A Travellerspoint blog

Disaster on the Danube

John follows in the footsteps of the Romans and Austrians

20 °C

Ok, so no major military losses here... just my pride.

Arriving at Budapest was no problem what so ever. They even had a free map at the subway station (bums, I'll get to that in a second). I'm chugging along happily and meet a hungarian man on the subway who is going to my station, which is one line transfer away. The two of us are chatting, I have my big backpack and laptop carrier thingy with me and a subway official stops me and stars demanding something from me in Hungarian. I figure its my ticket and I show it to her and she points to the back, yells at me and demands some stuff from me. I read the back, where it says in small print. "Not good for line transfers" The hungarian who I had been talking to, meanwhile, doubled back and started yelling back at the lady. Especially after I produced another (unused, but not yet validated) ticket

Evidently what was happening was she was insisting I had to pay a fine and double the normal ticket price and purchase one from her on the spot. The hungarian, who was yelling at her, before I knew what was happening bought one from her. I didn't quite no why till he after they stopped yelling at each other and I spoke to him later. He explained its a scam subway officials run, well not scam, its legal, but its a cheap way of taking advantage of tourists who don't speak the language. They sell you a ticket thats not good for the line transfers (they have one that is) and then they catch you at line transfer points. He handed me my new ticket and I insisted on paying him, but he said it was his countries shame and his shame and would have none of it, despite my insistance. "People here," he warned, "are not very friendly sometimes to outsiders."

In any event I got off at my stop and make my way to the street the hostal I had booked, but not yet paid for, was on. I get tehre and its closed, without explination. It looked like it was out of buisness. By this time I'd lost my friend and guide and was looking around seeing NO english ANYWHERE, not even on my map. The feeling is desperatley overwhelming, especially after the warning I had recieved.

None the less I was persistent, eventually finding a sign that looked like it had the word shoppgudwfnjkwerbfjring on it, which I interpretted to be shopping. It led to a mall where they had an internet cafe. From there I found another hostel...but that was also closed (time is elapsing, I was suppost to be touring historic budapest at this time, not wondering around the city almost aimlessly...its not easy to look at a map in another language and then a street sign and try and find your way around) then I found another internet cafe, got another address and that one was OPEN, thankfully. By then it was 5:30. I was suppost to start touring at 2. I ran around the sights as quickly as I could through the historic district, leaving a lot of it till after my two day tour in vienna that starts with a boat ride up the danube. I got some good pictures and Budapest, on the whole is a beautiful city. Moreso than Berlin I'd say. Sadly my camera is almost out of batteries and this is day 3/15 of my travels...

I don't know if I brought my charger.

Anyway the hostel is nice. Its a young environment with a common room and a bar. Hopefully I'll meet a few kids and go out for a drink at some point. Not too late, the boat ride leaves the port early tomorrow. Boarding starts at 8 and I'll be in Vienna in 5.5 hours.

Its definitley a whirlwind.

Hopefully I'll be able to update tomorrow...keep the emails comming folks, I love hearing from you are.

Posted by JohnnyPing 11:08 Archived in Hungary

German Politics


So I normally dont post three times in one day, but this one was too much to not post. The following is a dialogue, as I understood it, between myself and the Turkish Kebab man down the street who was making me my late night snack (blah means german/turkish words I dont understand):

"Big Döner, please"-Me

"blah blah blah?"-Turkish Kebab guy while making my food

"Im sorry I dont speak German. Do you speak English?"

"Blah blah blah blah?" (pointing at me)

"Me? United States, America."

"blah blah?"


"Ya.. OOO S A" (He stops preparing my food and turns to talk to me more forcefully) "blah blah blah blah?!?!"


"You bush! You Bush!" (still not making my food)

(looking at my food hungirly, making a disgusted face) "Nein Bush"

"ya" (starts making my food again and then looks up at me again) "ya bin laden"


"nein blah blah blah allah"

"allah?? nein (fumbling for words)...jesus..."

"nein blah blah blah allah"

"No its an expression, I was taken aback. Just an expression, Im not trying to convert you here"

"blah blah blah" (starts making my food again) "blah blah blah"

"I can say pretty much anything here and youll have no idea, huh?"

"blah blah blah....blah blah blah bush?"

