I had the exciting pleasure of traveling through Eastern Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis. Reflecting five years later, I feel this adventure proved to be one of the craziest trips of my life. The trip included fun, discomfort, learning, and appreciation. – Gobi Dasu
1. Hungarian Hospitality is a Thing
Emi was the receptionist at the Zen Hostel in Hungary. He was exceptionally kind to us travelers, and that is saying something since I had stayed at wonderful hostels across Europe by the time I had come to Hungary. First thing when I arrived, he offered me tea. I never put lemon in tea. However, he put lemon and honey in the tea, in a way that I very much enjoyed. It was a pleasant tea after a long train voyage into Budapest.
2. Hungarian Architecture is Underrated
3. Hungarians of Oriental Origin
Hungarians are like the Turkish – they have a little bit of that Eastern Oriental blood.
4. Pain to get to Slovenia in the Refugee Crisis
Because of the refugee crisis, so many trains were cancelled. And, it turned out to be a huge pain to get to Slovenia. I had to go way out of the way, to Salzburg and lost a night of sleep. But that is nothing compared to what the refugees and staff helping them were going through! Instead of going straight from Budapest to Ljubljana, which is a fairly straightforward route, I had to go from Budapest to Graz, Graz to Salzburg, and Salzburg to Ljubljana. So many trains were getting cancelled because of the refugees from Syria and Iraq (their stories were very sad as I learned from my stay with them in Finland). By the time I reached Ljubljana, it was morning. When I entered the hostel I asked if I could sleep a little and check out, and the Slovenian receptionist was exceptionally kind. He didn’t charge me for another night. He let me sleep into the afternoon given my situation. I really appreciated this.
When I finally got around to walking around the city of Ljubljana, I had that weird groggy feeling that you get when you have slept late into the afternoon. Still, I was able to admire some important sites of the city. Slovenia has become quite the capitalist country! And, that’s probably why it’s GDP per capita is growing so nicely. It’s shed that USSR influence.
5. Warm sunset on Ljubljana Castle, Grotesque Man
6. Croatia’s Museum of Broken Relationships has Breakups from all over the world.
The museum featured broken relationships from all over the world. I distinctly remember one particularly unique broken relationship of a Telugu boy with a girl from the Northeast of India (who have more Asian looking phenotypes). It ended in heartbreak for the Telugu boy as his girlfriend left him, moved back home, forgot entirely about him, and married someone else almost immediately. It was a fascinating story, especially for the eclectic traveler.
I went on to walk to a fancy restaurant where I dined alone. I ordered some pasta and with it came some bread and butter that looked like ricotta cheese. I really appreciated and even marveled at the ambience of that restaurant. I walked up a hill to reach it. As you can tell from the first picture, it had a rustic and yet elite style. Its porch overlooked the whole city. It really made me appreciate how underrated Eastern Europe is. This restaurant would have been just as romantic for any tourist couples as any fancy restaurant in Paris.
I proceeded to walk the Zagreb streets. I’m not sure if it was the same night but I have a feeling like I might have still been hungry. Even after that huge pasta meal with a beer in that fancy restaurant. Such are travels. But, perhaps it was the next night and I just don’t remember or am not giving myself enough credit in moderation. Anyway, the next day I went to a pizza shop and found this pizza. It’s an interesting story why I ordered that pizza below.
7. Sometimes in Belgrade, Serbia you can get Liquid Chocolate instead of Hot Chocolate
I proceeded to take a train ride to Serbia. In the train, I enjoyed a breakfast in the train compartment as featured below. Interestingly, I remember the train authorities gave a Japanese tourist a hard time because he couldn’t communicate in English regarding his passport and visa.
I met a Pakistani chap from the UK, a super nice guy. His mom was worried about where he was. She messaged me on whatsapp. Super kind family.
Despite the wonderful inventions and lifestyle of Tesla (as described in the caption above), I have to say the most surprising part of Belgrade for me was this pleasant surprise. I ordered hot chocolate in the waiting room for the train station and I got liquid chocolate instead. Good that they gave some water with it. It was incredible:
8. Old Men play Chess on the street in Sofia, Bulgaria
My stay in Bulgaria was too short. Later when I would converse with developers from Bulgaria in slack, I would fondly remember my time in Bulgaria. I had some omelettes in the hostel I stayed in Bulgaria. It was an average hostel but the company there was very jolly. And, the Breakfast was excellent, though I didn’t have the famous Bulgarian Buttermilk we are used to from Berkeley Farms in California (Berkeley Farms Majiga Buttermilk).
9. The Greek rarity is pre-Christian architecture.
In Greece, I had a very interesting time. It was a breath of relief to see many pre-Christian structures.
Athens was also splendidly warm compared with the colder central Europe I was coming from. I also saw the Church of Metamorphoses. I still never forget Metamorphoses since that was the first play I was in and we missed our cue! But it was an incredible play because it was set in water.
The gypsy girl in pink and red (the middle picture) asked me for 1 euro. I asked for change when I gave her a 5, but all she could give was 1 euro back, so I let it go. I asked for my rose though. Lots of child beggars, mostly gypsies, in Greece — was quite surprised since it’s HDI is in the highest bracket.
The Baklava was so exquisite in Greece – the soft buttery flakes melting in my mouth with those damn tasty pistachio nuts. It was a dream come true.
I had read the Iliad and Odyssey in high school so it was a pleasant experience to see those busts.
In Greece I had a crazy time, explored some surreal architecture, walked some fascinating streets, did some crazy things only a young boy on travels could do, and appreciated the melange of modernity with the ancients. To travel when you are young, reckless, passionate, curious, excited, and in health is one of the greatest gifts of the Gods.