Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly

What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…


Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…


I love this little portly police guy :))


The Love Lock Tree :))


St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..


The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..


The Love Lock Tree :))


The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.


Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))


And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!


And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))


California Dreaming

February 2, 2017
Budapest, Hungary


So…. here I am… back in Europe… Working at another hostel.. In beautiful Budapest…
48 hours ago I was slashing around in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of Ocean Beach in California. Going from 24 degrees, sun, sand, salty ocean breeze, tacos, friends and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world to 0 degrees, flooded streets, rain, slush, cold breezes and strangers (3 of whom I went out with last night and now they are no longer strangers but dear friends).
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my photos from California. I swear someday I will move there… to San Diego… Carlsbad… Oceanside.. anywhere on the coast of SoCal.
My first stop was Los Angeles where I had the pleasure and honor of attending the NAMM show. I ran around Anaheim taking pictures of Disneyland and dreaming of heading in to ride all the rides and relive my childhood memories.
That is, until I received my name badge and saw the giant NAMM show sign and the ginormous stage set up…. my excitement to step inside flew through the roof!!
There were SOOoooo many people wandering around on a mission. They knew where they were going and what they needed to do.. meanwhile I aimlessly wandered around taking in al the signs, oohing and ahhing over all of the guitars and testing them out, ‘slappin da bass man’ (I hope you guys love that movie too…), collecting free things, and people watching… So many people that looked like rock stars!! And then.. I saw lines…
Lines? At a convention? The light went off in my head… I remembered people saying that there were signings and meetings with different rock legends at different booths.
So I added that to my list of things to do. I got in lines and waited and chatted with the people next to me. I never knew who was waiting for me at the end and I refused to ask. Honestly, I did not recognize any of them.. but when I showed friends the pictures their eyes bugged out with wow.

Anyway, it was a joyful three days.. and we even got to sleep in the beautiful and fancy Mariott where all the stars slept!!! (I’m sure of it) except we fell asleep early both nights..
We then got to visit Santa Monica and Venice beach and the Griffith Observatory on a terribly rainy day… the sun broke out a few times, but I honestly had to wear a jacket! In LA!! And I kept getting frustrated because my camera sucked and he had this superbly beautiful camera that made everything look phenomenal… and even made me look pretty ok too!!

Sadly, he left  :((( and it will be so long until I see him or anything Romanian again.. so after crying a bit in the car, I was swept away in an Uber to go to my friend in north east LA area. I worked with him back in Alabama and he offered to host me for a night.. we went to Korean food and were quickly back to our old banter and silliness… The next day I got a grand tour of Little Tokyo and China Town before my train south to Oceanside to my friend from Mammoth Mountain.
Oceanside is one of the most beautiful towns that I have ever seen in my life.. beautiful palm trees… the ocean… fresh kombucha… breweries.. blue sky.. tasty tacos.. long pier… fresh fish… surfers everywhere… stunning sunshine.. I spent the next two days with him and his family (he has a pretty groovy southern california family.. the dad surfs and his two sisters are into rock climbing and raki and doing all kinds of artsy things) We caught up on all the things and drank real DELICIOUS IPA’s and biked around town in this little blue bike that reminded me of the one from ET.. just cruising around in the Southern California sunshine with my feet wet and sandy from dancing in the ocean.
Back to my hostel.
ITH Adventure Hostel.
My life for some of the best 4.5 months of my life. It changed so much! The staff room was now another chill area… they no longer cook fresh breakfast and dinner… it changed so much… yet felt the same… all the people that worked there were not there anymore, except for 2.
In fact, Alex, one of my favorites, was the one that hosted the tour to Tijuana!! Him and his gf work at the other hostel that is managed by the owners and him and his lady would come over to visit us at the ITH Adventure Hostel often and she even dressed up as me for Halloween in 2015 with pink hair and screaming “BEST DAY EVEEEEERRRRR!!”
Tijuana… mannn… Totally the best day ever… We took the trolley… walked across the border (It didn’t look a whole lot different… maybe a bit more barbed wire… and before there were dudes in with guns on the Mexico side, but not on Saturday) and ate some of the best street tacos I have ever had in my life.
We went to get margaritas and I kept trying to psych everyone up and bring them to my level of excitement.. My favorite thing was sometimes the waiters/bartenders at the Mexican bars that we go to… they would pick 3 or 4 of us in a big group and do this big shenanigan where they blew their whistles over and over and made a huge deal and sat one of us down in a chair, tilting the head back and pouring tequila straight into the mouth.. this particular place we went to this night did that AND then gave you a short amount of time to catch your breath before pouring beer in as well and then they took you to the dance floor, flung you over their shoulder and spun you around…. THAT was what kicked off the night,.. after that we ALL got up on the dance floor and continued to go to a few different bars and danced the night away… one of them had a beautiful Cadillac in the back that we sat in and drank in… I was in awe… moreso of the swings they had to lounge on while sipping my margarita than the Cadillac.. but anyway, everyone made it across the border into to the USA…  my friend with long blond surfer hair and me (with pink hair) both got pulled to the back room at the border to be detained and asked a series of questions. They brought out the drug dogs. I was a little tipsy and of course my first reaction upon seeing a dog was to pet it… They were not amused. Needless to say they found nothing on either of us, but made us sit there 10 more minutes before we finally got released.. and just barely made the last trolley home.
I love that hostel. So much. Nothing can compare to the ITH Adventure Hostel. No other hostel that I have visited has ever been that much fun, that beautiful, offering all the activities as well as breakfast and dinner. And it will always be my 2nd home, even though times change and the vibe of the workers change, I still made friends with a couple of them and told them stories of the good old days when the dream team was working.