(raising right hand) "nein Bush" (raising left hand) "nein bin laden" (pointing to the middle) "someone else"

"blah blah blah?"

"middle, center, someone else"

"ya ya ya" (pointing to the middle) "blah blah blah"


"blah huessain" (nodding his head and gesturing to the middle)

"Saddam Huessain in the middle of those two"

"ya... meed-le blah blah Saddam"

"yeah ok buddy, whatever will get me my kebab"

Before anyone jumps on me for not being more adamant, Ill have you remember Im in the middle of eastern Berlin in eastern germany on a poorly lighten street at the only place with food left open in 10 minutes by foot in any direction. I wasn't about to have a political debate with about four common words (two of them bein ya and nein) defending George Bush or attacking Bin Laden. It wasn't a time to lose one's head... Maybe I missed something in the translation, maybe he was saying something else. I don't know, no one knows, we'll never know, but I didn't make this up, I can't make this kind of stuff up, I'm not that creative. Comedic gold.

Posted by JohnnyPing 14:40 Archived in Germany

Berlin update

Not going to the rally


So after talking to my hosts they informed me that the last time they went to a rally like this the police came and "captured" people before taking their ids and their names down. They did eventually give back IDs, but if Im not about to risk being captured by the police tonight, or losing my ID. Plus who knows what theyd do to a nonGerman citizen. Not my cup of tea, being captured... whatever that means.

Posted by JohnnyPing 12:39 Archived in Germany

Berlin, day 2

No my German vocabulary hasn’t improved.

15 °C

My day started at about 10 today, up and showered and had breakfast with Ana and Michael. They had friends over at 11 to do a little studying review while I busied myself looking over maps of Berlin for about an hour…that would ultimately prove useless.

A word about the weather before I start, it was about 13 degrees Celsius here, cold and rainy. 13 doesn’t mean much to me either outside of a lot colder than Madrid which stayed around 27 degrees Celsius (we’ll call that hot). I, of course, checked the weather before I made my way on this trip, but decided to bring mostly shorts and t-shirts anyway (the first part of that sentence was a lie). Fortunately I did think enough to bring a sweat shirt and jeans… and two long sleeve shirts, so in a lot of these pictures, unless the temperature picks up, I will be wearing the same sweat shirt (different shirts underneath it) and the same jeans.

My day started with a small walking tour of Eastern Berlin, which believe me, is quite different than Western Berlin. Even Ana told me that the difference is still noticeable and still very present in peoples minds. If you are wondering I am staying in a flat right now in Eastern Berlin that is twice the size of where I stay in Madrid and for half the price (wow!) and with half the people. It’s amazing. I will say I expected Eastern Berlin to be a bit more recovered than it is, its been about 15 years since the wall came down, but in a lot of areas it looks a lot like it was still under soviet rule (especially some of the subway stops… you don’t want to be there for long)

I made my way south from where I’m staying and came across the East Side Gallery (that’s in German too!) which is only one of three places where the wall still stands. It was pretty cool and I hung around there and got some pictures. It was just starting to drizzle so I stayed on foot and made my way over one of Germany’s more famous bridges and into the Turkish part of town. By the time I got there, however, it was starting to pour, so I hoped on the nearest metro (15 minutes) and made my way to Central Berlin.

In central Berlin I saw the Reichstag, and Brandenburg Tor, both of which were very cool. From there I went south and into the Holocaust monument. The idea to build it came up in 1990 when Germany first recognized the Holocaust and the horrors of World War 2. The museum was underground and cost money to get to (tacky I thought) but the monument was above ground and was very moving. It was a lot of gray slabs of concrete over uneven ground that ranged in height between 5 inches to 12 feet. It was very moving and very emotional.

About that time it started to poor (fittingly enough) and I made my way further south to a little plaza where I ate a late lunch (this is about 3 now). I came across the second spot where the wall was still standing, if only in segments. I looked a little closer and realized where the wall wasn’t standing they had a little track on the ground to mark where it had been standing. It was very cool. I then did a little shopping and made my way back towards Eastern Berlin where I saw an old church and the building from which the Soviets used to govern eastern Berlin. I also came across the “French and German cathedrals” where none other then Gerhard Schroeder himself was having a little rally. And by little I mean huge. He wasn’t there yet, he wasn’t due to go on until about 8, but his party was there and giving out balloons and the media was there and everything. Despite the fact that Gerry and I are old college buds and our politics are pretty close, I decided I had better things to do, like get lost in Berlin.

