The Overnight Train To Budapest
By Lee Abbamonte
My friends and I were backpacking through Europe. We were in Prague and we couldn’t agree on our next course of action. We eventually decided that we would all split up and meet up in a few days in Interlaken, Switzerland. I wanted to take the overnight train to Budapest and that’s exactly what I did.
I even splurged for a first class ticket to ensure that I got some sleep on the 10 hour train ride to the Hungarian capital. The cabin was very adequate and the beds were pretty comfortable. There were two bunk beds, a sink, a small closet and I prayed that nobody would be in the cabin with me. I didn’t want to be with anyone who snored or anything like that because I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.
I threw my stuff on the floor and jumped into the top bunk to lie down. As the train started to move there was a knock on the door and it was the conductor with another man. He asked me for my ticket and the man joined me in my cabin. He introduced himself and spoke very nice English. He was a young Hungarian man heading home.
As the door shut, I couldn’t help but notice the awful, unmistakable smell of body odor. In America, we sometimes joke about how some Europeans don’t use deodorant and that sort of thing and to some extent I have noticed it to be true at times. Of course, there are Americans who stink as well but this guy was in my small cabin alone with me and it was too cold to open the window. I just figured I’d get used to it.
Sure enough, I was asleep in a few minutes. At about 2am, I woke up to go to the bathroom, which was outside in a different part of the train car. As I awoke I cringed at the awful smell and I was ecstatic to get out and go to the bathroom.
As I opened the door to return to my room, I was nearly knocked over by the repugnant odor that hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I had been hit in the face by a three day old dead animal. By this time, the body odor smell had combined with bad sleep smell. The smell was so putrid that I felt nauseous. I literally started feeling very faint and ill but what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t just wake the guy up and say, “Excuse me, but you smell so rancid that I can’t bear to be in the same room as you.” I ponied up and headed back to my bunk.
As I laid there trying desperately to stop thinking about the smell, I started feeling more and more sick to my stomach. I wanted desperately to open the window and aerate the place. But I wasn’t about to do that and be rude because he had paid for his ticket as I did. After another twenty minutes lying there trying to think of anything else to fall back asleep and not thinking about my stomach, I started feeling like I was really going to throw up.
I usually have a very strong stomach and can take just about anything, but this smell was so bad and it started getting into my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. After another few minutes, the guy made a disgusting suckling noise and that put me over the edge.
I jumped down from the top and went over to the sink and I vomited right there in the cabin. It was so disgusting. The smell of the vomit, mixed with the other smells of the guy, made it even more oppresive and that smell made me vomit again. This occurred a few more times within the next few minutes. Needless to say my good night sleep was ruined. After I thought I had thrown up for the last time I decided that I needed to open the window for a bit. The guy didn’t even wake up during the puking session. So I decided that in order to air the cabin out, and to teach him a lesson, I was going to open the window and let the frigid air in.
The window was the kind that you can pull out and it opens about three inches or so but on a moving train it will make a huge gushing wind sound. The guy popped up from the rush of cold air and the noise. He was disoriented and then saw me standing there miserable. He asked what was wrong and I told him that I felt sick. He looked genuinely concerned and asked what was wrong. I was so nauseous still that I said there was an awful smell that made me puke. I felt bad but I couldn’t take it anymore.
He then asked me what the smell was and I said I didn’t know but I said it smelled like body odor. He looked at me funny and then I think he realized what I was getting at. He sat there silent for a second and then said, “Maybe I will go back to my seat.”
I looked at him inquisitively and he said that the conductor was a friend and he offered him the bed in my cabin because nobody had bought a ticket for it. I wanted to choke him and it showed in my look toward him. He reluctantly started getting his stuff together. As he walked out, he just nodded and closed the door. I stood there staring at the door in disbelief, freezing from the cold air, pale and nauseous. I then closed the window because the smell was very faint now and went back to bed.
About two hours later, I get a knock on the door. The door just opens and it is the conductor with the immigration people to check passports. They stamped my passport and the conductor asked where his friend was and I said he went back to his seat. After we start moving again, I instantly fell asleep and then two hours later we arrived in Budapest.
I awoke once again and realized we had arrived. I packed up my stuff and weakly moved toward the exit. I was much worse off for buying a first class ticket than I ever would have been in coach. My restful evening turned into a nightmare and I can honestly say it was one of the worst nights of my life. All this occurred because this guy didn’t wear deodorant. Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy my time in Budapest because I was so weak and tired and I couldn’t even list the highlights of the city. However, I remember the smelly Hungarian guy in my cabin like it was yesterday. I will never forget that night and even now, typing this story I can still smell the odor because it has been transplanted into my permanent memory. Oh well, these types of things happen. It’s part of the fun of traveling, you have your ups and downs and if you have the right attitude, your downs can be turned into ups.