Buda to the Pest: Part 1 – The Road is Long

As I noted in some earlier post, I have indeed also exited the borders of Berlin during this Spring ( and not only by falling asleep on a train and ending up in a neighboring city!)

I had the choice of booking flights to see reindeer and snow up north in Lapland, for the first of May, however my budget disagreed with those plans like a football(soccer for ya Yanks) player would disagree with a ref after receiving a red card. Nevertheless I was determined to go somewhere outside of the big B.  A couple of my Slovenian friends had tried for a couple of months to get me to join them for a bit of R & R  for 5 days in Budapest, Hungary. I proposed the trip to my Irish mate, Daragh,  and sure enough he was in! On one condition though….. that we go by bus.

For those who don’t know, a bus trip to Budapest (via Prague) takes around 10-12 hrs, so needless to say we had planned that we would enjoy a few drinks on the way and watch the movies that were promised to shown on the webpage of the bus company. As the day of the trip dawned upon us, we headed to the western part of Berlin to catch our banana yellow bus, anxiously waiting to get on and continue our sleep, which was rudely interrupted by the early (7 AM, yes not that early for most people) wake-up.  Although the bus seemed to be nice, I couldn’t have help of thinking that we were crossing a border to the unknown, having to even flash our passports at the door. The only reason that I could make up for them to check my passport, was to confirm that the young dorky looking kid on my drivers licence was in fact me. As I sat down it didn’t take long for me to visit the sandman once again and I was knocked out for at least a straight hour immediately.

Our first leg of the journey was from Berlin to Prague. During this 4 hrs was shown a lot of promising looking, English language films, which we now and again glanced at in between sleeping and trying to find a “comfortable” position on the upright positioned seats. After 4 hrs of bumpy roads and some well earned extra time sleeping, we arrived in Prague, where we were due to switch to a coach that would bring us to Budapest. We had 1,5hrs to spend in Prague, which was enough to get an understanding of some of the streets and find an establishment to serve our ever growing hunger and thirst.

Daragh trying to scout our way to food

Dwelling on the streets looking for food and trying to solve the mystery of the “unknown currency” and it’s rate, I decided it was a good time to try and take a couple of pictures as well. Aside from maybe the fact of forgetting my camera battery at home (which happens surprisingly often) the second most annoying thing to notice when turning on the camera is the ” No Memory Card” text flashing on the screen, as if the camera itself was trying to “rub it in your face” even more that you had in fact forgotten one of the most integral parts of your appliance at home. Having forgotten my card at home, we headed with my friend from the home of Guinness to a local electronics store and simply bought a card, which would play home for the pictures to be taken on this euro trip of ours. Having now solved the case of the missing memory card, there was still two cases left unsolved:    A: What the heck is the currency here(sorry I know I should know this) and how does it translate to our struggling European currency and B: Where do we find food?

Currency exchange shops were by the dozens, being a touristic area where we were. We randomly selected one and entered the shop, unknowingly interrupting the clerk’s “movie moment”, as he had to serve us. After a moment of struggling with languages, we exited the shop with a bunch of money that were rather new to both of us: Czech Korunas and Hungarian Florents. Having completed this seemingly easy task it was now time for us to feast somewhere. We ended up finding a rather nice place with a good bargain deal of a good meal and beverage for roughly €5. Having now lived in Germany for nearly a year, I’ve come accustomed to ordering stuff in the local language, however as neither Daragh or me knew a word of Czech, I had to result to the typical tourist phrase ” ummm… do you speak English?”  Judging by the reaction received from the waitress, I felt I had almost offended the young girl, having assumed apparently that it was not a norm that people spoke the language that has almost become the lingua franca of the world. At this point I have to complement the Czechs that they are really good at speaking the language. In every shop, restaurant we went, people spoke English. Perhaps this is because the area was, as mentioned, mainly occupied with tourist, but I’d like to think the average level of English is rather good in the Czech Republic.

Lunch was accompanied by a local beer, which I have to say had the funniest logo I’ve ever seen. I mean, a guy with a beer in his hand, wearing a shirt with a picture of a tiger!

Now that our stomachs we’rent waging war on us anymore, we had just enough time to pop by a local “kwik-e-mart” and grab some snacks and beverages to enjoy with the movies, which looked promising earlier.  We climbed on-board the coach and were greeted by the well functioning air-conditioning, which was more than welcome, seeing that it was +30 and rising outside.

