Thursday, July 24, 2008

I finally have a free minute - hope you have two

OK – life is coming back down but not in a bad way.

Caitlin left today – had to wake up at like 7 to get her to the airport – I think she had a good trip but was ready to get back home. We did a lot of stuff in the two weeks that she was here.

But where I left off in my last blog - - - It was dark and rainy and we were in the deepest part of the Viennese wilderness --- not exactly.
We had just gotten to my good friend Vera’s flat in Vienna. A nice little place that was perfect for the sum three of us to fit in. We saw so much in Vienna – it’s such a huge city with so many massive buildings. It’s the same population as Prague – BUT ITS MUCH BIGGER. Or feels it anyway.
Highlight of Vienna had to be the hoerigger (no idea how to spell that) but it’s a place that I was talking about at the end of the last post I had. But it was up in the hills just outside of Vienna and right by Beethoven’s old house (I’m pretty sure it was Beethoven). Such a cool place, great food, and great company. Possibly the highlight of the trip for me.
Then that overnight train to Krakow. The nicest sleeper car I have ever been on. I even got a prepackaged breakfast croissant and a bag with a towel and soap in it – plus free bottled water. I couldn’t have dreamed of so much on a train over here.
But Krakow is great. I’ve been there before and I was excited to go back. I went to Auschwitz again though – so Caitlin could see it. Could have done without that but I didn’t take the tour this time (but I suggest everyone take the 3 hour tour the first time they go) and so I got to spend some more time wandering there by myself. Bit of a different experience.
I almost met some very interesting guys at the hostel that night – one of them is even coming to see me in Prague this weekend. It was cool to see some of the city with such a mix of people from so many places. Makes me just want to keep traveling and go to every country I hear of though – it’s an issue.
The next day we went to Zilina in Slovakia – another place that I was going to for the second time this summer (by the way – anyone traveling over in that area needs to take at least some day trains – the countryside between the borders of Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia… Incredible). We got there and luckily – since nothing was confirmed – met my friend who is a rotary student there from Pennsylvania. It was like one of her last days and all her friends were on vacation – I felt so bad knowing that she had to go home soon but I could certainly relate (sigh).
But yeah, the point of going to Zilina was just to end the trip with something beautiful and quiet in the mountains – and something a bit more traditional and interesting that Bratislava. It worked out well.
Then an awful train ride home to Prague. Its only 6 hours, so we didn’t think we would get beds on this train to save money. Here’s how it went –
We got reservations instead of beds thinking that would save us from any trouble finidng a seat. Our cabin already had 4 sleeping people in it though, and that didn’t leave much room – so we braved the halls and tried to find a new place to settle.
First we get a cabin by ourselves and think - ooh lucky, we’ll la down and go to sleep. Normally that’s no issue and everyone leaves you alone then. First comes drunk guy number one – he starts giving me a hard time about how we didn’t reserve the whole cabin so we cant do that, then sits down and talks for 20 minutes while we sit and try to ignore him. Then number two – but he’s only there for a second. Then two leaves and comes back a while later with and older even drunker guy – that was it – we left.
After standing in the hall and the end of a car for some time we find a nice spot by someone our age. Then he leaves and an older woman comes – possibly drunk as well. She sets her bag on her lap and every time she dozes off it slips through and smacks on the floor, startling her awake – and every time, it happened she thought we were in Prague – it happened at least every five minutes from the time she got on the train – we were 5 hours from Prague. Then a 4th guy comes, quite sober, and that’s not so bad – four people total is livable. Then “SMACK” the bad hits and the old woman gets so excited about our supposed arrival to Prague, she even goes to wait at the door at the end of the car. That just freed up her seat to be taken by two large campers who just slam open the door and don’t even ask if the seats are free, but say “these are free right?” and then sit down with there larger-than-average backpacks – some above us and some having to rest between me and the man now facing me. 3 hours to Prague. Back comes the old woman.

This was beyond cartoonish. We got home and slept a long time.

My friend Chrisina was staying with us too for her last couple days in Prague before she flew back. We had a good time seeing things for the few days we were here and say a lot of the city. There were a few more things we would have liked to do but I guess you always have to leave enough of a snack that it’s worth coming back. That goes for me and Caitlin. Funny thing is the more you do the more you hear about – maybe that’s why I meet so many travelers or so many generations – once you start, you never quite finish.

Kind of like reading this blog – you always think the next paragraph will be the last, and then I have more to say. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel and vacation are two seperate things

Sure it’s great to travel - but I cannot wait to get pack to Prague where I can sleep in, wake up, go to a park, and fall asleep again!

I apologize for not writing in so long. I hope that some of you are still reading this. About two weeks ago when I wrote last, I was heading off to a film festival in Karlovy Vary - beautiful town spread like fingers through these valleys in the hills of northwest Czech Republic - google it. That was really great and you wouldn't believe who I bumped into - literally --- Robert Deniro.

