Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where am I supposed to even begin?

Due to the length of this blog, I will be formatting this post slightly differently than usual. Each major checkpoint will be labelled as such, with a picture separating each section. Hope this satisfies the curiosity rather than bores you to death...

The Week Previous to Departure
So last blog was a few weeks ago and a LOT has happened. And that is by no means an exaggeration... Two weekends ago (I think) I went on a hike in Zug, which is somewhere between Zürich and Luzerne. Most of the interns went to Amsterdam for Sensation White, so the few remaining banded together for a day. The hike was rather nice, all-be-it I was wearing stupid euroshoes which are uncomfortable to say the least. We made our way to a pretty lake, which was the highlight of the day. Otherwise, it was a pretty uneventful time, as was the following week until Friday.

--->For you keen-eyed folks, did you notice the rather human-shaped boulder falling over the cliff on the sign?

Last Thursday, Jen arrived from good ol' Calgary, which meant the start of vacation time for me and the beginning of what finally fits the name of the blog, a EURO ADVENTURE!

First on our list of countries to hit up was Hungary, specifically Budapest. Our itinerary didn't have a lot of down time, and seeing as neither of us were super-set on staying for an extended stay in Hungary. So, we decided when we arrived via night train that we would leave that night. We arrived at the train station and the second we got off the train, I was pretty sure we were going to die. It definitely had a different feeling around the station than anywhere I had experienced before. Luckily, I feel like I'm going to die at every place we arrive at if it is more than an hour east of Austria (aka Hungary and Romania) but the feeling passes in about 10 minutes. Considering how little time we spent in Budapest, we walked a LOT which was rather strenuous after a night lacking of proper sleep. We wound up climbing two mountains and had some amazing eats for both lunch and supper. As you'll see, this was a rather hop topic. To get into specifics, we used the magic that is Wiki travel to find a restaurant with traditional Hungarian food. We had a 4 course meal and wine for supper and it costed about the same as a biggie-sized Wendy's combo back in Canada. We were going to go to the Turkish baths, but it was just too bloody hot out. So we skipped out on that and headed deeper into uncharted territory.

---> Bridge surfing is cool!

I have a feeling my parents weren't too enthused to hear I was going to Romania for a vacation, but that wasn't a serious issue. On the other hand, I did know deep down that if anything ever happened to Jen, I'd probably have been killed via her dad. So with that useful tidbit in mind, we headed off via night train to Brasov. It turns out that we travelled over 1400km in a day and a half. Talk about ridiculous...

Keeping in mind that we had no hostels booked for the entire trip, we arrived in Brasov in the early afternoon. We got off the train and made it through the train station to an ugly grey sky and a substantial amount of rain. Again, I was pretty sure I was gong to die. We had no idea where to go or where anything was, so we picked a direction and began to walk. We found a random hotel advertisement and followed the signs and arrived slightly wet but happy we had a clean place to get mugged in front of. Romania being Romania, we stayed a night in a 3 star hotel for less than it costed for a hostel in Prague (which is an inexpensive city by its own right). We classed it up and took a taxi to old town for 4 RON (a whopping 50 cents?) and looked at all the cool old buildings and met some nice Romanian lady who only spoke Romanian, a little English and a little more French. She helped us find the "narrowest road in Europe", which was a lot like a walking path between two buildings come to think of it... Anyway, once we had seen enough of old town guess where we went? A restaurant recommended by Wiki travel that served traditional Romanian food! And it was fantastic. The waiter must have thought we were pigs because we ordered a soup and appetizer and a main course. The soup which was labelled as broth was huge and was definitely composed of more than just broth (ie potatoes and an undetermined meat).

The day after, we took a short trip to Bran Castle, which is home of Dracula! The castle is definitely overhyped and was not nearly as good as was hoped. But it was still a good day trip, with the whole finding of souvenirs and all. We then took a train up to a "student city" called Cluj, where the parties are bumpin! Or they are supposed to be. They weren't on a Monday night, that's for sure. So much for those hopes.

The day after, we were still in Cluj and were feeling like some shopping was in order. I had been looking for new shoes since Brasov because I was sure that they would be cheapest in Romania. I never had any luck with that quest in Cluj, but I did find the most ridiculous pair of euro shades EVER. I also found a stylin' hoodie for 20$ equivalent. That afternoon we took a train to Alba so we could transfer on to a night train going to Vienna. It was at this point that the entire trip began to fall apart...

Alba was the only time in Romania (short of the first 10 minutes in Brasov) where I actually felt there was a possibility that I could get robbed or murdered. Or both (or many other various not-so-nice experiences that I'll leave up to you to come up with). It was definitely a poor city. To add to the possibility of death, we ordered food from the restaurant in the station. I pointed at the food I wanted in the display. Needless to say, I got what was in the display. Literally. To make this situation positive, we made it out of Romania without being mugged or getting food poisoning. I think the Romanian beer I had with the food killed off the bad monsters in the... sandwich? To this day, I don't even know what the food was supposed to be.

