Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2008 12:25 PM
Subject: Alex Flachsbart’s Ramsey Great Ideas Tour

The unstoppable force that is Alex Flachsbart’s Great Idea’s Tour continues its forward march through Europe! I’m updating you now from a waterfront Internet cafe in Split, Croatia, where it’s 85 degrees and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s absolutely magnificent here and has been for at least the past week. I’ll send you a more complete update when I get to¬†the first FREE computer I’ve seen in a week and a half in Florence.

So where to begin? I suppose the most sensible place would be in Budapest, but after the week of absolute heaven I’ve just had, it’s a bit hard to remember that there was anything comparably incredible there. I’m joking, of course, as Budapest was (up until Croatia) one of my top three favorite stops along the tour, but comparatively, Croatia blows everything else out of the water. (Sorry John… You don’t have beaches on your doorstep. Add a couple along the Danube and then we’ll talk.) In any case, I’ll say a quick few words about Budapest before moving on to the beach.

The cities of Buda and Pest were, at least in my eyes, two of the finest vacation destinations for history buffs that one can find anywhere. Whereas most European cities had revolutions and uprisings and protests that happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago, Budapest has citizens that still remember the tragic events of 1956 like they were yesterday. And it’s impossible to move around the city without appreciating what it’s come through in the past fifty years. From one of the most brutal Communist dictatorships outside of the U.S.S.R. to a relatively thriving democracy (which, by the way, is housed in a parliament that’s way more beautiful than anything along the banks of the Thames), this country and this city have moved forward at a blistering pace. And the reminders of the past are everywhere; placards on every other block declaring that “on this spot, thirteen young men gave their lives for freedom by destroying a Soviet tank” or rows of crumbling Soviet style houses juxtaposed with imposing 19th century townhomes alongside modern apartment complexes; the whole scene is just fascinating. And the city is actually ALIVE; unlike Prague, 75% of the people that you saw walking around central Pest were people that actually lived there on a full-time basis. And the¬†expatriate crowd is incredibly fun to get to know; they’ve got some interesting opinions about the states to say the least… In any case, I did all of the essentials– crossed the Chain Bridge, visited Buda Castle, swam at the Gellert Baths and walked the length of Andrassy Ut. But then I got a bit off the beaten track and did a few things that your typical tourist probably didn’t do. I walked down to the Corvin Theater (which was the focal point of the ’56 Revolution) and saw, much to my surprise, that it was actually still a working theater. There was this gigantic poster of octogenarian Harrison Ford in his Indiana Jones get-up standing right next to this gigantic statue of one of the heroes of the Revolution. And so it went around the entire perimeter of the building; movie poster, plaque, movie poster, gravestone, movie poster, monument. Imagine taking your date out at the same theater where your father fought a war fifty years earlier. Intriguing, to say the least. I wandered through a couple of local parks to find this absolutely delicious Hungarian restaurant where I got the best pork dish I’ve ever had (which I still can’t quite describe… Just trust me on this one. It was good.) I’d tell you more but I’ve got to cover Croatia before my time runs out!