Page 15 of sapere18 Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina » East » Sarajevo August 6th 2005

From my compartment window, the train slowed to a crawl and I watched towering apartment building give way to single homes tucked into hillsides. They looked down at a valley. Minarets shot up like spikes from domed mosques and the whaling commenced, as that early hour marked the first call to Muslim prayer. Women dawned in burquas and stern faces held shopping bags by the platform. For a brief moment, my common sense and education of all that I knew of Europe had eluded me. Had I arrived in Sarajevo or Istanbul? My initial walk through Sarajevo’s Stari Grad, or Old Town, did little to dissuade me from the Istanbul theory. People here looked like Turks; dark, stubble beards, and jet black hair. I lost count of the minarets throughout the center and those that rise ... read more
Uphill To Home
Cemeteries Abound
Uncommon Occurrence

Europe » Hungary » Southern Transdanubia » Pécs August 4th 2005

The spike in temperature is the first thing you notice when getting off the train in Pécs (PAYCH when pronounced), then the burning sun, followed by the orange tiled roofs. If in the south of Hungary, passing through cheerful Pécs is tough to avoid. This is a good thing. Pécs is wonderful because it impresses without trying to. Everything in Pécs has its proper place and fits in perfectly. The portion of town within the crumbling fortifications does not overwhelm, but it is still very eye-pleasing. Its streets are not over-the-top with ostentatious architecture or monuments. City squares are well kept and shrubs manicured. Fountains are plenty clean enough for toddlers to enjoy them, waist deep on a hot day. A stately sky-blue domed mosque commands the central square, the Szechenyi Tér. Some alleyways are windy, ... read more
Fading Crescent?

Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest August 3rd 2005

Budapest’s social scene goes non-stop, around the clock. Entertainment options range from cafés, theater, jazz clubs, thumping nightclubs, and late night pubs. Falling short of my goal to find a particular underground night spot along the Danube in Pest, and then perturbed the wine bar in Buda I sought out was closed for vacation (things they can never inform you of in a guidebook!), I trudged back to my apartment, indignant and resigned to retire early for the evening. Other than the dim incandescent lights that are suspended over the dark back streets of Pest, late night establishments leave one lit sign outside their door to indicate they’re open. Nearing Garay Tér, a few of these signs called out my name, and I decided to explore these underground vaults of nocturnal life. The most interesting point ... read more

Europe » Hungary » Central Hungary » Budapest August 1st 2005

I never wanted to come to Budapest. In fact, the whole trip down to Hungary served as dilemma on how to handle arriving here. Hungary was an inevitability: in order to go anywhere else, particularly south, you had to go through Hungary. And if you have Hungary to contend with, Budapest is a must, as all rail lines converge here. So, what to do? I planned on seeing if there were any long-distance departures in the evening. But that would mean twenty-four hours plus in motion and I could do without this. If the connections existed, could I get a reservation, seat, or couchette on the spot? Experience has dictated that this is not likely. Having decided to get a room around the station, I then talked myself into prolonging my time here. Thousands of visitors ... read more
Atop Buda

Štrebské Pleso anchors the west end of the Tatras rail line while Tatranská Lomnica occupies the other. Both have cable cars take hikers to trails located at higher altitudes. While a nine hour march along a mountainside did not appeal to me, I made a half day of it and hiked about two hours. On the way, I scooped up Midori, from Niigata, Japan, and convinced her to tag along. She is a student studying Slovak. Odd, isn’t it? A Japanese girl studying Slovak? The ride from Tatranská Lomnica up to Skalnaté Pleso presents graceful views of the forested slopes below, and at times, the peaks above. It is imperative to beware of the weather, however. My time in the Tatras has taught me that on a mid July day, a nasty, pelting rainfall can develop ... read more

Europe » Slovakia » Presov Region » High Tatras July 25th 2005

Poprad is the economic center and rail junction of Slovakia’s High Tatras region of. Yet, when pulling into the station, one tends to wonder why. What’s the big deal? What mountains? Where? On an overcast day, the mountains are concealed in clouds, leaving the newly arrived to reconsider why they came this far for a mountain getaway. No mountains are to be found anywhere. Yet, as with the climate in regions where altitude plays a major role, a brisk east wind lifts the heavy gray curtain on the Tatras’ jagged and glacial peaks. However finite in area this range of the Carpathians is, the first time you set eyes upon them leaves a robust impression. Starý Smokovec is the boss of a series of villages that rest upon the lower slopes of the High Tatras, linked ... read more
The Power of Nature
Old Fashioned

Europe » Slovakia » Presov Region » High Tatras July 22nd 2005

Reveling in the emptiness of my compartment on the train to Poprad, I willingly welcomed an elderly couple to join me. They had been seeking a seat up and down the corridor. Usually, I am not enthralled with younger men who join me. It usually results in very loud and obnoxious noise emanating from their earphones. On the other hand, travelers many years older than me are agreeable and at the worst, inoffensive. The older lady asked me in Slovak if the seats were indeed free. I replied in the affirmative in Slovak. This brought on another question, to which I had to admit my ignorance and ask, “Mluvíte anglicky?” “Yes. I speak English.” Wow. This was uncommon. A women her age functional in English, yet a Slovak, too? She arranged her bags, kissed her husband ... read more

Europe » Slovakia » Kosice Region » Kosice July 21st 2005

After a routine, yet non-intrusive inspection from Polish customs aboard the train to Budapest, the Slovaks performed no passport control at the border. I was not particularly worried and the steward in charge of our wagon woke me at some unheard of hour to tell me it was time soon to get off. I woke none of the others in my compartment, all bound for Hungary. He made sure I traveled no further than my ticket indicated. In the morning mist of 4:30 am, Košice does very little to motivate you to get out of your sleeping compartment. The city, Slovakia’s second largest, is encircled by hills and bluffs, all poisoned with the same tired apartment tenements. I forced myself onto the platform, only to see more of Legoland gone terribly wrong. Faceless apartment buildings cut ... read more
Magnetic Attraction
No News Is Good News
St. Stephen's Cathedral

Europe » Poland » Silesia » Czestochowa July 18th 2005

With all southern-bound trains booked solid, I am “stuck” in Kraków for a day-and-a-half. There is only one train a day headed for Hungary, and mostly foreigners compete for couchettes and beds, destined for the most predictable of destinations: Budapest, Prague, and Bratislava. At this point, I have little intention of spending time in any of these cities. So, having already given Kraków three plus days over a week ago, I wander idly through the Stare Miasto, with no real goal in mind. I fight the thought that I am wasting a day here because I truly wish to be elsewhere. I have details to attend to except to change over a few dollars, get a train reservation and a couchette, and revel in my favorite activity while in Kraków…lunch right before a delightful nap. As ... read more
Focal Point
All Is Fair Game
A Community Unto Itself

Europe » Poland July 17th 2005

The Polish thankfully do not pay tribute to their dogs as members of their families, much like the French. At the same time, canines are, by and large, healthy creatures in Poland, though a bit aggressive if you approach a home without letting them check you out. Many homes have “Beware of Dog” signs posted in their driveways. Though, I often wonder if this is a security measure; no dog appears to be around, and there is no sign one was ever there. Mysteriously, they come in two types: miniscule, or gigantic. The happy medium of a golden retriever, for example, just isn’t part of the landscape. On the one hand, Poles walk around with essentially no more than gerbils on a leash, the kind an irritable man gives a good kick to after a bad ... read more
Escape Valve
The Dordogne?

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