Home, Sweet Home

Continued from Budapest Day 4.

Breakfast starts at 6:30AM, so we were down there by 6:30. My flight leaves at 9:30 this morning and our ride to the airport picks up at 6:45.

I am number one!

The unadulterated spread. Not anymore.

Ah, breakfast, always good, and I don’t even eat breakfast back in Austin.

This is actually the underside of one of the two lamps that hang over the lobby front desk(I’ve got photos of it from Budapest day 1). I’ve never seen so much detail in the underside of one of these modern looking lamps. Where do I get one?

Our airport taxi arrives. On the business card for the taxi, there’s a Mercedes taxi. This is no Germany.

On our way. I still feel pretty numb about this being the beginning of the end for this trip. All I can think about is the extremely long and boring trip back home.

As a parting shot to Hungary, when we arrived at the airport, our taxi driver told us a price that’s 1000HUF more than the flat rate printed on the fare card. Of course, I pointed to the fare card, and immediately, he recanted and agreed to go by the flat rate price. Don’t mess with me. I’ve been to India, I’ve see all the tricks, and now I’ve got a bag of my own comeback tricks!

See you back in Austin, hopefully in one piece.

Flat white on the left. Comes in a smaller cup, but yet, has two shots.

I have the earlier flight back to Austin, and SO has a flight later in the day back to Berlin, then by train to Frankfurt. We said our goodbyes and I went through security. We traveled for two and a half weeks together, and we got along great and managed to not to kill each other!!

Through security and into the terminal.

Next to the men’s restroom were the women with two buns restroom. Where are the restroom for women without two buns?

First flight out of three is to Warsaw. Never been to Poland before.

I had booked my return flight from Budapest to Austin weeks before I even left Austin. I was supposed to fly from Budapest to Warsaw, to Chicago, then to Austin. A day after I had arrived in Taiwan, the second day of this whole trip, I received an email from Travelocity notifying that there’s been a schedule change. Instead of a connection time of an hour and 45 minutes in Chicago, the new schedule allowed me a negative 3 hours and 35 minutes to connect. Sigh.

I had to Skype Travelocity from Taiwan. An hour on the phone on hold while they talked to American Airlines to see if they’ll move me to a different connecting flight from Chicago to Austin. Nope. They blame LOT(Polish Ari). Then Travelocity got on the phone with LOT while I waited on the line, always on the verge of getting disconnected from my connection on Skype. Finally, LOT agreed to refund my flight so I could rebook a new flight. The catch was, I’d have to call back another day during normal working hours in the US. I was so annoyed that I had to be on the phone for so long that I just left it at that for a few days and figured that I’d deal with it after I arrive in India. That was wishful thinking…

I got to India, and went for weeks without a reliable internet connection that didn’t just randomly drop my call on Skype. It wasn’t until I had reached Istanbul did I get a chance to change my flight, a process that took close to 2 hours on the phone. I ended up booking with LOT and AA again, but with the AA leg flying out the next morning from Chicago. My final itinerary had a 6 hour layover in Warsaw and a 12 hour layover in Chicago. This is the reason why I dreaded leaving Budapest. It was $800 to fly with LOT/AA and that’s some $500 cheaper than the next possible choice. $500 was just too much to say fuck it and book another flight itinerary with a shorter more convenient schedule.

Embraer 175. Never been on one of these before. Truth be told, I didn’t have too much faith in Polish Airlines. After all, this is the national airline of a former communist country. You know, the communists love and care about the safety of their people sooooo much.

As the bus drove towards the plane, the overwhelming preconceived notions that I had about LOT made the plane appear ancient. When I first saw the plane from far away, my first thought was, “Oh God. I am going to die. Is that a plane from the 1940s?” Then I came to my senses and looked at the plane more closely. It’s a very modern plane. It’s got the┬ánoise-reducing chevrons on the engine nacelles. This is a new development only incorporated on the newer jets. Oh yeah, I’ve been on an Embraer E series before on a Jet Blue flight. I think I’ll be OK…

Not all the seats were filled, and I sat by myself. Nice. The plane had some of the softest leather upholstery, ever!

Goodbye Budapest.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Fiat sucks, and Dodge Caliber sucks.

The┬ánoise-reducing chevrons work well. This is one of the quietest planes that I’ve been on.

Cloud clouding cloud.

In a little bit over an hour, we are over Warsaw, where it’s cold, wet, and grey. Warsaw is Berlin. Got to love the compactness of Europe. An hour of flying from Austin won’t even get me very far from Texas, if at all.

I love all the mechanical parts of an airplane.

So Berlin ouside.

Now, I’ve got 6 hours to kill.

Oh cool, the new BMW 3 series. It’s of a evolutionary redesign.

Lounge for free wifi. Love Amex Platinum!

Open bar. Which Polish beer should I try first…


Maybe later…

I had to try this beer too.

I am days behind in blogging. I was lazy, but also partially saving it up because I knew I needed something to keep me busy during my long layovers.

