Friday, March 27, 2015

Tram #49, Bartók Béla út, Budapest

The first time I went in to Budapest, I took the shiny metro line #4 from the Kelenföldi vasútállomás, the Kelenföld train station in the southwest corner of Budapest where many of the local and international rail services terminate, under the Danube to the Central Market Hall. Then I found a tram line that also terminates at the rail station, the #49 that goes through older neighborhoods and modern(er) blocky concrete districts, across the river and up through the business district. I took that by preference both coming and going for the rest of my visits, though once, after spending too much time (and money) at the market, I ran down the stairs to the metro instead, so that I wouldn't miss the train home.

I prefer the trams, because they're above ground, and I get to look at people and places along the way. There are more stops, and it's a slower trip, but in general I wasn't in a rush. I could look out at the people walking along the street or waiting for a bus, and wonder about their lives. I could look at the signs and the graffiti, neither of which I understood. My Hungarian vocabulary doesn't exceed a dozen words or so, but it came in handy this morning; I was cooking cabbage to eat with scrambled eggs, and Srdjan asked me what smelled so good, but when I replied "cabbage" he didn't know the word. I made a round shape with my hands, said it was a green vegetable that was often pickled, and that the word for it in Hungarian is káposzta. "Ah, kupus," he said. And now I know a word in Serbian, too.

Many people speak English here, and with those who don't, I'm finding that smiles and sign language work pretty well, for the most part. I need to learn some essentials, though: hello, goodbye, please, thank you. I'm not even going to try to learn the numbers, but wait to get the cashier's ticket before fumbling out my clump of bills and jangle of coins, just as I did in Hungary. I did learn how to say hello and goodbye there, though that was always confusing to my English-oriented ears. "Hello" is halló, but "hi" is szia, pronounced "see ya." And you also say both halló and szia when you leave, or are ending a telephone conversation, though "goodbye" is viszlát, which you only say when you're leaving physically.

In Serbian, the word zdravo appears to also have the dual function of hello/goodbye; hvala is "thank you," and molim is "please," but molim is also how you say "hello" when you're answering the telephone. And I'm pretty sure some of the people I'm speaking to are responding in Russian, because I think one of the shopkeepers said do svidaniya as I left, the other day. Though it might have been doviđenja. Ya ne govoryu po-russki, so I think I'd better memorize the phrase ne razumem as well. The Serbian-to-English translation isn't always clear either. When someone says "thank you for your help" (as I have done frequently this week) a common reply in English is, or was, "not at all" - which in Serbian is also translated as "nothing." "Thanks, bye!" I say as I leave the store with whatever it is I've purchased, and "Nothing!" they cheerfully respond.

Tram #49 follows the tracks laid down at the end of the 19th century, from Kelenföld to Deák Ferenc tér, up Bartók Béla út to Szent Gellért tér at the western bank of the Danube, then across the bridge and past the market, curving north along Múzeum krt where the National Museum is, the site of the 1848 revolutionary gathering where Sándor Petőfi first declaimed his "National Song." Perhaps next time I'll make it into the museum. The tram stops at the Astoria metro station at Rákóczi út, and then continues to the end of the line along what is now Károly krt to Erzsébet tér, a large open public garden that I didn't really explore. I found a store to buy postcards there on one trip, and later it was an easy walk back to the Astoria intersection to buy my bus ticket to Serbia.

There are no trams left in Niš, but there are several bus lines. The city's so small I've been walking everywhere, and I doubt I'll need to get on a bus until I go to Niška Banja, the spa town a few miles to the southeast. The trams used to run there, too. I don't know if the 5th-century Roman (and later Turkish) baths are still in operation, but there's a facility there where for about $2 I can use the pool (if it's open), for $25 I could get a one-day "antistress" treatment package, and for $32 a "Royal" massage and a facial massage. I never made it into the thermal baths in Budapest, so I think I'll have to take advantage of the facilities here, especially after all this typing. And speaking of typing, it's time to start work again, after this quick non-work break to catch up on my photoblogging. Vidimo se kasniјe!

This is an interesting site run by a "tram-spotter" with more information on the Budapest tram network, one of the earliest established in Europe and still one of the largest in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment