-Chips and Salsa
(All of these start with 'ch' and I don't know why)
-Curry Pad Thai from Bangkok Taste
-Ben & Jerry's Vermonty Python
-Grilled Corn on the Cob and other assorted vegetables with a healthy char about them
Alright, I know I have taken my sweet time for this but I’ve kind of had better things to do than writing for the blog. So, after barely catching the train from Munich, we were on our way to Bamberg. It’s the city where Tina goes to university. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is so pretty! It looks like the Epcot version of Germany. It is that cute and perfect. I guess I expected my perceptions of that perfect little Bavarian town to be far too sunny and optimistic. I had no idea that they would be so close to reality. After we got into Bamberg, we went to the flat of Tina’s former roommate, Eva. She is super cute and so nice. Their flat was amazing! I can’t believe that they are students with a flat that big and new. In the morning, Tina and I went out to start walking around. We realized that the weather was much better than what we had prepared for so we stopped into H&M to pick up some bitchin’ new shades. Mine are big and white and very funky. It’s a fun injection of style.
Around town, there are so many bridges. I think we crossed at least five of the nine bridges in Bamberg. We walked around the downtown area, which was so adorable and therefore tourist-filled. There is an American military base in Bamberg so about 10,000 of the 60,000 inhabitants are from the States. There was a gorgeous cathedral and the surrounding buildings looked like they were ripped straight from the Renaissance. There was a lovely rose garden that had a fantastic view of the city, not to mention the fact that it smelled fantastic. We stayed there and sat on a bench around a fountain just to rest our feet and to take in all of the beauty that was surrounding us. We only left because we were both getting peckish. For lunch, we met with one of Tina’s friends. They were in the same French class and that’s how they met. He saw that I was wearing a rugby shirt and so we spent about 45 minutes just talking about that so of course, Tina had no clue what we were on about. I had grilled feta with vegetables and a fantastic drink. It was passion fruit nectar and sparkling water. They do it all of the time with apple juice here. I have fallen in love with that and will so be bringing that back with me. Well, after lunch, there was more exploring. We had to head back to the flat fairly early because Eva gave us her keys so we had to be there to let her back in. Tina and I made a salad for dinner and then we went out with Eva, her boyfriend, their friends Natalie and Toby. It was so much fun. We just went out for a few drinks but I got to see Tina reminiscing and catching up with her old friends. They took me in really quickly. At least with the language barrier, I know exactly what I am meant to hear and so I know they intended to involve me in the conversation. That is pretty much my day in Bamberg. Anyway, I’ll be able to tell all of these stories and more to most of you in person in less than a week so I don’t feel the need for my normal thoroughness.
First up- München!
I arrived at the train station expecting to see Miss Tina. Key word being expecting. She said that one of her friends would be showing us around because she didn’t know Munich at all. It was actually a friend of hers that I had met before in Krakow. Incidentally, he is also the one that spawned the whole idea of naming our couch. One of the first things that he asked me after we met up was “How’s Jim?” Tina, in true form, had missed the train she was planning and therefore didn’t arrive in Munich until a half an hour after I did. As mentioned in the previous post, I had about 30 minutes from bed to train when I left Hungary so I didn’t have time to eat any breakfast. I bought a muffin on the train but I was starving by the time we arrived. I grabbed a slice of pizza while we were waiting. We started out in Munich by seeing a famous fountain. I don’t know why it’s famous but apparently…it just is. Then, we passed into the main square of Munich. We came at a great time because it was the last day of the Christopher Street Festival, a huge gay pride/drag show event. German drag queens, a sight to behold. Sadly, we couldn’t get close enough to the stage for me to get a decent picture of the show and high heel race but that is why there are all of the rainbow flags going on. Joachim took us to the Church of Our Lady which had some really gorgeous Gothic Architecture and stained glass windows. I need to go through and sort all of my pictures with all of the architecture and window shots I have now. Legend tells that the Devil came into this cathedral. He saw that there was no light coming into it so he laughed. As he came in further, he saw the light from the windows along the side and so he got very angry and stamped his foot down and exploded. Don’t you just love folklore? Anyway, because of him stomping his foot, there is a foot print in the marble a few meters in from the entry to the church. We also saw the Munich Opera and the Residenzhaus, the home to the rulers of Bavaria turned museum. Next to the Residenzhaus, there are gardens with fountains and gazebos. So pretty! While we were out exploring along there, we came across the Munich Orchestra doing a rehearsal outside for a concert that was selling seats at about 65 € a ticket. They were playing Tchaikovsky’s Brandenburg Concerto. It was so gorgeous! We just sat there with plenty of other lookers on to enjoy such fantastic music. We only had a limited time there so sadly, we could stay and listen to the whole thing. We passed by the University of Munich which was quite pretty. The important thing there was the commemoration of the resistance against the Third Reich that took place there. They did a schlitzkrieg of their own against the Nazis so to remember this, there are papers embedded in the walk up to the University. I believe that Tina said the paper in the picture (with Joachim’s feet) listed the punishments and consequences incurred on the people