Dateline: Budapest, Day 1 — Bussing Around Budapest

Budapest, Hungary
18 July 2009

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

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Budapest, Budapest, Magyarország

Dateline: Vienna, Day 3 – The United Nations

Vienna, Austria
17 July 2009

There was really just one thing left to do before leaving, visit the UN and the IAEA ((International Atomic Energy Agency)). So we made off for the northeast end of Vienna. On the way we managed to find Puntigamer, an Austrian beer that my friend Marissa suggested we look up.

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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This is the logo for the China National Space Agency. Is it just me, or does this look rather similar to the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet emblems put together:

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IAEA Meeting Room

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Can you understand me now? Good.

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

Our host was nice, but very optimistic about the United Nations efforts. I wish we still had the League of Nations if only for the reason that it had a cooler name.

We made our way back to the hostel, collected our things, and then raced ((if you haven’t figured out by now, we always race to catch trains. We always caught them, but were usually within 5 minutes of missing them)) to catch our next rain to Budapest.

It so happened that Charlie was also coming in from Switzerland right around the time we were leaving. I was secretly hoping that we would see Charlie and kidnap him. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him.

We got into Budapest late at night. We stumbled around while trying to find an ATM so I could get some Forint ((yet another unit of money to deal with)). We finally managed to find an ATM and withdraw some money. A short subway ride later, we at our hostel.

Dateline: Vienna, Day 2 – All Around Vienna

Vienna, Austria
16 July 2009

Yesterday, Quinn and I made an awesome discovery: you can rent bikes for free ((almost)) in Vienna! You pay a one-time €1 charge to register, and then can borrow a bike for up to an hour for free. The second hour is €1, the third hour is an additional €2 and so on. But, if you return your bike and wait at least 15 minutes, perhaps visit a museum or grab something to eat, you rent again with the first hour being free!

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

We biked to the Hofburg Imperial Residence and Palace of the Arts where we saw several amazing exhibits in the Ephesus Museum (which was amazing and informative to see after just recently being to Ephesus)…

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

…the Collection of Ancient Instruments

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

…and the Collection of Arms and Armor

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

We got a quick bite to eat before catching a tram to Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery).

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

Sunset at Zentralfriedhof
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Wien, Wien, Österreich

Dateline: Vienna, Day 1 – New Places, New Friends

Vienna, Austria
15 July 2009

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

St. Stephen
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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

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Wien, Wien, Österreich

Essentially wandered around Vienna all day. Saw some churches. Then back to the hostel for happy hour. Met two Irish girls and another from Canada, Caitlin, who’s a Political Science and Environmental Studies major at University of Ottawa.

Dateline: Arbon, Day 2 – Lazy Tuesday

Arbon, Switzerland
14 July 2009

Today, I did nothing. And it was great. It was nice being in a, somewhat, familiar settings and just being lazy and sleeping in, watching TV, and getting laundry done (although, that was more of a challenge than I was hoping for).

From the album: "Andrew_Quinn_on_Europe_Tour" by Guenther Breu

After Remo and Günther got back from work, we walked around and had some dinner before departing for our train to Vienna.

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From the album: "Andrew_Quinn_on_Europe_Tour" by Guenther Breu

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We actually tried to get tickets for our train to Vienna before dinner, however the station was closed. So like all good travelers we winged it and ended up just talking to the conductor and buying tickets from him, which worked well enough. We shared a couchette with some fellow travelers from the USA, although they were much older.

Dateline: Arbon, Day 1 – Burn After Reading

Arbon, Switzerland
13 July 2009

L’Abri in the Morning

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Traveling to Arbon through Interlaken

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Finally met up with Remo and Günther after a slight train mix up ((all trains lead to Arbon…although not necessarily the same path)). I’ve forgotten how funny Remo and Günther are. After a wonderful dinner, we watched Burn After Reading at the Open Air Kino mit UBS ((Outdoor Cinema)) in English with German and French subtitles ((simultaneous subtitles will blow your mind)). Final note of the day: Food is expensive in Switzerland. It was about $12 USD for a McDonald’s Meal.

L’Abri and Itinerary v0.5

11/12 June 2009

L’Abri was the shelter for my journey. After traveling for over five weeks, it was time to stop for a moment (although I wish it could have been more). It was great to see Quinn. It was even better to have some great conversations with some amazing people at L’Abri.

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Huêmoz, Canton de Vaud, Schweiz

I was able to finish a book I have literally been try to finish for almost two years and have started, stopped, and restarted several times, The Language of God by Francis Collins. I read over 150 pages in two sittings, morning and afternoon.

The Language of God is a decent book, not great. From an engineer’s (or scientist’s) perspective, I found it lacking in detail. However, I assume such omission was not a matter of ignorance, but rather an attempt to make the book more acceptable to a general audience. I would have liked something more on par with Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time in terms of science content.

I also began reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and upon finishing the preface, immediately wished I had read this eons ago.

It was nice to be on a schedule, having set times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was nice having a time set aside for me to just ponder. And it was actually nice for me to have my computer locked away for a littler while, and something that I should probably do more ((I’m also thinking about switching to a system where I only check my email three times a day)).

