Train ride to Budapest

If you missed the first part of this story—Käsekrainer—please read it now.

Hunter and I were about halfway through our train ride to Budapest. We were very pleased with ourselves for making our train just before it pulled out of the Westbahnhof, and we’d even managed to eat lunch along the way.

We’d made one previous day trip to Budapest with Holly and Rebecca. By the time we found Széchényi Spa in Városliget, the City Park, all the pools, thermal baths, and steam rooms were closed. The place was deserted except for a few elderly Hungarians and the person at the front desk who spoke no English. The four of us consoled ourselves with a lavish meal at the Vajdahunyad Castle’s restaurant. I have no clue what I ate, considering that one of the entrees was translated “piglets ripped in beer.” What the —?

This second time was going to be different. We’d taken an earlier train, and we’d run across the whole city if necessary.

The future was bright until we saw a man in uniform coming down the aisle, checking tickets along the way.

No sweat. I took out my Eurail pass and my passport. 

Hunter was scrambling. He was patting his pockets and upending his backpack. No Eurail. He’d left it in our hotel room.

When the man stopped in front of us, he had to pay €35 for his oversight.

After he bought the ticket, Hunter realized he’d forgotten something else.

His passport.

This is more serious than forgetting your driver’s license and receiving a citation from an overzealous cop. There we were, two young, white American college students, spoiled rotten, soaking up culture and sending the bill to our parents. We were across the border into an eastern European country, and Hunter had no official identification.

Sometimes, they checked passports, sometimes they didn’t. Maybe we’d get lucky.


Pretty soon, a different man peered at the little booklets, stamping some, handing them all back with a thin smile.

He seemed to take forever to get to us. I handed him my passport. He looked at me, looked at it, stamped it, then gave it back.

Here we go.

Hunter handed the man his International Student Identification Card (ISIC). He started to explain that we were studying in Vienna, and he’d accidentally left his passport in the hotel room. Was that a problem?

The man spoke no English. He mumbled a few things in Hungarian then disappeared.

Hunter and I stared at each other. 

The man reappeared with the ticket checker. They had a conversation. They looked at us. They looked at my passport and Hunter’s card. They disappeared.

Right about this time, we stopped at a station out in the country.

Oh my Columbus and the Seven Seas, those men had guns.

They came in through our door. They grabbed Hunter by the arms and took his backpack. They had unreadable faces and hairy arms and guns on straps. I suddenly wished that I knew how to make a bomb out of a martini shaker and coconut oil. If only I’d paid closer attention to Steven Segal’s recipe in Under Seige 2!

The hairy men began to disembark Hunter. 

“Hey, do you want me to come with you?” I said, too shocked really to even consider the proper course of action.

He looked over his shoulder. “Naw, go have fun for the both of us.”

The doors closed, and the train lurched forward.

What just happened? Where was my best friend? Why was I still on the train? What kind of best friend watches strong, hairy men take away Hunter and just sits there?

I started to pray.

[To be continued…]

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