Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vienna, Berlin, Australia day and A Pepperoni by Another Name... ?

What can I say about the last few days… since I last checked in from Vienna? Did I mention Vienna? I don’t remember. Anyway, Vienna was the same as when I was the same as when I was there last time, funny enough, except staying about half an hours walk from the “circle” along a long shopping street… the same stores as you would see in any shopping street in Europe, pretty much… the only other difference is that I was here last time in May-ish. So the weather was a lot better… it was so windy that I couldn’t even stand still to take a photo unless sheltered by a building…. Couldn’t even lean against a tree… amazing. And it left me not so amazingly pissed me off… anyway, I managed to walk around the whole city and get back in time to go to sleep.

The first night I got into Vienna I met some cool people and, in the way of Hostels Everywhere, we decided to go on a little pub crawl. It was good fun and ended up at of all places an Australian pub in the middle of the city with a Coopers Sparkling ale… fantastic. The second night I was there we were a little more… subdued. Sitting around chatting about nothing in particular, a girl walks over and plonks her self down, and turns out to be a 4th year med student from Flinders Uni in Adelaide. Crazy. Anyway, she was on a weekend trip down to Vienna from Prague where she’s doing a 2 month placement thingy… naturally we got chatting and in the end decided to catch up again in Prague and go and have a drink or something… and that’s about all that happened in Vienna that was really interesting… it really is a gorgeous city and still one of my favorites for no real reason that I can really put my finger on… nope. Been sitting here trying to decide what it is… cant think.

Prague on the other hand was, and always has been; pretty much top of my list of places to go to when I was in Europe. Again, not for any particular reason. Although I’d heard the beer was cheep and the women gorgeous… I don’t really think they were the reasons… I don’t know. Anyway Prague turned out to be very much like Vienna and Budapest in its design… on a river. Gorgeous old buildings… Like Budapest it is overlooked from one of the hills in the city by quite an imposing castle. More so than the one in Budapest because it is still more in once piece because of the lack of bombing… That is one of the amazing things about Prague, is that it was never bombed in the war… so although it has left all of the buildings in their original state… because all the other cities did was in a lot of cases re-build all the nice buildings, Prague has the effect of just having really big old dirty buildings. This is obviously why people seem to always say that it’s such a black city… I didn’t find that at all… I found it, like Budapest, Dirty. But not dirty in the same grimy way as Budapest, more in a lived-in sort of way… its hard to explain unless you’ve been there… or seen my photos which with any luck and lack of procrastination on my behalf, should appear on Facebook at any time… watch that space…

So anyway, met up with Emma – the girl from Adelaide a few times which was nice… had some traditional foods; goulash, bread dumplings, roast duck, wild boar, Chinese... Beer... One night we went out and actually had Hungarian… I hadn’t eaten out in Hungary, so I thought I’d try their traditional food as well… Turned out to be an amazing if not rather expensive evening… very good food and a bottle of nice Hungarian wine… all down in a restaurant, which seemingly like most of the restaurants in the Czech Republic seem to be in old wine cellars or breweries… very cool. And once you stopped hearing the terrible Hungarian music, the atmosphere was really quite… atmospheric. Um. Another time we had Beer flavored Ice cream. And yes. It was terrible…

Fitted a lot in a few days… considering at least twice I slept until after mid-day.

Went up to the castle, took some photos, walked around the city, took some photos… actually walked almost from one end of the old city to the other… from an old but gorgeous grave yard and church to the castle… was amazing, but I had sore feet by the end of it. Over the oldest bridge in the world (I think – sounds good though doesn’t it) past all the statues, including one that we decided was St Hilton, cause he had 5 stars in his halo. It really is a gorgeous city… I have a feeling I’ll go back there eventually…

