Monday, January 30, 2006

Budapest, 23-29 January 2006

In short, the trip to Budapest was a complete and utter blast. The city is fascinating and gorgeous, not to mention quite expansive. It was freezing and I had to wear 3 layers of clothes under my coat, as well as tights under my jeans, but it was well worth the trouble. The goulash was delicious and Brian and I became regulars at one of the local pubs for its goulash alone. One of the many highlights included 2 separate trips to the outdoor thermal bath, which is the largest of its kind in Europe. It was absolutely freezing outside and we ran like foreign nuts into the bath where we spent the next few hours relaxing. After leaving the bath and while walking to the metro, my bathing suit began to freeze!

I know that you must be curious as to why I am with 6 guys, but for some reason it never occurred to me I would be traveling with all men when I booked the trip. Kanako, another classmate, did have an overlapping trip so it was fortunate we could meet up too. Even a friend from DC who is now living and working in Bosnia, Matthew, was able to meet us! We were a diverse group of strong personalities, but laughed almost completely non-stop. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever had. The former Soviet presence can still be felt, but the city is definitely transforming and modernizing with its membership to the European Union.

I have a few photos here, but you can view the rest at this address:

A row of arches at the Fishermen's Bastion

Me at the Bastion

The Chain Bridge - the first connection between Buda and Pest.

Me, Daniel, Bart, Brian, Erwin, and Jack

L-R: Daniel, Brian, Erwin, Matthew a.k.a Parish, Bart and Jack

The House of Terror - a place where Jews were killed in WWII, which also became a Nazi Headquarter and thereafter used by the Soviets. Not a favorable landmark for Hungarians.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My new home at # 13a (the door in the middle of the photo)

Well, New Year's in Amsterdam was a blast but watch out for the fireworks coming from every which direction!! People let them off beside you, from apartment balconies, etc. Crazy! After ringing in the new year, however, it was time to get settled in my new apartment. The living room and kitchen are spacious, there are 2 levels, 3 bedrooms, and the whole apartment came mostly furnished (somewhat rare here). We got such a great place because we went through a real estate agency who normally only deals with professionals and not students. One of my roommates, Brian, was able to provide evidence of employment while we also mentioned that we are very sophisticated graduate students who never party like those immature undergrads ;) Anyhow, the place is located on a beautiful canal just outside the centre of town and is quiet, very nice, and cozy. Here are some photos to give you an idea of the place...the bathroom is not shown but it has heated floor tiles and towel rack, which is a nice bonus!

The yellow glass doors in the kitchen open to an outdoor roof terrace which will undoubtedly get an abundance of usage in the spring and summer. A lot of light shines in through these glass doors, which is really pleasant. The living room is larger than it appears below--I didn't want to photograph a bunch of empty space. Notice the large windows which extend nearly from the ceiling to the floor. In the past, this was a sign of wealth (as told to me by a Dutch person) because of the loss of heat factor, but the glass is double-paned. The molding around the ceiling light adds a nice touch!

This is the view from our living room--the canal, boats, and houseboats...

My overlooks the terrace below and neighbors' gardens. I only had to purchase the bed and a wardrobe, which I bought from Ikea and on sale. It's fairly decent in size, but you cannot see most of it from these photos. But, hey, how interesting can it be?