I say good-bye to my Dublin-bound friend and proceed to clear immigration and take the train to Centraal which is conveniently located only 20 minutes away from the airport on the commuter train.
The weather is dull and a light cold drizzle covers the narrow cobblestone streets, yet I walk around the city to wake up from the lethargy of an early morning start and a long flight towards my hostel , just besides the Van Gogh Museum.
Jet-lagged and tired, energy is only enough for a shower, a visit to the local supermarket for groceries and edibles and for checking my e-mails and messages until I fall asleep, daylight aside.
In the morning, the warm sunshine breaks through the big dorm window and wakes me up. Backpack on shoulders, I walk to Centraal Station for a train to Eindhoven while enjoying a stroopwaffle and a coffee. A place which still features fresh memories of a trip only completed a few weeks earlier.
The golden Autumnal sunshine has dyed the place in tones of brown and outside, the cold wind has sentenced everyone to be indoors. Bikes are not seen around anymore.
I wait at Eindhoven Airport for a few hours, whilst charging my phone and eating the driest sausage roll I've had in my life. The terminal has a viewing deck for the amusement of travelers and family members watching their beloved ones boarding or just the constant noise of budget airline airplanes taking off and landing. Something not very common nowadays.
We are called for boarding at the end of the afternoon and a full flight heavily departs fighting the strong winds, Budapest bound, a nearly three-hour journey over Central Europe, with groups of young people preparing for a weekend of adventure and partying as they scream, laugh and take pictures all through the aircraft for the amusement of some other sleepy travelers.
The always-tacky Ryanair fanfare plays after touchdown at Fehigeri Airport followed by a long walk through the tarmac to the main airport terminal before everyone rushes to the exchange booths to get some exotic-looking Forints.
I am told to board a bus to the nearest metro station and continue onward to my hostel. This is where I get my first glimpse of the Hungarian capital: poorly lit streets, a large amount of derelict houses, (a Tesco) and soviet-era old buses running through the crowded and dark motorway. It feels like being in two different continents at the same time, blended by the darkness of a cold night.
Soon we reach Kobanya-Kispest metro station and the starting point of Dracula Lines.
An old Soviet-style light blue steeled train awaits in the gloomy platform. Long rows of hard seats on both sides of the carriage fill with locals and the odd lost tourist. A sad voice through the communication system recites a warning in Hungarian language and a yellow light blinks as a mechanical noise beeps loudly. The doors close almost immediately banging against each other and a second longer sad announcement in local language is heard. It feels like I have just signed up for a killing chamber or a journey into a abyss. The train then starts its journey through dark tunnels and several stations where the same operation repeats each time.
Locals have a sad look, covered in different layers of bleak-coloured clothing. The cultural knot Budapest once represented becomes obvious in the physical features of their population where Otomans mixed with Austrians and Caucasians.
I reach Deak Ferenc station, right in the City Centre for a transfer of metro lines, facing long tunnels which feature interesting mosaic art and the longest escalator I have seen in my life until I find myself in an even darker station.
The Yellow line has now become famous between visitors and has even featured in a few movies due to its particular spooky dark look, oak smell, and old-fashion signage and carriages.
'Mexiko' station is the last stop. Outside, the outskirts of Budapest are presented as a post-war scene: square soulless buildings and walls covered in graffitis, beggars cramping underneath roofed pathways around old rubbish bags and old trains passing by at high speed on a dark railway.
The hostel is nearby, a dark place with a little sign stating 'Hostel'. For a second, I believe I have made a mistake and thoughts of cheesy Hollywood movie productions splash to my mind as I ring the bell and a rather dodgy looking character appears through the dark garden to let me into the old and musty house.
A group of Polish students are in the kitchen playing cards and a drinking game. I join them shortly after I check into my room and put some sheets on my steeled bed.
Mood is relaxed with the third shot of strong Polish vodka, time when we decide to hit town and see the city at night time, starting with a walk through the empty park , into the impressive Heroes Square where Hungarian's glory leaders are show in a massive display of lights and statues and later through a tree-lined long and pretty avenue into the Jewish District.
A former ghetto area, the Jewish District saw its post-war transformation when private investors decided to use the old unused buildings as places to drink and dance creating the concept of 'Ruin bar', which has now been copied all over the world. A place where basically 'junk' or unwanted items such as old cars and furniture are placed into a dodgy-looking building merged to a beer garden and combined with cheap pizza and drinks.
It is also a place to be seen and where tourists gather to enjoy the capital's nightlife and the affordable alcoholic mixes.
Pizza and a beer for under 5 Euros. I am in for that. As are most of the passengers that were on my flight earlier and groups of foreigners from all over the world. (maybe not the Chinese group playing with their iPads in the corner, they just wanted some free Wi-fi).
We return to the hostel through the long avenue whilst learning a bit of Polish and sobering up with a cheap gyros roll, a Hungarian must-eat.