July 1, 2006

It really was not a huge secret that the Central European leg of my trip was not one that I was the most excited about. To
me, I just felt like they were such ‘normal’ places to go. I also felt like they were places that were so easy to get to. Part of the
fun of this trip is going to places so far and so remote. Europe definitely does not fall into this category.

I have to admit, though, that I had a fabulous time out here. While I didn’t really experience much in terms of change of
culture, I saw so many new places. Some were beautiful. Some were depressing. Some were charming. Some were eerie.
Some were fascinating.

Even though I thought I was completely ‘Europed out’, I realized I was wrong. There’s just something about Europe. It’s just
so…well…European. How’s that for a profound thought? When I say that I mean that the buildings have so much detail. Some
are in an array of colors (yellows, pinks, blues, etc.). Many are in a brownish color that is almost an un-color. The architecture
is ornate and detailed with different little statuettes incorporated into the buildings. The buildings in this part of the world are
ones with style. We might have a handful of these at home but over here it was the norm.

I’m just going to take a few minutes to jot down some notes on what I saw out here…

  • Instead of ‘tea time’ in the afternoon in Sopron, there were places with ‘strudel time’. How absolutely adorable is that?

  • Auschwitz was an experience that stays with a person and seems to intensify as time passes. I have seen many ‘Jewish
    Ghettos’ in the past throughout Europe. This time when I saw these ‘Jewish Ghettos’ in Krakow and Budapest, they
    took on a whole new meaning to me.

  • In Central Europe, the languages are extremely difficult. To say something as simple as ‘hello’ poses quite a challenge as
    you move from country to country to country. Not only are these words lengthy, the combination of letters that they
    put together really stumps the brain as far as how you would even say it aloud.

  • It is so crazy to think that every country I visited was a Communist country up until so recently. You now see locals and
    tourists alike enjoying life almost every night of the week. I have no idea what it was like before…and I am sure there
    are still people that are hurting by the demise of Communism…but I think it’s a great thing to see that these countries
    are now open for the residents to move in and out of.

  • I never would have thought that I would visit churches made out of pure salt or bones and skulls. Heck, I would have
    never thought they existed. I was apparently wrong about both.

  • The only thing that has changed about Budapest since the last time I was there was that they have become part of the
    European Union. This is only evident by the EU flags next to the Hungary flags on all of the buildings. It wouldn’t be
    evident while purchasing anything in Budapest as nobody accepts Euros.

  • Holy backpackers fresh out of college! Maybe this is another reason why I felt I was done with Europe. This place can
    make a 29-year old feel really old.

  • The border crossing at the Slovenia-Croatia border was beautiful. There were literally vineyards as we got stamped out
    of one border and stamped into the next.

  • The toilets in Europe are great. It gets exciting when you don’t have to pee in a hole. I felt spoiled as I didn’t think toilet
    seats and toilet paper were the ‘norm’ anymore.  

  • I got my taste of Western Europe by going to Istria in Croatia. It was so Italian-influenced even down to the fact that
    they speak Italian.

  • Upon getting off the train in Vienna, Austria, there were posters planted all along the walls of the train station. They
    said ‘Ambush the U.S.’ That’s a warm welcome into a country.

  • A waiter in Ljubljana asked where I was from. Upon hearing the United States, he asked if I would marry him so that
    he could get a green card. This just shows that while people might say they hate America, they still want the ‘American
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