Bewildered in Budapest: The Kindness of Strangers

When I planned my InterRailling trip, Budapest was one of my must-see destinations. After a wonderful week in the Czech Republic visiting Prague and staying with an amazing family in Olomouc, it was time to move onto Budapest. I set off from Olomouc and travelled for almost two hours to Břeclav. It was supposed to be a 30 minute wait for the train to Budapest but I arrived to find that there was an 80 minute delay!

Břeclav station was tiny and there wasn’t really anywhere to sit other than on the platform. There was a public toilet and a tall potted plant and that was about it. With no luggage lockers available, I had to carry my backpack with me when I went down to the local supermarket. I had wanted to do some more exploring but decided to head back to the station instead of wandering around town with my heavy backpack.

At the station, I got chatting to a couple of fellow Brits who were travelling to Turkey by train! It turned out we were all waiting for the same train to Budapest.

The train eventually arrived 80mins after the scheduled time but as it journeyed on, it stood at every station for a good 5 or 10 minutes so the delay got worse and worse! It eventually arrived in Budapest TWO HOURS later than it was supposed to!

I got off the train and quickly located the piece of paper that I had scribbled the hostel address and public transport directions onto. However, when I left the station, I found out that there were road works everywhere and the bus stop was impossible to find! It was almost 9pm and I was exhausted so I decided to look for the taxi rank – but I couldn’t find that either.

By this point, I was fed up and my backpack was weighing me down. But just at the right time, I came across a bus stop where a lovely lady was waiting with her daughter and baby granddaughter (who was asleep in her arms). I showed them the address and they spoke to each other in Hungarian and then signalled to me to follow them. I know that as children we are taught not to trust or talk to strangers but sometimes you have to throw the rule book out of the window!

I followed them down the road and round the corner to another bus stop. Although there was a significant language barrier and I was clueless about where we were going, I felt in my heart that I could trust them. Within 5 minutes a bus arrived and we jumped onto it. I had no idea how far we were going or if this would be the only mode of transport we would take but just a few minutes later we had got off the bus and I was following them down the road again. A tram journey was next. I sat and watched as the buildings and lights of the city passed by and wondered if I was getting any closer to the hostel.

Fifteen minutes later, we were off the tram and walking down the street again. I hoped that we were heading to the hostel but lo and behold we boarded another bus. I guess this hostel was a lot further from the station than I thought!

Twenty minutes and two bus journeys later we arrived somewhere that seemed quite busy and cosmopolitan. After crossing a few major roads, I saw them look up at the road name and realised that we were on the road where the hostel was!

Finding the hostel was another story though. In Prague I wondered around Wenceslas square several times before I finally spotted the TINY sign that indicated that the hostel was on the first floor above a shop. This hostel was almost as tricky to locate.

I followed the lady and her daughter down what seemed like a semi-residential street. They looked up at the building numbers and eventually stopped outside what seemed like a large old house. I looked around for any signs that that it may a hostel – and then I spotted one – a set of buzzers on the wall!

I ran over and scanned the set of buzzers and then…Eureka! I saw the name of the hostel and my face lit up!

I could barely contain my gratitude to the lady and her daughter (and her sleeping baby granddaughter). I hugged them both and was so touched by the fact that they went out of their way in the late evening whilst carrying a sleeping baby just to make sure I got to my hostel safely. The next thing I knew they had handed me the baby and were taking a picture with me but I was more than happy to oblige!

There have been many incidences on my travels where the kindness of strangers has been truly touching. In Vienna, a man got off his bicycle in order to direct me to the Museumsquartier after seeing me looking lost. In Ayutthaya, a man directed me all the way to one the temples, then showed me a local market to buy food and then took me to the outdoor seating area of his friend’s restaurant so I would have somewhere to sit and eat my food. His friend then gave me fruit and a drink and let me sit and rest for as long as I wanted because I had spent most of the day cycling around the city. In Ko Lanta, one of the members of staff at the hostel drove me to the repair shop after an accident with a bottle of water drowned my phone and camera.

Growing up in a big city has made into a quite cautious person but travelling has taught me to trust my instincts and ask for help when necessary. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and I have to rely on the kindness of a stranger to help me fix it.

Such kind acts put a smile on my face and really make my day. I love the fact that amongst all the negative things that happen in the world, there are still good people around who are willing to go out of their way to make someone else’s day better.

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