Budapest Arrested


We left on the midnight train to Budapest. We were heading into the middle of topical conversations around the world. Keleti Station had been a flashpoint just days before our arrival and, although we had heard that some progress had reduced the chaos to a manageable level, there was no doubt that there would be a lot going on. In many ways our visit to Budapest would be arrested by the turmoil surrounding the access to travel across the Hungarian border.

Being inside the news

Traveling has never placed us so close to the world news as what we experienced arriving into Keleti train station. What we found when we stepped onto the platform was an organized effort to relieve the pressure of people at the station. An area leading from an adjoining platform and stretching around the front of the tracks, and then back up another platform was filled with hundreds of refugees in what was a line about ten feet across.

At the front of this line were about 3 dozen police officers and an assortment of railway personnel. Although there was no way of saying what would eventually happen, it was clear that those in line had been told to form a line. The line was marked by the tracks on the inside and plastic construction tape on the platform side. We needed to print our ticket for our departure from a machine that was partially blocked by the end of the line. We navigated to the machine through the expanding line where a nice woman who spoke English was purchasing a vast quantity of tickets with money she had collected. She asked if we needed to use the machine. We said we would wait for the machine next to her to become available and she continued to purchase tickets. We printed our tickets soon afterwards and made our way to the information center.


At the information center, we were told that today’s train to Vienna was running but that was no way of knowing if tomorrow’s train would be running. We crossed our fingers and exited the station at the street level just above the tented area in the cement courtyard below. As we moved away from the station to the bus that would take us a short distance to our hotel, the scene quickly shifted to the mundane working of city bustle. For those of us accustomed to freedom and choice, the contrast of buying a bus ticket and getting on a bus versus the sight of tents of refugee families, piles of donated clothing, and many young men and families with small children seeking safety was a stark reminder that having the privilege to work and earn a living cannot be taken for granted. Our heart goes out to these families seeking that privilege.


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