It’s not chicken… not ham… it’s TURKEY

Istanbul turned into being one of my “big trips” for the semester. I spent 6 days, 5 nights in the city. For Erasmus standards, that is a long stay in one city. I never thought I would have found myself in Turkey this semester. Like I admitted in an earlier post, I was naive about the country on safety and native about the location. My Canadian roommate mentioned that she wanted to go during the semester and that is what planted the idea. The idea grew on me and then I made the decision that I had to go. Inception, I know. MM ended up not being able to go, but I did 2 really cool kids to come: Paul from Ireland and my friend Emily from Kentucky.

Lucky for us, Paul convinced another friend to join us: Liliana from Mexico. (Small world story: she goes to other Uni in Vienna than I do. There are 3 of us from UGA at my Uni and 1 at her Uni. She actually went on Easter holiday with guy from UGA that goes to her Uni. She knows a UGA boy that I don’t and it is my school!)

Emily, Paul and I flew out on a Thursday. Liliana joined us the next afternoon. We decided to do the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ open air tour of the city since the city is so spread out. The weather was bad so we decided to stay on the tour bus for another trip through the circle so we could make sure we grasped the information and so we could get pictures of the sites from the other side of the bus. We finally got to the main tourist area and hopped off. We grabbed some lunch and then as we approached the blue mosque, heard the sound to prayer and knew we couldn’t center for the next while. A local guy told us about this free briefing session he was providing for tourists in the nearby school so we joined him there. During the briefing session, he talked about what we were going to see, about the Islamic religion and just an overview of everything. I knew about the ‘great journey’ part of the religion but I didn’t know so much about the prophets. I was also surprised with the similarities to the Christian religion. I always knew in back of mind that the Islamic, Judaism, and Christian beliefs shared close to same beginning beliefs, but it was interesting hearing about the Islamic beliefs from a believer. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe what my Christian religion says and disagreed with some of the differences, but it is interesting to learn how others view the world. After the briefing, we toured the blue mosque (which I was surprised that they didn’t make us cover our heads with the provided scarfs. We went prepared to do so and as we entered, they didn’t give us a scarf). That was the first eye opener for me. Witnessing the women sit in the balcony or in this caged off part of the room as the men went to the front to pray… wow. I have grown up in the generation with ‘equal rights’. Sure there is the glass ceiling as far as the business world goes for women, but we –least I–have taken our everyday equal rights for granted. Sure, it is the culture here, but wow. That was an eye opener for me.

Apparently I look Turkish. Who knew? We got approached by some locals once we exited. They asked us where we were from, etc. Paul said Ireland and I replied with the typical ‘US’ answer. He then asks me again and I reply with the same response. He then clarifies and wanted to know if my heritage was Turkish. Never have gotten that one before. During my travels so far, I have been asked if I was from Pennsylvania (from a guy from Arkansas! I don’t know what he was thinking with my accent!), New York, England, and now Turkey.

Lets see… the rest of our Turkey experience was touring the Palace, making a trip to Asia (and in the process, figuring out that we had a stalker that we had to ditch), noticing the amount of straight Turkish men holding hands in public (Kid you not. It is culture thing. Look up videos on youtube if don’t believe!) and just experiencing the Turkish culture. Besides one minor mishap of Emily missing her flight back to Vienna, the four of us survived Istanbul with our lives and wallets still in our pockets.

I definitely want to go back to Turkey. It has so much history there (didn’t realize that Troy is located there!) 6 days of touring just one city in Turkey was still not enough. Expect to see me in the future, Turkey!

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Ignorance and Freedom

Ignorance and Freedom

“Where is Istanbul? What country is it in? Is it safe for Americans?” I kid you not. I was this ignorant before coming to Europe. I never realized how ignorant we are as a country about global issues. I may be wrong, but I don’t even feel like I am the most ignorant about countries outside of the US for my age and that’s sad. I honestly have met more foreigners over here that know more states and state capitals than Americans. What is our country coming to?

