Do the Trains Run on Time?

Visegrad lacks train service, so to get from there to Bratislava, we must first return to Budapest. We leave an hour and a half of time in between to catch our train, on the theory of "how bad could it get?"

Pretty bad, it turns out. Hungary seems to lack actual highways, and our bus gets stuck in traffic near Budapest's version of Fresh Pond, crawling through an endless procession of traffic lights. We contemplate hopping off and taking the commuter rail the rest of the way in, but just when things look bleakest, the bus muscles its way past one especially brutal merge and we're moving again.

We hit the train station with twenty-five minutes to go -- pant pant no problem pant pant -- only to discover that the signboard has gone out. It's a systemwide failure, apparently, because none of the tracks are marked, either. Sarah's waddling along under her enormous ten-week backpack, so I'm charging around looking for people who look like they might be going to Bratislava and seeing if they know which train is which.

It is under these circumstances that I learn that I can, in a crisis situation, understand spoken German. "Deutsch?" one middle-aged woman asks me and I nod gamely, sure, a little. I don't pick up much more than "abfahrt" and "inland," but suddenly it's crystal-clear, these are the local trains, and those over there are the international ones, and there are intinerary printouts on the doors of the EC trains, and it's all good.

I suppose that this is how mothers who find the strength to lift minivans off of their trapped children must feel.