Sunday, February 18, 2007

Day of Castles

Imagine what you were doing at 5 am yesterday morning. I was crazy enough to be getting on a train . It turned out to be an awesome day, but it made for an early start. Destination: three castles in Northern Hungary (well later I found out one was in Slovakia).

Eric and I headed out of Keleti Railroud Station at 5 am and had a two hour train ride to Salgotarjan - which I could almost pronounce by the end of the day - something like shawl-got-tar-yan. First we had to stop in this town called Sixty, aptly named because it was exactly sixty kilometers from Budapest. We had six minutes to make our connection, so for about twenty minutes in my head i was practicing how to say: Where is the train going to Salgotarjan. Eric and I hopped off and on to a random train. We asked the first lady we saw, and she's like no and tells us the correct platform. So we sprint to our train, jump on and collapse into our seats. After about five minutes the man we had been sitting next to on our last train calmly walks onto the train. We felt like idiots.

The rest of the train ride was pretty calm and we arrived in Communist utopia on schedule. By communist utopia I mean a town of mines, tall ugly buildings, and lots of public transportation. This town was ugly. I would put up a picture, but I didn't even take any it was so bad.

So its 7 am and we're looking for a castle. I convince Eric that this hill next to the train station has a castle on it. He's kind of reticent, but agrees to the climb. Instead we end up doing the stations of the cross and end with three crosses on the top of the hill. I suppose its fitting for this time of year. Remeber its about 8 am and there is absolutely no one around. Eric kept thinking we were going to get attacked by the makers of the Blair Witch Project, but the only man we saw is no longer living...

Mad I can't find the castle, I start trapsing through a field of prickly bushes. Eric gets tired of this and takes the lead. After we return to the main road and hike out of town a few kilometers we come to this hill with a couple of rocks on top of it. It happens to be next to a bus station with some people waiting. Not to be thwarted, we ask where the castle is. Here's the conversation.

Me: Hol van a var (Where is the castle)
Old lady: Ez (That's it - pointing to the hill with rocks)
Me and Eric: Look at her with contempt
Old lady: Ez, Ez, Ez
Me and Eric: Koszonom szepen (Thank you very much)

We were stunned, but when we climbed up on to the so-called castle, we found it had its merits. After a short tour here, we went back for a tour of the communist uptopia. After about ten minutes we were through, but had to wait over an hour for a bus to the next castle. This is when Eric confesses he has never had a McDonalds breakfast. So I treat him to his first one ever, and I must say it was good but definitely not up to American standards.

Well after waiting twenty minutes for the bus, i really had to pee. I go into this little cafe, and then of course the bus comes. Eric calls me but the bus driver is anxious to leave. This guy was pretty nice and sees Eric scrambling so he waits as I run, like i'm in a movie, out of the restaurant and on to the bus. We tell the guy where we want to go. We have no idea where to get off and we can see the caslte on a hill really far away. Thinking we could hike to it from whereever, we just wait. About half way through the ride, the driver gets up, walks to the back of the bus and asks us if we're going to the castle. We say yes and he's like, ok, and goes back to driving. This was really nice cuz now we had confidence we would know where to get off. Once we saw this first castle, it made the whole trip worth it. It was awesome. One small problem, it was in Slovakia.
We walked the little way up to the castle and we were thinking about how to get in. The book said we had to hike to Slovakia and then hike 3 km up a hill to get in. I wasn't about to do that. Instead we found this sign that said the castle was open to anyone of the EU or of Switzerland. Well I said screw that and walked in anyway. If we got caught, we would just pretend to be Irish and Eric could show them his passport. So after last week's unhappy defeat, I had finally triumphed over Slovakia. I took a walk through the ungaureded, open gate like Sean Connery walking off Alcatraz in The Rock. Take that. We toured around the castle and had a grand time. Eric bet me 1000 euro to jump out on this rotten beam about 3 stories above a dungeon, but I felt bad taking his money so I agreed not to do it.

From here we didn't know how to get to the other castle. We figured we'd just get on the first bus that came and see where it took us. We got to a random town, and found another bus to the other castle, but this involved lots of waiting. Finally the other bus came after someone test driving a Corolla just about ran us over. We made it to the other castle which wasn't as cool but the views were absolutely stunning. We could see for miles around. We saw the ugliness of our communist utopia city, we saw the little village and the other castle, and we even saw all of Slovakia and the mountains that border with Poland. I cannot even describe how cool the view was.

After a while at this castle enjoying the views, we again got another bus back to communist utopia. We had about 50 minutes before our train so Eric deamnded some pizza. The pizza was pretty bad but at least it filled us up and cost about $2.50 for a large.
Our next destination was a Buddhist Monastery that was consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1992. Ok so that sounds really cool, and I bet its really fun to visit - I'll have to wait to find out. Eric fell asleep on the train and I'm an idiot. We weren't sure about the stop, but got off anyway. We asked this incredibly drunk man if we were in the right place, he said no, it was a different city. So we're like SHIT! and hop on the train as the doors shut. About five minutes later at the next stop we realize it was the right stop, but now it was too late. Getting another train and bus and train and what not would have left us stranded. Instead we decided to end our long and exhausting day. Again we made the six minute connection but this time we looked like pros. The use of Hungarian though is proving mightily useful in such situations.

Then for the last train we enjoyed the music of some girl's ipod whose eardrums no longer work. All in all a very good day of seeing castles. Hopefully I'll be up for seeing some towns or palaces later on.

1 comment:

Eric(K) said...

wait a minute i told you that the big rock was a castle you didnt believe me though