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Monday, May 30, 2005


Slovenia 

I have moved from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, a very cute, if touristy, spot. I have to say in general about Slovenia that it is just an adorable little country. Very nice scenery, everything is neat and bright and charming. It's very hard to believe that this was once a communist country. It seems much more like some little bourgeois prosperous middle European country. One thing it does have is an awful lot of graffiti, which is particularly jarring in a neat little city like Ljubljana.

I have also seen more Americans here than in Croatia and a lot more English speaking from the natives.

Minor gripes 

1) Water

At restaurants, if you ask for water, you get a tiny little bottle of water and get charged like a doller for it. You can't have water for free. This has been pretty much everywhere I've been so far. It may be all of Europe. Which is really annonying since the tap water here is fine.(It better be, I've been drinking it the whole time.) I've taken to drinking a lot from my water bottle before I sit down and then a lot afterward, and drinking nothing during.

2) driers

As in, they don't seem to have them. You wash your clothes, and then you line dry them. Which, if you live here and can afford to wait around, and wait out the rainy days, is fine. If you are moving around every day or every other day, it's a royal pain. The place here in Bled claims that they will will wash and dry, which for $11 for a load they'd better. But then the place in Prague said they would dry too, and I got wet clothes back.

From Zagreb to Ljubljana 

Since I last wrote....

I went from Zagreb to Plitvice lakes, which is quite nice. Lots of green lakes and waterfalls. Lots and lots of them. Gets a little repetitive actually. But if you like green lakes and waterfalls, it's a great place to go. Also, if you like fat German tourists, a great place to go. Lots of them to.

From there I went to Zadar, my first sighting of the Adriatic. A nice, charming old town. My landlady spoke almost no English, but she was able to convey that her son lives in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Then it was off to Paklenice National Park, limestone mountains right on the seacoast. Nice mountains, but a little warm and dry for me. I went up fairly high and never saw consistent Pine or Fir forest, although there were a few trees here and there. But mostly deciduous trees(of I don't know what type). The trail took me up through Paklenice gorge, which appears to be the premier rock-climbing destination in Croatia, at least based on all the people rock-climbing there.

I spent the night in Borisov Dom, a mountain hut in the park, and then hiked the 10km out of the park, headed for Rab island. I was able to get the bus headed north towards Jablanac, but it wasn't clear how I would get to the ferry and on to Rab Town. No one seemed to know and all I got from the information lines I tried calling was people speaking confusedly in German at me.

At the drop off point in Jablanac I saw nothing, so I started walking. That was 4km down to the ferry. I took the ferry across and there was essentially nothing on the other side, so I headed for Rab town. It was 10km to Rab town and I never did see a bus pass me headed the same way I was going. So, 24km of walking in all, but at least Rab town was pretty nice.

I got a private room on the waterfront with it's own bathroom and little balcony. My landlady spoke absolutely no English, and also had no son in Rancho Palos Verdes, but she was very nice. Rab town was a very charming ancient old town, with stone churches and buildings and narrow little cobblestone alleyways all along a penninsula on Rab island.

After two nights in Rab, I took the catamaran to Rijeka, and a train to Ljubljana. The latter shared by, in succession, two very talkative Slovenes. The first spoke essentially no English, but still seemed very keen to carry on a conversation.

Ljubljana itself is very charming, if somewhat sleepy town. Everything is closed on Sunday.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


From Zagreb to Ljubljana 

Well, I just wrote a very long and involved post about my travels so far. And F**king blogger ate it.

So just imagine you see that here.

Maybe I'll write it later.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Zagreb 

Zagreb is both more expensive and more westernized and English speaking than Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics.

That being said, I think the clerk at the bus station tried to rip me off. The cost for the ticket was 59k, and I gave her a 200k note. She gave me back 41k. I thought for a second, then complained that I had given her a 200k note. She looked at the money and than made like she had made a mistake and gave me another 100k note(about 18 dollars). I'm sure it was an innocent mistake....

In other notes, I've seen a lot of digital dishes in Eastern Europe in general. Even in the middle of the countryside along the train routes in Hungary.

And the weather? Hot and muggy now.

Hungary pictures are here. Zagreb is here.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Zagreb 

Had to get up at 6 to make the 7am train. The trains always seem to be leaving at 7 or 8, and the next one will be at like 1. They never seem to leave at a reasonable hour, like 9 or 10. And the Hungarians just smoke on the train, they don't much seem to care about the no-smoking signs.

Just got to Zagreb, Croatia. Already I have noticed that it seems more expensive, I've moved into the high-rent part of Europe, it seems.

Finally I'm getting some laundry done, and I'm doing two nights here. Then, maybe a flight to Dubrovnik, or on to Plitvice lakes.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Paych 

Pecs(pronounced PayCH), Hungary is a very pleasant little city. Lots of churches, including one which was converted from a mosque. Very touristy, but very few, if any, of the people are American, or even English. The owner of my room keeps trying to speak to me in German, I'm not sure she understands that is a different language from English. It's all non-Hungarian to her.

