My trip in Eastern Europe was probably the best three and a half months of my life. It was fun and I think I learned things. Here’s a summary.
1. Budapest: It was raining the first day, and it was one of my deepest lows. I was ready to go back home. Then that night I had my first real CouchSurfing experience. I met lots of great people here. Katja gave me the keys to her old apartment and said I could stay there until the end of the month. The city had energy, and the people were welcoming and generous. Thermal baths. On my return trip to Budapest, I met my high school friend Attila after 7 years. I got to experience daily life, he took me to his hometown, his mom fattened my up, and I saw the wine country. I got a suit from friends and interviewed for a real job. I got the offer but low pay. I probably overstayed my welcome staying two weeks with Attila and Kata, but they didn’t seem to mind.
2. Belgrade: I cut my time in Macedonia short to make it to the Belgrade beer festival. It turned out to be kind of boring. But I met Nikola, a CouchSurfer. We hit if off, and I stayed with him at his grandma’s for a few nights. Then he brought me to his village, south of Belgrade, for another few nights. The hospitality was amazing. I was treated like the guest of honor at a few meals. The mothers would sit outside the table, waiting as you ate, making sure you had enough and that you enjoyed the food. The girls in Belgrade were beautiful. The most beautiful. And despite bad US-Serbia political relations, everyone I met was happy to see me. It seems Serbia’s still isolated. Not much tourism. Beautiful place, beautiful girls, and generous people.
3. Ukraine: In Lviv, I was welcomed into a residential block home. It was after midnight when I arrived yet I was given lots of food and drink, even a few slices of pig fat. A really poor place, but amazing generosity. Then I met Oksana who helped me get a train ticket to Kiev, and we went for a drink. In Kiev, the cheapest and busiest metro I’ve experienced. Death-metal friends helped me with a vodka purchase and then we got in trouble with the police before a $20 bribe took care of it. Ukraine is very cheap, undiscovered, and has beautiful girls and hospitable people.
1. Prague: This was the low point of my trip. It’s also where I decided to buy a ticket back home. Everyone raves about this place, but I felt an emptiness here. Loaded, really loaded with tourists. It’s got nice buildings but everything caters to tourists. It doesn’t seem to exist on its own. No charm, only currency exchanges and souvenirs.
2. Venice: Maybe this is the best example of a museum city. It’s great to see once on a day trip, but I don’t feel you can get a cultural experience. Tourism runs this place. Boring.
3. Athens: Dirty city with the Acropolis. I came here because I was in the area, but it wasn’t a memorable experience. Just a big museum. And a lot of the Greek ruins rely too much on your imagination. Some scattered rocks in the lawn … gymnasium.
1. Hungary: I loved the goulash with sour cream (tie-fuh). Lots of paprika. Stuffed peppers. All heavy and fatty, but delicious.
2. Pakistan in Vienna: Eat as you like, Pay as you wish. Pakistani buffet restaurant in Vienna broke all the rules and made me very happy. I ate there three or four times.
3. Romania: Sarmale was delicious. Pork wrapped in cabbage. Mamaliga was good, basically polenta. Fresh trout meal in Turda! But I missed the tripe soup.
The tomatoes in Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia were delicious. Sweet and fresh. I could eat them straight with pleasure.
1. Czech Republic: I hated Prague and the food didn’t help. Boring and heavy. Slices of meat with slices of dumplings in a heavy goop of gravy.
2. Italy: 5 euro slice of anemic pizza and 4 euro coke. The food I could afford to buy was total shit. Supermarket self-catering was the answer.
3. Macedonia: Meals were really meat heavy. Too much meat. And the most disappointing part was getting this cheap peas and carrot combination as the side.
Most Generous People:
Turkey: I met a Turkish guy on the sleeper train coming into Istanbul and he invited me to stay with him. Only one night though since he was having one of his four “fuck buddies” over the next night. Good guy. Then Barak, who’s friends with my college roommate, convinced me to change my train ticket to stay with him one night. He insisted on paying for everything as we went out with his friends to watch a football match and hung out at the Bosphorus. His mom made an awesome Turkish breakfast, and traditional dinner. Barak and his mom seemed really happy to have me. She even gave me a wrapped gift for my mom as I was departing! I was made welcome many other times in Turkey too. Lots of tea. And I stayed with a Turk in Sarajevo, and Vienna. Hospitality is in their blood.
I was also impressed by Serbians, Romanians, and Ukrainians. My experiences in these countries were great because of their generosity.
Least Generous People:
Rich-car drivers: All those bastards in their BMWs and Mercedes (and even RVs) who passed me by when I was trying to hitch a ride. When I saw them coming around with their designer sunglasses and well-maintained wives, I knew they wouldn’t stop.
Most Beautiful Girls:
1. Serbia: This was a surprise for me. I was blown away. The highest density of beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. And I got a feeling they didn’t know they were hot. No sense of being really special. A big plus. No attitude.
2. Ukraine: Really beautiful girls. High boots and mini-skirts. No attitude either.
3. Paris: many.
Best: Couchsurfing. Generous people from the place you’re visiting.
Worst: Hostel. Morons who want to get drunk in a different city.
- Most people are good and generous. Trust people.
- US passport holders are lucky.
- Native English speakers are lucky.
- Traveling alone is the best for cultural exposure and meeting people.
- People love to help.
- Alcohol is great for sharing and bonding.
- People you meet make the journey interesting. People make the journey.
- Nature and beach get boring quickly when you’re alone.
- The top destinations to visit are the worst.
- Buildings and bridges are boring.