Terror

Took another big walk today. That’s what I do in cities; walk around. I rarely take mass transit during trips, but I do consult lots of maps. (This never helps in Boston, of course, which I’ve pointed out is built along 4-dimensional principles.)

As with my previous posts, all the photos are in links at the bottom. I don’t have much time on the wireless network here, so I’m writing up in my hotel room, off the network, then going down to the lobby, uploading all the pix, and formatting the text in Blogger. Like you care. All you wanna know is: What’s the city like? How’s yer hotel? Didja jump into the Danube nekkid? Did you get accosted by every strip-club greeter, pimp and prostitute along Vaci ucta during your walk to dinner last night?

Glad you asked. Stick around, and you’ll have the answers to some of those questions and more! For instance, I did get accosted by all of the above on my way to dinner. I’m not sure if it’s because I was dressed okay, or because I was walking alone, but it started just past the Elizabeth Bridge on Vaci Utca, when a guy came up to me, pointed to a side-street, and said, “We got girls with big tits! 100% natural! No silicone!”

Can you believe the nerve of this guy? I mean, English isn’t his first language, but surely he knows that you don’t start a sentence with a numeral!

Disgusted at his lack of cleanly transcribable grammar, I kept on down the utca. Two more strip-club greeters tried to entice me to go to their establishments. I averred.

Then two pretty girls asked me for directions. I replied that I just got into town and didn’t know my way around. This may seem like a smooth way of establishing that you’re cruising for prostitutes, but in fact, it was a smooth way of establishing that I had no idea what district I was in, and that I’d never had any sorta conversation with a prostitute before.

I blithely went on my way until I noticed that the next several beautiful women who walked past me were looking me right in the eye and saying, “Hello.” I’m so goddamn thick sometimes.

Eventually, I found a neat, trendy restaurant, had a lavish meal (St. Jacques scallops, Nepal steak, and a poppyseed chocolate confection for dessert, along with a G&T), and paid only $42 for the privilege.

I meandered back to my hotel, talking with more greeters, prostitutes and older women who wanted to introduce me to their younger compatriots. Crossing the Independence Bridge, I marveled over the lights of the city. It’s not Paris, of course, but it’s a heck of a show. (I’ll bring my camera next evening I go out, and try to post some good pix, but the Minolta Dimage isn’t great with nighttime shots, esp. long-range ones.)

Home, I opened the window and the door, since 65 euros is only getting me a room sans air conditioning. The hotel’s pretty nice, though. It’s home to a thermal spring and spa, in which I plan on partaking on Thursday (report to follow).

I stayed up pretty late reading Trainspotting, after finishing that Lester Bangs book (his finished work was so much better than the unpublished stuff, and his fiction was disastrous, which helps reinforce a conversation I’ve had with some people in my life who’ve told me not to stress over my inability to write fiction, when my non-fiction is so darned entertaining.

But this particular run of posts has, in general, been more about chronicling. Today, while I was on another big walk, I thought about how I haven’t really offered any insights to what I’m doing and seeing here. I thought about writing, “Sorry I haven’t offered anything profound yet, but it’s not like I offer anything profound at any other time.”

Only we both know that’s bullshit, don’t we? It’s not just the jokes and the occasional wacky situations that you tune in for. You expect something a little profound, or at least a sign of deeper thinking than “I went here, then I went there.”

One way to describe today: Today I went to the House of Terror, then I walked back to my hotel.

The other way to describe it’s a lot longer. Here goes:

I took a pretty long walk today, through the shopping districts, over to the Parliament building, up to the central train station, and through a western-style mall. Bought a pair of sandals during the walk, as I needed something more comfortable than my Merrell Chameleons (great for nature-walking, but city-walking can get a little iffy).

After the mall, I decided to head south on Terez krt and go east up Andrassy ut (where I walked yesterday). On Andrassy, I visited the House of Terror. This building used to be the home of the secret police. Now it’s a museum.

I’ve been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, before. I’ve seen images of terrible atrocities. I’m not sure I ever really grasped the institutionalization of evil before today.

Since 9/11, I’ve contemplated history an awful lot. Mostly, it’s been about putting the world into context, so that events aren’t seen as simply self-generated. To me, everything we’re currently going through is a working-out of the cold war, history spasming out of control after an 8- or 10-year stretch in which we tried to pretend history was over. A few days after the attacks, I said to a friend, “The U.S. and the Soviets warred across the planet. Every time there’s a war, you get war babies. In Afghanistan, the metaphorical war babies were the mujahideen. Like any angry, abandoned child, it wants to kill its parents. As far as it’s concerned, it already succeeded at killing one parent. Now it wants us.”

