Monday, November 25, 2013

Somebody asked me what I liked about Hungary.

Not to be picky or anything, but I was in Budapest for about 48 hours, and so I don't have a really good view of Hungary.  I have a decent view of the tourist areas of Budapest, and, of course, the little shops that sell souvenirs to tourists.  (and they are all the same, basically.  but I did buy some.)

So, here goes:

I like that Starbucks is in Hungary.  It means that the economy is doing OK.
I like the fact that they can put up any kind of architecture they want.
I like that they are free to celebrate their history.
I liked the Parliament building.  It is big, it is ornate (but not overly so), and it too celebrates history, with the crown and scepter of Stephen, the first king of Hungary about 1000.  Or maybe it was 1001.  Depends on how you want to date things.

I loved the food (and will attempt duplication), I liked that "helyes" is Hungarian for correct, I liked their chocolate, I liked that there was a woman in the spa even fatter than me who was wearing a bikini, I liked...Budapest.

I would love to go back and spend more time exploring!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Starbucks is everywhere.  It is in all the airports I have flown through (except Pasco), it is between the former Berlin wall near the Brandenburg Gate, it is in Prague, it is in France (who also accepted MacDonalds, but according to my daughter the food there is the best of all the MacDonalds she has been in), it is in Budapest. The Dutch started their own Starbucks, Douwe Egberts  (the first is pronounced "dow", don't even ask me about the second).

There are three ways to look at this.  One of course, is negative (especially because they discontinued almond flavoring).

One positive way to look at this:  They offer free bathrooms that are clean.  You get to pay to use bathrooms in Europe.  (I used a free bathroom.  You should not.)  Prices range from 100 Hungarian forint (50 cents) to 2 Euro ($2.70).  Obviously, you should go Hungary to use the bathrooms.  However, if you can't hold it that long, go to Starbucks (or MacDonalds).  You do have to buy something, since the bathrooms are for customers only.  (For the record, I had been to Starbucks previously in the US, and I did go to Starbucks in the London, so I was technically a customer.  Just in case someone asks.)

Third, Starbucks is a sign of prosperity: the people have extra money to spend.  This is a good thing.

In the end, though, I passed up Starbucks in Budapest for this, it was more fun.  And more tasty.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lots of Bathroom Humor

With 5 different cities, you would expect that there will be lots of pictures to take of strange bathrooms.  And you would be right.  First, the Genteel.  In Bratislava, I found these:  (Sorry about the picture quality, the coffee is really strong in Eastern Europe, and I had two.)

And another classy one in our hotel in Prague:

And this was cute, at our high-end restaurant in Prague:
Did I mention the restaurant was on a boat?
I was musing on the ubiquitous skirts for women, when we generally only wear them for special occasions anymore.  Would there be a time when people wonder what that funny looking triangle really means?  This is an issue in places like Europe, where you can't just put "Men" and "Women" in 15 or 20 different languages.  That is when I came across these, in a Budapest restaurant:

You simply cannot beat that for clarity.  And given the recent failure of the "Sitzpinkler" campaign in Germany, this will not go out of date soon.  But for harsh reality, check out Dordrecht, Netherlands:

There was only one toilet in each bathroom, after all.  And, this is a country, after all, that has extra, shall we say, liquid.
The Piece de Resistance (you need to insert the appropriate accents yourself) was in Paris:

Only is Paris is one square of toilet paper useful for all practical purposes.


I just got back from some really horrendous travel schedules, which involved overnighting at two airports (Seattle and Prague), and then more flights than necessary to get home.  (Plus, I went through Security four extra times.)  So, I wish they would hurry up with transporter technology.  Last I heard, they have been able to transport electrons, or maybe it was only quarks.  Clearly, some of the money the government is throwing around at things needs to be diverted.

Airports are mazes, especially Heathrow.  Lots of corners turned, and I am sure that there was a whole building of corridors.  It was even worse than JFK.  But the security was the most polite, the guy who had to search my bag was very chatty about the whole thing and I found out he had been to Washington when he was in the British military and had spent some time at Fort Lewis.  (There, now I can get that fact out of my head and leave room for something else.)

But Heathrow has figured out something else.

Most Airports I have been in have the gate numbers posted so you know where you are going and how much time you can stop to get coffee (or tea or beer or wine) and then pee before boarding.  All this in the name of efficiency and not missing flights.

Heathrow Terminal 3, which I flew out of  two times, has a large board of flights.  This board has the gate number, but only 1 hour before the flight leaves.  (And it has a helpful sign board telling you it will take 10 or 20 minutes to get to your gate, that is nice.)

Most airports have rows of shops and restaurants (and Starbucks) in line with the gates.  And lots of seating.

Heathrow Terminal 3 concentrates these in a very large central area, with enough seating for maybe two flights worth.  You have no place to go until you know where your gate is (Really?  It changes that often?) And you have little place to sit, even if you are eating, so the only place to be the shops.

Worked on me.  Twice.