Road Trip: Commie Style


LjubljanaYou may not be able to speak Slovenian or Slovak (both versions of the Slavik languages, similar to Czech) but lanes are clearly marked everywhere on the highways as long as you know where you're going.

Driving in the larger European cities with tiny one-way streets, lots of bike traffic and pedestrians can make you feel as disoriented as a trip home from the optometrist after having your eyes dilated. Downloading the google maps for each country you'll be visiting and finding a cheap data connection to use your phone or tablet is a lifesaver. T-Mobile provides a great no contract offer (currently) for $20 a month that includes unlimited data, albeit on a dinosaur aged 128kb connection. It's a good idea to print up some maps and directions especially for countries like Slovenia which don't have T-Mobile. But even with no data, you can still follow the maps directions but you won't get rerouted if you get sidetracked.


BratislavaWheels up- parallel parking in Bratislava

Bratislava was a bit more of a cluster so the up to date directions were very handy helping navigate the spiderweb of highways merging in and out of the city. The Danube here flows extremely fast as evidenced by a barge attempting to swim upstream at a snails pace. Luckily the barge I was drinking on was docked.


parking enforcementMind all parking regulations in Bratislava or you may find this thing has penetrated your vehicle's belly, jacking it above ground and rendering it immobile, just like the poor fool parked in the space next to this contraption!
TrabantFor whatever reason, Hungarians have a love for the Trabant. There is even a Rent a Trabant treasure hunt tour in Budapest, where I found this one, slyly soliciting donations for its upkeep.

The Trabant was communism in a fart can but with a cult like following. Constructed out of Duroplast (poor quality and very toxic fiberglass), production lasted from they heyday of the Iron Curtain until the fall of communism. Most East Germans spent more than a decade waiting to assume delivery of a new Trabant, eager to find the secret relationship with just the right choke that will convince the two-stroke pollution spewer to start (with a triumphant cloud of thick, black smoke) rather than flood. It must just be a nostalgic piece of history that represents life before the fall of the Wall that keeps them on the road, or more likely locked away in a garage.


Budapest roundaboutCrossing the Chain Bridge over the Danube, you are greeted by a Budapest roundabout, tunnel under Buda Castle to the other side of the hill, and the funicular that shuttles people to old town Buda. You can barely make out the oddly shaped oval stone on the left side, just below the two traffic signs right of the tree. This “milestone 0” marks the spot where all main roads of Hungary begin.

Getting into the city center of Budapest was a pretty easy drop straight off the highway but once in the maze, finding the way without the GPS Fairy would have been a hot mess. The city center itself on both the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube is fairly compact, something a typical NY city slicker does on a daily commute. Park the car and walk, uber around (it's there too), or find any other form of transport to sightsee or imbibe at a ruin bar. If you are staying for a longer time than just an hour or two, buy the parking ticket in advance to save a lot of money.

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