On 11 June, we had a leisurely wake up, tidied everything up in the Airbnb and did two runs (walks) to the car, with Tiger 'helping' to push the big silver case along. Aside from a few steps at either end, it actually looks and sounds worse and was actually quite simple. The parking, for Hungary, was rather expensive 14,680 HUF (£31.50) but I was also grateful for a super safe car park.
Having negotiated the ticket machine, we finally left at about half past eleven and arrived, having driven the 220km at just after 3pm so it was quite a long (over 3 hours) drive but Tiger did sleep for a significant portion of it. The Waze app led us straight to the Gyermekvasút or 'Children's Railway' in English (at Hegyhát út) and I parked in the very obvious car park, but people had parked along the verge and in lots of different spaces so you do not necessarily need to park in the car park. I was initially unsure where to go (there are steps leading down the to the bus station and interlinking regular train but in fact you just park and then keep heading by foot up the road to the Children's Railway.
The entrance has a large Cafe at the front, and you ascend steps onto the platform and ticket office. This is where the fun really starts as you start to see children aged 10 to 14 in uniforms everywhere working the railway from the ticket office, to the control switchboard, attending to the carriages, making announcements, almost everything except being the actual train driver! It is the world's largest children's railway.
The Children’s Railway is a narrow-gauge railway (with eight stops) and was built in 1951 by Pioneers (socialist Scouts). The little train chugs along for 11km, terminating at Hűvösvölgy 45 minutes later.
The history of the Children's Railway is fascinating. In 1947, the Hungarian State Railways company decided that a railway operated by children would be built. For the railway construction several sites were considered, but finally in 1948 the Hungarian Communist Party choose the Buda Hills. The original name of the line was Úttörővasút (Pioneer Railway, in reference to the communist scouts). The construction started on 11 April 1948 and the first section was inaugurated on 31 July 1948. The second section was completed one year later, and the last section was opened on 20 August 1950. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 the railway was closed but was not damaged. It reopened on 3 February 1957.
So it has been going for over 70 years - amazing! I learnt from the museum that children go on duty every fifteenth day on average in a school term and that if this day is a workday, they do not have to go to school.
From the Children's railway, it was just a short drive to the Airport Hotel Budapest which we had booked on booking.com for £56, and which really fitted the bill perfectly being very close to the airport and to the car hire return back at Klaaswagen.
The whole airport experience was a complete breeze with priority check in, a soft play area and I even noticed free strollers to borrow! All in all, we had a wonderful trip to Hungary and can wholeheartedly recommend it.