Balla-Balla-Balla-Balla-Balla-chameleon 15Jul08 | [Maz] 0

It rained.

Our last day in Baltonlelle and it rained. We spent most of the day completing individual tasks, such as reading, knitting and Nick M’s attempt at savage sattire following our game of scrabble:

“There was a lamb

It was a bee

The bee is death

Fire! Fire!

Damn the lamb

Glory to the lamb”

Genius. For York Notes to Nick’s Anatomy of a Bee: Part VII – Flatulence of the Lamb call 0800 696869 for more details. And now, for a special limited period special offer: If you pay with a credit card you also get a free bee.

After our attempts at literature we put our time towards activities of more physical exertion. I was the only one brave enough to face Lake Balaton; although the lake wsn’t frezing it was filled with reeds making it impossible to swim in properly. In the middle of an attempt to front crawl my legs caught caught in the plants and I nearly drowned (where’s Pamela Anderson and The Hoff when you need them?). Luckily the deepest point of Lake Balaton is about one metre deep. Bad for midgets, good for Mazs. Inevitable death was avoided by placing my feet on the floor and standing up. Wouldn’t have been so easy if I was a midget.

Whilst all this drama and adventure was taking place the Nicks went off to explore the town. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I like to think they went for a picnic and confessed their undying love for each other closely followed by much vigorous ‘passion’.


Just for future reference, we in fact went for a bike ride. Although Nick M ran the entire way for an hour and was knackered at the end.

We’re so hardcore.

When night-time arrived on his pedalo we decided to take Edina and her family to dinner to thank them for their hospitality. This backfired when Edina’s husband refused to let us pay despite protests from all of us.

The highlight of the conversations, not really surprisingly in true interthink fashion, turned out to be the crudest. The Hungarian word for cheese, ‘sajt’ was pronounced ‘shite’ and the word for ‘kiss’ is ‘puszi’, pronounced ‘pussy’. Oh, the laughs we had over those.

We hung around in the town for a while, bought them a small plant to show our appreciation and then walked home, spotting suspected UFOs and aliens on the way…

…And it rained.

Lake Placid 14Jul08 | [Rio] 1

Our first day at Lake Balaton started slowly.  After arriving at about 1 in the morning at the guest house we’re staying in (our own small house with kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms, right next to my Hungarian cousin’s holiday home), we decided a relaxing lie-in was long overdue after our hectic sight-seeing schedule.  I got up at a reasonable hour to greet my family and discuss the things that we could do here.  Balaton is more of a tourist beach resort than the places we have visited before, so planning our days around sight-seeing has been basically impossible.  That shouldn’t matter, I hear you cry, since lying around on the grass or the beaches around the warm lake should provide a welcome rest.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t been possible.

We’ve witnessed worse weather during our stay here than I have ever seen before. I’m not exaggerating.  The night we arrived there was an absolutely huge thunderstorm, with thunder which practically shook the foundations of the house.  The lightning was blinding. This means that we haven’t really been able to take advantage of the lake, only 10 m from the house.

To wait for the weather to (hopefully?) pass, we decided to have breakfast, provided kindly by my cousin, and prepared by our very own Nicks – Nick Manners took care of the tea and toast, and  Nick Stylianou was the Michelin-Starred [pancake] tosser.  As the weather still hadn’t improved much, we decided to brave the elements anyway to walk to the local Spar.  On the way, there was yet more lightning, thunder and rain.  But we did buy some sweeties (worth getting soaking wet) and an interesting drink called Hell which was, in fact, an exact replica of Red Bull.  Probably the most amusing part of this jaunt was the fact that we were wearing shorts and T-shirts, despite the terrible weather (it’s those optimistic Surreyites again) much to the amusement of the Hungarian inhabitants.

On our return, in true brave British style, some of us went for a swim in the lake.  Terrible idea.  Although warmer than the sea, it was still pretty chilly thanks to the frequent recent rainfalls and a wind-chill factor to rival the Arctic tundra.  To cheer ourselves up, we went out for dinner.  This proved not to be a better idea when we were surrounded by (rabid?) dogs in the restaurant and were served with our pizzas which appeared not to have any tomato on them.  Who makes pizza without tomato?

And so we returned home, and entertained each other, with some carefully-picked items from the supermarket.  Not a fantastic day thanks to the poor weather, but I think it was good for us to have a laid-back time, hoping the weather would be better tomorrow.  Besides, it could have been worse.  We could still have been in Slovakia.

