The OEBB from Vienna to Budapest leaves bang on time, as usual. We slowly pull away from the angular confines of Vienna’s newest train station, deserting the infamous and thoroughly impenetrable Viennese bubble for a precious few days.
I’m momentarily gripped with a sudden panic… am I nervous? It becomes apparent I’ve spent too long living in the ‘safety’ of the world’s most livable city. Possibly time to move somewhere less livable.
Soon we’re darting across the Viennese green-belt, northern Austria’s farmland for the ravenous, wine-swilling city elite. An ocean of small yet perfectly formed bright orange carrots cover tilled fields for as far as the eye can see. The impeccably uniform symmetry comically interrupted every now and then by a few stubborn green cabbages. There’s a certain smugness dressed across the rebel greenery, and somewhere deep in the roots of this Cruciferous invasion echoes a reflection of modern Viennese society.
Crossing the Danube just outside Budapest and a muddled horizon gives away nothing of the ancient city itself. Trees and derelict buildings litter the landscape, a sea of greens and browns ahead and behind. Our train slows to a crawl as the number of adjacent tracks start to grow exponentially. Overhead power lines begin to join the fray, as do graffitied sleeper carriages of all shapes and sizes. The horn blows loud and shrill clearing the oncoming tracks, an army of rusty brakes squeal against less-than-stainless steel rims.
Sparks eject from under the train and ricochet off dusty vegetation laying beside the twisted lines. Finally, the beginnings of long, empty platforms appear outside our misty train windows. Ornate flower baskets overflowing with rich and vibrant colours hang from ubiquitous cast-iron lamp posts adorning the platform’s edge. With a final shudder our ride comes to a standstill, we’ve finally arrived at Budapest’s grand Kelati central station.