Pre-trip planning – a good idea for making the most of a city, normally it will ensure you tick off the big sights. On a trip to Budapest we had all been allocated a time slot for which we had to run a tour and as always, it turned into a bit of a competition to see who could deliver the best sites on their tour. Normally a top quality planner, I took it pretty seriously, covering all my bases with bars, restaurants, sights and local facts. Here I was, set to wow Jono, Ad, Brett and Liz with what was going to be ‘the best walking tour of their lives’…
My pre-trip planning covered a few websites, the usual suspects: Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Wikipedia etc. I drew up a list of Budapest sights from by research, included in the list was the Nyugati train station. It made the list for what I thought, were two good reasons – but it turned out that I hadn’t quite done my research thoroughly enough and had inferred something that never was.
Listed on Lonely Planet’s site as the #3 sight to see was the Nyugati Train Station – I thought to myself, ‘sounds good, this is going to be a gem to pull out and cap of my tour’. I continued on in my planning and stumbled across a list of articles on Lonely Planet that Budapest had been tagged in, the title of one of these articles was “Europe’s greatest train stations“. Jackpot! I didn’t even bother to read the article, it just confirmed that I had the trump card of a sight to visit, which is where it all fell apart.
We took the metro system to Nyugati and I bounded up the steps ready to show off a one of the ‘greatest train stations in Europe’, but at first glance, the word ‘greatest’ seemed like a slight overstatement. Sure it looked interesting, but not really worthy of the word ‘Greatest’. I decided that it must be amazing on the inside so convinced my tour party to check out the inside, this did not really help matters. The inside was really just a shell of metal, even the trains were pretty ugly. The team were starting to pay me out a bit, my enthusiasm was still high though and I lead the guys through to the other part of the station, hoping that it was going to show us just what ‘Greatest’ really means. Nope, this had successfully turned out to be the biggest flop of a sight to visit. My now laughing tour party quickly discredited the station and were not backward in coming forward about my abilities.
It turns out that the article entitled “Europe’s greatest train stations”, actually referred to another train station in Budapest, Keleti, which apparently has statues of James Watt and George Stephenson and is quite a grand building. Nyugati was not mentioned in this article at all. Later research showed that we potentially missed out on the only thing worth seeing in Nyugati, the McDonalds – claimed to be the most elegant in Europe. The only anomaly in this whole story is how the station got rates as #3 sight to see on Lonely Planet, I guess we’ll just have to accept that our expectations are different to those users who are doing the reviewing on Lonely Planets site.
All in all a good lesson, funny story and another experience. Lesson: Always read, don’t infer.