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.

 

Radioactive Art

Today my friend and I wandered into the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts, unsure what to expect. From the outside, the museum actually looked closed. Banners draped across construction boardwalks made us question if we could even go inside. But after some investigation we finally found the front doors. From the few exhibits that we saw, my favorite was the “Explore Color” portion. There were four different rooms that divided art by blues, reds, greens,  and browns. Each room displayed different types of dishes, cloths, paintings, furniture, and other random items. One particular feature that caught my eye was an ultraviolet light that caused these jars and glasses to glow a bright, an almost bioluminescent green. Curious about it, we looked on the nearby plaque and found a description. Turns out that the secret ingredient that made the pieces glow was legitimate Uranium. As in, these pieces of art were actually radioactive. The artist supposedly designed them to make a statement about nuclear warfare and other radioactive social problems. Although the art curator seemed to feel safe being around these, I didn’t.

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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.

Budapest: Here I Come

2016 has been a big year. It has changed me as person, for both good and bad reasons. The last five months of my life have been some of the most emotional ones I have ever experienced. Those who know me realize that I’m not one to openly express what I feel, it’s not in my nature. So as my first completed year of college comes to  an end, I’ve decided it is time to exercise my newfound freedom and take a trip across the globe.

When I first imaged taking this trip, I pictured being accompanied by my two best friends.  But, after a heartbreaking loss, it will only be my friend Lauren and I. Although our friend Luke won’t be able to accompany us physically, he will accompany us in our thoughts and our hearts. Although my trio may be gone, our original optimism and inclination for adventure continues. The world awaits and we will take it on with heavy hearts.

A year ago, I would have never pictured where I am today. Throwing together an international trip in only a week has been a challenge, but an exciting learning experience. I’m so thankful that I was raised with an international and opportunistic mind set. I get a thrill out of planning each and every new adventure.

This trip is unique because, unlike in the past when I had others doing my planning, the details were completely left up to my friend and I. To my surprise, the difficulty did not lie in the reservations or flights. The difficult part is getting ahold of the proper currency and learning enough of the language to get by. If you haven’t heard, Hungarian is arguably one of the most difficult languages to learn on the entire planet. According to wikipedia it has 14 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes… whatever that means. My overly American accent is not prepared to handle the sounds required to achieve proper pronunciation. It also turns out that Hungarian Forints aren’t typically kept in stock at currency exchange centers in the state of Colorado. Right now, our game plan for learning the language is to make friends on the plane during our layover from Heathrow to Budapest. As for currency, we are forced to try our luck at an airport currency exchange kiosk.

 

 

48 hours in DC

Washington, DC is a city of hustle and bustle. Personally, that’s why I am so attracted to it. The people in a city that never sleeps is usually driven by ambition and a vision.  DC is a perfect example. There is always someone new to meet, places to see, and things to try. I have a deep love for DC because whenever I am there its like I’m on top of the world.

This time around in DC, I was actually there for originally an international fraternity conference called Phi Alpha Delta. This group is composed of undergraduate students, graduate students, and also those going through law school. We are collectively committed to the end goal of finding a career in the legal profession. I was still lucky enough to find time to explore the city in the short 48 hours my group and I were there.

We spent Saturday afternoon exploring a few key Smithsonian museums. The Air and Space museum was impressive because of the space and air history artifacts put on display. This had been my second time at the museum so perhaps it was less interesting to me. But, I had never been to the Botanical Gardens or the American History Museum before.

For anyone traveling to DC in the near future, I would highly suggest the American History Museum. When you walk in its not overly impressive, but by the time you finally get to the meat of the exhibits, the content and research that has gone into the exhibits have a profound effect. There is nothing like experiencing an overview of American History where many of the decisions about the outcomes have been made. The section on American war was perhaps my favorite. It starts out with the American Revolution and slowly transitions from war to war based on a linear timeline. But as you approach later wars and more controversial wars, like the Vietnam War, they are presented in a way that becomes very real for those visiting the exhibit. I don’t think ever been so moved by an exhibit, not emotionally but mentally. The American History of war Museum at the Smithsonian left me with a deep curiosity and new perspective on quite a few things. I suggest that if you can make the time, it would be worth spending an entire day or two at this museum alone.

