Epic European Cycle : 2015-08-15 : Arrive Budapest; Meet Michelle

Type Name Description Service Provider Cost Notes Actions
General Info To Hotel Fortuna $
General Info Hotel Fortuna Map 1 $0.00
General Info Hotel Fortuna Map 2 $0.00
General Info Michelle's plan $0.00 Michelle's Plan

I'm staying at Mercure City Centre Hotel. It is very close to Deak Ter, where all the metro lines meet (except perhaps the M4, the new line, which may or may not be actually running by the time we travel). Your hostel appears to be very close to the Nagyvarad Station, which is on the blue line (M3). You can take that metro one way towards Deak Ter, which is in the city centre, or one stop the other way to Nepliget Station, which is right next to the bus station, where we catch the bus to Kalocsa.

As for the schedule, I arrive in Budapest on August 14 with my tour and spend the night. On August 15, I move over to the Mercure hotel and check in. I haven't figured out what I'm doing that day yet, likely exploring downtown or Andrassy ut (the old part of town) or perhaps going over to the Buda side to the mineral baths there.

For our trip to Kalocsa on August 16, it looks like there are buses just about every hour or so, from the station near your hostel. I looked up the prices online and it looks like the ticket is about $12 each way.
General Info Weather: Hungary Map $0.00
General Info Weather: Budapest 10 Day Forecast $0.00
Reminder Where/When Meet Michelle 5pm. Mercure Hotel - city centre Budapest location (address Vaci utica 20). $0.00
Type Name Service Provider Origin Destination Cost Notes Actions
Train Vienna to Budapest ÖBB: Austrian Federal Railways Wien Hbf (Central Station) Budapest $150.00
Type Name Service Provider Confirmation Location Cost Notes Actions
Hostel Budapest Fortuna Hostel Budapest, Hungary $0.00 Four nights, incl breakfast

Trip Log

Notes Actions
Transit day. Train from Vienna to Budapest, with a connection in Gyor. I hate hate hatey hate taking the train with loaded touring bikes. Wrestling the bikes on and off the trains is brutal and securing them on the train is awful. Hanging them up is the worst, but it's all bad. I wish the boat had worked out. I should have pre-reserved, but we didn't know for sure that that's what we'd be doing. Oh well... we can do the train if absolutely necessary. At least we didn't have to hang the bikes up on either train today.
We took a lady we didn't know (before) on the tour from Donaueschingen to Vienna. We certainly know Gabi now - we have her number, and she definitely has ours. We all had to make huge adjustments to form a functioning team, but we did it. I have to take a moment to say how absolutely impressed I am with Gabi for doing the tour. She had almost no pre-conditioning, no cycle touring experience, a borrowed bike (her sister-in-law's mountain bike), borrowed paniers (her brother's old old set), brand new el-cheapo sleeping bag and tent, and no sleeping pad at all. I'm astonished that the tour didn't break Gabi or her gear. She did the whole tour with us, except for a couple of much needed "train days". Our hats are off to you Gabi, you're one determined cookie!
I'm not crazy about a lot of things about the Windows Surface... and I'm certainly no fan of Windows 8, but I'm super impressed with how my Surface has held up so far on this trip. It has been bumped and jostled for over 2000km so far, through rain, humidity and severe heat, and it is still functioning just fine. It does refuse to start sometimes when the battery is low, but Laura found a process (involving a secret chant, an intricate dance, and the sacrifice of a small mammal) for forcing it to start anyway, which works very nicely. If it holds up for the rest of our trip, I will be even more impressed. I don't expect it to live beyond a six-month tour, though.
As far as train travel days go, this one was not bad. We had to board and disembark from three trains today - the regional train in Vienna to get to the Hbf, the train from Vienna to Gyor, then the train from Gyor to Budapest. We didn't have to hang the bikes on any of the trains, and the latter two were roll-on - no stairs! I still hate train travel with bikes, but today was pretty darned gentle as far as train travel. Whew!
When we got to Budapest, things didn't start off great. We were hot and thirsty. I went to the Info desk and asked the woman if she spoke English, to which she replied "NO!!! Hungary!". Uh-oh. But, I still asked her for a map of Budapest, and apparently she understood that because she pushed a map at me and shoo'ed me away. We had a quick bite, and then Brent and Laura figured out how to get us to our hostel from the train station. We started off angling towards the river thinking that we might take a ferry down a ways, but when we got to the river there was a nice bike path so we decided to ride. All in all it went quite smoothly as long as I just kept my mouth shut and let Brent and Laura do their thing. Shortly after checking into our hostel (which has AC!!) we set out to meet Michelle and went to Monk's Bistrot for dinner. I had the duck breast and it was seriously the tastiest meal I've had since... I can't remember when. It was amazing!
As soon as we left Vienna, the terrain became flat flat flat, and the towns and buildings became so much more plain and utilitarian than all of the beautiful ornate architecture we've been floating in lately. There was one bumpy section before Budapest that was nice, but for the most part, everything was very flat and boring, and we're glad that we chose the section we did to cut out of our tour. Budapest is a very beautiful city, though, and we're getting more great architecture to feast our eyes on.
From Brent:

After Vienna we were running out of time to get to Budapest to meet Michelle so we hopped a train that took us through Slovakia. It was my first look behind the old Iron Curtain so I was looking with wide open eyes. We had to transfer trains and I must say that the one we moved onto in Slovakia was much nicer than the one we rode out of Vienna (but then Vienna has a real mish-mash of gear, some of their trams are very modern and some look like they might be from the 1930's). It was kind of cute to see the uniforms of the staff on the Slovakian trains and stations. I was particularly taken by the hats. Hats are something that I always thought the Soviets placed a lot of importance on and the style seems to have stuck. Ladies with red pill-box hats and men with military style hats with over-sized flat tops and red bands.

The area of Slovakia that we travelled through looked to be economically depressed. There were a fair number of factories and office buildings close to the track that looked abandon or in poor repair. We passed one building that had a Soviet-style bas-relief in the concrete over the door. I wasn't fast enough to get a picture as the train rumbled passed.

At some point we crossed into Hungary and as we approached Budapest I could see the general conditions of the buildings and roads improving. When we got to the train station it was still a bit of a shock (but only a bit). It reminded me more of a third world train station that the ones we had left in the West (Including Frankfurt, which was no dream), with small private stalls vending trinkets, fast food, fresh vegitables, phones, shoes, anything. And the whole place could use a cleaning.

Hungary is part of the European Union but not part of the Euro Zone, they have their own money. Laura and I went down to the basement and swapped our Euros for Forents. I don't know if we got a good deal because the math was too complex for me to do in my head. We all ate pizza standing beside the tracks before Rhonda went to get traumatized by the lady at the info desk who couldn't or didn't want to speak English - "No. Hungary!"

But the train station was the worst part of our time in Budapest. It all got better from there. Rhonda had booked a place for us to stay and it took us a while to find it but once there it was all good. The staff was excellent and friendly and our place was close to the Underground. We got multiday passes and the city was ours.