(This is my way of saying that, yes, we shouldn’t have bailed out on Afghanistan after their war, and let the country fail and become a breeding ground for Muslim terrorists. However, the point that people seem to avoid mentioning is that the Soviet Union shouldn’t have rolled motherfucking tanks into the country in an attempt to brutally subjugate it into status as a “buffer” country. No Soviet rampage, no need to fund an army of Muslim guerrillas.)

When I was at the ticket counter, the clerk asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket for the temporary exhibition in the gallery, too. I asked what it was. “Children in the Holocaust,” she replied. I sighed and shook my head. Maybe I could just pay for someone to run up and kick me in the nuts instead?

The entry to the museum involves a walk around an atrium. The back wall consists of photos of people who died in the building. To see them, though, you have to look over the giant black Soviet tank on a platform before you. I was whomped by the sheer mass of it, the image it evoked of dozens of them rolling through the streets of this city to quash the rebellion in 1956.

But that’s only the beginning, dear reader. Your correspondent ascended to the second floor of the building, where the exhibition starts, and listened to his audio guide. It began with a description of the post-war resettlement and deportation scheme, in which hundreds of thousands of people were kicked out and others were kicked in (like Czechoslovakia’s Hungarian-descended population of 200,000 people, who were “resettled” in Hungary in 1946). The gray-walled room itself (no photography allowed) had a few flat screens displaying old film footage, but it was dominated by this Soviet limousine, which was surrounded by gauzy black curtains. The lights in the room would periodically dim into darkness, heralding the impending age of terror, I guess.

Following that was a short hall of quotes from party officials, offering standard propaganda about getting rid of enemies of the Revolution. Some of the officials were kind enough to mention Jews specifically, while others mentioned “bankers” and “speculators” instead.

Then came a room explaining the policies toward the peasant farmers. They were blasted to shreds in the name of collectivization. The most disturbing part of this room was its shape. It was a pseudo-labyrinth, composed of off-white bricks that read “1 KG [something long and Hungarian]”. When I touched one of the bricks, I realized it was sorta waxy, and slightly pliant. There was no explanation of this, and I suddenly feared that they were meant to represent human fat. I sure know how to vacation, huh?

The next rooms were the anteroom and office of the head of the political police (the AVH). The audio guide explained the history of Gabor Peter, police head for a few of the ugly years. It was nice that, pretty much each time one of the heads was mentioned, it eventually was revealed that he’d ended up in the cells down in the basement, and was tortured and hung.

A room like an assembly hall followed, and the Soviet style of justice was explained here. The benches and walls were upholstered (papered) in reproductions of court-transcripts. From here, it was a long haunting hall about the persecution of churches. The hall was dominated by a huge white cross in the floor. It was set up as though the cross was under the floor, and floorboards had been sawn away to reveal it. Speakers in the back of the chamber played dirge-like chants. There were numerous religious items in displays in the walls, including a haunting (for me) tallis-and-tefillim. The audio guide told the story of Cardinal Mindszenty, who was (of course) tortured but not (surprisingly) executed down in the basement. He spent fifteen years living in the American Embassy (1956-1971) before the Vatican and the Hungarian government pressured him into leaving the country.

All this is still chronicling, isn’t it? It’s not really getting at what I felt. I was weighed down by the exhibits (Mindszenty was the last area on the top floor). While we waited interminably for the elevator, I thought about the sheer evil of the regime, and how on earth anyone could hope to live like a human after it.

I’m thinking now of Timothy Garton Ash’s book The File, about what he discovered when he petitioned the former East German government to let him see the file the Stasi kept on him (he was a journalist who lived there for several years). Many East Germans did the same, only to discover that their loved ones had been reporting on them for years. I wondered how you live like that, how you keep the secret, and how you try to trust someone after you’ve learned that secret. When something like this is institutional, does that make it easier? That exhibition on the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide raises the same questions for me, of course. Or Croatia, where I saw a news item last night about the rebuilding of a bridge that had been blown up during the civil war. How do you live next door to someone who tried to kill you? How do you turn out the light and lie beside someone who was telling the Stasi about your reading habits?

