What a long, strange trip it’s been.
I took a picture of this pigeon on Vaci Street in Budapest because he was the fattest pigeon I had seen. We later realized he also had an important message for us.
He ambled down the street, unfazed by dogs, children and an American taking photos. He would waddle around obstacles and half-follow people into stores. It didn’t matter where he was going—he was just going somewhere. Much like a road trip through Eastern Europe.
Last weekend, Muz and I decided to go to Budapest via private transport. This sounds glamorous until you realize that private transport is an aging, crowded van. But they pick you up at your house and drop you off at your hotel directly. Nice, right?
Sort of. “Directly” means that you drive all over the city until the van is full, at which point the driver stops by his office and THEN gets gas. Shouldn’t he have gotten gas before he picked up his passengers? Don’t ask yourself these questions. It’s 7 am—oh, now it’s 8 am—and you should be in Budapest in 4.5 short hours!
Or seven long ones. The major North-West highway in Serbia was closed. Without notice. We took a “smoke break” while our driver found an alternate route, drove backward in the emergency lane to get off the highway, and found a path through back roads. A few hours later, a bridge was out of service, but at this point it didn’t faze us. We got out of the van for another break –“just ten minutes, half an hour,” we were told–and accepted the fate of the road. As if to make us feel better, an English-speaking passenger told us about the time a window fell out of his van and they had to drive back to the starting point to get a new vehicle.
Despite these obstacles, it was not a bad way to travel. Passengers shared snacks. We saw farmers travelling by horse and carriage. We even experienced a bit of intrigue when another passenger asked people to hold extra cigarettes across the border, since you’re only allowed to bring two packs per person into Hungary.
The return trip wasn’t much shorter, but it was better. Not only did we know to expect the unexpected, we saw our English-speaking passenger again and met a woman who had lived in the States for 10 years. They taught us Serbian tongue-twisters and told us about classic Serb movies, the best bakeries, and Balkan living in general. I guess our plump, bird-brained acquaintance was on to something. Getting there was half the fun. And the food was going to be very, very good.