Bohemian Pubs and American Politics

Last night in Budapest, my friend and I decided to try our chances at a little place called Szimpla Kert. Considered something called a “ruined pub”, Szimpla is part of a network of bars and clubs that specialize in Budapest’s bohemian culture. These establishments are located in abandoned buildings and courtyards throughout the city. They are decorated with a mixture of eccentric art and graffiti.For those of you familiar with Boulder, Colorado, this place would have fit in perfectly on Pearl Street. They serve a large variety of drinks and everyone over the age of 18 is welcome. Tip: It might be a good idea to bring an official form of identification if you plan to visit. Unlike many other establishments in Europe, they check ID for anyone that looks like they might be under 18.

Perhaps my favorite parts of the bars are the variety of people that they draw in and how relaxed everyone seems to be. People from all the world gather, hoping to mingle with interesting people. Compared with other Bars and Clubs that I have been to in Europe, people who come to Szimpla simply want to relax and take a moment to enjoy a chill night out. At the beginning of the night my friend and I were pleased to walk in and hear one of our favorite songs “All Night” playing. Szimpla mostly plays a mix of electro-swing. For anyone unfamiliar with this genre, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C7UgR_sIW0  by Parov Stelar. Although a little quirky, the lyrics and beat are sure to stick with you.

Before we knew it, we had met two students from the United Kingdom and a pair or friends from Canada taking a gap year. Talking to people in environments like this is low key one of my favorite things. Everyone is in a similar situation and everyone clearly has a passion for travel. This combination has always proven itself to make for great conversation. To hear everyone’s backstory and plans for the future of their journey is inspirational. We talked with the two guys from Canada for about an hour. We traded our best travel stories and shred tips about cities. But things really got interesting when they decided to bring up the upcoming American election. To hear an outsider’s perspective on the “circus” that people call the American Election system was humorous. For a while we debated on Hillary’s strengths while my Canadian friend referred to her as the “Attractive Boss Bitch” (he might have been a little intoxicated… to be fair) I found it relieving that everyone else in the world is horrified that we would let Donald Trump get this far in the election and they pass on their sympathies if he wins. One guy even told me that he hopes to visit the states before Donald Trump “takes over” and ruins the country.

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Szimpla during daylight hours. They serve cocktails all day, but they don’t get busy until 11 pm.

 

The Downpour

Today in Budapest was significant  because of the amount of rain that fell. Being from Colorado, my friend and I drastically underestimated the rain in Budapest.

We woke up around 9 that morning and headed across the river to the “Buda” side of Budapest. From there we hiked to the fisherman’s bastion and castle hill. Coming from an elevation of 9,000 feet actually makes life much easier. As we passed other tourists that seemed to be breathing heavily from the hike, we were rolling in the extra oxygen. We felt like super-humans. From the top of the funicular (a little train that takes you up to the top of the hill) the view seems surreal. You can see the entirety of the city on a clear day. After we soaked in the view properly, we headed on to go explore the contents within the castle walls.  Besides pretty buildings and a few nicely kept gardens, there wasn’t too much to see until we finally found a museum, which had been suggested to me by a friend who recently studied abroad here.

Called the “Hospital Museum” it was actually a 5-mile long nuclear-proof bunker the had been transformed throughout that ages by different political parties and governments within Budapest. During its time it served as a hospital for both Soviet troops, nationalists, and German solders as a red cross certified safe place for everyone. Because of its intentional certification, the place was respected and spared by raids. During the later part of ww2 through the end of the cold war, it served as a nuclear-safe bunker.  On the tour, we had the chance to see the old generators, water storage supply units, air circulation systems for the tunnel, and giant diesel fuel tanks that could run everything in case of power loss. Fun Fact: We learned on the tour that the Hungarian word for “radiation” is actually “sugar.” My mind immediately went to “sugar cookies” and I wondered about the confusion and worry this might bring to Hungarian tourists in America.

