When it comes to traveling, I feel like I developed a pattern. I tend to always strive for places and destinations that are far away, the further the better. At least it looks like that when I look at the stamps in my passport. Colombia, New Zealand, the U.S.A, Mexico … all of those places are at least a 7 hour flight away.
I only started to realize that about a year ago, when people I talked to were always sure that wouldn’t be interested in a trip to Italy, because “I’m sure you’ve been there already”. They were always pretty surprised when I told them that I hardly knew Europe yet. I haven’t been to Italy really, I haven’t been to London or Paris and I haven’t even been to Bratislava, which is literally RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER.
So in May, a friend and I decided to check out Bratislava for a couple of days. Not knowing what to expect, because, well, it is so close to Vienna and the Austrian border, we were a bit afraid it would be pretty much the same but smaller.
I don’t know how you feel about it, but to me there is hardly anything more satisfying than finishing a project. Be it a puzzle I’ve been working on for what seems like ages, a thesis for university or a genuine project of the heart.
I’ve been working on all three of those in the last half a year and a while ago I was able to finish at least ONE of them. (No … it’s not the puzzle! 😉 )
I finished the travel guide I wrote for Booktrip.de.
Up until about two years ago, I’ve never heard about the Grüner See (Green Lake) in Styria. But then there was this article about it in the news papers and it got nominated to be one of Austria’s most beautiful spots. I started wondering why neither I nor anyone I know has ever been there, since it’s pretty close to home and honestly… hence the size of Austria, pretty close to about every corner of good old Austria! 😉
Two friends and I had the idea of doing a little more homeland exploring whenever we have some time to spare and when the idea of going to Grüner See came up, we were instantly hooked.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I am currently writing on an E-Book travel guide about my beloved Vienna. Some of you might question that, since I hardly ever wrote about Vienna here. To be honest, I haven’t gotten to write on this blog regularly in a while. (Will change that as soon as the travel guide is finished! 😉 A pinky promise I made to myself)
So WHY am I mentioning the whole travel guide thing now? Because I realized today, that, since I’m working on that project, I learned so much about my city and started to love it more every single day.
When I decided to meet up in Budapest with friends, the first things coming to my mind about the city where: Goulash and the famous baths.
Since I don’t eat meat, the Goulash experience wasn’t really an option and I was looking forward to the Bath part twice as much! 😉
My friends and I had been in Budapest for 2 days already, before we finally had time to make it to a Bath. But first, there was quite a tough decision to make… which one to choose? There is so many Baths in Budapest and there is even more opinions on which one is the BEST.
Baths do play a very important role in Budapest and they are a huge part of its culture. Going to a bath is a traditional thing to do for a lot of people in Budapest and this is why it was quite important to me, to go to an authentic one.
We decided to go to the Széchenyi Bath, not because we knew much about it, but , to be honest, only because the yellow, pompous building looked cute. As we found out later, it is one of the most popular ones anyway and it’s among the biggest and one of the oldest too.
Getting there was pretty easy, we just took the metro to the Széchenyi fürdő stop and there it was. Since it was a quite gloomy day, there weren’t lots of other people and we were able to go straight in. We ended up getting the day pass for 1700 Forint, which, in my opinion is quite pricey compared to all the other things in Budapest. But well…since it’s a MUST DO in Budapest…we were happy to pay that of course! 😉
Inside it immediately looked like something from another time. Everything was quite old looking, used and well…let’s say a bit shabby… but I think this is exactly what gives it its special vibe. You could almost see the monarchs walking through the changing rooms and sitting in the hot pools! 😉
One quite odd thing was, that you aren’t allowed to lock your own locker! You have to call one of the „Locker Ladies“ to lock it for you and then remember the number and watch out not to loose the non-number matching wristband they give you! If you want to get something out of the locker again, you have to wait until one of the ladies is free to help you. It wasn’t too bad the day we were there, but I can’t imagine the chaos on a busy day to be honest!!
There is so many different pools to bathe in, but the inside ones weren’t really appealing to me, since it was summer and the inside of the old building was pretty unbearable for me. The outside bath though was perfect. The most impressive thing for me, wasn’t the pools though, it was watching Hungarians enjoy and value this bathing tradition. Some of them had little chess boards with them and cans of beer and they were sitting there in groups, amidst the steaming hot water, playing chess for hours.
You can easily spot the true Hungarians among the tourists and if you get the chance to be involved in a game of chess with one of them, you can be sure to have some really interesting conversations.
All in all, I really enjoyed the visit to the Széchenyi Bath, but I realized, I’m not really the Spa type of girl. It was definitely a onetime thing, I’ll always remember!
Although I’m living in Vienna for a couple of years now, and the connection between the hungarian capital and the austrian one is pretty amazing (there is plenty of busses and trains, that take you there for under 20 Euros), I haven’t been to Budapest for more than a stop-over. When friends told me a couple of weeks ago, that they will be stopping there on their backpacking trip, I was totally up for joining.
So last week I took the Flixbus from Vienna and three short hours later, ended up in a city that looks so similar to Vienna, but it SO TOTALLY different.
Since we only had a couple days to explore, me and my friends just dropped our bags at the hostel and started into the bustling city.
