Szabadka Unlimited, 3. So ugly that already disgusting

“The railway station in Szabadka is the building which all the foreign rulers unanimously declare to be ugly.” This sentence contains the essence of the journalism of Szabadka/Subotica. The railway station in Szabadka is ugly, how could it be otherwise, since Szabadka is a province, from which we desire to break free to the large world, and which until then we belittle from the altitude of the coffee house. But Szabadka is also the center of the world, whose railway station is known to all the foreign rulers, they exchange opinions on it wherever they meet, and their opinion is unanimous and steady. Szabadka and its railway station are a fixed point in the uncertain universe, which therefore we can never leave. Only foreign rulers use it for transit; for the king of the coffee house it only plays the role of the daily stumbling block.

Bácsmegyei Napló, 22 October 1911

The Bulgarian king is traveling
Ferdinand, the democrat

From our correspondent. Szabadka, 21 October

A king, even if only the ruler of a small Balkan state, is a great lord, so it might be of some interest how he travels, and how he behaves when he travels not on his private court train, but on the regular one, together with peddlers, free-pass journalists, civilian women and Serbian merchants.

The correspondent of the Bácsmegyei Napló traveled together with Ferdinand, King of Bulgaria on Thursday evening, from Szabadka to Belgrade, and recounts his impressions in this report.

It has been reported in the newspapers that on Thursday evening Ferdinand, King of Bulgaria and his wife traveled through the railway station of Szabadka.

The report was partially wrong. The Queen of Bulgaria was not on the fast train. She had previously gone to Sofia on the express train. The king traveled with his two sons and his suite. They had been visiting to Alcsút for a few days, and now they were on their way back to the Balkans.

Ferdinand, the king is a gentleman in his 40s. He has a long goatee and a really bold-sized nose.

He and his suite of six people traveled in two Bulgarian special compartments. The two compartments were attached directly in front of the dining car, so from the latter one could quite well see what was happening in one of the two special compartments.

I thought that the Bulgarian king could be interviewed on the way. After all, the Hungarian public is so badly informed about Tripolis, Turkey, and the Balkans in ferment, that any authentic information from the Bulgarian king could be useful.

This plan, however, had to be given up. The Hungarian railway employees traveling with the king, just like the members of his suite declared that I can even make no attempt to speak with the king. He does not accept any journalists. He is a military man who does not like to talk much.

– It is impossible. Impossible! What do you think? – said a long-bearded Bulgarian in a frightened face, who could speak German, and you could clearly see the holy horror on his face that a journalist wants to speak with his ruler.

I really did not want to challenge the impossible, although all the possible reporter’s tricks run across my mind in a moment. I thought to dress as a conductor or to change clothes with the waiter, but such things can be done only in the anecdotes. Nevertheless, I did not want to leave unexploited the advantageous situation that I was traveling together with the Bulgarian king and that I could observe what he was doing.

So here I give a description of the king’s travel from Szabadka to Belgrade.

In Szabadka the king looked out of the window of his special compartment. He looked at the railway station, and then with a poorly disguised oh my, how ugly on his face he turned away from the old, decrepit and disgusting station of Szabadka.

After the train pulled out of the station of Szabadka, it did not even get to Nagyfény, when the king and his suite came to the dining car. A small part of the dining car was closed off, and it was occupied by King Ferdinand and his suite.

In the company of the king there was also Offner, the shop manager from the right bank of the Danube, to whom the king seems to have a very good relationship. The king and the manager sat opposite each other at the small two-person table of the dining car, and they chatted extremely happily over dinner. It seems that Offner told some piquant anecdotes to the king, because before the latter laughed, he glanced sideway at his sons, whether they understand what it is about.

The chef of the dining car prepared a special dinner for the king and his suite. The dinner must have been very good, because the king took much from every dish. They drank red wine to the dinner. The king does not show any sign to his having been a Hungarian hussar, because he never clinks with his glass. The dinner lasted as far as Ópázua. Then the king stood up and went back to his special compartment. First, however, he opened the door of the dining car, and accompanied Offner to the other part of the train. There he took leave of him. He shook hands in a patriarchal way, and told him:

– Good bye, dear Uncle Offner. Please, at Zimony come over to me for a small chat.

The waiters say that King Ferdinand always calls the manager Uncle Offner.

By the way, the waiters and the train staff are not at all satisfied with King Ferdinand. He does not give a tip. He did not give anything for the dinner service either. It was only the chief marshal who honored the head waiter with twenty francs.

