David's Eurotrip - London, Budapest, & Prague - July 21-30, 2007
It started out simply enough. I was hanging out in South Beach, Miami with my friend Jeff Kurtzman, and he
"Want to go to Europe next month?"
and I said, "Why yes, yes I do".
He's on sabbatical and I'm on
retirement, and he was already going to be hanging out in Scotland in July, so he suggested that I jump
across the pond and we'd meet up and head on over to the continent for a short vacation. He suggested
the cities of Budapest and Prague, and as culturally and geographically aware as I am (these places may as
well have been Cleveland and Topeka for all I know) I said, "Sounds good to me". So I bought a flight to
London to meet with Jeff there, and a flight from London to Budapest, and from Prague back to London. I bought
some books on these cities, which I promptly neglected to read, and packed up a backpack full of underwear and
toothpaste, and I was ready to go.
It started in O'Hare international airport, Chicago, where I left on the evening of Saturday the 21st.
My flight was very pleasant. I was seated next to a quick-witted girl who was also excited to be headed
to Europe for the first time, though she'd had the foresight to make her trip over a month long, whereas
slow-witted me had made mine barely more than a week. I wanted to sleep, and saw an open row of seats in the
back of the plane, and went back there to lie down, but was jolted awake by a stern, "No no, dis seats is
not for joo!" and found myself looking at the wagging finger of an indignant fight attendant (accidental
Freudian slip spelling!) I went back to my original seat and managed to get some sleep. We touched down in
the UK, and I felt nice and giddy, and I hopped off the plane and studied the public transportation, and
soon I found myself...
...in Trafalgar Square. I had taken a bus to get there, and was intrigued to note that it had two levels, much
like my childhood bunk bed. Unlike the unjust sleeping arrangement of my youth, I was able to select the top,
and I enjoyed a fine view during the ride. I got off the bus at Trafalgar and looked around. I saw Big Ben
and the London Eye off in the distance, and right in front of me, the National Gallery. I strolled around and
took it all in, then went into the museum for some tea and some paintings. I studied the works of some of the
olde masters, and I was resoundly disappointed. Lousy proportions, lack of depth, cartoonish use of lighting, and
so on. I mean, most of the work was honestly inferior to the stuff I saw in my college nudie drawing class.
Then I rounded a corner and ran into a painting, and in about a millisecond I thought, "Phew! Finally! Now
here's a good painting! Wonderful proportions, deep and rich shading, sense of depth... who painted this?" I
looked at the placard and it said, "Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci". I saw some other famous stuff, such as Van Gogh's
Sunflowers, but I was becoming sleepy, and went outside for a nap under a statue.
After that, I woke up and brushed off some pigeon poo and I just kind of wandered around London, taking a quick and superficial look at the other famous
sights, making sure to photograph myself with them, so that I can brag, "I've been to Buckingham Palace" (see
above photo - see? see?) but without really knowing any of the history or significance or even purpose of these
places. I marched all around and saw Big Ben and Parliament and the London Eye and various cathedrals, both
inside and out, such as...
...good old Westminster Abbey here. I ran out of time, and took Bus 15 back to Paddington Station, and decided
that I ought to get dinner. I'd heard a lot about these "pies" that they have in England, and though I'd
previously sampled some at EPCOT's London restaurant, I figured that I'd try the real deal. Despite the threat of botulism, I
went for a traditional steak and kidney pie. It wasn't bad. Except for the kidney, which was horrid. However,
in the interest of putting forth a sporting effort, I ate it all. After all, I'd heard that England is famous
for crappy food, and I wanted to immerse myself into the culture at least a little bit. I got back to the airport,
and met up with my travel companion for the rest of the trip, Jeff Kurtzman. He'd been in Scotland with his
family, and the five of us drove back to their house in Marlow, on the River Thames.
Jeff and I spent half of the day in Marlow. The river was flooded. I was pleased to see The Compleat Angler
across the river. We walked about town and had a few pints
in the local pub. After that, we packed up our stuff and took the train into London. We checked into a super
bargain of a hotel which was only about a couple hundred dollars for a dinky little one-bed room. We went out
and hit the pubs and drank many sorts of British beers.
Here I am with my dinner, traditional English fish & chips with mushy peas (that's what they call them). It was
much more delicious than the steak-n-kidney pie, which is to say that I was able to choke it down with only
slight grimacing. We continued to drink and then found some nightclubs that were surprisingly kicking for a
Monday night. We stumbled back to the hotel and overslept. How we caught our flight the next morning had a lot
to do with miracles and leaping onto trains just as doors were closing.