One of my roommates this semester was from Canada. As we were leaving Vienna with our bags packed, I noticed that she had a Canadian flag on her backpack. I made the comment that I see so many Canadians with this on their bag. She informs me of the truth. She and many others do this to distinguish themselves from being mistaken as American. Her boyfriend added that he even knows Americans that will put Canadian flags on backpack to be thought of as Canadians while traveling. I was a little taken back but they explained that they actually have been treated nicer on numerous occasions because of this patch and the fact they weren’t American.

Why this negative attitude? Americans really don’t understand the negative image we put out. I got an idea when I came to Europe three years ago but fully didn’t understand it until actually living here for 5 months. People from other countries can tell me who holds what position in the government in the US, or name state capitals, yet many peope I know can only tell you who our president or VP are. No one that I know can sit down and describe the government structure of Canada or England or Spain. Why are we so far back in knowledge? Why is the sterotype of ignorant American so widespread? Is it the lack of being multilingual? Is it the “reality” shows like Jersery Shore and Real Housewives? Or is it because we are like the spoiled child of the world? The self-centered brat that only thinks that what goes on inside our country matters and what happens in other countries is irrelevant unless it directly affects us? I am not trying to only put down my home. I have just had my eyes opened being away for the past few months to notice the ignorance and outside opinion.

Despite having our ignorance brought to my attention, I must say that my pride in what America was founded on and appreciation for our freedom has really grown these past few months. When I was in Turkey, it really hit a nerve. When we entered the mosque, the men were in front praying while the women were upstairs in the balcony or behind this caged door in the very back of the room. We were touring one of the palaces — wearing tank top and jeans. Nothing terribly revealing. I then noticed a family in front of us on the tour. The husband stood with his wife and she was holding the hands of her two sons. She was completely covered from head to foot with only her eyes showing. That is when it hit me. Can you imagine how differently our lives are solely based on the cultures and countries we were born into? I was discussing this with a British friend and he pointed out that I shouldn’t assume she was forced into this and might on her own accord choose to dress like this. Still…. She and I are both women. Both went through puberty in the same way, will/would have children in the same way… Our bodies are biologically the “same” yet our lives are so different. Taking the assumption that even if she “chooses” to dress like that– society still plays a large role in this decision. I have taken the freedom of the decision to wear a tank top for granted. I can dream of being the president of the United States one day and you could argue that she could dream the same for Turkey, but let’s be real. I am more likely to make mine a reality. It just really blew my mind and made me start thinking more about the freedoms in the US. Sure, we have our problems.. But nothing is perfect. What is good are the ideas that we were founded on. It is things like this that make me brush off the ignorant American comments. You know what? I am proud to be an American.

Have a great 4th of July weekend! 

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Prague

Third time is the charm, right? After my Mom and sister visited me in Vienna–both wanting to make a side trip to Prague– the reality didn’t happen. I finally broke the spell and took a trip there. I had a total of 4 days and 3 nights to spend in Prague.

Charles's Bridge

I took the bus to Prague and made my way to drop off my stuff at the hostel. I then began exploring the city. When I am traveling on my own, I like to get my bearings of a city on the first day. It was pretty much an uneventful day with the exception of my random experience with a local. I noticed this guy in painter attire keeping in step with me as I walked down the street. I decided to stop and he’d stop. I kept changing up things to see if he was following in my footsteps. I finally slowed down enough and went around a car parked on side walk and let him go on the other side of the car. He kept ahead of me for a bit and then later on the street let me pass. I passed him once more because he decided to randomly stop. He passed me once again, and this time started yelling at me in a language I did not recognize. I would assume it was Czech. He looked really mad and he almost made the motion that you see when people try to fight each other– you know what I’m talking about. The “What?!” along with the hand motions that usually signal a challenge. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so confused in my life. I thought back to everything and can’t imagine what I would have done to upset him. After all, he was the one following me. I quickly walked again–attempting to avoid confrontation.

If you refer to previous post, you’ll read the short explantation of how small this world is. If you haven’t read the post, I met two guys from Atlanta as I was walking around Prague. I ended up grabbing dinner with them and hanging out with them for the night.

