Monday, May 24, 2010

Buda to Pest.

On Friday we set out for Budapest

Before we left the Austrian border we stopped at what can only be described as a luxury highway rest stop. Far from the smelly, fast food filled, chipped tiles, bad service variety we're used to back home, this place was clean, attractive, and friendly. Look, I understand that at this point you are asking yourself why the heck I'm rambling about some stupid rest stop. But consider that this "rest stop" had a bakery (yes, there was a man kneading dough), a nice sit down restaurant, a driving range, and even a hotel. 

Debilitating traffic is not a phenomenon limited to Atlanta or Miami. Later on the drive, the highway was closed for some reason and we were forced to take some back roads into the city. It was nice to be off the autobahn for a little while, but our 4 hour journey was extended to 6 hours.

Finally, we rolled into the capital of Hungary.

Budapest never sleeps. The city is always moving, always bustling, always loud, fast, and busy. It was a very cool experience. After our lecture, we checked in to our respective hotels and met up later that night at a nice restaurant called "Mátyás Pince Étterem". It was filled with gourmet Hungarian cuisine like wild boar, pheasant, and something called "chicken pancakes". As we dined on our delectable local fare, we were serenaded by a 6 piece Roma band. 

Later that night most students converged onto an Irish boat-pub-thing that was along the bank of the Danube. It was supposedly jazz night, but we arrived to find Salsa and Meringue music pumping from the speakers and a hoard of sweaty Hungarian couples dancing away. It was a fun night a I got to celebrate my birthday a little more properly. 

On Saturday we got an early start and experienced the Gellért Thermal Baths. The hot pools get their water from a local hot spring and the water is supposed to contain several minerals that are good for your body. As far as I could tell there was some hot water and a really nice indoor pool. Still, it was very nice and I would recommend it if you find yourself in Budapest. 

Right after we toweled off and stepped outside, we decided to climb the adjacent hill where some old statutes in honor of the soviet liberators stood. It was a tough walk, but worth seeing the gigantic testaments to communist prudence. 

After taking a shower and relaxing for a bit we walked around the city square and had a drink in one of the outdoor cafes. Later, we gathered in another Irish pub (Yes, I too have noticed the curious prevalence of Irish themed drinking establishments in every corner of the world) to watch the champions league soccer game final with Inter Milan against Bayern Munich. I was there until halftime before heading back to the room to get some rest. I had some different plans for my trip back to Linz. 

Early the next morning Ed and I walked across the street to the main train station and purchased tickets to Bratislava. Ed randomly mentioned earlier in the week that he wanted to go to there and I offered to accompany him because I would get the chance to visit an old friend. So, I asked Jenna and Jared to let the professor know that I wouldn't be coming back to Linz on the bus, and Ed and I boarded a train for Slovakia. 

I had been to Bratislava 8 years ago when I visited Europe the first time. Since then the city had changed immensely. They made good use of EU money and beautified much of the old city and added lots of high end shopping and well- manicured park space along the Danube. There happened to be a food festival at the castle that weekend so I tasted some of the city's finest food at a fraction of the cost. I'm a new fan of roasted goose. 

The trip back to Linz took us through a train change in Vienna. I am always amazed at how well the train system works. When a schedule says that a train leaves at 7:52pm... It leaves at 7:52pm. Travelling into Linz Ed and I had our own compartment that was rather nice, so I got to spread out a little and relax before we pulled into Linz Hauptbahnhof and concluded this weekend's adventure. 

The Mercedes Benz of buses. No really, it's made by Mercedes Benz. 

The Mercedes Benz of rest stops. (not really made by Mercedes)

View of the train station from the hotel room.

Becca and her wild boar. Ben gives it a thumbs up... maybe two. 

The Habsburg Palace seen from an Irish pub party boat on the Danube at night. 

Art at the Gellert. 



This was really big. 

Big Boom-stick. 

Bratislava on foot. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In a bar, on a boat, through Passau

No matter where you are, waking up for classes isn't fun. I guess the only redeeming factor is that I can look forward to exploring my temporary home everyday after gettin' all learned up. Tuesday ran a little long, but the professors made up for it with a little roof-top happy hour. It was a beautiful view of the neighborhood, and we even got to see a little bit of the sunset through the seemingly endless overcast. 
After our exclusive rooftop access was over, happy hour lived on in the hallways and on the odd little balcony outside one of the kitchens on the 10th floor. 

Getting up to travel to Passau in the morning was also unpleasant, but we had an hour on the bus to think about what we had done (and smile with our tired eyelids closed)

Our morning in the old Bavarian city started with a lecture about the German system of arbitration from a Passau Universitat law professor. Needless to say, I felt a sense of solidarity with my German Law cohorts afterwards. 

It was rainy the whole time we were there, but we walked the narrow cobblestone streets anyways, looking for only the essentials: Bier and Schnitzel. We found both, and it was good. The numbers are hazy, but we probably stopped at around 5 different pubs and even took a boat ride up and down the three rivers that intersect in Passau. (In case you were wondering at home, yes there was bier on the boat too.)

Also, we saw one of the largest organs in the world (curiously, the largest one is in LA). Its located in St. Stephan's Cathedral, a stunningly beautiful structure. I'm always reminded of how inadequate our sense of history in the states when I get to experience these ancient buildings. 

Today is my birthday and as a present to myself I started working on the Law Review problem. Just as I was in denial about classes earlier in the week, I was definitely also in denial about the work I am about to undertake with this lovely pile of academic chocolate. 