He was one of the special guests at the festival and a friend that I was with loves him. We had time one day so we walked through the town toward his hotel joking that he might open his window and we'd catch a glimpse... but he didn't. So as we're walking back - my head was a bit above the world as usual and in my aloof state I walked right into the man as he was shopping for postcards.

Honestly, I don't see what the big deal about him is. He was wearing saggy khaki pants and looked like he had just woken up - he's just as plain as I am. But at the special showing of New York, New York that night he gave a speech and everyone else thought that was pretty special - he didn't even seem like he wanted to be there. "Uh yeah, thanks for having me...blah blah blah... this film is old and so am I [everybody laughs] - Enjoy" (Not an exact quote). Anyhow the film festival was good.

I was home for one day when I had to rush off to the airport to pick up my friend Caitlin from the states who I am currently traveling with. We were only in Prague for the night and then the next day off to Budapest.

After a long hot train ride with more people than I have ever been squished with - we spent only two short but amazing days in Budapest with a guy that she has meet once but stayed in contact with named Gergos. His dad rents a flat downtown which was empty so we got to stay there for free. The first night he gave us a driving tour in a 1972 Trabant (you have to google that). And the visit only got better from there - our visit to that city was far too short.

Next, to Bratislava. Although I have been to Slovakia a lot, I have never made it to Bratislava... This must be why - Maybe it would be better with someone from there, but my visit matched up with other reviews that I have gotten from friends. It's surprisingly small and not over crowded with tourists, but there’s really not much to do. WE arrived at 6 one night and saw just a bit of the city - pretty dead but we figured it was because it was a Sunday night - not much changed Monday. Maybe someday I'll give it a second chance.

Then we came to Vienna! My friend Vera lives here and has a nice little flat and is an incredible host. I have been here a few times before but I just love coming back - too bad it’s a bit expensive - good thing I get to sleep for free here. Tonight we had dinner outside of a vineyard - ate some incredible food and tried some great wine. Tomorrow it’s back to the city to enjoy some more coffeehouses and see a bit more before an overnight train to Krakow, Poland.

I think Caitlin is enjoying herself too - overall a great trip in my opinion. Sorry this was long and I'll get some photos up as soon as I'm back in Prague next week. We still have to go to Krakow and visit the High Tatry Mountains in the North of Slovakia (the part that I know I love).
Again, sorry I haven't written more lately, but this traveling is taking it right out of me and I am in need of a vacation. If you're still reading, I promise I'll give you more to read soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crazy is moving from a state of mind to a way of life

I finished my CELTA course after crazy week back from Poland. It’s kind of sad to see it finish though. I liked the people in my group a lot – kindred spirits you could say for the most part. I learned as much from many of them as I did from my course instructors. Certainly got some good ideas on how I might be living some years down the road. (don’t worry mom and dad – not in a box, just happily). Slowly they’ve been leaving Prague over the past weekend and week, and now there are only two more left who I will see again today and then fly away tomorrow. The good news is, I can visit a number of them across the world at a later time, and I certainly hope to do so.

Saturday morning I moved into a new flat. Nice guys, I have a big room, but I don’t live alone. Could be worse but I live in the center, perfect location, and I pay almost nothing. I used to live in a great area, but a little ways from the center, and in one month there I paid 2 times what two months will cost me here. Having a roommate is worth it. Plus I have internet here – big plus.

July is going to be incredibly busy, so I decided Sunday that it was then or not for a long time, so I went to Ceske Budejovice where I used to live. You have no idea how incredible it feels to leave for so long and just be so accepted back into this city. I meet with my second host family for lunch and spent the afternoon there. Boy how those kids grow up so fast - Milos is nearly twice as big and Dominika is so much older - she'll be driving in just a couple of years. Seriously though, I can’t even describe this trip. 

Then I went to town to meet an old friend who - glad I went when I did – is going to Denmark for the summer in two days. We meet for dinner and he convinced me to stay in town over night and sleep at his house. Unfortunate that I didn’t bring spar clothes but I am glad I stayed. Then the next morning I was getting texts from other friends who wanted me to stay longer with them but I couldn’t because I had no clothes and already had a return train ticket that would expire the next day – but they’re coming to Prague Friday so we still get to see each other.

Everyday I am getting into contact with more people and I am so happy that they are still glad to see me after all this time.

This week is pretty calm, enjoying a last day with my CELTA friends, meeting a friend of a friend who is coming through town, then meeting my friends from Budejovice before going to the film festival this weekend. Then I get back from that for a day and Caitlin comes from the states to travel for two weeks.

Unfortunate that I couldn’t earn more money this summer, but this would make one heck of a MasterCard commercial.