Guest Writer: Ken Kane

Ken is traveling with us from Budapest to Antwerp. He is an integral part of our Beer Tour 2006 and a great friend. Ken has a background in media, so his writings should be a little more polished than mine.

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Journal Entry #1

Clickety-clacking through the Slovakvian countryside, Sept. 11 –

I've looked forward to my 23-day beer, brot and Beethoven odyssey across Europe for over a year. I had a list of sights to see in my first stop – Budapest – as long as my arm:

  • The Parliament Building (well, I rode AROUND it on the #2 tram six times … does that count?)
  • The Cave Church (oh well, I don't go to church at home … why start now?)
  • The thermal baths – gotta take a thermal bath! (maybe next time)
  • And so on and so on … and so it goes.

Why the disconnect between “must do” and “actually did”? It has to do with another kind of connection – or RE connection, really.

Starting with touchdown at Budapest airport and for the next 12 hours, I reacquainted myself with Dave (who I hadn't seen in seven years, and that was my first time meeting him), Val & Eric (it had been a year) and my niece Chelsea (not since May, but won't seen again now for a year).

Since I'm the first degree of separation for all of these friends of mine, I feel something of a responsibility to make sure they befriend each other as well.

At this point for these five, independent, opinionated travelers at the start of a three-week hop-infused traipse across Europe, seeing eye-to-eye (at least a bit) is more important than seeing sights. So (agendas and lists be damned) that's what we've done.

It's taken some shoe leather, a 10-book of tram tickets, a picnic in the Danube (well, on an island in the Danube ), several kielbasas and a few bowls of goulash, but relationships have been forged. OK, there were numerous beers and no less than ELEVEN hours at the Budapest International Wine Festival involved, too. And a few shots of absinthe and Patron, all of which helped us to relax with each other, not to mention identify and appreciate (to a degree yet to be determined) each other's expectations and idiosyncrasies.

And so our trek across borders both international and interpersonal has begun.. The first fledgling has left the nest – Chelsea is off to seize the world for the next year, much as Val & Eric have done for the past one. Others will come to take her place among our ranks for ours is a movable feast of fun, fuggles and friendship.

The one major sight we did manage to visit in Hungary – Buda Castle , home of the winefest – was memorable. So were the Tolkaj, the phonetic singing Beatles and the mad accordionist. And who among us will ever forget that one absolutely stunning moonrise on our last night there.

We're sure the Fishermen's Bastion, Statue Park , the Labyrinth and the night cruise on the Danube are stunning as well. We'll find out first-hand on our second trips to Budapest , whenever those may be.

But for now, four individuals now recast as one band of beer buddies head to Prague where there are more sights to see and more assimilation in store. Prosit!