The following day, I joined the New Europe tour offered in Prague. The concept of this organization is to offer a basic tour of the city for any budget traveler. Therefor, you don’t have to pay to do the tour, but tips are highly recommended, which is fair for 3 hours of the guide’s time. Since you pay a tip on what you think that it was worth, the guides actually try to make it interesting. I’ve done other walking tours but by far has New Europe been the best. I especially liked the Prague guide. When you arrive at the meeting place, the guides give you a number. This makes it easier to divide up the 40+ people who have arrived for the tour. I literally the last one to arrive for this tour so was given the highest number. After the guides introduced themselves, they divided up the gang. I was “assigned” to the girl guide but noticed that A) a majority of the people under the age of 30 were with the boy guide B) The boy guide had a LOT more energy than the girl so I “broke ranks” and joined the younger crowd.  Who would think bending the rules to a free tour would be a big deal?

Did the 3 hour tour. Ended up talking with two Canadian guys most of the tour. The three of us decided to do the Castle Tour as well. That was another roughly 3 hours of touring. At the end of the tour, the guide left us on top of the hill to get a gorgeous view of the city. I went to give him my tip for the tours and he totally called me out for being in the wrong tour. He had impressed me the entire tour with his quick responses to things, but he really took me off guard remembering what number I had been given for the original tour. He was only giving me a hard time, but still impressive that he remembered this.

 

Overlooking the city

Tower in Prague

I ended up hanging out with the two Canadian guys that night. The next day, I met up with the same guys mid-afternoon to explore Prague even more. We made out way to Charles’s Bridge. We went to the Jewish building that has all the names of all the Jews that were from Prague that were killed in the Holocaust. While we were in the graveyard that was over 9 graves deep– the heavens opened and it began to pour. Kind of appropriate for where we were for it was like the world’s tears on these graves. We bolted through the rain and hung out in a store until we braved going out again and hanging out in a cafe until the rain cleared. We played cards and just enjoyed the afternoon– conversing and learning from each other. Once the rains cleared, we hiked to Prague’s own Eiffel Tower and did more exploring. We even found a playground on top of the mountain and hung around there for a bit.

Charles BridgeI enjoyed Prague. I really did. It just wasn’t what I expected due to how much people talk about the city. I think I went in expecting there to be a “lot there” and in reality, there the average amount or maybe less there than other European cities. I think what makes Prague the “new Paris” is the atmosphere of the city. When the two Canadians and I were sitting by the river enjoying a drink one night, looking at the bridges and lights of the castle– it was definitely beautiful. The beauty takes your breath away. Picture of Prague that I took

 

 

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It’s a small world after all….

Call it coincidence. Call it chance. I like to think it’s just a small world. During my past four months of traveling, I continue to be amazed.

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Flight to Rome, Italy

I am in Milan, Italy catching a flight to Rome. I pass through security and head to the gate. There are limited seats available, so when I hear two guys speaking English, I ask them if the seat beside them is taken. I strike up a conversation to find out they were from Georgia. One even graduated from UGA! They were a few years older, but I knew a girl that went to their high school and they knew her older sister. I ended up going out with them one of my nights in Rome.

Flight from Rome, Italy

I am leaving Rome and on the shuttle bus to get on my plane. I notice the girl beside me has a US passport and I strike up conversation. Where was she from? None other than Rome, Ga! Did she and I have mutual friends? Indeed. Her friend traveling with her goes to GT, so another Georgia native.

Riverwalk in Prague, Cz Republic

As I am walking down by the river, I spot a guy wearing an Atlanta

Braves hat. I have seen a few in Vienna but you can usually tell by a quick glance that it is a European that just happened to come across this hat and probably doesn’t even know what the A stood for. I happened to ask, “ATL?” and he replied with, “ATL baby.” Turns out he and his friend were from Georgia and just graduated from Georgia State to travel Europe before the real world. I ended up grabbing dinner and drinks with them that night.

