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Thursday
Sep262013

Gödöllő - Heat In The Palace

On a sweltering morning in the heat of August in Budapest, I was sitting in my apartment wondering how to last another day without melting.  Suddenly, my phone broke the silence with its piercing ring, and I picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Hey, do you want to go to Gödöllő?”

“When?”

“Right now, we’re on the metro heading that way.”

---

For a little back story, you should know that Gödöllő is a town near Budapest that I’ve been meaning to visit for a very long time.  It’s easy to get to, and has a famous old palace there (and I love palaces).  I’d been thinking about going for the past few weekends, but the heat always killed my motivation to get up and go.

But, on this particular day I decided I might as well just sweat somewhere else, so I got dressed and headed out.  I took the metro to the HÉV (Budapest suburban railway) where I bought a sandwich and met my friends.  After about an hour long train ride through some nice cool forest, we arrived.

Most of the day was spent at the palace, which was nice.  The downside was that we had to constantly dodge the multiple weddings taking place there.  The upside was that we got to constantly watch wedding guests.

The highlight was watching one of the brides throwing her bouquet.  The other girls all grouped behind her, and she threw the flowers right over her head and they landed about one inch behind her.  In other words, the bouquet made it less than 1% of the distance that it needed to go.  Everyone laughed, and they tried again.

On the second attempt, the bride managed to get the bouquet to her friends.  They all pushed to try and catch it, but at the last second, they all scattered as if it was a biological weapon.  Then, they picked it up off the ground and forced it upon who girl who it seemed to have touched before its crash landing.

Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to join this heavenly party of single women who seem to be terrified of marriage…

Enjoy my pictures.  I didn’t take any of the inside of the palace because you had to pay extra to bring your camera in, and that was outside my student budget.

 

Hungarian word of the day:

Augusztus

This word looks pretty easy, because most of the Hungarian months are similar to the names in English.  Make the „u” into an „oo” sound, and the „s” into a „shh” sound, and you’re good to go.


Tuesday
Jul092013

Back Again, Busy Again

I still exist.  I’m still in Budapest… sweating.  I’ve been busy.  I know I always say that, but let me fill you in, my dear readers.

First, I finished up the first year of my MBA at the Corvinus University of Budapest.  I’ve had a lot of fun, and learned way too much, and I’m looking forward to the next (and final) year.   And, my grades were pretty awesome, thanks for asking.

My school (closer to the river than normal because of the flooding Danube). (Click image to see larger)

Second, my friend Jake and I have started running an English speaking quiz night in Budapest – Think and Drink.  It’s been a lot of work, but we’re starting to get the hang of it.  If I’m allowed to say so, I think it’s becoming quite successful .  Also, it’s the first of what we hope will be a number of events, so it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.  If you’re in Budapest, I highly recommend coming to check it out.  If you’re not, well, I assume you know how airplanes work…

The first Think and Drink logo.

Third, I’ve started working for the website ExpatsHungary.  It’s pretty much exactly the kind of thing I like doing, so it seems to be a great place for me.  I’m learning a lot, and it’s really cool to see how something like this works from the inside (instead of just reading it, like I usually do).  Plus, there’s a puppy in the office (need I say more?).

Fourth, I’m actually starting to work at studying Hungarian… a little.  Three years in a country seems like a worthwhile time to do that, right?  I’ve found some good resources to get me started, and the annoying help of the website HabitForge has been keeping me honest about it.  Who am I kidding, Hungarians have started acting like they’re going to hurt me if I don’t start speaking to them in their language.  Don’t let history fool you, they can be vicious. 

So, I’ll try to start writing more, but at least expect more pictures.  My camera and I have become pretty good friends lately.

 

Hungarian word of the day:

Nyár

This word is kind of rhymes with car, but starts with a fairly self-explanatory NY sound (basically, say each letter normally – but at the same time).  Oh yeah, it means „summer,”  you know, the hot miserable time of the year.

Saturday
Apr062013

Wild Dogs Of Istanbul

A wild dog in the middle of a city? (Click image to see larger)In my travels, I’ve seen plenty of wild dogs.  I really notice them because I love dogs, and I always try to decide if they’re happy and healthy or not.  I sometimes watch domesticated dogs in a house and wonder if they would be more pleased with life while wandering the hills with their pack.

The one who's missing his tail. (Click image to see larger)Anyway, one thing I’ve never seen is a pack of wild dogs in the middle of a city with a population more than 13 million.  Well, I hadn’t seen that until I went to Istanbul.  I found them there.