I managed to find a spot in the corner with a table and an electric outlet. In fact, the only one electric outlet. The lounge fills up and there must have been 5 others with their laptops out. Why not provide more electric outlets?

I blogged in this lounge for so long that the place fills up, and then completely empties.

An Apple Samsung. Or is it a Samsung Apple?

Finally, after about 4 hours, I left the lounge in search of some lunch. The sign for food points in this direction, on the other side of passport controls.

This airport sucks. This place was the only dining option that I found. I mean, it’s not a bad place, but I was hoping for more options.

The freshly squeezed OJ was out of this world though. My body needs some fruits.

At the beginning of my trip, I had brought along two copies of The Economist. They make good travel companions because they are so dense for their weight, and I can just throw them away after I am done. Well, after all these weeks of travel, I still have an unfinished issue. It’s just been taking up space and weighing me down this whole time. I opened it up and saw the date on top. February 25th. It’s April Friday the 13th today. Holy shit, I’ve been away from home for a long time. Also note the coincidence for the relevant, albeit, dated story on Hungary.

About to board. My flight was filled with Polish pensioners. I am guessing that about half of the people aboard this flight were of pensioner age. Many of them held American passports, and they all spoke Polish. All first generation Americans. Is there a large Polish expat community in Chicago? Or is Chicago, just where they fly into, then all connect to go somewhere else?

This flight is $500 cheaper than other flights, and it shows. I don’t have a personal in-flight entertainment system. I don’t remember the last time I boarded a cross Atlantic flight that didn’t have personal in-flight entertainment system. They did, however, give me a free blow up neck pillow…which I guess is just as good…No, it’s better. Yes, blow up neck pillows are definitely better than movies, TV shows, music, news, and games on demand. Next time my friends turn on a TV, I am just going to unplug it for them, and give out free blow up neck pillows instead. They’ll love me.

My Polish Air plane looks old. I bet this one is actually a little old.

Is this a Polish meal? The two choices were for chicken or pork. I asked the flight attendant which one I should try, she suggested chicken. The pensioner who sat next to me got the pork. The pork looked better…sigh.

It’s only been 3 hours, and it has already felt like an eternity. I sure am glad my blow up neck pillow is keeping me entertained though. This is going to be a miserable flight. I’ve got 7 more long hours to go. Some long flights feel short, this is not one of them.

Eventually, they started showing movies on the shared TV screen in the cabin. First, they showed Hugo. Beautiful visual treat! Then they showed Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah. You know, because these Polish pensioners have so much in common with Queen Latifah and New York City. This has to be the most mismatched audience this movie has ever seen. Yeah, I watched Just Wright. You can quote me on that.

Why!!!?? 3 more hours…Someone please put me out of my misery. Though, the real question is, what the fuck is Lake Okeechobee, and why is it labeled so prominently?

Cheese sandwich. I really enjoyed Prince Polo though.

I love the motion of ailerons. The wind is 500mph outside and the ailerons always move in this smooth calm motion. It always amazes me how they are so steady amidst the chaotic winds.

The Windy City. Downtown Chicago is in the center of the photo. The flight was torture. I was so incredibly bored and irritated by the long flight.

We landed, and I turned on my phone. YYYYEEESSSSS!!!!! It works like a phone again!!!! OHHHH, cell phone, how I’ve missed you so much. I was so excited to make a phone call. Let’s see, who else can I call?

Made it through immigration and customs. Time to recheck my bag to Austin.

Still in one piece. See you in Austin.

My original plan was to spend the 12 hours worth of layover in an airport lounge. I might have been able to pull that one off if I didn’t stay awake for almost the entire cross Atlantic flight. Physically, I am not all that tired, but mentally I am completely exhausted from the flight. I decided to just get a hotel room for the night so I can sleep.

I called the Hilton attached to the airport, and it was $200 a night. Not worth it for a short stay. I looked on my now functional phone for another place to stay that’s close by that offers shuttle pick up.

aloft it is. The shuttled arrived in less than 10 minutes and I crawled in to a full van with this sign on the door. In the van, I heard English all around me. More importantly, American accent English. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh, there are Americans here!” I was excited that there were other Americans. Of course, I am in America now, where its almost all Americans. I was just so used to being in a foreign land for so long that I just assumed the American accents that I hear came all the way from the other side of the world.

Last one in the van, so I was the first one out and the first one to check in. Sweet.

This is what $109 gets you right outside of O’Hare.

Quite nice. It’s nice to be back in America with all the space and room. And of course, the internet works perfectly in here. No ifs or buts. It just works. ‘Merica! Fuck Yeah!

I put my head down on the pillow, and quickly drifted off into sleep. RING!!!! My working phone woke me up. I mumbled something into the phone, then went back to sleep. RING!!!! My working phone woke me up again. Again, I mumbled something into it and went back to sleep.