Streets of Vienna, Austria

I have a friend from home visiting and as we are touring around, we start seeing Texas and Auburn shirts. We then see Marist shirts (high school in Georgia) and then I see a Masters hat. I comment really loudly on that and the guy wearing hat hears me. We chat with him briefly and they explain they are on school trip here and are indeed from Georgia.

Bus station in Vienna, Austria

I am walking my friend from home to catch her train. We see a group of backpackers sitting around and one of the guys is wearing a UGA shirt.

We yell, “Go Dawgs” at them and briefly speak to them. After Jessica leaves, I return to talk to the group. They were from all over but all went to UGA. I had mutual friends –from their hometowns and at UGA– with all of them– all the way from the guy from Athens to the guy from Tennessee.

King’s Cross, Platform 9 ¾ in London, England

Being a Harry Potter fan, I had to check out Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross–from the movie. The station is currently under construction but I found the temporary station. There is obviously a crowd of Harry Potter followers waiting to take a picture at this station. I wait around and since I was traveling alone, I scoop out whom I can ask to take my picture. I see two girls that look friendly and ask them. One asks me if I go to Georgia. I am taken by surprise because I’ve been told that I’ve lost my Georgian accent over here and didn’t think my accent gave me away that quickly. Turns out the girl had seen my croakies that said ‘The University of Georgia’ on them. Small world? The girls were from Atlanta and had graduated from UGA.

Bathroom of Broadway show in London, England

I decided to go see The Lion King while in London. During intermission, I want to stretch my legs and head to the bathroom. The girl behind me has an Auburn shirt on and I make a SEC comment. We start talking and she tells me she is going to be a freshman in fall. It comes out that she is going to be in marching band and I tell her that I am in it at UGA. She asks what I play and I tell her. She informs me that she will be doing the same. I met a girl from the only other SEC school that has a pit! Might not sound as small world as rest, but for UGA/Auburn games, the pits always help each other move instruments into the stadiums. Translation: I will see this girl again in a few months once football season starts again.

I am not exaggerating when I say this. The states that I’ve met the most Americans from have been California and Georgia. Funny how that works out 🙂

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Weekend in Parma

My aunt made a trip traveling around Italy in May. With her travel schedule and my school schedule, it worked out to meet up in Parma, Italy for the weekend of May 21st and 22nd. I took an overnight train to arrive to Bologna, transfered, and got on a local train to Parma. I arrived about six in the morning and since my aunt wasn’t in Parma yet, I decided to do some exploring. After grabbing some breakfast, I decided to sit at a bus stop  and do some people watching to waste time. There was another guy sitting at the end of the bench. He started talking to me and became too friendly. What’s your name? Where are you from? Where exactly are you staying? We should swap numbers. I can call and write you etc. Needless to say, I did not give out personal information and had a sigh of relief once he left. After awhile, I decided to make the trek back to my hostel, which was located on the other side of town. After hanging at the hostel for a bit, I made the trek back to my aunt’s hotel to see if she had arrived yet. She hadn’t arrived yet, so I left a note and began walking back to my hostel. Halfway into my 30 minute walk, who else do I run into but the same guy that tried talking to me at the bus stop. He again made uncomfortable comments and I continued with my walk– occasionally checking to make sure that he wasn’t following. Seeing how I ran into the only (creepy, might I add!) person that had spoken to me in this town twice within a short time and on opposite sides of town, I was a little freaked out. I filled my aunt in later and she made sure I had a taxi back to my place that night to avoid another run in with this guy.

With street performer in Parma, ItalyIf you’ve never been to Parma, you can now know that it can be considered “off the beaten path”. It’s the home of parmesan cheese. This was definitely one of the least touristy places I’ve yet to visit. My aunt and I did some exploring on Saturday and then we enjoyed a great meal with the others in the group.

