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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Budapest

SETTING

As I sit here typing this, 4-6 (it fluxuates) rowdy German girls are having a chat behind me at the next table. [And yes, Travis, they are...] I had a French girl eating across from me and a British guy has just waved good bye as he heads out to hunt women.



GENERAL PLAN

I've got to admit that I was getting frustrated enough with the crazy directions I was getting and the pack - mainly the pack that I almost threw in the towel and went on to Croatia. But I think Budapest has enough to offer that I really want to check it out.

I would like to point out though that the frustration was all my fault. (I can see Pete nodding). But this just the sort of trial and painful error that will help me get better at this traveling. Plus, I'm sure any doctors reading are thinking about how wonderful the walk was for my health. The bastards.

On couch surfing - thus far, the only people I've heard back from quickly have been the folks who were full already or currently overseas or otherwise indisposed. They were all nice about it and I'm disappointed not to have met them. But I remain hopeful!

I'm going to keep working at the couch surfing thing for a bit because I know that meeting the local folks is what will make this trip special and interesting for me. It won't be the architecture - I've seen so much through Europe that a lot of it is starting to (mentally) bounce. It won't be the museums or the art - if I have to go through any of those soon I might have a screaming fit. It will be the people.

Today I'd guess I sent out about 50+ couch surfing requests. The only response I've gotten from less than half is summed up as 'sorry'.

My loose plan right now is that they have some bloody big long lake to the SE of Budapest that I've been told is picturesque. Plus, it kind of points right at Croatia. I'm wanting to slowly work my way toward Croatia - preferably staying with the locals via couch surfing if I can make that work - and try to get a feel for Hungary.

After a few days in Croatia I'd like to head to what will hopefully be cheaper in Serbia, Bosnia, etc.

Update: Monday I head to Sarajevo. I've heard from talking to other travelers that Bosnia and Serbia are much cheaper. We'll see if that's true.



TRAVELER'S TIP

I'm pretty sure it is obvious - sounds obvious - but is often overlooked. Eat where the locals do. Price, food quality, etc all tend to be better.



COSTS

Mediocre goulash (not soup) for one - 1375 HUF (about $7.63).

The place I'm staying ("Colors") 3100 HUF, laundry 1500 HUF.

I was eating at a fairly trendy restaurant called 'papirtigers' eating a 'lunch box' that cost 1740 HUF. It's a bit upscale and trendy for me but it smelled good and been several hours since I've last eaten. I'd gotten directions to a 'traditional Hungarian restaurant' but it was about twice the cost of this place. As an interesting side note I found out apartment rent is 2000 HUF per day. [Logan note: Corrected, thanks Reka!] Egad! In talking to a nice Hungarian lady (Rika) who works at the hostel she told me about a place that I can get some cheaper food from without cooking. I'll let you know how that works out tomorrow.

Take out traditional Hungarian food - a big flat piece of pork, breaded - very tasty, around 1500 HUF.

Imported Weiss Beer (a Logan thing) 835 HUF. [I drink this because it reminds me of 'the old days'. Before Jana was born. Que Jana's eye roll - and done. Thank you Jana!]

Locally brewed beer, small size - 250 HUF, big size I think 350 HUF.

Heaping plate of cheap Chinese food, 600 HUF. A Coke to go with it, 280 HUF.

200 business cards, with layout, cutting etc - 2730 HUF.



HUNGARIAN SERVICE

I have never been refused tap water here. [I've been running an experiment on it as well as trying to get the local 'good bacteria' into my system to build up my immunities.]

I think the worst service I've gotten in this country so far was 'mildly indifferent' and it ranges all the way up to wonderful. This may cause many Czechs (who are use to the notorious 'Czech service' I have previously written about) to go into culture shock.

I like the restaurants here thus far. I am concerned that Czechs who come here may suffer culture shock.



HUNGARIANS

Well, I've seen some very attractive women but many (who could be foreigners - I have no idea) who appear to like McDonald's. I swear, fast food is a bane on the battle against the bulge. Among the people I looked at, the 'muffin top' seemed to be in style. Again, I'm not sure if it was locals or not but they don't have a 'Czech stair master' here.

