We walk into the ticket office in Krakow. We wait in the wrong line. The lady behind the counter kindly points us across the room to the windows that say “International.” We walk across the room. We stand in line behind two American girls who are talking about their culture shock. We hate them.
We ask for tickets to Budapest. We tell the nice lady where we want to go. We are offered second class travel or the sleeper car. We can pay with a credit card. And we are done.
It’s an hour before our train is scheduled to depart and we are at Krakow’s tiny train station. The waiting room is a picturesque mix of ancient, wood-slatted benches and the pigeons who are crapping all over them. So we walk across the cobblestone square to the mall, browse through the H&M and buy marzipan from a vending machine. By the time we return our arrival track has been announced and we walk over to merge, with uncomfortable seemlessness, with the squadron of backpackers waiting on the platform. Four enormously drunk men in matching shirts and scarves walk by, and then down the platform, and then they walk by again. As they walk they sing a soccer anthem, then stop singing to do push-ups, and then begin singing again. The train pulls in with one Krakow-Budapest sleeper car. We get on it with half the backpackers. The other backpackers and the soccer fans head for the second class cars. I am glad we paid for the sleeper.
And the sleeper is classy. Three bunks are stacked along one wall. On the other wall, below the shaving mirror, the table folds up to reveal a sink. Standing in the narrow walkway between the beds and the concept of furniture it is hard to imagine three people occupying this space at once. But our compartment and every compartment we peer into has only two occupants. Inside the mirrored cabinet above the sink-table are two bottles of water, two plastic-bagged croissants filled with chocolate pudding and packets with wet-naps and soap. It is a relaxing ride. We spend the morning waking up and asking ourselves if we have missed Budapest entirely.
TRAIN TO BUDAPEST
ONE WAY TICKET SECOND CLASS SLEEPER 306PLN (ABOUT $100.96 USD)
DEPARTS KRAKOW GLOWNY DAILY 10:36PM
ARRIVES BUDAPEST-KELETI NEXT DAY 9:32PM
SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Croissants with pudding inside!