Soon we found ourselves in Budapest. Jeff had reserved a hotel, so after checking in, we hit the pavement and
got a traditional Hungarian meal at a nice place, and then checked out the town. Here's a photo of us crossing
the Sczechenyi Bridge from Buda to Pest. We wandered around and looked at sights, and as the sun set, we searched
for some bars or clubs to hang out in. We'd heard a lot about this great Budapest nightlife scene. The subsequent
four or so hours of wandering the streets prompted Jeff to dub the city "Budaweird". We couldn't find a single
damn bar. In fact, we could barely find a single damn person. The streets were eerily dark and quiet with only
occasional people milling about at fancy cafes. We stumbled across a group of people softly singing songs and
waving flags, so we joined them, wondering why several police cars and officers were hanging out nearby. I talked
to many people: "What is this?" and through broken English learned that it was a protest to bring a communist
regime back to Budapest. Hopefully my nonsensical singing will turn the tide and Budapest will become red once
We decided to call it a night, and on the walk back we were treated to some beautiful sights, such as Buda Castle
here. We found a 24-hour crepe restaurant, and ate a midnight snack, and then walked back and crashed at our
We woke at a reasonably early hour on Wednesday, and I memorized the public transportation for the city, and we
took the tram. Unfortunately I had memorized it wrong, because my route to visit the Parliament building
actually landed us a few miles south. No matter, while down there we found a very good nightspot to visit for
later that evening, and we saw all sorts of fun sights, amongst them an enormous flea market selling all matter
of meat not fit for consumption in the US. We wandered the streets and took it all in. The weather, by the way,
was perfect, just like every day. Nice and warm and windy. We stopped and we got some Hungarian goulash soup.
It was tasty, but we took heed of a local who had earlier told us not to eat it every day.
This time I knew my correct tram stop, and we made it to the parliament building, as you can clearly see. We
checked it out and bought tickets for a tour inside, and eventually made our way back over to Buda and spent
some time in the castle district.
It was a beautiful area, but as usual, our short trip prevented us from getting too in-depth with any of the
history or culture underlying the place. Still, I got some good views and photos, such as this shot of the
river and Pest, taken from the castle.
We went back to Pest and went on our tour of the Parliament building. As I'd told some other American tourists
earlier, (who had made fun of the fact that we'd signed up for a tour) it was my first real guided tour of anything
since like, middle school or so, and I remembered why I stopped taking guided tours. They're boring. Anyway,
we saw some crowns and scepters and the world's largest handmade rug and the conference room and statues and ever so
much gold and some apparently very very very famous cigar holders. The tour was so exciting that we went right
outside after it ended and took a nap. After that, we decided to visit the area with some museums and castles
and turkish bath houses and other sights, such as Heroes Square, seen above. I did my best to heroically
drink my iced coffee.
After that we wandered around and looked at castles and the like. We drank beers. This statue and I had a
minor misunderstanding, but we got it all settled out.
We were feeling good and tingly, and we were interested in Turkish bath houses, but alas, they'd closed for the
day. Thus, we settled on some trampoline jumping. We flipped and bounced about, and I managed to injure my
left ankle and my right spine. Soon we headed for the clubs that we'd scouted earlier in the day. No wait, first we got dinner, then we got
some more beers, then we went to some bars. Eventually we took the tram to the open-air nightclub that we'd
spotted in the morning, and it was packed.
We had a very fun time there, and met many interesting locals. I corrected their pronunciation of various Hungarian
words. This dude in particular was a hoot, and the more shots he took, the more of a hoot he became. In this
photo, he had reached the stage of Master Hooter.
Here's Jeff with some Hungarian lady friends.
Overall, it had been a very long and fun-filled day, and I felt that I really learned Budapest well. Like, I know
where everything is, and how to get there. I almost didn't want to go to Prague, thinking that it wouldn't be as
cool as Budapest. And after all, a few experienced travelers had earlier told us that it wasn't that great, that
it was littered with tourists, and so on. Still, better to stick to the plan, I figured.
We didn't manage to wake quite as early on Thursday morning, and made our way to the train station. We bought
some tickets to Prague. I'd always heard of these famous European trains. My train-riding experience is very
limited. In fact, I'm not sure I'd ever even been on a real train before this (does the one surrounding Magic
Kingdom at Disney count?). Well anyway, we boarded the train and rode it to Prague. Here's photographic proof.
