Thursday, May 28, 2009
Hungary was much fun... We took a free tour of Budapest, explored the caves under the city (which extend for over 200KM), went to Statue Park (where all the old communist propaganda statues were thrown from Budapest) and had a lovely evening on the citadel eating cheese and bread with fellow backpackers. I also, during the duration of the trip, had the privilage to touch a brass horse statue's balls which for the locals is symbolic of luck in love and in writing exams ( I will add a picture later).
We had added another companion to the travel posse, Lauren from South Africa, who accompanied us to Romania. We may perhaps even coax her into coming to Istanbul. I will add a story of our midnight train to Brasov, and the crazy Hungarian couple who swigged vodka all night as well as our first impressions of Romania (I saw my first stray dog!).
Bed-time; we ate garlic for dinner hopefully to ward of the vampires who roam these parts.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The dogs we were sternly told "not to touch, feed or acknowledge"? we had to follow the one and rescue it after it decided to go on a mission into town...
Salvador Dali above mine and Jack's bed...
Another random piece of art in that adorned the walls of the house. I really liked this one, it reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson for some reason...maybe the flag on the hat?
The view of the rowdy gypsy band at the bar, although I had to endure the debate between jack and Hamish about human nature once again, in the background. It never ends...What is truth? What is it to be human?
The day we set out to go to Budapest started with a bus to another bigger town, then to Brno where we had to wait for a midnight bus to Hungary. This is where things start to get weird. First of all we were awfully glad for the company of a security guard and his vicious looking german shephard who patrolled the station at night. Second of all, the bus schedule was entirely indecipherable. What we found on the internet did not coincide with what was posted. We knew which platform it was due to arrive (although Budapest was not included on the stops) so we waited after our fast-food meal we managed to scrounge up at the mall near by. Waiting, waiting, station closed at eleven, went outside to wait.
After awhile a group of extremely loud people arrived with about five bags and three extra-large suitcases in tow. They were snapping pictures, yelling, smoking... we were not sure what to make of them. There was the father, an older man in a matching blue tracksuit which read "The Best of Luck" on the back. The mother. The daughter (whose teeth were rotting out). The butch-femme in adidas with a mullet and a scowl. A variety of sons, or boyfriends or nephews, most of which were wearing tight pants and even tighter t-shirts and who looked like they spent a lot of time in front of the mirror in the morning.
The bus was late. Around 1:30 it pulled up and we approached only to be swarmed by the crazy-seeming family. The bus driver emerged. A large man who began a story, everyone was laughing, we were confused. One of the sons explained in broken english that the bus was full, no room. Some of the family member apparently had reserved seats. The people on the bus began to streamed off to the use the washroom and smoke as the bus drivers attempted to put some of the luggage under the bus. After most of it would not fit they attempted to hoist the large suitcases onto the bus. Just when we started to think that we were likely to have to spend the night in the station with our tarp against the coke machine another man who had been waiting all afternoon prompted the bus-drivers to consider letting the four of us on to sit in the isle. Luckily we got to pay half price. I could see the bus was packed with extra luggage and a large birdcage?... we climbed the step and as the bus shuddered to life and launched forward we tossed our bags in the isle and crouched down. We managed to sleep a bit, haphazardly strewn in the small isle. There was a movie playing which had Romanian or Hungarian subtitles. It featured Cuba Gooding Jr. in it and he was on a gay cruise? I am not sure what it was called but it was kind of entertaining. After a stop in Slovakia, after braving a disgusting public toilet and looking at the elaborate signs warning about bandits! We loaded back on the bus. The family was loaded off and went onto another bus. The three of us got the back seats with the man who had helped us get on the bus. We managed to sleep fitfully.
Anyways, we arrived in Budapest at five in the morning, and successfully navigated our hostel! It was ridiculously cheap and we slept in the common room watching 'Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb' on a projector screen which was awesome. Tomorrow we are going on the free city tour and to Statue Park. More pictures....
Friday, May 22, 2009
-La De Da Delilah
Sunday, May 17, 2009
A crazy lizard we saw crossing the road after it rained...An old polish lady approaced the help it along and we saw it safely across the ashphalt. We attempted to communicate, mostly through hand gestures, and we discovered it is a fire Salamander. I believe they are quite common in Europe. The one we saw was quite big, about seven inches!!!!Anyways, tomorrow we are heading to the bus station to see where the wind carries us! Maybe back to Prague to retrieve the rest of our stuff that we stored at the Hostel...I am currently in possession of one shirt, that smells, I am using man deoderant to ward off the stink hee hee!
