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Tuesday
Nov202012

Eger Castle Canon

Click image to see larger.Canons are cool.  Canons are awesome.  As a matter of fact, I might make it a habit to start taking pictures of canons when I see them.

By the way, this one is in the castle in Eger, Hungary.

Sunday
Nov182012

On The Road (With Parents)

I had visitors.  They were my parents.  We rented a car.  We went on a trip.  It was fun.  If this was all the detail I ever gave you, I’d probably write more often.

Who doesn't want to drive through a gate like this? (click to see larger)Ok, fine, I’ll say more.

Keep in mind, this was a few weeks ago.  It’s not that I don’t have any time to write, the truth is that I don’t feel like sitting down and typing away after long days of studying.  My free time during busy school months (like this one) is typically spent doing activities that don’t require thinking.  You know, activities such as boiling water, going grocery shopping, or closing the window.

Back to the topic:  road trips are fun.  I like train trips a lot more, but they can really limit your options.  When you travel on the rails, it’s much more challenging to get to small places, and it can take longer with local trains and changes.  The result of a train trip is that the journey is more fun at the expense of the destination.

Cars are a responsibility.  A big, big responsibility.  The only realistic option for me is to rent one.  Two alternatives I can think of are to buy or steal one, but the first is too expensive and the second requires a lot of tattoos (at least according to Hollywood).  Therefore, I have to track down a rental company, and figure out how to make it all work.  Fortunately, my dad has developed quite a skill set for doing this in a European setting, so it requires minimum effort on my part.

A nice Slovakian sidestreet. (click to see larger)The next catch is finding where to go.  Cities are difficult to navigate, and this isn’t the continent where I grew up.  This equation has the result that European cities are difficult to get around in.  But, it’s 2012.  We now have a nice little object called a GPS that tells us exactly where to go.  Unfortunately, her robotic voice always ignores me when I start to argue – so rude (and “turn around when possible” is a phrase that haunts my nightmares).

Another challenge is gas.  I assume this part will be irrelevant in another 100 years (there will be an alternative source of fuel or a robot to do it for us), but now we still have to take responsibility.  Fortunately, pulling a car into a gas station is a pretty big hint of what you want, and a little bit of pointing covers the less certain parts.  This trip, I even ended up with a (maybe free, maybe not) water bottle!  What a deal!

Driving right off of a hill. (click to see larger)On the other hand, there are plenty of good parts to a road trip.  You don’t have to worry about some creepy, smelly guy sitting in the car with you (if that happens, you have much bigger problems).  If you get hungry, you can stop (train conductors don’t take kindly to the pulling of the emergency brake when passing by a nice restaurant).  And, the best part, you can sing at the top of your lungs!

This is the biggest debate:

Rental Car Smell vs. Train Smell

That, in my opinion, is a toss-up.

As usual, I’m out of time and didn’t talk about my trip.  Why do I always do this?  Whoever it was who said the famous quote about the journey being the most important part would probably really like me.  Check back soon for some more stories!

 Driving right next to this didn't make me uncomfortable at all... (click to see larger)

Hungarian word of the day:

Autó

This word is pronounced like „Aw-oo-toe,” and it (surprisingly) means car.  It’s pretty useful when you want to rent one.  It can save you from having to take a boat trip.

Saturday
Oct202012

Hell On Earth (In Hungary)

On a recent drive through the Hungarian countryside, I found it:  Hell.

Uh oh, there it is. (click image to see larger)It was smaller than I expected, and it was slightly more modern.  There was one main building, or maybe there were a few buildings very close to each other – it was hard to tell.  There were roads in between, and some nice green grass that looked carefully maintained.  And, of course, there was a little guard house.

Around all of it was a fence.  I would have guessed the fence would have been made of stone and had heads or screaming people on it, but instead it was just simple metal.  Who knew the devil orders his fencing from the same place as any normal business?

There wasn’t and fire.  No screams.  No flying dragon creatures.  Just red buildings labeled “Hell” with a big picture of Satan.  There was even an exit for Hell on the nearest roundabout.