Anyhow, off to work. Bis dann!

Rooftop playas

Ditto (Gino wishes he was here, so we left a spot for him next to Billy)

nuff' said. 

Yeah, and we think Art Deco is history. 

Whats better than standing on a bridge...?

Being on a boat!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stuff Naeem likes #29: Bier

I think that Europeans must hate Segways more than Americans hate actually walking. I mean for a culture that focuses on walking and bicycling so much, alternative transportation means travelling by car. This is a good thing, of course, especially since I have yet to meet a portly Austrian. So, doing as the locals do, we walked as far as our untested american feet would take us on Sunday. 

First we explored the area around the sommerhaus and found some scenic trails (of course everything is scenic when you've never seen-it before). Along the way we also stumbled upon a little local biergarten just minutes from the school. It was closed on Sunday (shocker), but we vowed to return the next day. 

Later that afternoon we went to the city and walked some more. We strolled along the cobblestone streets between the ancient buildings and their modern counterparts. Although every European city has a similar scheme- main square, really old churches, castle on the hill, disco that plays odd mix of 80's music and techno- Linz is nice because of the effort that the city has put in to revitalize itself. You can tell that the little city is trying to become a destination instead of a day trip. 

We made it up to some of the higher points and enjoyed the view of the Danube river for a while before going back to the Hauptplatz to search for some Döner Kebabs. (We found some for 3€ and promptly devoured them)

Today we had our day of class from about 9:00 to 14:00 (Don't know military time? Deal with it like we have to). It was interesting, but a little bit of a reality shock because up till now I was convinced that this was a vacation. Oh well, nothing in life is free, apparently not even a month long visit to Europe. 

After class we returned to the biergarten as promised and got a few odd looks as we ordered our glass of sweet, sweet liquid bread. It seemed to be a watering hole for the locals- and tourists were perhaps not so common. Aside from the initial raised eyebrows, we were treated warmly and enjoyed our drinks outside, trying as hard as possible to read for the following day's class. 

Later we went into the city in search of cheaper Kebabs (don't judge me, they're good), and walked to some different parts. I was surprised at the large amount of people walking the streets on a Monday night. Plenty of young people were out as well. Linz seems like a very safe place and so far we have found things to keep us entertained as long as we look. 

Here's to finding more everyday I'm here. Prost. 

Jared, Ryan, and I on a Sunday walk

Sunday part 2

Me, Jared, and Becca after class at the local biergarten :)

Biergarten enjoyment FAIL :(

Steven, Rebecca, and I walking Linz in the evening. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hey did I mention I was going to Europe? Cuz I'm in Linz

After several hours of international travel through 6 time zones and two servings of barely edible airplane food I arrived in Munich with a few classmates in tow. As luck would have it, Vishak, Becca, and Emmanuel were also on the Delta flight from Atlanta to Munich with me. 

During exam season I really didn't have time to anticipate this trip like I should have. I don't mean that I didn't prepare, because in fact I am ready for any situation over here, but rather it just didn't hit me that I will be gone for an entire month. I was sure that I would never be able to travel anywhere again for this amount of time. 

We arrived in Munich at around 8:00 local time and promptly bought train tickets to Linz. From the airport, its about a 45 minute subway ride to the main train station. When we got to the Munich Hauptbahnhof we had some time to kill before the train to Linz chugged out of town so we walked a short distance from the station to a small Italian restaurant for some breakfast... or was it dinner or lunch according to our internal biological clocks? 

By this time we were tired from exams, tired from staying up the night before we left, and tired from the plane ride... but getting onto the speed train was a welcome distraction. 

The train pulled into Linz Hauptbanhof and we barely made if off onto the platform before the doors shut us in. Tip: before the train stops at a station, make sure that you have your bags ready to depart... almost getting locked into the train and forced to ride to the next stop 100 miles away is not an attractive prospect. 

We took a taxi to the raab-heim and got our rooms. Shortly thereafter it was tour time of the city via bus. (In case you haven't been keeping count at home, I have now been awake for over 48 hours.) The city is absolutely gorgeous. (Of course because of my U.S. toned sensibilities any old castle on a hill over looking a river is stunning.) 

After the tour we had dinner. The restaurant was nice, and the cuisine was interesting. It was basically a plate of meat with a few starches here and there. Also plenty of pilsner to wash it down. 

Afterwards everyone went out to a bar in the Linz main square called Bugs (something to do w/ a bunny). So, now I'm back in my room, stubbornly tapping keys to get this posted. Until next time, Tschüs!

The view from the room

The room

A few of us in the town square

Some of the views

Dinner talk

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I should be packing

Of the many times that my favorite camping backpack has joined me for a journey to an exotic destination, not once did it contain a carefully folded business suit. There is a first time for everything. 

At first I chose to study abroad this summer simply because I missed the opportunity so many times before. There was nothing that ever held me back (of course the luxury of retrospect allows me to realize this 5 years later), but I never took advantage of my contacts, friends, or resources like I should have. Along with my decision to go to law school I also resolved to challenge myself like I never have. So, now I'm glad I did it because this is certainly a way to test myself like never before. 
   1L life is history... on to the next challenge...Pack a suit in a backpack along with everything else I need for a month abroad. 

Stay tuned for more over the next few weeks (I promise slightly more than backpack-packing puzzle challenges... )