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This is the entrance to the Hospital Museum / Nuclear Bunker

By the end of the day we ended up outside the Hungarian Parliament. This giant building is actually a little intimidating. Despite the armed guards every couple feet, its gothic pillars and tours accurately represent its prestige. When we sat down to enjoy the view, it had started to sprinkle rain. But by the time my friend and I had made it back to our hotel, we were drenched. My jeans were soaked and I could feel water squish between my toes as I walked. My hair had begun to drip onto my face. It seemed everyone was carrying around umbrellas except for us.  When we made it into the hotel, the front desk assistant gave us a look that might have been a mix of sympathy and disgust at the mud we just tracked into his clean lobby.

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Me, enjoying a calm  drizzle before the downpour.

It is the people who make the trip.

It never really gets old. It seems cliché, but it is true. Every time I fly through Europe to some new and unfamiliar destination, the people I meet amaze me. I don’t really consider myself to be much of a conversationalist but for some reason people always end up talking to me.

Today I was on my way to Budapest, catching a connecting flight through Heathrow, when my friend and I met two distinctive people. The first was a TSA officer who clearly wasn’t in the mood to deal with my optimistic outlook and the second was a Hungarian lady who attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where I currently study.

It wasn’t half an hour into our trip when someone said something strange to me. My best friend and I have this theory; whenever we are together some randomly guy will say something to one of us that takes us completely off guard. This time, it was a TSA officer in Denver. I was about to take off on an international flight with my best friend to explore an exotic city in Eastern Europe. Can you blame me for being excited? Opportunities like this are what I live for. So when he asked me why I was smiling so much, I just told him that I was excited. I wasn’t about to lie to TSA officer! To that, he replied with an overly salty and dramatic response of “Well aren’t you just a cheeseball.” A cheeseball? A cheeseball!! I have been called a lot of things, but this was a first.

For this flight, we took British Airways from Denver to Heathrow The downfall to British Airways is that they always have trouble being on time. Every single time I have flown on a direct flight on BA, which granted has only been 3 occasions, the flight inevitably ends up being delayed by at least an hour. By now I’ve learned that in order to make a connecting flight from Heathrow, you need a minimum of two hours unless you plan on booking it down the concourse. In March of 2015, I wrote about about yet another one of this airport’s many dysfunctions. But instead of having trouble with the airport this time, it was security that caught me off guard. I made the mistake of assuming that just because the Denver TSA approved my carryon items, Heathrow security check probably would would too. As I was headed down the line, I was pulled to the side and told to remove the contents of my bag and was forced to re-sort my luggage no less then three different times under the supervision of the security officer. Turns out that I had accidently left a bottle of sunscreen at the bottom of my backpack. Oops…

What this experience produced though was a friend. When I was shuffling everything so it fit back into my backpack, the Hungarian lady mentioned earlier caught sight of a CU sticker on the back of my phone. While waiting in the terminal this lead to a half hour discussion of the Culture of Boulder Colorado, the “trust fund hippies” that inhabit it, and the “communist design” of the engineering building. I use those quotations not as paraphrases, but rather as direct quotes. She clearly chose her words with precision because those might just me the most accurate descriptions I have ever heard. The quote about the design about the engineering center caught me off guard because she followed up the “communist design” comment with a personal anecdote about her experience with the communist regime. She also mentioned that in her day the Alfred Packer Grill served great panini. Personally, I still think this stands true today. Although our college may have added new additions like buffalo sharped pools and fancy community centers, they at least have managed to keep their panini priorities strait.

As we finally arrived in Budapest, I was shocked how green that the city is. I don’t mean necessarily earth friendly, but rather luscious. The trees were covered in huge leaves, many areas were landscaped in flawless lawns and flowers were abundant. Unlike many other European cities that I have visited, they also have lots of parks and greenbelt areas hidden within the city. These all make a wonderful foreground in pictures (for all you aspiring photographers out there.)

