Posts Tagged With: Erik Funfar

Budapest: Loin Cloths and Spare Bedrooms

Spring and autumn are some of the best times to travel in Europe. Tourist crowds are gone leaving the great European cities vibrant and full of locals. This is very true for Stockholm, a city that basically shuts down in the summer time when most Stockholmers are traveling to place they’re sure will have sun or relaxing in their summer home out in the Swedish countryside. If you want to feel the real “vibe” of a city in Europe, come on the shoulder seasons.

Budapest from Castle Hill

Buda Castle

So with a weekend open in the beginning of October, I decided to take a solo trip to the capital of Hungary, Budapest. This city has been on my radar for many years as one of the must see destinations in Europe. Hungary has a long and impressive history with a significant “dark period” under Soviet control. In 1989 when the USSR disbanded, Budapest was a city that rivaled Vienna in beauty but had been put through the communist ringer for over 40 years. As an American and long-term resident of Europe, countries caught in the middle of post WWII have always interested me.

Budapest has come a long way since 1989 and has managed to revive its charm while living with some “left overs” of the communist era. Over a three day period I wore myself out with my Budapest travel guide trying to soak up all the city had to offer. I visited most of the major sights: Basilica of St Stephen, Castle Hill, Parliament Building, Grand Market Hall and I even saw Ronald Reagan. I also had two very unique experiences in the Rudas thermal baths and trying AirBnB as my option for accommodations.

Liberty Bridge

Yummy Sausage

Budapest is well known for its thermal baths located throughout the city. Some are elegantly decorated; some are like amusement parks for families. The Ruda Baths are recognized for their history with a concrete dome dating from the 16th century when Budapest was under Turkish occupation. I like to think of myself as a pretty open guy who is willing to try new things. With that mind-set, you can often find yourself in very peculiar situations and especially so when travelling abroad. So, I decided to try the Ruda baths as it supposedly offers the most “traditional” bath experience in the city (I’m usually a sucker for traditional). Upon entering the baths, each man (women are not allowed) is given a “loin cloth,” a wrist band a locker number. Two of those items are pretty self-explanatory. And the third, well that’s where things got interesting…. Men in the baths are asked not to go naked but everyone is required to wear a piece of cloth that makes you feel like a Roman in the times of César. The loin cloth is basically a napkin with a string that goes around your waste – Business in the front, “party” in the rear. So, I changed into my outfit and entered the main bath complex which is a huge room under a gigantic dome. About 100 men were soaking in various temperature baths around the room and the protocol is to start with cooler baths and work your way up. So, as the rule following guy I am, I started on the left side of the room and worked counter clockwise entering the five different baths with the last one being 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit).

Rudas Bath

Now after you’ve done this for about thirty minutes your body feels like a boiled egg waiting for that plunge of cold water relief. To help you with that, big wooden buckets are perched around the room. You walk up, pull the string and get drenched by five gallons of ice cold water that makes you want to scream like a girl, but you can’t because your surround by a bunch of guys wearing loin cloths. Ah yes, back to the loin cloths. It’s pretty odd being in a room with a bunch of guys whose bare backsides are in plain view where ever you look. Even more strange for me was the Russian, Hungarian, German languages being spoken around me with no English speakers with in ear shot. This was a locals place and I guess one would question whether this would be the best place to strike up a conversation trying to make friends anyway… I chose the “quite option” and enjoyed my one hour soaking time and departed Rudas bath with a just one of many memorable experiences from Budapest.

Another first for me on this trip to Budapest was using the AirBnB online service that connects travels to people who rent out rooms in their homes to make a little extra money. This offers a unique and inexpensive way to truly live like a local which I try to make a hallmark of all my travels. The other great part is the money goes too directly to people of the city, not international hotel chains. My AirBnB experience was “interesting” in that I stayed with an Italian family that lives in Budapest part of the year and Rome the other. I used my room as you would any hotel, spending most of my time out sightseeing and staying in the room to sleep and get cleaned up. I would highly recommend this for those adventurous travels who really want to get the “feel of the place.”

Street Performer

In the end Budapest was all that I hoped it would be – Interesting history, fantastic food and unforgettable cultural experiences. In our modern world, cities and people are becoming more and more homogeneous. Budapest has all the makings of a city continuing down the path of ultra-tourism similar to Prague. KFC’s, Full English Breakfast, knock-off Louis Vuitton, and Zara’s on every other street corner. I think I even saw a Starbucks which amazes me because their coffee sucks compared to everyone other option in Europe but I digress… Budapest is a great city and I hope to return to experience it’s old world elegance mixed with moden charm.

For more images of my trip to Budapest, please visit www.ErikFunfar.com

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Categories: Europe Travel, Hungary | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Albufeira: The Portuguese Costa del Sol

My company held their annual retreat at the wonderful Sheraton Algarve Hotel in Albufeira, Portugal. This area is considered the most “touristy” part of the country and for good reason. The beautiful beach is lined with higher end resorts catering to mostly European tourists heading south to enjoy the sun. DUS joined me in Albufeira and we enjoyed four days of great dinners, spending time with work colleagues and enjoying the spring sun that eluded us in Scandinavia.

