Christmas time was approaching faster than we envisaged, and we hadn’t decided where to spend our holidays yet. Being stationed in Pécs, a beautiful city in the south of Hungary, our first thought was to take out of the drawer our old project and tour the medieval castles located in the marvellous Romanian region of Transylvania. Family matters, however, impended over us, and so we decided to turn our back to Transylvania and start our journey back to Italy. The city of Pécs, though the fifth largest city in the whole of Hungary, has no international airport, and the Communist regime left the country with an extremely centralised system of railways. This means that in order for you to leave the country by train, you need perforce to go to Budapest first, and then take another train to your final destination. Fortunately, trains are rather cheap in Hungary (so that is not really a great deal) but fines are not, so make sure you buy the right ticket and have your papers in order!
Anyway, we were aware that we had to stop in Budapest, at least to change train, so we decided to seize the opportunity and spend a few days there, since we hadn’t have the chance to properly visit the capital yet. It takes 3 hours to get from Pécs to Budapest on an Intercity train, since you have pass through the entire width of Hungary, south to north. The journey is fine, though, and the sight very pleasant and relaxing (if you are travelling with enough daylight to see out of passengers windows). The capital of Hungary has three train stations, Keleti, Nyugati and Deli, each of them end of the line, so you’d better make sure to know which one is yours, or you’ll risk to get lost even before starting to visit the city!
We had a wonderful time in Budapest. The climate was not exactly warm, but still, it was December and that was really just a small nuisance. I’ll make sure to write down more accurately about some of the best venues of the city in the upcoming posts, so stay tuned!
Once explored Budapest, it seemed to us just normal to go and pay a visit to the other half of the old Habsburg Empire, and therefore we bought a ticket for Vienna. Now, there’s one more strange thing you need to know about Hungarian Railways: they only sell return tickets for international travels. I mean, you don’t have to actually get back, simply they won’t sell you a one way ticket to Vienna. Because of that, there’s a lot of ticket-beggars, asking for your ticket to get back to Budapest. If you don’t plan to get back within the week, and if you feel you need a karma-boost, then it won’t do you any harm to hand over your tickets. You could try to sell them, but I’m not sure it is legal, and they probably will not want to pay any money for what they could get for free…
The weather in Vienna was fiercer than in Budapest, but then again we managed, and it wasn’t a great drawback. We just made sure the refill often our mugs with mulled wine from one of the innumerable Christmas markets that crowded the city centre!
We (mostly Silvia) decided to spend our days in Vienna looking for every outstanding bit of Art Nouveau in the city, and we undertook that task pretty thoroughly. Then, I won a visit at Schönbrunn Schloss, though it has to be said that winter is not the appropriate time of the year to enjoy the famed gardens of the castle… As a final treat, we visited an establishment we were both extremely excited about: the Chocolate Museum! A proper post about that will follow, suffice it to say it was a proper Chocolate Factory, though unfortunately lacking of any oompa loompas.
By then, our time was running short, and so we had to buy our final ticket on a night train to Venice. At first we shared our small den with an elderly couple, but by the time we arrived in Salzburg they dismounted from the train, and so we could colonise all the cabin, stretch out and peacefully sleep, waiting for the train to bring us home.