Julianne’s Blog

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The western part of eastern Europe… with another German. 16 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:59 PM
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After checking out a children’s concert at a Polish cultural festival, I hopped on a bus for Budapest. The road took us through Slovakia and was really a beautiful drive. I got to Budapest around midnight and eventually found a hostel with space.

Budapest was really gorgeous. The Duna River (what the Danube goes by in that neck of the woods) divides the Buda and Pest sections of the city, and there are benches lined up all along both banks. The light was always golden and it was wonderfully warm–perfect conditions for kicking back with an old paperback and some pálinka.

Ah, pálinka… A Hungarian specialty. Most people think this fruit brandy is just too sweet, but boy I couldn’t get enough. My favorite flavor was the apricot, which incidentally is called Barack. I picked up a bottle of this, as well as the plum variety, to share with my dad in Paris in 2 weeks. In my hostel was a 51 year old Iranian woman named Banash. She kept me and the Spanish couple in our room fascinated with her travel adventures from around the world. One night she and I went out for pálinka, beers, and some live local music. And then there were the souvenirs… the only time in Europe I bought that much stuff, but all those handmade crafts! I was like a sitting duck, and I can’t say I’m sorry about it. All in all, it was a very laid back time in Budapest.

I got up one morning and decided to split town, so I took a train south to Pécs. This is going to be the European Cultural Capital of 2010, so I figured I had to check it out before it became jaded from fame. I met a German girl on the bus to the hostel, and there we picked up an English guy, and the three of us headed out for some grub. I finally had some gulas, and the restaurant gave us all free shots of pálinka with our beers. Can you see where this is going? Afterwards Anna, Alan, and I went to a bar recommended by our hostel receptionist. When we walked in he was sitting at the bar, happy that we took his advice. Time for more pálinkas, the bartender’s favorite. Then Anna suggested that Alan and I try Unicom. It’s another Hungarian thing, and I can’t really describe it as anything but horrible. Beers immediately followed to wash out the taste. A few hours later the three of us stumbled back to the hostel while the receptionist stayed behind to hold down the bar.

feast

The next day we did some exploring. Pécs is a small town, so there wasn’t much to do besides relax. After Anna headed off in her own direction, Alan and I grabbed 2 bottles of Hungarian wine and a frozen pizza and camped out on the balcony of our room. There was one other guest in another room, and the receptionist had disappeared again, so we blasted the Hungarian jazz and drank the night away. The resulting hang-over of 2 nights’ drinking was whiled away on an ancient Communist train through Hungary, across Croatia, and finally into Ljubljana around 3 AM.

So after a few hours’ sleep I headed out this morning into the bright Slovenian morning. I wandered around the center of this little city (about 240,000 people) and was about to grab a sandwich when I heard some music coming off the street. A group of 7 Hare Krishnas were strolling down the pedestrian streets, singing, playing an accordian, beating on drums, tinkling tinklers, and handing out literature. Now, there are two lessons I’ve learned well in my life. Number 1 comes from traveling, and that is to never pass up an opportunity, because even if the opportunity is still there tomorrow you may not be. Number 2 comes from growing up in New Orleans: When you see a parade of happy musicians coming your way, you join in. So we all made our way dancing and singing through the streets, drawing stares, smiles, and lots of people looking away embarassed. I was the only one not dressed up as a Hare Krishna, but I enjoyed my special walking tour of the city. Eventually we ended up at the temple, where the music continued and the dancing got good.

You can’t be a good dancer on an empty stomach, so next came my favorite part of the Hare Krishna, that delicious vegetarian meal. Today’s lunch was speghetti made by one of the devotees (and I mean he did more than boil the water) and it was all organic. I whiled away a couple hours at a picnic table with my host Petra and some of the other Kirshna ladies. Tomorrow they’ve asked me to return for another program and meal, and afterwards I will go north to Lake Bled, hopefully getting a ride from one of the devotees. Ooh yeah.

