Of all the places I have stayed a month or more I enjoyed Belgrade the most. It is not the most beautiful city in Europe but it feels a real city and has an edge. It is also not overrun with tourists. Yet.
I have begun to love slow travel. If you do not get to do something one day you can do it the next day. I would highly recommend it. I find a month just perfect. By the end of it, you are ready to move on. If not you can always stay more or stay less.
Have I changed more then I have thought?
When I say I like slow travel I don’t mean travelling slowly by train. The 380km journey from Belgrade to Budapest has a journey time of 9 hours. That is 42km an hour. 27 miles an hour. It actually took 9.5 hours because, of course, no one could expect a train to do 42km an hour.
Crossing the Serbian border into Hungary was an unusual and slightly unsettling experience. The Hungarian government over the past 5 years or more have taken a very aggressive anti-immigrant stance. The borders have been shut down to people trying to reach other European countries.
In all the borders I have crossed I never seen so many police. Bags were asked to be unpacked. Passports checked by more than one person. There was also a guy with a drill taking down some carriage panels down to see if there was anything or anybody behind them. It is ironic. For 50 years they were searching for people trying to get out.
This is not you. Yes, it says I. No it is not said the Hungarian Border Policeman. For 20 minutes I had to try to convince him the picture in my passport was myself. In the end, I was pissed off and said he was the only person in my travels over the years to say my passport photo was not me so maybe it was he who was the problem. I said that is me and I cannot tell you anything other than that. He took one more look. Shook his head. Gave me my passport and left.
I was annoyed by the time the Hungarian customs guy arrived in my carriage and made me unpack my rucksack. What were you doing in Belgrade for one month? Drinking cheap beer I replied. He laughed and walked on to the next carriage.
Over the past few years, I have been in countries such as Cuba. Vietnam and Cambodia and never had an issue crossing borders. It is ironic that the biggest problem I have had was as an E.U citizen entering an E.U country.
My stop in Budapest was the shortest of my trip. Just three days as I used the city as a nice stop because flying from there to my next destination was a lot cheaper than flying from Belgrade.
For anyone that has not visited Budapest, I would recommend it. It was definitely the most attractive city on this trip. There is so much to see there and thankfully the historic centre seems to have escaped the fate of other counties nearby during World War 2.
It was early November so I was a bit surprised at how many tourists were in Budapest. It has become a very popular destination for short breaks. I can see why as it is very cheap for people coming from more western European countries.
As I walked around Budapest and saw the hordes of tourists I realised how many of the places I have been are still untouched by mass tourism. Sofia Bulgaria. Skopje Macedonia. Triana Albania and Belgrade Serbia do have tourists but nothing on the scale of Budapest. If you want to visit a city where the locals outnumber the tourists you still have time.
Any visit to Budapest should include a stop in a ruin bar. These are bars that began to pop up in old ruined buildings in the early 2000s. They have now become very popular with tourists and many have live music. Some of the best are down by the Jewish quarter.
If it is tough getting into Hungary by rail it is tougher to get out by air. Budapest airport is the most chaotic airport I ever used. I was there over two hours before my flight and just made it onboard.
As my flight took off from Budapest my destination was Barcelona. I think this was my 10th time in Barcelona. I find Barcelona a very difficult city to understand in a good way. I think you could live there all your life and still come across something you have not seen before.
As my train headed into Sants station from Barcelona airport I looked at the apartments in the early November sunshine. Pink. Yellow and many other colours. Every apartment canopy matching the colour of the building. I thought what a very special place Barcelona is. It is truly one of the great cities of the world.
After 2 days in Barcelona where I meet up and enjoyed a few beers with a good friend, it was time for my final stop for a while.
Well after four months on the road with my life packed into one rucksack I find myself back in Las Palmas again. One of the biggest decisions I made when I left Las Palmas last July was giving up the apartment I had rented for 4 years. Las Palmas has become a very desirable place to live in those 4 years. When I arrived there you could have the pick of apartments. Today rents have almost doubled and decent apartments are scarce.
In the last few weeks, a very good friend has offered me the opportunity to use his apartment for a few months. My four months in the Balkans have been a fantastic experience. I am not finished with this area of Europe yet. I was blessed with fantastic weather. Last Friday night I spoke with a local man in Budapest as we had a beer. It was the 02nd of November and we were outside and without coats. He told me it was very unusual weather for that time of year but winter was coming.
So, for now, I have decided to take the opportunity of a place to stay in Las Palmas for a few months. Feck winter.
I have really enjoyed doing the blog. I have learned a lot doing it. I also enjoyed all of you that got in touch and the comments. Even the critical ones. As my stay in Las Palmas, maybe short I am going to continue my blog on a regular basis. Las Palmas is a very interesting city and there is always something going on here. I hope you will continue the journey with me on the blog. If not many thanks for your company on my amazing journey through the Balkans.
Hasta la próxima Semana adiós.
Join me on my journey.
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