True to Its Name

December 27, 2010

The name Belgrade is an anglicization of Beograd, which means “white city” in Serbian. The weather this month has been fairly capricious, for a bit it was well below freezing, only to jump back up to over 10 degrees, now it’s back below zero. Not only that, but it’s been snowing the past few days.

This is essentially my first experience with Belgrade in the snow… it’s quite white indeed! Snow in the cities get slammed on quite frequently due to the fact that the snow dirties after a few hours, but I am a firm believer that it’s not so bad. The snow on the tops of buildings, trees, or any other object not under foot or tire remains pure and gives everything a bit more definition.

I had the pleasure of returning to such a sight late last night from Berlin. I celebrated Christmas in Berlin with a few friends of mine, I had a lot of fun, it’s quite a cool city. I was determined to stick it to the taxi drivers of Belgrade after a series of rip-offs, so I looked for possible alternatives back from the airport while I was in Berlin. I ended up dodging the heckles of the Taxi Mafia at the arrivals gate and made it to the city bus just in time. It took a meandering and scenic (at least in the snow) course through New Belgrade toward its terminus of Zeleni Venac.

I walked home from Zeleni Venac through the odd silence and the falling snow. It proved to be a fairly momentous experience, I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt.

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Wiener Melange

December 21, 2010

To set things straight, wiener melange is my new term for clusterfuck, get used to it!

Yesterday was a wiener melange of epic proportions. Last time you heard from me was when I was sitting in Slagelse the day before my flight back to Belgrade. That day finished up with a trip to The Upper Hill with Dave to say hey to Mette and have a few drinks. Considering our massive hang overs and relatively little sleep, neither of us were in the mood to drink much. Somehow we still ended up drinking more than we expected.

I rode the train back to Copenhagen and crashed at Lori’s again. We got pizza, and I opened a bottle of Black Maple Hill bourbon which Sarah sent me for the holidays (you’re the best!). The next morning (yesterday) I headed out to the airport to catch my flight. Due to cataclysmic snowfall most of the flights in Europe have been significantly delayed for the past 10 days or so. Mine was no exception. This botched the transfer I was supposed to make in Dusseldorf to Belgrade. I instead had to spend like four hours in line to get booked onto a flight to Stuttgart (~6 hours later) where I was expected to somehow leave the gate, get my boarding pass, go back through security, and get back to the gate in 30 minutes. I was banking on the fact that the plane from Stuttgart to Belgrade would be delayed as well, and so it was. Before I left the gate I checked its status, it was about an hour and half delayed. That gave me ample time to go out and pick up my boarding pass. Unfortunately all the ticketing desks were closed at this point. After 30 or so minutes of running around getting pointed in different (and equally useless) directions I was directed to a desk whose sole occupant had just put up a sign about closing and being back at 0430 and was heading out. I convinced her (with my irresistible charm, no doubt… or perhaps it was my dirty clothes and unshowered body) to try to find me somebody who could print me a boarding pass. She contacted a colleague who promptly brought me a boarding pass, my ticket back through security.

At this point, I was kind of in panic mode as it was of the utmost importance that I be home and online for work today at 0800. Not only was I concerned A) I wouldn’t make the flight, but B) my bag containing both my house keys and my computer power supply had been sent off in some other direction hours earlier, and C) I hadn’t paid for Internet access in approximately one month (Internet access here is prepaid) and the office in which I do that was long closed by this time.

From then on, everything did a complete 180. I made my flight, got back to Belgrade, retrieved my previously-lost bag containing house keys and power supply from the friendly chap at lost and found, and got home to discover A) that Internet access still worked and B) that my poorly-packed bottle of bourbon and stupidly-expensive pair of dress shoes were still very much intact.

It’s easy for me to feel like the world is occasionally working against me. Last night, however, was a pretty good example of how it’s occasionally not, or dare I say, it’s occasionally working for me.

Holiday Festivities

December 19, 2010

Quite an eventful weekend.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, a company I’m affiliated with just had a holiday party in Denmark and was kind enough to invite me. As I’m sitting in a hotel room in Slagelse, Denmark in a sleep-deprived and hung over state of apathetic euphoria (for lack of a better term), I figured I’d recap the weekend’s events… digitally.