So Ljubljana is a nice little city. It’s very green–the huge park with open fields, the trees everywhere, and even the river is emerald. I had a great afternoon walking around enjoying the weather, passing street musicians and a couple weddings. I bought some new pants since my last pair split a few days ago, completely worn out. There was a plate of crispy calamari in there somewhere. And coming up next is a bar with a rock band. And I guess a drink or two.

Ljubljana

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Another weekend, another spontaneous festival with Germans 9 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:47 AM
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They say that Germans are magnets for other Germans, and damn if it’s not true. And it’s great that I show up on that Ger-dar, not as a full-fledged German, but as I say, I like the Germans and they like me. Not like those Spanish…
Yesterday I had to move to a different room in the hostel, to the last free bed, because of course even when I arrive at the hostel without a reservation I don’t know how many days I’m staying, so I usually only pay one day at a time (which sometimes means I don’t have a bed, but also this confusion sometimes results in the receptionist forgetting to charge me). In my new room was a hung-over German who immediately invited me to party with his friends for the day. My plan was to spend the day reading in the park, but this sounded good too. This was 11h00.

So we tumbled out into the main square where there just happened to be a huge festival celebrating Krakow’s students. We grabbed some beer, a brand called Redd that mixes beer with juice for some delicious mixes, and met up with the other Germans. About this time German-Boy-Robin (Herr Robin to distinguish him from all the other Robins I have) and I thought to introduce ourselves. When the other Germans found out that I had visited their hometown Regensburg (remember the mushroom cafe?) they were delighted, and the day began.

We spend a couple hours at the concert in the main square, where the city’s students had decked themselves out in some silly costumes. It was like Mardi Gras on Frenchman Street, but smaller, daylight, more sober (sorry guys, but I believe NOLA can outdrink every other city in the world) and no drugs. Then we grabbed some spicy kebabs, which Herr Robin complained about for the next 12 hours, met up with a giant brick wall of a Dane, and hopped a bus out to Nova Huta, the communist district of Krakow. There, behind the Real Hypermarche, in an abandoned airfield, was a huge concert. We grabbed some more beers, got some new sunglasses, a 18″ hotdog, and settled down.

My new friends

new shoes!

I saw a band called Lady Pank, which seems to be Poland’s answer to the Rolling Stones complete with a creepy Mick Jagger, and then a German punk band called Die Toten Hosen, or the Dead Pants. Boy, did those Krakow students love those bands. I’d never heard of them before, but apparently they are each countries’ most popular group.

At this point it was about 1 am and I was still wearing the sundress I’d set off in at noon. I was cold and exhausted. We grabbed a taxi back into the city center and then did what all hip European kids do on a Friday night: McDonald’s. And boy, were those nuggets tasty. There were 2 police stationed in the McD’s making sure no one laughed too loud or sat on the counter, and it is my opinion that their power made them crazy. Too much authority. About 2h30 I got into my bed. Herr Robin and I had parted ways; he was heading out to a club. Crazy Germans.

So in a couple hours I take a bus south to Budapest. I’ve got my last 15 PLN (about $5) to spend. I already came across 2 shirts in the perfect shade of yellow, and I’ve been looking for a perfect shade of yellow T shirt in my size for months, so now I have 2. It’s a sunny day, the tourists are clogging the streets, and I’m going to eat a mango gelato and watch it all.

Also, I am so pleased that I got my brother the perfect birthday present from Poland…

Other things that make my life possible: travel spacebags, Diva cup, USAA bank which allows me to make unlimited international transactions, including cash withdrawls, for no fees, lightload towels (although now I want the beach towel!), and Rick Steves.

 

Polska Kielbasa is my favorite sausage. 5 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:29 PM
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Last night, on somewhat short notice, I got on the night train from Prague to Krakow. Just like when I went to Germany, I was able to have a compartment all to myself. I was really excited about finally heading east, into the unknown, and as the train pulled out of the station I closed th hall curtains, opened my window, and cranked up the iPod. Creedenc, the Allman Brothers, and Neil Young was a perfect combination, perfect for the landscape, and the moon was bright, and I sang out the open window to the passing Czech towns.