And now I spend the next month and a half counting down the days until I can go home to Bucharest again.. to my home.. my job.. and some of my favorite humans ever..

Romania, My Love

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson

December 20, 2016

Long time, no write…
My life has taken an interesting turn since I last posted…
I ended up getting a job… making some good friends.. and getting invested and involved with some people and things dear to my heart…
What a beautiful life this is….
Who would’ve ever thought that would be the place that I would find my people.. my job.. my heart.. Fall in love with such a foreign, quaint and quirky yet beautiful country…
I honestly went there on a whim… the hostel in Bucharest was one of the first ones that messaged me back saying they wanted me to help them for the month… and it was out of the Shengen area so that meant that I could stay in Europe beyond the 3 months I had in the Shengen… And I knew nothing much about Romania… why not check it out.. I tried asking people about it.. no one had anything good to say… not necessarily bad.. but lots of warnings.. of stray dogs and thieves and conniving gypsies and left over communist attitudes and cold people and ugliness..
But I found no stray dogs… not once was I stolen from, in fact, people went out of their way to help me on multiple occasions.. I stayed at a gypsy camp and was greeted with nothing but curiosity, interest and the need for them to share their ways so I could share with others,.. beautiful people.. beautiful souls.. sure the sides of the roads are littered with trash and cigarette butts and empty cans.. its got its charm… beautiful architecture… one of my favorite jobs, teaching little ones and playing with them in the woods.. love…
Romania is in the EU, but not the Shengen..
What a fascinating country… what fascinating people..
How different they grew up…
I love learning about the culture.. the food.. the music.. how they grew up.. their thoughts on USA and everything else…
And everyone I have met pretty much knows a good amount of English.. much mores than any other country that I have visited…
I could pour out my heart… all of the people that have helped me through and opened their arms and their hearts to a crazy American girl… one in particular.. and my job… at an International Forest School/Kindergarten.. the most beautiful 2 year old classroom I have ever encountered.. Playing in the woods.. the snow.. the leaves.. the water..
Just wow..
And visiting Transylvania.. hiking in the mountains..
Getting more and more involved in people and things in Bucharest and beyond…
So when December came.. I realized my 90 days were almost up (as an American citizen, with my passport, I have the same deal as with the Shengen area… 90 days in a 180 day period). I reached out to my job.. my friend(s)…  Everyone did what they could to try to help me stay there/come back sooner… but due to miscommunication and misunderstanding, when I came back to the USA for the holidays…. I have to wait out the rest of the 180 days before I can return. I emailed and called the Romanian embassies all throughout the USA and all of them said the same thing… there was nothing I could do. I could’ve easily dealt with it when I was in Romania.. If I would have known…
But I am not the best at details… I am pretty good at putting things off until the last minute (“hmmm… I came here in September… I should probably look into how long I am allowed to stay in Romania and what I should do to stay longer… maybe tomorrow…”) So I take full blame…
But, here are some pictures of some of my favorite times and favorite people and most beautiful places I have encountered during my 3+ months in Romania (yes, I did stay past the 3 months, but went in and paid the fine so that I could officially be a “legal illegal alien”)


“Once again… Welcome to my house. Come feely. Go safely; and leave some of the happiness you bring.” ~Bram Stoker, Dracula Sunday September 11, 2016

Day 111

Brașov, Romania 

Romania is absolutely gorgeous. A wild, untamed, dirty, old time, run down kind of beautiful. Charming. It won my over in no time. 

I arrived at 11am after being on a bus since the day before at 3pm. I had restless naps on the bus, but the sunrise riding through Romania was wow. The Transylvania mountains were highlighted in the misty morning light. The little rustic villages we passed by. Wow. A whole different world. 

When I did arrive to Brașov, I was half awake, on little sleep, dropped off at a lonely bus station just outside the city. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea how to get to the city. I had made no reservations for a hostel. I had no idea who how common English was. I wandered into the building. There were 2 tiny shops selling baked goods, cigarettes and booze. I asked them how to get to town. They shook their head, “No English” they replied apologetically. 

I wandered outside. There was a place to buy bus tickets. 

Ok… So maybe this is how to get to town… I looked at the fliers. The boards. All in Romanian. I wandered and sat down on the curb, trying to wake my brain up to figure out what to do.

“Do you need help? Are you lost?” A guy in his young twenties with a thick accent stood there staring at me. 

I looked around, trying to figure out who he was talking to. It took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. 

This beautiful stranger. This kind soul. He helped me buy my ticket, gave me a quick overview of the city as we rode the bus, pointed out a few places to eat and find groceries and other beautiful things about the city and walked me to a hostel. He explained he just was visiting the UK and had gotten lost quite a few times and had turned to strangers for help. He was simply paying the world back a favor. 