I had a great last night in Budapest, checking out a pretty cool restaurant I’d never been to with Jess and then hanging out a few neighborhood bars. The next day I rushed to the airport at mid day. Ferihegy airport in Budapest has two different terminals, quite far away from one another. I swear my confirmation email said Terminal 2, but apparently not. I caught a cab back from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1, fortunately my flight had been delayed which gave me ample time to get to the gate. I had to drop mad Euros on checking my garment bag at the gate though as easyJet doesn’t allow you to bring more than two carry-on bags on board.

We ended up sitting on the plane for a good few hours before departure because we were waiting for the de-icing truck to get around to us. Fortunately, I made it to Paris with very little of what was left of a five hour layover. I just barely made my connecting flight and got to Copenhagen at about 0100. Lori was (again) kind enough to let me crash at her place in Copenhagen. I was pretty much dying of starvation when I got to her house, so she gave me a giant plate of leftover pasta. She’s the king.

I took off early the next morning to Copenhagen H (central station) to catch a train out to Slagelse. Dave and Marcus picked me up at the station and we headed out to Vejle in Jutland. The party was hosted at a big hotel/casino out in the country. The party started off with a fancy five-course meal with seemingly bottomless wine glasses (five of which… constantly being refilled). After that we moved on to the casino. The woman at the front desk was from Srebrenica, so I said some stuff in Bosnian to her and tried not to mention the genocide. I didn’t do any gambling myself, instead opted to support Dave’s habit with my chips. He squandered them, but it was fun to watch.

All in all, we ended up participating in all sorts of debauchery not particularly befitting of a corporate holiday party, but that’s how we roll I guess.

December stuff

December 14, 2010

December has been and will continue to be pretty chaotic, by the looks of things.

At the end of my last blog post I foresaw future visits to Budapest, I’m back there now in fact. It’s another longer-than-anticipated stay here as well. I was originally just coming up for the weekend, but plans grew and practical considerations triumphed. My company back in Seattle has established a growing relationship with a similar firm headquartered in Denmark (part of the reason I was there for so long last time). I have been invited to their Christmas party this year and am very much looking forward to it. However, being that I was essentially a backpacker who settled down somewhere in Europe, there was a very formal-attire-shaped hole in my wardrobe that needed to be tended-to prior to crashing this party. I had a visit to Hugo Boss here in Budapest about a week ago to get the ball rolling. I found a suit which appealed to me and got fitted for it. It should be ready by tomorrow night (cutting it close to the Friday departure date for my return to Denmark).

So here I am in Budapest. Getting my tickets back to Copenhagen from here since flights are so much cheaper, in addition to the fact that I needed to cop a suit ASAP, were more-or-less the aforementioned practical considerations. That made my stay here a little over two weeks rather than the planned weekend. I’m in Denmark for only a few days this time, running out to Jutland for the party and returning two days later. I’ll be getting on the train back to Belgrade shortly after returning to Budapest since I have a flight from Belgrade to Berlin to catch only two days later. I’ll be in Berlin for Christmas catching up with a few friends, which promises to be an awesome time. After that, I’ll be back in Belgrade for a few days, followed by another week or so in Budapest for the Loft Hostel’s famed New Years Party, this year is Super Mario-themed. Now, before you judge me, I’m dressing up as one of those hammer-throwing guys… hammers, however, do not sound like a good addition to general drunkenness, we’ll see how this goes.

I spent the last weekend in Olomouc, Czech Republic. A friend of mine used to work there, so I tagged along with her to check it out. We stayed at the hostel in which she used to work and generally had a great time. It’s a really cool city, quite small, but plenty of stuff to see. It was also sub-zero temperatures the whole time… quite cold. We caught the late afternoon train back to Budapest last night with an expected arrival at Budapest Keleti at around 2230, giving me ample time to get things together for work today and find some ingredients for the Lablabi I planned on making today. Our train from Břeclav in Moravia back to Budapest was initially 80 minutes late, so there was a bit of hanging out at the train station. We were quite relieved when it arrived, and were prepared to relax on the heated train for the remainder of the journey. However, we were again delayed at Štúrovo apparently due to a derailed train ahead of us. There ended up being a lot more going in random directions while the passengers were generally unclear as to exactly what was going on. I got a little bit of sleep on the train and prepared for not making it back to Budapest by the start of my shift. We ended up somehow making it past the accident and rolled into Budapest Keleti at about 0300 this morning. I didn’t get to bed until around 0500, and had to wake up at 0750. Needless to say, I’m not particularly sprightly at the moment. With that being said, this is my last sentence.