Planes Trains and Taxis / Absinth and Steel Monkey

I am writing this from on board a train from Budapest, Hungary to Bratislava, Slovakia. In all my years of travel, I think the only time I have ever really taken a train (barring when I was very young) somewhere was in Japan when I went from Hyama to Fukuoaka on a speed train.

While trains are obviously way slower than planes (unless it is a bullet train), it more than makes up for itself in convenience and overall enjoyment. I am currently stretched out in a large compartment all to myself… I boarded the train right in downtown Budapest (another nice bonus… not having to make sometimes long treks to airports well away from the city)… no security lines… nice views… fresh air (I would definitely choose to fly one airline over another one if they would actually make the air clean and healthy… this is one of the dirty secrets of air travel… they can make the air good on the flight, but it costs a bit more, so they just recycle the air until everyone is sick) and this train ride (about 3 hours) only cost $20… it actually cost more than that to take the taxi to the train station! Actually, I have found that in many instances, the taxi ride once you get somewhere costs more than the plane or train ride to get there!? Taxi’s in Budapest were very expensive… but taxi’s in Athens were very cheap… I find huge discrepancies in taxi prices worldwide… I don’t know how they even make money in places like Central/South America and Hong Kong… but in places like Budapest my taxi driver could retire if I took a few more short trips!

Anyway, Budapest was totally cool… man they have some big, scary looking, sovietish, but not-totally-soviet looking statues/landmarks… when I was leaving I was crossing the bridge over the River Danube and at the end of the bridge is two giant pillars with what look like huge mean hawks on them and in the middle is this big waterfall and on the top is this massive statue of a guy holding up a cross… it was quite grandiose… and all around the Danube are these huge buildings/castles… its all very imposing! I was imagining being there to see that in a time like the 1930’s or 1960’s at times when people in the West were scared of the East… that would definitely scare me a bit if I was there during those times!

I would have liked to spend more time in Budapest but I am running out of time in Europa and want to see more before I go. I will be in Bratislava today, probably for two days, then likely Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czechoslovakia for 2 days each… then probably Paris… then I will probably take the chunnel to London where I have a flight booked to Dubai for 2 days… Bangkok for 2 days and then Hong Kong… from HK I will be going to China for at least a few weeks.

Man… Around the world in 80 days? I think I have that one beat.

Oh, and about the “Absinth and Steel Monkey� I alluded to in the title… many of you know about Steel Monkey… but man, I was in a club called Rio in Budapest, right along the Danube, giant outdoor venue, totally cool place, and on the bar I see two bottles labeled “Absinth 80�… one was red colored and one was black. I had never seen that before so I thought I would order a shot of the red one… I figured because it was red it would probably taste like candy or something… the second I swallowed the shot my eyes started tearing up, I was bent over, clutching my chest… it tasted like gasoline and fire… I started pounding on the bar to the bartender “Water! Water!!!�… oh man… so anyway, if you see Absinth 80 anywhere don’t drink it… unless you want to die. I think I was drunk off that one drink though, so there is some economical savings if you survive.