And I think that’s about all I did in Prague

From there I was headed to Berlin and Australia day… I really found I didn’t know that much about Berlin, in any respect, apart from obviously about the fact they had the east/west wall thing that came down, and Pink Floyed played… and um… Nazi stuff… which you sort of learn a bit about unless you specifically study history. Which I didn’t. But I DID do geography. So I knew where it was at least. Anyway, my first few days were really spent doing very little… just wandering around a bit taking the odd photo here and there… they have some amazing grafiti in Berlin.. Anyway, Australia day came and we headed out at like 3pm ish I think... it was early anyway, even for Australians… fantastic… went to a pub that had advertised some Australian things… music etc… the only beer they had was VB. And the obligatory Fosters on tap… so I ended up having Strongbow cider… a few shots of jaegermeister with red bull and a crown lager which we’d picked up from the Australia shop earlier that day, where the girl realized we were Aussies and gave us a mintie. So funny… anyway, it was a really good night, and I didn’t get really drunk which was amazing and fortuitous, because I was up in time the next day to go on the walking tour of Berlin. We went from the pub to a pizza place which had a huge range of pizzas… I decided on pepperoni with chicken… sounded nice... but apparently pepperoni is like a not hot chili in Germany, so I was a little disappointed when the pizza came out with these enormous green things on it… not happy. But whatever…

Even though it was raining … not hard, but frustratingly steady all day, it was a good tour, and I learned a lot more about the city which according to the guide, is mostly a replica, having been 90% bombed and flattened in the Second World War. Fantastic.

You’d almost never know…

Highlights were the Jewish memorial square, which is an amazing piece of landscape architecture that is left open to the individual as to the specific meaning of it, but LOOKS like an enormous grave yard with graves of differing heights from 1 to I guess 12 feet high. Walking through it is completely different to looking at it thought, and I felt distinctly like a small child lost in a sea of imposing huge adults… quite an interesting feeling.

Anyway… my general opinion of Berlin was that it’s getting there. It has some great old architecture, museums statues, etc… and it has some fantastic new architecture, like the dome above parliament, the TV tower, the bank which is actually a whale, and the train station Hopfbahnhof which is without a doubt the most amazingly designed train station I’ve ever seen… sooo cool.

Anyway, I’m running out of describing words… so I’ll leave by saying that I’m on the train to Krakow sitting on the most uncomfortable seats I’ve had so far… they feel like cardboard with one enormous spring underneath… shitty… ALMOST but not quite as bad as the coffee I just bought…


The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, January 20, 2008

In Hungary; Cold, Tired & Alone…

After leaving Tess at the airport I was relieved to feel nearly nothing when Betty boarded an airport shuttle bus at 8.30 this morning. It could be because I have only been awake for about 40 minutes, it could b anything, but its probably nothing.

Last night we (after I waited 40 minutes for Betty at the station) wandered around Budapest in what seemed like a completely random manner, but eventually ended up at a street where Betty announced her favorite Teahouse was. It was a very “alternative” sort of place, dark corners, incense, candles, beanbags, and of course… Tea. All sorts of teas mixed with different herbs and things like rosehip and dandelion ankle. Not really. But you get my gist… it was very nice, so we stayed there for a while and had a pot of Tea each. Which is an enormous amount of tea I realized later when my bladder was nearly bursting. And a chocolate biscuit.

From there, with Betty’s completely hopeless sense of direction we eventually made it to what translated as the “Square of Heroes-sort-of” although surprisingly that isn’t a very literal translation as Hungary apparently doesn’t like too many people, let alone heroes… anyway it was somewhere I had been on my Contiki and since the photos of that part of my journey are in Limbo it was lovely to see it again… It really is a beautifully made square decked out with more Heroes-sort-of than you could throw a stick at… and a good thing they aren’t alive, cause they don’t look like the sort of people you’d want to throw a stick at. Very Big Swords. The square its self is surrounded on 2 sides by quite nice looking museums and on the back by the Danube river of which a large section has been frozen and turned into an ice skating park. So we decided to go skating… this was much bigger than the rink I went on with Tess out the front of the Natural History Museum in London, but crowded as it was and the fact that the ice desperately needed Zamboniing made it no more or less fun than the last time. After an hour skating my butt still hurts… not from falling over mind you, just from using muscles that otherwise don’t get used… Anyway, it was a really beautiful setting with the medieval castle in the background – Cinderella style, but as with the rest of Budapest, before the glass slipper…

