Monthly Archives: June 2008

Final Review

Margaret IslandWe are home now and our trip has come to an end. I will be editing and linking photos from Croatia and Vienna that I didn’t have time to include.

Dennis says his favorite trip was our trip to Felsorakos He is ready to go back to Croatia and see all the places we didn’t have time to explore. Where Budapest is concerned his favorite thing was Margaret Island, the island city park that sits in the middle of the Danube. “Hikes, ancient ruins, river views and beer, how can you beat that?” Dennis did think they could improve the food available. The hot dogs and pizza weren’t that great and we couldn’t find gelato there.

Leigh’s favorite thing in Budapest was the zoo. She especially liked the Elephant House. I’m sure her favorite trip was Croatia but I will ask.

My favorite place in Budapest was the Castle in Buda especially the less traveled north side. The think I am missing the most is being able to walk in Pest and find narrow streets with interesting 19th century building and the occassional odd ter (square) with a statue or a fountain or both. As I walked up to Rosaurers I missed the variety of postage stamp size yards in my neighborhood. Instead of long expanses with lawns and trees on house would have a mini-vinyard and a vegetable garden, another was all planted in flowers, then a lawn with flower pots or a mini-orchard. Of course there were the occassional weedy neglected yards, the ugly graffitied walls and some badly neglected housing estates but the urban area provided so much variety I never got tired of exploring.

On returning our single story building and wide lawns seem like so much unnecessary space.  I can’t hold the shovel anymore because I have done too much weeding the last two days.  I find I really miss the mass transit whisking me to the big city any area with no effort on my part. Of course I am glad to get back to hiking around “Near Nature Near Perfect” Spokane.

There were too many possible illustrations so I compiled a favorites slide show. These aren’t always the best pictures but they illustrate some beautiful, typical or just plain quirky things in Budapest. It also includes the beautiful Croatia.


Final Complications

My last official act was to close out my university bank account. I would have just withdrawn my balance and let it go but Zsuzsa insisted that I needed to close my account as part of my check-out from the university. My bank is on the university campus and all university staff have accounts where salaries are directly deposited and bank statements are sent to college e-mail.

Zsuzsa did the translation and I could tell right away things weren’t going as planned. Bank managers were called both in person and on the phone. It seems that you can’t close your account if it has been active in the last 30 days. Even if I hadn’t been withdrawing money like crazy while traveling with Leigh & Dennis my last pay check was deposited in June.

The solution was for me to authorize Zsuzsa to close my account. In a truly Hungarian manner a handwritten document was composed on the spot with Zsuzsa and the bank clerk struggling over the correct wording. Hungarian really is a difficult language even for Hungarians. The document included my birthday, passport number, Zsuzsa’s birthday and her bank account number and of course I have no idea what else. The handwritten document was xeroxed and I signed 2 or 3 copies of the document each one was signed twice.

I’m not the only exchange faculty at the university and it seemed so odd that they didn’t dive in to the file drawer and pull out the correct fill in the blank form. Almost as quaint as when the bank clerk used pen and paper rather than a calculator for my final balance.

After deactivating my debit card the bank clerk calculated all the fees I will incur for maintaining the account I am not allowed to close. It took almost two hours but I was given my cash and I bid farewell to Hungarian bureaucracy.

Rejika, Croatia

Working town We met a Texan on the train to Krakow who asked us why we went to Croatia. Number one reason was Leigh had friends in Rijeka. Kevin, Kristy and their 3 kids(formerly of Missoula) are with Campus Crusade for Christ and have been in Rijeka for almost a year. When Kevin offered to meet with us and give us a little orientation I was expecting a guy in a suit and skinny tie instead he was wearing shorts and a backpack. Kevin walked us to the “Centre” and gave us great directions for finding our way to the interesting parts of the town.

Rijeka (270,000 pop.) was actually Italian into the 20th century. There was some dispute after WWI and the Allies refused to give it back to Italy. Even earlier the Hungarians claimed it as their access to the Adriatic so it is quite a popular place. Currently it looks like a working port and is much more industrialized the typical Croatian coastal towns. Rijeka has pedestrian malls with LOTS of outdoor cafes and bars, also churches and a castle.

Our biggest regret is not getting a picture of Kevin, Kristy and their kids AND ALSO trying to go around the block when we saw the sign for a hotel. In the U.S. when you see a sign to turn, you usually drive at least 15 yards before you turn. In Europe we have learned turnà means NOW!. It took us about 45 minutes and a trip through an endless parking lot and then out of town to go around the block.

When we finally got to the hotel it had a great view of town, a reasonable price and most important they told Dennis the place he was parked in front of the hotel was just fine. We didn’t have to drive one meter further. We are very glad Leigh had friends in Rijeka otherwise we would never have taken this slight detour in our travels and we would have missed meeting these really nice people and the climb hundreds of stairs to Trsat Castle and some great views.  Slide show

Brasov/Buda Hills

There is no way I will get my pictures all done before I come home. I have edited the Brasov pictures and added some info to Krakow.

