On the Rail. Way. To. The. Euro zone.

(Joel says that isn't as hilarious as I think it is.)

Right now I have fourteen currencies in my bag, including a Sri Lankan two rupee coin, an inch thick wodge of Uzbek som and some goaty Mongolian tögrög worth $120. If asked at some border to declare the money I'm carrying, I think I would lie.

But no new currencies for me for a while, because it's eurotime! I'm writing this on the Spirit of Zurich, a lovely red Railjet train bound for Austria. This wasn't in the plan, but I suddenly realised I could have breakfast in Vienna tomorrow morning and there was no good reason not to. I'll get an early train from there to Munich so I'll have daylight for looking out the window: the internet says that it's a scenic part of the country. That said, the only part of Germany I've ever been in is Frankfurt. Let's just say that the bar is low :->

We had fun in Budapest. It's a peaceful place to walk around and look at things, and it's insanely beautiful at night. The wind was too cold for us to work up enthusiasm for the baths, but we saw the synagogue and the cathedral and the castle and Buda's old town and some bridges and a Christmas market. That actually sounds much more productive than we were: mostly we just sat around and ate things. It was pretty great. More of that kind of thing.

Budapest is funny because it starts off so hostile. You get off the train in a station that has few signs and no ATMs. Guards stand blocking the doorway for no obvious reason. You leave the station and go down the street to find an ATM between a gambling hall and a sex shop. Then you walk along a building site until you notice steps leading down to the unmarked metro station. There's a woman selling orange paper tickets at an unofficial looking desk near the top of the stairs. When you see a more traditional ticket booth inside the station, you wonder whether you just bought a black market metro ticket or maybe entered a raffle. On the platform, there's no subway map and no list of stops for the line. Many of the other stations have both, but I guess they want visitors to prove their worth.

I mean, obviously it's saner than the MTA -- the one time I took a bus from Montreal to New York, the gate from the bus station to the subway was locked and I had to find my way out to the sketchy, poorly lit street, cross over, then navigate through a party of winos to get to the A train. Where there were rats on the platform. Welcome to America, Canadians! -- but that's New York for you, bless its grubby, surly heart. We expect better from you, Hungary! Be more Central European! Aw, ok, or give us more of that bean soup and we'll call it good.

Btw, I feel like I must know someone who lives near Munich. If that's you and you'd like to have dinner, please drop me a line.