I'd heard that these trains are a good place to meet people. I'd heard correctly. We met a few really cool
guys on the train, primarily Nick and Ty. They were basically Jay and Silent Bob, but funny. Nick, from Montana,
had a hell of a lot to say, and he didn't stop saying it for the entire ride. Ty, on the other hand, muttered
about three words during the entire trip, all of them pertaining to a "rock in his eye". Not dust or sand, but
a rock. It's entirely possible that the funniest event of the entire European trip involved the attempts to
remove the rock from Ty's eye. After various failed attempts, it was determined that water might flush it out,
but as these lads were on a budget, they couldn't waste much water, and the dousing was dispensed from the
bottle cap, as noted above. I don't know, the cramped space on the train, the bungled attempts, the lack of sleep, whatever,
made it ridiculously hilarious to me. Plus it didn't work, and the rock remained in his eye. Rocks notwithstanding,
it became apparent to me that these guys knew how to do Europe right. Whereas Jeff and I were staying in nice
hotels, mostly flying, buying fancy dinners and zipping by landmarks, these guys were on a three-month, tight
budget trek in which they'd made probably hundreds of friends and got down with the culture. I envied them, right
down to their audacious boarding of a train on which their Eurail passes were not valid. The process of paying for
the ride was almost as ridiculous as the rock removal episode, but ultimately ended in a small bribe, a fraction
of the cost that Jeff and I had paid.
We finally arrived in Prague. In the above photo, we see Nick, myself, Tony, and Ty (note red eye of Ty). Tony was another character,
a lazy businessman like Jeff and I, touring around Europe. But unlike Jeff and I, he appeared to possess the
ability to make beautiful women remove their clothes within .03 seconds of meeting him. He was also very good
at making extremely slow sleeping arrangements. The five of us wanted to hang out together in Prague and stay in
the same quarters. Somehow this seemingly simple task took about an hour of intense negotiations by Tony.
We finally did the sensible thing and agreed to get our own places and meet at the Astronomical Clock in Old
Town Square at midnight. Jeff, Tony, and I found a place right in Old Town Square, but he got his own room of
course, since Jeff and I would have only taken up space that he could fill with Czech females. We got showered
and dressed and met up with NickenTy at the Astronomical Clock. Tony even managed to showed up, and we headed out
for the clubs. We got to a swank place, and after it became apparent that NickenTy's idea of nightlife didn't
include 150CZK drinks, we bid fond farewell with a hope to meet the next day. That first club was nice, but
honestly about 90% guys. I've never seen anything like it. Even Tony only managed to score a few women. We then
went to a better club, which was really cool: it was a network of underground chambers, owing to Prague's
longstanding efforts to forestall flooding by raising street levels. We had a good time.
We woke on Friday, and looked out the window of our room, and saw this. Prague architecture is spectacular, and
it's spectacular for miles and miles and miles as far as you can walk, with mostly Baroque and Gothic buildings
I guess, but many other architectural forms as well. Prague managed to avoid the damage that
a lot of other European cities suffered during WWII, so the beautiful buildings remain pristine. It's hard to
describe the cumulative effect that such sheer quantity and beauty of architecture produces, but as a whole it kind of made
me feel a sort of wonder and appreciation that I normally wouldn't feel for any place, certainly not manmade,
and made me feel that all the cities I'd known before were ugly and cheap and merely utilitarian. I suppose that
this is not an uncommon response, but it was meaningful to me, because I've never very much liked cities. I
We stayed about 100 yards from the Astronomical Clock. It kicks ass. For more info, see:
Astronomical Clock Wiki Entry
Of course, not only are the outsides of the buildings beautiful, but the insides are lavishly decorated and
often complex. This is just one of dozens of cathedrals that we entered. They were all different, but all
similarly on par with each other in terms of attention to detail and design.
Jeff and I on a bridge over the Vltava River, which divides Prague similarly to how the Danube divides Budapest,
resulting in a similar photograph.
The west side of Saint Vitus Cathedral.
