I spent Sunday crisscrossing Prague by foot. I started the day by hiking up the mountain, across to the castle, back down, and then continued back and forth through the city for the day. Some day I really need to remember to turn on a GPS-tracking apps when I do that. Prague is architecturally a beautiful city.
I lost track of the time. Starting to sugar-crash, I realized I’d also forgotten to pack food. With my metabolism still high, I crash really fast. By the time I managed to find food, I found myself in a terrible mood. I spent two hours outside the National Theater finishing off food and reading while I waited for everything to return to normal.
It now gets dark around 5:00 pm. I contemplated going to advertised performance of the Prague Philharmonic at the National Theater at 8:00 pm, and wandered off to return later. The seats were expensive, and the theatre was on the far side of town from the hostel, and then I lost a temporary crown during dinner. At this point I have enough dental experience that I managed to neither bang my raw tooth nor swallow the crown, but that cemented my plan for the evening, and I headed back to the hostel to temporarily hang out with a crowd much too young in attitude for me to tolerate.
Looking at the train schedule back to Budapest, I could take take the train to Budapest-Keliti at either 7:42 am or 9:42 am (the Keliti train station in Budapest). I needed to return to Budapest in time for for my 6:30 pm dentist appointment, with a 7-hour train ride, so I (arg) decided to catch the 7:42 am train to give myself plenty of margin. Unsurprisingly, I slept horribly.
Is it time yet?
I walked to the Prague train station with time to spare plenty, found my train, and boarded with my usual trepidation (despite multiple indicators) of being on the wrong train. As the train later pulled away from the station in Vac, I realized I could have gotten off the train to Budapest-Keliti in Vac and switched to the train destined instead for the Budapest-Nyugati station across the street from the hostel. From the Keliti train station I walked the four kilometers back to the hostel, with not enough time to do anything else, but plenty of time to arrive for my dentist’s appointment to validate the fittings.
People travel across Europe by every mode of transport possible. Inside of each of those cultures are layers of subculture, affecting how people move about, where they stay, who they meet, and what they do. While I used to look down on one method or another, I now accept them all as being valid
choices for different people. That said, moving by train has no soul.
Walking back to the hostel through a unfamiliar part of Budapest I realized just how similar Budapest and Prague are at many levels. A big river runs through the center of both cities, with a mountain fortress on one side of the river, and plains on the other side of the river with the city sprawled out. Both cities suffered heavily under a Communist regime, and many buildings reflect that time. However, everything in Prague has a fresh coat of paint, and a crisper feel to it – Budapest feel grimy in comparison.
Returning to the hostel Eszter greeted me at Reception and I reserved the remaining nights of the trip. Despite the early morning construction, the failed hot water heater, and the sick guests I’d decided to come back. All of those things are temporary, and the hostel and staff make up for it.
I found Jason, who I first met last Thursday when he arrived at Multipass Hostel the night before I headed out to Prague and hadn’t left yet. Jason’s a web developer from California (originally from Texas), who packed up and headed to Europe to travel. He also plays board games, and realized when planning his trip he would be in Essen during the SPIEL board game exhibit. Nicely done!
Jason’s having one of the classic traveller problems, trapped in Budapest by all of the interesting things to do and see. I see that quandary from time to time, typically experienced by people just starting out, often visible in the those eventually reduced to quick stops or amputating part of their trip because they’ve run out of time. Since part of the glory of touring is wandering from place to place, extending your stay is completely valid as long as you realize it will catch up with you. Once I’m on the road for a while sheer energy usually helps me avoid that dilemma – I start to vibrate in place unless I move on.
Jason figured out that he’d planned on spending 91 days in Europe before heading to Asia – one day longer than the Schengen Agreement permits – so he’s trying to decide which border to cross for a couple of days. We spent part of the evening chatting, including Summer and Neal, our two sick roommates.
Up late talking and then reading I slept in, with my dentist appointment at 12:45 pm. After the dentist appointment I felt lousy and disgruntled. The dentist replaced a filling. A few times the process had hurt, and I questioned my entire wisdom of this plan. I realized however that the problem lay more with my expectations. I had somehow built up visiting a dentist in Hungary as a perfect “puppies and sunshine” experience. When you boil it all down, I have four dentist appointments packed into a week. I’ve had many dental visits over the years, and if l’m honest with myself my dental experience here aligns with dental experiences at home. Time to adjust my own expectations.
After the dental visit, I managed to catch the beginning of the Budapest Walking Tour at 2:30 pm, which covered a lot of ground (even if much of it was ground already covered), led by an extremely hyperactive fast-talking tour guide. We ended the tour at the castle, and I started talking with Bronte from Australia, who recently traveled after attending clown school in Thailand. We went with her friend and another subgroup from the tour over to the oldest pastry shop in Prague, and then walked back to the city and wandered about before we went our separate ways.
I grabbed dinner and returned to the hostel to find Jason back from the Szegeny Baths. He’d revised his travel plans to head to Croatia near the end of his trip to avoid the Schengen limits, and leave Budapest for Slovakia tomorrow, unfortunately having a lot of Hungarian currency he’ll have to exchange. While I had eaten, Jason had not, so we headed out for dinner. The day before he’d eaten at a nearby restaurant, only later to realize they also served “The World’s Greatest Sandwich”, which he wanted to try. According to Jason “The World’s Greatest Sandwich” would more aptly be renamed “The Sandwich”.
We decided to wander further about the city. In the tourist center of the city, I turned around to find Jason talking with two women. I wandered over to learn that both women had just arrived in Budapest on holiday for the weekend from a town on the Hungarian/Austrian border, and searched for a particular restaurant. I found the restaurant on my GPS, on the other side of town. Dismayed, they invited us to join them in their search for a closer restaurant.
They were both exceptionally friendly, and at some level my alarms started to go off. When Jason asked me if I wanted to continue on to the river or head off with them, I opted for the river. As we walked around the corner, Jason indicated that he was tempted to go with them, but didn’t want to abandon me. I laughed and said my last concern was being abandoned in a strange city. After absolutely confirming with me, Jason asked me to wait 10 minutes, and wandered back to see how things might turn out.
As I waited on a street corner and mulled over events, I pondered whether they were working girls. I pondered whether Jason had considered whether they were working girls. I pondered what the end results might be of Jason wandering off with two working girls. I walked back around to corner to check on Jason; he was gone. Hope that works out.