Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back and not off again (for now)

Yep, back. The trip was great. Ten sunny days and got back to find that sun's been visiting this part of the world too. Miracle alright! Was supposed to be off to Chicago today for firm meeting but client intervened so shall spend the rest of the week in London. Can't complain as I need some time to recover from vacation though Dan Ariely talk (and needless to mention, Chicago in spring) would have been fun. But anyway, the news is I am back. And not going anywhere for another week.

Quick notes from travels:

1. Czech R was great. Hungary was nice. Prague was beautiful and crowded. Budapest was pretty and crowded. Fell in love with the Bohemian countryside both North and South. The Hungarian countryside reminded me of the plains of India.

2. Prague is beautiful. Its hyped and crowded and touristy but it is beautiful. Did I say it is beautiful? I have not seen a more beautiful city. (Only Berlin comes close but that's a different kind of beauty, the Chicago type)

3. All of you who informed me that Prague is super touristy, yep, you were right. If you stick to the three most popular destinations in Prague. If you could not take the time to veer off the tourist trail and lets admit it, all you had to do was to walk three minutes in any direction from the crowd, you deserve the tourists and everything that comes with . Obviously this is true of most cities and it bugs me everytime people go on an on about how touristy cities are while all they have done is jump on a tour bus or train from one square to another. What do you expect anyway? And its not like its difficult - any halfway decent guidebook would give you enough options and if you don't like them, just take the road that has the least number of people. In most cities, it works. It worked beautifully in Prague.

4. People are damn friendly in both Czech R and Hungary, especially in the former. For some reason, we weren't expecting them to be and were pleasantly surprised. Especially when you make an effort to say something in their language. Or the language of their neighboring lands. Even if the neighbour in question invaded said country all the time.

5. When they said that Hungarian is different from the Indo-European languages, they were right. It is not like once you know what it means, you can get back to its root. You can't. So do not try.

6. When you actually understand what they are saying, do not jump up and down with joy. You do not understand Magyar. They were speaking in German so that you could understand. (You can already see a long Chotu - Motu post, no?)

7. In hindsight, a car might have helped in both countries. I mean when was the last time you visited national parks without own transportation? Also, we overestimated the frequency of buses / trains, so had to make some compromises such as skip Bratislava and the Sedlec ossuary at Kutna Hora. On the other hand, there is that thing about public transportation - of seeing trains and engines in foreign lands; of figuring out the differences between CD (Czech R), OBB (Austria) and the one-and-only Deutsche Bahn all within the span of a day; of meeting people who don't have a thing in common with you and trying to speak to them; of waking up at half past five to stroll around the town and thus having the picture-perfect tourist haven of Český Krumlov all to yourself because it is Liberation Day and the only bus out of town leaves at 8 am; and last but not least, an unexpected, stolen couple of hours in a cafe outside Wien Westbahnhof exactly six years after you first fell in love with the city[1][2] that makes the prospect of public transportation a little too alluring for some of us.

8. If there was one recurring theme on this trip, it was alcohol. We missed trains and buses because of Pilsner Urquell in Plzen, Pallinka in Budapest and Bull's Blood in Eger. Your alcohol correspondent will furnish details sometime.

9. Oh, something from Bill. A special note from one bong to another: TR, go to place called Horgasztanya near the Buda embankment and have one of their special fish soups.

10. BM, MR, I missed you. Really. I absolutely hate being the one taking photographs. It is one of the things I hate in trips. For me, everytime I pick up the camera, it takes away from the experience of the place. I hate it. And yet, in this trip, I was compelled to as Bill wouldn't come anywhere near the camera and someone had to take pictures. It sucks. Yeah, the pictures were okay but that is NOT the point.

11. Bill and I managed to spend a whooping six days with each other all the time for the first time since we have known each other. After that, we did a fair bit of seeing cities alone and meeting up here and there but we survived.

12. If you have to be anyone in Czech R, you have to be called Vaclav. If you have to be anyone in Hungary, you have to be called István.

13. Lastly, what is the point of new places if it does not remind you of familiar things or people? So here are a few for those of you in the blog world:

Picture A: Post office at Budapest. I couldn't go to the central one where all of Space Bar's letters to István Gaál went to but every time I passed a post office in the city, I could only think of SB and István.

Picture B: SB, no, it has California in it so it had to be BM, no?

Picture C: Tough one as I know there are a few people who will be pissed off if I do not mention them but I will take my chances. For SB, BM, Ludwig and KM.

