Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prague-Budapest-Belgrade

Where did I leave off? Prague. That was two cities ago. It's a bit of a whirlwind tour we're having. Still fun and our incredible good luck with the weather is holding.  Only one cold rainy night so far with nary a drizzle or an overcast sky to be found.

I think I would have liked another day in Prague but I enjoyed what I saw. We walked tons and also drank a lot of good beer. We hung out in local smoke-filled (cough) bars. Due to extreme language incompetence there was much pointing and nodding. People were friendly and easy to deal with, though.

Next stop was Budapest. I liked it a lot. We did run into a bit of drama with our 6:30 pm arrival. It was Hungary's National Day (like Independence Day, maybe?). I'd sketched out a route from the train station to the hostel via the subway. We got some cash and bought tickets, no problem. But when we got on the train, it cruised right past the transfer station. The locals seemed unperturbed but the other backpacker on the train seemed similarly confused. We got off when the train stopped next and got the next one going in the other direction. I figured we'd ended up on an express train by accident. But no. The next train cruised right past our transfer point (the only transfer point in the entire system!) and the next stop too. At this point, we got out.

After purchasing a second pair of transit tickets, we got on a tram. Going the wrong way. I consulted with a map to confirm this and a friendly passenger offered to help us. He told us which bus to catch after we got back to our starting point. We tried to catch it but I noticed the street was closed and the buses were re-routed--and quite a few police were about. We had to walk.

As we walked a few other pedestrians were around but the street was shut down to car traffic. We figured it had something to do with the holiday. A group of beer drinking skin-heads with Hungarian nation flag patches confirmed it. And, as we got nearer the river, we could see a rally in process. Ah.

We eventually found the hostel after about 20-30 minutes walking and luckily they had beds for us. We unloaded our packs, relaxed for a few minutes and then went out to find some dinner. Before dinner, we walked out to where the rally was and espied a huge force of riot police staging about a block away. Full armor, riot shields, the works. A little scary.

Dinner was ok but nothing special. The next day we walked all around the main tourist sights and Kent took plenty of pictures using my camera (his was stolen some time back).

Our second night was quite a lot of fun as we went out on the town with a group of Brits, Irish, Aussie and Kiwis--and one other American. We drank and danced until all hours in an "authentic" Budapest club (one of the hostel workers took us there).

Finally, yesterday, we got on the train about midday for Belgrade. The trip was uneventful and relaxing since we didn't have to share the compartment. We even had a very tasty and only marginally overpriced meal in the dining car.

Upon arrival, we found the hostel easily since it's almost directly across the street from the train station. It's on the 6th (7th!) floor and the elevator is broken and it's ok to smoke--but other than that, it's a decent place. Cough.

Today was spent walking around for a few hours, seeing the fort and a bit of the downtown. I'm exhausted! This city is a bit decrepit and a mishmash of brutal-ist Soviet architecture, glass boxes and more decorative baroque styles. Even though it's a very old city, very little pre-twentieth century remains.

Now I think it's time for a nap!

Grateful for: adventure.

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