responsible for it. Joachim also told us about this huge statue of a running man that he said was something like 35 meters tall. Turns out, it was only about 15 but that’s still a big bloody statue. Here’s a pic of it. Note Tiny Tina down by his foot. 0 We got dinner at a traditional restaurant. We all got Radlers which is a quite refreshing combination of lemonade and beer. I had a potato soup and Tina and Joachim both got a kind of cream cheese mixed with different things served bread and in Tina’s case, a pretzel. The favorite of the table was the cheese with radish mixed in. Scrumptious! After dinner and a bit more strolling along, we decided getting to Bamberg might be a good idea so we wouldn’t arrive too late at Tina’s friend, Eva’s. We took our time getting to the train station….that was bad idea. Tina and I went to try and get some information when Joachim came running up to us and said you need to go NOW! The train leaves in 2 minutes. Of course, I had all of my stuff from Budapest with me so we put it in a locker while we were walking around. We had to rush to get that and book it to the train. We got there in time but the train was way overcrowded. We had to sit in the corridor next to the WC for most of the time. When you get too many people in too small a space with practically no ventilation, you get hot and sweaty and stinky. Definitely not my most comfortable train ride ever plus I had already been on a train for seven and a half hours that day. It wasn’t so bad. After a large amount of people had disembarked from the train, we were able to move up to the floor in area actually intended for people to stay in. We were still on the floor but there was air conditioning which makes all of the difference in the world. Since we had some more space and still plenty of time to kill, we watched Hairspray on Stan. Finally, we got to Eva’s flat which was so spacious and new and perfect. Sleep in a completely horizontal position was so beyond welcome.
Warning! This was written before our day in Munich and the hi jinx that ensued. I will post more with photos tomorrow sometime.
I feel so hip right now! The train to Munich is so nice! It beats the crap out of the trains I’ve taken to Rome and Budapest. I guess the Germans/Austrians would have the cleanest, most modern train. I wasn’t going to get out my laptop because the battery wouldn’t last so long but I just discovered the outlet under my seat. So cool! This morning was a bit hectic. I set my alarm to go off at 5 this morning because I still needed to pack. I woke up of my own accord and thought to myself, “Self, it is awfully light out for being before 5 in the am.” I checked the time and it was indeed not before 5, but an hour and a half after 5. Needless to say, I was freaking out. I hadn’t packed so I was just shoving everything into my backpack while a steady stream of profanities left my mouth. I ran out of the hostel to the nearest main street so I could hail a cab. I had to wait for a few minutes. Curse you, Murphy and your bloody law! As I was running up to the street, I saw three cabs pass. Once I actually got in view of oncoming traffic, all taxis ceased. My heart was pounding out of my chest at that point, a combination of insane stress and the sprint with 20 kilos of luggage. Finally, I got the attention of a cab passing in the opposite direction. He didn’t speak any English and I was trying to explain to him “Keleti Station.” I knew the word for train station started with “pal…something or other.” I had to get out my ticket and show him that and then he took his sweet time. I’m sure if I wasn’t in such a rush, the speed would have seemed perfectly normal but when you have about 10 minutes before your train leaves, perception of time is slightly warped. Anyway, I got on the train with quite a few minutes to spare. Now I’m kicking myself for not using a few of those extra minutes to grab something to eat. I have to say, this is a sweet ride, especially since I only had to pay 29 Euro for it.
Nelli, Kitti and I went up to the Castle Hill yesterday. The weather has been cooperating gorgeously so all of these photos have magnificent blue sky. The whole district looks like a movie set or something because it doesn't seem like a place this clean and perfect can exist in real life. The picture of me is from the castle walls and the building in the background across the Danube is the Hungarian Parliament building. After a lovely afternoon of sightseeing, all of us were wicked thirsty. We went to an open air cafe that Nelli goes to a lot. I got "real iced tea" for 500 forint. They made the hot tea right then and poured it over ice with a whole bunch of lemon and lime. It wasn't very strong but with all the citrus, it was tart and refreshing. Exactly what I wanted on such a hot day. Last night, I also cooked at Nelli's flat. I just made my red beans and rice thingy. Everyone seemed fairly happy with it. Also, yesterday for lunch I got a gyro for 600 forint. Even though it made a mess, it was really good. Not quite the gyros I'm used to from home but definitely edible. After that, we went to a bar on Margerite Island with Nelli's friend Marta and her friend Christof. It was a lot of fun. It was my first time going out in Budapest. The nightlife is much more tame than in Krakow but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I bought my train ticket yesterday as well. It was only 29 Euro to get from Budapest to Munich. The only downside is that the train leaves at 7am. Not really looking forward to that wake up call but it was either that or take the train at 1300 without the discount which would have been around $140. I think the savings is worth it. Tina will be picking me up in Munich and we will drive to her house from there. I can't believe my time in Budapest is almost up but I'm so excited about Bavaria. The plan so far includes a day trip to Bamberg, the city where Tina goes to university. Chelsea will be arriving there on the 15th and then we will go to Prague for 2 days as well. This should be an amazing next 2 weeks. For those of you keeping track, 2 weeks from today, I will be back home. Plan accordingly.