They give loud expression to their dissatisfaction. They tell that when the king recently traveled to Budapest in a special compartment on the morning express train, he only gave a tip of twenty francs. He handed it to the chief of the Eastern Railway Station to distribute it among the train staff. The restaurateur of the Eastern Railway Station gave 19 crowns for the 20 francs. From this, the brakeman got 4 crowns, and the two conductors and the train driver 5-5 crowns.

– I have a passenger, a merchant from Verbász – says one of the conductors –, he is a far greater gentleman than the Bulgarian king.

Nevertheless, the conductors and the waiters speak with great reverence about the king. They sit together and whisper about him.

Between Ópázua and Zimony the king asked a bottle of wine and a bottle of mineral water into his compartment. It was taken by the waiter. He says that the king is reading some files, and a map is spread out in front of him. His Majesty is obviously very interested in the affairs of Tripolis, and he is being continuously reported about them.

In Zimony [the pre-1920 Hungarian-Serbian border station] the passengers leave the train. The king, however, remains in the car. Manager Offner also goes to him. The Serbian customs officer, who, by way of a very insufficient control, only asks the passengers about their profession, does not enter the special compartment. He knows that its passenger is no anarchist, but a king.

In Belgrade the Bulgarian compartments are attached to a special train. It will take Ferdinand to Sofia. The king once more appears in the window, and shakes hands with manager Offner:

– Good night, Uncle Offner. Good night!

Bácsmegyei Napló, 22 November 1911

Kings’ encounter in Szabadka
Our correspondent. Szabadka, 21 November

The railway station of Szabadka had two distinguished guests today. At nine-thirty in the morning, with the regular express train arrived Ferdinand, King of Bulgaria, the old acquaintance of Szabadka. The royal guest came from Sofia and goes to Poprádfelka. He only came through the ugly station of Szabadka because this is the shortest way there.

Two hours later, at 12:44 a Serbian special train slid into the station. It was taking home another Balkan notable, His Majesty Petar, from France, where they eat the meat with fork and knife, and also use towel for washing. He was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Milovanovich, and eleven Serbian dignitaries. They spent ten minutes at the railway station, during which time they lowered the curtains of the club car.

The two Majesties’ trains met at Csengőd. Ferdinand leaned out of the car, and told to Petar:

– Still so ugly.

That is, the railway station of Szabadka.

Bácsmegyei Napló, 12 February 1912

The king on the railway station of Szabadka

Last night, a distinguished guest stayed for some minutes on the railway station of Szabadka. The king… True, only some recently coined king: the ruler of the Bulgarians. His arrival did not stir much sensation, as the Bulgarian king appears so often on the railway station of Szabadka as his colleague, the club king in the card-play called “twenty-one”. King Ferdinand came this time from Archduke Joseph, and was on his way back to Sofia. The train was about to leave, when Chief Adjutant Imre Pocketovich said to the ruler:

– Your Majesty, you graciously condescended to forget something.

– What did I condescend? – asked the king, and he apparently seemed to be shocked.

– We are in Szabadka – chanced the Adjutant, who is otherwise a Balkan champion of chance games.

– Oh yes – he said, and spat. – Phew, how ugly this station is. So ugly that already disgusting. – Said the king, and the train pulled out.

Bácsmegyei Napló, 18 November 1911

The decrepit railway station of Szabadka is still being patched

(Our correspondent) The railway station of Szabadka is the building which all the foreign rulers unanimously declare to be ugly. King Petar of Serbia, who just arrived to Paris, got sick because he looked out at the railway station of Szabadka.

And how sick would have become poor Petar Karadjordjevich, if he had to get out here, totter along in darkness and mud among the trains, jumping in front of the locomotives with menacing eyes ready to leave, if in the rain there had been no room for him either on the covered platform, or in the waiting room.

The rulers in transit, who make their obligate comments, are spared from all this, but we, poor inhabitants of Szabadka, have to suffer all the nuisances of this very small, very ugly and very dangerous railway station.

The people of Szabadka is confident each spring, summer, autumn and winter that the new railway station would be finally built.

However, on the railway station of Szabadka, in the current one, the decrepit one, the one ripe for the pickaxe – now they started new works. They are building a huge and thoroughly flammable depot for the repairs of the locomotives.

On the railway station of Szabadka today there is no space even to let the trains in, and nevertheless the Hungarian Railways are still patching this old building, until one day it all will crumble.

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