Eastern Europe by Train

Budapest Keleti Station.

Budapest Keleti Station.

Finding the right train station was our biggest change during our first day traveling  through Eastern Europe, after a very long flight on Lufthansa from Charlotte to Munich. Our plan to get a wheelchair for Mom worked like a charm and we were whisked through the expansive Munich airport with incredible efficiency and speed. Our attendant, Nestor, utilized special key-only access elevators and little-used passages, and we found ourselves off the plane, through customs, with our bags, and on the commuter train in 30 minutes – incredible. We got our necessary rail pass validation while in the airport and hopped on the airport (Flughafen) S1 commuter to the downtown station.

It’s a good thing we had extra time to make our train to Budapest – because we could not actually find the main station when we arrived . . . . still not sure where we went wrong – but we eventually hauled our bags up the escalators outside, across the street to the main station.

Munich Hbf is a large, busy, fairly uncomfortable station. We tried to stop in the First Class/International Lounge only to be dismissed since passengers (read Americans) with EuRail passes were not allowed. An annoying point since we paid at least twice the price of a locally purchased ticket just to guarantee we would have a first class seat.  Since it is a busy time of year and we are traveling with a octogenarian, we felt it was worth the extra fee to buy advance tickets. In any case, the time passed quickly til we boarded our train.

Although nice, the train was a bit disappointing. It was reminiscent of our experience with Spanish trains in the past: regular seating (albeit spacious), no dining car, only a snack car with no options and food service at the seats with a solo ‘choice.’ Fortunately the one selection was edible and we gobbled up our grilled ham and cheese quesadilla-type meal.

Scenery was fairly routine and we moved at 100+ miles per hour. As expected, we dosed, read and basically transitioned to our European environment during the 7-hr trip. We had arranged for the hotel, Le Meridien, to send a driver, so leaving the station was a breeze. In about 15 minutes we were at our centrally located hotel, tired, but ready to begin our adventures.

First order of business was to find a Hungarian-style restaurant close-by. We went to Dio about 5 minutes from the hotel across the square. The meal was terrific – my husband started with goulash – and we tried pork, smoked trout, and veal. Then we dashed back through the square to avoid the drizzle starting to fall and off to bed for a good night’s sleep.

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