The previous statement about the trip falling apart was just an attempt at being ominous. It didn't fall apart at all. We took a night train to Vienna and arrived in the morning. We made our way to a train going to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Vienna was a treat at this point because it is officially part of what I like to call the civilized world. I don't mean to knock anywhere we went that isn't part of the "civilized world", but I felt safe there from the get go. And they had schokocroissants! Its always a bonus to be able to understand what they are saying when they speak to you. AKA German I can actually understand unlike Swissdeutch... Anyway, SLOVAKIA. We phoned up a guy named Juraj when we got there and he came to meet us at the station and took us to his hostel. If you ever go to Bratislava, go there. 15Euros for a student and you get a great clean room, clean beds and sheets, he'll do your laundry free of charge, and tells you the best place to go for a bite to eat and to get your drink on. Fantastic.

We ended up taking a nap because we didn't feel it was necessary to go exploring in 32°C heat. It was glorious. Then it was time for a quick bite to eat at the 1st Slovakian Pub. I had dumplings with sheep's cheese, which was exquisite. I still haven't figured it out, but the Slovakian beer was ordered as either 10° or 12° on the menu. I figured out easy enough that ° means %, but 10 and 12% is ridiculous for a standard beer. After our late lunch, we checked out old town and continued on my quest for new shoes. For supper we went to a restaurant recommended by multiple sources, including the one and only Wiki travel! As it turns out, the waitress was not a fan of anyone, because we and 2 couples were completely ignored by her. So we left and went to... the 1st Slovakian Pub! We saw our waitress from lunch and she must have thought we were mentally challenged. We got an awesome supper (figures) and went back to the hostel for sleepy time.

For those of you who have seen Eurotrip, you were probably laughing to yourself when you read the nice little name Bratislava. I was also wondering about the communist remains of the city, so that was the goal for the following day: find the commie buildings. Luckily, I had read in some guide of a place called the concrete jungle, so I figured I'd start there. On our way, we wound up in the nicest shopping mall I have ever seen and ordered Slovakian fast food, which was amazing. I also saw the "concrete jungle" from afar and it was definitely similar to the scene in Eurotrip. You can check out fb pictures if you are curious. We then headed back to the train station to catch a train to Prague.

<---- This is actually in Alba, but look at the shades!

Czech Republic
We arrived in Prague sometime in the evening on Thursday. We found a place to stay at a hostel with a reputation for partying and immediately met four guys from Costa Rica downing beer outside our door. Naturally, we joined them and got ready to go out clubbing. We asked the bartender downstairs (the hostel had its own bar) where a cool club was that would be kicking on a Thursday night. She told us the CrossClub would be good no matter what day of the week. We managed to make it there with only one amusing mishap where one of the Costa Rican guys didn't make it off the tram before the doors closed on him and took him to the next stop. On to CrossClub, it was the coolest club I've ever seen. They had some amazing tunes, being live music of Reggae mixed with Techno. I know, I know. It sounds weird, but it was phenomenal. The decor was ridiculously unique as well, with metal stuff hanging from the ceiling and some sweet lighting systems. If anyone reading this goes to Prague and is up for some partying, GO HERE. I'm going to go back to the city just for that club. And hopes for some better weather to see the town as well... I guess....

We managed to get lost in the city after we left the club at some unspeakable hour. After wandering to a McDonald's, we made it back to the hotel. I've been told it was right around the same time as sunrise, but I'd be a liar if I was to say I can recall this myself.

We got kicked out of the hostel at 1pm because they had overbooked, so we had to find a new place to stay for the next night. This turned out to be easy enough. That being said, Friday was uneventful to say the least. We slept most of the day and didn't do much in the evening apart from order fried cheese at the restaurant and received french fries. Oh AND I FINALLY FOUND SHOES THAT FIT!! Officially, my stupid euroshoes are sitting in the bottom of a Czech dumpster somewhere in the Helosovice district of Prague.

Saturday was a different story. We were up bright and early to go on a free walking tour of the city. It was a great time and the tour guide was really energetic regardless of the overcast sky, rain, and overall cold. After the walking tour, time was limited before we had to catch our final train back to Zürich, so we found ourselves some souvenirs and headed on home.

As far as I can recall (some of the trip was so rushed it blurs together), that sums up the vacation. As a sneak preview into future posts, I will be taking part in the James Bond bungee jump in two weeks. Don't know what I mean when I say James Bond bungee jump? Click here to check it out. I'd hope that medical insurance covers it, but I think life insurance would be more suitable.

And for the newbie blog readers out there, if sending an email isn't your cup of tea, feel free to leave a comment at the end of a post. Also, if anyone wants to receive an email update whenever I post something new, let me know and I can add your email address to the mailing list... That being said, I will no longer be harassing people on fb whenever a new post is up because spamming just isn't cool.



Luke said...

Sounds like a sick trip dude, you'll have to tell me more about it!

Steveo said...

For sure man! There is a lot to talk about.

Mandy said...

I'm kind of jealous of all the exciting adventures you went on. Only kind of though, as the lack of planning would probably have driven me mentally insane - and then I'd be stuck in a mental institution in some "uncivilized" country. I shudder at the thought.

Anyways, keep me posted. And we should somehow figure out a time to Skype. Since we talked about it over coffee many eons ago.

Take care!!!