Monthly Archives: August 2006

Rocketing through the sky, Only to go back underground

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Once again, a busy few days. After spending a not-so-restful night at the Budapest airport, we continued our journey at much increased speed, hopping in just a couple of hours over half of Europe, and landing in Paris. Quite a change after four and a half months of slowly winding our way over more than 6000km. It was quite fun, really. I always forget how much I like flying. And despite our worries and going crazy making sure we packed everything that might be considered a liquid into our checked baggage, they didn’t even ask us to give up our water bottle.

Andrea and her boyfriend, David, were kind enough to pick us up at the airport. When we found them, they were searching the arrivals screens to try to find our flight. Apparently, as far as airport systems are concerned, our flight actually didn’t exist, as it wasn’t listed there, and additionally, when we’d checked in, we were just guessing as to which lineup to go to, since the screens didn’t indicate that they were actually checking anyone in at all. Leaving the airport was also a bit of fun, since the police had found an abandoned bag, and had to detonate it. We were waiting in a lineup of cars for about an hour before things finally got moving.

So far, we’ve been enjoying Paris immensely. I’ve been here a few times before, and Kathy had passed through and done the three hour, whirlwind minivan tour on her first trip to Europe. We’ve spent a fair bit of time going around to the major, can’t miss sights. So our first day, we visited the API Call ErrorLouvre. It seems really busy when you arrive, but it turns out that if you’re not heading for the Italian Paintings section, the crowd thins out really fast. We debated renting an audio guide to do the DaVinci Code tour, but decided that was a little hokey, and ended up spending most of our visit in the Objets d’Art section, including API Call ErrorNapolean III’s apartments, which were amazing, and then visiting the API Call ErrorNorthern European paintings section, which I didn’t find so interesting, but definitely beat the French paintings that we walked through to get there. We’d also walked through the “Oriental Art” section, which turned out to be near-east antiquities, which might have been interesting, had we not already seen similar specimens before in the Egyptian, Syrian, and Greek museums that we’d visited.

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So Much to do, So Little Time

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Arriving in Budapest after a long, sleepless night on a train from Romania was quite an experience. Budapest is much more like Western Europe than other parts of the former communist bloc that we’ve visited. It’s a city of only 2 million people, but seems to have the foot traffic of a city 5 times its size. Arriving at rush hour, and being very tired, we had a tough time following the directions to our hostel. We ran into trouble because trams here don’t actually indicate what direction they’re going, so if you’re not sure about the orientation of the city relative to where you are, you don’t know which direction to get on. Also, we couldn’t figure out where to buy ticket. This problem ended up being solved by taking a taxi.

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Beautiful Romania

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Sorry for the delays in posting; at first we were feeling a little lazy (and under the weather), and then internet proved to be a difficult find in the rural parts of the country where we’ve been hanging out for the past week or so.

At the time of the last post, I (Kathy) was feeling a little under the weather with some back pain. Took some pain killers and decided that there wasn’t much a doctor would be able to do for me other than prescribe pain killers, so we didn’t bother. Last Saturday evening, we learned by way of emergency room that I had a couple of infections that I apparently didn’t know about. I thought I might have been a bit under the weather, but certainly no symptoms like in Egypt. As we were out in the country, and doctors generally don’t work on Saturday evenings, our host was kind enough to drive us to the hospital in the city. We were also very fortunate that his friend joined us, as he was able to translate things for us very well. So now we know what the inside of a Communist-era hospital looks like, and I sure hope it was a once in a lifetime glance! The standard of care was probably as good as they could give, but the facilities were certainly worse for wear – the WC was a toilet at the back of a storage closet! Not to worry, the needles were sterile (I made sure of that!). So the docs prescribed Cipro (for those counting at home, that’s the second round I’ve taken this trip!), some painkillers (presumably for the back pain), and some Vitamin C!! Yes, it has been more of a challenge finding fruit here than I would like, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’ll get to that in a bit.

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The Good, the Wet and the Poorly Organised

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Our time in Romania has been pretty good, thus far, but there have been a few frustrations, mostly because it’s high season, and trying to do anything results in lineups.

We’ve realised that it’s impossible to know in advance what’s going to be a major tourist attraction. We visited three castles in the Brasov area. The first was API Call ErrorBran Castle, which had received the Dracula treatment from the marketing department, despite having no relation to either the book, or the historical king Vlad Tepes (the Impalor), commonly referred to in the guidebooks as the “real” Dracula. So, unsurprisingly that one was pretty busy. Despite the marketing treatment, though, the castle didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t, it was a museum of API Call Errorold artifacts, API Call Errorfurnishings and API Call Errorthe like.

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Not Exactly the Best Week

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Warning: what follows may come across as a bit whiny. Sorry. If that bothers you, stop here. The fact is, it hasn’t been the best week, so most of it’s just recounting all the various problems we had.

We’ve spent the past week or so being very frustrated. It started in API Call ErrorVeliko Tarnovo, which was a beautiful city, where the hostel we were staying in claimed to offer day tour to the surrounding area, but couldn’t take us because they “needed the car for pickups (from the bus station),” something they do most days, and we didn’t actually see the car move all day anyway. Then we went to Varna, which isn’t the most interesting town, but we’d wanted to see a bit of the Black Sea coast. (Which we didn’t actually do in the end – the beaches were waaaay too crowded). Again, day trips were advertised, this time offered by a third party, but the trouble was that only one person did them, and had a repertoire of probably 20 or so tours. He was booked until Thursday, and we’d only booked accommodation until Tuesday. Even if we’d wanted to wait, we couldn’t stay longer because everything was booked up in advance. Also, because the Black Sea coast is a very popular destination for Europeans looking to party it up on their 2 week vacations, the crowds were really not our type, indeed some of the other hostelers were quite rude. So even though we stayed in a fairly nice hostel, with a bar and community atmosphere, there wasn’t much socializing for us.

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