(WARNING!! the following entry may contain profanity and/or mention of alcohol!)
wow. what a trip. that was easily the best trip ever. (and simultaneously the most EXPENSIVE trip ever, however, considering what we did, i think we got off with a fairly light bill.)
got up at 4.0am, did the hour trek to the airport, got successfully checked in and on the plane in plenty of time. and on top of that, i got the seat (1 of 2) next to the emergency exit which had no seat in front of it, therefore providing me with more than abundant leg room. excellent. got to london only to find out my money was only worth half as much there (i will curse £'s until the day i die) as it is at home. london is the antithesis of budapest. it's way clean and way expensive. everything literally costs (at LEAST) 3 times as much as it should. i realize this very shortly after arrival, as i'm paying £14 for a 40 min train ride (and at this point i'm loving hungary more than ever. i saw several advertisements for visiting hungary. i think they could have had a better ad campaign had they gone for a slogan such as "come to hungary! where we won't charge you your first born son for a Big Mac." or something like that.). anywho, john and i trek around london all day seeing the sights and taking pictures like they're going out of style. and holy crap! saturday and sunday (and wednesday in salzburg) were the most beautiful days i've ever seen, i think, in my entire life. i wasn't really sure what to expect from london, but whatever it was i had in mind, london exceeded it. it was a beautiful city. it was clean, well kept, and everyone spoke english EVERYwhere. it certainly was a site to see. it was such an odd change to not have to decipher everything someone said to you (and i had to be careful what i said around people since they could now understand it). so whenever i needed to find out some information, i just asked! ANYONE! so great. and i thoroughly enjoyed all the various UK accents. there really are a bunch. let's see, yeah, so we saw everything except for buckingham palace saturday. nothing really "in depth" persay, but you really have to limit yourself when traveling like this. you just can't hang out at one place for too long otherwise you'll miss the rest. we were fortunate enough to have 4 days to sort of take our time. so that was great. so after a VERY long day of sight-seeing, we began our path home. this turned out to be a bit of a problem due to a mix-up on my page of phone numbers and whatnot. fortunately, i figured out the correct # to call on the train ride "home". and then i got to meet my family. they're awesome. Cullen is my grandfather's brother. he and his family live about 40 min outside of london (in a place called cobham). Apparently, i've "met" them before, but i must have been very very young because i don't recall a thing. so this made it even more interesting to visit with them. and yeah, it was just really enjoyable. we sat around saturday night and talked for an hour or so, catching them up on family and whatnot. Mary (cullen's wife) is just the nicest person ever. and she's irish, so that makes her even that much more fun to be around. after this, we all went to bed... in our BEDS. i got to sleep in a full sized bed with covers that fit the bed and me and it was awesome.
we slept in a bit and then went with camille to Hampton court. (oh, and we also met camille and her friend the night before. they're characters, i'll tell you that much.) i was just amazed at how beautiful the whole place was. there was so much green and birds and stuff. really great. after wandering around with her, we came back and prepared for cullen's surprise bday party. it went really well. apparently, he was very surprised. which is good. and all the guests were people of an older . . . persuasion. this one lady referred to john and i as pianists and i was like "uh, i hate to burst your bubble, but uh..." yeah. but we did end up playing a few songs for them (because mary and cullen had a TUNED piano! and every morning i got up and played it for a little while. it was great. have i mentioned that there are no in-tune/good sounding pianos on this campus?) and after the party we watched X2. it was so fun listening to all the UK "sayings" and "lingo" and stuff. it was a nice time of getting to know everyone.
(i really miss playing trombone. does anyone still play an instrument? (scott, todd?))
today we had the worst weather yet. it was just raining all day, BUT we managed to make it out to good ol' Greenwhich and stand on the prime meridian! it was sweet. and we got into all the museums for free (more accurately, the tickets were free. for some reason we still had to get tickets and were actually asked by one lady if we in fact DID have our complimentary tickets. go figure). i think japanese people are the only ones that can get away with taking the really touristy pictures (like with london cops and stuff. stuff you wouldnt dare do. or at least i wouldnt). anyway, that's pretty much all we did monday. then we went out with camille that evening to have a few brewskies. she wanted to show us a few places in town she normally went to. at one place john and i had a beer called "old english cider" or something like that. camille said it was really lame to like it, but dangit, it was pretty good. it was like apple beer or something. i mean, it really was kind of good! and then i had some beer labeled "TEA" at another place. yeah, NEVER get that beer. it was tea and beer mixed together. it was horrible. never again. well, maybe. . . no, never. they sell beer in pints and 1/2 pints there. basically a pint is 0.5 L. you know what really pisses me off about europe? well i dont know if the UK does this, but in my part of europe they do. they switch commas and decimal points in numbers. like the other day i saw something for 21.000, Ft (twenty-one thousand Forint) if THAT doesnt piss you off, i dont know what will. or you might get coke in a restaurant and the size is 0,33L (1/3 of a liter). freaking ridiculous. i mean, a decimal is symmetrical. it says, "i belong in the middle, separating integers and fractions." not the stupid comma! it belongs down there in the thousands. that's it's home! sometimes i think i'm surrounded by morons. ANYway, john brought this to my attention and i think he's probably right. he said the altitude youre at changes the intensity of alcohol's effects. i think i believe him because we must have had 2 liters of beer that night (and a shot of something camille gave us (she said it was really strong and i'm like, "you dont know strong until you've have unicum, becherovka, or absinthe.") (yeah, and it wasn't that strong) (oh, and in case you're wondering, just because i'm typing the words "alcohol" and "beer" doesn't mean i'm an alcoholic, so get a life.) . . . but yeah, we actually felt alright afterwards. interesting. and the 2 liters was over the course of 4 hrs or so. but i also think the fact that london is really close to sea level has something to do with it. right, and that was that.
