Football: Croatia & Hungary, June 2019

Thanks for visiting if the is the first time! Here is my blog covering my train travels to watch Wales play Croatia and Hungary. If you want to check more pictures of the trip you can follow me on Instagram by clicking here.

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Day 1, Newport to Frankfurt.

A two hour period of non existent overtime in work meant that I was feeling a tad miserable the night before the trip, seeing as I still had packing to do and I didn’t have the opportunity to purchase an extra pair of 1.50 sunglasses from Primark. I did however have a plethora of USB cables, adapters and power banks in addition to six billion hours of Netflix programmes so at least the important things were taken care of.

As planned our taxi collected us at 6:30 and we boarded the 7:10am train from Newport to London Paddington. The miraculous thing about the trip was that our combined first-class train fares across the continent were only marginally more expensive than your normal first class return to London, especially during Wednesday peak hour. The nice lady in a suit tapping away at her laptop opposite hopefully escaped the world of economic pressure that possesses her as she noticed that I was probably (definitely) the only person in the cabin to be wearing shorts and a Newport County football shirt!

Screenshot_20190615_173001I didn’t choose the thug life…

Apart from waiting for about three hours into our two hour journey for a complimentary coffee the first segment of the trip went without fuss, we even decided to walk ten minutes from Paddington to Edgware Road where we caught the tube to St. Pancras.

Having been to Brussels on the Eurostar as little as ten months ago I was a pro going through security with no concerns about how many milliliters my toothpaste was, thanking the lefty loonies and anyone with a bit of common sense that Brexit has yet to occur and it only taking 30 minutes to get through security and customs rather than 42 years as it may after October if that homophobic xenephobe Nigel Farage gets his wish.

Anyway, moving away from Question Time, we boarded the Eurostar and as soon as we set off we were delivered lunch. Peter had the veggie quiche while I went for 3 small slices of chicken with a collection of pulses and a strand of finely chopped pepper. I have to mention it also came with a bread roll and a small bottle of wine so on the whole I was happy. I find the standard (peasant) seats on the Eurostar really comfy anyway and would recommend it you’re popping over the channel to Disneyland, Paris, Lille, Brussels or Amsterdam for a short break. But that’s enough about Mickey Mouse at least until the football starts!

Eurostar nosh

We had a little over two hours in Brussels that was wasted with a 3 Euro (FML) coffee outside the station before we boarded the train that would take us straight to Frankfurt. The coach wasn’t on par with UK first class as you’d expect but the seats were comfortable and the wi-fi was acceptable.

The journey took us through some notable places including Liege, Bonn – which was the capital of the old West Germany and Cologne. It was really nice to visit Cologne/Koln again. I have been there once before on a school trip some 17 years ago as a youthful teenager. It brought back fond but almost forgotten memories of time spent admiring the Christmas market, banks along the Rhine and the cathedral that probably had the same scaffolding ruining its beauty as it did back in 2002!

Cologne brought back some fond memories

We arrived in Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany 45 minutes late at 8:20pm. This was a little disappointing as top of my list was to visit the Main Tower that had a viewpoint of the city, but we wouldn’t have made last orders in time.

Not to be disheartened, we checked in to our Frankfurt hostel, which was called… wait for it… “Frankfurt Hostel” and with a good hour of sunshine remaining headed towards the river. Populated green riverbanks was a pleasant sight in the summer heat and the walkway bridge was probably the place to have your photo taken. We duly obliged then went off in search of some dinner, fearful of having to settle for anything less than a German sausage.

Main man on Main river!

I left Pete in charge of finding a restaurant, he knowing full well I wouldn’t expect to pay more than a fiver for glorified sausage and chips. True to form he ignored this and I knew I had to increase my budget fourfold as we walked through the financial and fashion streets of the Centre, finally ending up at a busy but welcoming restaurant after twenty minutes or so.

Pleased with the amount on offer for a somewhat fussy eater (quantity over quality) I decided on the pork knuckle with two sausages served with sauerkraut and fried potatoes. I have boycotted sauerkraut since it’s introduction into life during a break Krakow, Poland about 7 years ago and the love for it was still estranged, although I did have a go. The salty selection of swine was however very enjoyable and worth the 25 Euro with a coke. We considered stopping for a beer on the return to our hostel, but the long day had taken its toll. I’ve yet to beg for your sympathy, stating that I walked all day in pain with my tendonitis flaring up the night before, taking too many strong painkillers throughout the day. Thanks, you can put your violin away now. (As I write this on day two it seems to have passed…)

Walk around Frankfurt, looking up at the Main Tower and our decent tea!