Since no great day ever started without breakfast, this was exactly where we were heading first. Thanks to my favorite travel inspiration (Instagram 😉 ) I found this very cute and stylish breakfast place named “Szimply”. It was kind of hard to find at first, since it is located in a patio, but totally worth looking for. We actually ended up there twice; this is how good it was! 😉
The café itself is tiny and for coffee you have to cross over to the other side of the patio to get it from a different place, but the breakfast there was amazing. Great quality of food perfectly seasoned and gorgeously arranged. And most important – they have an amazing variety vegetarian and vegan breakfast options. Being a vegetarian myself and traveling with a vegan, finding veggie friendly places to eat wasn’t actually as hard as we feared. At the Szimply we opted for a sweet quinoa bowl with fruits and flowers, pan fried eggs with lots of salmon and been purée and the best avocado bread I’ve ever had.
After breakfast we started our Budapest exploration, we walked all over Pest, passing impressive monuments, street artists, Baumkuchen stands and a loooot of fellow traveler. One of the most memorable place we came across was the holocaust memorial. The „Shoes on the Danube“ memorial is one of the most moving memorials I’ve ever seen.
Gyula Pauer and Can Togay , two sculptors, created this touching memorial in memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944 and 1945.
Next we crossed the bridge over to Buda.
Buda and Pest have been united into one city only in 1873 and from what I’ve seen there is still a huge difference between the two sides of the city.
Buda with its hills, the Castle Quarter, the museums and the cobblestone streets makes you feel like you just went back into imperial times. Besides of a couple of tourist groups we didn’t meet any other people and the whole area felt like it is just there for being looked at and admired. Over at the Buda side of the City, we also had quite a hard time finding a place to stop for coffee. Since we tried to avoid “touristy” places, we wandered around Buda for quite a while till we found a café.
One thing I really liked about Buda is the view from the castle hill. There is a couple of famous viewpoints, like the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Citadella fortress, where you’ll have a splendid look over Pest, the Danube and the gorgeous Chain Bridge. To get up to the castle, you can either walk through the gardens underneath the castle, wander through the part of town underneath the hill and find the steps that take you up the hill, or you take the more comfortable way and ride up the hill with the Funicular.
On top of the hill – Buda Castle
Pest on the other hand is full of life and you wouldn’t have to walk more than 2 minutes to find a coffee place. Pest is also where all the nightlife is happening. From the famous ruin bars ( there is more than 30 of them) to hundreds of pubs and clubs, there is a chance to party in Pest every night of the year. But Pest has more to offer than just party; it is great for shopping, eating out and there is lots of historic sights on this side of the Danube as well.
One of my favorite places in Pest was definitely the market hall. It is full of fresh fruits, great variety of typical hungarian food and all sorts of souvenirs. Also, the hall itself is pretty spectacular.
The Jewish Quarter in Pest is known for the ruin bars and its young, hip vibe. I loved everything about it. There is pop up food festivals, affordable restaurants and unique shops, something to discover around every corner.
At night, Pest is definitely the better place to be, not only because of all the entertainment, also because the view from the esplanade at night is top. Strolling along the Danube at night, looking at the brightly lit castle on the Buda side is breathtaking.
For dinner we found another great vegan friendly place close to our Hostel. It was called Napfényes Étterem and I pretty much fell in love with their rague.
More about my trip to Budapest, including a review on a visit to one of Budapests famous Spas in a follow up post!
At the beginning of may, me and my boyfriend decided that we wanted to get out of Vienna for a couple of days. Since Austria is perfectly located in the midst of some of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the decision wasn’t that easy. In the end we decided to spend a weekend in Prague.
When we got to the accommodation booking part though, we realized that, booking a week in advance at the peak of spring break isn’t helping with finding affordable but still livable and nicely located hotel or hostel rooms. After about 15 minutes of „no way, I’m not sleeping in a 8 people mixed dorm this time“, I remembered the great experiences I had with airbnb during my last travels to Dublin and Rovinj, so I decided to have a look , what airbnb offered in Prague.
I was amazed, there was at least 15 accommodations in my „wish list“ within 10 minutes. All of them were located in the center of Prague, all of them had amazing ratings and feedback and best of all, the prices for staying were even lower than what the hostels I found charged for a 8 people dorm.
We picked our favorite and wrote an Email to the host. Only an hour later we had our reply and the confirmation that the room was ours for the weekend.
A special hint for all of you who consider booking an Airbnb accommodation: Airbnb gives you a 20 euros voucher if you invite a friend, and this friend books with Airbnb. Also the friend who accepts your invite and books with the link you sent him/her, gets a 20 euro voucher. Since I was already on Airbnb, I just had to send an invite to my boyfriend and we ended up paying even less. 🙂
When we got to Prague, we had some troubles with finding a free parking space ( in a lot of areas in Prague you can’t park, or you can only park for a few hours). So we ended up getting there late, our host , who left work especially to meet us in the apartment, was extremely understanding , trusting and considerate. She left the keys for us in a nearby restaurant and we just had to pick it up there.
We realized when we got to our booked room, that it wasn’t simply a room, but a whole apartment. Our host wasn’t spending the weekend in Prague, so we ended up living there on our own and her two gorgeous cats. This was definitely the best way to experience Prague for the first time. We felt like we moved there.
The apartment was located in one of the best neighborhoods in Prague, we were surrounded by dozens of great restaurants and pubs and the famous Charles Bridge was about 5 minutes walking distance away.
I highly recommend Airbnb for finding the best places to stay in Prague. Coming home to your huge and beautiful apartment (and your two cute weekend-cats) was definitely far better than returning to a hostel dorm with snoring and drunk spring-breakers in the bunk next to you.