Chronicles of a writer abroad


Award for best metro chime goes to Budapest

Yesterday I was talking with my mom about how riding local forms of transit is a very enjoyable part of travelling to new cities and countries. Last week Stelian and I visited Budapest, a truly fascinating city. But I was disappointed to find, after our arrival, that I’d brought my camera but neglected to bring its battery, which I’d left in the charger at home. One of the things I most regretted not being able to document during the trip was the city’s metro system.

I was tipped off by a Zürich friend before going that the Budapest metro was great, and it did not disappoint. The stations are far underground, with escalators so high they bring on vertigo, and fixed to the ceilings above them are giant fans whose blades look like they could propel bomber planes, which force air to circulate down below.

The platforms are wonderfully old-timey — most we saw were identical, white tile trimmed with magenta, and a wooden booth that probably used to be for selling tickets (now, as in most places, you can get them from a machine). They evoked an earlier razzle-dazzle era so powerfully that I expected a man with a striped jacket, straw hat, and a cane to do a shuffle-dance onto the scene each time our train pulled into one.

Perhaps the tones that accompanied the arrival at each station helped to foster this illusion. The subway cars, while not the most modern, played the jauntiest, most cheerful metro chime I’ve ever heard, and I laughed each time I heard it. It was disappointing not to be able to record it. Then today I remembered, in a facepalm moment, that it’s possible to find absolutely anything on the internet. So in the video below is Budapest’s metro chime, courtesy of a random youtuber.  Tell me: have you ever heard a better one, or have you been to other places with interesting/amusing transit systems?