I always imagined it was a little bit bigger. (click image to see larger)That’s when it hit me.  This wasn’t the Hell to which evil people go when they die.  It was the energy drink company!  Why shouldn’t Hungary produce an energy drink like this?

The moral of the story is obvious.  If you’re driving through the Hungarian countryside and think you’ve made a mistake that doomed your soul, don’t panic.  It’s just an energy drink factory.  On that note, don’t act like a video game character and rush in to fight demons, it’s probably just full of factory workers.

The only lingering question is if they have any employees named Dante…

 We wouldn't want someone to miss the turn. (Click image to see larger)

Hungarian word of the day:

Pokol

This is pronounced “poe-coal,” and it means “hell” (at least, that’s what the dictionary told me).

Sunday
Sep232012

Free Time Has Become Study Time

School has begun.  I’m now officially a student of the Corvinus University of Budapest (School Of Management - MBA program if you really want to know).  Tomorrow will mark the start of my third week, and I’m happy to say I’m loving it.  I’m not, however, loving studying.  I have to admit that.

The public transport I ride to school is a little more modern than this, but I like this color better! (click image to see different size)Some good things:

I have really cool classmates.  My “group” consists of 10 people (supposedly – two of them have yet to show up) and everyone is from a different country.  That means lots of interesting cross-cultural experiences.  Plus, I’m getting really good at mimicking new accents.  If my business career falls through, I always have the comedic impersonator field to fall back on.

The classes are interesting.  Let me rephrase that – all but one of the classes are interesting.  Friday morning between 9 and 12 is now officially the worst three hours of the week.

Free coffee.  That’s right, there are coffee machines in my classroom.  I’m pretty sure my hands will be permanently shaking for the rest of my life.

Some bad things:

Early mornings.  Right now, I have class every day of the week (this will change soon because of an intensive class).  I start at 9 am every day except for Thursday.  It’s not that bad though because of the free coffee.

Studying.  I don’t like it.  It’s better to study something that I find interesting than something I don’t, but that doesn’t make it fun.  A similar comparison is that it’s nicer to eat a caterpillar than a cockroach.

Now.  What’s wrong with right now, you ask?  That I should be studying (see above).  I guess I’ll get back to it…

Not the coffee I drink at school, but this one was delicious too! (click image to see different size) 

Hungarian word of the day:

Egyetem

It’s pronounced “Eh-dj-eh-tem,” and this word means “university.”  Very useful for me!

Saturday
Aug042012

In The Sky Or On The Ground

Airplanes have changed the way we travel.  They have reduced week long trips into a matter of hours.  It sounds like a great improvement, but is it really?

The way that people used to travel by car. (click image to see larger)Fortunately, those hours that I was speaking about are not short hours.  They are long hours.  Very, very long hours.  They allow you plenty of time to think.  You can really evaluate the positive and negative aspects of this modern way of travel, and it makes you wonder how much better it really is.

Living in Europe and calling America home has caused me to cross the Atlantic an upsetting amount of times.  The first few times I did it, I couldn’t believe how exciting and adventurous it was.  Just like a kid about to go to Disneyworld, anticipation would keep me from sleeping the night before.

Now, I just dread it.  You have to spend hours waiting for planes, being crammed into a tiny seat, being harassed by security checkpoints and border guards, traveling to and from airports, and eating high priced food with absolutely no taste (except preservatives).  All for what?  So you can start in one continent and end up in another in about a day.

About 100 years ago, I assume people would leave their local area and make their way to a train station.  They would then take a series of trains to the nearest sea port.  Then, it was onto a boat that would slowly float across the globe.  Once they hit land again, it was back onto trains until they got to their final destination – or as close as a railway could take them.

The way Red Bull encourages people to fly (and swim). (click image to see larger)I’m sure that way of travel wasn’t as fun as it sounds.  It takes much longer, and probably isn’t as comfortable as I imagine.  But, it does sound cool, doesn’t it (just think pirate ships and horse riding bandits)?  I always love the views out the windows of trains, and you can stretch out and walk around when necessary.  I’ve never taken a ship across an ocean, but it also sounds pretty nice (depending on the type of boat, of course).  I’ve seen the glamorous ships in old movies – if they don’t hit an iceberg, life looks pretty grand.