P.S Another run in with the law! We decided to avoid the bar and indulge in some cheap Wroclaw beers from the local variety store... It seems public drinking is quite common. It was a lovely day and the boys suggested a park near the Hostel to enjoy the brew. We cracked open a few cans, were debating the Quebecois Seperatist movement having an excellent time soaking up the sun when I saw a police van pull up behind us. I motioned for the two boys to put their beers into the knapsack we had. In a matter of minutes we were surrounded by about six police. It was disconcerting to say the least. I attempted to wrangle our passports out of the bag without revealing the cans. They looked at our IDs and in broken English said no beer here please. We got off the hook, it was lucky I saw them and we hid the beers or we might of had to pay!!! Phewww....must be more careful...these were brutes...luckily they let us off....
A view of our humble abode from the lookout peak where we took in the sunset!
Where we slept the second night...We cut a small pine tree down to block the door...turned out to be our warmest night...
A lovely birch grove on our way into town...Almost there!!!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Delilah and Jack here webcasting from the beautiful Polish countryside. What began as a hastly planned trip into the Czech countryside quickly turned into a 3 day camping trip in the mountians in the north of the country. After the first day of hiking, and after consulting our map, we noticed that the border was not too far off and decided to walk to Poland. No tent, more beers than water, camping on the top of mountains, and minus degree weather made for one of the most memorable experiences of the trip thus far.
Into the wild. Packed too much we didn't need. After two days of solid hiking we made camp at a dilapidated lodge on top of a large lookout peak. We could not get inside but we managed with a few yards of rope, scavenged nails and our tarps to create a make-shift lean-to on the porch.
Hamish gathered dry fire wood and Jack made a delicious meal of potatos, carrots, red pepper and rice. It would seem we had found an epic place to spend the night (the view!) despite the wind and snow still on the ground. Just as beer oclock rolled around and we were about to get down to business getting a fire going, an old man approached. "Anglickski?" we asked, the only Czech word we could pronounce correctly. No english. Jack tried feebly to communicate with his Czech phrase book to no avail...A few other hikers came by. We thought he meant he owned the cabin and we were not allowed to be here. Worried, Hamish and Delilah gathered up the camp gear.
Jack concluded the guy was just another hiker who could not fathom sleeping up here because it is still quite cold up in the mountains. Besides it would seem people have camped here before by the fire pit and discarded and decaying toilet paper behind some of the low lying shrubs. After dinner, we watched the sun set from the lookout, a glowing ball of orange and pink sinking behind the horizon. We hoped it would not rain or snow that night and we were lucky! That was our warmest night due to the ingenuity of Hamish and Jack, who after discussing the tactics of the maori tribesmen to stay warm (hot stones buried in sand) they heated up stones in the roaring fire and place them into our lean-to. Furthermore the aluminum drinking bottles were filled with boiling water to place into sleeping bags to keep feet warm and dry.
Third day of solid hiking. Delilah hit the wall exhausted after climbing up and down hill with a heavy pack. Had to press on! Forward to Poland Comrades! Ran out of water and had to pump stream water. Camped inside a lookout tower, luckily inside for the night. Thermometer read minus two outside and about plus five inside. Coldest night by far. From atop the tower we could see the twinkling lights of the towns in the distance. The fourth morning we awoke early and set out. Physically exhausted we trekked downhill for about an hour. Took about five hours to reach the town.
We arrived in the most picturesque Polish Mountain village imaginable! Walked into a few hotel-chalets far beyond our budget, especially after saving money by not spending anything for two days solid, we did not want to cancel out our saving tactics. We found a tourist information store, possesing no polish currency and no knowledge of the language. The man inside made a call on our behalf, ten minutes later a woman arrived in a car with her husband. For thirty euro's a night (all together) we landed a lovely luxurious apartment with a view of the mountain, a short jaunt into town. Our hosts, who live above were gracious enough to do our laundry and lend us their personal laptop (on which we are writing). Shower! Food! a Bed! We were astounded by our luck. Then we set out to explore the town in search of food and beer. Apparently this is a prime tourist destination for elderly Germans. Not many english speakers but we made use of a notebook and a pen to communicate. Everything is very inexpensive. A bit difficult for Delilah to order off a menu to avoid meat, but ended up with delicious Perogies and homemade tomato soup!
