Stations of memory

Why do trains have such a fascination? After reading From Russia with Love I knew that one day I would travel by train through Eastern Europe, if not along the same line as Mr Bond, but some where in Eastern Europe.

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Murder on the Orient Express – could I afford to travel with Agatha Christie as she keeps us on the straight and narrow, or should I just buy the DVD ?

Murder on Orient

Perhaps it should be, Stamboul  Train, which runs from Ostend to Istanbul with Graham Green at the controls.

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It is not just trains that held my attention, via books, but also the names of the cities through which we pass.

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Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton

Berlin

I wonder if the main character would recognise Berlin’s mainline station today?

If we move on from trains to cities we must use railway stations, which bring back memories of railway stations in films –

Brief

Brief Encounter had a number of station scenes.

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Remember Rick in the rain on the railway station in Paris as the German entered the city?

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How about Burt Lancaster in ‘The Train’, trying to save French paintings in 1944, and the number of stations that his train passed through in an effort to fool the Germans?

For me black & white has more ‘depth’ to the scene.

As our train ran from Prague to Budapest I couldn’t help but photograph ‘romantic’ stations.

Breclav

Breclav

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Bratislava

Doesn’t this station reek of spies and all things connected with the 1950’s?

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Leaving Bratislava – you can just see the front of our train.

Nove Zamky

Nove Zamky – can you hear the Russian tanks?

Veroce

Veroce

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Unknown

Unknown, does anybody recognise this station ?

A four night stay in Budapest and we were off again,

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Our train arriving to take us to Vienna.

Vienna, the home of Graham Green’s, The Third Man, which is another book to bring back a reason to travel by train in Eastern Europe.

Third man

Leaving BUD

Farewell Budapest

Gyor

Gyor our first stop

Each of the stations mentioned have histories that would fill a library – battles fought, ruled by the armies of Sweden, France, Turkey, Mongols, Russians, Austrians, Germans to name a few. Coming from a country that has not suffered invaders for over a thousand years it is hard to comprehend.

approaching VIEApproaching Vienna as we passed large marshaling yards.

Four nights in Vienna and we are off again to Frankfurt.

BUDVIE

 Seven hours, but in comfort.

Cubical VIE FRA Conpartmen 01

Facing forward for the top one and facing backwards for the other.

Inside we had a four individual chairs and a table – plenty of room for four adults. We could hear what was going on, but we were still private. Not that there was a lot of noise, just quiet chatter.

Leaving Vienna

Wien Westbahnhof

Wien Westbahhof

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Linz

A town that has a history that will take generations to forget
Adolf Hitler spent his youth here before moving on to Vienna – he considered Linz to be his home town.

Adolf Eichmann also spent his youth here.

On the other side of the coin many victims of Nazism have been remembered by Linz citizen in the naming of various streets. Simon Wiesenthal founded his Jewish document centre in Linz.

Nurmburg

  Our final station, before Frankfurt, was Nurnberg. I couldn’t help taking pictures of this city’s railways station. Growing up in the aftermath of WW2, with tales of the trials and executions of war criminals in this city, one felt as if we all knew of the city, even though none of us had visited the city.

220px-Defendants_in_the_dock_at_nuremberg_trials  The accused at the trials.

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Frankfurt station, which brings to mind Elvis

Un PC thoughts . . .

Perhaps we should send # 4 & # 6 to the current PM of Australia!

To be PC – No politician was hurt in the production of this message . . .

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress. — John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. — Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. — Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. –Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. — George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. — G. Gordon Liddy

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. –James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. — Douglas Case, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University .

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. — P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. — Frederic Bastiat , French economist(1801-1850)

11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. –Ronald Reagan (1986)

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. — Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free! — P. J. O’Rourke

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. –Voltaire (1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you! — Pericles (430 B.C.)

16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. — Mark Twain (1866)

17. Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it. — Anonymous

18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. — Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. — Winston Churchill

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. — Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. — Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class, save Congress. — Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians –Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. — Thomas Jefferson

25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. — Aesop

FIVE BEST SENTENCES

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

Don’t be a Pest in Budapesht

Check the pronunciation of Budapest – it ends as ‘pesht’ not ‘pest’.

On arrival at Budapest station from Prague we had to buy our onward tickets to Vienna. I’d tried to buy them over the internet, but Hungary’s rail system would not allow this to happen. We found the office for international tickets and entered, only to be greeted by a packed booking section. Every nationality you could think of seemed to be hanging around waiting for a free window. I looked around and realised that I had to take a ticket from a machine to secure a place in the queue. My number was 502 and the flashing light board was calling for 470. It was going to be a long afternoon.
My friend returned to our wives and warned them that it was going to be a long wait. We didn’t wish to go to the hotel, and then have to come back the following day, because this would have used up too much time. After about forty-five minutes my number was called and I was able to speak to a very helpful lady, even though my Hungarian was nil, and her English was intermittent. Eventually I understood that she wanted to sell me a return ticket to Vienna, when I only wanted a single. After a bit more broken chat and sign language I grasped that the return ticket was much cheaper than the single, so I was quite happy to buy the return. This lady saved us enough money to pay for our evening meal! Now that’s customer service.

In Budapest we stayed at the Hotel Victoria overlooking the Danube – what more could one ask?

