Like I’m buying a ticket to the moon

Getting train tickets is always a bit of an adventure if you need more than a few. In Italy you easily wait two hours. In Poland you meet a lady who stares at you for a couple of minutes before she answers your request. In Hungary, train tickets are still old school.

“Can I have 17 tickets for the night train to Krakow tomorrow?”
I see a slight confusion in the ticket lady’s eyes.
“17 people.”
First she thinks I want to travel on the 17th. Then she gets it. She still looks confused. She punches away on her calculator and shows me the result, a question on her face. Do I want to pay all that money?
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
The lady looks at me in disbelief.

The system might be old school, but the people are friendly. Immediately the long process starts. First she has to go through a few books. I can almost see her brain working, trying to figure out how to fit us all in the train. Then she leaves for a few minutes and comes back with more books. Then she gets a form and has to draw lines, fill out a form and once more check things with the books.

After I sign some Hungarian document, it is time for the tickets. Every person gets a small grey cardboard card. Every piece is stamped and signed on the spot. I have the main ticket, which is the massive piece of paper. When I walk out of the ticket office, at least 40 minutes have passed.

Then we arrive at the train. The ticket is taken by the Polish ticket lady. She doesn’t even look at the little grey pieces of cardboard…

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