This is probably the point where you think I’m crazy.  Why would anyone want to take a much longer trip just to be a little bit more comfortable?  I have my reasons.  Oh, do I have my reasons.

I’m tall.  That means my knees are constantly crunched into the seat in front of me on a plane (before the person decides to recline for their own comfort).  Then, the dry air starts to get to me.  It feels like you’re in a metal tube that’s designed to drain your body of any moisture, and drinking liquids doesn’t seem to help even the slightest bit.  Plus, there are the smells.  Many people have a bit of a stench after a few hours of this, and those aromas get circulated over and over again.

That’s not even to mention things that can also happen in other forms of travel – such as miserable temperatures and lost luggage (two things I’m quite familiar with).  Nor do I mention the positive things – like little TVs that show movies you don’t really care about on screens you can’t see through headphones you can’t hear.  I can’t imagine life before all of those.

The Budapest airport, very early in the morning. (click to see larger)Anyway, I have a point for all of this.  I recently made the crossing back to Europe, and it was monumental for multiple reasons.  Where should I begin?

I flew on a 747.  I’ve been flying my whole life, yet, those jets have always avoided me.  I angrily look at them through the terminal windows and consider changing my flight path just to get on one (as if my money would allow for that).  Finally, Chicago to Frankfurt gave me my wish. Aren’t my goals impressive?

What’s better than flying on a 9 hour flight in a 747?  Sitting in the exit row, of course.  Don’t take this the wrong way and think that I had 3 extra inches of leg room.  There were at least two rows missing in front of me – it was for an actual door (not just a little push-out window).

There weren’t personal TV sets, but the plane had them on the ceiling.  Towards the end of the flight, they showed a documentary on Manta Rays.  This sounds like a negative, but it’s not.  Only at this stage in international travel is my mind in a state to enjoy a documentary like this.  I probably learned something, but I can’t remember.

Now, for the downsides.  There was a rather fat man sitting next to me.  That wouldn’t have been a problem except he squirmed a lot while he was sleeping, and he slept most of the time.  I almost opened the emergency door and gave him a little shove.  That would’ve taught him.

The way that I'd really like to travel! (click image to see larger)He was awake a few times during that flight, and two of them happened to be takeoff and landing.  What motivated him to wake up?  The flight attendant who had to sit in her little jump seat right across from him.  He decided that he loved her and spent all of the ascent hitting on her.  It would’ve been funny if she could walk away.  Or if I could walk away.  But, we couldn’t.  We were both trapped and he seemed to not know or not care that she wasn’t interested in him.  He was persistent, I’ll give him that.  It just felt awkward.

During the takeoff, he learned that she would soon be on the flight to Denver where she would have a one or two day layover.  What a coincidence!  He lives near there!  That was an exciting realization.  While landing, he asked if he could show her around Denver when she was there.  Politely, she declined.  I exited the awkward, recycled air of the jet as soon as possible.

The last comment about my awesome seat was the location.  It was right next to the bathrooms, so there were a lot of people walking by and standing around.  This sounds bad, but I enjoyed it.  The two movies they showed weren’t very good (before the Manta Rays, of course), and I had watched one on my previous flight, so these waiting people provided my in flight entertainment.  Except for one little girl – she glared at me every time she had to go to the bathroom (a surprisingly large amount of times).  I suppose she thought I was the reason the plane smelled.

In conclusion, get an exit row for Trans-Atlantic flights.  It’s worth sitting next to a creepy men who hits on flight attendants.  But, if you’re short, please save those rows for us tall people.  We would really appreciate it.  Oh, and glance behind you before you recline.  Your little bit of comfort can make grown men cry.

 My Lufthansa 747 from Chicago to Frankfurt. (click image to see larger)

Hungarian word of the day:

Repülőgép

Pronounced roughly ”Reh-pool-ooh-gape”, this word means ”Airplane”.  It could be a repeat word, but it doesn’t matter, it’s important.

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