We entered the Cathedral and decided to ascend the tiny spiral staircase to the top tower. The staircase
was only tiny in that the steps were about three feet wide. It was very, very, tall. The problem is that
it's the only way up and down, so people are constantly squeezing by each other in this cramped space, for
several hundred steps. I seriously wonder what the hell would happen if a fat person attempted to traverse
this path. I mean, it'd completely gum up the works! Luckily, there are no fat people in Europe. I'm not
kidding. I looked around the streets of Budapest and Prague and saw exactly two fat people my entire time
there, both likely American tourists. This cultural element alone was more shocking than language, currency
differences, etc. Anyway, without any fatties, we got to the top - oh and by the way, I don't have claustrophobia,
but if I did, I'd have died in this staircase.
Once in the top tower, we were treated to spectacular views of the city.
I'm smart. I stuck my head through iron bars of almost the exact width of my skull. It was tough getting
through, but getting back out was much, much harder. Something to do with the direction of my ears. Directly
below my head, should I slip in the process, was a spike sharp enough to perform surgery. I'm smart.
We left the cathedral and wandered around the castle district. There were too many beautiful things to show
you here. I'll show you this fountain. It contained three pools. I pulled two 10CZK coins out of my pocket
and told Jeff that we could each make a wish, and then throw the coin, and if it landed in the small top pool
that the wish would come true. I made my wish and made my throw, and despite the wind, it landed in the top
pool! Alas, my wish had been that I would, in fact, land my coin in the top pool.
I had a good working relationship with many of the statues in Prague. This one taught me the proper form for
bashing someone's head in with a club or water bottle.
Proof that Jeff Kurtzman and David Seerveld were in fact in Prague.
I found this kickass insect just outside of the castle district. It has some sort of an inca face pattern. I
lamented the fact that I'd never be able to identify it, but a local later told me the name.
Jeff and I had a very good day in Prague. We saw many amazing buildings and landmarks, and even though
we had to rush through some of them, they were still very much worth seeing. We crossed the famous and
spectacular Saint Charles bridge back toward Old Town Square, and after we crossed the bridge, we saw this,
and decided that's where we'd spend our night. We got ready and headed out to Karlovy Lazne. It was a
pretty sweet club, with five stories as advertised, and a lot of racous people from many countries.
These Dutch girls were very nice. I'd actually met them the prior night at that club with 90% guys, which was a
long distance away. I guess tourists think alike. They were unable to tell me what my Dutch name, Seerveld,
means. However, they did offer very valuable fashion advice: apparently Jeff and I are to obtain wooden shoes.
Overall it was a fun night, and I walked back as the sun rose.
Jeff and I slept until about 11:00 on Saturday. We headed to Wenceslas Square and the National Museum, seen
above. There, we saw all sorts of natural history displays. Jeff and I were in the zoology section, and a
girl came by and I impressed her with many lies about Koala Bears.
We spent the day with her. Her name is Maria Dinulescu and she's a Romanian actress. Although Jeff and I ended
up visiting far more clothing stores and ice cream stands than we'd normally frequent, we had a great time. She
had a lot of spirit. For example she saw a newscast which clearly wanted the National Museum as a backdrop,
and she pulled me right into the shot and we "studied a map" like ignorant tourists, forcing them to do a
re-take. She had a lot of good insights about relationships and the European take on cinematography as well as
other arts and lifestyle. Her English was pretty good, but it was funny to hear little mistakes, such as when
we went to dinner and they forgot her dessert, and she said, "They did not bring my sweet thing". She took us
to see a classical guitarist, which is something Jeff and I would have not seen otherwise.
I loved the guitarist. Her name was Milada Karez. She appeared to be in her 50's, and she was amazing. I had
no idea that a guitar could sound like that. At time I felt as though I was listening to a harp. I was actually
a bit entranced at times. It's possible that my fatigue was a factor, as I'd been on many days with little
sleep, and it's true that some of the melodies started to cause me to drift off to sleep. But still, I was
enthralled with her. Not only did she have an incredible talent, but her demeanor between songs seemed so
dignified, yet very passionate about music. After the show ended, I stuck around to meet her, and I bought
her CD, which is the first musical CD I've ever purchased just for the point of hearing music. The three of us
left the concert, and we bid Maria goodbye, as the friend she was to meet had showed up. Jeff and I were lucky to
spend the day with her.
I decided that I should further explore music. I've been ignoring a lot of it my whole life. Almost every church
had some sort of performance every night. Music was everywhere. I saw this sign outside of a church in Olde
Town Square, and bought a ticket for 9:00 that night. Jeff and I had a couple of hours, so we explored around
a bit more. We went back to the hotel and changed, and Jeff decided to get a second dinner while I went to see the orchestra.
