Overnight in Zagreb

Like many of the cities I’ve visited recently, you have to look to the historic center to appreciate Zagreb. Apart from the center, it’s a concrete, Communist-era shit-hole.

I’m at the train station in Zagreb, Croatia, awaiting a train to my next destination, which is along the Adriatic coast. I spent only one night here, mainly to break up a long train ride, but I’ve found this to be a charming city. Like many of the cities I’ve visited recently, you have to look to the historic center to appreciate Zagreb. Apart from the center, it’s a concrete, Communist-era shithole. However, I’m looking forward to spending another night here on my trip back from the coast. Continue reading “Overnight in Zagreb”

Punchline on the beer

A half-liter of Amstel in the hotel bar is 900 forint, which is a little more than $4. And the hotel tacks on a ten percent service charge. The half-liter beer I’m drinking now is 300 forint, with no service charge. You do the math. I’m about 100 feet from the hotel door. I wish I knew about this place two days ago.

A half-liter of Amstel in the hotel bar is 900 forint, which is a little more than $4. And the hotel tacks on a ten percent service charge. The half-liter beer I’m drinking now is 300 forint, with no service charge. You do the math. I’m about 100 feet from the hotel door. I wish I knew about this place two days ago.

Cheerful mood in Budapest

Those of you at home in Phoenix have probably been unsympathetic to my complaints about the weather, but I’ve experienced a bit of a break today. We’ll see how long it lasts.

This morning started out with the muggiest weather I’ve dealt with yet. After walking around for about 20 minutes, I’d already had enough. So I decided to enjoy the day the Budapest way: at the thermal baths. It turned out to be a great decision, or at least a lucky one. I spent a very relaxing three hours at the baths, and just as I was getting ready to leave, the sky opened up into a genuine downpour. The temperature dropped by probably 10 degrees, and the sky has remained overcast all afternoon. I’m enjoying a beer outside while it lasts.

The jury is out on Hungarian beer. I’ve only had two, and one was pretty awful. I’d say it was Beast awful. My hotel bar serves Amstel, an okay Dutch beer you’ve probably all heard of, which is a shame, but it’s a Western hotel chain catering mostly to a business clientele. The beer I’m drinking right now, called Dreher, is pretty good.

After a few days of feeling worn out, I’m in a cheerful mood today. I got a good night’s sleep, I did my laundry this morning, so my clothes all smell nice, and my skin looks great from all the sun I’ve been getting. I’m a little burned, but it’s a mild burn that’ll turn a nice tan in a day or two. I need to buy some sunscreen before I get to the coast.

I’m moving on tomorrow on an early morning train. I’ll arrive at my destination early afternoon, if all goes well. My plans are evolving. I’ll post details when I get there.

Budapest

After getting about 20 hours of sleep yesterday and last night, I finally did some sightseeing here in Budapest today. I took a bus tour with a guide, seeing the St. Stephens Basilica and the Parliament building, among other things.

There’s a lot of symbolism expressed with the architecture, so you hear the same numbers over and over again. For example, the domes of both St. Stephens and Parliament are 96 meters high, reflecting the year Hungary was said to be founded, in 896. A lot of construction was started or finished in important anniversary years, especially 1896. Many sights were refurbished for the celebrations in 1996. There are also a lot of things in groups of seven, like statues of seven horses. There were said to be seven chieftains who formed Hungary.

It’s still awfully hot and humid today. It rained for a few minutes, but it really did nothing to improve the weather. Tonight, after the sun goes down, perhaps I’ll get out and walk around some more. Or maybe not. I’m kinda enjoying the down-time.

Splurge in Budapest

After another two border crossings, both of which featured rather impolite policemen who threw the doors open in the middle of the night, I arrived in Budapest this morning. After several nights of rather uncomfortable accommodations, I had decided to splurge, so I booked ahead and had a four-star Western hotel waiting for me when I arrived. I checked in around 10 am, dropped my bags, cranked the air conditioning, took a bath, and fell asleep with the TV on. For almost eight hours. I’m really going to get my money’s worth. Three nights of sleep for the price of two!

I got ripped off on the cab ride from the train station. I’m not sure exactly how much I should have paid, but I probably was overcharged to the tune of $20 or so. I’m almost three weeks into the trip, and it’s the first time I let myself get taken, so although I put up a bit of a fight, I eventually backed down and wrote it off.

Right now I’m in the hotel bar, having a early dinner, or a late lunch, or a very late breakfast. I haven’t eaten in almost 24 hours, so it doesn’t really matter what I call it.

I’m going to stay at the hotel at least until sundown, after which I may walk around the city a little, and possibly hit a bar or club. Tomorrow I’ll try to do some sort of guided bus tour for a few hours before going off on my own. Usually I prefer walking tours, but my feet have had it, and air conditioning sounds nice in this heat. At some point, I’d also like to get a chance to do a thermal bath.

I also need to do some laundry at some point, but I’m not going to let the hotel do it for $2 a sock. I have enough clean t-shirts to make it through the weekend if I don’t exert myself too much.

Preparing for my summer fun in Europe

In my recent posts, I’ve hinted I’m doing some traveling this summer. I won’t leave you in the dark any longer. In the next couple weeks, I’m leaving for a month-and-a-half-long backpacking trip through Europe.

Yes, Europe again. Yes, I have the bug, and I have it bad.

On my way to Europe, I’m spending a few nights in Iceland, which I’ve been wanting to see for years. There’s 24-hour daylight there this time of year, and I’m very curious to experience it, as well as taking part in Reykjavik’s infamous nightlife.

Although I have usually chosen Paris as my gateway to Europe, I’m flying to London this time to change things up. From London, I plan to travel by rail and ferry to Amsterdam, which is another place I’ve wanted to see for years.

From there, it becomes a little vague. I expect to visit Copenhagen, several cities in Germany and Austria, and Budapest and Bucharest before traveling west again toward France. Italy, Switzerland, and Spain are maybes. I plan to see a lot of places I’ve skipped on past trips, but I’ll also go back to some favorite places, like Montpellier.

As a side-trip, I’m thinking of making a pilgrimage to the Bushmills distillery in Ireland. We’ll see!

I’ll be filling in a lot of the details as I go. I expect to meet up with friends occasionally while I’m there, so some of my itinerary will depend on their schedules.

I’ll definitely be blogging my travels, so this is the place to get the latest scoop. If you want to keep up-to-date, consider snagging an RSS feed!

Finally, if any of you would like to meet up with me at some point during my journey or share a stretch of the trail, please send me an e-mail. Soon.