So, we walked back to our hostel, past the Main tower, a stone’s throw from the train station and headed up to the fifth floor and our private room. Our 32 degrees, fanless, airconless room.


Day 2, Frankfurt to Zagreb.

After an initial struggle getting to sleep in the heat our period of rest was pleasant enough. Even the early morning shower having to hold the showerhead was not a major problem. A stroll to the station to grab a croissant, coke zero and some ciggies led us to our 8:20am departure that – in thirteen hours – would send us to the Croatian capital.

Frankfurt am Main Hbf station.

As we boarded the EC213 Mimara that would take us direct to our destination through the remainder of Germany, all of Austria and Slovenia, we were treated to a first class cabin with comfortable seats. The cabin, like that you would see on the Hogwarts Express, was fully booked according to the notice, so as the train pulled away we were delighted that we were the only ones in the cabin and I put pen to paper on the day one blog.

Without a recent phone upgrade I would have burst in to tears once realising that there was no on board wi-fi, but no thanks to the Brexiteers amongst you, I enjoyed indulging in to my 15GB of data as I would do at home.

The luxury didn’t last too long though, as a few stops later a gentleman suited up joined us. As I was blogging away it was pleasant overhearing him and Pete discuss their professions and European politics. The gent departed at Munich and once I managed to escape for a cigarette was joined by a couple, then another couple, from the United States.

It turned out our four new fellow travellers, who lived in Oregon and Minneapolis respectively, had just been to a global gathering of Rotarians (those who are members of a Rotary Club) in Hamburg and using it as an opportunity to extend their visit to see the continent.

Sensible Americans we shared our cabin with.

Once we had a brief spell in the restaurant (restaurant… lolz as if) and consumed a welcome chicken schnitzel burger, plus my first beer of the trip I might add, we returned to our carriage and enjoyed conversation, once we established that everyone agreed that their president is a complete fucking moron. This was a good job, as we still had nine hours together!

My mate Pete is secretary of the Newport Rotary Club so was able to hold interesting conversation comparing how clubs operate across the world. It was also appropriate to bring up our past involvement with the YMCA (which is much, much bigger in the US). Today, 6th June 2019 was actually the 175th anniversary of the young people’s movement that provided me with so much opportunity in years passed. Also poignant that the day was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, and we were all too happy to explain to our American neighbours how UK YMCA’s supported troops during wartime.

The first stop inside Austria was Salzburg. The ten minutes it took to separate the train in two have us enough time to step out and admire the surrounding Alps, something that would be a constant feature during our drive through the Western part of the country.

One of 6 million pics I took of the Alps…

Words can’t paint a picture of the countless moments of sheer beauty we witnessed through the carriage window.

Austrian village called Bad Gastein, I think…

Conversation tired a little as the hours went by and we entered Slovenia 30 minutes later than planned. One of our American couples were leaving us at Ljubljana to spend a few days and after we passed Bled train station they promised me that they would visit the beautiful lake-side town, that I had the fortune to visit on a stag do thirteen months prior. As Croatia approached and the sun started to fall we were all ready to get to our destination. Passport control on the Croatian border went without a problem, and the nice grumpy lady stamped my passport, then it took just another 30 minutes to arrive in Zagreb.

Pride prep outside Zagreb station

Our initial intentions of walking to our accomodation for the next three nights were scrapped as we hailed a taxi, then in unison decided tonight we shall spend it in the hotel with a visit to the restaurant and the bar. After my tea of pork and fried potatoes (two nights running) we watched in desbelief as YET AGAIN football in fact wasn’t coming home, England losing three-one to Holland after extra time in the inaugural Nations League semi final. Shame.

The long ass day was brought to an end in our comfortable hotel room, a quick half an our browse planned the next days itenerary around the Croatian Capital city of Zagreb.


Day 3, Zagreb

Waking up in 23 degree heat actually turned out to be one of the cooler mornings of the trip. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast buffet in the hotel consisting of all your continental favourites and the money shot; sausages and bacon.During my rushed plan for the day prepared last night I noticed that there is a horseshoe shape of parks and gardens between the train station and city centre so headed up through the left side of this, passing the impressive (and very yellow) national theatre. We were already hunting down stops of shade as we headed further in to the centre passing boutique shops on our way up the hill to see one of the top sights.
Zagreb national theatre

Our climb up the hill was aided by a funicular, in fact one of the worlds shortest funiculars spanning just 66 metres. When I heard this I did think of the one near Ebbw Vale school but apparently this is a “mechanical lift” and not a funicular – and even then is probably longer than the effort in Zagreb.

