Part 3: The Budapest Problem – an interrailing adventure

Tim Eustace is re-telling his summer interrail adventure from Oslo to Venice. This is the third blog of a four part series. Read part one and two.

We decided on our route pretty early on but have been stuck at where to go from Budapest for a while. The problem is simple: we don’t want to waste a whole day on a train, but we also don’t want to go to Zagreb. Croatia is our penultimate stop (in theory) before we head over on a boat to Venice to fly home. I’ve been adamant that we will not double back on ourselves but it seems like we might struggle here. Croatia is not the most well connected of countries on the railway lines and moving from Porec to Split is a no-go in a day, so we decided against that early on.

We are running out of travel days: each one is accounted for on our itinerary (with a bus ride thrown in to save on an otherwise wasted short train journey). The current possible options are:

  • Budapest – Zagreb (05:30) 1 night stop and then on to Ljubljana. This means doubling back through Croatia after Slovenia and will cost us a day elsewhere
  • Budapest – Ljubljana direct, then on to Lake Bled (9 hours). This will lose us an entire day in Budapest or Lake Bled.

Neither of these options are appealing to us. We have been avoiding the idea of a night train because our friend did not enjoy the experience (to say the least). On top of that, I’ve pre-booked all of our accommodation in advance so it feels like a waste as we would have to miss a night in Budapest.

I’m left wandering around, pondering what to do next and losing myself in what is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities that we have visited so far. In many ways it is similar to our hometown of Bristol – it feels rugged and has a hipster swagger to it that is actually quite homely. The people are lovely, the streets are fascinating, the baths are every bit as wonderful as the guidebooks say, the hills are steep but well worth the climb (in flip flops, obviously) for the breathtaking sunset, the geography is just stunning and, frankly, I love it here. We had been very excited about visiting Budapest as we had heard such great things about it and I am so pleased that we have not been left disappointed. Impressively, the metro looked very futuristic and was easy to navigate, which has not been the case for every stop on our European adventure. To top it all off, our Airbnb apartment is really lovely and I just want to stay here forever!

Budapest has been amazing but we are ready to move on, so we’ve gone completely full circle and spontaneously decided to jump on a night train! As a bizarre side-note, our host has not taken this well and seems a bit perturbed that we are leaving a night early. There’s quite a strained language barrier and I think she doesn’t really understand – I hope we have not offended her!

Amazingly, the reservation is an absolute bargain (about £40 for two people in a private cabin) which I really cannot believe. I thought it would be so much more and wouldn’t have debated it if I’d known that it would be this cheap. My apprehension was still burning from my friend’s bad experience and warnings that I’d be ‘shaken awake’ at each station and it would be the worst night’s sleep of my life… but it was so much fun and I’m glad we did it. I would definitely do it again and recommend night trains to anyone interrailing, despite some advice to the contrary. I slept so well, even though my feet were hanging off the end of the bed and I had to close the window to stop them falling out of it! There was the most incredible thunderstorm that night, too, which added to the surreal experience. That’s the interrailing adventure, isn’t it?

A private cabin for two people on the night train from Budapest to Ljubljana

At 06:30, we arrived in Ljubljana and jumped on the next train to Lake Bled, gazing in wonder at the beauty of our surroundings which would start a whole new love affair… Budapest was already a distant memory. I now love Slovenia instead.

Budapest problem solved and only a few more stops to go before our adventure would come to an end. Before then, however, we had some exploring of Slovenia to do.

Next stop: Croatia

You can see Tim’s fully planned trip and take inspiration for your own trip here.