Good morning from Sofia, Bulgaria! What a fantastic, comfortable, and easy bus trip that was. There was so much to look at. It was the first time I was in Moravia, Czech Republic. I loved seeing all of this beautiful wine country. The bus drove through Brno, and I remarked to my bus companion "wow, so many panalaks (Communist working housing that looks like an American housing project). It's too bad." "I don't see them that way," she said. "to me, it's normal."
I had always heard that Bratislava was a Communist architecture monstrosity, but it didn't look so bad as we drove through it. My Slovakian companion showed me the historic castle up on the bluff overlooking the Danube. The Danube River was large, filled to the brim, and it looked worth singing about. The bridges in Bratislava were beautifully designed and quite striking.
From Bratislava, we drove on toward Budapest. I loved seeing this crazy Hungarian language on all of the road signs. In both Slovakia and Hungary, it looked like the topsoil had been eroded away (Iowans care deeply about such things - we're topsoil proud). Hungary had beautiful wildflowers, especially fields of wild red poppies. I wonder if Frank Baum, the man who wrote "The Wizard of Oz" had been to Hungary. Remember when Dorothy falls asleep in the field of poppies? I don't think buses go through the pretty parts of a city because I didn't see any historical parts of Budapest, only globalized McDonald's drive-thrus and Aldis. Not so compelling.
A friend of a friend was on the bus and she prepared me that we would have to sit for a long time on the Serbian border because it wasn't a part of the EU. I'm glad she had told me this because it took a good hour.
Most of our journey through Serbia was in the dark. My only real outside contact with anything Serbian was going into two globalized large convenience store/gas stations that could have been anywhere in the world. That hardly counts!
We arrived a half-hour early. I chatted up three Bulgarians the whole way and they were so kind and helpful to me when we arrived in Sofia. They helped me haul all of my luggage to the storage facility and translate with the staff there. Truly, when I have an interaction like that, it makes me vow to look out for foreigners who need help when I'm also traveling. These Bulgarian bus drivers were so nice and helpful too. I was the only American on the bus. Now it's time to connect with my Sofia couchsurfing host.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, April 27, 2009
Marcus Mabry, a writer for the New York Times, who came to this area of the world 20 years ago as an exchange student, recently visited Budapest and was astonished at it's transformation. He put together an incredibly beautiful slide show of what's at stake and what has been accomplished since the end of communism. The slide show and article that accompany it are about Budapest, but the story could just as easily be about Prague. It's the same kind of magnificence. Click on my title to read the article and see the slide show.