What may be the world’s shortest funicular

The four minutes waiting in the full carriage withdrew more sweat than taking the stairs up, however once at the “summit” we were treated to a nice view over southern Zagreb, albeit no real sights to focus on. A brief walk around the cobbles streets led us to St Marks Square that houses parliament and St Marks Church with its spectacular roof design. We were just in time to take a good photo before police cornered the square off – someone important was coming!

St. Mark’s Church

The important person turned out to be none other than Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. He was greeted with Croat soldiers holding guns and a brass band pumping out various anthems. Thankfully no hard brexiteers were seen absolutely fuming that “we” paid for his petrol to the square instead of funding our NHS (citation needed… Boris??)

As Pete wanted to hang around to get a glimpse of the man himself I stood back, had a ciggy and was delighted to overhear a tour guide explain the reason behind the well known Croation checker-board pattern that dons their flag and football kit, and indeed the roof of the Church. Simply, back in the day Mr important Croation person beat Mr important Italian person in chess, and Croation person was SO happy at this he decided to add it to the coat of arms. God knows what he would have done if Croatia had won the football World Cup in 2018!

Once all of the excitement had passed we stopped for a coffee (i.e. lager) and headed towards the busier part of the centre. On the way we rambled past the last remaining stone gate surrounding the old town (then called Gradec) and is now home to a shrine to Mary Magdeline (Baby Jesus’ old girl). It was rather strange walking through the passage with a couple of pews to one side and the shrine on the other.

Stone gate

Grateful for the walk downhill we meandered through the maze that was a colourful marketplace of flowers and fresh food. I did wonder with so many people selling the same things at the same price what one’s USP could be, but everyone seemed content just accepting custom as it arrived.

Dolac market

To be honest there really wasn’t much to see in Zagreb and by lunchtime we had already hit our last port of call, the gianormous Zagreb Cathedral. Once I had uploading a post to Instagram suggesting that Jesus (Joe Allen) should be at training instead of standing atop a statue – perhaps a tad distastefully – we had a wander around inside, Peter giving me some great knowledge of different areas of the church and stories.

Zagreb Cathedral

Another short walk downhill from the cathedral we found somewhere for lunch, passing a minuture scale 3D map of the city that wouldn’t look out of place on the Game of Thrones credits (a lot of which was filmed in other areas of Croatia such as Dubrovnik for Kings Landing). For lunch I went for a tuna steak with sweet potato puree and a side of glazed broccoli (and a beer) whilst Pete went for a rather sizeable burger. As I was planning on having a few beers later I was really pleased with myself for having something healthy… a constant annoyance on the trip was how salty everything was, which really gets me when I’m hot and dehydrating.

*hums Game of Thrones tune*

We stayed in the restaurant for a few more beers, people watching out on Jelacic Square before deciding as the day still had a long way to run, we should head back to the hotel, return later once cooler and in my case a chance to do some laundry! Not your average football away trip when your experimenting with travel wash on a Friday afternoon!

The couple of hours rest refreshed our walking capabilities and after yet another shower it was time to go “out out”.

As our bus to the game tomorrow would be dry (no booze) it was of great importance that I had my allocation at some point! Having had such a good lunchtime at the restaurant earlier, we headed back to Johann Franck and enjoyed a few more beers and a mojito for Peter that I’m glad I didn’t have to donate a kidney for. Now the sun had set we walked back up the hill towards old town where we knew a large contingent of Welsh fans would be. After a quick beer here Pete headed back for the hotel, giving me free rain to talk to various people from Aberdare to Abergele… it’s always nice to get asked about the County – even nice when they’re Wrexham fans! From one pub to another and a quick beer with my friend Craig and his buddies from Newport and it was time to head downhill and start the 40 minute walk back to the hotel. Or it would have been had I not been swayed by a sign promoting Croatian cider! Although it was now heading towards 2am I thought it worthy of another hour in the now peaceful surroundings, finally making at back to the hotel at around 3:30am.

1:40am not the best time to find delicious Croatian cider!

Just don’t remind me that I had to be up at 7 to catch a bus to the game tomorrow….


Day 4, Day trip to Osijek


Day 5, Zagreb to Budapest

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the half way point of the trip!

Having already seen what we wanted to see in the city centre, we identified a nearby lake to spend our last morning, until we would make the treacherous 7 hour train journey to the Hungarian capital.

