Monday, May 27, 2013

Good morning from Budapest!  I write from the kitchen of our fifth "Soviet high-rise" accommodation, which we are quite used to at this point.  Ghastly from the outside, the enormous Communist-era block housing in which we have stayed in Croatia, Berlin, Czech Republic, Slovakia and now Hungary has been tidy and well-equipped on the inside, with residents in each of these locations quick to help us make sense of the unclear addresses and varying building-entry systems.  When viewing our accommodation websites, our three priorities are wifi, kitchen, and washing machine (which can usually be obtained for a grand total of 20 to 30 USD per night- sweet deal!).  Anything else is icing on the cake!

Today is our first real "sleep-in" day in a couple of weeks, as we have generally been switching accommodation every day or two as we cruise through central and eastern Europe.  It is now that we realize how short four months in Europe truly is, particularly when you are traveling by land and sea, and trying to get a sampling of so many countries.

Although Budapest awaits for us to explore, my thoughts remain in our fascination with eastern Europe.  A region I learned little about in school and didn't bother to read much about as an adult, it has been a wonderful surprise to discover this down-to-earth, culturally dynamic area and its resilient, hardworking, humble and humorous populace which, in large part, possesses a kindness of spirit that truly surpasses our expectations of human decency.  From the Hungarian gentleman who stopped his car and got out to offer assistance in finding our accommodation to the fish market full of women in Croatia who advised us regarding which of the local catch would produce the best soup, we have been inspired by their genuine hospitality.

Since we only spent 30 hours in Bratislava, it is perhaps one of the easier destinations for me to present in this post.  Please enjoy the following photos of our first glimpse of Slovakia, a country we fully intend to revisit.

After an exhausting hike through town loaded down with our backpacks, we finally made it out for an evening stroll over one of Bratislava's several bridges, which offered a lovely view of the Bratislava Castle, which has existed in one form or another since the Stone Age and was recently rebuilt in the 1950s after it burned down.

A panorama from the castle the next day.  The Danube is such a winding, leisurely river that is a charmingly tame contrast to the wild, raging rapids of our homeland.  I would love to kayak in it....

A classic Bratislava contrast: dingy Soviet building on the left, polished House of Justice on the right.

The UFO restaurant, at one end of the main bridge that leads to Austria.

I didn't mean to snap this photo from this angle; I was just trying to get a clandestine pic of the public transportation.  However, I couldn't leave it out once I saw it....

One of the charmingly unmanicured old Bratislava buildings.

A newer design.

A beautiful, bright, understated church that seems to mesh well with the mellow spiritual vibe of the region, if that makes any sense....

One of the five bridal photo shoots we saw that day.

Bratislava Castle during the day, framed by the Slovakian and EU flags.

Customers at the Slovak Food Festival (which we stumbled upon on our way down from the castle) were treated to some traditional Slovak music, which sounds a little like Mexican banda if you don't listen too closely.


More of that charming, understated architecture.

One of the abandoned buildings in Bratislava.

Across the street was this church, which looked puffy and reminded me of a gingerbread house.

Another two bridal photo shoots.

After a long soak in a Turkish bath here in Budapest, I am ready to hit the sack, so ciao for now.  Peace out, readers :)

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