The elevator came. We learned why it had taken so long. It goes down nice and slow so that everyone on board can watch an interview with a man whose job it was to clean out the execution chamber following a hanging. He explained the whole process, and editorialized a little: “Why do something silly like grant a last request? What good would that do?”

The elevator took forever and, right before we reached the end of the descent, someone’s cell-phone rang. I swear to God this is true. I wanted to be mad at first, but then I thought that maybe it was a really important call this person was expecting. Her tone was pretty flippant, which got me back to infuriation. The elevator door opened to a recreation of the torture cells in the basement. The audio guided explained the conditions the captives were under, and the treatment they received.

Each chamber contained photos of individuals who were tortured there. A larger room contained a table with some torture implements, including a hotplate and a dental drill. I was hollowed-out, in a fugue of sorts. Not numb, exactly.

And then I got to the hall of the 1956 Revolution: filled with video screens of footage, mementos of student riots, walls with reproductions of graffiti. I started to cry. Not sure why that room did it, but my eyes welled up. It’s as if, looking at it now, that the tortures of the post-war era were just a historical disaster. I mean, the Soviets were in control, so of course there were fucked-up, Stalinist secret police torturing and murdering dissidents. That was “according to plan,” if you get me.

But the revolution, man, that fucked me up good. It was that idea that these people wanted liberty, that they were willing to fight for freedom after a decade of this post-war monstrousness. And all it got ’em was tanks like the one in the atrium. Imre Nagy, the PM at the time, negotiated a peace and withdrawal of Soviet troops, but the Russians reneged and went apeshit on the populace. Nagy got executed in 1958. In 2004, I looked at the brick wall with the Hungarian for “Russians Out!” in graffiti, and I hoped my contact lenses were going to stay in despite the tears.

There were a few more rooms. One had a series of screens showing footage of the Soviet withdrawal and the opening of the museum itself. Another was a long, narrow hall of “the Victimizers,” those who committed the denunciations, tortures and executions, or did nothing to stop them. Christ, you could’ve put the entire human population into a hall like that.

(When I got home, I saw “EU threatens sanctions against Sudan” on my TV. Took ’em long enough. And the sanctions are bullshit anyway. The leader will make his concessions in word, blow off the deed, and the EU will threaten greater sanctions. I’ve been agitating about this genocide for, what, 10 weeks now? People like Samantha Power have been on it much longer than that. Why should it take “public opinion” to sway governments to act against a motherfucking genocide? Why, when I know what’s going on, doesn’t Colin Powell, or Joschka Fischer? Too late now, anyway: Sudanese knew what they were doing. Now the rains are coming, and any aid isn’t going to make it to the refugees. The world fucking hems-and-haws over this stuff, every time. And it’s not just when Africans are involved. I really need to go get some dinner; I’m starting to get really bitter.)

Last room. That’s the one. It’s dark, and the wall’s a ring of names (cut out from black marble), illuminated from behind. They’re the names of every person who was killed in this building, the dissidents and the tiger-catching-its-tail secret police who got fingered by their own, like Kadar and Peter.

The interior of the room is filled with thin, wrought-iron lamps. They stand at odd angles, and their bulbs are dim enough that you can see them all. Some lights have stencils of the Star of David inside to symbolize the Jews who were brought down here.

A few weeks ago, when planning this trip, I thought about taking some side-trips. Primarily, I thought about going to Romania, where my dad’s from. But I also thought about Athens. I’d never go around Olympics-time, but I thought that, before I’m gone, I want to go down to the Piraeus, to walk in the same place Socrates (allegedly) walked in during the night that led to The Republic. I had this urge to tie myself into history.

On the way out of the exhibition, I walked into the gift shop. Wrecked, I thought about buying a Hungarian edition of 1984. I went up to the counter with it, and saw a display behind the clerk. It was filled with the most ridiculous knick-knack: candles in the shape of Lenin’s head; T-shirts about “the American Beetle”; and coffee mugs in the style of prison cups.

For a moment, I thought about how tasteless, how inhuman it seemed to sell that stuff. And then I thought, “Maybe that’s the best response freedom has to offer. Freedom to laugh.”

So I bought this.

Pics:

The Deak Ter intersection. I just felt like taking a pic.

Same circle, another angle.

Look, kids! Parliament.

It’s funkadelic.

Okay, it’s not. Actually, my guidebook sez it’s built like shit, outta porous limestone that catches the pollution from all those Trabants that cruise around the city..

