Sept 25 – I awoke and headed to Brussels, parking near the central park aptly titled Parc de Brussels. After a brief stroll through the greenery, I headed past the main cathedral, where a funeral was underway, towards the shopping district and old town. What a lovely city! I definitely want to go back and spend time exploring the neighborhoods, and going on a tour of the UN. The city was buzzing, even though it was a Monday. It’s a popular tourist destination, and was one of few cities on my trip where I ran into a fair number of Americans (other than Amsterdam). The city is full of impressive, lovely buildings and statues from various eras. I wandered into a really interesting exhibit about an important architect who had done a lot of urban planning in the 1850s, laying out the greenways and boulevards that gives the city its distinctive character. Urban planning was very popular and extensively done in many cities in the mid 1800s, including Santiago de Chile (I had attended a similar exhibit about urban planning there). The guild hall in which the exhibit was held had been recently renovated with EU money. I didn’t want to leave but was due back in Budapest for dental work in 2 days, so I pushed on toward Bratislava, where I planned to stay the following night. I ended up camping in the forest of Altdorf, Germany near Nuremberg.
Sept 26 – I awoke to the deep quiet of a moss-covered forest. It had rained hard the day before, and I greatly appreciated the beauty of my surroundings. I headed into the typical Bavarian village of Altdorf, walked through its narrow streets and into its neat church, bought some produce at the farmer’s market, then headed toward the highway. I found a carwash and was ecstatic to wash and vacuum the car, which had gotten coated with food and dirt. Then I sped on to Bratislava, arriving at 5pm, and met n friend Zuzana’s friend of the same name, who was rushing to catch a plane for London. The three of us had the chance to talk a bit about cultural norms. Zuzana is Slovak but has lived in London for years. Coming back she is reminded of the unspoken rules that she was taught as a child, and experienced the discomfort of her friends when she acted “outside the box”. We laughed about the scathing look her friend gave her when she walked into a boutique with cookie crumbs on her mouth. The use of shame, blame, and guilt are in plentiful supply in this part of the world. It was certainly a mainstay in my family of origin, and probably originated from all sides, including the Polish, Hungarian, German, and Irish. I went to sleep dreading tomorrow’s surgery, and as a result barely slept.
Sept 27 – I awoke and headed to Budapest, arriving with time to spare. It turned out that today not surgery day, but the making of a plaster cast for the creation of temporary teeth. I left the dentist feeling that I had worried for nothing, and headed to Corvin Plaza by metro to get my glasses adjusted at Kodak Lens. Adrienn, the optimologist and co-owner of the franchise was there, and I thanked her profusely for her excellent service. While there I wrote a glowing review on her store’s Facebook page, as well as one to my friends recommending her establishment. From there I decided to head across the Danube to the Buda side, but ended up taking the wrong tram, and got off near the green bridge and proceeded to walk a few miles along the water front to the ruined Roman amphitheater. I discovered a very nice neighborhood nearby, an older section of town with small parks, shops, and a pedestrian walk way. I spied a lovely grand palace with all the splendors of the late 1800s, and discovered it is a popular spa for locals. Thermal waters are seen as a medical treatment not only in Hungary but in most if not all of Eastern and Central Europe.
I finally headed back via a tram and drove to Kismaros, and on to Nagymaros, where I sat in the local pub and wrote. I had originally planned on meeting Katalin and picking up my bags that night, but had not heard back from her, so had written that I would not come. I didn’t want to drop in as it would be a change of plan. I camped in the woods between Kismaros and Nagymaros. Strange cries filled the wood, but other than that it was distinctly quiet, the sounds of civilization quite absent.