As stated in Part 1, my 2015 resolution had been to visit another country. I had gone to Australia in June, and by September I was packing up a backpack with Fat Face and my sister as the three of us argued over who was going to carry the fat Lonely Planet travel book in their bag.
Raven and I had been talking about traveling somewhere together for a while, but it never seemed realistic because we are always broke. This year was different though, so I basically made the executive decision that if we were going to travel somewhere together we had to do it NOW. It was the first time that we both happened to have a little bit of money (well, I had a little bit of money and my Dad likes my sister more than me so he gave her a little bit of money), and we both had nothing tying us down. I knew I had to take advantage of this timing. Who knows, in another year or whatever, she may be in school or have a job that she can’t take time away from or get pregnant or anything! Knock on wood. So, we started googling “cheap and safe countries.” Well, I started googling. Raven sat on the couch and watched Lifetime movies.
A bunch of Eastern Europe destinations kept popping up. I’ve always wanted to go to Istanbul, and I also kept hearing how amazing Budapest is, so we figured we’d do those two cities plus a few in between. The trip went:
Budapest, Hungary > Sibiu, Romania > Bucharest, Romania > Sofia, Bulgaria > Istanbul, Turkey.
I wanted to go to the obscure countries that most people don’t visit when traveling to Europe. The next most important decision was who to bring. Fat Face was our first choice. We wanted a guy, mostly for safety purposes. Not that Fat Face could provide any protection whatsoever, so it was more about the facade. Also, he and Raven know each other well and get along, but most importantly, Fat Face is not too annoying. He absolutely does the most annoying things sometimes (like telling me he will be over in 15 minutes and then shows up an hour and a half later, strolling in like everything is just dandy), but he doesn’t have the annoying type of characteristics that one may be concerned about with a travel partner. For example, he doesn’t snore, he doesn’t eat gross, he’s not stubborn and he doesn’t fidget his legs or anything like that. Also, he’s a pretty go-with-the-flow kind of guy. However, his mustache was immediately annoying and that was the very first thing that Raven and I took care of.
Fat Face has a beard (kind of) and he had let his mustache grow into his mouth. It was fucking gross. He kept licking the ends of it, so the hairs were always moist and for some reason he thought that this was acceptable. Um no. Raven and I got on the plane and informed him that the very first thing we are doing once we arrive at the first hostel, is trimming that thing. He tried to fight us on it at first, but quickly realized there was absolutely no way he was going to win that battle, so he conceded. I would have chopped that thing off in his sleep otherwise.
I just got worked up over his mustache again and lost my original train of thought. Getting back to asking Fat Face to come with us, he said he wasn’t sure at first, which I kind of took as a no. A couple of weeks later I got a text from him out of nowhere that simply said, “I’m coming with you guys.” It made me smile.
On the long plane ride, an older woman next to us thought that it was acceptable to lay down in the middle of the aisle. She took her entire body, and laid it onto the floor of the center aisle. Yes, the MAIN aisle. The one that the drink carts go down. Amazing. It would be a solid five minutes before a flight attendant would come and inform the little old woman that it was probably one of the weirdest things that she has ever witnessed.
I loved Budapest immediately when the taxi driver pulled all the way up onto the sidewalk to drop us off at our hostel. It was also the most beautiful city I have ever seen. This wasn’t necessarily because of the natural landscape, it was because of the city landscape; the architecture. Every single structure you pass is so pretty that you have to stop and marvel. It was a good warm-up city too, because we were most in our element there. It’s the most “Westernized” of all the places we visited. It kind of felt like being in New York, but replace broadway with opera, English with Hungarian, pizza with kebabs and add thousands of more years of history and beauty. Oh, and there are no fat people. No fatties anywhere in Eastern Europe for that matter. Well, Bucharest, Romania had some stocky middle-aged folks… but there was probably only eleven of them in the whole city and I’ll get to that later.
One of the great things about being in Second World countries, is that there are not as many bullshit rules and regulations. You can drink outside, which is very convenient. I doubt that it’s been “legalized,” it’s probably just not illegal because their legislation doesn’t have a stick up their ass like the American legislative branch. We spent a lot of time on bicycles that we rented, and cruised from park to park, grabbing a beer and sitting in the grass enjoying the simple life. People do that there still… go to parks and socialize. The parks were packed with young people just sitting around and talking to one another.
