Pickling My Way Around the World

I made several plans before I started this adventure, to give myself ways to stay grounded and feel at home regardless of place. One of those plans involves pickles, and the strangest item in my luggage: a glass pickle weight (thanks, mom!).

I decided that every time I stayed in one place for long enough, I would make a small batch of lacto-fermented (aka naturally fermented, without adding vinegar) pickled vegetables. I experimented before I left with a few batches of pickled green beans, carrots, and cauliflower (including one miserable failure and one smashing success). I also tried an experimental batch of sauerkraut, but it didn’t go well – partly because I made it too salty, but mostly because I remembered that I don’t like sauerkraut. Oops. Continue reading “Pickling My Way Around the World”

Wide Awake on a Sleeper Train

I took my first sleeper train! It was fantastic. I decided to start on a high note, with one of the most spectacular train lines (according to the internet) in Europe: the Belgrade-Bar line.

I did a bunch of reading first, of course, and in the process I learned that sleeper trains (at least in Europe) are disappearing. Cross-border railway fees increased in 2000, making the trains more expensive to run. They hold fewer people than regular seated trains, so even when they’re full there’s less revenue. The rise of low-budget airlines makes them less popular, and faster modern trains means that trips now don’t take nearly as long, so many runs that formerly only made sense if you could sleep on the train can now be accomplished in less than a day.

With that in mind, I feel exceptionally lucky that I got to take not only *a* sleeper train, but this particular one. It was like a trip back in time, with a distinct Wes Anderson flavor.  Continue reading “Wide Awake on a Sleeper Train”

Grocery update

Since I’m doing my best to be a proper local in each new place I live, however short-term, I’ve been exploring the local shops to find my groceries. As usual, grocery shopping is simultaneously the most stressful aspect of living in a different country, and one of the most engaging.

It’s difficult not knowing where (or what) anything is, particularly when you’re hungry and you need toilet paper and you have to work in half an hour. But it’s also endlessly interesting to try to guess what various items might be. You get to use all your logical reasoning abilities but you probably won’t know for sure what you wound up with until you get home and try to put it on a sandwich.

Continue reading “Grocery update”

Public Transit

You can learn a lot about a place from the public transit. You can tell what the city/state prioritizes, what areas have better funding, and how important tourism is vs how many locals rely on public transit.

Areas with a lot of tourism and an emphasis on that will have signs in multiple languages, or at least in the local language and English. There will be some sort of ‘tourist card’ or day/multi-day pass for sale. The main tourist lines will connect the primary sights and skip past the neighborhoods where people actually live; or they’ll start/end in those neighborhoods and serve tourists for only part of the route. The stops will be clearly announced, sometimes in multiple languages, and there will be signage. Measures will be in place to make the system legible to outsiders.

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Belgrade

07 April, 2018: On the train from Budapest to Belgrade, I sat in a cabin with a retired Serbian couple. We eventually started chatting, and I was impressed with their pride in their city. “You will love Belgrade” they said. “It is the best city in Europe.”

They told me all about the food, and taught me a few Serbian words, and assured me that there would be lots for a young person like me to do — “Every day you can go out, hear music, go dancing and to clubs on the Danube until 4:00 in the morning if you want! Every day! And there are plenty of bars and cafes, and nice parks, and many nice young men.” Clubbing until 4am isn’t exactly my scene, but I appreciated the sentiment.  Continue reading “Belgrade”