A statue of Kossuth. Check out the way he fakes out the soldier on his right. The peasants never fall for a political leader pointing in the other direction.

Some building with a bust in front. I think it was of Petofi, but my recollection sucks today .

The central train station. It connects to a big-ass mall that I decided to walk through, because I am, of course, from New Jersey.

Same train station.

The Terror House, subject of today’s rant.

Entrance of same.

Some bank I saw during the walk home.

Open my beer, Joe!

Notes from Budapest

7/23/04: Abruptions

The aforementioned best-laid plans (midnight flight to Europe, getting sleep en route) did, in fact, go awry. I got less than an hour’s sleep during the flight from Newark to Copenhagen (no direct flights on my budget). This was partially because of the fact that airplane designers are clearly biased against the gawky. It was also because one of the passengers BROUGHT HER DOG ON THE FLIGHT IN A CARRY-ON. I’m serious. Some biddy had her poodle in a handbag on the goddamn plane. And, wouldn’t you know it, dogs don’t deal well with the changes in air pressure.

Neither did the three-year-old in my aisle. I felt bad for the kid, because he was in absolute torment.

Fortunately, official VM Dad bought me a pair of noise-canceling headphones from Bose. I owned a pair from Sony, but they were earbuds, and got mighty uncomfortable on long flights.

The headphones paired nicely with my latest geek-out episode: buying a new 40 gig iPod the day before this trip. My rationale was that the 12-hour battery life of the new model would serve me better on a long trip. And I’m a geek.

Anyway, I listened to music and read a chunk of Lester Bangs’ reviews and essays during the flight. Then I drifted off.

Let this be a warning to you, dear reader: never drift off while listening to your 40 gig iPod, set to shuffle. Oh, it may seem like a good idea, heading off to slumberland with your very favorite tunes a-play (6,692 of them, according to the Pod). But, I ask you, what if you have Van Halen’s Eruptions among those 6,692 songs? You would be most unhappy to be awakened by that particular song, especially with its high recording level.

Otherwise, the flight was uneventful, although landing was a bit strange. We were on a new Airbus 340, and every seat had its own video screen with all sorts of entertainment options. Among those options: checking out the views from the in-flight belly and nose cameras. For most of the flight, there was nothing to see (note: do not cite Bowie’s Nite Flights here). But during the landing approach, it’s pretty weird to see the view from the nose of the plane. I mean, I’ve played my share of flight simulators in my time, but it’s different when it’s YOUR GODDAMN PLANE THAT’S MAKING THE APPROACH.

Anyway, I’m writing this during the short flight to Budapest. I’ll try to find a hotspot once I’m there, so I can post away.

7/24-25/04: Dateline: Tiszaroff

Wow.

Here’s the chronology. I got into Budapest at 4:30pm on Friday (7/23). I didn’t sleep much, as mentioned earlier. My suitcase was the third one out at the baggage claim, which is unprecedented. I got my passport stamped again. I met up with Rene, another guy coming out here from NJ for the wedding. We got his rental car at 5:30. We drove out to a little town called Tiszaroff, to the castle where the wedding party was staying. We had no currency, and the ATMs on the road weren’t on our network, so we stopped at a supermarket on the way and charged some bottled water, candy bars, and other supplies.

The drive took more than two hours, and the traffic frustrated Rene, who was not accustomed to driving our little Peugeot. We arrived, checked in, greeted the wedding guests, then went to our rooms. I showered, dressed nicely, and headed down to dinner.

The rest of this is somewhat blurry. I mean, I remember everything, but that doesn’t seem to mean much. I ate a little at the dinner, around 8:30pm. By my body’s clock, this was only 2:30pm, but I hadn’t slept the previous night. So I figured I’d have a beer with the guys, then turn in and get a full night’s sleep.

Instead, I had a couple of beers, got into many conversations, had more beers, walked in on a German girl in the bathroom, joined a contingent of Americans and Germans in the pool, decided to doff my swimsuit after the realization that 6 out of 8 of us were swimming naked, and drank more beers.

I thought I bailed out around 3am, but it appears that our skinny-dipping contingent actually split up at 4:30am. Which is to say, I had gone a very long time without sleep, and had 8 or 9 (?) beers in me with virtually no food.

Got upstairs to my room and went to sleep, evidently at 4:30am. Woke up to noise (people going to breakfast) around 10:45am. Knew that if I moved, I’d be sick. Around 11:30am, I moved. I was sick.