As we sat down everything seemed to be good and going according to plan….for a short moment.  Sure enough, as we drove out of the bus terminals, the hostess on-board foiled our plans of enjoying a couple of “brewskies” by announcing that own drinks weren’t allowed, or at least that was what I could make out of the announcement, which had a lengthy calm paced Czech (??) part and a very concise English part, which seemed to have been spoken in fastforward mode, just for the sake of confusing all the non-Czech speaking passengers on-board. Luckily we had packed a bottle of water with us, so that we didn’t have to suffer from thirst. As often with things in life, mishaps have a tendency to come in bundles. The blinking screens in front of us soon started to play a movie, I say a movie because I could not possibly have the slightest clue what this, apparently legendary Czech, film was called. Nor did we even had such luck that we would have some subtitles to explain why the boy ran through the forests for hours in this production of probably the late 70’s. As the only option started to seem to be sleep, we tried our luck at it. Needless to say also the option of sleeping was taken away, being kept awake by, what I can only assume was a heated discussion by our neighbors over who is the loudest on the bus,  I came to terms with the fact that this was going to be a long ride to Budapest…

To Be Continued. Oh, and the next post(s) will have more pictures as well.

Advertisements

“Be Yourself Days” or Karneval der Kulturen, as they say here.

Every spring when the sun has started to become a frequent friend and the temperatures are rising like a souffle in an oven, Berliners living in Kreuzberg clear the streets of cars, not in fear of them getting burnt as usual, but to make space for the 3 day street party that is the Karneval der Kulturen.

I could go on and on about how the whole carnival got started, but to be honest my timetable doesn’t really enable me to research the party in too detail. All I can say for sure is that it started in 1996 to celebrate cultural diversities or a multicultural city as it is. The concept seems to be that people of different unifying factors form floats which then parade through the streets of Xberg and spectators walk along the roads digesting culture through every single sense they can.

The Crossroad at Mehringdamm

Whistles, techno, samba, hiphop, punkrock you name it, you heard everything whilst walking behind other people as if you were a big herd of happy zombies enjoying the awesome weather and good company. Since I’ve been here in Berlin I haven’t seen a gathering of people so large except at Brandenburger tor during the Einheitsfest, but even there people weren’t filling the streets in such lengths as they did this weekend in Kreuzberg.

If you happened to have Kohle (trying to be hip and use German lingo for money) there was sure enough places where you could get rid of your excess cash. Cocktail kiosk, beer booths, grills and obviously the most necessary kiosks of them all: the funny hat/wig stands. Personally I only used the services of one grill to buy myself a big ol’ steak in a bun. Sadly though, I ended up having a rather bloody steak which was impossible to eat thus ended up enjoying a mere “steak flavoured bun”, which I kept telling myself was all I actually wanted and didn’t care for the steak anyway.

Vendors everywhere

The numerous “official” parties were also accompanied by seemingly popup house parties on literally every corner, and yes these parties were not invite only! Not only were people jamming to their pop tunes coming out of their home stereos, own grills were also set up on the street or porches near the said parties, giving the mini-fests a nice smokey aroma.

Houseparties Berlin style

If you happen to be a more of a “I know I can dance guy”, there was plenty of room on the streets to get “jiggy with it”, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air once sung. Probably one of the coolest streets was Zossnerstrasse, just off the main parade road. At times it truly seemed there that we were in a massive outdoor disco, it was ridiculous, in a good way!

Sunny

The fact that people can have so much fun, without causing disturbances or trouble even when enjoying alcohol, is for a Finn almost unheard of. During the whole time I was there (roughly 8hrs) I did not witness a single fight or other violent behavior, maybe it was just luck, but I’d like to imagine it’s something else, it’s the culture. I believe this to be the best part of the Karneval der Kulturen that if it indeed is possible, Berlin felt even just a notch more tolerant than normal which is really impressive seeing that this is by far the most tolerant and peaceful city I’ve been to so far. During these 3 days people could not only come to the streets and be themselves to the fullest, but furthermore they were encouraged to do so, which I can only say is pretty damn awesome.

Jurgen Klinsmann?

Berlinist

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, mainly because I’ve been occupied by my University studies and the seemingly never ending task of finding an internship for the second half of this year.

Although I have not written here, I have still been actively carrying my camera around with me, trying to capture pictures of this wonderful city that is the big B. aka Berlin. During the past few months I have tried to do some “tourist” stuff, usually without success, travelling around the city with a s-bahn,u-bahn, tram or bus to take me further away of the areas where normally even my own two feet would carry me. Even though I’ve spent literally weeks crisscrossing this city, I still have not seen most of the common sightseeing attractions, which might be my task for the summer. For now I’ll just consider myself as a “Berlinist”, being a tourist within this city seeing sights that no one else actually might think to see.

Without really rambling on too much in this post, I’ll just sum up one of my numerous weeks spent here in a couple of words and pictures: I went to an old Stasi prison, a football match and ended up witnessing a fire.

Phew, that was concise wasn’t it? Now for the visuals ( you can prolly link each picture to the appropriate event mentioned):

It's OK

IamJPR

I did actually make one trip even outside of Germany during this spring already, but more on that later on.