Our EuroCity train from Bratislava rumbled along uneven tracks, swaying slightly side to side. Bucolic scenes of sunflower fields ready for harvest gradually gave way to graffiti-laden suburbs outside the train window.
Dairy cows and dried cornstalks morphed into derelict rolling stock covered in neon hieroglyphics, abandoned on sidings.
As we rounded a curve, I could see the immense structure ahead, and the train began to slow.
It felt like coming home … to London, after a weekend spent rambling the English countryside. But this wasn’t London. It was Budapest, and we hadn’t been back here in over 20 years.
Budapest is significant to us.
It’s the first place we ran to when we declared our independence from corporate life, after working in London for 3 years.
We’d quit our soul-crushing jobs, ditched the stuffy suits, ended the 16-hour workdays, and decided to test our mettle in the arena of self employment. But first we needed to live our lives out loud, unshackled from any commitments. There was some marrow to be sucked out of life and we started with barely-post-Communist Budapest, setting off with good friends to explore what the city had to offer.
When our train rolled into the gaping jaws of the cavernous Keleti station, I had such a feeling of deja vu. The arrivals hall was much the same as it had been – majestic with graceful arching skylights and wooden ceiling. The once faded elegance of the Ticket Hall had been given new life with a tasteful makeover.
And the exterior sparkled in the sun like a new penny.
The pleasant bustle of rumpled backpackers shoulder-to-shoulder with heads-down office workers was emotional comfort food for the traveler’s soul.
For us, Budapest was a city of great promise. It helped us launch a new life that lead to where we are now. I couldn’t wait to see what it held for us this time around.
1. Martin Abegglen via Wikimedia Commons
3. Zátonyi Sándor via Wikimedia Commons
4, 5. uzo19 via Wikimedia Commons
6. TUX via Wikimedia Commons