Still, in sleepy little Pecs, I've managed to find, by complete accident, an internet cafe that is much faster than anything I used in Budapest. Slovak pictures are up here. Zagreb tomorrow (train leaves at 7:05, arrrgh.)

Friday, May 20, 2005


Budapest 

From the rough guide, p.50
However, a new phenomenon has hit the streets of Budapest in recent years, that of the "consume girls", who target solo male foreigners. A couple of attractive young ladies (they're very easy to spot) will approach you, typically along Vaci utca, get talking and, without wasting any time, "invite you" for a drink in a bar of their choice. A few drinks later you'll find yourself presented with a bill somewhat bigger than you bargained for and be strong-armed into paying up.
and yes, I was in that area, and I was approached. It was pretty obvious, and I think I would have assumed it was a scam even if I hadn't been warned. For the record, they weren't that attractive.

That certainly didn't do much to allay my feeling that this entire city is out to get your money. Things are more expensise than Prague, and it just feels intimidating. In general, not as nice as Prague, although it is actually a cool city, but it suffers comparatively. It hasn't helped that the weather has been craptacular. It was pouring rain when I arrived, and has only cleared up this afternoon. At least my ATM card works here, which it didn't for not entirely understood reasons in Slovakia.

Oh, one thing Hungary has going for it, I have yet to hear that stupid Green Day song in this country.

I go to Pecs tomorrow, and then Zagreb. I have uploaded Slovakia pictures but haven't had a chance to go through and rotate the sideways pictures and otherwise format them. This is the slowest internet I've ever used, by a lot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Weather again.. 

I went up into the Tatras and spent a night up at the Teryho Chata. It was beautiful, but the higher passes are all closed because of snow. There was a lot of snow just getting up there. I was woken up by thunder, and the place was socked in by clouds. It cleared up some over the day, but rain is forecast for the next four days. I'm not hanging around waiting for it to change, so I'm going on to Budapest.

One thing I didn't mention last time was that I was eating dinner in a restaurant in Poprad and there was a television out, and the weather forecast was given by a man in drag. Not sure what that means. But I felt like I had to mention it.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Slovakia 

Well, I went to Bratislava from Prague. Turns out they have card readers here. They´re integrated into the computers. although the people working at the internet cafe seemed unaware of their existence, they work just fine.

It´s quite a bit smaller and sleepier. There´s a touristy town center that´s pretty charming, but it´s clear that most of the town is drabber and ... more communist I guess I would say. It does appear to be a city of ice cream. I think I saw an ice store on every corner. It´s about 25 cents for a scoop, although the scoops are tiny, so it´s not quite the deal it first appears.

I say the town center is touristy, but you actually hear very little english. Most of the people seem like they are speaking something slavic. I don´t know if they are actually Slovak, or Czech, or what. There are I think fewer english speakers in Bratislava than in Prague. Bratislava does seem safer than Prague, and the train station is run down and drab, but not scary. There is, however, a lot of graffiti, like in Prague.

I met with some friends of a friend in Bratislava, and we had a nice time. We were watching the ice hockey championships on a tv in the bar, and I asked the Slovakian girl who she wanted to win(between Sweden and Czech) and she said Sweden. I said, "because they are playing Czech?" and she said "yes".

I´m in Poprad now, a very sleepy but nice town. I got here yesterday on a Sunday, and everything was closed. I think there are even fewer English speakers here. I´m off to the mountains now.

Here´s my Czech pictures

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Frickin' savages.... 

So, apparently, there are no flash card readers in the Czech Republic. Not in the internet cafes, anyway. I tried three different ones and they all acted like it was some extraordinary request. The Czech republic is the wealthiest and most western of the eastern european countries, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is also the case in Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia. So no more pictures for now. My biggest concern is that I'll run out of space on the card. Maybe I could buy a card reader...

Anyway, a few more notes on Prague.

I had been told horror stories about pickpockets and gypsies in Prague, so I've been paranoid about it, but I have to say I haven't noticed anything. I haven't really been in a position that I had to worry about it, no thick crowds. Maybe it's worse on the weekends.

I will say that there are many more beggars than Vienna(there were a few around the train stations) There are the kind of normal beggars I'm used to who come up and hassle you, but there are also the beggars who prostrate themselves on the ground holding a hat in front of them. That's kind of odd to see. It's not like the streets are thick with them. This isn't India. But there are more than I'm used to. I should also add that the main train station is grim and dismal and dirty and depressing. It doesn't really make you feel comfortable. But I've never felt unsafe here.

Tonight I tried a mexican restaurant in Prague. They served bread before the meal. It didn't get better from there. Honestly, that's pretty much what I expected, but I just had to try it.

Long time 

Ok, been a while. I've been very busy.

