P2P: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece

This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on November 9, 2004). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

In the summer of 1990, just after my junior year of high school, I was accepted into the People to People program as a “student ambassador” and got to go on a six-week trip across Europe. Starting with a few days in Washington, D.C., we travelled through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Italy, and Greece.

Going through boxes the other night, I found my photo album for the trip, and have just scanned them all in and posted them online. There’s a small selection on Flickr, and the entire collection in our family photo gallery.

It’s both funny and frustrating to look back on these now, for a variety of reasons. One of the most frustrating is that I ran out of film in Austria and (being my ever-absentminded self) didn’t manage to get traveller’s checks cashed quickly enough to have the right currency to pick up more film until we hit Italy, so I’m missing the middle few weeks of the trip (it’d be so much easier these days with the proliferation of networked ATMs worldwide, but this was in the dark ages of the early ’90’s, after all).

Often what really strikes me when I look back on the trip is the simple fact that with the jaunt through Hungary and Yugoslavia, I’ve visited countries that doesn’t exist anymore, or at least don’t exist as they were back then.

We were only in Zagreb, Yugoslavia for one night, but a small group of us decided that we didn’t want to just sit around the hotel room and ended up going out to a discotheque. About eight or ten of us went, and I quickly got frustrated with the group — they were slightly freaked out at being out and about in a Communist country, and just bunched up with each other. I thought this was more than a little silly, and ended up striking out on my own, wandering around the club, and peoplewatching, the same as I’d do in any other club. Far more entertaining for me.

I don’t know what Budapest, Hungary looks like these days, but I will always remember it as being one of the most beautiful cities that I got to visit in Europe. The city is actually two old cities on either side of a river, Buda on one side, and Pest on the other. I don’t remember anymore which side we were on, but our hotel sat high on a hillside overlooking the river and the city below, and I spent one very pleasant night sitting out on my balcony, listening to my walkman and watching the city below. I even knew when it was midnight (or possibly one in the morning), as that was when the lights on all the government buildings automatically turned off, suddenly letting those landmarks sink back into dark anonynimity with the rest of the city.

The pictures themselves aren’t the greatest quality, between being taken with a fairly cheap point-and-shoot and being fourteen years old (yikes!). Still, it’s fun for me to have them around. Feel free to browse through either the short version or the whole shebang.