Driving in Saudi Arabia is bad enough, but riding in a taxi takes it to a whole new level. An Indian in a Toyota Fortuner picked me up from my villa at midnight to take me to the airport. Usually I sleep during car rides but in Saudi it is impossible. I close my eyes but each speed bump we cruise over knocks my head against the roof, the seatbelt doing nothing to hold me down. At intersections we squeeze as far forward as possible, even if it means going to the far right of the road to get one car length ahead just to make a left turn. As soon as the traffic light turns green my driver lays on his horn even though there are twenty cars ahead of us. It goes on like this for for forty white knuckle minutes. I am not sure if people in Saudi have no planing ahead ability or if they just enjoy driving in this style.
At the Riyadh airport I purchase a large box of dates for my in-laws and wait near the gate for my Lufthansa A-330 to Munich. I try to relax and read but find it impossible due to every single person watching videos, listening to music, or talking on their smartphones. So I get up and walk circles around the terminal until boarding. Up to this point I have only experienced the stupid secondary search on flights to the USA but it appears Germany or Saudi Arabia has jumped on the bandwagon. As we board there are security personal in the jetway going through on luggage. I drift off and wonder how far we will go with pointless security measures when I am brought back to the present but my checker giving a little squeak as he cuts himself on something in my bag and starts bleeding. Surprised that I’m not immediately arrested for having an extremely dangerous zipper I board and relax in my window seat for the five and a half hour flight.
Unable to sleep I watch some films and eat terrible food on this spotlessly clean plane. When daylight appears my soul rises as green fields and forests extend to the horizon dotted with beautifully blue lakes. After the endless expanse of brown in the Middle East it as if I am in heaven. I stare out of the window enjoying this scene until we land. When I finally move my neck is as stiff as a board, but it was worth it. I only have an hour connection to make my Budapest flight but this being Germany everything is perfectly efficient and I am through customs and at my gate being anyone else.
Though this flight is under the Lufthansa name it is actually operated by an Italian airline. The plane is blue inside and out and the crew Italian, though their German is very good. Again I stare out the window for the whole flight as we follow the Danube, or Duna, down to Budapest. Everything is beautiful. After landing I make my way to the bus, 200E, which takes me to the Metro. On the way out I take note of the new building being built just outside the terminal. Budapest will finally have an airport hotel. It is growing and modernizing quickly.
My bus trip is the normal bumpy ride and switching to the Metro is easy. I make sure to validate my ticket as the first time I visited this city I was caught and fined as I thought I only needed the ticket and did not know to validate it. I take the beautiful blue Russian metro of the M3 line a few stops before switching to the M4 line. What a difference this makes. The M4 is the newest line and has modern air conditioned trains with beautiful stops. The other lines do not and get extremely hot and stuffy in summer.
Arriving in Buda I spend a few hours with my parents who are in Budapest to visit me and get some dental work done. If you need dental work come to Budapest. The prices are and service are outstanding. After a few nice hours chatting and walking around I leave them to catch my train for Csongrad.
I have always loved trains and they are my transportation preference. They don’t get stuck in traffic, they sometimes have restaurant cars, you can walk around and move seats if you don’t like your neighbors and there is something so relaxing in the sound of the wheels on the tracks. I purchase a first class ticket and it turns out to be a first class intercity carriage which I have never seen before. It is air conditioned and spotless. The seats are large and lay back to almost flat. It is an amazing carriage for Hungary and perfect. I have a wonderful time for my one hour trip to Kiskunfeleghaza, where I get off to switch to the local train to Csongrad. A more extreme difference could not be imagined. Across the platform from my first class carriage is a tiny yellow and rusted two carriage mini train. The whole train is smaller than my previous carriage.
I climb on board with my luggage and join a family of five and a more than a few spiders hanging from the ceiling. The temperature is extreme and the air flow zero. Once we get moving the air flow increases to just below a breath. This one hour train ride belongs in an amusement park. The amount of movement in the carriage in incredible. I hold the belief that is is impossible for anybody to stand on that journey without holding on. It is not that the train is fast, it is most surely not, it is that it wobbles like it wants to fall over but is just barely hanging on. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
The icing on the train trip is that it actually has a ticket checker(I wonder who he pissed off), and stops in the middle of fields to pick people up and drop them off. Even more amazing is that people were actually at these stops. I have no idea where they came from as it is nothing but farm fields as far as the eye can see. I love how the world works.
I arrive in Csongrad a sweaty mess, but with a massive smile on face.