There was a big palace thing that we were able to explore because like I said, they don’t bother with stupid regulations. I’m not sure what this “palace” was exactly, or if it was still functional. I suppose if I wanted to, I could fairly easily find out, but I’ll save that for a time when I’m feeling intellectually inspired. Right now, I’m just drinking orange juice and picking at my toes, wondering why I was cursed with having Flintstone feet. Anyway, we could easily walk into what were caverns I suppose, and we followed them down and around until we were in the pitch black, below ground and feeling like medieval prisoners. It was very cool. That kind of thing would be roped off if American’s had anything to do with it, so we got a nice jolt of adrenaline from the exploration.
We found a restaurant that we considered ourselves regulars of because we went twice. They had a drink called Tokyo Sex which Raven became obsessed with and Fat Face kept saying obnoxiously loud like a toddler. “Lets get us some Tokyo Sex! Whoo! Can I get a fuck yeah?!” This is real sentences that come from his mouth.
It was actually pretty funny and turned into an inside joke for the rest of the trip. One could easily spend two weeks in that city, so there was a lot that we didn’t get to do and see. Fat Face kept talking about this damn shoe monument. I mean, I should at least pretend to feel compelled to pay my respects to the Hungarians who were murdered by the Nazi’s, (which is what this monument is commemorating) but it was just a couple dozen of pairs of bronze cast shoes by the river and I am a desensitized asshole like most of us, and I much rather wanted to go to a medical museum and look at what they used for abortion tools back in the day. It was pretty gruesome.
Luckily, the three of us got into a fight the following day, so we split up and Fat Face was able to go see his fucking shoe monument that he kept talking up. Raven went back to the hostel to use wifi for hours and I almost got molested by a creepy old man at a citadel. We were secluded, he was clearly mentally ill, and out of the corner of my eye I saw his slack jaw with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, then him pulling out his penis, obviously expecting me to do something with it. Gross. I literally ran away. When we all decided to love each other again, I asked Fat Face how the shoe monument was, and he said, “It was just a bunch of shoes… but it was nice.” He should learn to always listen to me.
The Turkish baths were incredible. They are essentially big indoor natural hot pools. The water comes from deep below the surface. We floated around in those for a while and befriended a Canadian opera singer who was on tour. I think right around this time is when Raven decided that when she grows up, she wants to be Princess Jasmine. She was just chillin’ in the water, ignoring Fat Face and I as she fantasized about this bath house being her backyard, and cute servant boys bringing her Tokyo Sex’s on silver platters. There were saunas as well, but they were quite literally only four feet wide. Fat Face and I went inside one, squeezed in next to one another, then just said, “okay, that was fun,” and walked out after eight seconds.
Another merch person I know is Hungarian and lives in Budapest. I gave him a shout and after bringing us to a rocker bar that had people thrashing around so hard that I thought they were going to break their own necks, he took us to a castle up on this mountain top right in the city. As we walked around the outside of this incredible old castle that made you feel like you may look over your shoulder and see Lady Guinevere, Raven was becoming honest to god depressed because she is not Princess Jasmine. Or Lady Guinevere. I get honest to god depressed when I watch Dawson’s Creek and have to come to terms with the fact that Pacey Witter is not a real person that I can fall in love with. However, I still try to will into existence that Joshua Jackson (the actor his plays the role) might magically be exactly like Pacey and somehow I’ll run into him and be with him forever. In the same way, Raven was dealing with the fact that she will never be Princess Jasmine, while she was simultaneously trying to figure out a way that she might be able to will that into existence. She just wants to be able to wear elegant flowing gowns, stroll through glorious towers and cobblestone paths while sipping on mimosas and looking pretty all day and night. The lead singer of one of the bands that I have worked for actually lives in part of that motherfucking castle we were at, so when Raven heard that, she was prepared to partake in a blind marriage.
At night, we hit up a couple of “ruins bars.” They were by far the coolest bars I’ve ever been to, but bar isn’t really the right word. They’re more like… old abandoned buildings that are considered in ruins, and people have just gone in there and started selling alcohol and playing music and hanging out. Like I said, minimal regulations. There were a bunch of different rooms, but the center is all open air. An open aired courtyard surrounded by four walls with rooms. Each area had its own thing going on. One area was more like a club. It had a DJ and lame lights and all that nonsense. The three of us were nice and tipsy at this point, so we thought it would be a good idea to dance. Raven actually looks cool dancing, so I just try to imitate her, and then Fat Face thinks he is Michael Jackson when he is drunk, so he was off trying to impress the Hungarians with his dance moves, but ended up falling on his ass instead. It was beautiful. We laughed a lot that night. Another area was a hookah lounge, then there were the bar areas of course. There was also an area that had a live band playing weird experimental music and there was an area with people making food and then my favorite part… just a bunch of interesting art all over the walls.
The day that we were meant to leave by train to head to Romania, was the day that thousands of Syrians poured into the Budapest train stations…
To be continued.