Pete attended mass at Zagreb Cathedral earlier than planned so we enjoyed breakfast together and caught the tram towards lake Jarun. Another hot day – 33 degrees at one point – tried to persuade me to jump in for a swim but instead we walked the circumference of the body of water, some 1.8 miles. It felt longer, probably due to us stopping for a Coke near the pebbled beach and keeping our eyes to ourselves passing the nudist beach.

A constant throughout the trip was how “off” Google maps was with their estimated walking time. We completed our lap thirty minutes later than suggested to have a waterside lunch. My good effort in not consuming much salt so far went out the window as I went for the mixed grill, only understanding it was supposed to be shared when the waiter brought out two plates prior to the tray of farm.

Impressed that I ate around two-thirds and time ticking on, we called a lazy Uber to take us back to the hotel, collected our luggage and dragged it towards the station.

Not expecting luxury, we settled into our reserved seats, this time without power supply (or lighting that would make departing the train a right menace) and were shortly joined by two ladies originating from the Ecuadorian mountains and a couple wandering around Europe but on the way back to native Australia.

They were again really good company, I didn’t touch Netflix or Spotify and once they laughed at us due to brexit (a recurring theme) we reached another lake, this one slightly bigger and well known called Lake Balaton.

Knowing that a lot of Wales fans enjoyed at least a few hours between their journey here, I was determined to at least get a few good snaps while it was still light outside.

As I stood for 15 miles riding in to the lakes 45 MILE diameter I was just about losing hope, summer homes after resort after caravan park blocked any access to good photographs but as the sun started to flirt with the horizon, perfection.

A brief moment of maybe half a mile opened to give us an unobstructed view of the water as I ferociously battered the camera button. Only when the splendid views were masked once more did I settle and check my work. Whilst most pictures contained a selfish lamppost or railway pillar, about half a dozen, I thought at least, were poetry in motion.

The sun set and we crawled through our remaining dozen or so stops. An hour later than scheduled we arrived at Budapest’s second main train station, looked rather derelict at 11pm. Said our goodbyes and eventually flagged down a taxi.

Grateful that the driver didn’t attempt to rip us off, plus getting a glimpse of the famous parliament building lit up in all its glory we arrived at the hotel. But not any hotel.

“THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL”*

*Officially The Grand Hotel, Budapest…. But don’t be picky.


Day 6, Budapest

Late arriving the night before, we were eager to get in to the centre and see some stuff as soon as possible.

As soon as possible… after I made use of the complimentary swimming pools, jacuzzi and sauna at the hotel. Hopefully, the feel good factor of waking up at 6am, doing a few lengths breaststroke before the day truly starts will continue at home (although it hasn’t yet and I’ve been back a week!).

Our final stop before adventure was to attack the breakfast buffet that was impressive, stained by the fact it was missing bacon of all things. This meant it was the only time I paid the 14 quid for the pleasure. What four star hotel anywhere outside of the Middle East doesn’t serve bacon??

Anyway – we made it outside shortly after 9am and this was the first indication of how bloody big Budapest is. We stayed on the biggest Island on the Danube that runs through the city – At Margaret’s Island – and with complimentary map to hand walked to the nearest metro station to get to the centre. What appeared as a centimetre walk on said map eventually took us half an hour before our soggy selves headed underground, purchased 72 hour passes for £12 and negotiated the simple-enough network.

Rising into daylight, with the parliament building in view nearby, we decided that we had already evaporated enough it was time for a sit down, glass of homemade lemonade and a nose at two locals taking their morning game of backgammon perhaps a little too seriously.

Parliament was indeed our first port of call for our sight seeing sesh, and I don’t think I realised at the time how majestic the building was. Budapest and Vienna were huge players during the years of the Austro-Hungarian empire and their respective buildings present this. Several selfies and an explanation from Pete that the pretty water feature outside was 10% water feature and 90% a barrier for any tank attack, we moved towards the shared river side.

Here we seen our only notable and obvious memorial of the trip. “Shoes on the Danube” is a collection of shoes right near the edge in honour of the Jewish community that were murdered by the nazi-like Arrow Cross movement in the 1940’s. They demanded innocent people including children remove their footwear before shooting them, their bodies taken away by the Danube tide. Terrifying that people with so much hatred towards innocents still exist today.

I didn’t perambulate too much to get the perfect photo but spent a few minutes looking through the notes and flowers, then moved on in search of some more items to bulk up my Instagram story. Again going back to the size of the place, we had to rule out everything on the other side of the river that we could see for another day as we would have never have covered it in a day. Budapest is split in to two areas named (believe it or not) Buda and Pest. Buda will be covered on day eight FYI!