International Services (part 2) 13Jul08 | [NickS] 0

So I leaped out of my chair, most of my shirt sticking to my seat and informed Team Tired that we might be on the wrong train. After thoroughly checking some maps to make sure this wasn’t a simple country crossing en route, we found we were actually closer to where we started, on a train terminating at Prague via Vienna. Through Slovakia.

Well, actually, this information wasn’t gained through sitting on our arses watching Slovakian countryside but Gill and I found the nearest guard with whom to have a chat:

I gather we’re at Nové Zámký.
Er…how do we get to Balatonlelle? (pointing at map)
(raucous laughter)
This is Slovakia.

Fantastic. Now only a mild three hours off schedule, on a train hurtling in the wrong direction, we had to find out how to get to a place we’d never been to, from the neighbouring country we didn’t even intend to visit.

Time for the Thomas Cook Independent Traveller’s Edition European Rail Timetable Summer 2008 Edition to prove its worth. After all, we had another 30 minutes until the train made another stop…

Revised travel plan: dinner at Rio’s relatives’ abode put on hold, get off at next station, go back to Budapest and get on the right sodding train. If only it were this simple. Disembarking at what could only be described as a sparsely furnished stop-over, we were accosted by Slovakian children trying to sell us books. No thanks. No, I said…look – no!

Ah, a guard. Do you speak English? Of course not. Frenetic map-pointing and gesturing it is, rewarded by a handwritten piece of paper detailing the route to Budapest. Departing in an hour and a half.

An hour and a half later, we wait an additional 10 minutes on our Slovakian station platform home to catch our train to Budapest Keleti pu, planning (on arrival) to leg it to the metro in order to cross the river and make it to Budapest Deli pu in a mere 15 minutes. Well, some sweaty Surreyites can dream, can’t they?

Needless to say, after meeting a representative from the Budapest tourist office on our train from Nové Zámký who assured us it couldn’t be done, it couldn’t be done. This left us at another station, at approximately 7 o’clock, with more despairing investigation to do. At least we were in the right country.

Fuelled by some of Burger King’s finest Hungarian cuisine from a few kilometres away, and watching the rain pour on trains we shouldn’t board, we were left with what we hoped were a final two choices: board an earlier train to Siofok, with a 45-minute lift to our host’s accommodation at approximately 2330 or catch the milk train to our original destination, getting a 10 minute lift from Rio’s really rather lovely relatives. We chose the latter.

“Aaagh! What the hell is that noise?”

Oh, it’s the 500dB of brakes screeching at the first of our twenty-odd stops.

ETA: 0045

International Services (part 1) 13Jul08 | [NickM] 0

“Aaagh! What the hell is that noise?”

This has been an interesting day to say the least. When given the task of documenting it, I thought this was going to be a rather brief entry – a walk in the park, as easy as pie. Alas, it has turned out to be a rather different kettle of fish.

Okay, clichés aside, back to the beginning…

Being the well-planned young adults we are, we gave ourselves plenty of time to get to Wien Westbahnhof to catch our train for Budapest in order to get a transfer to the ancestral home of the Laszlós in Balatonlelle. Watches were set for 0800, train leaves at 0952. Sorted.


Don’t actually get up until 0820, then after a slightly too leisurely breakfast, we look at our watches and it’s 0920. So begins the interthink trans-Vienna mini-marathon. A race against time consisting of 2 metro lines, 2 lost room keys and to add insult to injury, a giant set of stairs at the station which we were forced to climb thanks to the misreading of a sign by our very own Miss Field. Despite all this, we made it. We shouldn’t have, but we did. Shoddy Soviet engineering paid dividends as the train (terminating at Belgrade) was delayed by 15 minutes.

No harm done, lesson learnt: Get up, get ready, get out. We pulled into Budapest in one piece, having met three of the RGS’ most outstanding chaps of ’08 on the way (Tom Wales, Joe de Sousa and Simon Rollings). Combined with our chance meeting at the Vienna ‘operetta’ with the infamous Irene has resulted in one of the most unlikely inter-rail trips possible.

The only other (arguably minor) incident of note on this portion of the journey was the distinct lack of working air-conditioning, resulting in a set of smelly, sweaty travellers.

We boarded the 1330 train for Balatonlelle on time, on schedule, on track. The air-conditioning fan’s only function was to make a mildly annoying noise, but that seemed to be the limit of its functionality, but as we already resembled drowned rats it didn’t seem to matter. Off we intrepidly went.

Two hours into the three hour trip came the highlight of the day, all starting with a mundane welcome message from a mobile phone operator. Nick Stylianou snapped out of his doze and ripped out his earphones, staring intently at his phone.

“T-Mobile welcomes you to Slovakia.”

“Oh, bugger.”