Europe | Hungary | Budapest – Trainspotting, circa 1855
As part of my research I visited the Transport museum, located in Budapest’s City Park. It was an extremely hot day again, and we were relieved to find ourselves once again in one of the city’s ample green spaces. Sexton was so pleased he decided to stay in the park and rest (with wet socks and underpants spread out around him in the sun – our Botel was not conducive to handwashing) while I explored the museum.
As I’ve said, the most probable route my great grandfather would have taken, if he went across the Black Sea to Vienna, would have been up the Danube. However, trains may have been involved at some point, so I set out find out as much as I could about rail travel in the 1850s.
The museum had an excellent selection of scale model locomotives as well as half a dozen or so full sized ones. They even had a carriage you can get into, though it is dated 1926, past Jules’ time. They had scale model passenger cars from the 1850s, also with wooden benches (pictured). There were life sized mannequins in sleeper cars from the late 19th century – the sleepers were much bigger and more plush than the ones nowadays. More like small hotel rooms!
On the second floor there were 19th century stage coaches. A museum attendant opened one so I could see inside. It was all plush red velvet, though a positively tiny space. I imaged what it must have been like travelling at that time, how bumpy the ride would be. If Jules had crossed the Black Sea, he would have had to travel by horse cart on the Russian side, as there were not yet trains there. I doubt if his would have been as posh as this but you never know.
The first railway in Hungary was between Pest and Vac in 1846. The Pest- Sloznok line opened in 1847 and covered 99 km in 3 hours and 22 minutes. Also, something I did not know about very early railways – before steam locomotives were built, trains were pulled by horses.
The station pictured you see is not a scale model but an actual station from 1904, with timetables and ticket booth inside. It really was a get museum full of interesting exhibits, though sometimes signs were in three totally unrecognisable languages (Hungarian, Czech and ?). There was an excellent display of old motorcycles and cars, all in pristine condition, as well as early aeroplanes and model ships. And a little café on the top floor where you can rest your feet before continuing looking.
And finally the Budapest public transport section, with pictures from the 70s that look pretty much like now. There was even a postcard of our local number 2 tram, though very few books in English in the museum shop.
Two more notes before we leave Budapest: the tap water is better than bottled water. There are fountains all over the city from which you can fill water bottles. The bottled water we bought, however, was inexplicably salty. Second, the coffee everywhere in Budapest was superb, always smooth and never bitter.
Sexton and I returned to the Botel, picked up our luggage and headed off to catch the overnight train to Romania.