The last pic is my dinner last night. Goulash soup and the Sopszka salad. It was basically a Greek salad only with leeks instead of olives. The feta here is just as bad as in Poland. Nelli is in Budapest so I'm going to meet up with her tonight and also we are going to one of the thermal baths tomorrow. That should be really nice.
Happy Fourth of July! It's so strange to not be eating brats and corn while lighting shit on fire in the true American tradition. Anyway, I already wrote about missing my bus and having to spring for the night train. It wasn't that bad but I had the top bunk and there was basically no circulation. It felt like I could have made a swimming pool from my own sweat. I met some nice people on the train, 2 guys from England, a Brazilian guy and 2 Chinese girls. I arrived in Budapest an hour late but it's not like I had anything to do that I was late for so no biggie. The directions to the hostel were this: "Get on Tram 24, ride 5 stops, walk 6 minutes (500m)" I got on tram 24. I rode for 5 stops. Now the tough part. Walking. The directions neglected to mention which direction I should be walking in. The 6 minutes turned into more than 2 hours. I asked people and they had no idea what I was talking about. On the up side, the people here are way nicer than in Krakow. Most of them speak English which is helpful. I got so frustrated that I went into a hotel and asked the receptionist if she knew where it was. She made some calls. Eventually, I asked if I could have the internet password and plugged in Stan. Got the conformation e-mail and looked at the address. I was 2 blocks away. I never would have found it on my own though. I was basically drenched when I went into the office of the hostel. The people running it are from Beijing or somewhere else in northeastern China judging by the accent. It is so cool that I get to practice in Hungary of all places. So, I had a few Euros left over from Italy but no forints so after my shower I went out on a mission to find cash. It took me a ridiculously long time to find an ATM. Turns out, there are like 4 within a few blocks of my hostel. Keep in mind, I hadn't eaten in like 17 hours at this point so I wasn't at my most vigilant. I finally got money and I went to a Chinese restaurant that had been recommended on a travel website. It's been like 6 months since I have had good Chinese food. Also, I had the Hungarian style potato pancakes the day before in Babca Malina so getting Hungarian food wasn't as pressing. By the time I got to the restaurant, I was past the 18 hour mark. Oddly enough, I wasn't that hungry. I was just getting shaky from low blood sugar. I was wicked tired. Being hot and sweaty doesn't lend itself to restful sleep after all.
Yesterday, I went out and explored some more. On Dad's suggestion, I found a bakery. I got this huge chocolate pastry. Delish! I just kind of wandered. I crossed the Danube and then went to the top of a hill on which there is a statue of St. Gellert. It's a pretty cool statue and there is a waterfall underneath. I just enjoyed being surrounded by green and trees. I love Krakow and all but there was a distinct lack of trees other than in the Planty. I sat on a bench for a while and read a fair chunk of Captain Correlli's Mandolin. Walked some more. I ate at a cafe when my tummy (and the sky) started to rumble. Chicken soup and goulash with potatoes. I got ripped off because it said that it would be 1390 forint. I got a beer too. I ended up paying 3200 because they charged me 1200 for the beer (although I basically paid for 2 because it was a happy hour "special" BOGO), 300 for bread that I didn't order and another 300 in tax that is included in the price everywhere else. It was a touristy place. I should have known better but about 2 minutes after sitting down, the sky opened up into a torrential downpour. I had my umbrella with me but I also had my mp3 player and my camera and I wasn't really willing to take that risk. So, more wandering. I am starting to get my bearings. I think I will go to the zoo today. Also, reading more websites about good food cheap in Budapest, I am going to a place called Hummus Bar. I'm excited about that. Apparently, the reviewer's only "complaint" was that they used too much garlic and lemon. Like that is even possible. Nelli will be here Monday or Tuesday. I figure she will make life easier as she is Hungarian and can read the signs and such. Hungarian is a truly unique language. It isn't related to any other language families. Some people group it together with Finnish but that is bull. The grammar structure is slightly similar but it's more just that they are both orphans, linguistically speaking. I am most definitely going to the baths that this city is famous for. I brought my swimsuit for just such an occasion. It is fairly hot here so being in water will be nice. That's all for now, sports fans. I had 2 nectarines and 3 plums for breakfast at 6 and they are starting to wear off. I have quite the walk ahead of me to get to Hummus Bar and the zoo so I have to get gone.