This week I travelled from Berlin to Kathmandu the long way round – via Budapest and Belgrade. The past week has been a whirlwind, living out of my suitcase and catching sleep on trains and planes wherever possible. Not surprisingly, I’ve caught a cold. This combined with the fact that Mum and Dad have been delayed by two days, leaving me alone in Kathmandu for three nights, means I’m having a chilled out time in Nepal so far despite the constant noise and motion that is Kathmandu.
I left Berlin on Friday night with Bec and we caught a 14 hour train south-east through Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary. The train wasn’t too bad and we managed a few hours sleep although were awoken at 2 a.m. with a creepy man watching us sleep. He soon left us alone and the rest of our trip was much more relaxing. We kept the history to a minimum and spent most of our time swimming in the Szechenyi and Lucasz baths, eating great Hungarian food, drinking chilli coffee and champagne frappes in New York Cafe, and generally admiring the beauty of the city. After being so long in Berlin, which makes up for in cool what it lacks in beauty, we were both in awe of buildings such as Fisherman’s Bastion and St Stephen’s Basilica, especially lit up at night. We also went to the Szechenyi bath party (Sparty) on Saturday night – think thermal pool plus DJ plus 500 drunk backpackers. Crazy fun but crazy gross by the end of the night. The one museum we visited was Hospital in the Rock, which was an underground hospital and nuclear shelter kept secret from the Soviets until 2002.
On Tuesday Bec and I left Budapest headed in opposite directions – she home to Berlin and I on another train south, this one to Belgrade, Serbia. Figuring on a lack of bread in Asia, I left her with my jar of Vegemite but the airport security staff took it away from her! I guess they wanted it for themselves, they’re only human.
With less than 48 hours in Belgrade I had to be choosy about what to do. On the morning of my first day I took a walking tour which was a good way to see a lot and learn about the city in three hours. Then I walked the length of the main road of the city to the biggest Catholic cathedral in the Balkans, Saint Sava temple. The outside is white and majestic, but the inside isn’t finished – not even close. It’s all concrete but I found this interesting in itself. I also met an ancient Serbian woman and we had a broken conversation in which we somehow managed to exchange names, nationalities and the fact that Christianity is common in Australia but I’m not religious. Amazing!
Belgrade has been voted the best nightlife in Europe, so luckily I was staying in a social hostel called Hedonist where we soon had a group of about 10 people wanting to go out, including an American expat who wanted to take us to his favourite bars. So all of us – Aussies, Swedes, Yankees and Canadians had a beer in a bar along the Sava river and then crossed a bridge into Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) which has a bunch of boats and barges converted into bars and clubs. We went to one that played the strangest mix of music from the ’80s to now of every genre imaginable and in no logical atmospheric order. Prince would become Kings of Leon would become a South American dance song.
It was a late night and the next day I packed up on about three hours’ sleep and said goodbye to my new friends. I could easily have spent more time in Belgrade and the rest of Eastern Europe, but was due to meet Mum and Dad in Nepal. I flew to Kathmandu via a 10 hour stopover in Qatar bringing my travel time to almost 24 hours. As mentioned Mum and Dad’s flight was delayed so they are currently spending two nights in Kuala Lumpur.
As soon as I landed I recognised the familiar smells and heavy, humid air of Asia. Kathmandu is as chaotic as expected. Dumplings, curry, spices and chilli. Electricity blackouts every day. Incense, temples, hippie pants (regular clothing will be my biggest readjustment back in Sydney). Watching every step to avoid giant holes in the road. Endless car horns and motorcycle horns. Three months in Europe was awesome but Asia feels like coming home.