Last notes on Austria- The subway in Vienna is very good and easy to use, although it shuts down around 12:30 at night, which can be a pain if you miss it and have to walk. The countryside around Vienna is very nice. As I left by train we went through rolling forested hills dotted with adorable houses. Pretty much all of the houses and buildings in Austria seem to be out of a storybook. You could turn just about any of them into a high priced B&B. There may be a bad area of Austria or Vienna, but I have yet to see it.

As you cross the border into the Czech Republic, there is a noticable decline. There are a lot more run down houses, rusty industrial sites and trainyards. It is immediately clear that you are entering a poorer country. Even so, it's still pretty pleasant countryside, which seems to be dominated by some kind of yellow flower that fills most of the fields.

The other significant change that struck me is that far fewer people speak english. Pretty much everybody in Vienna spoke English, but I've run into several situations where the people in important customer service postions spoke little or no English. The woman in the information booth in Ceske Budejovice spoke no english, and the clerk at the train station in Ceske Krumlov spoke very little english. Still, they were mostly friendly and I managed fine. I was speaking with someone who said she had encountered many Czechs who were very rude and unhelpful, but I can't say I've had that problem. (Although I should say they don't really understand the concept of service very well here, but that's kind of normal outside of the US)

I travelled to Ceske Krumlov, which is a medieval town, pretty much existing entirely for tourists. It's a beautiful little town, and remarkably quiet and uncrowded. Narrow cobblestone streets, very old buildings, my hostel was in this old building with an uneven floor- it appeared to be built directly on an old street. Weird little archways, stairways that go up, down, over. There was this elaborate painting on the ceiling of my room that must have been hundreds of years old. There's a great castle that looms over the town.

After Krumlov, I went to Prague. Fairly crowded and touristy, although not quite as much as I had been led to believe. The first hostel I checked had nothing, but an American girl I met said she knew of one place that still had vacancies, and we headed there. It turned out very well, as it's a really nice place, the nicest hostel I've been in so far, and it has free internet(although no card reader, so I'll have to got to an Internet cafe for that). Prague is great. Lot's of churches, great old gothic and baroque buildings everywhere, Charles bridge. It's all great, and it just goes forever in all directions.

I've been told that Prague is much more expensive than it used to be, but it's still honestly quite cheap. My bed is about $18 a night, and food is very inexpensive. I had a good meal at a very nice restaurant last night and it cost me about $8, and you can easily get full meals for half that. The subway costs about 50 cents for a long ride, or 35 cents for a short hop.

The subway here in Prague is good and fairly easy to use, but it has it's quirks. The subway stations in Vienna had a board that displayed the amount of time until the next train. The stations here in Prague display the time since the last train, an impressively useless piece of information.

The weather has been getting better, although it's supposed to be sunny right now, and it's actually mostly cloudy. On to Bratislava tomorrow.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Photos 

Ok, Viennas up.

Using these German language keyboards is a real pain.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Vienna 

Yes, I'm here. After a long, but not too unpleasant flight(and surprisingly uneventful, considering what went on before the flight), I arrived in Vienna, wondered around for about an hour before I found my hostel, and then went to sleep.

On the flight from London to Vienna, the clouds parted enough for me to European countryside from 30000 feet up, the first time I have seen it. As a result of years of playing world war 2 airplane simulators, my first impulse was to start bombing. But I couldn't find the button...

Vienna was pretty much exactly as I expected it to be. Lots of palaces, churches, impressive stone buildings. Generally clean and efficient. The Austrians are polite, but not exactly... friendly. You get the sense sometimes that you're messing up their smooth-running little germanic state. Anyway, lots of palaces and churches later, I'm about done with Vienna, I should leave for Ceske Krumlov tomorrow.

Other notes, the little Euro 1 cent coins are just adorable. And the weather here has been pretty crappy, cold, windy, wet. I thought it would be warmer here than Denver. I was wrong.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Pay homage! 

I just want everybody to know that I just got a score of 959 and 100% correct on the level 9 game here.

I was helped by a lucky order of countries(the countries on the ocean are easier to place, and once you have them in the map, the other countries become easier) and some practice(I've done this about a dozen times in the last week). Still, try and beat it.(and, it should go without saying that I used no outside reference materials.)

Update:
I just played again and got a score of 978. I'm on a roll here.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Funny 

This is funny-
Pile On®: All right, looks like we have to take a commercial break. We'll be right back.

Commercial: Are you frustrated with your blogging software? Do you find yourself...

John: Yeah, I am.

Commercial: Excuse me, but I wasn't talking to you.

John: Sorry, you asked a question, so I answered it.

Commercial: I wasn't asking you a question, this is a commercial.

John: Well, you should make that clear.

Commercial: How am I supposed to make that clear? I'm pre-recorded.

John: Well, pre-recorded or not, when you ask a question...

Commercial: It's a commercial, you moron. Commercials use rhetorical questions.

John: I don't care what...

Pile On®: Wait. If this is pre-recorded, how are you answering him?

John: Hey Pile, do you mind? We're in the middle of something here.
(via ACE)

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