Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hungarians in Romania

I took the train from Budapest to Oradea in Romania today. Crazy, it is much more expensive to get an international ticket in Hungary, almost double the price of a domestic ticket. So, I was trying to cheat for the cheap fare by taking the train to a border town (that's Kotegyan) near Romania in Hungary, and get a ticket to Oradea from Kotegyan. But no way, they will still charge you an expensive price to get a ticket Kotegyan-Oradea. So Budapest-Kotegyan (4 hours' journey) I have paid about 10 Euro, and Kotegyan-Oradea (1 hour's journey) I have paid about 10 Euro too. Have only managed to save about 5 Euro this way compared to getting the ticket to Oradea in Budapest. Upset.

Romania, sure you are in Romania? So I came to the hostel, and the guy who runs the hostel told me he is a Hungarian living in Oradea. Okay, I remember the hostel guy in Budapest were telling me he is a Hungarian borned in Transylvania. Now, the Oradea guy, James, is telling me everything above Transylvania is Hungary and not Romania. It actually used to be before WW I and perhaps the Hungarians still think it is. You can get around without any problem here if you only speaks Hungarian.

Is there any difference from the outlook of a Hungarian and a Romanian? I asked him. Yeah, of course, and you will be able to tell after spending about half a day walking on the street. Go try and have fun with the 'identifying' game and tell me if you could tell the difference tomorrow, he said. I told him I want to go to South Bucovina to see the painted monasteries but he has not been there. He is familiar with almost every corner of the "Hungarian Romania" but not "Romania".

500 years ago there is no Romanian here in Transylvania, he said. And until 200 years ago perhaps there are a few Romanians. And now more are coming. And Cluj-Napoca has became a very unpleasant town since then ... "It is alright to drink the tap water here. But I wouldn't do that in Bucharest."

Oradea 13/10/2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007


5 - 7/10 Krakow
8/10 Zakopane
9/10 Lepoca/ Spisske Pohrahdie
10 - 11/10 Bratislava
12/10 Vienna
13/10 Budapest

Budapest 13/10/2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Egon Schiele

The Leopold Museum in Vienna - Gallery visited today. Schiele's a great painter.

Bratislava 12/10/2007

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Journey in the Train

The train moved from town to town, from station to station, from one abandoned barrack to another, from a nowhere land to another. The train moved along the German/Polish railway from Berlin to Wroclaw, crossing the border at Frankfurt Oder, where the border control officers came in, and asked to see your ID or passport. Then the train was on the move again.

It wasn't great doing such train journey in Poland. No great mountains, no stunning lakes, no awesome coastlines. But when the train goes past a tiny village and reaching another, the Polish country life is unrolled, the kind of off-the-beaten-track feel for a traveller. It reminds me very much of the train-journeying experience in Italy.

To train in Italy is a great experience. I remember once, I had to catch the first train from Alberobello to Lecce, that was in Puglia region in southern Italy. The first train departed around five minutes past seven, and the ticket officer promised me the day before that he would be there at seven so that I could get the ticket and board the train. It was a real tiny train, with 2-3 carriages, I remember, and there were only 2 to 3 passengers in the train including myself. The train went slowly, so slow that you don't feel it was actually moving at all.

Then all the unforgetable train journeys passing through the region of Tuscany and Umbria. You would stopover at towns like Empoli, Pasignano sul Trasimeno, Chiusi, Siena, Perugia, Orvieto, and the list goes on. The rolling hills, spiking cypresses, gentle vineyards and olive farms spreading miles and miles, walled medieval towns, humble brick farm houses. Central Italy is a place of eternal beauty, a place not to rush for anything, a place where one always have some time to enjoy the sun and the wine.

Budapest 13/10/2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Being close to history - days spent in Berlin

I am in love with Berlin.

I like Berlin better than any capitals or any cities (you have to exclude 'town' or village') that I have been to. (That excludes, of course, Shanghai, a place where I have spent long enough to start to think that I know her well like knowing my hometown.) I guess, the reason for me liking Berlin so much, is because it is the place where one feels close to history, not history of a hundred a thousand years ago, but the history that we have read on newspapers' headtitles (the fall of Berlin Wall), and the history that everyone of us in the world have read about in school text books (the WW II).

Piece and pieces of Berlin Wall are scattered in corners of the city of Berlin. Then the underground covered book shelves in Babelplatz, a monument for the burning of books by the Nazis. The Jewish Holocaust Monument that somehow symbolises the Jewish cemetery in Prague. Berlin is all about what recent history has left for us in the past century.

Berlin is not rebuilt, like Warsaw. The Polish are so proud of the Warsawish grandour past that they did such an excellent job in rebuilding almost the entire old town almost up to close precision. The Berliners has had a tough time under the communist government in the past few decades. The city is never rebuilt. Perhaps to Berliners what is gone is gone. The city tour guide brought us to a green piece of land at the edge of a car park, that used to be Hitler's bunker, she said. Nothing, no obvious sign plate or somethings points one to this site. Only an explanatory board stands ordinarily by the roadside, which could be easily missed. There should not be anyhting left for someone to worship, the guide said. Here facing us accross the car park are the apartment blocks which used to be one of those prestigious accomodation in East Germany.

In the shadow of the past Berlin is emerging dynamically towards the architecture city, the contemporary cultural hub of Europe. Taking the S-Bahn from Alexanderplatz to Zoologischer Garten, you will feel like going through an awesome exhibit of modern architecture. The night lights are flashing, and the proud nation is proceeding with full confidence at his steady pace.

Krawkow 5/10/07

Words on the Street

He who seeks is awaited; he who waits is only found.

A sentence which I came accross on the street somewhere near the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Yeah, on the street. It was printed on a plague and got planted on the pavement, written by a Czech author if I remember correctly. It was an exhibition, displaying meaningful sayings of the great from the EU countries.

I was sharing these words with sh, a friend in Shanghai and she has decided to get them written on her blog. And I told her I had the intention to do so as well. The meaning, well guys, interpret yourself.

Wroclaw 4/10/07


12 - 13/9 Talinn
14 - 17/9 Riga / Sigulda
18 - 22/9 Vilnius / Trakai / Siaulai / Drusininkai
23 - 26/9 Warszawa
27 - 28/9 Gdansk
29 / 9 Train Gdansk - Berlin
30 / 9 - 2/10 Berlin
3 - 4/10 Wroclaw

Wroclaw 4/10/07