My hostel in Krakow is another gem! Also super cheap–40 zloty is less that $13 a night! It is right on the Kosciol Mariacki, which is the largest medieval square in Europe. Also in the square is the Cloth Hall, which is filled with stalls selling tacky Polish suvenirs, and of course I love that. I walked around the Jewish Quarter this afternoon, or what used to be the Jewish Quarter. There aren’t any more Jews in that ghetto, or really anywhere else in Poland. I just read Maus, and in a couple days I’m going to go over to Auschwitz, so it’s going to be pretty heavy. Until then, my knee still hurts and I’m thinking about getting a massage, because I need to walk! Also, I am terribly frustrated by the lack of suitable underwear in this city–I need new drawers!

So I’m just relaxing for a bit, then I will head to the restaurant downstairs for some dumplings and to taste some Polish flavored vodka. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a long night.

 

Český Krumlov bedtime stories 1 February 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 6:11 PM
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When I arrived in Prague, Izzy told me I could basically ride the trams for free, because there was rarely anyone to check for tickets. Super. About 4 days into my visit we were riding the tram when Izzy suddenly pulled me off at a stop because a ticket checker had just got on. Well, no problem. Later that night, as I and some friends were waiting for a tram, we noticed two suspicious looking guys staring at us. We were pretty sure they were ticket takers (and we were not going to pay the 18 Kc for a ticket) so we walked. Next day, Izzy and I got caught without tickets. The guy followed me off the tram when I told him I didn’t have any money, but he wound up taking 18 crowns instead of the 700 fine he tried to shove in my face. Izzy has a pass card that she uses, but she doesn’t put any money on it. When it gets scanned and read as empty, she says her work is supposed to pay it and she gets off. The next day we got caught again! I spotted this guy as soon as he got on, but it was too late for me to get off. I fumbled around and Izzy distracted him with her card until the next stop when I slipped off, but he wouldn’t let her go, so I just followed the tracks until I found her again. They are cracking down on the trams in Prague! So now I am actually buying tickets, but I feel lame.

Well, after our tram adventure, we got back to Izzy’s apartment to find her dog Buddy acting very strange. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw an open tupperware on the floor. A tupperware I had brought from Amsterdam. A tupperware that had been filled with space cake. It was then that I noticed the brownie vomit all over the floor, and I realized why the dog was swayed just as he started pissing all over the apartment. That dog had just eaten a lot of space cake. A LOT. I weigh about 3x as much as Buddy, and I was pretty freaked out after eating just 1. The dog ate 3. He couldn’t stand up straight or keep still. He had thrown up all over the place, and he wasn’t done.

So. $25 of brownies. Gone. I had been saving them for a special occasion. Gone. They were wrapped in Saran, in a tupperware, in a plastic bag, but the dog got through all of that and ATE MY SPECIAL BROWNIES. Of course I felt really bad that my stuff had made the dog sick, and I’m really glad that he’s totally fine now, but there were regular brownies sitting out on the table. But no, Buddy wanted a trip. And he sure got one. So not only did I not get to eat my very expensive, very potent brownies, but no one got to enjoy them! At the end of the night, there was one really freaked out dog and lots of vomit and piss. Bummer.

Now however, that is behind me, and I am in Český Krumlov. Talk about gorgeous! It reminds me a lot of Helen, GA, which is scary because this is the real thing. There’s a castle, a big church, the winding Vltava River, and tiny stores on the cobblestone streets. I am the only guest of the Merlin Hostel, and the bed I picked for myself is right against the heater and under the window, so I get to look out and watch this little fairytale town that is glittering with powdery snow and listen to the churchbells. It really is spectacular, and for $12 a night! But actually, I am going back to Prague tomorrow afternoon. I just wanted to give Izzy and her boyfriend Czech Robert (think real hard before you ask why I call him that) some space in that tiny apartment before I settle down for another 4 or 5 days of sleeping in their kitchen and potentially poisoning their dog.

Also I should say to make my parents feel better that pot for personal use is legal in Czech Republic (and I think feeding it to dogs counts as personal use). No laws broken!