July 28, 2013

What I learned from backpacking

Bear with me; I’m more of a “Here’s what I thought about all this week” than a “Here’s what I did today” kind of guy. Last week I found myself traveling through the once former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Djordje and I took an overnight train from Belgrade and arrived in the capital of Hungary ten hours later. The city reminds me of New York. For the few hours I was there, lugging around a backpack filled with only the basics and a camera in my hand, I felt like I was home. The avenues are wide and the streets are long, trees canvas the sidewalks, and surprisingly beautiful¬†Scaffolding in Budapest, Hungaryrows of scaffolding remind you that you’re in Europe and not on the East Coast.¬†The architecture of the city blew me away. From the colorful houses to the bright green parks, I was in love.

Budapest is actually a union of two cities, and you can still feel the differences between the two. Pest is the low lying, inner-city, while Buda is the romantic hill-top get away. Budapest truly gave me a feeling that I was walking through the American stereotype of Europe, and I absolutely loved it. Djordje said Prague was better.

Three hours on a train later: Vienna was more like going through a museum. The rush hour almost seemed robotic, and (for me) the city gave off a ‘look – but don’t touch’ type of feel. Which it should really. Vienna was the capital of Austria-Hungary, it was designed specifically to demand respect and embody power. It was A beautiful garden and mansion in Vienna, Austriamade so that even foreign kings would feel like a nobody, so I definitely wasn’t alone. Statues and flower gardens fill the city, but I kept hoping to find some attraction that broke the norm. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much with the time I was given; which leads me to sum up what I learned about backpacking:

Don’t do it. You’re robbing yourself of an amazing cultural opportunity. By trying to hit as many cities with as small of a budget and as little time as possible, you’re missing the entire point of visiting the country. As someone who studies cultures, there was a churning in my stomach when I stepped foot into Hungary and didn’t know anything about it. I binged on information when I came back, but during the experience, all I could take in were the sights. All the sounds, tastes, and feels escaped me. Devote your time to one or two places and make sure you actually learn something. Take something back with you that’s not a magnet to put on your fridge.

(Here’s one last pic of Budapest because I love the place.)A sidewalk in Budapest, Hungary, framed by buildings, trees, and parked cars

posted in Eddie Andujar

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2 Comments

  1. I understand what you mean. My family did a three week whirlwind through Europe one summer and it left me feeling hungry for more. The only country we spent considerably more time in was England because we have friends there. Seeing a place through their eyes at a slower pace was a wonderful experience. Perhaps Budapest will be your next long-term adventure!

    says Janine Block
    July 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm
  2. Loving these posts, Eddie. It looks like you and Djorde are having an amazing learning experience and a darn good time, too. We miss you both. Keep the words and pics coming. I’m living vicariously through you two.

    All best,
    JFM

    says John McKnight
    July 25, 2013 at 5:02 pm
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