Stations, semis and swastikas: Sure signs you’re stranded in Szeged
Public transportation in Europe is wonderful; anyone will tell you that. What they don’t tell you, however, is that you actually have to know how to use the transportation. For the navigationally challenged (read: Lee and Jared), this can be a situation.
So, Jared and I got lost. It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. We were chillin’ at the thermal spa (that’s not really important to the story, just awesome) and it was getting late, so we were like, “Yea, let’s try to find our way back before the buses and trams shut down for the night.” Easy enough, right? So we walked to the closest tram station. “This is the right direction, isn’t it?” Jared asked. I checked my map. “Um, kind of…” After a few minutes, tram number two comes along. “Sweet,” says Jared, “This is the number of the tram I took to get here.” Nice. We were on our way.
I watched my map assuredly as we sped away in the wrong direction. “Yep,” I thought to myself, “When we get here it’s gonna circle around, go aaalllll the way back over here, and we’ll get off here.” How surprised was I when the train stopped at the farthest point and the driver turned and said something that could not have been far from, “Where do you guys think you’re going? You gotta get out of here.” So here’s Jared and I on the opposite side of the landmark Tesco store that everyone knows is way out in the middle of nowhere. “Uhh, let’s go to that stop and see if a tram comes along.” Sure enough! We were on our way. This tram went a couple stops in sort of the right direction, then, as if in a bad dream, turned, stopped, and shut down. BUST! Having no other choice, we evacuated and prepared for the long walk. “Where are we?” asked Jared as I scoured the map. “Uhh, we’re off the map,” I replied, “But it’s not as bad as it sounds. We need to find this street and turn right.”
There are certain things you don’t see in the heart of the city of Szeged. One is gas stations. There are no gas stations in urban Szeged. We noted this as we passed the first gas station either of us has seen in a week. I actually stopped in to see if I could get a frozen pizza, but upon entering a guy in a security vest said something to me in a stern voice and I figured I should probably bounce. Another is semi trucks. I don’t know how they transport goods into shops in the heart of the city, but it is not by semi. If you see a semi (which we did) you’re lost (which we were). The third is swastikas. As we trudged along on some desolate path out in no-man’s-land, we passed a garbage can with a swastika spray painted on it. If you think this would be shocking in America, consider the fact that Hungary was actually under Nazi rule during a period in World War II. We were in the wroooong part of town.
After awhile, we passed a small pizzeria, to which Jared noted, “Whoa, this is identical to the pizzeria by my place… Uh, this is my place.” If you think this sounds ridiculous, consider the fact that both us live in the land of endless yellow apartments, an expansive abyss of identical buildings interspersed with identical playgrounds. This is not Stevens Point, Wis. But, we managed to find our way. Of course, it’s not always good to get lost and please don’t tell the girls we got lost, but you learn a lot about your surroundings when it happens. As cheesy as it sounds, you learn a lot about yourself, too.
Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in Hungary.