Hey all, Jerod here. I apologize for my negligence in blogging duties as of late. After a whirlwind trip back to the US of A (great to see everyone) and all the associated culture shock that came with it (whoa...lots of people speaking fluent English, getting free refills at restaurants, and public restrooms that are free and clean--all items previously taken for granted), I bought a flight to Prague via Dublin, flying out of New York City. As it turns out, however, the airlines had different plans for me. The flight was delayed due to runway maintenance in New York, and by the time I arrived in Dublin I had already missed my connection. It was going to take nearly 36 hours for the next flight to Prague, so I spoke with the airline and changed the ticket for Budapest. The airline gave me some drink vouchers for the trouble...the silver lining was clearing Irish customs and having a Guinness (for free) in Dublin.
I've spent nearly a week in Budapest and I think it's a great city. World class architecture, beautiful views, lots of interesting history--this country (Hungary) and Budapest in particular have been through quite a lot in the last century--literally the front lines of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I've had a chance to visit everything from ex-Gestapo prisons to former Soviet relics, along with the famous Thermal Baths (think of a YMCA but much more formal, and powered by naturally occuring hot springs all through the city). Yesterday I went on a caving trip organized out of the hostel I'm staying at. I can certainly say it is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. As the biggest guy in the group, it's not the most reassuring feeling when the guide says "Ok everyone, if Jerod can make it through this next part, you know you can too." It was a great experience but not something I'm going to need to repeat anytime soon. More so than the sights, I've managed to make some great friends in a short time here--Csaba, Felix, Marcus, Zsuzsi, Melanie, and Scyvia--thanks for all the memories...and Egészségedre!
I left a few items in Sofia, Bulgaria before flying back home, so now I'm in for a couple marathon train rides (about 20 hours each way) to pick my stuff up. Fortunately I've booked a sleeping car and have a few good books, so I should be able to keep sane for the long haul(s). A lot of the initial itinerary has changed over the last week, but that's the beauty of having flexible travel plans.