My introduction to Budapest was kinda not great, in a very uninteresting way that wasn’t really Budapest’s fault. I had a shit time getting to the airport in Kiev, since my terrible cell phone didn’t get reception even with a Ukrainian sim card so I missed my Uber drive and had to frantically get a taxi, for which I way overpaid (I mean, it was still probably only like $10, but just irritating). And when I got to Budapest, I discovered the directions to my hostel were pretty much “get off the subway, turn left, and walk ’til you see us,” but not, like, which subway exit to take, or any cross-streets, etc.
And again, my phone being useless, had no way to even begin to load Google maps.
But desperate exhaustion outweighs shyness, so I stopped a couple of dudes on the street, who turned out to be a lovely Parisian couple visiting family there. Sadly they spoke English much better than I speak French, and I wasn’t really in ooh-let-me-practice headspace. But they looked up the place on one of their phones and found directions, and then walked with me until they could point out exactly where to go.
Travel people are nice.
And despite its shit directions, the hostel — the Flow Hostel — ended being one of my favorites. Budapest is legendary for its party hostels, and like, being a sad older traveler who abuses her liver enough on her own, I wasn’t really looking for that, but also wanted to stay somewhere fun and lively and social. And it was eerily big, with all kinds of weird spaces to hang out or chill (and a massive kitchen), which was neat. Also bed privacy curtains. Love me some privacy curtains.
Anyway, Sunday (I think it was a Sunday), as usual, I just wandered aimlessly for a few hours, along the Danube and through downtown, getting acquainted and taking pictures.
Which, like, going through and editing (and I use the term “editing” loosely, but whatever), holy fuck am I happy to have a phone with a decent camera again, as well as access to an actual camera here (like, basic cheap digicam, but decent). I apologize for the graininess in so many of these.
Also, the Hummus Bar does not fuck around.
Monday was about the same, but I did take the funicular up to the Buda Castle and wandering around up there before walking back down Castle Hill. Not sure if funiculars are so charming just because of the word funicular.
And finally, Tuesday I went to the Szechenyi Baths, which was all kinds of awesome even if I still can’t spell or pronounce it. I dropped more money than I could really afford on a massage, because my back was (and remains) hella borked after throwing it out in Albania, and then lounged in various pools for a couple hours, which I must say is a fairly civilized way to spend an afternoon, even alone.
And then Wednesday morning I finally left continental Europe for the first time in over six months, which was a very sad day.
Man, I really thought I had more photos from Kiev, since I was there for three or four days, but I guess I am a lazy asshole, as always.
I got to go to Eurovision, though! A dress rehearsal, anyway, since that was only like 17 USD. I had never actually seen the show at all, aside from a couple famous clips, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and didn’t really know what was going on, but it was a lot of fun. Even the dress rehearsal was fucking packed.
I was vaguely aware of the incredibly awesome cheese-level, thanks to the show, but wow, I was not prepared.
Aside from that, as usual, since my savings were wearing pretty thin by this point, I just wandered around the city, trying not to spend any money I didn’t have to. An exception was made for buying a new suitcase, as the roads of Plovdiv literally destroyed the wheels on my old one, and that was kind of important.
And then I had it for all of like three weeks, until I left it in the Manchester airport on the worst day possible and never got it back, and discovered that, well, I guess I don’t need a suitcase after all.
So, yeah, Kiev. It’s one of those cities that to me exists at that sweet spot between old, old, astonishing history, and different from the major Western European capitals, but also a major metropolitan city in itself. I wish I’d made it to the Арсенальна subway station, one of the deepest in the world (possibly the deepest?), because jesus, at 305 feet it’s over three times as deep as Porter Square in Boston, which already always gave me a little bit of vertigo looking down.
It’s an odd city — as, I suppose, are most cities — but I kind of loved it. Also, really fucking pretty.
Am back in the US now, and super not happy about it, hanging out with some dear friends in Boston for a few days (aka mostly being a pile of useless sloth but whatever) before catching a bus to NYC at like 2am tonight/tomorrow morning, so maybe I can at least start catching up with the tail end of my wanderings before I get back to Florida and sink back into the depths of suicidal stupor. So anyway.
Odessa, like Chisinau, was a little pointless, only in that I got there late on a Monday night and left at fuck o’clock on Wednesday morning. And my hostel was creepy-silent; I’m not sure I actually heard anyone having a conversation above a whisper. It’s a very, very lovely city, though, and given my lack of time there, there’s not much to say aside from photodumping.