After worshiping at porcelain altar, and sitting on floor of bathroom in a cold sweat, I dragged my ass back to bed. Woke up at 3pm.

Got up, showered, ate a candy bar and drank a Coke from the minibar, and put on my suit to get down to the wedding party, which was convening at 4:15.

We drove 15 minutes in a convoy to the town where the bride grew up. The church service was Lutheran, I think, and pretty brief. The minister didn’t know much English, and we joked that we understood her better when she was speaking Hungarian. (This language, I should note, bears virtually no connection to the romance languages, and is made even more incomprehensible by its speakers’ thick accents.)

Got back to the hotel for the reception out by the pool. I drank half-heartedly, but engaged in good conversation with a cinematographer who was seated beside me. He’s married to a Hungarian girl too, and said that he has never understood anything that her parents have said to him. I told him that this was probably a good thing.

Some local teenagers put on a performance of local dance, which was entertaining. I cracked, ‘Whenever I see eastern Europeans in boots, I get a little nervous.’

At midnight, the bride came out in a red dress. This is a traditional rite of marriage, with the bride signifying her no-longer-a-girl transition into womanhood by changing into the new red dress.

We had eaten at a buffet from 7:30-9:30pm (or thereabouts), but now a new buffet was opened up, to feast for the new phase. I ate some pastries, drank half-heartedly, as mentioned, then moved back to Cokes. I stayed sober, and did not jump in the pool naked again.

I had a conversation with the German girl I’d accidentally barged in on the night before. Around 3am, I thought about heading up to my room, packing, and getting ready to leave for Budapest with Rene at 10:30am (he’s flying home on Sunday). But the band stopped playing, and I was cajoled into bringing my iPod down and hooking it up to the speakers, so we could listen to bad ’80s music. We did for a while. (Yes, this means I was DJing at around 3:30 in the morning.)

Two members of the band were absolutely transfixed by the iPod, and asked me many questions about it. The younger one also asked me if I had any Thievery Corporation music. I told him I did, complimented him on the Groove Armada CD they put on between sets, and introduced them to the music of Zero 7. Then I pleased some people by playing “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” by the Scorpions, and “Separate Ways,” by Journey. The band packed up all its stuff, and eventually had to take the speakers away.

Just then, I noticed the sky starting to lighten. A rooster crowed, and I said to Rene, ‘Let’s just stay up, and roll out for Budapest around 9 or 10am.’ We committed to that plan, but later realized that, because of the change of latitude, “it gets early early around here.” It was only 4:30am when we made that realization.

But we decided to stick with our plan. We hung out by the pool, and a few of the other guys, including the groom, jumped into the pool naked. I just watched the sun rise over eastern Hungary.

Now we’ll stay up all night, have some coffee and breakfast around 8am, and roll on to Budapest. Where I will sleep like a motherfucking log, dear reader.

Thanks for your interest.

Here are links to a bunch of pix from the wedding day:

Castle Hotel Tiszaroff.

Wedding #1.

Wedding #2.

To the limo!

Group photo.

The pool.

Jon-Eric & Monika at the reception.

Local dancers.

Bringing out the cake.

Rene, Jon-Eric, Axel (whom I nicknamed Ahmet), and Paul.

That sunrise I mentioned.

7/25/04: Zarva

I’ve settled into the Hotel Gellert in Buda, jus above the Danube by the Liberty Bridge. A single room with no air conditioning: 65 euros. It jumps to 200 euros if I want AC. I’ll probably try to find better (middle-of-the-road) accommodations tomorrow. I napped, then took a walk. Found an Internet cafe, so I could at least check up on my e-mail, if not post this rambling entry.

Sounds like I’m missing another great Yankees-Red Sox series back in the U.S. Oh, well. To establish my Ugly American credentials here, I walked around in my Derek Jeter jersey.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and most of the establishments in Buda are closed (Zarva). My dinner consisted of lo mein and paprika chicken at a Chinese restaurant. Time to chill out and read some of that Lester Bangs.

All speedfreaks are liars; anybody that keeps their mouth open that much can’t tell the truth all the time or they’d run out of things to say.

7/26/04: Andrassy Ut

Took a walk across the Independence Bridge over to Pest, then trundled up Andrassy Ut, which leads up past some pretty significant buildings, to the City Park. It rained (and figures to for much of my stay here, alas). I took a bunch of pix. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, turned on the TV, and saw South Park in German. I’m pretty sure I was awake, at least.

