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Split, Croatia

I’m now writing this entry from my bus to Ancona, Italy. Lasts nights journey was long, tiresome and boring. We left around 9:00 and then had to watch the same stupid bus safety video three times; The first time in Hungarian, once in Italian and the third time in English.

The bus from Prague to Bratislava and then to Budapest was only seven hours and played movies through entire duration of the trip. Good movies too. Well they were in Czech but they had English subtitles. The bus to Bologna played “Wild Hogs” in Hungarian with no subtitles, so I just sat there listening to the gibberish spewing from Tim Allen’s mouth and laughing when everyone else did.

I really enjoyed Budapest. It was a beautiful city and I go back again if the opportunity came up. But it seems that the Hungarians’ taxes are wasted on employing 10,000 people doing the same job. Every time I entered the metro station I purchased a ticket for 270 Forint. Then you walk five feet to a machine that stamps your ticket or sometimes even punches a hole in it. Then you get on the metro. Next to every machine there would be anywhere from 2-10 guards next to each machine to make sure you don’t sneak by without paying. The guards can see you the entire time and you are no more than ten feet away from them at all times yet sometimes they still persisted to check my ticket anyways. Even though they watched me purchase it, then validate it. Once I had my metro ticket checked four times! One guard right after the other…
Metro tickets are a pain in the ass. That is why I’m still bitter about Prague. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in Prague, it was a gorgeous city. On my last day there I was cutting it really close to catching my bus. I hopped on the tram and was about to hop off when a man with a badge approached me asking for my ticket. I presented it to him but he wasn’t satisfied. Apparently the tickets are only good for 72 minutes at a time. Meaning the one I had would have expired about 5 minutes before he approached me. He demanded 700 koruns or he would call the police. All I had on me was 150 koruns. I pleaded with him telling him I have no money, I’m going to miss my bus. He asked if I had a credit card and I said yes and he took me to an ATM. I told him I don’t have enough money and that I won’t be able to eat for several days, but he was a heartless bastard. Before I handed over the cash to him I called the police over and had them check his ID and badge to make sure he wasn’t trying to scam me. The police said it was real but I can tell this embarrassed him. Serves him right, I barley caught my bus.

Anyways, back to Budapest. I had arranged to couch surf with someone when I arrived but they bailed on me at the last minute. So I arrived at late at night and was about to go sleep in a park but of course I got off at the wrong metro stop. I was out of money and there was not an ATM in sight so I started to walk to the park when I came across this little hole in the wall hostel named “Home Made Hostel”. They didn’t have a bed available that night but Jimmy, the Dutch guy at the front desk/living room, said I could have the employee bed because he had to stay up and let people in all night anyways.

Home Made Hostel was one of the coolest hostels I’ve stayed at. It was basically a large flat or apartment. There were several rooms and a kitchen and kitchen. I don’t believe this place could host more than 20 people at a time. It was great, small hostels mean small groups of people. Right away I got along with this English guy named Robbie Lang who ended up in Budapest by himself as well. We are the same age and were very similar so we went for a night on the town. This particular night ended around 5:00am after we checked out some local pubs and then gorged ourselves on McDonalds on the way back. Ironically Robbie looks uncannily like my friend in San Antonio, Tyler Bravin. I showed Robbie a picture of Tyler and he freaked out. He immediately called his dad to make sure he didn’t have some long lost twin or anything.
Separated at birth? You be the judge.

Right: Robbie Lang Left: Tyler Bravin

(yes he's drinking beer through a straw, he lost a bet)

I explored the city for a bit my first day there. Later in the afternoon I went to go check out St. Steven’s Basilica. I was standing in the square in front of it when all of a sudden 200 people of all ages sprang out of every nook and cranny, every street, every building, little kids seemed to popping out of the cracks between the coble stones and before I knew it, I was in the center of a massive water fight. Water balloons whizzed overhead and people acted as though they were hit by a hand grenade. Everyone had water pistols and water guns of all sizes. One kid who couldn’t have been older than 10 had a portable pressure washer strapped to his back. Before I knew it I was soaked from head to toe. Luckily a girl gave me one of her back up water pistols so I could defend myself. Whenever we ran out of ammunition we sprang for the numerous fountains and reloaded. This free for all lasted for about an hour before the Police showed up. There were only 2 of them and they tried to assert their authority, but they just ended up getting drenched by countless water balloons and buckets of slimy green fountain water. Then just as quickly as it had started, everyone disappeared. All that was left were a few people staying back to help clean up the broken balloon bits. I was talking to a group of Hungarians afterwards and they said there is this organization that organizes this kind of stuff every month. For example, they told me that last month they had a massive pillow fight.

Later the Hungarians I was with took me on a tour of the city.

They next day was pretty lazy and I woke up late. I didn’t want to do anything too extravagant because I had to catch the bus later that night. So I decided to hit up the Hungarian spa. It was this huge castle like building where you go in and there are hot tubs from warm to boiling hot. There were even pools with water so cold that your bones started to ache after being in them for 10 seconds. Some corridors led to saunas and therapeutic steam rooms. Outside in the courtyard there were largest pools I’ve ever seen. One was a normal pool and the other was just as large but it was a huge communal hot tub. There were crowds of old men dawning the most revealing Speedos playing some of the most intense games of chess I’ve ever witnessed. I made a couple friends while I was there. One American girl who was couch surfing and backpacking around Europe by herself as well and 2 Australian sisters doing the same.

