Sour Goodbyes and Gorgeous Hellos

St. Stehpen's at nightAt the crack of 4:30am, we woke up to get ready for our 6am train from Budapest to Zagreb, Croatia.  From there, we took a very short flight on Croatian Airlines to the coastal town, Dubrovnik.  Because today was primarily a travel day, we don’t have a lot to tell you.  However, I would like to share one good story and one lovely moment.

Whenever we leave a city, we try to have as little leftover cash as possible.  We have found it sometimes difficult to exchange certain currencies and so much is lost in the exchange that we’d rather spend it.  We’ve had mixed success in this endeavor, but in Budapest we did quite well–only 500 Hungarian forint in coins left.  That’s only about $2.25 so we felt it was a success.  However, we realized that is about 140 forint shy of the amount required for the metro ride we would be taking from the Hotel to the train station.  Phil was willing to risk it and go without a ticket, and even though I felt a little uneasy, I agreed.  (I should tell you that earlier in the week, Gina and Phil made fun of me relentlessly for being a “rule follower” and buying a metro ticket when they didn’t.  Phil said he was willing to risk it because he thought it was only about an $8.00 fine if we got caught.)  In this case, Phil figured since it was 5:30am on a Saturday and we were only going three stops we would be fine.  Although I didn’t love the idea of cheating the system, I agreed Phil was probably right and we boarded the arriving train sans ticket.

Stunning hilltop in budapestWe arrived at our stop without incident and thought we were in the clear.  Not so fast!  As we joined the line to board the ascending escalator, we noticed a large group of people checking tickets.  I blame the early hour and our surprise for our inability to think quickly and jump back on the train or avoid the inspectors in some other way.  So, when they asked for our ticket, I showed them a 24 hour pass we purchased 2 days before.  Knowing it wouldn’t work, I tried to blame it on a language misunderstanding between me and the original woman who sold us the ticket.  She wasn’t buying it.  She vehemently pointed to the 24-hour description of the ticket and the date so clearly written on top.  Knowing it was hopeless, I relented and asked how much we owed for the fine. She immediately responded, “8000 forint, per person.”  Sixteen-thousand forint total!  That was almost 80 bucks! What happened to the $8.00 ticket Phil expected?  Irritated and immediately regretting my decision to join with my rule-breaking husband, I asked if they would accept a credit card.  Of course, they did not.  She would have accepted euros, but we didn’t have that either.  So while Phil stayed trying to beg and fruitlessly plead with the ticket control agent, I sped up the two escalators and several steps to find the nearest ATM.  We paid, got a receipt and apologized (all the while Phil was still trying to convince her not to give us the ticket).  Walking away defeated, Phil felt terrible and completely responsible.  I’d like to blame him completely, but I’m a grown-up and I could have bought my own ticket if I really wanted to.  I just chose to go along with him this time. Next time I’ll think twice.  (On a side note, the only other people who did not have tickets were other tourists heading to the train.  Coincidence?  I think not!)

Dubrovnik by airAfter loving Budapest so much, the ticket incident left us with a sour departure, but it was our own fault and a hard lesson learned.  Luckily, we were able to shake it off and enjoy a lovely moment later in the day which I’d also like to share.  The Croatia Airlines plane ride from Zagreb to Dubrovnik is a short 40 minutes from take-off to touchdown.  All in all, it is less than an hour on the airplane.  Exhausted, we both fell asleep almost immediately.  Phil sleeps like a baby on planes, but it is more difficult for me and I wake up much more often.  As we were nearing Dubrovnik, I awoke to see beautiful mountains outside our window.  Feeling that we were descending, I woke Phil so he could enjoy the view before we landed.  It was spectacular.  All around we saw huge mountains and rolling hills.  The plane tipped its wings to make a turn and we saw the coast of the Adriatic Sea.  At seeing this beautiful sight, there was an audible gasp from the passengers on the plane.  The mountains and ocean seemed to extend all around us.  It was amazing, but we started to question where we would land.  Except for the water, there was no extended flat space in sight.  Luckily our pilot skillfully found the runway and landed us safely among the mountains.  Since Dubrovnik’s airport is quite small, we were not surprised when we exited the plane down the steps and onto the tarmac.  Once there, we were thrilled to be hit with the most gorgeous view from any airport we’ve been to.  Passengers immediately started snapping photos, trying to capture this picturesque landscape.  This lovely welcome ensured us that our time here would be wonderful.