As we headed deeper in to the heart of the centre we bumped in to St Stephen’s Basilica, which to be honest was rather difficult to miss! A brief moment to enjoy some local dance occurring on the stage set up for a concert later that evening, we collected some overpriced refreshment from a souvenir shop and headed for lunch via the Dohány synagogue.

As today was a bank holiday in the country a lot of places and indeed the Jewish place of worship was closed, instead settling at a pizzeria opposite.

“No Newport County troublemakers in here” was aimed at me and my black replica shirt as we sat down. It was Craig, a huge County fan who I’ve known for years enjoying a pint on another table. Ironic that I image he’s caused a lot more ‘trouble’ than I have!

The pizza was good (the pint of lager was better) as we discussed our next plan of action. Already tiring somewhat in the heat we found solace at the biggest park in the city. Whilst Pete had another lemonade in the sun I made the trip across the lake to Heroes Square. The main statue in the middle of the square was accompanied by his mates in a semicircle set of columns. Quite impressive; I wish I took time to find out more about who the geezers were (you are welcome to Google it).

After this we made another waaaay longer than anticipated walk to catch the tram and bus back to the hotel, had a few hours rest and headed back out as the sun was setting, grateful that I could safely wear my sunglasses without fear of melting plastic getting engaged to my sunburnt beak.

Dinner was a little extravagant but enjoyable overlooking the Basilica. Knowing how good the parliament building was from our brief glimpse in the taxi last night we strolled over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to take some photos of Budapest at night. The bridge was interestingly one of only two such surviving bridges today, the other based near Maidenhead, so I was told.

The detour for photos was a good idea, whilst walking above the river we were treated to great views of the castle and citadel we would visit after match day.

Another good point was my decision not to have a beer *shuts the front door* and we headed back home before midnight – but only just as that walk from mainland to our hotel was a right pain in the picturesque arse.


Day 7, Matchday Budapest!

The second match in four days was upon us, albeit approaching this one a little different as I didn’t have a ticket. In fact, the only game I have ever been to without one.

The only game out of 10 Champions League away games around Europe, the 2009 Champions League Final, 200 or so Manchester United away games, 300 odd home, a Euro 2016 semi-final, seven other Wales away games, the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley, half a dozen other cup finals and Newport County games easily in to the thousands (albeit 99.9% of these were easy to get a ticket!)

Quite a strange feeling, knowing that I would be locked out come kick-off.

What was going for me though, was that it was known there were going to be around 3,000 others in the same boat, plus at least the game was part of a double header. I didn’t come here for nothing – not that you called call four wonderful days in Budapest ‘nothing’.

I started the day with another visit to the hotel spa, this time with more of a plan as to how many lengths I wanted to achieve before relaxing in the jacuzzi. Chill, I was only getting my monies worth.

Instead of the expensive, baconless offering of breakfast we headed in to the city for lunch and found somewhere nice by the basilica that we passed the night before. It is of vital importance – VITAL IMPORTANCE – that one has a decent, substantial meal for brekkie prior to a day on the beer. VITALLY IMPORTANT.

So, a single croissant and two bottles of cider later, I was ready to go.

We headed back to the Jewish quarter as Peter wanted to have a look at the synagogue, closed yesterday if you remembered. Ready to start drowning my ticketless sorrows we first agreed to walk a little further to the apparently famous “ruin bars” that have been set up inside derelict buildings.

We heard that a lot of Welsh fans were refused entry the night before, so with replica shirt adorned we were grateful to walk up the lane into the yard with freedom.

The place was certainly unique. Kind of a ghetto appearance that made me reminisce of some sights I seen in Ljubjana, it was too early to experience how vibrant the place must be when full but there was one bar open and selling cider. Oh how I missed cider.

I got myself two in addition to Pete’s and admired the grungy decor. In the middle of the courtyard was once an old car, transformed into an exaggerated table and chairs. It was here when we noticed the table next to us were three welcoming Brits and started discussing the football. It wasn’t too long before they admitted that they’re from Stafford and are on a “family-lads” holiday. They were EVER so quick to announce they had family in Ebbw Vale and took a genuine interest in us, our trip, and some finer examples of the Welsh dialect.

