After talking with our Viennese friends, we decide to the remaining few days of our trip on a quick jaunt to a neighboring country. Prague? Greece? Budapest. I don’t know why I’m so captivated by the thought of visiting this east meets west city straddling the Danube, once the most important hub for trade Actually, they’re two distinctly different cities – Buda and Pest. It sounds so exotic. When I think of visiting, I imagine myself as the teenaged heroine of a childhood novel I must’ve read, being sent off for holiday from her boarding school, to the orient to meet her diplomat parents. I’m wearing a late 19th century dress petticoats and a traveling hat, looking through the window of my train on this strange city. Could it be a past life connection, or am I under a spell? This fantasy, this strange magic magnetism is so compelling that I override my husband’s desire to go to the Austrian mountains, hike and spa (which sounds like a little slice of heaven after the past few days city living) by continually offering Budapest as a better suggestion. A recommendation from his Viennese colleague reinforces my wish – Budapest’s hustle and bustle is young, alive, not to be missed.

The reality is we missed the boat to Budapest. So we caught the train. I misread the travel site (“no reserved seats” does not mean “no advance tickets”) and of the 60+ passengers, 6 of which have no tickets, we are the only two people who do not make it on the boat. And we have a hotel room booked for 2 nts. in Budapest, not Vienna. We find out where the train station is and bags in tow, sit down in an internet cafe, waiting 2 hours for the next train. This is a sign, I think, of unexpected changes to come. And maybe, just like my fantasy, I am supposed to be on the train to Budapest. The boat to Budapest was not meant to be.