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These two pictures show the view from our bedroom window –

We had a good size room – picture window over looking the River Danube where we could see the Chain bridge and the Parliament building. The breakfasts in the small dining room were good and the hotel offered plenty of choice, and eggs to order. In the evening we were offered a happy hour system based on buy one – get one free from 5.30 to 6.30 pm, which we used before heading out for our evening meal. They also offer free wi-fi, and I never had a problem with signal strength on the seventh floor.

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Like Prague we found that Budapest was easy to get round so we just walked everywhere. We did do a ‘free’ walk – donate what amount you think the walk was worth at the end. It was an interesting three hours and we ended up at the ‘castle’ at the top. The castle is more a large house where the President lives rather than a castle as in the Welsh or English castles. The guide was entertaining as well as being educational. He was well worth his money. The tour ended in the basement area of the Hilton Hotel. When they excavated for the hotel’s foundations they discovered an old church, which walls have been incorporated into the Hilton area.

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The guide outside where the President lives and in the basement of the Hilton Hotel just before the end of the tour, you can see the old wall of the church.

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This is not Disney Land, but the Fisherman’s Bastion. The name is taken from the guild of fishermen who defended this area in the middle ages. From this area you have a spectacular view of the city and the river. DSC01358r

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The local market in Budapest has been voted as the best market in Europe for 2013, I would argue that point, but it was still interesting to visit. We bought a few items, but overall we found this market to be expensive. It was much more expensive than Prague.

The following day we decided to visit the Hero’s Square and worked it out that it was too far to walk, so we would go by train. We bought the tickets and saw that a train was about to leave so hurried and caught it just as the doors were about to close. We checked the map on the train wall and decided that we were on the correct train. It took us a couple of station before we realised that we were on the wrong train, and we were on our way to a country area. The local station where we alighted from the train was a quiet station, where the public crossed the railway line to gain access to the train going the other way. Unacceptable in many stations so close to major cities in Australia – but when in Rome.

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On returning to our starting point we had to buy new tickets because the tickets we purchased had already been validated and the guard would not allow us back in to the system. There wasn’t one guard at the top of the escalators, but three arm waving guards blocking our way. We’d boarded a country train instead of a metro. A simple mistake because the ticket seller had waved us to the appropriate platform, and as all the platforms were underground, we thought we had boarded the metro system. The metro system was further underground which we only realised after we’d bought our second set of tickets for the trip. Education can be expensive . . .
We eventually reached our destination.
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It was an impressive square come plaza. The square was created at the end of the 19th century to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895AD.

 

 

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At the centre of the square is the Millennium Monument – designed in 1894, but not completed for another 35 years. Around the base of the monument are equestrian statues honouring the chieftains of the seven Hungarian tribes who conquered the area now known as Hungary. The figure at the top of the column is the Archangel Gabriel with his trumpet.

We walked back to the city centre along a single very interesting street.

After lunch in the city we took a short cruise around Margaret Island. Along the Pest bank we saw a number of river cruise boats.

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On our third night the phone rang at midnight and we were warned that a 50 kilo World War Two bomb had been found not far from the hotel. We were informed that the police had visited two hotels, the Victoria being one of them, and that we had to be out of the hotel by 7.00 am as a precaution, before the bomb squad could begin their work. Breakfast would be served from 5.30 am instead of the normal time of 7.00 am. We were not allowed back until 3 pm, after the all clear had been given. On returning, the hotel management gave us a bottle of wine as a ‘thank you’ for our cooperation. A very nice gesture considering that the incident had nothing to do with the hotel, and they didn’t have as choice, but to evacuate everyone. Our location was the Buda side of the river, close to restaurants and bars. We found this side of the river to be a little cheaper than the more popular Pest side. The Victoria is located a short stroll from the Chain Bridge, so visiting Pest was good for our daily exercise as we crossed the river via this bridge. If we return to Budapest we wouldn’t have any hesitation in booking the Victoria again.

We left the hotel at 7.00 am during the bomb scare and walked across the bridge to the Pest side of the Danube and turned left along the riverbank. We were looking for an unusual monument.

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Looking back across the river to our hotel area in the Buda.

The above pictures are of the memorial that honours the Jews who were killed by Arrow Cross militiamen during WW2. The Jews were ordered to remove their shoes, and were then shot so that their bodies fell in to the water and were carried away by the river flow. The shoes today are iron shoes in the style of the 1940s and they have been attached to the embankment. A very moving experience to stand and watch the river flow past the shoes, while your mind tries to visualise the horrors of  the war years.

We had four nights, and three very pleasant days in Budapest, a city well worth visiting. I’d go back in a flash if getting there wasn’t so expensive from Australia.

Night time views from outside our hotel.

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Next, it was all aboard for another train ride, but this time to Vienna.

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Budapest station and our train arriving

It was a short drive from the hotel to the main train station where a porter enquired of our destination and class of travel.
On learning that we were first class he showed us to the special lounge and pointed out the refreshments.
Later, as the train approached the same porter entered the lounge and asked us to follow him.
DSC01468rThe porter showed us to our carriage and loaded our bags in to the storage area. He made sure we were in our correct seats and turned to leave. At no time had he indicated that he was doing anything but his job, and seemed surprised and pleased when he received a gratuity. To say I was impressed is an understatement, when all of the bars and restaurants point out that service charge is included or not included and tell you how much they expect (as a percentage) as a tip, even if the service is lousy. Our porter was a fine example of a man offering excellent service for the wage that he was paid.
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First Class coach Budapest to Vienna – we had a table for four.