I caught the bus and 12 hours later I was in Bologna, Italy where I had to wait a couple hours for the next bus to Ancona. Italy is an interesting country so far. It is home to the world’s worst drivers. It is next to impossible to cross the street without killed. You may have the green light to walk across but Italian drivers won’t stop. Not because they want to hit you, but because they’re all too busy honking at gesturing wildly at each other. It’s the most contagious form of road rage I’ve ever witnessed so heaven forbid a car switch lanes and pull out in front of another Italian driver even though there is more than enough room. We’re driving on an open country road and I’ve heard the bus driver honk about 30 times already. Italian’s seem to have a very short temper. I saw a man walking earlier and I could have sworn he was about to explode. He had ones of those pulsing veins on his forehead that grew larger with each step. I was afraid to actually walk in to the station because I could see people at the check in counters flailing their arms and arguing with the people behind the desk and then the attendants replying in the same manner, so I just chilled outside in the terminal. Oh, and Italians have no concept of waiting in line. We took a 30-minute break and I was standing in line to get a sandwich and I was bumped all the way to the back of the line. It’s like being back at my school cafeteria. Everyone is constantly screwing each other over. One man even cut in front of me twice. It took so long that I was unable to get anything to eat because it was time for the bus to leave. Aside from all the hostility, the Italian is everything I imagined it to be. There are these green and yellow rolling hills littered with Tuscan and Mediterranean style homes all with they’re own vineyards. It’s just like the movies.

I think one of my favorite things about traveling so far is not knowing anything. I swapped books in a hostel in Amsterdam and picked up a book by Bill Bryson called Neither Here Nor There where Bryson retraces his steps through a previous European trip he took in 1972 except this time he writes about the differences. One quote in particular really caught my attention because it is very easy for me to identify with.

“When I told my friends in London that I was going to travel around Europe and write a book about it, they said, “Oh, you must speak a lot of languages.”
“Why, no” I would reply with a certain pride, “only English,” and they would look at me as if I were foolish or crazy. But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you only have the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

I also love talking to people from the different countries and hearing they’re opinion on Americans. It dawned on me that most people back home have no idea what’s going on outside the country. In fact most people don’t even have a passport. It’s sad really. Everyone in Europe has a passport. It seems as if everyone likes to travel here. So I encourage anyone who actually reads this to go get a passport (if you don’t already have one) and go see the world.

I’m out for now, I’m about ten minutes from the bus station and by the time I get around to actually posting this blog on the internet I will be in Split, Croatia.

Quick update: The bus dropped me off in Ancona, well near Ancona. It seems that I was the only passenger to Ancona so the closest they took me was about 18 km outside the city. I wandered around a little bit and asked strangers if they spoke English or Spanish. I had no luck. I ended up interrupting my dad’s beauty sleep in Hawaii to see if he could get on the internet and try and help me find the nearest bus station, but I wasn’t sure where I was in the first place. I ended up going to finding a small office across the street and asking for directions but no one there was able to help me either. Then the rain came. I was in this parking lot off a highway huddled up under my umbrella when a man pulled up and offered a ride. I was very grateful, but he was heading the opposite direction. Several minutes later an Italian woman who looked like she should be on the cover of Vogue magazine pulled up and asked me if I was all right. She spoke a few words of English and Spanish so our conversation was a mixture of the three. Her boyfriend came to meet her there and he spoke very good English and they were very helpful. They said that they would love to give me a ride but they were heading the opposite direction.

I walked a few kilometers to the town of Callefearete and found a bus that would take me to the port in Ancona. I was snug as can be in the bus when I noticed everyone else was paying and somehow I managed to walk by the driver without paying him. I didn’t have (and still don’t) have any money on me and I was not prepared to pay him. He kept eyeing me to make sure I didn’t get off the bus, and I couldn’t afford another stupid fine like in Prague. So I offered my seat to this older woman and when she got off I dashed off the train with her. I didn’t even bother trying to get on another bus. I was in Ancona though, so I just walked to the port from there (a good 5km). As I got closer there were two ports about 1 km apart. I obviously looked like I didn’t know what to do, and southern Italy is that last place you want to look like a helpless tourist. Then this shady looking fellow approached me. He looked like a gypsy so I started clenching my pockets. He had this big goofy grin on his face when he said, “Eh boi!” I was expecting him to beg for money but he didn’t. “You lookin’ for la fiera righ? It dat one.” He turned out to be a really nice guy and we shook hands and went our separate ways. So the moral of this update is that you just can’t judge a book by its cover. Italians aren’t as ruthless as I portrayed them to be earlier. Except one thing’s for certain, they still don’t know what the hell a line is.

So now I’m on the ferry to Split, which I’ll arrive to at 6:00 in the morning. I took a couple pictures but the weather was bad.

permalink written by  pathaley on July 22, 2008 from Split, Croatia
from the travel blog: Eurotrip
tagged Italy and Croatia

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pathaley pathaley
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My name is Patrick. I am an amateur traveler on a very important mission. The only problem is I don't know where I'm going and I don't know what my mission is yet.

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