; and even more so as we walked from the terminal building to the Holiday Inn Express.
The Holiday Inn Express is about a 10-minute walk from Luton airport terminal building and is literally next to the runways, with planes parked overnight by the back fence! Check-in was simple enough but randomly our stay wasn’t a qualifying one for the IHG rewards scheme. Our room was on level -2 and was right over the road from the bus stop that we’d be sing the following morning to get to Luton Airport Parkway station. Surprisingly it wasn’t noisy, even though it was next to the main road. While the bathroom seemed to have a leak somewhere we overlooked it; more because we couldn’t be arsed! Food at the Holiday Inn was decent, and much needed. All in all, the room was a little rough around the edges and the duvet cover looked to have blood stains on it that hadn’t washed out! None of the aforementioned prevented sleep though……
Photos from Budapest 26th December 2015
Monday 27th December 2015 (Not a straightforward way to get home…..)
Our journey home should have been straightforward and after we’d caught the bus from over the road at the hotel, to Luton Airport Parkway station, everything seemed straightforward enough; little did we realise though……..
I thought nothing much of it when our booked train, the 1029 from Luton Airport Parkway, came round the corner with a pair of Meridian’s instead of the booked HST. As luck didn’t have it though, with it being formed differently the coach we were booked in was missing so we had to find alternative 1st class seats. When we got seated I decided that rather than travel all the way to East Midlands Parkway that it made sense to get off and onto the train we were booked forward to Sheffield on; especially as whatever happened we’d be on a Meridian. Then came the confusion!
I couldn’t find our train to Sheffield on the National Rail app and when I did a journey enquiry from East Midlands Parkway to Sheffield it showed us having to go via Nottingham. A walk down to the guard revealed that the pair of Meridian’s was vice HST in an attempt to move people north with more coaches than the HST would have; due to “the” cancellations. It soon came to light that East Midlands Trains were suffering from their own stupidity and conditions and as Sunday 27th December immediately followed the Christmas holiday most of their driver’s had opted out of working their Sunday. This is something that both EMT & Great Northern have in their driver’s conditions, in that they don’t have to work Sundays; ever! This had royally screwed the EMT service as a result and an emergency timetable had been introduced as a result. The thing with the emergency timetable was that it had been uploaded to “systems” and the booked service removed so when I’d tried to find my booked train on National Rail it hadn’t existed as it had been removed! So technically EMT weren’t cancelling trains they were just operating a different timetable. The guard then told me that all EMT tickets were being accepted on Virgin East Coast and Virgin West Coast where appropriate. None of what he’d told me had been advertised at Luton Airport Parkway, or on National Rail for that matter.
The problem I was now faced with was that the journey planner’s only route to Sheffield was via Nottingham and the connections there were plus 58’s or -2’s onto Sheffield trains. I had to be on the 1656 from Doncaster to Peterborough for work that afternoon and if we went via Nottingham we wouldn’t be at Sheffield until after 1400; after leafing Luton at 1029! Once the guard knew I was staff he gave me an alternative, which thankfully just made at Bedford thanks to the train we were on being early. We were straight over the bridge and onto the HST that formed the 0920 Nottingham – St Pancras and over to Kings Cross on arrival to hopefully make the 1159 Kings Cross – Leeds; which we did thanks to an early arrival into St Pancras. It seemed that Virgin East Coast weren’t having a good day either as the set for the 1159 Leeds was eventually stepped up for the 1120 Kings Cross – Edinburgh and 91113 departed 40’ late; with us on board and in 1st class. The guard didn’t blink an eyelid as he gripped our 1st class EMT tickets when he came round and we ended up at Doncaster 45 minutes before we would have even arrived into Sheffield; despite the run to Bedford in between times!
What a complete fiasco, not the best of days for the UK railways anywhere it seemed? 2 hours after walking through the door I was headed back out to go to work and what a fiasco the Caledonian Sleepers turned out to be over the next week………….