En Route to Tbilisi #2: Vienna to Budapest
Leaving Switzerland at an inhumane morning hour combined with the inhumane Railjet seating poses challenge two of this trip: Sleep. Vienna appears as blurry as its historical occidental borders (remember the defeat of the Ottoman Empire there only dating back to the 17th century) and multicultural mandate. Picture this: Vienna's new main station (a corporate disaster which better had remained the infinite construction site akin to Berlin's new main airport), cold grey surfaces blending into a cold grey sky blending into a neat row of cold grey cars -- when:
A tall blond police woman yells at a middle eastern man “At least I'm Austrian!”, followed by a furious rant better to be summarized “You sure are an Ausländer too!” I regret I didn’t tape it for the RANT CHANT that Swedish Berlin-based poet and performer Karl Holmqvist, Swiss Berlin transplant Tobias Spichtig, and world resident Tobias Madison are developing for Tbilisi 16. Luckily, I too am an Ausländer. And embark on the next best train further East. Reality check one: No mobility without the struggle for power
– including sockets, including a matching plug... Enroll in the rocket science of possible adaptors at the P&J newspaper store (together with the friendly very lady owner). Just to gradually discover that each and every single socket of this sleek airport's, errrr, station's waiting room doesn't work. Now better be quick in confronting challenge three: the impossibility of online ticketing without a charged mobile device; the (near) impossibility of spontaneously obtaining a regional train ticket to Romania via Hungary with the ÖBB humans. And better not rant about it.
But rant about this!
The sudden return of an East-German kid’s train travel memory. Because: so far n o t h i n g has changed. I swear!
-- Sadist conductors, all of them, the further from home, the more brutal, lurking in their little cabin filled with canned soup and dead children's fingers, they can smell when you fall asleep, then storm your compartment, tear open that door like a raid, ignite the headaching bright white neons, and scream "TIKKKET KONTRRROL", yes, right into your ear, then grind their predatory teeth and roll their fiery eyes while you're anxiously looking for that ticket, you just had it, a minute ago, when his latest border accomplice just made you anxiously search your entire belongings, while somehow all of your fellow passengers manage to display their utmost annoyance by your panicky search despite being occupied with their own, and still, by law of nature, you'll be the last one to find that godforsaken piece of paper, in exactly the same pocket you've already put it ten thousand times in the last hundred kilometers, only for the conductor-monster to either not even look at it, annulling all that sleepwalking effort, or inspecting it with forensic suspicion for about an eternity, mumble a fast foreign language question through a true forest of moustache, frown in ultimate anger over your apologetic shrug, and leave abruptly, and with the thundering sigh of a walrus, just to then raise their voice even more so you'll perfectly witness the next, next, and next compartment's inquisition --
Pit stop in Budapest. What a station! Splendid grandezza, well-aged (like last season’s make up peeled from pioneering libertines). Attire: oversized uniforms (Do Hungarians shrink at night?).
Reality check two: never easy not to mingle with the backpackers pouring out of the same train. And still, make sure not to, always.Otherwise you'll be too distracted to register also: Reality check three: smoking is not allowed in the station here too.
Reality check four: a different currency! Four digit numbers with no proportion. I WANT this beer though. Withdraw out the smallest amount, 9000 forint, receive your desired properties, and have exactly 9500 forint too much. You might be surprised to learn (in the next chapter) you can make it all the way on the train through Romania with it, and how.