I’m proud to say that I won a company award called the “Leading Edge Award” for pioneering a new business offer around leadership development training based on business performance coaching.

Leading Edge Award

Leading Edge Award (click for more images)

We had a great time in Albufeira but I think I finally cemented my long believe that I am not a “resort” guy. I love spending time relaxing and doing nothing. I like the beach, reading books and general act of being somewhere to just chill. However, I need a little more in my travel. I need authenticity and to interact with the soul of a place.

Chillin' on the beach in Portugal

Chillin’ on the beach in Portugal (click for more images)

Having been to both the major “sun holiday” tourist areas in Europe, the Costa del Sol in Spain and Albufeira in Portugal, I can see why most adventure tourists steer clear from these areas. Their infrastructure and higher class of living is great, but they are sucked dry of all authenticity by catering to people who are looking to vacation in another without any of the natural things that come with being in another country: Authentic food, native language, local culture and the genuine “feeling” of another place. I struggle to understand why other European countries seem to colonize these areas in an attempt to make them a mirror image of their home countries. When we visited similar areas in Turkey, Spain, and Greece it makes me upset to see restaurants on every street corner flying the Union Jack and advertising “full English Breakfast” while blaring Phil Collins. Or going to “local” pubs where advertising English only menus and cricket on TV. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for capitalism. But from now on when we leave cold and dark Scandinavia, we will continue to seek out more authentic places like the other areas we visited in Portugal.

Categories: Europe Travel, Personal, Portugal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freelance Travel Photographer – And Writer?

I consider myself and amateur photographer. A majority of the images I make are for “artistic expression,” or for the non New Yorker reading individual, a personal vision of how I see the world. So, maybe it’s not that surprising that I’ve been able to turn this passion into my first “paid” photography job in Sweden. That’s right, Erik Funfar – freelance photographer. To celebrate, please visit my semi-new website at erikfunfar.com. Here you can view my 365 day photolog that I started in June.

Thunderstorm

Thunderstorm

On the heels of this photography job also comes my debut as a “travel correspondent” in Stockholm. Writing as the American Norseman for the last couple years has been mainly for family and friends. I’ve really enjoyed this work but I though it might be fun to expand my horizons. So a few weeks ago I contributed material to a U.S. based travel website. Check it out here. As “exciting” as it may sound, the work doesn’t pay much but I have to say it’s really fun contributing to the travel community.

Farmor Berta once said, “The world works in mysteries ways.” This is very true. But, it could also be said that directing energy, positive or negative, towards something will bring unforeseen results your life. I’ve come to believe both are true. These two “jobs” were not random nor did I seek them out. I believe they found me. And this begs the questions: What else could one do with this type of energy? Maybe that’s how people become president.

Categories: Around Stockholm, Personal, Sweden, Swedish Living | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Erik Funfar says, “Lubricate yourself with suntan oil”

Don’t you love the little things in life that make you say, “did that really just happen?”

Last week I was sitting in the park reading for school when a young guy with a note pad and an old guy with a camera approached me. Like every other occasion in Sweden, the conversations starts in Swedish and goes for about two minutes before I can politely say “Jag förstår inte svenska,” which isn’t completely true but that’s another story.

Anyway, I come to find out that he is a reporter for the Swedish newspaper Expressen and he’s writing a story on how to get the best sun tan in Sweden. Hmm… I seem to remember a discussion about this, where was it? Oh yeah, my last blog post.

So, the reporter goes though a lengthy list of questions asking: “Do you think you can get tan this time of year?” “How much time do you spend in the sun?” “What’s the best way to get that golden tan?” I polity answer his questions, “I’m not in the sun that much” and “I always use sunscreen.” But, these were clearly not the answers he was looking for. Finally he asked, “You’re from California, how do they tan there?” “Well that’s easy” I say, “They use suntan oil, obviously.” And there you have it.

Erik Funfar says, “A good way is to lubricate yourself with suntan oil.”

Now, that’s pretty funny in itself. California guy, sun tan oil, it fits.

What doesn’t fit is the fact that I’m the whitest person in the photos and that everyone else say’s things like, “I’m not in the sun that much” and “I don’t really pay attention to it.” YEAH RIGHT!

Erik Funfar says, “Lubricate yourself with suntan oil”

Erik Funfar says, “Lubricate yourself with suntan oil”

Categories: Around Stockholm, Sweden, Swedish Living | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

American Norseman on the Radio

As you may know, I’m a big fan of the travel guide Rick Steves. A few months ago I received an email saying they were taping a new radio show about Stockholm, so… I called.

The episode aired nationwide on NPR in the U.S. this week. If you’d like to listen, here is the link

Travel with Rick Steves: Stockholm, Sweden

Around the 19:20 mark, you may hear a familiar voice 🙂

Rick Steves’ Scandinavia
is a great resource for those of you traveling to Northern Europe in the near future.

Categories: Around Stockholm, Europe Travel, Sweden, Swedish Living | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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