September, 1997.

There is nothing I enjoy doing more when travelling to a new city for the first time than exploring all those small side streets which either lead somewhere, or just nowhere. Eastern Europe echoes with history and a glimpse of what it was like to live in bygone days. Even with a quaint decay in the buildings, life takes on a different shape. After spending more than ten years in Sweden, I found a strange appeal in the chaos and uncertaintity of former communist countries. Somehow I relate the obssesion and cleanliness of Scandinavia with stagnation and sterillity.

I have lived in the Eastern Block now for 7 years, so I don't put this down to a backpackers whims of having to experience everything unknown including danger, decadence and being broke, then to always have the comfort and security of returning home to a life so organised that anything constituting decay and chaos is exotic. Visiting a place for the fist time can leave a lasting impression and I know that many Western Europeans and Americans get bitten by the E.European bug. Sadly there seems to be only one cure, and that is having to give up all hope of leading a normal life until spending at least a year of living in Eastern Europe.

The flow seems unstopable and people who are unable to fulfill this aim find life quite dreary and monotoneous. I regularly hear from many first timers who have visited E. Europe and they plan for their big D Day. The flow might stem though with the modernization of some of the countries and the full embrace of capitalism. Already in some cities I have seen teenagers hanging out in the newly built malls and shopping centers with their amusement arcades and game machines. Budapest has 32 McDonald's, and 8 of those are drive-ins. Why, you even have a choice in some places; at the Oktogen, a large sqare in the center, you have Big Burger, Wendy's, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts all within 3 minutes walk of each other. That's progress for you!

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