As I pushed a brown leather diary in the side slit of my bugged out backpack, I once again made a mental note of everything I must carry. Assuring my doubtful conscious, I fastened the waist buckle and headed to central cities of the erstwhile Austro-Hungarian Empire. While the impressions of WWII were still oozing from my memory of Berlin Wall, I kept anticipating how Prague captivated Hitler and saved itself from his military onslaught. Co-incidentally, I was also reading 1Q84, a book that opens with Janáček’s Sinfonietta composed in the land of Bohemia to emphasize the spirit of freedom.
My walk from station to hostel in the late-night hours was accompanied with cold showers and deserted streets gleaming with lights. However, in the daylight, the streets got swamped with segway gangs, antique horse carriages and freelance performers. As I reached the old town square, I was greeted by a traditional Bagpiper’s band. Mozart’s long association with Prague was conspicuous from the music reverberating in every street that departed from the central square. I enrolled myself for a free tour with Sandeman’s and learned the long history of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia from an American-Chinese tour guide. Although I could accept every other detail, it was difficult to imagine the genius of Einstein coexisting with the mystical beauty of Prague.
As the evening progressed, I visited two famous night clubs with apprehension. When the last performer gradually rested from her incessant spin, laboring every muscle without a flinch, I felt respect for her art and the society that has the maturity for accepting its existence. As I strolled back to my hostel, I decided to labor my spirits and skydive from 14000 feet into the clouds next morning.
While trying to rest my eyes on the train to Vienna; the bullet speed descent, the gushing of winds and the unusual stretching of my cheeks was still replaying in my head. The last sequence of my fall under the wings of the unleashed parachute was an eternity through which I slowly zoomed into the landscape.
Vienna turned into an exploration of Brazil more than the exploration of Austria after I ran into two Brazilian lone travelers. Even when the two cultures where 9000 miles apart, the two modern nations faced similar issues and their citizens had an unstated empathy towards each other. I learned to tap my feet on samba and returned the favor by correcting few erroneous English phrases of my Brazilian natives. We spent the entire evening experiencing a classical orchestra performance. While I am no expert in music, I felt could disintegrate the entire chorus and earmark movement of musicians to the sensation created by each group of instruments. Each piece evoked an emotion that was ebbed by the upcoming piece. After the audience applaud came to a halt, I greeted farewell to my fellow travelers and left for the city of geothermal springs.
Buda and Pest, two cities separated by river Danube eventually became Budapest in 1871. However, for the observers, it’s the chain bridge that unites the Buda castle and the vast city of architectural splendor. I decided to relax my travel-stiff muscles and spent the entire day in the popular thermal bath. From mint sauna, medicinal spa to the open air hot water eddies; I camouflaged my loneliness in the crowded enclosure and wiped out every thought while the bubbles tickled my body. On my way back, I felt more drained from the relaxation therapy. As I walked parallel to the riverside, I kept admiring the castle that emerged in the moonless night, enamored with lights from the manors kowtowing in its presence.
The neon clawed night clubs with exotic performers, the plunge into the sky, the Brazilian encounter, the musical trance and the steamy thermal bath in the cold November night; my travel through Eastern Europe was devoid of the conventional and it left me with a unceasing desire to come back and experience the east more insanely.