Though I did have possibly the most hilarious non-conversation with an Uber driver to get to the train station at 4am. For whatever reason, I guess the destination didn’t go through when I put it into the app, and the dude spoke no English. So I’m like, uh, train station? Train? …Tren?? Which in most languages will be close enough, but naturally in Ukrainian it’s поїзд (“poizd” or thereabouts) and I didn’t remember it in Russian either.
So we’re both sitting there in the car looking at each other helplessly. Finally I’m like… train? *makes a tugging motion* choo-choo?
Dude’s face just lights the hell up and he burst out laughing, making the same gesture. Да! choo-choo! Да, да! And I’m like yes, train, choo-choo! Yes! Choo-choo, choo-choo!
I think we became best friends in that moment.
Anyway there’s a lot more pictures and more interesting things from Kiev — I went to Eurovision! — and then just Budapest, all around the UK/Ireland (plus Eddie Izzard and Neil Gaiman/Stephen Fry/Chris Riddell at the Hay Festival!) aaaand then probably radio silence until I drag myself elsewhere again.
Well, although I was almost caught up on blogs/photodumps for about a day, that day was about a month ago, and here we still are.
I am in Dublin now, the last city and country of this six-week-turned-eight-month vagabondry. Thursday I fly from Dublin to Boston for a long weekend or so, then spend four nights in NYC with my mom, and then back to Florida, trying to figure out how to replenish my bank accounts quickly enough to run away again before losing my mind entirely.
Final count of this “oh, I just want to see Scandinavia, meet a friend in Poland, visit Paris again, maybe Prague and Amsterdam” ended up three continents (ISTANBUL COUNTS FOR ASIA OKAY), 40 countries, and something like 63 cities/individual places (none of which ended up being Amsterdam after all).
… I think.
There have been many highlights (Eurovision in Kiev; Eddie Izzard, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry and Chris Riddell in Wales; hot baths in Budapest and Reykjavik, NYE in Bratislava in which I was totally not asleep for the fireworks over the Danube) and a few not-so-highlights (of which coming to Manchester on 22 May basically negates every other mildly bad thing that happened).
But as always, it is the friends that I finally met after years and the new ones I made that made all this ridiculousness worth it, more so than any astonishing castles and cathedrals and mountain and views and anything. I like to kind of catalog this kind of thing, because my fucked-up brain always likes to helpfully detail how lonely and alone I am, and how hard it is for me to meet people and make friends, and sometimes it is perversely satisfying to tell my own brain to fuck off because it’s lying. I think.
So-o-o-ooo, if nothing else, once I’m back in one place, hopefully I can actually catch up on the blog, and also maybe settle down enough to write for real a bit. And in the meantime:
Question 1: how to make another few grand asap, and
Question 2: where do I go next?
what the fuck i got on a plane in copenhagen this morning and got off the plane in manchester, lost my suitcase at the airport, terrorist attack half a mile from me, stayed up listening to the sirens outside and the news on the tv with a bunch of aussies and another american — who also randomly happened to live in DC during 9/11 and the DC sniper shootings
(except he’s like “yeah i was in like third grade so i don’t remember much” god i’m old)
jesus it has been a day
back to regularly sporadic updates later
Why is it that I sleep better on a tiny couchette in a rattling train through Romania and Moldova than I do in an actual bed in an actual home? Even with the 3am passport control and changing of the fucking train wheels?
I don’t know, but I do.
Not going to lie, Moldova was a slightly pointless stopover. And I knew it would be, so I didn’t really care, but it was there, and on the way to Ukraine, so, you know, fuck it, I spent the day/night in Chisinau. Which I also still don’t know how to pronounce.
My hostel was full of a group where everyone knew each other already, so I basically just slothed around my bed, chatted with the host a bit — in French! which was nice because yes, I can actually still speak French, even if not amazingly well — and hung out with this most excellent specimen of canine delight.
I also had my first experience with being shouted at by men in cars since I’d been in eastern Europe, which was a bit unsettling. Except then I realized they were just trying to tell me that I’d dropped my scarf on the other side of the street, which I would never have noticed and would have been really sad to lose it.
So yeah, I don’t have anything insightful to say about Moldova except the dogs are A+ and the people are really nice.
(Although the weird bus to Ukraine was hella fucking sketch, but that’s for the next post.)