After that and seemingly endless bus, tram and underground changes later, we got to a mall where Betty and her friend Marie-Claude were going to watch a movie. Instead I decided to climb a hill… it turned out not to be the hill that I thought I was going to climb. Actually it was better for 2 reasons. The first being that it was a considerably smaller hill, and the second that the view and the remains of old Buda lit up at night time were absolutely breathtaking. I had been there during the day with Contiki but from another direction, so until reaching an enormous but nearly completely scaffold covered cathedral, I really still didn’t know where I was… after taking a silly amount of photos, I Came back down and sat in the mall and momentarily picked up some free internet from nearby… just enough time to poke some people on Facebook… and then we went back to the train station and picked up my backpack. The place we entrusted it to looking like it might have body’s hanging on hooks in a cool room out the back and racks of shotguns and AK-47s JUST out of sight, yet still within reach… My bag was in one piece anyway, so I shouldered it to the slight gasps of all watching and continued on my way…

From there we made the hour tram/bus/subway ride back to Marie-Claude’s house, had a very nice Hungarian Stew and some sausages made with God-I-Hope-This-Is-Rice… then I went to sleep.

Woke up. Decided to not come to see Betty off as I was sleepy, then changed my mind when I realized, or whatever you want to call it, that if I didn’t get up I would stay in bed ALL day and sleep. And seeing as how I leave tomorrow I thought I should take the opportunity to see the city sans enormously awkward backpack.

So now I’m sitting in of all places not a Starbucks (sorry dad, I was looking for a mug!) but a Gloria Jeans Coffee shop at the top of a 4 or 5 story shopping centre looking out over a relatively busy intersection and a Tram/Bus stop and a city that while in Places Filthy, Graffitied, Vandalized and so Post-Communist-eastern-block that I feel as though I could be in Russia itself (but for the fact that there are FAR fewer big fluffy hats). Its has Beauty, History and a certain Charm that’s maybe easiest to describe as “like Vienna’s Little Dirty Homeless Brother” and a population that, from what I’ve experienced, are friendly, and happier than they seemingly rightly should be.

Only thing is that their language is so strange… really not easy to make sense of. At least in French, German, Italian, and Spanish you can generally find SOME similar or recognizable words to make some sense of a sentence or sign. Here everything is S’s G’s Z’s and Y’s. Betty said something about it being most similar to one of the Scandinavian countries languages, which one I forget… but its interesting and I guess no more unlikely than the fact that Bosco-Gurin in Switzerland is still speaking the same ancient German dialect that they were when they settled there in the 1200’s even thought the surrounding country speaks Italian in that area… Or maybe its because they speak Italian… *shrugs* maybe they didn’t like Italy. Who knows.

The other end of the day…

All this touristy shit has been put into perspective just now… crossing the road a few minutes ago to see the remains of a Husky that must have been hit hard by a car – its owner inconsolably crying.. traffic going slowly around, people gawking… it really was terrible… Otherwise my day was good…. I was a movie to fill in a few hours. American Gangster with Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington… really a very good film, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to nearly anyone. From there I hopped on a tram and came back to the part of the city that I saw on my brief stay with Contiki… wandered around for a while and then headed up the other mountain… the one I though I was going up yesterday, Got a lot more photos. Particularly interesting was an enormous murder of crows. I’ve NEVER seen so many in one place.. I don’t know if that’s meant to be good or bad luck… Bad I guess if you have a Husky just about to be hit by a car. Or the driver of the car too I guess…Not good… the image is burned into my head. Not an image I wanted to take away from Budapest

And right now I’m sitting in a very small face and apart from an Australian couple from Melbourne, here on school holidays with their kids, that I just had a chat to and who just left, I’m the only one here… the Waitresses friend and her have been sitting reading, and her friend keeps looking over at me and smiling… *coughs* anyway, its really quite quiet, its warm, and the coffee is okay… Its just that I have a headache and I have to wait for Marie-Claude to finish work and some other stuff, then I’ll get back, re-type this as I wrote it in a notepad, and go to sleep before I head to Vienna tomorrow. Can’t wait – they have an Aussie pub and its Gorgeous at night time… like here but clean.

