This post has been a while in the making. I’ve been back from Eastern Europe for about a week and a half now, so nice to be back in France!
Our trip went a little something like this: train from Cambrai to Lille, train to Charleroi, fly to Bratislava, bus to Vienna, bus to Prague, train to Brastislava then directly on bus to Budapest, bus to Bratislava, fly to Charleroi, train to Lille, train to Cambrai. It was quite exhausting, but an amazing trip nontheless. My only regret is not having more time in Budapest. Maybe I’ll find a cheap ticket back before I leave!
Vienna was lovely, but since its dark by 5 pm, most of what we saw was in the dark. We did get up early though and saw St. Stephan’s Cathedral before our bus left. It seemed like we were the only people visiting Vienna though, there weren’t many people out and about. I’d go back in the summer for sure.
Prague was of course magical. It really seems like a fairytale of little, winding streets and a gorgeous castle. Our first full day there it rained, so we went to the Museum of Torture. Ick. Its quite amazing what they use to do to/use on people. It did feel a little like a tourist trap, but educational. The we walked across the Charles Bridge and rubbed the statue of St. John of Nepomuk (either for luck or so we’ll return to Prague one day, I can’t remember). One side of it was under construction, but we were still able to see the main statues. I think… Most of the rest of the day we spent trying to figure out how were were going to get to Budapest. Apparently it was a lot farther away than we thought! To make things cheaper we decided to take a super early morning train back to Bratislava and then get on a bus to Budapest.
Our second day in Prague we saw Prague Castle and everything that it consists of: St.Vitus Cathedral (gorgeous!), St. George’s Basilica (super old), and Golden Lane (cute little town within the castle walls, you can walk through the teeny houses/stores).
When we walked to the train station at 4:30 am the next morning, there were still a ton of people out on the streets. So different from Vienna! Our travels to Bratislava and then to Budapest went surprisingly smooth, except Liz was getting really sick by this point. Then comes the scary hostel. Its called the Museum Guesthouse, but don’t bother booking it on hostelworld. There was graffiti all over the place, but that wasn’t even the bad part. We rang to be let up and no one answered, I tried the door and it was open so we just went upstairs. No one there. Not even a worker. This random guy who lives in an apt next to the hostel let us in, we quickly looked around and decided to try our luck somewhere else. In searching for the Budapest Bubble (which I read is very nice) we came across Casa de la Musica. At only 8 euro a night, we couldn’t resist. The only drawback was the courtyard style setup, so you had to go outside to get to the bathroom, common room, etc. That night Megan and I just went to Burger King (its everywhere in EE!) and walked to this big mall to see if we could find some cheap makeup and a swimsuit for me (in case we had time for the baths). We found some cheap makeup–its super expensive in France–but I decided to pass on the swimsuit. Good thing because we didn’t end up going.
For our full day in Budapest Megan and I did a free walking tour (you just pay a tip) and it was super fun! Gabor, our tour guide, talked about growing up in Hungary during the cold war, how they saved up all their money for when McDonald’s opened its first store and there was a line around the block. We saw the highlights of Budapest on our walking tour including all the different types of architecture, Chain Bridge, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Parliament, and the castle. It was a cold, but lovely day out.
I’ve decided I liked Budapest the most out of the four cities we visited. Prague was completely gorgeous, but it really fell like just a tourist destination. I didn’t see anyone who actually lived and worked there. Budapest felt more like a real city, imperfections and all. I would go back in a heartbeat (and actually need to since we didn’t have time for the Communist walking tour and the baths!!). For dinner Megan and I went to this amazing little restaurant recommended by our hostel called Lugas (directly behind the cathedral). So delicious AND inexpensive! We even had wine and dessert.
The next day we were off on our Student Agency Express bus again back to Bratislava for one day. We stayed at Hostel Blues and it was our best hostel by far! I was a little skeptical since Bratislava only had like five to choose from on Hostel World and its not the most beautiful city, but I was pleasantly surprised. Our place was like a little apartment, and the best part, a balcony with a view of the castle! Megan and I explored the Old Town in the afternoon, but it was fairly small and we seemed to be the only tourists there. It was super cold so we didn’t walk all the way up to the castle, but we did go into the main cathedral, St. Martin’s. It was gorgeous, of course, but the best part were all these relics of the Catholic Church. Amazingly ornate chalices, crosses, and robes. It said they have these because during the time of the Austria-Hungarian empire they crowned kings there. Fancy. They also had a really creepy crypt that I thought Megan and I would get locked in since we were the only ones there and it was getting late.
The next day we went home after quite the exhausting trip. And it snowed that morning in Bratislava! Our travels home went well and I even made the last direct train back to Cambrai!
I’ll try to post a few pictures soon!