The botanical museum was mostly just beautiful. The diversity of plants are astounding. The most interesting rooms were probably either the endangered species room or the room that featured various medicinal plants. I have always had an interest in botany so I found this museum more interesting them my counterparts but they still enjoyed themselves. This  botanical museum could comfortably be seen in an hour or two. But make sure not to miss it. I had no idea that it was even there until this trip. It is hidden in comparison to the rest of the mall. Instead of being directly off the National Mall, it sits directly to the right of the Capitol Building.

After the Smithsonian closed we made our way up to Capitol hill and toured the outsides of the buildings in this area. From the outside, the Supreme Court was by far the most impressive. It reminded me of  ancient buildings that I’ve seen  in citifies like Vienna or Rome. Its Roman pillars were larger then most redwoods. You had to stand a couple hundred feet back from the building just to get a complete picture bottom to top, but you were free to walk up on the steps outside of the building. Perhaps less impressive from the outside but still beautiful was the Library of Congress.  Although, if you do make your way up to Capitol Hill, make sure that you do it between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Unfortunately, we arrived about an hour late and the doors were closed to the pubic. I would have bet though that the interior would have made up for the unimpressive exterior.

The most majestic moment that I encountered in DC was walking through the memorials during sunset. I cannot stress the beauty of the Lincoln Memorial with a gorgeous sunset behind it. The colored light was bouncing over the reflection pool and the area glowed of purple and blue.12118679_492143454288692_78464703576351655_n

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. 

LA? No way…  and other interesting observations 

I am not a fan of LA. 

Well, I suppose that judgement is a little presumptuous. Let’s just say I am not a fan of LAX, or it’s airport. I have never actually spent significant time in the city besides layovers. 

As you fly into the city a layer of thick pollution coats the city. From the sky you just see mile upon mile of dirty commercial sprawl with small residencies intertwined among the urban expanse. There is no greenery on the ground, maybe with the exception of a few palm trees. This is not surprising considering the entire city is made up of one large concerted block. I believe it was Amy Poehler who once said that she will never fully understand LA.  Now I know why. 

Once our plane landed we were forced to taxi around for about half an hour before we were able find our way to a gangplank. Evidently there was a backload of flights being held up because of various mechanical issues. 

Flight attendants tell you to remain calm and quiet in this situation but I am here to tell you that “calm and quiet” doesn’t happen when you have a connecting flight to catch in exactly fifteen minutes. There is nothing more aggravating  then being held captive on an incoming flight when the seconds ticking by are an annoying reminder that your plane started to bored and you are a sitting duck several concourses away. In a situation like this, there is no chill. 

Once we finally were able to make our way off the plane, it hit me just how  appreciative of effiency I am exactly. I remember complaining a few months ago about the inconsistency and inefficiency of the Heathrow airport in London. LAX makes their connection transportation system look like first class service. Once we made out way off the plane, we were stranded on a little island in the middle of the Tarmac so we had to take a bus back to the central part of the airport. Now I wish I could say this went smoothly and quickly. But we were put on a bus where we left in the 105 degree heat for quit  some time given our tight connection . Were obviously inconvincing her because she seemed to be in the middle of a a gossip session with one of her close friends. They literally started to braid each others hair when my family and I finally got the guts to ask if we could get a move on. With an eye roll and a snort she finally asked her friend to leave so we could get a move on. Like I said before, I am used to effcency and I appreciate people who take their jobs seriously and have a little respect for the airlines who pay them. Silly me, guess I needed a reality check. 

But, somehow we still managed to catch our flight because of some sort of magical intervention from above. We made the cut off for boarding by exactly two minuets. As I write this I’m looking out the window and admiring large expanse of ocean. But on our way from Denver to LA the view was a bit more unique. The Grand Canyon indeed looks like a giant crack in the earth compared to all the flat desert around it. It was an unusual site and one I felt honored to see on such a clear day. 

 Fun fact: it takes about four minuets to fly over the Grand Canyon in a commercial jet. 

Now on our other connection from LA to Lihui, Hawaii I saw something else amazing. From above cloud level, the Pacific Ocean appeared to be the exact same shade aqua blue as the sky above it.  The fluffy clouds in between the two layers looked like a thin layer of marshmallow in this sandwich of blue. It looked like the sky had been reflected into a mirror.   (See picture below) 

Finally as we settle into our little bungalow/condo I finally have time to tell you about my journey so far. I was surprised to find that the rooms don’t have air conditioning, but the soft ocean breezes and free wifi more then make up for it. The view off our balcony happens to be that of a cactus garden. This worries me slightly because I have a bad history with cactuses. The last time I was near a cactus garden the surgeon had to pull eight thornes out of my thighs, arms, and face.