the weather was better today, but still overcast. so we went to Wimbledon! we kept getting bad directions to get there and we ended up walking about 2 miles (one in the wrong direction) to centre court (rather than just taking the bus). but it was worth it. i thought the tennis museum was pretty cool. for some reason the tennis and it's history actually interests me. so that was fun. we finally left wimbledon and went and saw buckingham, which turned out to be not so grand since it was being heavily guarded by tons of police due to g.w.'s visit on wednesday. but it was worth it. and we finally got to meet up with leanne. i really didnt think we were even going to get to see her. i would've felt bad if we hadn't have. but she was just really busy and we were living 40 min outside of town, so it wasn't always convenient. after returning home, and watching the last half of K-PAX, i washed (AND dried!) my clothes and watched vanilla sky. it made me miss jess a lot more. this whole trip did. it's funny because before this i never even knew this section of my family, but i really felt at home with them like right away. i hope they felt the same with me.
got up at 4am (again), rode 1.5 hrs to the airport with cullen (thanks a lot cullen), got stopped at security due to me trying to carry my gerber tool onto the plane (fortunately the guy was really nice about it and let me take it back and get it checked), boarded the half empty plane, yada yada yada, we were in salzburg. salzburg has got to be one of the most beautiful places i've ever seen. the view from the fortress was literally breathtaking. and it was so green there. i can't even imagine it in the summer time. truly an amazing site. and lucky (again!) for us, the weather was absolutely perfect (as you can probably tell), and the sunset was no exception. we finally left the fortress to got our hostel (which ended up being set at the top of a very steep hill. we had a blast trying to find it by the light of my LED headlamp.). our hostel was actually someone's house, which was . . . cozy? we were going to get up early and head to Munich, Germany for the day, but well, upon waking up, rather than seeing the incredible overview of the city below, i could only see the tree in the front yard. this is because one of the thickest fogs ever had set itself down on top of austria. well, half the reason we were going to go o munich was for the view along the way, but since we couldnt see anything, we decided against the $50 trip. so we get our ticket home and head to the train. according to the info board our train is on track 3a/3b. "no problem. it's the main track." it's 30 min till our train takes off and it appears to already be there. we get on, there arent too many people onboard, maybe 5 or 6 per car. makes sense, it's still got half an hour before take off. i mean, if it wasn't our train, it wouldn't have been on the board yet. (and we've done a lot of train travel, so we kind of know the routine.) so we sit our stuff down and relax. well, john decides to get off the train for a bit and look at something. no more than a minute later, the train begins to roll. "that's funny," i thought. "i guess they're just rolling it forward? i mean, i didn't hear any whistles or bells or anything." about this time i look out the window and see john jumping up and down giving the ol' "cut throat" sign, which i immediately took as "i got some bad news josh. you're on the wrong freakin' train." "holy SHIT!" the panic begins to seep in. i turn around, grab everything (mine and john's stuff) and run to the door. (on hungarian trains, you can open the door whenever you feel like it.) however, on this particular train (and ALL german trains) the doors are hydraulically sealed. "holy SHIT!" i exclaimed. and so help me, had that door opened, i was fully prepared to jump (and it was easily going 15-20 mph at this point). "okay okay. plan b." i see a red lever above the door. "that's GOTTA do SOMEthing!" so i pulled it (breaking a safety pin, i think). i hear a little buzzer go off! "GREAT! a buzzer! now they HAVE to stop!" much to my chagrin, i see no one coming to inspect the alarm and even worse, the train is NOT stopping! "ohhhhhhh shit," i said in a stupefied stupor. i'm actually really panicking at this point. not enough to freak out and not know what to do (because i rule too much for that), but it's the most panicked i can remember in a long time. "okay . . . okay. plan c. find the conductor of this here train!" so i'm off, running up the train trying not to nail some old person in the back of the head with one of my 2 backpacks. three car's later, i happen upon a girl talking with the a train attendee. after some brief, hectic talk, i discover that the girl and i are in the same boat. up until this point i had thought this might could work out. "perhaps i can just stop at the next station along the path and john can catch up to me on the next rain. maybe?" well the first bad new was that since we were on one of the nice train, it probably wouldnt be stopping for another 50km. what was worse was that this particular train was going to Munich, Germany which is in the complete opposite direction of Budapest (approximately 2.5 hours in the wrong direction, in fact). "oh dang. that's . . . really . . . not good." then (finally), some god came our way, they decided to let us off at the next train station (which they wouldn't have done for only one person). and thanks be to the Almighty Lord, this girl spoke german. after finding out that the next train back to salzburg didn't leave until 5 min AFTER the train i was originally to catch left, we ran outside and grabbed a taxi. and frankly, i believe it was only by the grace of God that we made it back to that station on time. the traffic was terrible and it was taking forever, but we made, with no more than 1 min to spare. so i'm there holding the train while the girl runs to get there (i beat her up the stairs. yeah, i know. i rule.) and john is no where in sight. "not now." right then i see him across the station reading train times. "JOHN!" he doesn't look. "holy... YOU WILL HEAR ME!" i'm thinking to myself. sure enough, he heard the next cry. so he bolts over to the train and we're aboard. i know. wow. the train took off about 30 sec later. we sat down and had a drink with the girl (while we caught our breath). then we sat in our seat and chilled till we got to vienna. we had some close call train transfers in vienna and had to pay extra for our seat after we crossed the hungarian border. but those were fairly minor in comparison. we just wanted to get home, but we never did. i mean, we did.
worst train incident ever.