Well, if ever there was a lesson in blogging before the day is over, my night in Vienna would be a good example.
Pretty much I didn't go to bed right away. And pretty much I drank several beers. I ended up hanging out with the Germans I met earlier. They were on their way out to some festival thing, and I figured in the spirit of getting into this solo traveling thing, I'd better start practicing seizing every opportunity to hang out with people!
So our adventure started in the hostel kitchen, which is in the basement, and is behind about 5 heavy steel doors. Seriously. Straight out of Get Smart. Except without the shoe phone, sadly. It was quite a while before we actually left the hostel. So late, in fact that we had to run for the last U-bahn train. So late, in fact, that we missed the last U-Bahn trains. Luckily, buses run through the night. And just for good measure, we had to run for that one too...
Now I feel I should point out that in order to take buses, you need a ticket. In most situations, you buy them on board. In Vienna, you buy them from newspaper stands (I assume) before you get on board. So they don't check your ticket when you get on the bus, but you have to be prepared enough to have bought one before hand.
But no one checked us, so I guess we made it? Once we got off the bus, the Germans sprung into action trying to find this festival. They asked several passers-by, and eventually found out that it was over. So we missed that too. Then we started looking for a bar, and got pointed in every different direction by several different people until we found one that was suitable. In talking to the doorman, we learned that he had an uncle living in Vancouver, and that he hoped to move there as well. And pretty much we got in because I'm Canadian! Hot damn!
After several drinks later, it was time to go. Getting home involved another night bus... with no ticket.
But this time we got asked for our tickets...
A guy who's only job is to get on buses and check people's tickets was coming around. And when he came to us, there was a brief conversation in German, and he said “Ya ya ok” and just passed by.
So we got out of it. How? Well, one of the girls told him something like, “You don't remember us from earlier? We're the five people who left their tickets at the hostel. You said it was ok.” And apparently, that worked... Well done team.
I then went straight to bed, justifiably tired and tipsy.
I awoke the next morning feeling alright, and boarded a train to Budapest. (I bought a ticket for this one...)
While I was riding the train, I kind of thought back to all of the lessons I've learned in past trips. And the faster it comes back to me, the better, so I can get into the swing. Here are some of the things that slowly came back to me while I was on the train:
- Pack light. You don't really need anything except a bank card and a passport.
- “Burger King” is a universal word meaning “Free Toilets”. Sometimes they have free wifi too! This goes for “McDonald's” too. I hear they also have food, but have never tested this theory myself...
- There's no such thing as a language barrier. 95% of communication is independent of having a common language. Expression, pointing, gesturing... you can always get what you need.
- Your camera is also a map. Take pictures of city maps and you'll never need a paper copy. (Unless you don't have a digital camera, in which case you are a time traveler from the 90's. Welcome!)
- In as many ways as people can be different, we're also exactly the same in just as many.
- People make the trip. When you find somewhere good, stick around as long as you can.
- The slower the transportation, the better. Walking is king.
- You'll shower less often than you thought you would.
- Deodorant almost counts as a shower.
- Rain counts as a shower.
- If it still feels like you have sunglasses on your head long after taking them off, you probably need a shower.
- You'll always wear your clothes longer than planned before doing laundry.
- Sandwiches are beautiful.
- The beer is bigger in Europe. Adjust accordingly (or drink more)
Also, for the first time, I think I may have beaten jet lag in a day. And I did it by doing everything wrong. I was exhausted when I got on the plane (from the Sasquatch weekend), I didn't sleep more than a few hours (and it was mostly just dozing), I arrived in Frankfurt at 6:30am with the entire day ahead of me, I then proceeded to sleep like I was dead all day on the train to Vienna, and went out drinking into the early morning hours.... Yeah! My body craves the wrong meals at the wrong time, but that's easy to fix.
Anyways, arriving back in Budapest felt pretty darn good! I had forgotten how many people there were offering hostels in the train station, but I easily brushed past them on my way to find an ATM. I seemed to remember that there was one inside the station last year, but I had to go outside to one next to a Burger King (BK does it again). I also struggled to find the entrance to the metro... and remember doing that last year too. Guess I'm still rusty. I also didn't have a map.