I ate Thai for lunch. I’ve now had two meals here, and they’ve both been Asian. Eventually, I’ll have to have some goulash.

During lunch, I read about the history of the city. I found out where my hotel (and the hill it’s located on) got its name. Sez Lonely Planet:

In 1046, a Venetian-born bishop named Gerard (Gellert in Hungarian), who had been brought to Hungary by King Stephen, was hurled to his death from a Buda hilltop in a spiked barrel by pagan Hungarians resisting conversion. The hill now bears Gellert’s name.

Whew! Mystery revealed! (Of course, it does raise the question of whether pagans kept a supply of spiked barrels around for just this occasion.)

Here are links to some pix I took today:

The national opera house.

The Millenary Monument (unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good shot of the colonnades behind it).

That monument again.

A walk in the City Park.

Same shot, different proportion.

Have fun storming the castle!

A monument I don’t know the name of, on Buda hill, right before the Elizabeth bridge.

In Pest, I saw this monument in the big retail walkway.

Safe, Sound, Sleepy

I’m in Budapest, staying at the Hotel Gellert, on a hill in Buda, right by the river. Once I find a wireless hotspot (I’m at an internet cafe in Pest at the mo), I’ll post the story of the two days in Tiszaroff for Jon-Eric’s wedding, a period your humble bloggist would probably do better not to publicize. But hey.

Some

Some pictures

I live out in the woods, as mentioned in previous posts. It’s only about 25 miles from New York City, so I can get my urban vibe on as necessary. This morning, I opened the curtains in my bedroom and saw the following scene in the backyard:

And that’s part of why I love living out here. Not paying rent is also nice.

Last week, my family came out to visit from St. Louis: brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces (four-and-a-half and one, respectively). On Wednesday, while the Nets were in the process of bollixing things up with Kenyon Martin, and while the unspeakable kept on keeping on in Darfur, I went with my family to the Toys R Us in Times Square, so Liat could spend some time in heaven.

She and my brother Boaz rode on “The Big R”:

They also met a dinosaur:

They didn’t give him a funny name. Liat was too overwhelmed by the two-story Barbie store, where she found her true calling: fairy princess.

We went on from TRU to the Plaza Hotel, where Liat got to live out her Eloise fantasies. Unfortunately, my pictures from there aren’t any good. Appreciate the good things. God is Love.

In the MausHaus

I just landed in Orlando for the Parenteral Drug Association‘s annual meeting. It was my seventh flight this year. Fortunately, I don’t have any air-travel till June, when I head out to the BIO show. For some reason (possibly the coffee I had before the flight), I was pretty wired into the turbulence we had on takeoff and initial ascent.

But I mellowed out after a while, read most of Radiance, by Carter Scholz, and listened to the Pod for a little while. Boy, with Radiance, 100 Suns, and Intelligence Wars, you’d think I’ve started to pick up on a trend.

Correction

Turns out the ferry was to Picton, through the Marlborough Sound, which was the eeriest experience I’ve ever had. More to come.

We drove from there to Nelson. Yesterday, I went for a three-hour hike in the Abel Tasman National Park, followed by a visit to The Grumpy Mole, where one of the other members of the tour lived up to his Australian stereotype by drinking 15 beers before shifting over to screwdrivers for the rest of the evening. Said evening, note, comprised less than 4 hours. One of the other Australians was surprised by my behavior that evening. “I thought you’d be more… aggressive,” he said. I think, based on the way I’ve portrayed myself to some people, that he was expecting a Begbie-esque experience last night. Well, there’s still time in Queenstown…

Today was a drive down to Kaikoura (where I am now), to be followed by an evening drive to our destination, Christchurch. Took some wonderful pix yesterday during the hike, and some funny ones during the evening out. But the camera got doused in the sink this morning, and I’m hoping it’s just the battery that’s messed up. I’ll find out when we check in tonight. Grr.

(My New Zealand pix via Flickr)

Etc.

In other news, I’m having a nice, relaxing time here. Been using SPF 30 sunscreen, so I’ve been okay thus far. Except that I seem to have sunburned the top of my head, which is pretty irritating (in more ways than one). Can’t really douse one’s hair with sunscreen, so it looks like I’m going to have to pick up a baseball cap sometime.

Hasta.