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Napali coast… a wild adventure 

The Napali coast. It’s a natural phenomenon of which I have never seen anything similar to before. As featured in the Jurassic parks movie, it’s greenery and elegance are reflected in everything around it. The hills are best described as velvety green and the water that splashes onto the coast a turquoise blue. 

An upside to traveling with a professional rock climber is that they push your boundaries and test your adventurous limits. We left our condo around six am in order to drive up to the Napali coast where we would be doing our eight mile hike. Now eight miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is considerably more strenuous when half the trek is swimming through rivers, crawling through mud, and stumbling down boulders on near vertical surfaces. 

Our group of seven split up into two groups. Peter the rock climber, my friend Jess, and I (being the most capable for the trek) went up ahead and left the others to take a slower pace.  

As we neared the trailhead, giant warning signs greeted us.

 “Caution: flash flood area” 
“Caution: strong tide current”
“Cation: steep cliffs ahead” 
“Cation: falling rocks” 
The sight was slightly ominous. But there was a certain thrill in the air. It was almost like a challenge. It was pushing us toward the end of the world and unexplored territory. (At least unexplored to me)

It took us about three hours to hike into the back country where we would turn around and head back. The loop was 22 miles if you were to complete the entire thing. 

At the 4 miles we ended up at the bottom of the mountains near the turquoise ocean. But it was much more interesting then your adverage beach. The high tide had created a type of land bridge and a separate body of water in an inlet. It wasn’t exactly a lake, but rather a giant tide pool of smooth sand and guppies. It was only about waist deep at most, and the sun had warmed the water to almost hot tub temperature. Maybe around 90 degrees. Unlike the ocean which was staid by strong and dangerous tide, this pool was completely still even though it was only twenty feet away. It was also stunningly clear water. You could see every little detail on the bottom including variation in the color of grains of sand. It seemed surreal. 

On the side of the pool were cliff walls which opened into caves and large caverns. Being the capable adventurer he is, Peter had a head lamp so we took a look around but stopped when we noticed a deep dark underwater lake. There are very few things I fear, but I must admit this is one of them. There was an incident when I was younger that prompts me to have a fear of cave lakes and drowning in general, but we won’t go into that now. Either way there was no way in hell I was going into that water to continue. I was able to convince the others to turn back when we noticed another warning sign. 

“Caution: Do NOT swim. Possible flesh eating bacteria present” 

But as we weren’t to turn back we were handed a tempting offer. If you were to continue another two miles up the trail you would reach a waterfall with another pool at the bottom. He offered to take both Jess and I but we decided to decline once we assessed our water situation and found it was almost gone.  

At the end of the day we thankful that we had declined his offer. When we picked him up from his further adventure another four hours later, he admitted he was glad we didn’t join him. Evidently the condition of the terrain only worsened, the mid afternoon sun was scorching, and in the four hours we gave him before we picked him up he only managed to make it another mile. Worst of all, he didn’t even reach the waterfall. Given that he is a professional rock climber, this is a horrifying thought to consider how rough this trail really was. 

We learned a few days later that the state of Hawaii requires proof of experience and a license to continue past the point I went. Oops.  

I’ve adopted it as a personal goal of mine in the future to return to the island and complete the 22 mile loop. Maybe like a bucket list goal, so to say.  

 

Travel Talk 

Here I sit in San Francisco, waiting for my flight.  Our flight was supposed to be at 2:30. Air port delays are often annoying but I actually appreciate the time to get stuff done. Stuff like write this blog post.  (I may as well, because I just learned we won’t even get more information until 7 am in San Francisco. That’s 8 am in Denver.) 

It’s always an odd phenomenon when one travels on a flight longer then 5 hours. You somehow manage to experience 24 hours of sunrises, sunsets, and starry skies as you follow th skyline in that short span. Four hours ago I left the Lihue airport around sunset. Now I sit in San Francisco enjoying a chai latte and watching the sunset through a terminal window. 

