The Train to Moscow…



Last week was fun.  We drank shots of palinka, entertained a new friend for dinner and hopped a train to Moscow.  That last bit might have been the highlight of our year – if our destination hadn’t been Bratislava.

Suffice it to say, it was a comedy of errors.  We scurried into the steaming car rushing to the handful of scattered, available seats – cajoling the neighboring passengers to collect their sweater and book and salami sandwich so we could sit.  We cheekily sat down while the laggards stood.  In spite of the open windows, there was no trace of a breeze.  I realized this was going to be a long ride.  In our adrenaline rush, it didn’t occur to us to verify the train was, in fact, destined for Bratislava.

Five minutes before departure time, the train left the station.  Hungary is a country where trains run fashionable late – never early.  “Excuse me; is this the train to Bratislava?”  “Nyet.”   The unsmiling people – to this point displaying no noticeable sense of humor – guffawed.  Ten minutes outside of Budapest, at a stop which Igor christened “Let the Callahans off the train” we exited.

We stood on the platform and laughed – not a nervous “oh crap” twitter – but a bend over and grab your stomach belly laugh.  The passengers raucously joined us – their laughter only fading once the train chugged on down the track.  We snapped a quick photo of the “Russian Railway” and “Moskau -Belgrad” signs on the engine which only made us laugh harder.  We reflected on the obvious signs we had missed: the sorriest looking brown garbed passengers we had ever seen, a sweltering car smelling of too many miles already travelled, a group of people with not one natural born comic in their midst.

An attendant on the platform told us trains to Budapest Keleti don’t stop here (he politely left out that trains from Keleti generally don’t stop here either).  He pointed in the general direction of the number 1 tram and did his best to describe the route back to Keleti.  Fortunately, Pat and I were familiar with the 1 tram.  We had taken it by accident a few weeks earlier on our way home from the market instead of the 14 tram.

We easily found the tram stop and deciphered the route map back to Keleti, returning in time to unwind over a beer and get all the Moscow jokes out of our system.  Everyone agreed the story value offset the inconvenience.  Not until days later did I realize the misadventure could fill my blog writer’s block.

Still and all, in spite of the laughter, my internal critic chastised me and wondered if our life will always be a series of trains to Moscow.  The rest of me was pretty excited.  How cool that we actually can take a train to Moscow.  We managed to laugh off one of our bigger mistakes yet.  And we recovered.  (It was a bonus that we found a restaurant at Keleti with good beer and seemingly decent food).

We caught the next train to Bratislava tucking ourselves into our seats only after repeated validations that “Yes, this is the train to Bratislava.”  The car was cooler, the people friendlier.  They didn’t look like people who laughed at misfortune.  As we sat down, I told my husband “Alls well that ends well.”

This weekend back in Budapest, after the embarrassment and silliness subsided, I sat down at my desk to catch up on my journal.   Years ago I scribbled a bucket list in the back.  I rarely look at it.

  •  Live overseas (Done)
  •  Start a blog (Also done – I had forgotten this one!)
  •  Read Don Quixote (Picked up a copy on my way home Friday)

On the bottom I appended “Take the train to Moscow.”   How cool would that be?  And to think, before last week, I never even realized it was possible.

Categories: Ruminations

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. I appreciated this story because I made a similar mistake in the fall. After two years of taking the trains here, including the international ones, I got distracted and ignored a few visual cues, and boarded the wrong train. I realized it (with a deep sinking feeling) just minutes after leaving Rotterdam. Unfortunately there was no “let Meghan off” stop, and my misadventure involved a few hours’ detour into Belgium and an expensive new ticket bought from a highly unsympathetic Belgian attendant… while I was frustrated with myself, and embarrassed, there was something redemptive in realizing I could remain calm and undo the mess. I love that you were able to laugh and enjoy the unintentional ride!

  2. You should definitely take the train to Moscow. 🙂

  3. Heellooo, I’m pretty sure the “amost-train-to-Moscow” is why palinka was invented.


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