Saying Goodbye to Budapest and Hello to Ljubljana!

I think our only real disappointment with Budapest was that we didn’t have enough time there because it was such a great experience. On our last morning there, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel and went to the subway station. We couldn’t get the machine to give us the kind of tickets we wanted, so we asked a man who checks tickets standing at the top of the escalators that lead to the platforms. Even though his English wasn’t perfect, he helped us figure out the problem and told us another place we could buy tickets. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when they travel is not asking for help when they need it. Sometimes it’s worth possible embarrassment to save time and stress.

We headed to the Parliament and it’s one of those moment’s I’ve described before when you step out from the subway station and bam! There’s this masterpiece of architecture right there so casual.

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So we crossed the street and took a closer look and it was just overwhelming. As one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, it is definitely a notable landmark worth checking out along the bank of the Danube River.

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It was early in the morning and already 100 degrees outside, but we were grateful for such beautiful sunshine. So we walked along the river towards a monument we both really wanted to see before we left the city. The views along the river were stunning that morning

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And on the way, we found this statue of Hungarian poet Attila József, who died on railroad tracks at the young age of 32.

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Here are a few translated lines from his poem At Last, which was written in 1926.

“I have flashing eyes and the will to win,
and I must have the willingness, the means
to do justice and so to take sides
with these severest of memories.”

If you’re interested in reading some of his work, here’s a link to many of his translated poems.

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And then we walked next to the river some more until we found the monument we had been looking for – the Shoes on the Danube Bank, which was developed by film director Can Togay, who worked with sculptor Gyula Pauer to create it. The monument was designed to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.

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The victims had been ordered to remove their shoes and were then shot at the edge of the river so their bodies would fall into the water and be carried away. This monument represents all those empty shoes left behind that were never filled by their owners again. I found this to be one of the most moving monuments we saw the entire trip. Looking at the shoes, it’s one of those moments where you are faced with such a horrific tragedy that occurred right where you’re standing only a few decades ago. The shoes are so personal to the victims that you can’t help but feel something when you look at them.

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This monument gives you the ability to attempt to imagine the victims’ perspective and try to put yourself in their shoes

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We each placed some stones in a few of the shoes to go with Jewish tradition of mourning.

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Because we both were touched by the monument, we needed a moment to reflect. We sat in the shade to get out of the heat and just looked at the water and our beautiful surroundings.

And to break up the silence, we couldn’t help but laugh when we saw this bus turned into a boat making its way through the river:

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But we had a train to catch, so we headed to the station and took the subway towards our hotel and stopped for milkshakes in this nice cafe. It was so hot out and the shakes were deliciously refreshing.

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We grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed to the main train station. It was hard to carry our big backpacks through the trains and stations in that kind of heat. We envied the men who walked around shirtless with nothing to carry. We had some pizza at the station before finding our platform – I am so grateful we ate this pizza because it was the last food we would have for a while. My slice had corn on it, something I’ve never had before but it was so good!

When our train pulled up, we realized this was going to be a rough journey because it was only two train cars long and as we stepped inside, a huge gust of hot air came at us because air conditioning did not exist on the train. Again, we were glad to have our reserved seats even though they weren’t as needed as on other trains. The train ride was supposed to be 8 hours with a long train, a restaurant on board, and a direct trip to the next city. None of this was the case though.

We spent five hours on a very hot, crowded, stinky train so it became uncomfortable quickly. The bathrooms were filthy and out of toilet paper early on in the ride, which was not good. Everyone opened the windows, but it did little to cool anyone off because it blew in warm air. I tried to sleep to pass the time, but the heat made it difficult and I woke up so sweaty and yucky. After the five hour point on the train, when we should have only had 2-3 more hours left, the ticket woman went to each seat and told everyone we had to get off at the next stop and would be taking a bus instead. She could not speak much English and was very difficult to understand, and she didn’t know other languages as an alternative that we could understand either. Everyone on the small train was extremely confused and concerned because this wasn’t disclosed when we had purchased the tickets and no one knew what was going on.

But everyone got off at the station, and we were divided up between three buses that were not all going to the same place. This was stressful because the bus drivers did not speak English very well either and we were not sure we were getting on the right bus! After about an hour and a half bus ride, we finally arrived and stopped at a stop in the middle of nowhere. During the bus ride there were no bathrooms available and no one gave any kind of explanation of what was going on. Turns out this direct train ride to Ljubljana was not so direct because the train tracks were not finished being built yet! So this whole alternative route was designed with major detours.

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Once we got to the next train, it was similar to our trip to Prague where there were individual compartments made for about six people. It was almost as hot as the previous train, but as the sun set, it became gradually cooler. An older couple from San Francisco, Nancy and Carlos, sat with us and were incredibly friendly! We were thankful to have such nice people to talk to during the long ride. We discussed traveling, our lives, our homes, our dreams and plans, and different experiences. Carlos is from Argentina and they had married young and lived in Chicago for a long time before settling in California. They had very interesting stories and Nancy used to be a flight attendant so they had tons of travel experience. Watching the two of them really demonstrated what I hope to have in my future – someone I can love that much and travel with even at that old age. The way they clearly cared for each other was wonderful and a privilege to witness.

Along our journey we saw so many amazing views or the country side – one of my favorite parts of traveling by train.

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After several hours, the ticket woman came around and told everyone there were more delays. This journey felt like it dragged on forever. We were thankful when we finally made it to Ljubljana!! It was almost 11 at night – several hours after we were supposed to have arrived. We helped Carlos and Nancy with their luggage and walked with them to find their hotel because it was on the way to ours. I think it’s important to help people when you can. My grandparents travel around the world and I would want someone to treat them this way, so the least I can do is help someone else like that.

When we made it to the hotel, we were literally blown away. It was so much nicer than we expected! After arriving, the man at the front desk was very concerned and mentioned that they were out of the room we had reserved. And we both looked at each other like oh great how can this day get any worse. But then he asked if it would be okay to upgrade us to a bigger, better room with no extra charge. Would it be okay? Umm duh!!! So we found ourselves spending the night in a king suite.

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I can’t begin to explain how good it felt to get in this luxurious shower and clean up after the long, hot, sweaty, stressful day we had. We even ordered room service to treat ourselves! Traveling can really cause you to appreciate the small things and i love that. We passed out quickly because we were exhausted. We were happy to have the longest day of the trip over and done with because we had worried about the logistics of it since we originally planned the trip months ago. I’ve rarely slept so well.

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