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By the time I suggested it was uncommon for an English person to be in a city of an international football game and had yet to throw any garden furniture around the place, I had already been approaching double figures. Pete had already departed to go do some additional sightseeing and museums and churches and the like that I was grateful for. Not that he went – but so I didnt have to go with him. Pete also decided to watch the game later in the hotel. You couldn’t blame him once I realised my consumption for the day.

Now early afternoon me and my new pals from Staffordshire said our goodbyes as I attempted to find the Welsh fanzone for the day. After having to steady my concentration a little to follow Google Maps I reached Anker’t romkocsma, another establishment set up within a half demolished building housing two bars and already a lot of drunk red shirts!

The hours passed meeting new people and even being interviewed for the Welsh Football Fans video blog as kickoff approached as lucky ticket holders started to make their way to the Groupama Arena.

I forgot to mention that the bars ran out of cider within half an hour of opening. For some weird reason they were more than happy for people to pop to the Spar down the road and bring their own! I took advantage of this, going through 16 bottles of 80 pence blueberry and pear Somersby that afternoon. It was hot and I had to keep hydrated.

As the game started being broadcast on the big screen, I headed to an undercover room (space) with my mate Kyle who I only first met on the coach to the County playoff final a fortnight beforehand. He promises he’s County ’til he dies though so it’s fine.

Only then did I notice how many people actually went to Hungary without tickets. This bar alone must have easily housed 1,200 people, resulting in the only way we could get a view of the game was to stand on a dodgy table at the back of the room. Two rather large gents sharing a table that was no more than 1.5 metres wide or long.

The game kicked off once the anthem was belted out with such passion, that extra bit more passion perhaps, to make up for not seeing the real thing a few kilometres away.

0-0 half time, with nothing much to cheer, that was disappointing considering most deemed this a must win game. Worried that my neck would be in two should I remain on the table for another 45 minutes we escaped the fanzone and found another pub full of Welsh fans a few minutes away, settled in there, forgetting I would have to revert back to the local lager.

As a football travel blog, I really don’t mention the football much, do I?

Well, my friends, it doesn’t help when your team throws in another abysmal performance, missed an absolute sitter and then concede with just a few minutes remaining. To Hungary. Fucking Hungary.

As Kyle departed to meet up with mates I managed to force a few more down as I waited for some of my own pals to return from the game, my only solace once I met them was that I got bought a free pint after kicking off at a local for queuejumping.

The night ended with a few quieter beers in a bar enjoying yet more cider. I’m grateful to remember the conversation that we had with some of the Budapest residents. One of whom was a bisexual Azerbaijani girl, which in itself provided plenty of intrigue and interest to fill the rest of the evening before I was lucky enough to flag a cab down to return me to “the island”.

That single croissant was more than enough.

Yet again, another brilliant day watching the football.

Only to be ruined by the football.


Day 8, Buda side of Budapest.

I woke up at the start of our last full day in the Hungarian capital with a rather sore head. This was certainly expected although I did feel a bit better than I thought I would.

Today we would primarily be seeing the sights in the Buda area, west of the Danube.

Another slog of a journey via bus and metro to the base of a funicular that could elevate us up to the sights, we instead opted to pay a little more, a perhaps pricey 8 quid, to jump aboard a tourist caddy shuttle thingy up and around the old town.

The first port of call was the castle. Although boiling and busy it was a pleasant walk around the gardens, with panoramic views of the river and Pest just a glance away. I must admit I had no interest in making the most of the visit by taking a look inside but outside views always trump and this was no exception.

We made our way back to the shuttle drop off and decided to walk to the next stop on the map. By this point I was agitated by dehydration and once we finally found the only shop around, downed my first two litres of water and cuddled a third for accompanying me. Necessary as I finally coughed through my first ciggy of the day gone lunchtime!

Next, I….. Really needed a sit down. I didn’t feel that much of a drunken state but my feet were telling me otherwise. Fortunately my seat was just outside the Matthias Church, as magnificent as the one in Zagreb you DEINATELY took the time to read about on day 3.

While Pete did something useful and had a look around here, I eventually managed to muster enough energy to walk toward the Fisherman’s Bastian, regarded as the number one viewpoint in the city. I disagree but I’ll tell you why later. It was the perfect selfie opportunity, so in true #hownot2life fashion, it appears I didn’t take one.

After more fluid intake, a splendid raspberry lemonade concoction we walked another five minutes to a tower (actually the Church of St Mary Magdalene I’m learning now) that we could climb on another more active day, next time perhaps. From here we caught the shuttle back down the hill, ignoring the final spot that was the gardens (you can see them from the castle) and back to base.

