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March 17th – Patty’s on a train

Let me tell you about trains.

Trains are awesome.

I’m beginning to realize that the reason train travel is non-existent in the states is because it would really make no sense in our country. Nevertheless, I love trains.

So in my head, I have this 14 hour overnight to Rome all planned out – we’ll hit up the grocery store, get some wine and snacks, watch a movie, and wake up after a nice journey fighting bald gladiators.

Its cold outside. Real cold. Below freezing with a 30 kph wind.

Supermarkets are NOT open on Sundays in Austria. We will starve.

The train station is swarming with kids. Oh yeah, spring break ..

We boarded the train, sat in our tiny little cabin, waiting, waiting, WAITING,

and awwww. We totally got the spring break field trip car.

It wasn’t so bad though. The four Austrian high school kids in our cabin were really respectful, although they couldn’t help but run outside the car every 10 minutes to investigate the happenings in girl cabins. At night, they didn’t stay up forever gossiping, rarely farted, and only had a small hint of sticky shoes.

Trains are still Awesome.

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March 15-16 Vienna…again

Anddddddd, we’re back.

Safe and sound at our comfortable couch surfing hosts place, eating dinner with my uncle in his hotel restaurant. Nice to see the cowboy again, listen to war stories, talk about the UN’s response to changing drug laws in the US, and get a hug from a family member. 

The big reason we came back was for Of Monsters and Men – the best concert of the three. We got to the venue a couple hours early and waited for it to open in a nearby bar. Early enterence rewarded us with a second row standing spot and no pushing or shoving the whole show! The band played great. It was really something to see a band, whose second language is English, to connect with an audiance whose second language is English. They talked between almost every single song.

I’m a little sad now that our concert tour is over. It was really something to see these 3 bands in Europe. We had to make some special accomidation (a flight) to make is from Istanbul in time, but it was totally worth it.

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March 13-14 Bratislava, Slovakia

On Easter Monday, woman of Slovakia wake up to cold water and a beating stick. It was described as a type of trick-or-treating. The women get beat, then give the men money or sweets. Needless to say, the men really enjoy the tradition, which is supposed to keep the woman beautiful (and it seems to be working!)

The walkable city of Bratislava is more like a town. Just a little bigger than Tampa population wise, it took Krys and I 30 minutes to beeline it from one end of the city to the other. We had some trouble when first arriving, not realizing that Slovakia switched over to the Euro 3 years ago. When I asked the information lady where I could get some Koruna, she just looked at me like I was an idiot. Which I guess was warranted…

This isn’t the kind of city to take pictures of. It’s better to just… enjoy. Every night there is some kind of live music going on (which is normally the result of a generally sad and repressed history in any culture) and restaurants are nice, good, and cheap. I’m still looking forward to get out of the sticky, grease-filled pot of central European cuisine.

We cooked a meal with other guests at the hostel our second night during a free cooking class. We made a very traditional Slovakian dish. Tell me if its healthy, K?

-Potato dumplings (shredded potatoes, flour and eggs)
-sheep cheese
-sour cream
-olive oil
-bacon (not drained!!!!)

I can still feel it in my stomach…

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March 10th – Budapest

Hater’s goinna hate, cheater’s goinna cheat.

Budapest is a cloudy city ruined by Nazi’s in the 40’s, communists until the 90’s, and tourists after that. 

I’m not talking about those DSLR loving flowered shirt tourists carrying paper travelers checks and staying at the local Radisson. I’m talking 19 year old American students who are cool enough to study abroad and can drink green liquor ‘all day’, along with Spanish clubbing couples and single groups of boys and girls alike all looking for love in the concrete capitalist ruins of a failed communist empire. And who would never fathom putting the dishes away.

1: Hey man, what’d you do last night?

2: Dude, dude. It was the best night out ever last night. Well, at least one of the best. It was up there man. Dude.

Boy 1 tries to drink orange juice through a straw and look cool at the same time.

1: So, like. What’d you do man?

2: Well, I went to this, like, club, but it was a bath house. So there’s like 200 people drinking and dancing in their swimsuits man. You should have seen these chicks man. Plus, the beers were like 1 dollar, so I had like eleven or twelve man. I don’t even know. Great night man. I got pretty wasted. Probably do it again tonight. We should party.