This latest trip for me has been different than most others I go on. I usually travel for the excitement, thrill, history, and adventure. But this time it was a nice mix of all this stuff and a decent amount of relaxation. You don’t realize how stressed out you are until you have the opportunity to sit on a beach and analyze your life.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most of those stress triggers might be just completely irrelevant in the scheme of things. 

Now…. Onto the details about my trip! 

The condo we and our family friends rented was near Poipu beach. This is a beach on the southern side of Kauai, Hawaii. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Wildlife and animals: 

Because of the heat most mornings I had a hard time sleeping in. So instead of laying in bead, I would go for walks on the beach every morning. There is something pristine and perfect about green sea turtles which were sprinkled on the beaches this time of morning before people took over the area. The full moon would draw them out and coax the onto the beach.  Besides the turtles, I also happened across a Hawaiian seal one morning. 

All over the island and not just on Poipu, wild cats and chickens have taken over. They are everywhere and although I was surprised by it, locals have just seemed to accept it as fact. You would think that the cat population would keep the chickens to a minimum, but the cats don’t seem to interested in the chicken buffet. 

Another interesting spot for birdwatching is the light house and national animal sanctuary on the northeastern side of the island. Around mid summer, which happens to be now, redfooted boobies build there nests and hatch eggs. The whole side of the rocky oceanfront looked like it had been toiltet papered by a group of troublesome teens… But instead of trash all those white  speaks were actually birds. 

Food: 

My favorite food island was by far the fruit. The Mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, and banana on the island are all to die for. Sweet, tangy, and delectable are all under statements. The next runners up were the locally caught sushi and shave ice. There’s nothing like fresh food and a cool treat on a very hot day. 

Adventures:

Well I would update you about these now, but they are nothing without picture evidence as proof. For example, when I went exploring canvas and remote beaches on the Napali Coast (where Jurassic park was filmed) it wouldn’t have same the effect without context of an image. There are certain things you can’t explain with words. 

My hatred of heathrow but love of London 

Heathrow….. For suched a famously awful airport, I never really understood the complaints and frustration associated with it until now. 

I sit here after a sleepless nine hour flight only to learn that because of miscommunication and a workers strike that they overbooked our flight and I now have a five hour layover and two hour flight until we get to reach our final destination of Prague, Czech Republic. Even before we left Denver I knew something was up, even if I did not want to consciously accept it. Usually at check in they print you tickets for all layovers and connections. For some reason the only handed us one and stated that we could pick our other ticket here in heathrow. They pretty much just passed the problem onto someone else and hoped we wouldn’t notice. 

I suppose in retrospect that this isn’t the fault of the London airport…. But it still greatly annoyes me.  It’s lucky they have free wifi or I would not be writing this post.

Despite this minor set back, my flight to London was decent. My family and I chose to fly British airways and I do not regret the decision for three major reasons. One, is that the accents of the flight attendants were simply adorable. Two, tea was never in short supply. The flight attendants waltzed down the isle every hour proclaiming “tea? Would anybody like tea?” in their most perky and happy accents.  And three, British tabloid newspapers are very entertaining. From a design standpoint the size of their headlines are rediculously oversized. But the actual content is simply rediculous and entertains. It rivals that of British television.  It was completely fluff journalism except for  two stories.

Yet possibly one of the scariest situations I have been in yet, and which every traveler has to face, is the possibility of solo seat assignments.  My mom and I discussed worst possible scenarios of who to be stuck next to for nine hours. She said a crying baby would be bad, but I countered that a creepy man with body oder would be worse. As I got on the plane I was relieved to see that I was placed next to a nice lady from east London who was returning from a skiing trip with friends. My mom jokingly told her of my fear and some random British  guy in the next row added “yeah, lucky you didn’t end up next to me.” I honestly wasn’t sure what to say to that…

Its been a very long time since I’ve last been in London. It’s a very modern and fast paced city. To be entirely honest I miss it. If I had another I’d be very tempted to go do some sight seeing. As we descended during our flight the cool and refreshing feeling of spooky London mist brought back memories of my trip here with extended family.