One more thing about the trip back down, the descent was the other side of the hill i.e. not facing the river. For some reason I was fascinated by the normality of the area, surely off the beaten track to 99.9% of tourists even though it would be a five minute walk from the five star Gellert hotel.

It was about time we had some food and as we both fancied a burger I typed burger restaurant into Google Maps and – well – they did the rest. It was back over the river but knowing that food was at the finish line it was bearable.

Lunch devoured I only had one thing on the agenda and that was to head back to the hotel. That was far away at the best of times but at the time felt as though it was in a different dimension. As soon as we got back to the hotel room I crashed, after just about considering what I would do for my last evening, should I wake up!

I did wake up around half 8 and considered my options for five minutes. Pete was enjoying the entertainment on offer in the hotel bar but there was one thing I still hadn’t ticked off the list.

The citadel and accompanying Liberty Statue was in constant view during our time here and I made a great decision to give it a visit.

More cooler and less useless than I had been earlier, the commute from north to south of the main city centre was more of a ride than a chore this time. It was pushing 10pm by the time I arrived at the aforementioned Gellert hotel. Just a bastard 235 meter walk through a bastard park with no bastard lighting separated me and the lady liberty that looked over everything I had seen so far.

Surprised there was so many people were at the summit enjoying a beer or a quiet chat, cheeky bit of flirting going on too no doubt, I took a few photos of the statue and leant over the barrier and took in the scenery. It gave me an enormous sense of well-being (… Parklife!).

What a lovely place and a great few days, even considering our useless attempt at winning a football game.

Strangely the walk back down seemed to take even longer. Torch on, not panicking at all when some random turned up from the nights forest, directing myself by hope over expectation, finally my last supper was due.

I fancied something hot, filling and tasty… and ended up 45 minutes later with a McDonald’s just before closing at midnight. How not to… you get the picture. The impressive quantity of night buses delivered me back to the hotel and that was that.


Day 9, Vienna for an Evening.

Waking up for our last time in Budapest, I preferred an extra 20 minute lie in over a final visit to the swimming pool. That was probably incorrect.

Hot, long way to centre, blah blah blah as I’ve already covered. I’m racking my brains as to what I had for breakfast that day, but conclude that if it wasn’t memorable it hardly deserves a mention in this majestic piece of blogging… “Art” if you must.

I’m writing this three weeks afterwards so my memory is a bit vague… the whole reason I write the bloody thing the first place mind… but apart from picking up a magnet for the mother can’t recall too much before we made our way via metro and replacement bus service (was like being home) to the coach station.

The station was a stone’s throw away from the Groupama Arena, the scene for the game on the Tuesday. Slightly bittersweet passing but looked a decent small stadium and I’m told the atmosphere inside was incredible.

More food, a hotdog that this time I can recall before we caught the coach, late as usual to Vienna.

We used the well-known-on-the-continent “FlixBus” that offered even more comfort than our National Express, and before I got half an hour in to my latest episode of Designated Survivor I was fast asleep. Pete assured me that I neither snored or dribbled but perhaps he was just being nice.

Rather pissed off my nap had been interrupted so soon… three hours later, we arrived on the outskirts of Vienna, having to battle the metro to get to our hostel.

What the hostel did lack in comparison to our 4 start the nights before, it more than made up for the lack of luxury by lobbing a fan in the room. An actual breeze instead of inept air conditioning.You could tell the trip was coming to an end as we headed to see the sights in Vienna. Pete had visited recently and was really keen to show me around but I think by then I was a completely touristed out.

We seen St Peter’s Cathedral, then St Peter’s Catholic Church. Obviously St Stephen was a bit greedy back in the day. They were as impressive as the sights we’d seen in the other capital cities that week, then moved on to The Hofburg and Spanish Riding School buildings. I am disappointed that I didn’t embrace the countless magnificence and architecture of Vienna, but there’s a chance we’ll travel there en route to Bratislava later in the year when I’ll be a bit more fresh and willing.Last stop before food was the 5 star, apparently famous Sacher hotel. The hotel gets the fame from their Sacher Torte chocolate cake… Nope, not free WiFi, that’s so 2007.

We had a glimpse in the shop adjoined to the hotel, but one way not to impress me is by showing me a cake that starts at €40 for the smallest size. What a fucking rip off. Prior to this Pete asked me what is the most famous Viennese food. It turns out it’s not a Viennese Whirl, but give me 500 of those over a doll house sized cake any day. Quantity over quality please chef.