 

Reflection of church ceiling

The next day, we did some more exploring and toured a few museums (Got to see an Egyptian mummy without going into Egypt). That afternoon we decided to take a drive to do more exploring. We arrived in one small town and found it pretty much deserted. We didn’t know if this was normal for a Sunday or if it was because it was sieta– but we decided to jump back on the highway and drive to the next town. We found a more lively town and checked it out. Add in some tasty Italian gelato and you had our afternoon! We finally called it a day and headed back to Parma where we enjoyed another nice dinner before I had to catch my night train back to Vienna.

Nutella, Chocolate and Coffee gelato. I am my father's child.The trip would have been a stressless weekend with the exception of the train back. If you ever travel in Europe, be warned about the public transit in Italy. Just to give you an example… When I took my bus out to my hostel when I first arrived, there were no labels at the bus stops. I waited for a bus to arrive and then got on and asked the driver (in Spanish since none of the drivers speak English and I don’t speak Italian) if this was the bus that would take me where I needed to go and he told me to go to another stop. I go to this “stop” and do the same for when this bus arrives. Now my previous experience in Bergamo told me that the buses don’t stop every stop –so even if you knew how many stops it was until your stop, that information won’t be helpful. The buses stop whenever a person on the bus clicks the stop button or someone waves down the bus at the bus stop. The stops aren’t labeled with names –so if you knew the name of your stop, that information isn’t that helpful. You basically should only use the transportation system if you know exactly where you are going and when to push the button. When I was going to my hostel in Parma, I went straight to the bus driver and explained in Spanish where I wanted to go and asked him to stop for me when I needed to get off. I lucked out with the driver being nice, because the other drivers haven’t been so nice.

Back to my Italian train experience while trying to leave Parma. I check the schedule and notice that my local train is leaving platform #4 at this certain time. I go to that platform and see a train arriving about 5 minutes before mine is supposed to depart. I find the wagon number that I had a reservation for and hop on. I look for my seat number and can’t find it. I then begin looking for a conductor. I find one. At this time, the train starts moving. I explain to the guy that I am looking for my seat. His English is very limited and he keeps telling me that I don’t have a seat and I start to get frustrated — showing him my ticket that I had purchased back in Vienna for this train. He gets another conductor to come over and that conductor explains to me that this wasn’t the train that I was supposed to be on– the one that I was supposed to be on was after this one and running late– and that I needed to get off at the next stop. Very frustrated at this point, I explain to him that I’m not sure if my train will be stopping at this particular train’s next stop. The man shrugs and tells me that there is a policeman on board and if I get caught on this train without the proper ticket, I’ll get the 70+ euro fine. I don’t know what to do at this point. I didn’t do anything wrong and obviously wasn’t trying to hop train. I consider sitting in the WC until the next stop to hide from the policeman but instead just stand in the hall praying the whole time that I wouldn’t get caught.

That seemed like the longest train ride of my life. The train finally came to a halt and I exited the train. Here I am, close to midnight, in some random Italian town praying that my train was coming so I could catch my expensive overnight train from Bologna to Vienna to make it back to class Monday morning. Luck was on my side, and my original train was running late– but still coming through whatever town I was dropped off in. I was able to get on it and then catch my overnight train.

I believe the trains were testing my patience this particular weekend. Once on my overnight train back to Vienna, I find the cart with my reserved seat full. I show the person in my seat my ticket and that person leaves. I didn’t pay for a cochette (beds) but just a seat in a compartment like you’d find in a Harry Potter movie. The lady across from me has a lot of luggage and has taken over the little leg room with her bags. I crawl onto the seat and attempt to get some sleep curled in a ball since there wasn’t any room for my legs. After a lasting a little bit of sitting in a curled up ball, I try to communicate to the lady asking if she can move her bag to the baggage shelf above. She doesn’t speak English or Spanish and somehow communicates that it has to stay there. Not sure if it were too heavy for the baggage shelf, or she couldn’t lift it or what. The disadvantage of communication errors. I finally give in and just figure I’m going to have to make the best of the situation and attempt to sleep in a ball once more. About 4 am the lady departs with her luggage and I let out a sigh of relief. The relief doesn’t last that long. About 5 am, a large group of middle school aged girls get on the train and fill my compartment. Laughing + singing + music blasting + 5 am should not mix. Am I really getting that old that I’m annoyed with these things? Apparently so. As you can guess, I didn’t get any sleep back to Vienna. I crashed once home and got some more sleep after my class. After that weekend, I’m swearing off Italian trains for awhile.

