The Hardest Thing About Traveling

This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.

This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.

Kellie Donnelley.

I wanted to store this piece that talks of the hardest part of traveling.  I need to think about it. 

Travel changes a person or, perhaps, in my case, it turned me into someone I recognised.  I was always curious, I love meeting new people, learning how they live, hearing their stories ... out here in the world I wander, I get to meet others like me. 

I read this quote this morning, and thought ... really?

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Simone Weil

I always give my attention.  I am curious, and genuinely interested in people.  Is this so special?

Then I remembered the phenomena of talking with political folk out at social events back in Belgium.  Their attention was on their phones, on checking out who else was in the room, and back to whoever they were talking with, and off again, round the room.

I felt like I was swimming with sharks, in some ways.  They were hunting.  Their attention was everywhere and nowhere.

But this sense of dislocation Kellie writes of ... I posted her piece over on Facebook and watched as various friends shared or liked it. 

Yes.  They all knew that feeling.

I haven't returned home, for longer than 5 weeks.  It is something I think about ... how that return would be.  Would a dog, and a beach or a lake somewhere close by ... old friends, and new, be enough. 

I don't know but anyway, I have located this article in a place where I can return to it when needed.

Budapest ...!

I loved Budapest!

Julie had found us an Air B&B apartment located directly behind the opera house and just off Andrássy Avenue.   There's a photograph of the exquisite interior courtyard at the end of this post.  We were two floors up, 6 flights of stairs but honestly ... worth it.

Things I loved about Budapest: the ruin pubs, most especially Szimpla.  Jennifer took us to both Szimpla and Instant ruin pubs and honestly, loved them.

Coffee.  Again we were wandering in a city with excellent coffee.  Favourite cafe was The Párizsi Nagyáruház.  As with so many of the delightful finds made in Budapest, Jennifer was responsible as we went there after I did a small portrait session with her.  Then I took Julie back while we discussed whether she should replace her dead Apple laptop with an iPad.  She did.  (A couple of days later and I can report that she is supremely happy with her iPad.)

Komédiás Kávéház was a delightful find - again, introduced to us by Jennifer.  Fodor's pretty much have it covered when they write, Also called Café le Comédien, this ravishingly elegant little café in the heart of the main theater district, next door to the Thália Theater and near the Opera House, has live piano music daily from 7 PM and has an impressive cherry-wood-like staircase leading up to its small second-floor room.

On the second night, Jennifer found yet another treasure and there I ate a Hungarian dish called Sztrapacska, a dish that will go on my top 5 dinners in the world so far.   She has superb taste in wines too and so it was that we had another delightful Hungarian red wine with our food.  It may be that she will cross-post a Hungarian wine post for me here.  We really enjoyed all that we tasted.

And the food has all been very affordable. 

Budapest impressed me for so many reasons. Andrássy Avenue became familar very quickly, the Opera House too.  We ended up using a hop on/hop off bus, attempting to cover as much of the city as possible during our two nights there.  We crossed the Danube on the bus and it took us up into the hills of Pest ... or was it Buda?  Buda I think.

Up there we met Iain, a fellow kiwi who wandered over and asked us if we were kiwis.  It was lovely to meet someone from home.  The accent still gives me the most delightful jolt when I hear it unexpectedly.  We chatted a while, up there on the hill and then later, said hi when we met up with him and his Spanish traveling companions in the ruin pub.

And once all this traveling is done, I hope to hunt down books on the history of the city, and the characters who helped create it, most particularly Matthias Corvinus, 1443-1490.  He seems like he might have been a fascinating man.  As a Renaissance ruler, he established education institutions, patronized art and science, and introduced a new legal system in the Kingdom of Hungary. In the era of his kingship, Matthias strongly endeavored to follow the model and ideas of the philosopher-king as described in Plato’s Republic.

There were sad stories too but they're for another post perhaps.

I would like to return and explore some more of this country called Hungary. I was intrigued, fascinated and impressed by the people, the cuisine, the city of Budapest.

Road-Tripping ...Things I'm Learning

The best random car radio I've heard anywhere in the world so far was between Rijeka, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  I guess it's music I know so perhaps there was some nostalgia from the 70s and 80s involved but honestly, excellent music for that 4+ hour journey.

If you have a rental car that doesn't charge your GPS as you travel, chances are you might have some challenging experiences when attempting to reach your destination

First hint of trouble was in Verona.  Many people were approached for directions to our final destination in the heart of the ancient city.  Rijeka, and voila, although we tried to leave the GPS alone and simply rely on it for the complicated city-leaving and arrival parts ... the GPS battery started to die about one kilometre from our destination.

About then we became suspicious of the coincidence of the destination flag appearing and the battery warning appearing.  Maybe it had some kind of bug in the machine. 

Budapest ... about a kilometre from our destination, having really rested the GPS, up came the battery warning along with the destination flag. We were caught in a long traffic jam on the other side of the river.  Julie laughed.  I was not amused.

