That’s right, Budapest. (The s makes a “sh” sound in Hungarian.) We were considering the cost of train tickets from Maribor to Prague or to Budapest, and Budapest won. It turned out that return ticket was actually cheaper than one-way, so we reasoned we would probably run across someone who was on their way to Slovenia and we could sell them our return segment. The beauty of not planning ahead and having more time than money is that you can look at each other, say “why not Budapest?”
One great thing that happened back in Maribor is that we picked up a stray Australian named Leah. We met her briefly at our last guesthouse, then we were pleasantly surprised to find her sitting on the platform waiting for the train to Budapest. She was traveling Europe solo in between high school and college and had all the spunky free spirit you’d expect from an 18 year old, blended with mature and nurturing qualities that always made us forget that we’re closer to twice her age. Leah’s friend Sky, an equally sweet person whom she met the month prior in Turkey, flew from Rome to join us a few days later. The four of us soon became a traveling family and we had heaps of fun with our newly adopted sisters.
The ride from Maribor to Budapest was our favorite train trip so far. We had the entire compartment to ourselves, and we reclined all the seats and chatted and read our books and ate our snacks for the next eight hours. Hungary looks a lot like Iowa, and it was easy to pretend that we were not in Europe at all and instead traveling on the hopefully-someday-soon-to-be-reality Iowa passenger rail route.
Budapest! The glorious merger of the cities Buda and Pest on either side of the Danube. We were always looking up at the architecture and finding it looking back down at us.