Once I get through the "I live in a big city and don't talk to other people' (which seems universal) I've found the Hungarians to be very pleasant people.



MORE RANDOM JABBERINGS

Cost saving measure - I've discovered the hostel I'm currently in offers a free breakfast. Mostly stale toast and very odd cereal. I'm working on stuffing myself with that to avoid the first meal out on the town. I've been working on achieving some sort of balance with my funds so that I can stay here and check out the town a bit more. I'm not sure if it will be possible or a slow leak of money. Everyone keeps telling me that Thailand is very cheap but I'm really wanting to check out Central and Eastern Europe for awhile.

I was sitting in a restaurant listening to an older Brazilian couple discuss their (end of life) vacation with the waiter. They seemed to be sprinting between the major cities of Europe before their money ran out. They were trying to make some sort of 'once in a lifetime' memory. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do what I'm doing. I just need to get to a cheap enough place that I can start saving some money.

Seriously, if you want to lose weight, get your fat ass to Europe.

In the USA, doors open outward so that in the event of a fire (or bomb) the panicked masses will be able to easily flee into the street where they can be shot by panicked bystanders. In many of the countries in Europe, this is not the case because the door would smack someone walking by on the sidewalk if it were opened quickly. [In some other parts of the world, the door does open outward and does sometimes get torn off by a passing car.]

I went to a restaurant and tried out the stuffed cabbage. [Traditional tourists seem to eat at McDonald's. Pussies.] They have some sort of 'paprika bread' [alfoldi pogacsa] on the tables that absolutely rocks. The stuffed cabbage was that plus a sausage and something I didn't identify as bacon until I bit into it. Then I knew. I've never seen a piece of 'bacon' as thick as a (thin) steak before. I was completely full and couldn't finish the food. 2650 HUF.

If you want to start a fight with three or more people from Budapest, approach their group and politely ask for directions to something that can't be pointed at. They will fight with each other (you can call it an 'extremely lively discussion') over the route you should take.

You never see the guys in travel shows buying tickets because it is boring, tedious and doesn't make good TV.

The Eastern train station (they have three) has a guy in the 'tourist information booth. He was fluent in English and I believe he could help you with hostel information and such. Where was he on my first day here?? I'm also unsure of his hours so if you get here, try to arrive close to 'normal working hours'.



CAVE CHURCH (that's in English - speak Hungarian for the right name)

I went to a 'cave church' thing I found across the 'green bridge' (chain bridge) - it was interesting time. It was 500 HUF to get in there and that price also gives you a pretty slick audio guide thing. Find a number on the wall, type it in and you get talked to about what you're seeing. I think there were twenty or thirty entries. I listened to one as I wandered around the church. The church wasn't all that big. When I came back to the check in/check out place, the guy who had checked me in blinked and said "You're kidding." I responded that it wasn't a very big church, I just wanted a quick walk through and I honestly found the people to be more interesting. He nodded and said cryptically "You know."



CAST OF CHARACTERS

Andrew Budai:

I met a tour guide who is fluent in English, German and Japanese. He said that you have to have one of the 'rare' languages in order to get a job as a tour guide - like Japanese.

I bought him a beer and we talked of many things. Logan's comments are in []. He said that:

Drinking in public is legal. [This doesn't seem to be unusual for Europe, just Puritan America.]

Hungarians are very mixed, having roots in Germans, Turks, Mongols, etc.

The third largest synagogue is here in Budapest, due to Hungary being very liberal until the first world war. The largest is in the UK, second largest in France. Also, before WW1, Hungary was huge.

It was interesting when I asked hi what the biggest problem facing Budapest is - he said smoking. The government is working on passing a bill to outlaw it in taverns. The tavern keepers don't like this at all as they feel it will drive off their business.