Croatian Tarmac

Part of the awesome view from our terrace in Dubrovnik!

Now we enjoy discovering this beautiful seaside town and await the arrival of our friend, Jack.  We aren’t sure what we’ll do tomorrow because we don’t want to discover too much before Jack gets here.  I’m sure we’ll find something awesome to occupy our time.  Actually, I’d be perfectly  happy sitting on our terrace and staring out at the Adriatic Sea with a glass of wine all day long!


Categories: City Visits, Croatia, Customs, Destinations, Eastern Europe, Flights, Friends, Hungary, Landmarks, Rail, Surprises, Trains, Transportation, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Sour Goodbyes and Gorgeous Hellos

  1. Yes. No...Whatever.

    Ugh! I am so sorry to hear about the ticket fiasco. I just read your post while Tom was putting Gavin down for a nap and I had him read it after he came back. As he finished, I said to him, “that sucks for them.” And he, as a rule follower, wisely retorted, “Yep. It just isn’t worth it.” The rule breaker in me smirked at him for a second before I realized he was correct. I feel terrible and partially responsible even though I wasn’t there. Phil and I, the rule breakers, owe you and Tom, the rule followers, a drink when you come to pick up your mail.

    • Hey, at least I didn’t end up staring in an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” after it all went down. That’s been my main goal to avoid that fate. So, I might always pay the fare now but I will still be a rule breaker at heart! Jaywalking and more! We look forward to the drinks. Let’s not order the drink named “Ticket Compliance Officer” because those cost $38.50 a pop and leave you with an awful headache!

  2. Mom

    What a tense moment. I bet someone at your hotel would have given your scofflaw husband 140 florints–what is that–about a buck? Glad it all worked out. That view is beautiful!

    • Hmmm…this Scofflaw husband would like to clear up a few things! First, it was 320 per ticket, so we really need another 500 Forint which is about $2.25…but still! No one was around so much at the hotel at 5:30 AM to beg, borrow or steal from! Second, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anyone even AT the ticket window at the subway station so it was almost begging us to blow right past. And third….I’m never skipping out on paying a fare for the rest of my life again. What a waste of (to be precise) $77! I hope that Budapest uses it to keep their city beautiful at least. We’re also glad it all worked out!

  3. Melissa

    Same thing happened to us in Prague!! But, we had bought tickets. We paid the right amount of money, but didn’t have the tickets validated (a step we didn’t know about) and it cost us $80!! I was super pissed. Sorry that happened, guys. Travel bummer.

    • Argh! You HAD a ticket, forgot to punch it and they still charged you? That’s even worse! I will never laugh in the face of the self-regulated ticketed transportation again. Thanks for the story (it makes us feel a little better!)

      • Melissa

        It was like a movie. We saw this guy on the platform when we got off the train and he flashed a badge. I honestly thought he was selling replica badges or some other tchotchkes, so I said, “No, thanks,” and kept walking. Matthew said I brushed him off like dust. He asked us for our passports and said, “Oh, from New York! Everything OK. I speak English.” At the time, we didn’t know that meant, “this will be way easier for me to tell you how much you owe me.” After much debating I made him take me upstairs and show me where we supposed to validate the tickets (read: me tugging at his sleeve until he started moving). It wasn’t a short walk. Matthew was convinced I was going to get us tossed in a gulag, but I reminded him the Czech Republic is a democracy now, so all the ranting I was doing was allowed. The whole thing was absurd. We actually paid MORE than we needed to, we just didn’t know that we needed to stick our passes into an unsigned slot in the wall! Lesson learned: if you at least learn how to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in the language of the place you’re visiting you can employ those in a sarcastic way at the end of a conversation with a predatory train inspector who tried to con you out of more than the appropriate fine.

      • Wow, with stories like THAT, I think that maybe YOU should be writing this blog. That story is, in a word, all-kinds-of-amazing. Thanks for sharing. I hope it was cathartic and didn’t dredge up to many bad memories.

        Also…The Gulag! You never want to end up in the Gulag.


  4. Dreweastmead

    Great view! Looking fwd to the posts w/Jack

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