The hostel was chill. You got a coupon for a free drink. They give you a map and blah blah blah. It is a welcoming place. When I entered my room, there was a couple in there packing a day bag. Immediately they said they were going to Dracula’s castle and invited me along. I was tempted but decided to stay back and take it easy due to lack of sleep. 

I wandered the streets. Found beautiful scrawlings on the walls. The architecture was intriguing. The city was surrounded by heavily forested hills, one of them with a glaringly white, “Brașov” sign, similar to the “Hollywood” sign in Cali. 

There was a pedestrian, tourist heavy street that ended in a huge, beautiful, spacious square. Just beyond was the Black Church. It was huge. Dark grey, not black. Apparently, there was a fire long ago. But the church was solid stone. The outside didn’t burn, but roof caught fire and caved in and created the biggest oven in Europe. If you look up on one side there’s a statue of a boy. One of the apprentices that helped build the church.. He was so good at what he did that his boss was jealous. He Askedthe boy to make sure the edges of the roof were straight and while the boy was on the edge, leaving down to do as he was told, his boss pushed him down. Off the side of the church. All The way to the ground, the boy fell.He died. But people loved him, and they created a statue in his memory. Forever gazing down at the ground, mid work, at the top of the church. It is the biggest gothic church in Eastern Europe.  

Brașov also boasts the smallest/narrowest street in Eastern Europe (3td narrowest in Europe). A street originally created for firefighters. A shortcut for then, just wide enough for one man and two buckets if water. In English, the translation is Rope street.

Most people come to Brașov to find Dracula. Dracula’s Castle resides nearby. It is also known as Bran’s Castle, as it towers over the village of Bran. The Castle and Village were overcrowded with tourists. It was underwhelming and the 35 it cost to get in was quite a lot considering the little amount of castle you were actually able to explore. The views from the windows were quite stunning though… I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to live there back in the day. Queen Maria decorated it quite nicely. It was cute inside. Not scary at all. One corner of the castle. The top bits had boards about Dracula and Vlad the Impaler (who Dracula was themed after). There was a “secret passage” and lots of twisty, spiraled staircases. Stunning views… and littering the grounds below were all kinds of booths with “authentic Romanian” food, clothes, souvineers, etc. interesting to walk around. 

My favorite was the gardens around the bottom of the castle. No one was there and I felt like it my very own. 

Here’s a short bit in Dracula…Vlad was the son of the ruler and was sent away during his childhood as a hostage. His father joined the secretive “Order of the Dragon”. He was known as Dracul and his son, Vlad, was Vlad Dracula, or son of the Dragon Anyway, growing up, he learned his favorite way of killing people was by impaling them. Basically, you stick a stake up someone’s Anus. But you have to be careful not to hit any major arteries because you wanted your prisoner alive for a few days… A slow death… They even gave their prisoners water to keep them alive, painfully, longer. But, Vlad was still a national hero to many people. He got rid of all the “bad guys”. It didn’t matter how rich or poor they were, if they broke a law, they were dead. It got to the point that even if someone dropped a coin and left it, the coin would still be there in that spot days later. No one picked it up for fear that they would be considered thrives. Anyway, there’s a whole lot more to his story if you are interested, it’s quite fascinating.  

Bran’s castle just happened to be one that most accurately fit the description in the book. Therefore, Bran’s castle became Dracula’s Castle. Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, didn’t even live there though. He was held there as a prisoner a few days but that’s about it. 

Peles Castle though. That one was absolutely luxurious. Gorgeous inside and out. I took the bottom level tour and got to see a few rooms. All of then intricately decorated and carved and engraved. Gorgeous shimmering chandeliers. Tall mirrors. All the weapons and armor on display. The castle was wow. It sits up high on a mountain. A village turned ski resort. Definitely worthy of a look. You will NOT be disappointed. 

We also stopped at a fortress with another breathtaking view. Râșnov Citadel. I was way too distracted by the Dino park we walked by. It looked like Jurasdic Park in real life!! There was also a festival going on below the citadel. Children were dressed up in old time, authentic garb and danced and sang Romanian tunes. Sausage grilled on and old grill in the back and beer flowed from spigots. It was quite an experience!!! I’m so happy I happened upon it!! 

Here are a few things I picked up on in the short time I’ve been here: Romanian people I found to be quite nice. Very friendly and warm. They really do the cross on themselves when passing a church. Very religious. Very superstitious. Very family oriented. Apparently they also eat pig skin. The roads are quite bad. Lots of twists. Turns. Potholes. Missing road bits. Pretty cheap to eat and travel. A lot of their food is heavy with garlic (just fine with me❤️)

Tomorrow I head a bit north to a Gypsy camp…. A bit of a top secret, exciting adventure I set up. Everyone I talk to all around the world, especially here in Romania share a dislike of gypsies. I bring the word up and they are already turning up their noses in disgust. I find them intriguing. I want to know what makes them laugh. What makes them sad. Their way of life. I want to discover and share the good that I know these people have. 

More on that in the next couple days ❤️❤️