Against the withdrawal any further Euros that would’ve please Ann Widdecombe, the witch, we had McDonald’s for tea (the shame) but that was only the second time of the whole trip – although the second time in 18 hours if you want to look at it that way – and allowed Pete to choose our last itinerary item on the trip. My mate deserves a medal for his work over the previous 9 days, and organising everything. Why he does it, just to let me do as please and give wrong directions I don’t know but appreciative I certainly am!Vienna’s version of Alton Towers wasn’t the first thing I’d have guessed but my eyes didn’t deceive me as we arrived at the Prater amusement park. Just as I was thinking (slightly concerned) that Pete was overly keen to jump on one of the many rollercoasters, we headed to a big Ferris wheel, or Wiener Riesenrad if you like.A little old fashioned, but with good reason as it’s the same ride that features in the 1949 film The Third Man starring Orson Welles.

I have since tried to watch the old classic but I’m definitely more of a Toy Story kinda guy. If the third man included Rex or even Mr Potato Head I may have been swayed.The cycle provided a pleasant panoramic picture of Vienna, maybe not as ideal as you would hope(?) as it’s not a city full of skyscrapers, although even the dominating Cathedral was a long way from here.

Before we left I was allowed to get a little thrill and ride this really high 60 metre swing thingy. I haven’t ridden a fairground ride for years, add that to the uncertainty whether the ride would bear my weight = I won’t die and the sun slowly setting; it was a terrific 5 minutes, the first time I properly smiled all day! Especially as I managed to ignore the 124 signs excluding mobile phones to take a few snaps way up high! #hownot2lookafreryourphone.

Prior to making our way back to the hostel we soaked up the atmosphere, predominantly happy youngsters staying out of trouble, with a drink, passing up the final opportunity of a cider.

I did actually just write, “passed up the opportunity of a cider”. Don’t tell my fans.

A day of travel with a little joy at the end led us to our final day, the short 17 hour commute to follow checking in at the UK, Wales and Newport, home.


Day 10, Back to Wales.

Well the last post will be short and sweet.

My first memory of the day was Pete seemingly furious that during the night I had selfishly moved the fan to chuck a breeze over me. It was a decision I had no regret about, I still lost so much liquid overnight it felt as though I had been sloppily milked.

We started off the 17 hour journey with a metro to the correct train station and a visit to the complimentary lounge with free food and drink. We would be on the train all the way to Frankfurt and this would be the only leg of the trip we would be succumbed to join the peasants in standard class.

The train was long and uneventful, the highlight definitely being a currywurst sausage and chips in the “restaurant” before we arrived in Frankfurt for a quick ciggie.

Next up was a train to Brussels. I was pleased we had two first class seats together in an open carriage rather than a 6 person cabin, not to take anything away from the 4 Americans, 2 Ecuadorians, a Greek and a Dutchman we encountered on the trip in such circumstances. I was running out of chat.

Whilst every journey I remembered arrived behind schedule, it was only reaching Brussels did we worry about the impact. Last Eurostar or one final hotel on the continent?

Sacrificing a much needed smoke we headed straight to the Eurostar terminal as Pete, not at the mercy of nicotine wanted to be sure we’d get through customs. I thought I hid my annoyance quite well as we breezed through a queueless baggage scan and passport check with plenty of time for a day had I pushed for the opportunity.

The freebie meal on the Eurostar was almost identical to the outward menu (day 1) but it was enjoyable after a few days crap food. I’ve still got the complimentary vino in my fridge at home!

Thankfully the offering wasn’t very filling so once we got to Paddington via St Pancras I had plenty of room for some sausage and chips from Peter’s go to a few minutes away.

This was devoured on our Great Western final choo home, funnily enough departing and arriving on time and home at 1am.

There we have it. Sorry for the uneventful last day but cheers for reading if you’ve been with us from the start!

General info: we used Inter Rail for our trains. Unlimited first class travel for 5 separate days with a 10 day period was around £300.

I think the whole trip cost in the region on £950 all in. That’s hotel, food, soft drinks that were more expensive than beer, match ticket etc. I reckon I could get it down to £750 being my usual frugal self but the nicer hotels and occasional cuisine was worth every cent considering out travel and days in the heat.

Fun fact: I would’ve guessed the tap water would be drinkable in Croatia or Hungary, yet apparently the tap water is up there with the purest in the world! This solved a lot of dehydrated moments and a small fortune at the hotel room mini bar!!

I still have my trip to Jordan to cover from January so hope to upload that soon! You’ll know about it when I do!

Chris x
#hotnot2life