Budapest Keleti pályaudvar looked quite shabby for an international railway station in Europe with lots of bird droppings on its chairs, stairs and floor. Well, I guess the shadow of comfort I got from Wien Westbahnhof in Vienna, the station from where I departed, was still all over me.
Budapest is the place to expect the unexpected, including finding the apartment I booked to stay for the next 3 nights. A free map from the tourist info marked with our apartment and subway locations didn’t do much of help either. The address I needed to go as stated on the top right side of Booking.com itinerary:
Belvárosi Apartmanok, Hold utca 29, 05 Belváros – Lipótváros, Budapest 1054.
Having both hands dragging suitcases, each weighing 20 kgs and the other one 2, I couldn’t walk fast. Moreover, I had to go upstairs from Nyugati Station basement to the main street while lifting my suitcases up one at a time. The actual total staircases I had to climb, including heading back and forth to pick my luggage, was about 100 steps. I kept wondering why railway stations in Budapest are way too stingy to invest on those things.
Hold utca was a long street and having a bad orientation could lead me nowhere. I kept walking straight on the row of odd number buildings to keep me in track. Even though I passed the same street twice, which was such surely a waste a time and energy, the double-digit I was searching for had not appeared yet.
But suddenly I found the Andi Studio signboard, next to the building number 31, with a graphic image of a woman wearing an aerobic suit. I looked up and saw number 29 steel plaque above the gate in front of me. The number was too dark to see after the sun went down as there was no spotlight shining on it. OK, got it. But what now, a gym class?? I really wanted to call the contact number in the itinerary, yet unfortunately my mobile phone credit was not enough to make any international calls. Besides, there was no phone booth in the neighbourhood.
On the right side of the wall, there were doorbell panels with tenant name plates next to them (strangely, Andi Studio plate wasn’t there). I pressed a doorbell button with Belvárosi Apartmanok plate several times. Since nobody responded, I pressed other bells regardless who the tenants were, including Herbalife office. I didn’t care. But still, no response.
I knocked the thick wooden door in front of me, although I wasn’t sure anyone could hear it. Again, no response. I became so skeptical, blaming the website that it mislead me to a place that didn’t really exist. Guests’ testimonial saying that Belvárosi has a very strategic location and beautiful view, where does it come from?
I pressed my right ear to the door, waiting until I heard the sign of life behind it. Suddenly, I heard clinging sound of keys. Was anybody there? After that, I heard another sign of life: the sound of a key inserted into a keyhole. The left leaf door swung backward. I saw a man somewhere in mid 30’s and his girlfriend walking out from that door. What a relief!
I hurriedly approached them to get the answer of my confusion. The man, an Italian nationality teaching in an American university in Budapest, said I came to the right address and it is actually a residential apartment, not a hotel for tourists. Being a true gentleman, he initiated to call the number I previously intended to call. He spoke English with hints of Hungarian words on the phone with the apartment official.
His tone of voice sounded more certain, “So I can leave her there?” The other party replied briefly. Then, he ended the conversation, “Thank you, bye.”
“Well, you know, you should go to this address. They should tell you that in a better way.” His index finger pointed to some other digits and foreign words that I missed on the left side:
One-bedroom Apartment (3 adults) – 1055 Kossut tér 13-15
Hold utca 29 is the company office address, not the accommodation itself. Unless anyone gets the key from its employees, nobody will be able to enter the apartment. Later on, I noticed that the map shown on my paper belongs to 1055 Kossut tér 13-15, not Hold utca 29. That’s why I got it all wrong!
The next heroic thing he did was to walk with me, showing where 1055 Kossut tér 13-15 was. The place was right across the left-wing side of the famous Hungarian Parliament Building. In other words, Booking.com didn’t bully me at all on this one. I was instructed to wait in front of the real building I would sleep tonight to get the key. In the mean time, I received a text from my former schoolmates who was about to share the room with me, asking what Andi Studio signboard thingy got to do with the apartment. I replied that the address wasn’t the one they came and join me instead.
I utterly said millions of thanks to the Italian gentleman who spared his time to help the lost Asian gal standing on his doorstep. I thanked God for sending me someone with a decent profession who speaks excellent English to show me the way.
If only I called the apartment contact number earlier. If only Booking.com gave clearer (or additional) information in order not to confuse me. If only I were a bit smarter. The search of the apartment would take only 30 minutes, 45 minutes the latest, not 150 minutes! At 9.15 pm, the head office woman, who spoke whatever languages that came to her mind from English, German to French with the skills of merely touching the surface, arrived with the key and took us to our room on the 2nd floor.
My 2 gals asked me how I carried the heavy luggage all by myself. Their jaws dropped when I said I used stairs. As we headed to McDonald’s at Nyugati Station for dinner, they showed me descending slopes on the right and left-wing entrance of the station for those who drag suitcases like me! I guess I learned it the hard way.
A joyful reunion with my former schoolmates for the first time after graduation was an indescribable feeling. No matter what happened, I think it was the best painkiller of an enduring journey before a package meal from McDonald’s!
EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!