We crossed over into Austria yesterday and barely used the GPS.  No flag appeared as we neared our Vienna destination ... the 'bug' in the GPS suspicion is over.  The rental car has a faulty charger.  We shall proceed with caution, relying mostly on the big highway signs.  It's Trieste today and a longer journey that will take us through Slovenia.

But back to other things learned ... be clear on destinations programmed into the GPS. We had hoped to call in for lunch in Zagreb but managed to miscommunicate on programming that idea in.  We passed by and realised, after a conversation, that we love the journey as much as the destinations so we continued on.  4+ hours of road-tripping was a really excellent Plan B, although we did detour to a secondary road and visit a lake before leaving Hungary.

Budapest, brilliant city.  Loved it but more to follow in another post. 

Julie's handbag.  The one that sits behind us on the floor of the backseat.  Yes Julie, it is a marvellous bag that holds so much but ... let's be sure that I pull out your sunglasses, your normal glasses, your lip balm, your iPod music player (although that's more useful if charged), and every other thing I have had to grapple with on the road trip while you have driven us across Europe.

But okay, yes, perhaps it would have lacked a certain sense of achievement had we been that organised.

Air B&B, a great way to travel. We've stayed in local homes and apartments, met excellent people that I have to write more about when I have all the information and life isn't about the journey.  I'm writing this from a student flat in Vienna, where one of our hosts is a lovely Croatian guy studying architecture.  He was just in Rijeka last week.  They are a delightful couple and we're glad that we did it.  Julie organised it all and she has made me a convert because I do love meeting people where ever I go.   

It's another big old apartment complex with at least two inner courtyards.  The Budapest apartment was my favourite so far ... directly behind the opera house and truly exquisite, inner courtyard, beautiful ironwork on the inside and that delicious sense that you are experiencing something of an everyday life in each place.

Learned while living in Istanbul ... always look for cafes and restaurants that are full of locals. Do not be tempted to do anything else.  If you know someone, all the better, ask them where to eat.  We have eaten divinely while traveling.   It's been less about expensive and upmarket and so very much about good local food.  Hungary has been my absolute favourite so far. 

If in doubt about where to eat, stop someone who looks like they might eat in places you would like to eat in.  Asking politely worked every time.

Wines ... some countries you can barely go wrong, other countries have a wine culture to be explored with caution.  Perhaps that's as specific as I'll get but I do love countries where I can find my beloved Italian red wines. We enjoyed this Croatian red wine.   And were really impressed by Hungarian red wine ... absolutely lovely.  Thanks to Jennifer.

Men from Manchester on stag weekends in Budapest ... very friendly, quite naughty but with a lovely humour that meant we always wandered away on laughing.  We met 3 groups on our second night there.  Yes, they made us laugh.

Croatians in Rijeka speak beautiful English.  We were told by the lovely wine guy that they start studying it in fourth grade.  Hungarians in Budapest also speak beautiful English. 

Maybe that's enough for this post.  I wanted to finish up with a photograph of the most divine fish and chips I've had any place so far ...located on Andrássy Avenue, we would absolutely recommend The Bigfish restaurant because their cod and chips were sublime.

In Ancient Times ...

'It is also famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in almost its original splendour, because unlike Pompeii, its burial was deep enough to ensure the upper storeys of buildings remained intact, and the hotter ash preserved wooden household objects such as beds and doors and even food.

Moreover Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii with an extraordinary density of fine houses, and far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The discovery in recent years of some 300 skeletons along the sea shore came as a surprise since it was known that the town itself had been largely evacuated.

Source: Wikipedia.


I found myself fascinated by the ruins of Herculaneum.  Destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius back in 79 A.D, there is still so much that is as it was then.  I was only there for a few hours but it remains as a memory of immensity ... both in time and space. 

 

One Day Out Wandering ...

I have a photography exhibition happening in Brussels in the autumn, more information to follow but today ... talking with Marcia, I suddenly knew what my theme would be.  And I spent the rest of the day going through the hundreds of photo folders I have images stored in ... hundreds and hundreds.

Hundreds to the point where there are photographs I took and never really got back to.  In the summer months I have been known to journey from Berlin to Istanbul to Italy.  Along the way, processing becomes impossible and special moments build up and overlap, some are lost.

Today has been a day of delightful finds.  I had forgotten the time I had spent wandering with Julie.  Those photographs, of time spent tearing all over a small corner of England, have been so much fun to go through.

There was this image, taken at Bath ... sunrise or sunset, I don't recall but it was, I remember, absolutely sublime out there in that light.

The Creatures on Cattedrale Di San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo's Cathedral was built to hold Saint John the Baptist's ashes ... ashes that arrived in Genova after the crusade in 1098. 

The lions that guard the entrance have been a point of fascination for me.  Today, searching for the cloister of yesterday (wrong church), I discovered the animals around the corner behind my favourite lion.

I love the way they seem to be attempting to peer round the corner ...