I think Brasov, Romania and Rijeka, Croatia really were the best examples of towns with a lot of LOCAL café life. I suppose it probably has something to do with local living conditions. If you live in a hot stuffy apartment well obviously…. Brasov seemed to have a well developed social life as exemplified by the people playing chess, backgammon and checkers in the park and just as many locals giving advice to the players.  Brasov had AT LEAST 30 outdoor bars or cafes downtown and the metropolitan population is about 400,000 that is slightly smaller than Spokane.  Where are our pedestrian malls, squares and cafes?

One other thing we have noticed all over Central and Eastern Europe is the memorials. I think Romania has is typical and then some. Felsorokas had memorials to the 1848 revolution as well as WWI & WWII. We think that Brasov had about five war memorials that saw including a memorial to those who died in the 1989 an upheaval overthrowing Ceasescu. We usually think of the changes as bloodless in most of Eastern Europe.

Buda hills

Today Dennis & I went hiking in the Buda hills. Even at three in the afternoon the birds are chirping loudly. It looked the same as my previous pictures except leaves are on the trees. We only got slightly lost. I am starting the clean-up and packing ordeal.


We just got back from Cracow(Krakow) this morning. We took an overnight train and slept on couchettes which Dennis describes as “like sleeping in the trunk of a car.” Dennis’ complaint is that they are a hard surface covered with a thin carpet & of course too short for him. My experience wasn’t that bad but I was tired all day which I guess means I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I did. We were on the top shelf of 6 bunks. Market Square

I was afraid Krakow would blur with Vienna, Rijeka, Brasov and Zagreb but is was quite different. Dennis pointed out it didn’t have any boring 2nd class art museums because we didn’t go to any art museums. We are art museumed out so we worked on churches. We saw more Catholic clerics in this city than we have ever seen anywhere except Rome & Vatican City MANY years ago. I think we saw 8 churches and 2 synagogues but I will have to sort the slides to be sure. Time well spent as I can’t think of which church I would have skipped. We actually paid twice to go to St. Mary’s on the main Market Square. St. Mary’s has an alterpiece that they open at noon and close at 6pm. The first time we went in Dennis was disappointed because the alter didn’t match his Eyewitness guidebook picture. My camera batteries gave out & Dennis opted NOT to pay the photography fee so you won’t see any pictures of St. Mary’s. We did buy a postcard. I think that was the only church you had to buy admission to although I believe both synagogues charged tickets. Franciscan Church

Of the 60,000 Jews who live in Krakow before the Holocaust less than 6,000 survived and only 200 live there now so I’m not complaining. They have a lot of memorials to keep up. Old Jewish Cemetary

For us Krakow’s most unique and endearing feature was the Market Square which is pretty much given over to tourists. The cafes were affordable and Krakow has more group tours & probably tourists period than any city we have been in. We probably were a little early for Vienna’s big season.

The people watching on Market Square was tremendous and the last night featured hot air balloons, a motorcycle parade. We believe this was because Poland was playing in the Euro soccer tournament. You could barely get an ice cream cone or postcard because all non-essential personnel were watching the many big screen TVs as Poland tied with Austria in their first game.

      Additional SlidesBig night Krakow

Picture link

We all woke up to send Leigh back to Spokane and Monday training at Camp Reed at 4:30am this morning.  Dennis went to the airport with her & saw her as far as Passport Control would allow.  In discussion we all decided visiting Felsorakos (pop. 900) was probably our most meaningful experience. 

Organization is as follows: church, parsonage, town highlights, annual spring fair & high school visit in Barot (pop. 6,000), church dinner & dance in the Felsorakos community center, picnic in the meadow, town and hike from the village. 

Croatia was probably the most fun and the Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden was Leigh’s favorite in town activity.  In that spirit I spent time today organizing the Felsorakos pictures and concluding you had to have been there. 

I have yet to order our pictures from Brasov, Romania our train station.  We all agreed that Brasov was our best “surprise” town.  We were just there because it was the train station but we had a couple of great walks.  It is a beautiful town and we had one of those wonderful experiences where we were checking to see if a church was open and a strange man unlocked it for us and wanted us to help him ring the 5pm bells.  We were all afraid that we lack the proper rhythm so we just watched him do it.  He also refused to take a tip for doing this for us.  Of course we were so excited we didn’t even think to take a picture.  I’ll work on Brasov next I guess. 

Building Consensus in Felsorakos 

New post and Correction

CroatiaA word of correction: Leigh did not almost fall under the wheels of the train.  The train was moving and I was holding onto Leigh trying to pull her into the train but my suitcase was where she needed to jump.  There is some family debate as to how this situation should have been handled.  In any case we have all survived our trip to Romania and the train trip to and from Zagreb. Even better we survived our auto trip around Croatia although we did not make it all the way down to Dubrovnik.  We decided we would prefer a more relaxed pace rather than driving an extra 5 or six hours.  We opted for an easier day on the Adriatic in a town called Makarska and a visit to a UNESCO/Croatian National Park. We have some wonderful pictures but with one computer and three cameras it will take some time to edit our collections.