The Scamp in Budapest: Day 2

I am in love with this city. It may be cold (in fact, it snowed while I was out and about walking around), but I love wandering around, being surrounded by history and culture. I set out today with my trusty guide book and really warm gloves to see the Buda side of the city.

I started the day by crossing the Szechnyi Chain Bridge. This was the fist bridge built to connect Buda to Pest, and is arguably the prettiest bridge across the Danube. Even better? It was built by a Scotsman.

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Once I crossed the bridge, I took the famous funicular to Buda Castle. It was built in the 1860s but destroyed during WWII and then restored in 1986.

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Once at the top, I headed to the Hapsburg Steps. It was one of the entrances to the castle built in 1903.

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I wandered around the castle grounds for a bit, saw where the current government is housed and then moved on through the city. It took me to a place that was recommended to me by a friend when I first booked my trip: Labyrinth in the Castle District.

This place is terrifying. The cave is said to be half a million years old and was once a bunch of different chambers that have since been connected. They have been used as wine cellars, prisons, torture chambers, and host to masked balls and all sorts of other sinful activities. It also holds the famous Dracula Chamber where King Matthias had him brought after capturing him in Transylvania.  That was a scary chamber, half concealed in the dark and lit by blue lights that put a scary look about the place. I was the only one down there for most of my wander, and there were a few times where I was a bit scared to go through to the next section because it was dark and creepy (and I was listening to My Favourite Murderer). I made it through though and feel a bit braver for it.

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From there I continued my wandering up to the Fisherman’s Bastion. It  was built as a viewing platform in 1905 by Frigyes Schulek, the architect behind Matthias Church. Its name was taken from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the castle wall. It started to snow while I was wandering around, but that did not make the views any less beautiful. I’m a little sad that the day was a bit foggy so I missed on some of the views, but well worth the trip. img_1487img_1507

After a quick visit inside the church to warm up, I moved to the Gates of Vienna and the edge of the boundary for the Castle District. I wandered down the colourful streets and in and out of some more Christmas markets. I passed the controversial Hilton Hotel. It has part of a Jesuit College and an old Dominican Church as part of its property. It is a bit odd to see. I wandered back down to where I am staying and found some nourishment in the form of cake. Yummy Hungarian cake. It is amazing. Wonderfully light and tasty. I waddled to my room afterwards and have been laying in bed in a slight cake coma ever since.

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Tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, so I feel like it is a good day to wander through the Jewish Quarter and see the Great Synagogue….which is a quick five minute walk from my hotel.

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The Scamp in Budapest: Day 1

So here’s the thing about me: I am a gypsy soul. I am the most alive when I am traveling. I’d rather collect stamps in my passport than do most anything else. When I am in the dark and twisty I like to plan trips, and sometimes I actually spend the money and go on these trips. I went to Malta in August, Paris in November, I’m currently in Budapest. This summer I will trek through the Balkans with my hetero life-mate. I love Scotland. It’s my home. It will always be my home, but man oh man do I get itchy and need to see other parts of the world…and run away from my problems. I have a paper that needs to go through some major revisions. I am still a bit upset about my relationship busting up in a spectacular fashion. I’m in the middle of a health mystery. I have a draft chapter due at the end of the month and because I don’t have the balls to tell my supervisors that I feel really disrespected in the office, I haven’t been going in to work.

But, it is almost Christmas so I am sitting in a lovely hotel in the centre of the Jewish Quarter and enjoying being in a place that is both a city and country (didn’t know that until today). I booked this trip months ago because I could not face the idea of being at home alone on Christmas. If I couldn’t be in California, I did not want to be in my flat where I spend way too much time alone. I have internet, gps on my phone and a thirst for adventure, so I think the next five days will be just what I need to recharge. I promised my mother I would be in by sundown, so I can get plenty of work done in the afternoon.

I got here early in the afternoon so I started my trip with a jaunt to the Basilica of St Stephen and the Christmas market set up in front of it. The Basilica is beautiful in a dark and gloomy sort of way. It is named for the first king of Hungary. Fun fact: the ‘incorruptible’ right hand of King Stephen is on display in the Church for all to see. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but the people here see it as a rare and wonderful gift. It was stolen during the second world war, but they were able to get it back.

