Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We Ain't on The Orient Express, Anymore!

The interior of our cabin.  Someone should
learn how to use a camera.
After we got settled in our very nice cabin, Robert, the operations director, came around to tell us how things work.  Watch the temperature of the water in the shower, he counseled, as previous guests have been known to leave it turned up.  Don’t dress too fancy for dinner, this is all about being comfortable.  There are 22 guests, so there’s only one seating for dinner.    Anything you need, ask Andrea.  First stop in an hour and a half.

I guess neither one of us really gave much thought as to the excursions, so the fact that there were considerable chunks of time when we were off the train came as a bit of a surprise.  Our first excursion was to a horse

farm to watch some Hungarian horses do their things.  The train stopped in the middle of a field to let us off, and we were met by two horse-drawn wagons there to transport us to the farm.  We were greeted at the farm with glasses of Pahlinka, an apricot brandy, which I have to say is pretty tasty and not sweet.

The Donkey Whisperer
We got to see the riders, dressed in local costume herd horses and demonstrate some of the riding skills that they would have used back in the day.  One of the things they riders were very good at was using their bullwhips, and part of the fun is to let the audience try to knock a bottle off a fence post using the whip.  I was the first one to try, and I did hit the bottle.  Just not very hard. Rob even rode one of the horses, the only member of the gang to be that brave.
Modeling a Hungarian Cowboy Hat 

After about an hour (and a trip to the gift shop, because what would a stop be without a gift shop?) we headed back to the field to meet the train.  Well, to wait for the train.  It had to move so that other trains could go past (What?  Ours isn’t the most important train on the tracks?), and it took some time to return.  Quite a bit of time, as it turned out, much to the chagrin of the train staff.  It did finally come back to get us, and we set off for the next destination: Kecskemet (“Keshkameet”, for those of you following along at home.)  Kecskemet is a medium-sized town in central Hungary.  It’s not very touristy, and the afternoon we were t

here, I’m reasonably certain we were the only tourists around.  The main square is home to the City Hall (Art Nouveau, Hungarian style), another gorgeous Art Noveau building that is the Youth Hall, a church and other assorted public structures.  One of the coolest things I saw was a bronze model of the town square for the blind, complete with Braille explanations of the buildings on the square.
Model of City Center

Back on the train, and time for cocktails and dinner.  The bar car is open anytime there are passengers aboard, so it wound up being quite the social gathering place.  What was not so cool was the Piano Man.  Yes, he plays anytime there are people in the bar car, but that doesn’t mean he does it well.  In fact, he does not.  He had cd’s of his music for sale, but I’m pretty sure he has never actually sold any.  At first, I thought maybe he was experimenting with the music, but once we started to pay attention, we realized that he really wasn’t very good.  Then, it became a musical version of a train wreck:  once you started listening, you couldn’t stop waiting for the next muffed notes.  

Eventually, it was time to turn in and attempt sleep.  Not so easy when your bed is lurching around, stopping and starting.  Neither one of us slept very well, but oh, well.  Sleep is for when you are home, right?

Tomorrow:  Romania and Vlad Dracul

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