Anyways, between conversations like this and learning in the elevator, against my will, about which guy is goinna take Jenny to bed that night (probably in the top bunk), I’ve had enough of eves dropping.

But Budapest! Budapest is a great city! What are you talking about!?!?!?!?

Yeah, its really cool. Here we can catch the lunch special at classy restaurants and pretend we’re rich. We can listen to live Gypsy music being played at our table for the cost of an awkwardly avoided tip. We can dodge electric street cars and drop rocks of bridges, drink cheap wine and take pictures of beautiful buildings next to communist concrete. We can stay in a super clean hostel FACTORY. But, in the end, Budapest is just another stop for the backpacking trailblazer, and I won’t miss it when it’s gone.

It’s not all rotten tomatoes. In our 4 bed dorm, Krys and I had 3 nights with no roommates. We got tickets to see a ballet tonight, and are stoked for our trip to Eger, the wine region of Hungary. We saw a killer Pink Floyd tribute and ate some halfway-decent Mexican food. 

Hungary is cloudy, but when the snow storm hits, we’ll be on a train. And trains rock.

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Feb 28 – March 3 CouchSurfing in Istanbul

I’m just now beginning to appreciate what our couch surfers gave us in Turkey. For 4 nights, we enjoyed the college age company of new friends, who applied Turkish hospitality to us (they payed for pretty much everything) and took us to their favorite spots.

The 3 roommates were having a friend reunion of sorts, and had another 3 friends staying over from out of town. The apartment was packed, the nights were long, and the mornings were late. Was it the plan Krys and I made and had in mind for the first stop on our trip? Absolutely not. But we saw more of Turkey in these guys living room watching American pop music videos than we would have walking the streets of Istanbul for a month straight. 

Our first night we attended a classical music concert at our hosts brother’s private university. After the music, we attended a very classy wine and cocktail event with Hors d’œuvre and a view of the Bosphorus. One morning, we had a traditional Turkish breakfast along the water, which consisted of multiple breads, different cheeses melted and not, olives, buttered honey, eggs with beef sausage in them, and glass after glass of Turkish tea. The food kept coming. Hands down, it was the best breakfast I will ever have in my life.

Staying with Mustafa and his friends opened up a whole new world to Krysten and I. I can’t imagine what our experience in Istanbul would have been like without these good people. Three countries into our trip, Turkey is still my favorite. I’m hoping life takes a turn for me and I can go back to teach English for a year.

I can hear my future, and it’s saying gobble gobble gobble….

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March 8th – Mumford & Sons

It was like being at a Beatles show in 1965 wearing the latest fashionable boots surrounded by people speaking the same language as you in a country where people should be speaking a different language, and yell at people in that language when they try to push up front, but when the music starts everyone starts screaming the lyrics to music not amplified enough and waving their arms around like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man as they try to free up space in their immediate vicinity.

BUUUTTTTTT, when the music is playing, at least its good music, and everybody is into it, and even though its hot and muggy and crowded, it IS a pop concert after all. And it was fun.

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March 5th – State Radio

My favorite band is a politically driven reggae rock band from Boston, and tonight they played at a small music club in Vienna. We flew from Istanbul to Vienna for this concert, the first of 3 on our trip.

I read an interview once that claimed stations in Germany play this band on the radio more than any station in America. What interest does Germany and Austria have in a political band from Boston? All I can think about is meeting all my foreign friends in Korea who have more interest in American politics than any of my friends at home.

The show was incredible. We brought along our couch surfing host, and she was singing along the whole time (mind you she’s never heard the band before). This girl is a student at a University in Vienna, from a town of about 30,000 people 8 hours from her country’s capital. Her flat’s living room area was about twice the size of our apartment in Korea, so comfort on the couch with surround sound and a German-dubbed How I Met Your Mother on the flat screen made us feel right at home.

Just like Istanbul, getting a free place to stay was great. But the real fun in that cash saved is getting to meet and talk with short-term friends who share your interest and attitude towards life.