As John, the Swiss L’Abri “Director” noted in his email to me about my request for refuge at L’Abri, “A couple of nights is not very long to deal with theological questions, but perhaps it can serve as a beginning.”

The few nights I was there were a good start for me and a reminider of what I need to focus on. It also reminded me why I want to retire to Switzerland, perhaps even Huemoz.

I took some time to meditate on my trip. Where I had been, what I had seen, and what I wanted it to be about. I looked at what my current plans were and decided that they would not do if I wanted to make it with my sanity intact…not to mention, perhaps actually enjoying the trip.

Thus, I also sat down and refigured the rest of my trip. I wrote down the cities I was planning on going to, researched them some more, and then wrote down an even smaller list of cities. Thus leading to Itinerary v0.5, which I now present to you with the applicable changes:

  • July 10-13: L’Abri, Huemoz, Switzerland
  • July 13: Leaving L’Abri in the morning, travel to Arbon, Switzerland via Interlaken and Luzern
  • July 13-14: Arbon, Switzerland
  • July 14: Leave Arbon, Switzerland for Vienna, Austria on the overnight train.
  • July 15-17: Vienna, Austria
  • July 17-21: Budapest, Hungary
  • July 21-25: Prague, Czech Republic
  • July 25: Travel to Krakow, take a bus to Auschwitz and back, then travel to Warsaw
  • July 25-29: Warsaw, Poland
  • July 29 – August 1: Berlin, Germany
  • August 2: Frankfurt, Germany
  • August 3: Leave Frankfurt in the morning for Seattle (via Chicago O’Hare)

Still pretty intense, but nowhere near the pace Charlie and I had going for Turkey and Greece. Most of Austria was gutted, because I didn’t have any real interest in going. Based on my prevoius experience, three nights and four days seems to be a good amount of time to spend in a city; and more importantly, an amount of time that I’m willing to spend and not feel like I missed it or spent too much time there.

In Arbon, we’ll be hanging out with Remo and Gunther, who you may remember from my last trip to Switzerland. They are two brothers who live in Arbon and are super funny.

So, to all the amazing people I met and had the opporunity to talk with at L’Abri, and who managed to find this blog and read this far down, a heartfelt thank you for taking me in. It was pretty much just what I needed, and I shall return.

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Montreux, Canton de Vaud, Schweiz

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Montreux, Canton de Vaud, Schweiz

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The Three Amigos

After much convincing, the third partner in my trip is finally on board. Quinn’s actually been onboard for a while, he just finally purchased his ticket today…which means that he’s really on board now.

Charlie’s the the other partner on this trip. He’ll be joining me in Istanbul on 22 June, while Quinn won’t be joining us until around 10 July in Switzerland.

All three of us met tonight to get some logistics figure out. I think it was productive, at least as far as any meeting can be. Charlie’s going to be figuring out how to get us from Turkey to Greece, in addition to what where we’ll be going. Meanwhile, I’ll be figuring out where Charlie and I will be sleeping while in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Italy is more or less figured out.

For Switzerland, I think the plan is to work our way from the southwest to the northeast, going through Interlaken, Lucerne, and St. Gallen.

Austria’s also mostly planed out.

With only four days left, I’ve finally started to pack. I have most of my stuff already, which just a few small things to pick up here and there. I’ll be releasing an updated itinerary and packing list in the next couple of days.

P.S. Quinn’s on the left, Charlie’s on the right.

Itinerary v0.4: Turkey, Greece, and Italy

I started writing this post with the idea that I’d meetup with Charlie in Turkey. We’d be in Turkey for about a week before going to Greece and then on to Italy before meeting up with Quinn in Switzerland on the 7th of July. Well, I got about half way through this post and realized: there’s no way we can do Turkey, Greece, and Italy in 14 days. I mean, we could, but we wouldn’t have any fun. I posted an update to my Twitter/Facebook page: “Andrew Ferguson is wondering about Turkey/Greece/Italy…I think I can only fit two of them in :-/ Thoughts?” Amazingly enough, I got 10 responses, two of which advocated Greece and Italy, five of which advocated Turkey and Greece, and two of which were rather admiment about Turkey. Since I’d already been to Italy before, I decided that Turkey and Greece would be two I would go to.

Then, I talked to Charlie today and he came up with this amazing plan that will not only allow us to see Turkey, Greece, and Italy, but it will also let Quinn spend a few days at the L’Abri.

This is Itinerary v0.4:

  • Day 1 (June 2nd):
    Seattle, Washington
    Dulles, Washington, DC
  • Day 2 (June 3rd): Moscow, Russia
  • Day 8 (June 9th): St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Day 13 (June 14th): Tallin, Estonia
  • Day 17: Ukraine
  • Day 21 (June 22nd): Turkey
  • Day 28 (June 29rd): Greece 29th-4th / 6
  • Day 34 (July 5th): Italy
    Cinque Terra
  • Day 40 (July 11th): Switzerland
  • Day 44 (July 15th):Austria
  • Day 49 (July 20th): Hungary
  • Day 52 (July 23rd): Czech Republic
  • Day 55 (July 26th): Poland
  • Day 58 (July 29th): Germany

As you’ll notice, the entire key to this plan is slipping the start of Switzerland back four days to July 11th. As it turns out, this works out quite nicely.

