Ah! Due to my absolute lack of wifi, I’ve decided to write a collection of short blog entries to document this trip across Europe, to be presented below. It’s essentially driving me crazy not being able to connect my computer to the internet. I’ve got lovely images and thoughts to share, but can’t transfer the work. Argh!
On the other hand, I am enjoying myself on this trip. There are times when – normally – I’d be the one in the front seat beside Zsolt (driver) saying “turn right here!” or “there’s a parking spot!” but not this journey. This journey, I’m the one in the back seat sleeping. It’s gorgeous.
Both Zsolt and I have been here before, we’ve seen the little pissing boy, tasted the crunchy waffles and snapped photos of the flower market, which means arriving today was nice but not totally novel. Most of the day was spent trying to find a free toilet (impossible), followed by trying to find a gyro stand. Therefore, most of the day was wasted wandering the same 200m by 200m area over and over till all our goals were accomplished. Afterward we visited the Arcade, which is basically an old-fashioned mall with very high, glass ceilings and the most beautiful store fronts you could ask for. Inside the arcade were chocolate shops, book shops, toy stores and jewellery boutiques, all quite standard for that higher class of shopping that generally fills these kinds of places (arcades are far more charming than malls, there’s such a lovely aesthetic to the place that despite affording nothing, I still really enjoy to visit). And then it was time to go back home. As the car navigated through rush hour, I spotted the hostel where Daniel (my little brother) and I originally stayed while first visiting Brussels. Across from the hostel is a park filled with lovely animal statues, and it made me smile to remember Dan perched on top of the lion giving a roar for the camera. Geez lousie, that was almost six years ago now – but visiting this city makes it all so fresh in my mind.
Good times seem to linger in my memory.
And now it’s about nine twenty pm, Zsolt is sleeping beside me and I’m about to head to bed too. This day has been tiring (I’m out of shape, tourist-wise) and tomorrow promises to be another long haul. We’re off bright and early to Amsterdam (see below) to visit the canal, bakeries, and indiscrete prostitution. This will be my second time in Amsterdam. I hope to visit an internet cafe, sample some hot beverage, and just enjoy the beautiful city. People might assume it’s all about sex and drugs, but really – Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit. And so, to bed. Tomorrow is another big day.
The car has broken down. We were driving back from Amsterdam when this little gas tank light turned on, and shortly afterward the engine started to sound funny. Luckily, apart from one moment where everything went silent and the car stopped running, we were able to return to the house where we’re staying. That’s the good news. Bad news, it’s tipping onto a 4-day long weekend here in Belgium, meaning we’re potentially screwed in terms of servicing the car, meaning our Euro-road trip is also potentially screwed.
Amsterdam was beautiful as always – but too full of memories. Maybe if I’d had more time I could have stewed in the nostalgia, but as it was – the meat was tough and I had trouble enjoying myself (contrasting then/now and missing my little brother and thinking about that sweet little baby I’d met in the morning, plus starting to realizing I’m not going to see my friends again for quite some time. Can anyone say, ‘pity party’?). This is the city where I decided to stick with Zsolt (nearly six years ago), but today it was the city where I moped. Sometimes it’s hard to be happy. Apart from when we rented a paddle boat and cruised the canals, that was good fun and reasonably priced . . . and the French fries. Oh my G, they were amazing. I went back for seconds.
Zsolt’s sister and brother-in-law have called the insurance company and they’re trying to find a garage to service the vehicle. However, the problem remains: today (Thursday) is a bank holiday, meaning most garages will also take tomorrow (Friday) as a holiday. Will we get our car serviced? Is Cologne, Dresden, and Prague off the menu for this journey? We’ll see.
In the meanwhile I’ve been graced with internet – though yet to actually have access to the computer. I had been hoping for wifi, but at this point will take whatever is available. Zsolt has a portable hard drive so I can transfer my files to the actual computer.
Maybe today I’ll take a walk outside.
04/06/2011 – Belgium to Germany to Austria to Hungary
How is it possible to cover several countries in one day? By driving straight through them. Unfortunately the mechanic could only apply a temporary fix to the car, and so we’ve decided it’s most practical to go straight home. Bye bye Cologn, Dresden and Prague – maybe we’ll meet again some other time? I feel badly for Zsolt’s sister and brother-in-law because this was their holiday. Zsolt and I are still easy riding in the car’s backseat, and apart from facing a 12 hour (or plus) drive, everything’s feeling fine. My little episode with the baby proved not to stick, because I saw the tiny lady again and this time everything went well. She was entirely charming and I didn’t feel one bit of sadness. Maybe I was just having a bad day when we first met.
Now we’re in the car cruising across Germany, which is, didn’t you know, huge. Not Canada huge, but Europe huge. I’ve heard the cities and food in Germany are great, but they’ll have to wait for another occasion because at the moment I’m looking at field after field of green, with pit stop menus and pay toilets along the way.
Secretly I’m quite excited to arrive in Hungary, and hold no grudge that we’ll be returning sooner than planned. Those sweet lawns of Balaton are calling my name: “Catherine, Catherine, come swim in the water,” and the temperature has jumped up many degrees in the past few days. It really, truly feels like summer.
I enjoyed Belgium, despite the car troubles, and was very happy for the rest. Sometimes in planning a trip, actual ‘resting’ gets factored out of the equation. It’s terrible that the Euro-holiday has been cancelled, but if we had to get stranded, I’m quite happy it was with a kind family, in a beautiful home, with a cherry tree in the backyard and an amazing bakery around the corner (okay, so that’s gluten, but it’s also a holiday). Can’t say Zsolt and I will ever buy a hundred year old house with twelve-foot ceilings, but you never know. The main vibe about the place was ‘home sweet home’– which I’m forever seeking though have made considerable peace with – and no matter where we end up (whatever building – cottage in Balaton, apartment in the city, basement in the suburbs) I hope we can make it loved-filled, family-gathering, and with simple charm like that house in Belgium.
Now to Hungary. To arriving. To Zsolt’s parents, and, mostly likely, to a steaming pot of goulash.
And here we are on the porch. Last night’s drive lasted about 13.5 hours, which is enough to flatten anyone’s ass into a pancake. But it wasn’t a bad day, and this morning is the pay off. On the front porch table is a bowl of deep red cherries, and beside that a bowl of aging strawberries. Behind me are not-yet-ready fruit trees with budding pears and plums. Hungary has its pros and cons, but the gardens are most certainly lovely.
Everyone around me is speaking Hungarian, and maybe I can understand one word per sentence. Okay, I’ll listen in right now – these are the words I understand:
One, two only, no, colours, oh how nice, Volvo, car, 170 kilometres, cherries, in Canada, two hundred, Balaton, one thousand, money, gasoline, two litres, four hours, more Volvo talk and stuff about gas mileage . . . and so on. From context, I judge this conversation to revolve around cars, the comparison of cars (it was an Opel that broke down during this trip, just four years old too. That’s the third Opel to break down. Time to switch companies, maybe try a Volvo like Zsolt’s father’s car).
And apart from that everything’s great – smooth and easy goes the day. Plus no one minds that I’m sitting here clacking away at the computer.
So I guess that’s the end of this trip. Not what I’d expected, but who cares. I feel sorry for Zsolt’s sis and bro-in-law, but it sure is nice here on the balcony.
(Confirmed goulash for lunch. We have indeed arrived in Hungary!)
See you laters, alligators.