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After the Basilica, I decided to take a stroll along the Danube to the monument dedicated to the Hungarian Jews that were stripped, shot, and dumped into the river. The memorial is 60 pairs of vintage shoes sort of scattered along the bank. The shoes are all sizes and styles to show that there was not just one type of person affect by the war.

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It made me sad to see people posing with the shoes and taking selfies, but I have to say, it is really nice to be in a country with such a large Jewish population. There are memorials all around the city and many temples to visit. I have a whole day in the Jewish Quarter planned.

I wandered around the outside of the Parliament, and sorta wish I had gone inside. I was tired and cold and ended up walking back toward my hotel in search of a hot meal and a comfy chair. I have to say though, this city is really easy to get around, very pedestrian friendly, and so far has been very welcoming and lovely. I’m looking forward to what the next few days has to offer. I’m here on my own, but so far today I have not felt the least bit lonely. Only once did I wish someone was with my in Liberty Square so I could take a goofy picture with the Ronald Reagan statue.

 

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge Week 11

I’m way behind. Way way way behind with the challenge. It is to the point now that I feel guilty when I miss the post, and it gnaws on me. That being said, I have been grading poorly written midterms, celebrating birthdays, and minorly freaking out that the paperwork for my new life in Scotland is not yet complete. March is almost over, and I need my passport on June 5th, so the days are slowly trickling away. I’m starting to freak out and stress a bit.

But, back to the challenge. I’m supposed to be focused on the good, not the bad.

Week 11 is all about a person that inspires me. This was hard for me. I’ve spent a long time with my head buried in the sand lately, so it is hard for me to really think of who really inspires me.

There are a lot of people that would fall under this category, but I ultimately settled on a fellow gypsy soul, who not only understands the value of seeing the world, but does a pretty amazing job of writing about his adventures along the way.

Nathan and I met in 2009 when we both registered for a literature class dedicated to Mark Twain. I was working for Professor Gregg Camfield at the time as a project manager for the updating and renovating of the museum at Angle’s Camp. The class served as research assistants, and each of us was in charge of putting together a small presentation for the Mark Twain exhibit. I was in charge of keeping everything together, and for helping the museum map out how the exhibit would come together. Nathan and I got to know each other over discussions of literature, and then the poor guy got to know me even better (or at least see me in my penguin pajamas more than anyone should) when he started dating my roommate. After I graduated from UC Merced and moved to San Diego for my MA, Nathan and I would occasionally chat through Facebook, but I would not call our relationship more than a casual acquaintance.

It was actually writing that offered us a chance to reconnect. When I moved to Scotland the first time, Nathan was one of my original readers. Despite not actually seeing each other since 2009, social media and the internet has allowed us to have some interesting discussions about books, writing, and the need to travel.

After he graduated from college with a degree in Art History, he found himself in a life that was not making him happy, so he did what many of us would never have the courage to do, he quit his job and bought a one way ticket to Europe. He started a blog, and has been making money by writing and chronicling his adventures as he explores every corner of Europe. You can find his writing here: http://lifeisacamino.com/

This is the part of him that really inspires me. I spent a long time thinking that there was something wrong with me because the thing in life that made me happy was traveling. I do not know many people that love adventure and writing as much as I do, but Nathan is definitely one of them. His writing skills, honesty, and sense of adventure makes me jealous more often than not, but reaffirms my desire to travel and explore the world as much as I can.

Sadly, his adventure is about to come to an end. He will return home in May, and hopefully he continues to write and explore, and be a gypsy soul. He has inspired me to write more of my travels, and not second guess my choice to be a wanderer while I am still able.

“There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t sit still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest; Their’s is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.”
Robert W. Service

The Scamp and Her Gypsy Soul

316 days, 11 hours, and 52 minutes until I complete my coursework for the EdD program.

64 days, 12 hours, 51 minutes until Thanksgiving break.

Not that I am counting.

Thanksgiving means a chance to go to Estonia (I hope) and see one of my best friends, and the end of my coursework means a trip to Spain and Portugal with my parents.

My gypsy soul needs to wander soon. I’m getting restless.

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“There’s a race of women that don’t fit in, A race that can’t sit still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;Their’s is the curse of the gypsy blood,

And they don’t know how to rest.”
― Robert W. Service