It started raining, for the one and only time of my trip. I was late, and had only a few minutes to get from
my hotel to the church, so I sprinted in the rain. I think it's against the law to run, because I never saw anyone
else run during my whole trip. But I ran, and I made it just in time before the doors closed, and as I sat in
the beautiful and cavernous church dripping wet, I was about to experience a fairly profound moment for me. The
musicians came out and carefully got in tune, and then in a sudden burst proceeded to play, and somehow it was
as if I was hearing classical music for the first time in my life. I'd always dismissed it, but somehow I now
sat entranced. It's entirely possible that my surroundings had something to do with it, or perhaps it was the
clear recognition of the skill and passion of the musicians in front of me, or the warm acoustics, but in a
moment I was overwhelmed. I don't even remember the piece, though it was likely Vivaldi, and I found
tears coming to my eyes and a sense of something powerful and good that I rarely feel. It was a significant
moment for me. Perhaps it was a culmination of a sense that had been building over me the entire trip, that
there's a whole world out there that I've never opened my eyes to and that there's value and beauty in culture.
Before this, I never really cared much. I don't expect to become a rabid fan of classical now, nor a highly
cultured person, but I left the performance feeling somehow changed.
Jeff and I then met at the base of the Saint Charles bridge and sat at a nice cafe and watched people and drank
a few good Czeck beers. I was feeling good, and we went to a nightclub. I had a good time and had fun talking
to Jeff. Not too much interesting happened. It was an underground club, and on the bottom floor, I had fun
asking people how to get downstairs, as if I believed the place just kept going down. In a span of 30 seconds, I encountered two ginormous bitches. Jeff was
sitting on a couch, and as I went to sit with him, I asked a girl there how to get downstairs. She gave me the
absolute most vicious evil glare a woman can dispense. I sat down wide-eyed, propped my feet on a table, and a
female club employee screamed at me to get my feet off the table, lest I get kicked out. Jeff and I then had
no choice but to burst out laughing like maniacs. This somehow defeated the glares of these women, and the club
lady wandered off, and back went the feet, and back came the lady and back came the glares and threats and it
only made Jeff and I laugh harder. I think beer had something to do with all the giggling. Later, in the
bathroom, by an amazing coincidence, all five guys in there (except me) turned out to be British, but not in the
same party. Suddenly there was a big war that basically sounded like, "West Yorkshire are the best town in all
of England" "What?! You Yorkies are a lot of rubbish! It's Leicester that are the best sports!" "You two lot
are mental! Bristol all the way!" and so on. I somehow joined in, defending the glorious merits of Nottingham
in my best drunken British accent. It got late, and I left.
Suddenly and unexpectedly I met my favorite person of the trip. The Prague streets have a way of turning one
around, as the buildings confine the narrow cobblestone streets with no broader view of the surrounding area. I
asked a girl the direction toward Olde Town Square, and in just 25 minutes or so with her, she proved to be one
of the sweetest, kindest, and astoundingly humble people I've ever met. Her name was Nina. I showed her the photo of my mystery
insect, which she identified in Czech as something that sounded like "Bloschticzech" and her strong interest in
entomology delighted me. We had to go in different directions, and I wanted to take her photo, but she honestly
believed that she was not pretty enough that anyone would want a photo of her. I was dumbfounded, but she eventually
shyly took the above photo. She was a tremendous breath of fresh air in contrast to the ginormous bitches in the
club, and kind of one of those people that gives you more faith in humanity. I walked home and for the first
time gave money to the prostrating beggars on the streets, emptying my pockets along the way. Nina kicked ass.
This church kicked ass.
This snail kicked ass.
This view across the Vltava kicked ass.
The Municipal House, and home to the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Best statue ever.
We spent much of Sunday at Petrin Hill, on the west side. It was nice to see some natural areas, but of
course the hill was covered with historical churches and the like. We climbed a 1/4 replica of the Eiffel
Tower and I took many photos of Prague which I won't bore you with.
We saw many spectacular rose gardens on Petrin Hill, including this one near an observatory.
Jeff completed this "maze" at the rose garden, which means that he'll soon find true love. Yes, this was
an especially manly day for us.
We finished off our last moments in Prague with yet another beer, this time right next to the good old Astronomical
Clock. We then went to the airport and flew back to London, where we crashed.