Our first night in Turkey, just a few hours after getting off the plane, we were wandering through one of the biggest tourist areas in the city and noticed a dog running along.  Where was its owner?  As I struggled to find a person who belonged with it, I noticed a few other dogs.   Finally, I realized it was a pack of six or seven of them running along.

I recognize you! (Click image to see larger)After that, we managed to run into them all over the place.  Sometimes they’d be in a big group, and other times it would just be one or two of them following a food cart or taking a nap.  I even started to get used to them – something I never expected to happen.

My dad made a good observation that he could even start remembering which was which.  We were walking down a narrow street one evening and one was sleeping right in the middle.  As a car approached, the dog jumped up, started barking furiously, and chased the car down the street.  That dog became known as “the one who fights cars.”

Just hanging out. (Click image to see larger)There was also “the one with only half a tail,” “the one who really likes food carts,” and “the playful one.”  I know there were others, but I didn’t find it important to write down at the time.  That’s a regret.

The best, however, was “the one who sings the call to prayer.”  Multiple times a day, the speakers outside of the mosques would belt out the sounds of a man singing the call to prayer.  It would echo across the city and was especially loud if your hotel was right next to one (like us).

The dog who sings the call to prayer. (Click image to see larger)One afternoon we were in the square between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, and there was a dog happily sleeping.  When the songs started ringing out in this location, they would echo and really give you a surround sound noise.  This was ear-piercing to a human, so I can only imagine what the dog heard.  But, he hopped up and started howling along.  It was, as a random British tourist stopped to tell me, “amazing.”

Overall, these dogs look like they have a decent life.  They look fairly healthy, and I noticed tracking tags on some of their ears, so I think someone is watching out for them.  They can go to sing-a-longs, eat leftovers, roam around with their friends, and take naps in the shadows of famous places.  Not bad really, kind of like a permanent vacation.

 Napping with the pack. (Click image to see larger)

Hungarian word of the day:

Török kutya

I tried to translate this myself, but it hopefully means “Turkish dog.”  Oh, and it’s pronounced “Tuhh-rook (those vowels should be the same, so try to find some common ground) Coo-tcha.”

Sunday
Mar312013

The Istanbul Flight Incident

The view from the roof (breakfast room) of our hotel was worth it. (Click image to see lareger size)My father and I went to Istanbul, and we learned some valuable lessons.  One was very noteworthy because it led to one of my most serious near death encounters.  It turns out that when Turkish people fly planes they… well… hold on.  Let me give you some background information first.

Keep in mind that all this is based off of the inhabitants of Istanbul.  It (probably) doesn’t represent all Turkish people.  But, when they walk, they tend to walk directly towards where they want to go.  It doesn’t matter if there are people, animal, cars, or anything else in their way.  If they believe that it physically can move, they expect it to.

Also, they ride motorcycles the same way they walk.  They climb on and load it with any cargo they need.  Then, they fire it up and aim in their desired direction.  Buses, trams, and even trees seem to be expected to move.

I loved these colorful lamps in all the bazaars. (Click image to see larger size)Cars really only have one difference:  a horn.  They drive where they want, when they want.  If anything blocks them, they can always honk for a while.  They seem to know they’ve now come to a higher point in the food chain with this vehicle, and they love it.

Buses are just giant tools of destruction.  We rode on a sightseeing bus that stopped periodically throughout the city, and one of these points was in the middle of a big pedestrian square.  By definition, no moving vehicles should be allowed here, so walkers let down their guard.  We sat in the front seat on the top level of a double-decker bus and watched an old man with a cane almost go underneath our tires.  He wasn’t saved because the bus stopped for him – the old man just realized it was there two seconds before his life was over.

Boat captains employ the same strategy as everyone else.  There are a ton of ferry boats, and my dad and I watched them in their chaos from a bridge our first night there.  They would just pull away from the dock and gun it in the correct direction.  It was like they were aiming for each other.  “They would lose their license in New York for doing that,” he said to me.

It was difficult to tell where the water ended and the land began. (Click image to see larger)Finally, back to the airplane incident.  If you haven’t figured it out, they seem to fly the same way they do everything else.  We had a nice approach flying low over the city, and I was loving looking out the window and getting a visual map of the city I was about to explore.

Suddenly, the plane started floundering side to side.  I would have a good view of the ground, and then a great one of the sky.  Then it started doing it from front to back – the nose was pointing up, and then the tail.  Finally, the pilot pointed the nose towards the sky and the engines roared to full power.

The plane shot up into the sky like a fighter jet (I didn’t even know that was possible for passenger planes), and it was only seconds before we were out over the sea since the airport was near the coast.  The engines were still roaring, the plane was still flopping in all directions, and we were bumping through the air as if we were about to fall at any second.

