Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Location, Location, Location

Budapest Train Station

Monday March 5, 2007
Location, Location, Location
$1.31= 1€

In the morning, we up early and out to the closest metro to catch the subway to the train station. We didn't end up buying our tickets in advance, so we want to get there early for the 9:10 daily train to Vienna.

Upon arrival at the metro station, we wander a bit before we figure out that the international ticket counters are upstairs. More wandering and we finally find the ticket room which is under construction.
We ask for two one way tickets to Vienna and the agent says she will give us "a special price". What does that mean? We really have no idea what these tickets will cost since it's impossible to find out what they are online. Someone on Fodor's had told me they would be about $40 each for 2nd class.
Turns out the "special price" is for non-refundable tickets and for two, were 6770 ft That's about $35 total for two 2nd class tickets. It´s much less than I expected. Maybe it's because we bought them last minute, but who am I to complain? Unlike many of the people in the service industry here, this woman is incredibly nice and patient.

Between us, we have about 11,800 forint left. I set out to spend the 800 ft in change (which cannot be exchanged) and two waters, an inedible langos (fried dough), one coffee, and one cream filled donut later, I have only 3 forint of the change left in my pocket. I take the 11,000 to a change window in the train station (yes, I'm sure the rate was horrible) and exchange it for 42 euro.

We board the train, and our carriage is made up of 6 seat compartments. There is an older gentleman already in our compartment eating a very fragrent salami sandwich. He graciously helps us get our bags up on the luggage racks (another reaason I'm glad we packed light). After a few moments, he realizes he's in the wrong car, and leaves. We end up with the compartment to ourselves for the entire trip. It's very comfortable and has 2 -220v plug outlets for laptops. It's nice to watch the countryside roll by and I spend most of the time writing about our last day in Budapest and looking out the window.

Train Car- 2nd Class

Mom relaxing on the train.

At the Westbahnhof train station we decide to buy our tickets to Prague before we leave so we don't have to come back before Thursday. These tickets are substantially more than the other ones, and end up costing 47.90 Euro each (incl. a 3.50 reservation fee) for 2nd class. That's more than the other two combined. Yes, it's a longer ride, but wow, I guess the Budapest-Vienna ticket was "special". Unfortunately, the woman behind the counter was nowhere near as nice as the one in Budapest; she was clearly irritated at having to deal with non-German speaking tourists all day.

Next, we try and figure out the transportation pass system. There are computer kiosks in 4 languages selling all manner of passes. Unfortunately, it's unclear what all the passes are. What's a "shopping" pass? Single rides are 1.5 euro, a day pass is 6 euro and a 72 hour pass is 12 euro. We figure it will be good still on Thursday when we have to go back to the train as it will still be less than 72 hours. Eight rides and it pays for itself.

We take the U-Bahn (subway) to the town center, Stephansplatz where the St. Stephan's Cathedral is. Pension Pertschy is only about 4 blocks away. Talk about "location, location, location". We are right in the hub of things here and I can't be happier. There are restaurants, shops, sights. One of the things I did not like about the Hotel Victoria in Budapest was that there was nothing close by, not even a shop in which to buy a bottle of water. But the view was spectacular.

The Pension Pertschy is a block below the famed Graben walking street and we are there in minutes. It's located in an old building with a central courtyard. When checking in, we are offerred our choice of two rooms, 317 or 318. The first is bright and cheery, with a window to the exterior, but with a view of nothing but the building next door and a small stall shower. The latter has windows on the couryard (meaning people can see in as they walk past) but we take it because it is larger. There is a slightly faded air about the place, but it is charming. For 105 euro a night including breakfast it's a fantastic deal for the location. There is also a single computer with free access in the lobby area. It's set inside an old upright piano with the center piano keys missing and a keyboard installed in their place. I've seen this place recommended quite a bit on the Fodor's board.

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