Jeff flew out early on Monday morning, and I had a half-day in London to myself. I took the train from London
Gatwick airport to Victoria Station.
I basically wandered around London again. I also ate another meat pie. This one was tastier. I felt different
this go round in London, as if in just a week I'd become more worldly. I took it slower and didn't rush from
one sight to the next. I was delighted to wander the streets and suddenly recognize where I was from my
previous tour of London, and felt that I'd learned the city a bit. Then I participated in an entirely boring
and wholly tourist-centric event, the Buckingham Palace changing of the guard. I couldn't even see it amongst
the crowd, but my elevated camera caught some of the action. I was tired, and just took a nap near the palace,
and looked around at the other backpackers and tourists around me.
Suddenly my European trip was over. I went to the train station and rode to London Heathrow and flew back to
Chicago. I felt tired but happy. It had been a good trip.
I should have gone on a trip to Europe earlier in life. It was a valuable and life-changing experience. Not immensely so, but it would've been nice to go through my twenties with a broader sense of culture and a greater understanding of the world. Still, I'm happy to have experienced it at all. I had a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. Some of the fun and learning came simply from the challenges in the infrastructure. Getting around brand new places, different languages, different currencies, social norms, and so on, excited me. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I successfully navigated the train and bus routes of London or learned the layout of Budapest. It's true that at times I felt a bit annoyed at my lack of understanding of the culture, and I made various mistakes as a result, but overall, it was a very good introduction to Europe.
I should have stayed longer. Nine days was not enough, especially with the travel time. Nine days wouldn't have been enough for even one city, let alone three. Yet I'm still happy with everything I did. I'd have rather seen all three cities rather than just one. I consider this trip a sort of "introductory" trip. I plan to visit Europe again, and do it better.
As stated, I think that the poor backpackers get the better experience. Though I met many cool people, at times Jeff and I isolated ourselves, because we were wholly self-sufficient, and we stayed away from forced social situations like hostels and trains. I think that exposure to these areas would be great. I'd love to meet other travelers in the hostels and trains, the ones who often have to rely on each other. Maybe instead of memorizing maps, I could have found some personal tour guides. Instead of buying a fancy dinner, I could have made one with someone new. Stuff like that. I have to say that despite the cultural value of the trip, it always seems that, in the end, it's the connections with people that mean the most, and I think that the people slumming it get the strongest connections.
That said, Jeff Kurtzman was an excellent traveling companion. If not for him, I wouldn't have even taken this trip at all, so I'm very grateful that he asked me. In addition, I'd heard that travel can really test friendships, and I believe it. However, Jeff and I were very compatible in terms of energy level (high), budget (what budget?), and desired activities. We didn't have any disagreements or frustrations and made all of our decisions very easily. We had a lot of fun and a lot of nice talks, and I'm glad I got to travel with Jeff.
For a first trip, the logistics worked out perfectly. I had no problems. My backpack (gift from my sister that has been dormant for five years) was just right, and I packed just the right amount of stuff. I brought just the right amount of cash, and so on. I had no disasters at all - I didn't lose my passport or get pickpocketed or anything like that. I didn't have any accidents or injuries. The only bullshit thing to happen is that I somehow got sick. After my first night in London, I woke with a bad sore throat. I thought back to the colds I used to get back when I was in school. I haven't had any illness in about eight years. Maybe a minor glitch here or there. But now I had a sore throat, and sure enough the snotty nose followed, and then a rough case of bronchitis that I'm still stuck with. Hopefully it will clear up soon. However, this illness didn't adversely affect my trip. I felt good the whole time, with lots of energy, and my nose was clear. I only had to deal with the occasional bout of coughing.
I went into the trip with very little expectation. As I stated, I had no idea where I was going. I didn't even know what countries Budapest and Prague lay in. I did no research beforehand. However, I think it was cool this way. Everything was brand-new for me. Instead of saying, "Oh, this must be the Loreto that I've read so much about! I simply must see the Diamond Monstrance!" I said, "Hey, look at this cool building", and then I went inside and learned about it and experienced nice surprises like the Diamond Monstrance. Everything was refreshingly new and fun for me.
I liked Prague best, London least, and Budapest middlest. I suppose the eastern cities were more exotic to me, but I simply felt a better spirit there, and I liked the people better.
In summary, it was a great trip. I had a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal. I experienced so many new things, and all of it was worthwhile. Hell, it was worth it just to see the Bloschticzech. I plan to go back someday.