The guys on the boats (right) would make grilled fish sandwhiche and toss them over to the salesmen on the land. (Click image to see larger)Eventually it leveled out and went back to a semi-normal state.  While we started to turn around, the pilot gave a speech in Turkish before giving one in English.  The explanation wasn’t very helpful.  It was something along the lines of:  “We are going back to land now.  We have to land on runway 23 and not on runway 32.”

We safely managed to land (after another great view of the city), but I spent the whole time wondering who it was that mixed up 23 and 32 – our pilot, another pilot, or the air traffic controller.  But, after spending some time in the city, I realized it’s just what they do.  Probably both pilots saw the runway they wanted and decided to just go for it.

Other than that, the food was tasty on the fight.

 These creative cats think they're safe behind that grate. (Click image to see larger size)

Hungarian word of the day:

Törökország

This word means „Turkey” (the country), and it’s kind of pronounced „Ter - ook (rhymes with hook) – or – sag.”  The two Os at the beginning with the dots over them are pronounced the same, so just do your best.  But, it’s probably safer to go somewhere else, so you can always just learn the name of another country.

Friday
Feb012013

Economics Of Flying To Turkey (Not A Flying Turkey)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this winter, it’s that airplane tickets work in mysterious ways.

A bridge that links Europe with Asia. If that doesn't inspire you to travel, nothing will... (click image to see larger)I’ve wanted to visit Istanbul ever since I moved to Hungary, but I’ve never had the chance.  The plane ticket prices never seemed to change much, and they were always just out of my price range.  Taking a train would be ideal, but it was just too long for the breaks that I had.  So, I would unsuccessfully try to go there on every vacation I had.

Finally, I found a way.  My dad was able to come visit, and we were determined to get there.  We knew it could work if we put our heads together and figured something out.

We found a few options that involved just planes, just trains, or both.  They went something like this:

I love trains. Unfortunately, this is about as close as I got to a Turkish rail adventure. (click image to see larger)Round trip train journey.  It would take nearly two days when going direct, and the routes were difficult to find out about.  Plus, some helpful internet article said the tracks are being rebuilt between Turkey and Bulgaria, so there would probably be some mysterious buses thrown in.

Verdict:  Too long and not enough information.  No.

Round trip flight.  This wouldn’t include any train trips, but would allow for another small train trip somewhere else.  The only problem was that it was pretty expensive.  Enough that it didn’t seem worth it.

Verdict:  Too much money, not enough adventure.  No.

Boats may be the best way to travel. Where else can you hang off the back while looking at a flag (not on an airplane). (click image to see larger)One way flight, train the other direction.  This seemed logical.  We wanted to ride trains, but they were too long, and we didn’t want to fly (plus, it was too expensive).  The strange part here is that a one way flight was more expensive than a round trip.  Significantly.

Verdict:  Higher price for less flight time isn’t worth it.  No.

Half a round trip ticket, train the other direction.  It seems logical that you can buy a round trip ticket and just use half.  After all, what if you just miss a flight?  Or love a place and never go home?  Or get sent to prison?  There are loads of reasons people don’t use the second half.  But, it seems that an airline can technically add on a charge for that (if they so desire), and it’s not difficult to do in the age of credit cards.  If you’re a lawyer, please get back to me on this issue.

Verdict:  Not worth it because no one likes extra charges.  No.

Swimming is a form of transport. And, the Istanbul authorities find it necessary to make sure that (Turkish speaking) people understand this fountain isn't a swimming pool. (click image to see larger)Fly to Istanbul, then fly somewhere else.  A three way trip that starts in Budapest, goes to Istanbul, and eventually ends in Belgrade is cheapest (less than either a one way or a round trip).  It doesn’t make any logical sense, but it is a fact.  Strange.

Verdict:  That’s too weird to pass up.  Yes.

So that’s what we did.  We flew from Budapest to Istanbul, and then we relaxed a few days.  When it was time to move on (and believe me, it was time), we hopped on a flight to Belgrade, Serbia.  It was unexpected, but my ticket stub from Istanbul to Belgrade has become one of my prized possessions.  That’s a flight that I never, ever thought I would take.

So goes the world of flying.  This is one of the reasons I like trains.

Not really a form of transportation, but I'd be pretty impressed if you travelled a long distance in an Istanbul street sweeper. (click image to see larger) 

Hungarian word of the day:

Repülőjegy

It’s pronounced „Reh-pool-uuh-yah-dj,” and it means „airplane ticket.”  However, it’s a direct translation, so I’m not sure if it’s what people actually say.  If it isn’t, it will make for a good laugh for Hungarians.

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