11. By Train to Vienna

Monday 1st October

We travel again – say goodbye to our home of one week, drop the keys back through the slot in the door, and trudged up Poszonyi utca to the tram for the last time (Appendix 1 is the thank you letter we left for Kati. ). While not instantly charmed by Budapest, it really grew on us, and now we felt sad to leave Hungary. My pack is very much heavier than it was a fortnight ago. I notice Lisa The Experienced do up a waist belt from the pack. Well, what-d’-ya-know?

The weight is supported more, and is quite O.K. We change to the Metro at Oktogon, to get to Keleti Palyaudvar (station), arrive with loads of time and no forints to spare, and are on the train to Vienna, Or Wien, or Becs (depending on your broughtens up) with plenty of time to spare. We were joined in our compartment by Darien, a Romanian mathematics lecturer, returning to Vienna for the start of the university year. His English is excellent, even though he apologized for it.
We talked about many things for most of the journey. Budapest and rebuilding and infrastructure and wind farms and solar power and politics and taxes and pensions and superannuation and Spain and public transport, housing, cost of flying to Australia, and much more.
Lisa and I were in the dining car having apple strudel and coffee, as you do crossing into Austria, when the border guards and politzia came through to check passports. They were stern and very displeased that ours didn’t record entering Hungary yet. We told the
story of our arrival in Sopron, and how our driver’s car was waved through.They spoke some English. One asked with disbelief, “where did this happen?”
I explained how disappointed we were at not having them stamped as Lisa’s father came from Hungary. I asked if they could stamp them for us now. They relaxed, turned the guns on their hips away from us, stamped our passports to a chorus of kozsonoms, and moved on. This charade probably gets repeated daily.
We were flying to Paris that evening, and had three hours to spare before going to the airport. At Darien’s brilliant suggestion we double checked the airport buses, put our stuff in a locker, and went sight seeing. Our eyes weren’t worn out yet
We bought a Metro ticket for E1.70, supposed to be a single journey, with validated tickets, but people just walk on through, so we did the same. As a result, the one ticket took us on a return journey, and remains unvalidated. We were so glad we went to Stephenplatz, the City centre. It was gorgeous! We had a look in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, the symbol of Wien the same way Szvent Istvan is to Budapest. This is another amazing monument to him. Rumours that the Americans are converting the spire into a rocket(right) are spurious.
After Budapest it was lovely and clean with beautiful gardens, all helped by the most glorious autumn day, but somehow the place lacked the gritty soul of Budapest. There were horse drawn carts taking tourists sight-seeing, (being followed around by the most amazing poop-sweeping contraption I’ve ever seen), pretty cobble-stoned streets and a fantastic gelateria (apricot ice cream sublime!). The Danube is such an important part of Budapest, but Wien’s centre is well away from it, and doesn’t straddle it like Budapest.
Another Church, I think to St. Peter’s, had someone playing Bach on the pipe organ. The city was clean, and although most people on the streets were casually dressed – they might have been in Lismore – they didn’t look poor like the Hungarians. The older people weren’t all bent over and shuffling. Were most of the older Hungarians tortured, or just starved of calcium whilst growing?
We walked around for three hours.

unknown building in castle area
We saw a castle, of course. This was the Hapsburg one. This was the one which made Nicholas Esterhazy so crazed with envy he had to go off and build its equal. Fortunately, I didn’t get the same feeling. I didn’t even want to pay to go in and look at all the silverware. Where would I put the memory?

Great flying buttresses, we can’t remember this building, near the castle.

A young man handed us a flier advertising a concert that night. Lisa said gaily (and how’s this for an excuse?), “No thanks, we’re flying to Paris tonight”. Quick as a wink the young man said in English, “What time?” We laugh, chatted about their festival for a minute, and started heading for the lockers and the airport and Paris.

At 1530 we caught the bus to the airport (about 40 minutes), and checked in with Sky Europe Airlines, the Slovak based budget carrier with budget legroom. Given that collectively our tickets only cost AU$75, it was bearable. The service was good, and we had a great view of the Alps as we headed out of Austria and over Switzerland.