Anyways, more updates, sorry about the hiatus! For some reason we cannot figure out how to load pictures onto the laptop but they will come! We got some beautiful shots of the mountain scenery!
-Salut! Delilah and Jack
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
After we parted ways from our American and Norwegian friends, Hamish, Jack and I were impeded by the Czech Transit Authority for not having tickets for the subway- which we kind of have been taking advantage of. It really sucked, we were lectured sternly by a mean-looking Czech beheamoth of a man, issued a fine and sent along our merry way. We were a bit shaken up- I mean images of me in a Czech prison were not something I wanted to entertain. We tried to talk our way out of it, playing the lost tourist to no avail. Thus we returned to the Hostel and picked up a few cheap beers to drown our sorrows. Luckily our friends/ dorm mates did not suffer the same fate when we bumped into them later in the night!
-Gutten Tag, D
Monday, May 11, 2009
Yesterday Jack and I headed out with Hamish and our new friend Jordan (from Montana) to see the museum of communism. It was stratigically located next to a McDonalds and a casino... which was quite amusing. There was plenty of sculptures and paintings of Marx and Lenin, but we found much of the commentary to be rather subjective. We also felt it was bit overpriced for what we paid which was a bit of a disappointment.
Afterwards, we went to the Prague castle. Although we did not get to go inside any buildings, we observed to magnificent views of the city from our perch. The church on the Castle ground was breath taking and I wished we got there in time to go inside.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Yesterday, while Jack was on the lookout for graffiti I was busy observing the sights and learning more about the city of Prague. After arriving at our new (Cheap+nice) hostel we befriended a felllow traveller Hamish from New Zealand. The three of us trapized off to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the city indulging in our free tour. It started in the town square, where our guide (George from Missouri) enthusiastically regaled us with stories of Nazi occupation, communist Czechoslovakia, Jan Palach, Franz Kaftka, Mozart and many more. There is some amazing architecture in Prague dating from the Art Noveau period in the New City (new as in twentieth century) and the old city, which I believe is remanents from medieval times (OOOLLLDDDD).
This one was pretty neat.
I think the next one is by
the same artist.
Friday, May 8, 2009
On our way to the bus station, we were in a busy area outside the town hall (see above) and an old man started messing with Jacks back pack. My first instinct was to slap him, and without thinking a gave him a good hard smack. He backed off and laughed, mumbling in German. Then he casually rejoined his wife and meandered on. We were a bit jumpy after that! We really stood out with a giant backpacks so we remained very vigilant .
We finally made it to the bus unscathed and we were pleasantly surprised by (a) the comfort of the seats, (b) we recieved free drinks...there was a stewardess! (c) the tv's, the stewardess kindly put on english subtitles for us.
Anyways...the story will be continued ...we are heading out to tour the Prague castle!!!!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
We decided to take a guided tour of the camp. Our guide Steven (which is also the same name as our cat!) was very knowledgable, and he took us through the process which prisoners would be initaiated through. Starting with the SS intergation room, moving on the the shower and de-lousing room, main courtyard, the cramped barracks', the crematorium and finally the gas chamber (dubbed barracks X). As you walk though a place like this you can feel the history. There is an erie sense of stillness, dispite the German school childern milling about (who are required to visit the site by the curriculum). Steven spoke of the process of removing the individual from the self and of the desensitization the prisoners endured in order to cope. It was as much physical pain as psychological which haunted those who were incarcerated here.
"Arbeit macht frei" are the words on the entrance gate, meaning in English "Work will set you free." This was on all concentration camps front gates. Its designated intent was to begin the dehuminazation process. It assumes that thoses who pass though these gates are somehow inferior or unworthy of the full rights of human beings. In some twisted sense of baseless justification it aussumes it was the prisoners fault as to why they ended up here... but with hard work and sacrifice they may be redeemed, both physically and spiritually. These words are in line with Nazi ideology and their ideals of racial superiority.
Overall, we were glad to visit this historical site. At the end, Steven really emphasized that the intent of the tour was not to serve a reminder of what happend in the past, but to ensure that something like this will 'never again' happen.
This is some cool graffiti we found on a side street...
Our first make-shift meal, havarti and yummy bread with coffee! We bumbled in the bakery trying to order. One cashier spoke a bit of English which helped. After we left the bakery we headed to a local library where the librarian (who spoke english well) gave us some pointers.
How much is that? Wie viel kostest das?
Excuse me- entschuldigen sie!
We will keep working on our German!
Guten tag! -Delilah and Jack