More soon


There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
- Pablo Picasso

On a train again...

Apologies once again for the gap in the entries, and I’m sure there’s less people reading this now more than ever…

My Current entry finds me, slightly motion sick, slightly claustrophobic, and very much alone in a sleeper carriage on an 11 and a half hour train journey from Zurich, Switzerland to Budapest, Hungary… I’ve just spent the most amazing 5 days with Tess, and Cornelia and Paul, Mum’s friends (and mine too now I suppose) from Bosco-Gurin, the town where Mum’s surname comes from, maybe I’ve told you that before… whatever. It was lovely. They are the most hospitable and giving people ever, nothing was too much trouble and everything was organized for us… The town is this amazing little place with a population of only about 50 but they have the smallest supermarket in Switzerland and one of the oldest Churches, plus it was settled in 1240 something… before there was even a Switzerland… quite amazing. Now they have a ski lift and it attracts quite a few snow bunnies from all over. Very nice. On top of all that they had just had a meter and a half of fresh snow and it was gorgeous. I mean, I’ve seen snow before, but this was the soft fluffy stuff you only see in movies… it’s unfortunately still cold and wet… but fun nonetheless…

I’d just like to add that I don’t know how people who can’t touch type can sit on a bus or train and stare at their computer screens all day… Its now the morning and I can sit and stare out the window as I type. Which is nice s my mind can wander as I dribble shit on my computer. Much more interesting that sitting staring at the screen. I’ve just entered Hungary, and I should only be a matter of an hour or so away from Budapest. So apart from the matter of the “a” key sometimes failing to register that I’ve touched it, the touch typing is going quite well.

I’ve thought about a lot of things that I could and should tell you all about, but now that I actually get time to sit down and type them out, I dither can’t remember, or they seem unimportant or silly. I know I was laying in bed one night thinking… and then I was thinking about thinking, and how much amazing it is that we can think, but how much of a pain in the ass it is when you’re trying to sleep at 3 am. See what I mean?

Nothing too much bad has happened at this point – I did find an amazing deal on a 4gb SD card from a camera store that has since proved to be too good to be true – it doesn’t work either in my camera or in my computer. Bit pissed off about that, but not much I can do about it now. Might try and see if I can get it swapped over when I get back to Adelaide… I know Harvey’s can do a dodgy docket up for me… but Can and Will are two different things… *shrugs* oh well… we’ll see. And my phone seems to work only intermittently, depending on the area I’m in and the service provider that my phone picks up. A tad annoying as there are people that I need to contact and I’m not sure how or when I’ll next have internet. Although the hostels I’ve booked in both Vienna and Prague both say they have internet – we’ll see how much they want to charge me for the usage. Always a killer I’ve found.

On a good note – the cold/pain in my ass/flu that I’ve had for nearly a month now seems to be getting better… the cough has all but disappeared and there’s only a relatively small amount of sinus fluid (Snot) trickling down the back of my throat. Lovely, eh? Anyway, I’m blaming the cure on the amazingly clean Swiss air. If it gets worse again in Hungary then I’m moving to Switzerland permanently. Only joking… but it was VERY nice. And I think I could pick up German relatively quickly… I do understand about one in 50 words already! It’s a start.

Its funny being alone again now that Tess has gone home. Big empty space there. It hurts like hell… I guess when something that you’re used to and you love is taken away from you, but you get used to the pain. I know I always have. Unfortunately.

Anyway, as I think of more, I’ll let you know, for now I’m going to put this away before I get too much more motion sick and I have to throw up the half a week old Croissant that I was given by the train company for breakfast.


If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough
- Mario Andretti