I survived the night train from Belgrade to Budapest. Scheduled to leave at 925pm, we left around 1020. Zasto? Not quite sure, but I spent the time practicing my Serbian on one of the other women in my compartment. Previously, I had been warned about the low-speed, the frequent stops, the shady characters, and the filth, but I was not warned about the down right Frigid conditions on the train! I know its winter, but can’t they put some kind of heater on board? Out of pure desperation, I ended up putting on all my layers from my weekend backpack, 3 pairs of socks, leggings underneath my pants, boots, scarf, and 2 extra tops. But even with my jacket and my thin blanket I brought from my Lufthansa flight, I was still shivering! At Midnight, the trainmaster came around and checked our tickets. At 3am, they checked our passports. At this point, I was up writing, too cold to sleep. I’ve decided to remove the verb “DHRTATI” “To Shiver” from my “Too obscure to be useful” list, and add it to my general vocabulary stack.
As a bid for optimism, I’ve decided this experience would be much more bearable if it was branded, in the American fashion. We brand everything, yes its annoying, but I think a little merriment and a hot cocoa stand would really go a long way in a situation such as this. They could spin it like we were on a long ski trip gondola ride, but without the skiing at the end of course. They could sell roasted chesnuts and hot cider in the aisles, and how about those little pouches that you shake to keep your hands and feet warm? They could even sell blankets and pillows for a few hundred dinar like on the airlines. And what about a brand of winter wear boasting the slogan “I Survived the Night Train from Belgrade to Budapest!”
By 345am, My passport was checked again and this time stamped. It’s now that I’m considering calisthenics while wearing my backpack in my now empty compartment, hoping that this exercise could bring me a little respite from the cold. I’m also eating all the food in my pack in hopes that the digestive process may create some body warmth. Survival Mode? Da.
And all this for a weekend in Budapest and another stamp in my passport. Worth it? I hope so.
At 4am, a loud mouthed security guard was going through the cars demanding that people stop smoking and take their feet on the seats. Really? I mean, I understand trying to keep a train nice, but maybe instead of investing in a guard to prevent people from propping their feet up on a filthy, cold, night train, they could invest in a heating system. Actually, they could create individual divergent ducts running off of the main exhaust that heated a good metal plate conductor attached to each compartment wall. This way each compartment could get a little rudimentary ambient heat. Another set of jobs coming your way Eastern Europe…Think About It!
When I finally managed to get an hour and half of sleep, I woke up with completely numb toes. Despite my efforts, they remained numb for a few hours after I arrived in Budapest. I was really starting to get concerned at this point. Once I arrived, I exchanged some money, got a hot coffee, and found my way to the bus stop, and then a hostel. Budapest was desperately cold and rainy, and I was exhausted from my freezing, sleepless, night on the train, but I didn’t have much time in Budapest and I was determined to make the most of it. So let the weekend begin!