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Night Train to Hell (and Back) - somewhere in Slovakia

When we previously left off, we were leaving Krakow, Poland for Budapest. This trip entails traveling across Slovakia en route to Hungary, and that's where the troubles began. Read on for the night from hell.

We are finally getting used to life on the road. This means battling all of life's everyday distractions on the road. We are settling into a rthymn. And what was a vacation has become a way of life. Small, minor inconveniences at home become amplified on the road. Things are harder to do. This includes being sick. 

Well, sometime towards the end of our stay in Poland, the flowers bloomed and pollen was released en masse into the air that we breathe. That's when I begin sneezing about five hundred times a day and am stuffed up and have a sore throat and producing copious amounts of phlegm. We boarded the night train and attempted to sleep perchance to dream. It was not to be.

First, we settled ourselves into our train compartment. Once the conductor came around, we were informed that our SECOND CLASS compartment was two cars over.  Dragging our scattered belongings, we managed to settle into a nice vinyl clad compartment with completely upright seating for eight and fell into a restless sleep punctuated by my endless sniffing and sneezing.  Thank god for the roll of toilet paper I snagged from the hotel.  In the middle of the night, shortly after passing through Slovakian border patrol, a new conductor came in looking for tickets.  Well, we said the prior conductor kept them, because we didn't have them.  Unfortunately, he knew very little English. Using a map, he told us we needed to buy tickets for the trip across Slovakia.  We repeatedly tried to tell him that the tickets we bought in Poland should have covered the entire trip to Budapest but to no avail.  For over an hour, this went back and forth.

Finally, at our wits end, and threatened with being  tossed off at the next train stop in the middle of the night, we just decided to buy whatever tickets he wanted us to buy.  But when we tried to pay in American dollars, he became extremely agitated.  "NO, SLOVAKIAN CROWNS." Reasoning with him, we came from Poland, therefore we could not possibly have any Slovakian money. Again, it went back and forth and he mentioned the possibility of not being allowed into Hungary. I went looking for help and enlisted the aid of a kind young man in the car next to me.  He spoke a bit of English, enough to understand our side and help us plead with the conductor for someway out of this, which he proceeded to do.  Finally, after exhaustive negotiations, our new friend said to us, no problem. We just have to wait. WAIT? So while we waited, we found out our new friend was a cook in the Slovakian army and that he loved the Chicago Bulls.  

Finally, we neared the Hungarian border, and the conductor came back once more.  This time he wrote 45 on a sheet of paper.  We immediately produced 45 dollars, anxious to put the entire ordeal behind us and be allowed to travel into Hungary.  He sat a bit looking at the money and then counted off twenty, handed back the rest and left our compartment never to be seen again.  What an honest guy...he could have pocketed the entire amount.  He may have felt bad for us, because unaware that I was so sick, he may have thought he upset me a great deal, with my bloodshot eyes tearing up often, and all my sniffling during our conversations.

Well, not more than five minutes after he left, we found our tickets, which had been misplaced in all the confusion of switching to second class.  At least we did not have to deal with it again in Hungary, and finally made our way to Budapest, sleepless and still very sick.

Once we settled in at a hostel in Budapest, we made our way to the local Aptika or pharmacy. Hungarians love their medicines. They have all-night mini-mart like pharmacies everywhere in the city and they are quite good. We went in and of course the lady behind the counter spoke no English. I pantomimed my symptoms, pretending to sneeze next to the plant on her desk. She quickly produced a tissue. OK, try again and finally she understood. Allergies. She gave me some pills called Disophrol with all hungarian instructions.  Then she pantomimed that I should take one every twelve hours. And I am sure that they are illegal in the US.  There are so many restrictions in the US, that over the counter drugs are useless, but here, they give you anything. Whatever it is, it works.  And I am once again well (as long as I stay on drugs.)

next time: budapest (buda or pest? - you make the call)

over and out

ann-marie and doug


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