To recap: after Ukraine, I’ll be joining Charlie in Turkey, who will travel with me for the remainder of my (now our) trip. Greece and Italy is currently the topic of hot debate for us. Basically, we need to meet Quinn (who will be joining both of us in Switzerland) around the 7th 11th of July. Thus, Charlie and I need to get through Turkey, Greece, and Italy between the 22nd of June to the 7th 11th of July…15 19 days. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to assume that we’ll be fine traveling in Turkey. Instead, I’m going to focus on plans for the Greece and Italy portion.

We’ve gone through several ideas including literally all modes of transportation, including planes, trains, renting a car, renting a motorcycle, renting a moped, ferries, and buses.

As much fun I think it would be to rent a car and drive through Italy, it would probably be cost prohibitive for just two people. Here’s why:

$361.04 for a 5 day rental of a Ford Fiesta (Manual Transmission) with unlimited kilometers through Hertz with pickup in Bari, Italy and drop off in Milan, Italy

Plus a $22.50/day young drive fee ($112.50 total)

Plus gas for driving from Bari to Agnone to Rome to Venice to Milano for a total of 1335 km. Assuming 12km/L ((, that’s 111.25 Liters of fuel. Finding gas prices is hard, I’m going with $5.80/gal (( which is $1.54/L. So add another $170 for gas.
We’re already up to $643.50, and that doesn’t even include toll fees. So driving is out.

I tried looking for a place that would rent one-way motorcycles or mopeds, and I couldn’t find any. So that’s out too.

Charlie mentioned the Eurorail idea, so I looked at that. And I think it would actually be pretty feasible.

Initially, I looked at the Eurail Greece – Italy Pass, which costs $250/person for 5 days of travel in a 2 month period.

However, after looking at Charlie’s new itinerary, we decided that it would actually be more cost effective to purchase the Eurail Global 21 Day Pass for $589. It’s important to note that this is for 21 continuous days of travel, not 21 days of travel in 2 months. The idea is to use this for travel in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, and Czech Republic. Poland isn’t part of the Eurail Global pass, so it actually works quite perfectly, especially considering we’ll be traveling about every other day…more or less.

One idea to get from Greece to Italy would be to take the Superfast Ferry from Igoumenitsa, Greece, departing daily at 23:59 to Bari, Italy, arriving at 08:30.

Ukraine and Itinerary v0.3

Now that I have my plans to Russia finalized, I’ve started to plan out other parts of my trip. It also sounds like Charlie and Quinn are both seriously considering coming along for at least part of my adventure. Quinn has a prior engagement that will tie him up until the first part of July, but he’s considering joining me then. Charlie has a bit more flexibility and I’m trying to convince him to join me for the second part of June.

In talking with Charlie, he encouraged me to do a little bit of route optimization. I’ve come up with Itinerary v0.3, which is essentially a reorganization of v0.2; I’ve also dropped France from the list…although I could put it back later. I’ve also, tentatively, added a stop in Greece.

Trip Path
Trip Path

As for Ukraine, I started looking and there are tours of Chernobyl! This is both incredibly exciting and scary ((“According to our guide the radiation dose you get from a day at Chernobyl is less than from a transatlantic flight. In other words, it’s supposed to be safe.”)). There are a handful of companies that provide tours, each of them seem to have equal pricing and offerings, starting at $150/person or so. A bit more than I want to pay, but could be worth it I think, especially since it’s an all day adventure and includes lunch ((brought in from outside the exclusion zone)). Pictures are also allowed, so I would definitely be a happy camper there.

TourKiev is the leading contender for the tour, they’re also recommended by The Lonely Planet and seem to be pretty professional.

Other travel companies include UkrainianWeb and SAM Travel Company.

In doing some research, I found this interesting slide show from the EPA, Chernobyl: An Inside Tour. I also found an obituary for Constantin Rudy, who’s mentioned extensively in the EPA slide show and who seemed like a pretty cool guy.

Interesting side note, part of Call of Duty 4 ((a video game I play on occasion)) is set in Prypiat, Ukraine, which is just 2km from Chernobyl. When I was looking at the pictures from the tour companies, I immediately recognized them as from the game…creepy.

Itinerary v0.3:

  • Day 1:
    Seattle, Washington
    Dulles, Washington, DC
  • Day 2: Moscow, Russia
  • Day 8: St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Day 14: Tallin, Estonia
  • Day 16: Ukraine
    • Kiev
    • Chernobyl
  • Day 18: Turkey
    • Istanbul
    • Antalya
    • Ephesus
    • Cappadocia
  • Day 24: Greece
  • Day 26: Italy:
    • Rome
    • Venice
    • Agnone
  • Day 36: Switzerland
    • Arbon
    • Interlaken
  • Day 40: Austria
  • Day 44: Budapest, Hungary
  • Day 50: Prague, Czech Republic
  • Day 53: Warsaw, Poland
  • Day 57: Germany
  • Day 62: Seattle