I asked him if there were any problems with the Roma (Gypsies). He said the biggest problem there was education. The Roma don't have any. They live a very segregated life and because their folks aren't educated, they don't have their own doctors, lawyers, etc. When the Roma were admitted to the university for free (under Communism), only a small percentage of them actually completed it. Also, during the communist time, they would hire three times as many people as were needed to complete a project (example, building a road) hence everyone (including the Roma) had jobs. After communism, most of the Roma are unemployed. The Roma also have huge families. If they can't support them, the Roma [I am told] turn to crime. The local opinion is that 80% of all criminal activities are committed by the 10% of the population that is Roma. There is no official figure on this as 'racial profiling' is illegal. There is a huge amount of tension between the Roma and locals in smaller villages. Apparently, the locals don't feel the police are doing anything to protect them so they hire local security guards who make a strong 'police presence' within the villages. This causes tensions to further ramp up. He also told me that villagers would plant gardens and by the time harvest came, the plants would be picked clean. He related a story that someone had put up an electrified fence and apparently it killed a couple of Roma kids. More tension. And another story that some guy was urinating in the street toward the Roma and yelling bad things at them. There were many of the Roma and only one guy so the pisser was nearly beaten to death. [What kind of idiot yells things like that to people who wildly outnumber him? Either way, it sounds like a big problem Logan is glad he doesn't have to figure out a clever solution to.]


Chris - a soft spoken English guy (from Brighton) I've had the pleasure to speak to a couple times. He has journeyed in the Croatia (and other stuff around there) area and warned me that Croatia - being a big vacation spot - isn't really cheaper than where I'm at now. He may also be a master chef! He tells me that if you eat enough meet, you get the 'meat sweats'. It may take a bit. This sounds horrifying but I can see people doing that.


Shinae and Jihong

Two Korean girls, co-workers, who are traveling around together. They both work with kids in Slovakia. They had been to Venice and felt that it was all tourists, no natives. They went from the fast paced life of Korea to the slower Slovak lifestyle and are still making that adjustment. They're going to stay in Slovakia for a year or two then head back to Korea. They seemed like a lot of fun but sadly, I met them on their last day here. Perhaps I will run into them in the future?



CHEERS BAR

Where after just a couple days, everyone knows my name.

Vera, Gabor and Mayer.




Mayer Aliz is a scientist who I had asked about 'what is the best thing about living in Budapest? She told me that the opportunities to study, work, get culture and such.

We also talked about the subway cars I had seen earlier. She confirmed that they were indeed made in the communist time and that they belong in a museum. She mentioned that just last week one of them either lit on fire or burst into flame.

She also gave me the quote "The heart of Budapest is in the river."

She also recommended to travelers to buy a three day card instead of three one day cards for the metro and such. It is cheaper.

While we were chatting, I asked her what kind of person I was. She said - and I quote - "You are a little strange."

I enjoyed meeting her, Vera (who is the Big Boss of the place!) and Gabor (who is a scientist who studies birds).

I keep on meeting interesting people in there and having good chats, so I keep going back.



THE SEVEN MIRACLES OF COMMUNISM

1. Everyone has a job.
2. Even if everyone has a job, nobody is doing anything.
3. Even if nobody is doing anything, the plan is to do more than 100%.
4. Even if the plan was to do more than 100, there is nothing at the stores.
5. Even if there wasn't anything at the stores, everyone has everything.
6. Even if people have everything, people steal.
7. Even if everyone is stealing, nothing is lacking.

[From a sign in Hungarian, translated into English by Mayer.]

2 comments:

  1. "I found out apartment rent is 2000 HUF per month"
    You misunderstood something, or I'm too tired to get this right... :)
    Apartment rent usually starts at around 30000 HUF/month (plus you have to pay the bills)
    What I said, that apartment rent and bills cost 2000 HUF/day for me and my boyfriend. (So its like 60 000 / month)

    Anyway... I'm tooo sleepy to read long posts like this right now, but I think I'll look around in your blog later :)

    Goodnight!
    Réka

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh - my bad - I meant to say 2000 HUF/day. Doh.

    Thanks Reka!!

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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