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Experiencing Vienna

Austria is known for many things: Red Bull, Sound of Music, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wiener Schnitzel, apfel (apple) strudel, sachertorte, Viennese café and classical music. Although I’ve been trying to get as much traveling in as possible, I still wanted to make sure that I experienced what Austria has to offer. I skied in the Alps in Innsbruck, sang along with the official Sound of Music tour in Salzburg and tried the many things Vienna has to offer.

Inside of Ottakringer BreweryThere are two big beer brands here in Vienna: Gösser and Ottakringer. I’ve fallen in love with these companies’ radler. Radler is a drink that is half beer and half lemonade/pop. You can drink it like a coke and it really hits the spot on a hot day. So this was the extent of my knowledge about these companies until I took the Ottakringer Brewery Tour.  The ESN group at my school offered us a great deal of being able to tour the brewery for four euros, so I decided to try it out! Our group arrived at the brewery and we walked into this room that looked like a pub with different spouts. The guide explained all the different variations that Ottakringer offers and let each of us try one. He then gave us about a 45 minute tour of the brewery.

Preparing for Athens in the Ottakringer Brewery

At the end of the tour, the guide brought us back to the original room that looked like a pub. He then told us we could practice being bartenders and come behind the bar and pour our own drinks. I was surprised how many people weren’t interested in this opportunity, but I definitely got behind the bar and practiced my bar tending skills. Athens, watch out!

Living as an Austrian

As of today, I can check off Viennese café. I met with my friend Kevin from Australia for coffee. We went to a super well-known café named Café Hawelka that dates back to 1906. Go big or go home, right? I’m slowly converting to a few of the European ways. We sat for a little over two hours chatting about our travels, experiences and future plans. Neither of us are that big into coffee, but we decided if we were going to try Viennese coffee, we had to go to the best. This European lifestyle of enjoying friends’ company is so different from the hustle and bustle of our American lifestyle. It’s quite nice.

Vienna Philharmonic Summer Concert 2011Brewery. Check. Viennese Coffee. Check. Classical music? Recently there was the Vienna Philharmonic Summer Concert at Schönbrunn Palace. My roomie, MM, and I decided we had to experience this outdoor classical concert. As someone once said, you can’t go to Vienna without seeing a classical concert. That’s like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids! I believe the entire city was there. Since Vienna is the capital, I’m sure many government officials had to make a public appearance. MM and I saw a good amount of body guards, limos and the whole nine yards. When we got off the metro station, police were escorting everyone due to the thousands of people there. I felt like I was back in Athens for a football game getting herded like cattle. We took a few pictures of the stage and decided we wanted to head up onto the hill and get a view from there. The police had blocked off a good portion of the walk ways, so we took the long way around to make it to the hill. The palace was lit up and was breathtaking.  Being on the hill, I felt like I was back at Stone Mountain preparing to watch the laser show. Always funny how despite being so far away, things always seem to remind you of home.

Vienna Philharmonic Summer Concert 2011 As Tyler always says, “TIA” for This is Africa. I guess I could say, “TIA.” This is Austria (in a nutshell).

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Buda, Buda, Buda, Budapest

About three weeks late, but better late than never.

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My roommate and I decided to make a last minute weekend trip to Budapest, Hungary. We decided on a Wednesday that neither of us had plans for the weekend, and I asked MM if she’d be up for making a short weekend since I realized I didn’t have many unplanned weekends left. We booked our bus tickets and hostel and were set for our weekend.

