There is a story I’ve told my friends about a thousand times. Actually, I know for a fact that if I ever have grandchildren they will hate me because of this story. At this rate, however, my maximum aspiration will be to own a chihuahua, so no problem.
While I was on my Erasmus year in Rzeszów, Southern Poland, I went on a trip to Budapest and Bratislava with three friends in March 2012, which is ages ago and means that I’m getting old. After spending two days in lovely Budapest, we bought a two way ticket to Bratislava. Why two way if we wanted to go to Rzeszów from Bratislava? Because it was cheaper than buying a one way ticket. Yes, cheaper, less money. No, I don’t understand either.
We arrived at Bratislava one cold morning and decided to spend the whole day walking around and take the 11pm train to Rzeszów. However, we changed our minds when we got back to the train station at 10pm and we were told the train was 50€. Definitely not what we considered a student-friendly price. We needed another way.
I called Jozsef, a Hungarian friend, and asked him to search for a cheap way to go from Budapest to Rzeszów (remember, we had a two way ticket from Budapest so we could go back there “for free”). There was: bus, 25€, next day at 7am. Let’s go back to Budapest, look, that lady who Works here told me there’s one in a few minutes, let’s take it, go go go. We got in. We sat. The controller came:
- Controller: Ksliufhslifunsfgihsdgsg (or something like that, sorry I don’t speak Hungarian).
- Us: Sorry, do you speak English?
- C: Yes, please show me your tickets.
- U: Here they are.
- C: … these tickets are useless here. This train doesn’t go to Budapest.
- U: WHAT.
- C: Yeah this train goes the opposite way.
- Me: Ok ok you saw we have a ticket, we didn’t try to cheat or anything, please let us get down at the first stop.
- C: No, you have to pay for your ticket.
- M: Oh come on, we don’t even have cash (at that moment I swear the coins in my pocket made a clinking sound cause by the rhythmic sway of the train).
- C: Oh well… fine, get down in ten minutes when the train stops.
This is obviously not the exact dialogue but it was pretty much like that. Anyway, we obviously got down at the first stop, which turned out to be a place called Kuty, at around midnight. The plan was to wait for the next train back to Bratislava. We were young and wishful.
There was no next train any time soon. After a brief exploration of the station, in which I discovered the oldest toilet mechanism I have ever seen, we were told to leave at 1am because the place had to be closed for the night.
Some time later I learned Kuty is actually a town so I guess we actually were in some station in the suburbs slightly away from the town itself, because when we left the station I swear we saw three buildings. Literally three. It was March and it was very cold so we were pretty much screwed, but one of those buildings turned out to be an abandoned (and open) police station.
We spent four hours there. It was really cold and I had to give my coat to the only girl in the group so I climbed up and down the stairs to keep warm. The place was perfect to film a gory horror movie and the basement was in ruins. We didn’t even go there because we couldn’t see a thing and who knows what creatures from Hell were lurking in the shadows.
We took a train to Bratislava at 5am. There was no way we could make it to Budapest and we didn’t want to wait until 11pm to take the train to Rzeszów so we had to take three trains: first to Ostrava (Czech Republic), then to Katowice (Poland), a train which we almost missed, and then to Rzeszów. Oh, and we paid 50€ anyway (plus the train that went from Kuty to Bratislava). All in all going from Bratislava to Rzeszów took five trains and twenty-one hours when it should have taken one train and something between five and ten hours. Ah, I was such an amateur traveller back then. Good old days.