I woke up before my alarm went off. It’s 4 in the morning. The first shuttle leaves the hotel to the airport at 5:00AM. That works. As 5:00 approached, I decided to take the 5:30AM shuttle instead….Well, literally at 4:59, I had a change of heart and decided to take the 5:00AM. Don’t ask me why I had the change of heart, I was heavily jet lagged. I called the lobby to ask if the shuttle was still here, and the guy said that I better hurry. I grabbed everything in sight, and ran down the hall and down the elevator, then into the awaiting van.

Made it to the airport. It’s early. This entire trip, I had the digital second time function on my watch set to Austin time. The analog and digital times are finally in unison again. Well, I had to correct for an hour due to day light savings happening while I was away.

The sleepy airport in the morning. Got my boarding pass last night when I rechecked my bag, so I headed straight to security.

Chirp chirp chirp…

Let’s see if they’ve got something to eat for free here.

I like these lights. When I came up here, I also realized that I had been here before. I had forgotten that I had visited this lounge last time I traveled to Europe last year.

Food! Blueberry and chocolate. The plain got no love from me, or from anyone else.

Yes, I remember this bar from last time. It’s too early to start drinking, even for me.

Sports Center!! I saw the highlight of Jaromir Jagr scoring a goal. He was always my favorite hockey player when I was in my early teens. How is he still playing after all these years?

Chicago awakes.

Yes, a pizza is perfectly reasonable at 7 in the morning. Why have breakfast for all meals? We should have dinner for all meals instead.

How much paint does American Airlines save by leaving most of their planes paintless?

Goodbye Chicago.

I had not seen one of these overseas. Is it because American pilots suck, or is it because American airlines are more courteous? You pick.

I saw some amazing cloud formations during the flight from Chicago to Austin. I am going to be home soon!!

Merged with Boeing in 1997…which means that the interior of this Super 80 potentially has not been updated for at least 15 years. I’d imagine if these were changed at some point, Boeing would print them with Boeing instead. I had to come back to the US to fly on some of the oldest air crafts.

All the way from Budapest. Better than Kit Kat. Speaking of Kit Kats. The big oversized Kit Kats from Turkey don’t taste as good as the normal small sized Kit Kats.

More crazy looking clouds.

I-35 in Austin!!!

East Austin. I am looking at this, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Are there any shallow graves out there?”.

Parking Spot by airport. Is it cheaper to use blue and green shade? Is that why they use the yellow at around the perimeter but use the cheaper colors in the middle where it’s not as visible?

Just circumnavigated the world, bitches!

In perfect shape! Frankly, I didn’t know how well this backpack was going to perform on this trip. The in the very beginning of the trip from Austin to Taiwan, a plastic strap manager broke off. Then the trip from Taiwan to India, the bottom ripped due to wear and tear(how, I don’t know). That all happened in the first couple of weeks. I was worried that it would be all downhill from there and I’d have to get a new backpack before the trip was over. Nope. Got the battle scars early on in the trip, and it’s stayed perfect ever since. Nice!

$1 gets me a block from my home.

Hmmmm. Smells like Austin!!!! The sky is a little cloudy, and not quite as blue as Istanbul or Berlin.

I walked onto the bus, paid my dollar and the driver said something to me. Eh? Oh what? There’s a leaf on my head? Don’t I look stupid waiting at the bus stop with a leaf perched on my head…

Yup, the bus arrived right on time.

Home!!! And only less than 25 minutes on the bus from airport. ‘Merica! Fuck Yeah!

Back home, back home! As you can see from my outfit, this trip did not change me one bit. I left Austin and came back looking exactly the same…Well, my hair is 7 weeks longer. From door to door, it took me roughly 36 hours from Budapest to Austin. People have gotten married and divorced in less time.

Home, Sweet Home!

I had joked about how much I had missed playing my accordion. All throughout this trip, I kept on joking that I would come back to Austin, get home, unstrap my backpack, and then pick up my accordion and start playing. Well, that’s not a joke, because that’s exactly what I did. It was glorious!

Updated the pins on my world travel map. There’s still soooo much of the world to see. I need to go South of the equator!

What a trip! 48 Days, 14 flights, 5 countries, 8 if counting the layover countries, and crossed all the meridians!! Oh yeah, also broke over 10,000 hits(some of those are my own, but I don’t mind padding my own numbers).

Some who have read this blog told me that it seemed like I hated India. Not true. I actually love India. I don’t love it because it’s a nice place. It’s the most terrible fucking place I’ve ever been to, but I loved the experience and I loved the adventure. I plan on going back to India, but I don’t think I would go alone next time.

I plan on going back to Istanbul at some point. Also, I would not hesitate to visit Berlin again.

I don’t feel like the trip has changed me in any significant way. It was eye opening, but it was not life changing…yet. Perhaps the life change parts are taking place slowly in the back of my mind and I’ll have a whole different outlook on life soon. Who knows.

In Agra, I spoke to my Estonian friends about Siberia. I joked that maybe I’d take the Trans-Siberian railway. That seed is slowly growing into a forest in my head. Last time a seed like that got planted, I bought an accordion and started playing. I think the Trans-Siberian railway is in my future…


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