Short Summer in Europe

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The year is 2015 and I am fresh out of Uni…I had a month until I started work and I was feeling restless. Despite having very little money and a heatwave being predicted for the UK, I decided to go on a spontaneous solo week long trip to Europe and here is the tale…

First stop…BUDAPEST!

I flew with Wizzair from Luton Airport on the hottest day of that year (1st July)..at least I didn’t have to wear extra layers for the journey! It was incredibly cheap as I was just out of the peak season.

Budapest is a really cool, safe feeling city which is cheap thanks to the Hungarian Forint. Budapest was historically split into 2 parts “Buda” and “Pest” by the Danube River but these days into various districts. They have a much cleaner and more spacious underground system compared with the tube so I used it for longer distances.

I stayed in HBC Hostel. The owner was so lovely and welcoming that it felt like you were staying with a Hungarian family. I arrived on goulash night so was given a free meal and wine…what a way to start the trip! It’s quite a small hostel and definitely not a party hostel but well located and reasonable for a last minute booking.

My first night was spent at a Czech beer festival with a group of Australian girls who had taken over my hostel…solo travel never fails to amaze me!

I hadn’t planned much so I went on a free Budapest walking tour which I had booked through Triposo (THE best app). Tour starts at the Lion statue at Vorosmarty Smer at your chosen time and the guides take you around town in about 2.5 hours. It’s great as it is free (you tip the guide at the end if you feel it’s worthy..which you will), you get taken to the main sites with a mini history lesson and given tips. My favourite sights were Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Houses of Parliament and Castle Hill as you got incredible views of Budapest plus there’s a lot to see up there.

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“I am the way, the truth and the life”…thanks yr 8 Latin!

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Chain Bridge

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House of Parliament in the distance

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Matthias Church

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Views from Castle Hill

As fun and culturally important sightseeing is, I needed to relax away from the blistering heat. Budapest has an abundance of thermal baths which you can visit during the day for maxing relaxing or at night for the Sparties. My sister happened to be passing through on her interrail at the same time so we met and went to Kiraly Baths which was perfect for our student budgets. It’s not busy during the week and has enough different pools, steam areas and jacuzzi to fully relax.

Budapest has plenty of nice outdoor spots to relax in during the summer. We came across Margaret Island (Margitsziget) which during the night had music, food and drink stalls with a multicoloured water fountain.

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Sisters reunited for the day

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Also Varosliget is a pretty park to stroll around in during the day. It’s close by to the gorgeous Vajdahunyad Castle and Szechenyi Baths (which is the major one in Budapest).

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Hősök tere

The nightlife here was really fun and had a relaxed vibe. The place to be on a summer night is in a ruin bar. I went to Szimpla Kert which was one of the bigger ones and very popular with other tourists.  Really good music and drinks are quite cheap. My other favourite place was club Instant which has multiple dance areas and again is very popular, both with tourists and Hungarians.

 

I was sad to leave to this gorgeous place after such a short time but my next destination was calling…HELLO PRAGUE!

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Hlavni Nadrazi Train Station

I undertook a mini inter-rail to the Czech Republic (with my mini suitcase). It was the longest 7 hours of my life and the Spanish boys in my carriage were in need of a good shower..!

Once I arrived, I took the metro across to my hostel “Hostel Advantage”. It was bigger and more sociable than the first place… this was actually my favourite of the trip.

Prague was even prettier than Budapest! It felt equally as safe and very easy to get around on foot or via simple metro lines.

It was a Friday night so I spent the first hours in this city eating Chinese(!) and bonding over beers with other travellers. We ended up in a small bar called Alibi..which was refreshingly mainly full of locals, cheap cocktails and friendly staff.

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Found Channing in Prague!

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Traveller tattoo goals!

I had failed to plan my day adventures again so another free walking tour for me…this time with Sandeman’s New Europe. We met in the Old Square and spent the morning trying to avoid the relentless heat during our stops. It was quite an extensive tour passing through the old and new Squares, Jewish Quarter, Charles Bridge and surrounding areas. John Paul was our excellent tour guide and he managed to sell me his Prague Castle Tour that was happening later that day. Weirdest moment of the tour was one of the guys being “reborn” through the Preggo Lego.

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Astronomical clock…oldest in the world

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Prague Estates Theatre..where Mozart debuted Don Giovanni in 1787

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“Preggo Lego”

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Pinkas Synagogue

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Vltava River

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After lunch, I rejoined John Paul and a new group for the castle tour. It took 3 hours and in that time you learn a lot of history, about how it was built, its previous residents and more…whilst visiting the different areas within the complex (churches, cathedral, government houses, museums etc). The best part was the breathtaking view of Prague from the rooftops. Prague Castle was hands down my favourite part of the city.

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This old guy collects badges and protests all year round

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St Vitus Cathedral

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St George’s Basilica

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Mario game about to commence…I was chosen to be Princess Peach!

In the evening, I had dinner with 3 new friends that I had met on the tour (a gorgeous Brazilian girl and 2 Canadian brothers) in a super suave restaurant called Art&Food Had. We had a candlelit 3 course dinner (compulsory here) with great wine and a pianist and violinist serenading us in the background…just living our best student lives! The prices were cheap and the alternative art decor was on point.

I was even more sad to leave Prague but excited for my final stop…BERLIN! The train took about 4 and a half hours and was much fresher than the last.

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I was staying in PLUS Berlin which was the biggest and livest hostel of my trip. I was in a mixed 6 dorm with an ensuite…NO AIRCON! Luckily the temperatures were cooler than they had been in Budapest and Prague. The hostel had its own restaurant, bar with happy hour, swimming pool and jacuzzi, social areas and more.

I had to go on a free walking tour as they had become the anthem of my trip. It was another Sandeman one and we started at Brandenburg Gate. The tour led us to the Holocaust Memorial (a very emotional place to visit), Berlin Wall and its memorial , checkpoint Charlie…Our guide Lynsey gave an interesting perspective on the history of Nazi Germany and the problems following the end of the Wars.

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Bradenburg Gate

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Holocaust Memorial

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Where East and West Berlin were divided

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Checkpoint Charlie

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Alexander von Humboldt – “2nd discoverer of Cuba”

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Deponie No 3 was the lunch destination post tour…cheap but tasty German beer and meat is always a winner!

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My hostel was in the East of Berlin so I was a 2 minute walk away from the Shoreditch of a Berlin aka the East Side Gallery…a very long stretch of various graffiti murals which are all insta worthy.

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On my last day I visited the Berlin Zoo which helped me to walk off last night’s effects of happy hour at the hostel! I also enjoyed the free jacuzzi provided when I got back as it would’ve been rude not to.

I flew home after a whirlwind week, having learnt so much about the 3 countries and their histories. I had also indulged in their typical cuisines and partied with some fun people!

I plan to extend my Europe travels next summer..so I would love to hear your tips and experiences in these countries too!

 

J Xo

 

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