We booked our bus tickets through a company called Orange Ways. We had to leave our apartment around 6 am to make sure we would make it to the bus stop– because in Austria things run on time… or so we thought. We arrived at the bus stop with a little more than the “required 20 to 30 minute” time that the company says to. No bus. A large crowd begins to form. No bus. 10 minutes before departure. No bus. Departure time. No bus. 10 minutes late. No bus. 30 minutes late. No bus. Can you imagine after 60 minutes what we found? No bus. We didn’t know what to do. This bus stop consists of just two posts that mark the “bus stop”. Sketchy much? This is a popular bus stop for other companies like Student Agency. If you haven’t been to this bus stop before, I can tell you from experience that a LOT of charter buses go past this stop… and they aren’t Orange Ways. After almost 90 minutes after departure time, the bus finally shows. Maybe I am too American where it has been programmed into me that, “time is money” and “if you are early, you are on time and if you are on time, you are late”. I could understand 5…10… maybe even 15 minutes late. Things happen. A driver oversleeps before a day of work… traffic… but 90 minutes? I expected the company to apologize and give an explantation. Nothing of the sort. When they arrived, they just checked our tickets and everyone boarded as if nothing was wrong and the bus wasn’t 90 minutes late. Now, you probably wonder why we waited 90 minutes for a bus to begin with. You see…  we were scared if we left the stop to go back into the metro and make a call, the bus would happen to show at that time –knowing our luck. Also, there is one sign at this bus stop. Student Agency and another bus company have their time tables and contact information posted… but not Orange Ways. I texted a few friends asking for them to look up the number, but who really checks their phone at 7 am on a Saturday morning? Apparently one individual was able to get the contact number and made the phone call while we were waiting and was only able to get a mobile number. A company’s call center is a mobile number… yeah… You might say this is why you should trust only well known companies but that’s the thing. This company is well known and we knew people that have used it. Turns out their bus was late as well the time they used the company –not 90 minutes late, but roughly 10 minutes. I mean I didn’t really get upset because that’s one the first things I learned about traveling. Things don’t go as planned and you can’t change it. You just have to learn to adapt. We really didn’t have any particular place to be, but I would have been upset if I had a plane or train to catch in Budapest and were relying on this bus to get me there around the expected time. Can you imagine in the US if something was running 90 minutes late? People would be in uproar!

Budapest bathsBesides the late start, we were able to arrive in Budapest. We checked into our hostel and then headed to the famous baths of Budapest. These baths are also found in Turkey and basically this place was like a resort. It had roughly 32 baths that ranged from cold to hot temperatures (scented to not scented; located inside and outside) and had steam rooms and saunas finish off the experience. So relaxing. Period.

Never paid this for a dinner before

MM and I were in the outside bath that looked like a pool when we met another American. He was originally from California but currently is a professor in Alaska. We talked to him a bit and invited him to hang with us for the rest of the day at the baths. Before we left, we made plans to meet him at this “amazing” restaurant that MM fell in love with the last time she came to Budapest.

We didn’t know if the guy would actually show for dinner, but he did and we enjoyed a 3 course meal of duck, goose and other unusual dishes for a good price. The money inflation here gets me everytime. I don’t think I’ll ever see a time where a meal for 3 costs roughly 10,000 units. Afterwards, we began walking towards the center of town to see what the night life was going to be like and find me a shot glass (I collect one shot glass from each country I visit). Americans listening to American musicWe found a guy performing  classic American songs and sat down for a drink and to listen to the music. Afterwards, we hopped from place to place trying to find somewhere we wanted to hang for the night. We found a local place and stayed there a bit but decided we wanted to do some dancing. We got a recommendation from the place we were at and headed out to find this dance club. This place was one of the coolest clubs I’ve been to. They had a DJ and the place felt like a concert was going on. There was even a rooftop area to hang out as well. We stayed there for a few hours and finally made our way back to the hostel to get a few hours of sleep before touring.

Roomies at castleWe managed to get up and go on a free walking tour of Budapest. The city is actually really pretty and according to our guide, has a larger population than Vienna–which I found surprising. After the tour, we headed back to the bus station to catch our bus back to Vienna. Within 48 hours –with only 3 hours of sleep– I experienced a crash course of Budapest, Hungary.

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