I’m fired up to make it to Stockholm. I’ve been here a couple times before, and I’ve had a blast each time. That’s mainly due to my good friend Jon who, as it so excellently happens, is in Stockholm this week also, and is letting me stay at his great apartment in Solna for a week! Here’s a photo of the inside.
We went bar hopping my first night in town and met a beautiful Russian girl who had been living in Stockholm for several months but unfortunately was leaving for Moscow early the next morning.
I arrived a day early for the famous Love Parade where over 1 million European techno fans come to listen to the best DJ’s in the world. I stayed at Hotel Petul, which was sterile and small, but had very new rooms where everything was designed to perfection. The young staff in the morning and day were very nice and hip, and so was the older man who worked nights (he drove a Viper).
It’s sometimes difficult to find someone cool to hang out with on a solo trip, so I tried using MySpace to facilitate the effort. In Prague, Snezana answered a message of mine, but said she didn’t have time to hang out and that I should come by her souvenir shop anyway. So I did and convinced her to come along with me for a drink or two.
You may not know this yet, but I have some strange connection with Serbians who have traveled a bit. Sure enough, the only person who responded to my Prague message was a Serbian. Weird…
I visited Krakow for a couple days, but didn’t get any video – or any photos to speak of either. Krakow was alright though. It has small, maze-like discotheques every 100 meters in the basements of all the buildings around the center of town. I would recommend Club Cien as the best nightclub.
After two days in Krakow I drove to Auschwitz and experienced the most moving sight I’ve seen on my trip yet. (The Colesseum and the Sistine Chapel ranked next.) Of course this little video probably doesn’t convey anything of what I experienced but here it is anyway:
I decided to stop by Bratislava for a night on my way to Krakow. I met some South African travelers, and had a couple Slovakian girls show us the clubs. The next day I ran around inside the museum in the castle.
Thursday was a really great day. I went on an 8-hour bicycle ride with Renata (a Slovakian concert pianist) along the Danube (Donau in German), to the Strandbar Hermann, through the city, and finally to Vienna’s Rathausplatz Music Film Festival.
My Mom is going to like this one: all of Vienna was closed on Wednesday, my first full day there, for the Christian holiday Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary. Tuesday, the night before, I found a couple good bars at Stephansplatz, including the upbeat Wein & Co. Bar. You might think that not much would be going on the weeknight after a holiday, but I decided to try my luck anyway, so I cruised down to Museumplatz. Since the aesthetic qualities of Viennese inhabitants are a little lackluster I found a couple Slovakians to hang out with. After drinking a bit at a bar in the Museumplatz we made our way down to Passage nightclub, which is housed in an old metro station. Everyone had a little too much to drink and I broke a glass lampshade at the apartment where I ended up.
I’m going to add here, after the fact, a story about a duck dinner I had in Budapest. Since my review of the Hungarian baths was so disparaging I’d like to add an upbeat review. I forget the name of the restaurant I sat down at, but it was near a popular park among other restaurants. I ordered the duck breast dish. The entrée appeared very meaty, and after downing a couple slices I knew I knew it was beef. I told the waiter that it was OK that it was beef and that I would finish it anyway. He insisted that it was duck, so we went to speak with the chef. The chef couldn’t convince me either so he brought out an uncooked piece. As much as it appeared like beef I had to admit it that it must be duck …so obviously try the duck when you’re in Budapest.
I just finished a little touristic outing in Budapest. One of the big things to do while in Budapest is go to a thermal bath. I went to one several years ago with some friends and the experience was a little weird, but I decided to give it another chance. This time I tried a different bath complex, the Szechenyi Bath. Let me quote from a local English guide magazine, the Budapest Funzine. “Szechenyi Bath is one of Europe’s greatest spa complexes…” and “There are saunas, steam rooms, massage therapy, ice-spitting gargoyles, floating chess boards, a whirlpool with Jacuzzi and more.”
I was completely underwhelmed – no, worse, I was disgusted. After purchasing my $14 ticket I went downstairs to the locker rooms. The lockers were falling apart, the tile floor was covered with a thin layer of mud, and the air smelled disgusting. Then I couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers. Finally I learned from a lady upstairs that after changing and putting my belongings in the locker I had to ask one of the two the guy dressed in white to lock my locker – odd system.
Since I was starving I unfortunately had to eat at the bath cafeteria. They offered all of about 2 dishes. I chose the best I could, which turned out to be the most disgusting meal I’ve had in a long time.
Then there are the baths themselves. Both the outside and inside baths ranged from a temperature of uselessly slightly-less-than-lukewarm to uselessly slightly-more-than-lukewarm. I really wanted to be sure that I had not missed the best of the baths, so when I saw an opening under one of the pipes filling the bath I positioned myself beneath the outpouring water. After a minute or so I recognized an odor I was smelling – it was the smell of petroleum products. I recognized from working in the field of environmental clean-up. The water smelled a little on the contaminated side – I’d really like to see the results of a test done on these waters.
Of course the story of my experience wouldn’t be complete without a description of the people. The visitors and employees are probably nice enough, but let’s just say that the baths are not worth going to for people watching.