Which I did do. Somehow I ended up at Alexanderplast (the German spelling of that word has about 50 more letters) which was a nice little area where I took a bus and did a little sight seeing from the bus. After that it was homeward bound…to where I am now!

Anyway in total I took about 50 pictures today which means I should run out of memory on my camera at about the same time the battery will die, which will be at about the same time I run out of money (somewhere between Rome and Venice I imagine). Ah well, c’est la vie.

The plan tonight is to go to an anti-fascist rally with my hosts tonight. At first I thought, damn I just live with a bunch of liberals here (which they are), after all who is actually pro-fascism; that only happened in...oh....riiiiight... so I decided not to be too critical of the event after all. After that it will be out to taste some German beer and off to bed relatively early.

It’s up and out early tomorrow. I leave for Budapest quite early in the morning; I think I’ll be getting up at about 5:30 to make it on time. Look for an update tomorrow (hopefully).

Posted by JohnnyPing 11:56 Archived in Germany

Madrid to Berlin

Its tougher than you might think

18 °C

Guttenhog! (1/3 of my german vocabulary)

So I was up and out early today, Sept 15, because I originally thought I had a 2 PM flight, it turned out that check in started at 2 PM, but my flight wasn’t actually till four. Needless to say I got to the airport at about 11 and sat around for a solid five hours. I bought a book and read just about all of it while at the airport.

They didn’t board us till very late, and when they finally did it was sort of a free for all for seats. I managed to grab a window seat and the plane was off.

When I landed I was pretty much in awe. EVERYTHING was in German, not even little helpful hints in English, like you know, one word translations. I don’t think I flew into the biggest airport in Berlin…sort of like flying into Westchester County Airport as opposed to JFK or something. In any event I followed around the signs to the train/metro (and by signs I mean the little picture that looked like a train) and finally got to the metro station at the airport.

That in itself was a disaster. Once there it turns out the directions that my flatmate had given me were wrong; he assumed I was flying into another airport. So I had to make sense of the metro map, where I was, where I was going, what track trains were leaving from and at what time (and what day of the week!) by myself in german. The result was a lot of floundering around and staring at the map thinking that if I looked at it long enough maybe I’d start speaking German. Of course, I didn’t start speaking german and eventually asked someone for help. They didn’t speak English that well…or at all, but I did manage to get which column was track and which column was train number. From there it was pretty straight forward.

In other words it took me 2 hours to get to central Berlin when it should have taken me one. Ah well, c’est la vie and it was one heck of an adventure. Here in Berlin I’m staying with Richard’s, my german flatmate (who gave me wrong directions), friends. I’m actually staying at his old flat with his old roommates, and thus far we’ve had a good time sipping on wine and chatting it up. Their names are Michael and Ana. Michael speaks English well enough to get by and Ana doesn’t speak it that well at all. Ironically enough, however, she is close to fluent in Spanish. So between German, English, and Spanish we’ve managed to get by with some pretty decent conversation.

I hadn’t, however, eaten dinner and they had. I asked for a restaurant around there and they pointed me towards a pretty quick kebab place. They asked if they wanted me to come and I politely refused, I suppose I thought that my limited German vocabulary, of three words would get me by at ordering at a restaurant. It didn’t. After much pointing and hand gesturing the waiter and I finally came to agreement on what I wanted. I couldn’t have told you what it was when he left, but at least we were in agreement. It was pretty good all things considered.

Tomorrow I’m going to be out exploring the city and will take lots of great pictures that I will post and show you all when I get back.

I gotta tell you, this language barrier thing is incredible. I mean when I first got to Madrid, at least I had a limited understanding of the language, but I really got nothing here in German. Not even, a “hi my name is.” Its quite the adventure and it brings to mind the expression “there is less where there is none” As in my Spanish might have been limited (not so much anymore ;-) ), but at least it was partly there. I got nothing here in Germany.

I’ll also get a postcard or two and send em out. I miss you all very much and am thinking about you all

Das boot! (the boat, and the only other two german words I know)


Posted by JohnnyPing 16:26 Archived in Germany

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