You are about to read about the undisputed best vacation ever, at least the first post in a three or four part series. Planning for our excursion to Israel and Jordan began months ago and was very different than the way I am used to organizing things. I like to make all reservations ahead of time, carry two sets of confirmation numbers with me, and know exactly how I will get from point a to point b. I soon discovered this trip wouldn’t allow such a luxury. We left at 7:30 on Saturday morning to walk to the bus station; we took a bus to Bratislava and met a Minnesotan on the bus.

It wasn’t until we were about to get on the second bus that we had our first scare, only three hours into our journey. As we walked up we saw three middle aged men all congregated at the entrance to the bus. No big deal except for they were holding a sizeable bottle of alcohol and one of them was most definitely our driver. I told Burke I was scared. One of the men saw us and spoke to us in English and said yes this bus goes to Budapest, but it is not picking up passengers. Puzzled, we showed him the information from the website and he confirmed that it was their bus since it terminated in Athens, so he said he would ask the driver about it. “Good news, we can take you,” he said. We asked for two under-26 tickets (our equidistant bus to Bratislava cost 12 Euros), but he said 20 euros, took our money, pocketed it, allowed us onto the bus, and never gave us our receipt. It was pretty shady but we were glad to be on the bus, especially since it was very warm and played Greek music. We thought we were in the clear as we pulled out of the bus station, but we drove about two blocks, stopped, let the man off who took our money and watched as he unloaded some blue mystery boxes from under the bus. Drug smugglers, I concluded. Interesting. We continued on and once we got onto the highway our bus driver began honking. He honked at every semi that passed us or that we passed. Not an angry honk, but a hey how are you, and they honked back with a head nod or a smile. Every truck. For thirty minutes. It was around this time that a girl walked towards the back of the bus to say something to one of the big guys in a nearby seat. She was wearing the appropriate amount of bling with her track suit to make me think hmm she could definitely be a mafia wife. So I looked around the bus at the seven or eight other passengers and noticed how they all resembled each other. I whispered,”Burke, I think these people are all from the same family… I think this is a Greek mafia bus.” and Burke whispered back, “It is very possible… very possible.” Fortunately, we’ll never know how the story ends because we made it safely to Budapest and took the metro and another bus to get to the airport to fly to Zurich.

The rest of our travel story can be read in the posts To the Middle East… And Back