Since the moment my feet touched overseas soil on this trip, I’ve been thinking that this has been a pretty incredible year. We’ve been home from our around-the-world jaunt for barely three months, and already our bags are packed and we’re off again, this time to enjoy beachy evenings in Greece with good friends.
This trip will be so different from our last one. Since we’re attending a wedding at the end of the week, and a worldly Indian-Greek one at that, I never had any hope of packing lightly and instead gleefully indulged my inner fashionista. On the outside, my bags look similar to those I packed for our four-month journey through developing countries; but instead of boring plastic flip flops and multi-purpose cotton sarongs, I’m hauling several pairs of heels, a glittery Indian saree, a dress for every evening, and costume jewelry to match every outfit.
We booked our tickets from Boston to Thessaloniki using the airline miles we accumulated between Guatemala, Indonesia, and Tanzania. Since we’re traveling over the busy U.S. Labor Day weekend, this means we were stuck with a connection at Heathrow and an eleven-hour layover in Budapest, Hungary. When we landed bleary-eyed in Budapest on Saturday morning still dressed in the clothes we’d worn to work on Friday, I was tempted to spend our layover sleeping on the floor of the airport terminal. Thankfully, my ever-adventurous husband talked me out of my sleepy slump and prodded me into a taxi headed into town.
I counted the bridges crossing the Danube under a muted cloudy sky as we drive along the right bank. We asked the friendly cabbie to drop us somewhere with cafes nearby, since our stomachs were grumbling. He pulled over after the third bridge and pointed us down a roped-off pedestrian lane. Lightheaded from lack of sleep, I shook off the dizziness just as we emerged in a plaza with a smattering of outdoor café tables. Locals strolled by pushing strollers or swinging plastic H&M bags on their leisurely Saturday.
After a mediocre lunch and a much-needed caffeine fix, we pounded the pavement, determined to see as much of the city as we could walk across before heading back to the airport. My impressions of the city were hazy, either from sleep deprivation or the impenetrable clouds overhead. Pretty stone buildings, stern but lightened with art deco iron balconies and gated doorways.
We crossed the river on and wandered into a cave church carved into the rocks on the left bank. I snapped a photo of Mohit standing near the Parliament Building just before we were shooed off by a guard for getting a bit too close. We rested and refueled at a cute little pub. We walked without a plan, taking turns left and right whenever we spotted architecture that caught our eye or heard a crowd gathered.
My favorite find was a broad square with a commanding church at one end and lively cafes flanking either side. Kids rode their bicycles in circles in the center, and couples cuddled on benches nearby. We popped into the church minutes before closing; as we sat in the pews admiring the painted ceiling, the lights turned off around us.
We spent our last few hours perched on bar stools in a lively Italian restaurant, struggling to stay awake for just a bit longer, and excited about soon reaching our intended destination: Greece!