Picture D: Bad picture. But still, need I say anything? Really?

[1] Yeah Anoop, yeah BM, same place. And before you correct me, I know its not exactly six years but just a week off no? Please to excuse.

[2] Yeah yeah, if we had missed the train to Budapest, that would have meant we would have had to spend the night walking the streets of Vienna. Maybe six years ago this might have been not a very bad option but with current company, especially when you can play the entire night ka conversation in your head without saying a word, we both preferred to catch the train and get a good night' sleep in Budapest.


Space Bar said...

Yay! Post Office in Budapest!

(please to send all these pics by mail?)

And more about the rock you went to see, please.

And oh - did you see any copies of bEast in Prague?

Ludwig said...

My word.

> of seeing trains and engines
> in foreign lands;

Oh ma...

> For SB, BM, Ludwig and KM.

I say...

Szerelem said...

hungarian is a distant cousin of Turkish, except with a lot of z's thrown in I guess. A dear friend keeps telling me to visit - "It has enough Ottoman influence to keep you happy!" Gah, I need a vacation

Veena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Veena said...

SB: Yeah, once I sort through them. Which is going to take forever.

Rocks were too cool. Bryce Canyon in the pine forests types.

Tragedy. I forgot the name of the magazine and everytime I passed by the Libri (which was some big chain bookstore in Bpest) I would turn to Bill and ask him if he remembered. Obv he did not.

Luddo: You at loss for words? I need to be given an award.

Szerelem: Hungarian has Turkic influences (both from 8th-10th century AD and later because of the Ottomans) but from what I understand, they have completely different roots, and their grammar is very diff. Hungarian is an Uralic language or something - closer to Finnish and v.different from Indo-European languages.

And you are not going to believe this but I took two pictures for you - one was of the Turkish minaret at Eger which is the only sign of Ottoman occupation in the town, and the second was that of a stalagmite in Aggetelek National Park which looks like (and so is named after) the Turkish minaret. Unfortunately, both pictures are quite bad, and I can hardly post bad pictures and say its for Szerelem no?

Tabula Rasa said...

ha! welcome back, and thanks for the tip!

btw, will be in your corner on the 27-28th.

Tabula Rasa said...

my local contact just vetted the fish soup, so the scales are loaded!

wv: coull

Veena said...

TR: Cool. tpb around too I hope?

Btw, Bill is all distressed that you did not believe him and had to vet his suggestion with Hungarian mafia.

Oh and also, get ready for the stares everywhere you go. Some malicious, some friendly but mostly just curious but it got to me. I have never been in such uniracial lands before, I guess.

Fëanor said...

Dash it, you missed Sedlec. Those skulls were practically crying out for a fresh eye. :-) Welcome back!

Uniracial lands, eh? 7-odd years ago we were in Seville, and pretty much stopped traffic whenever we ventured to walk about. Of course, I was stunningly good looking at the time, outshining Moor and Christian alike, but how much gaping adoration and traffic chaos can one take? Huh? Huh? When we went two years ago, though, nobody gave us a second look (or even, it wounds me to say, a first look). Clearly I'm past my expiry date(or the Spaniards have gotten used to darkies darkening their vision.)

Szerelem: I though you were just last week chillin' in Dilli?

Fëanor said...

When I tried speaking Russian in Prague an old woman snapped at me. I felt like a whippersnapper so went to a little shop where a young Pakistani chap spoke to me in Urdu... Why did you snap, old woman? Why?

Tabula Rasa said...

i just asked the guy if he knew where the restaurant was!

(got used to getting stared at by chinese people. this time i'll ask tpb to stare back.)

Szerelem said...

That is so sweet!!
Please do mail them to me anyway - I'd love to see -

Hmmm I did know Hungarian is more Finno-Uralic but that group in itself is pretty close to Turkish grammatically from what I know - as in no gender, agglutanative etc. Oh well.

Feanor - yeah but this week is not the last one na?

Veena said...

Feanor: Wait, you don't stop traffic at Leadenhall too, do you? Now I know why I am always stuck in traffic and can never get to do any work. And yeah, I think in nowadays ka Seville they are very used to darkies.

You should have spoken in German. Then they take you by your hand and show you the right way. Happened to Bill. God Promise.

TR: Good you cleared that up. Bill was crying his heart out that no one ever believes him. Not even about fish.

Szerlem: Sent.