I successfully returned to the Loft hostel to discover that it was pretty much exactly how I left it. Very cool, and full of very cool people. It's nice to kick off the trip with something familiar... especially since I still seem to be a bit rusty.
A couple of people that worked at the hostel have been to the Balkans and had some tips and advice for me. The also said that its pretty much their favourite part of Europe. So that bodes well. My instincts are good!
Since it was only at 5 o'clock and I wasn't hungry yet, I decided to go for a wander. I'm going to be doing a lot of it, so I'd better get practice. I headed up the hill that's right next to the river and enjoyed some excellent, excellent views. Vanessa and I had missed out on this last year, partly due to weather, and partly due to not having quite enough time. It wasn't long up there before I decided that I'd be returning with a bottle of wine in hand at some point...
Budapest still feels as good as it did the first time. It's definitely one of the best cities I've visited, and I'm a bit surprised that it's not totally overrun with tourists, although there are a lot.
After buying some beer and groceries, I returned to the hostel to attempt to cook dinner. The main dish I had selected was something that described itself as “potato dumplings stuffed with cottage cheese”. (And part of the reason I selected this item was because it had English instructions) If I'm not mistaken, that's basically what perogies are, and they looked similar, and are as easy to make as boiling water, so I successfully cooked them.
Unfortunately, they mostly tasted like nothing at all. I guess it could have been worse.
My salad was much better.
Since the guests at the hostel were mostly from two groups (one French, one American) they were up to their own things the first night, so it was up to myself, Matt (an Aussie), and Jess (another Aussie who also works at the hostel) to go meet up with a group from another hostel for some drinks. And we returned to the bar that Vanessa and I went to last year that's underneath a big square with a park above. It's a pretty cool place, but I was definitely much more vigilant about keeping track of which way was home.... another lesson learned.
We had some drinks, chatted it up, shared some laughs, and enjoyed some music in the bar. It was some kind of almost dance music on traditional Indian instruments. It was interesting, and the crowd seemed to like them quite a bit.
I went to bed extremely late, again, and slept in until about 10:30 before I forcefully dragged myself out of bed. I was only planning to stick around for a day, so I'd better do some wandering while I was here, I'd hate to feel like I wasted what little time I spent in Budapest.
So I finally left the hostel at about noon, grabbed a gyro from a small shop, and headed to the island which has a park on it.... a huge park! I walked for quite a while before finally checking out the large patches of grass. It seemed like a great place to have a nap, so I did. Then I got up to go to the bathroom, and then had another nap in a different spot. And that was pretty much my day.
I also went to an English bookstore and solved my book situation. The book I chose is call”ed “Killing Time” and the tag line is “A Novel of the Future”. So I was sold right there. It looks like it'll be a nice easy read and a bit of a laugh, and I think that's what I'm looking for.
I finished the last half of my flavorless potato dumplings and then, guess what, had a couple of drinks. I convinced Matt to come with me up to the top of the hill to catch the last of the sunset with some beer/wine. It was a sweaty hike, but the view made it all worth it. And the wine helped.
It's official, my favorite thing to do while traveling is drink a bottle of wine and enjoy a nice view. I'll be doing a lot of that this trip, I hope.
We met up with Tom (hostel owner) and Felix (hostel employee) and went to another bar (surprise) and had more dirnks and laughs (surprise). I guess this is another one of my favourite things to do while traveling... The only down side is that it cuts down on my sleep.
I made an executive decision: I'm heading to Bosnia next! I was going to go to Serbia, but I figured I'm most excited for Bosnia and Albania, so I should probably get to those places first. I'll try and hit Serbia on the way out, but I'm already seeing that it's going to all be a bit tight for 4 weeks... I'll get to what I get to.
This trip I'm really trying to be free and easy, and not really booking in advance so I can be flexible and change my mind like this. If I like a place, I might just stick around...
...which begs the question why I don't spend more time in Budapest? Well, I'm not too sure why not. I feel like I've seen most of the sights, but I really just enjoy hanging out there. I'll definitely be back though, maybe even later this trip...
On to Sarajevo!
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