Mongolians in Budapest

I was waiting. And waiting.

The bus had not arrived. Perhaps, the longest delay I got in Europe, or wherever. It was a Sunday summer afternoon in Budapest main bus station. I was waiting for a Flixbus that would bring me to Belgrade.

In the morning, I was checking out from a tiny hostel near the Liberty Bridge, and walking through the city center to go to metro station, while buying a red Che Guevara t-shirt on the way. I was ready to go to the south, to Serbia.

I arrived early, as usual. The bus had not arrived, and would not until 6 hours later. I was waiting and waiting. The SMS from Flixbus, at least, arrived. It said that the schedule was moved to 6 pm and we, the passengers, could only wait.

There were some passengers who hopelessly waited with me. But, in particular, I remember a middle-aged Mongolian couple, with their friendly, charismatic faces.

They were traveling through Europe, heading to Paris, if I remember well. But, their Schengen visa would expire tomorrow if they did not manage to exit Schengen area today. Borders are complicated, indeed, as a wise man never told.

They did not intend to go to Belgrade, or Serbia at large. They needed them only as a stamp in their passports, so they could be able to go to Western Europe tomorrow. All the roads lead to the west. What a postcolonial bullshit that is!

That was why the delay worried them most. They needed a stamp of that day’s date, not tomorrow’s. I guessed they were afraid the bus schedule would be delayed again, making them unable to cross the border before the midnight.

Amid the chaos, we managed to kill time by talking to each other. A group of strangers waiting for a delayed bus in a strange city, on a hot long summer day. Me, the Mongolians, two Italian girls, a Serbian, and few Hungarians.

“We, Mongolians, are nomads,” the husband said.

It was strange to hear the word ‘nomad’ came from a mouth of, perhaps, the nomad in  a classical sense. All this time, nomad was mostly used by urban or peri-urban travelers to explain their romanticism of wandering the strange lands.

Then, the couple put me in an imaginary Mongolian landscape. They talked about horses, sheep, yurt, ger, grass, and water, and how all of them knit the Mongolian nomadic lifestyle. There was nothing romantic about their story, though.

That lifestyle is what brought them to Budapest. They were traveling to embrace what they always do: moving between lands. But, this time with no yurt, no horse, huge luggage, and passports to be stamped at Hungarian-Serbian border.

Post-scriptum: Around 6, the bus finally came. We arrived at Belgrade at about 11. The Mongolian couple managed to have their passports stamped. They were heading to Paris tomorrow. Balkan, I guess, did not really interest them.