A few years back, before kids had happened, we were on a journey through Central Europe. We being me and my husband. The two of us had boarded the train from Ljubljana in Slovenia to go to Budapest in Hungary. It was going to be a long and boring 8 hour journey – little did I expect any of what followed.
First up the train we boarded was not air-conditioned like we had come to expect of all European intercity trains. It was a dry hot September day with the sun beating down all around as the train slowly made its way eastwards. The interiors reminded us of the Indian train carriages with grilled windows and bunk beds. But unlike Indian train carriages this one was completely empty! It was surreal.
I was having misgivings in spite of my husband’s sincere attempts to reassure me that there was nothing to be scared about – we were not in an Eastern European horror film after all. The appearance of a ticket checker (TC as we call them fondly on Indian trains) calmed my frayed nerves slightly.
Two hours had passed and I was getting worried that we didn’t have much water and food and was hoping that the journey gets over soon. As if someone heard it and decided to play a prank, the train suddenly stopped – but it wasn’t a station. On coming to the door, we found the ticket checker walking up and down the tracks asking people to get off. It was all very strange. He wasn’t speaking in English so we couldn’t figure out the reason but I was relieved at least to see some more passengers!
We had to get off with our luggage in the middle of the tracks. We jumped down and hauled the large heavy suitcase across to a mini-bus waiting for us (I hadn’t known the joy of packing light those days). That bus took all the passengers to the next station where we boarded a waiting train. This one was more like the other inter-city trains we had seen and best of all – there were a few more people in the compartment.
From thereon the train rolled smoothly on towards Budapest and we were less than an hour away from our destination. And then it stopped again. We saw that we were literally yards away from a station called Haros. There was one more train stopped on another track.
We went to the door with the others and the ticket checker said something in a different language. But we could sense the urgency in his voice. We could see people from the other train getting off with their luggage and heading for the road nearby. Luckily a co-passenger explained to us in English that the train was stopped because a bomb had been found on the tracks ahead and the bomb squad had been called!
I was horrified! Was this really happening?? A terrorist attack?!? What were the odds?? Oh My God!!
We asked the kind lady some more questions – if the railway rep had mentioned what kind of bomb it was and was it linked to a terrorist attack. She said that the man had not said anything.
I was getting really nervous now and the tension in that space was palpable. Some people started getting off with their luggage – like the passengers of the other train.
I didn’t know what to think.
We decided to stay in the train for the time being – could have been difficult to find the right bus to Budapest particularly when you didn’t speak the language.
After a few minutes the lady got up to leave – I was hoping that she doesn’t because we wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone without her. Just then the ticket checker came around again and there were some more rushed words spoken.
After he was gone, the lady turned around and told us that it was a WWII shell and the bomb squad had already arrived.
A blast from the past but thankfully in the form of a damp squib!
We finally reached Budapest, about 3 hours late, after quite an eventful journey and my silent thanks to God for helping us through the presence of the kind English-speaking lady.
I will put up a some photos of our short stay in charming Budapest in the next post.