Budapest – in one day

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! 😉

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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.

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Summer quinoa bowl
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Pan fried eggs
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Best avocado toast ever ❤

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.

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Shoes on the Danuba

Next we crossed the bridge over to Buda.

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Chain Bridge

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.

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Easiest way up – Ride the Funicular

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On top of the hill – Buda Castle

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Matthias Church

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.

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St. Stephens Basilica in Pest
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Art is all over Budapest

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.

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Central Market Hall

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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.

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Foodtruck market in the Jewish Quarter

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!

Salento, the place to be for coffee lovers

I spent the first time of my stay in Colombia in the Caribbean region, I loved it,  but there was one thing that was a true disappointment  to me. The coffee tasted awful.

This might not be a valid reason to be disappointed for some people, but I am an official coffee addict and worshiper through and through. So, I almost gave up on the coffee-heaven Image of Colombia I had for so many years, but then… I got to Salento.

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Streetlife in Salento

Salento itself is a gorgeous little town. It’s center is easily walked within one hour and the main plaza is always full of life. Be it school kids on their lunch break, backpackers waiting for the trucks to take them to the Cocora Valley  (Post on the Cocora Valley here ) or locals drinking their coffee and chatting for hours.

Right from the main plaza starts the busiest street in town  (which isn’t actually that busy at all… another thing I loved about Salento), there is a lot of shops, restaurants and bars lined up, so if you can’t decide what to do with your day , start off there and you will be entertained for hours.  This street ends at a staircase which leads you up to a Punto de Vista, where you’ll have an amazing view over the famous eje-cafetera region and of course beautiful Salento.

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Coffee, coffee , coffee … wherever you look.

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I truly loved everything about Salento, the fact that there is almost as many Colombian weekend tourist as gringo backpackers, the friendly people, who actually greeted us from day one and knew our names by day 3, the tours you can go on from there, horse riding to hidden waterfalls, biking, hiking the Cocora Valley, visit traditional Coffee farms and many more, the fact that I stayed in the most beautiful hostel I’ve ever seen, the amazing coffee everywhere and the millions of different shades of green.

Accomodation

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La Serrana

The Hostel we stayed in is called “La Serrana” and it is located about 20-25 minutes of walking distance outside of town. It is surrounded by literally NOTHING but green hills full of coffee plantations and in the morning, when the fog is still lingering around the hills, you feel like you are the only person in the world. So peaceful . ❤

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Waking up to THIS!

They also have great common rooms, which are always full of guitar playing and storytelling fellow traveler and they serve amazing breakfast and dinner.

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I loved everything about La Serrana, even the entrance hall! 😉

 

Coffee farm highlight

For me, a passionate coffee lover, going to the coffee plantations was a MUST DO. My friends and I decided to go see a traditional, organic one named Sacha Mama.

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This little fellow walked all the way to the Coffee farm with us.

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It took us about an hour to get there . We started at our hostel and the path  lead  us mostly downhill through the core of the Coffee zone.

Sacha Mama is a special kind of Coffee farm, with a lot of history and run by the same family since ages.

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Us, learning ALL ABOUT COFFEE! 😉
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This is how coffee beans look like before being plucked and peeled.
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Coffee blossoms
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Coffee drying corner

The lady  there went on a tour through her families coffee plantation with us, we learned so much about the traditional coffee making process and in the end we were even rewarded with a cup of amazing self-made Colombian Coffee, cookies and cakes.

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Before being roasted.
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Finally they started looking like coffee beans.
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Traditional Coffee grinder
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For a trip to the Coffee Farm, you definitely need a whole day, since you are walking quite a bit to get there and even more going back (since it is ALL UPHILL ;P  ) and you should definitely take the chance to talk to the people who run the farm, they will answer all your questions and are really happy to meet people who are truly interested in coffee.

They also sell their organic, self-made coffee at the farm, which is SO MUCH better than the one you get in the stores… obviously! 😉

 

 

One day in Battambang

 

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Ta Dumbang statue in the middle of Battambang, people come here to pray.

Battambang was one of the cutest cities I’ve been to in Cambodia. We arrived late in the afternoon with the Angkor Express Boat , that I already told you about in one of my previous articles. Since we were really tired we just grabbed something to eat, went for a short walk and then right into bed.

The next day we got up very early looking for a Tuktuk driver to show us the best of Battambang, since we just had this one day. A few minutes later we found one and hit the road to the Bamboo Train.

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Let the journey begin 😀

 

Bamboo Train

The Bamboo Train is one of the most famous attractions in Battambang that is why we had to go there and check it out! With this train you don’t actually get somewhere, it is just for the experience – you drive 15 to 20 minutes in one direction and then the same way back for around $5. It wasn’t very comfortable, very bumpy and the train gets really fast – it was fun though and you get to take some really nice pictures.

 

 

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I really enjoyed those views

 

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Getting the train off the tracks

Since the way there and back is the same, they have to get the train off the tracks to let the other trains pass. After an hour and a half we were finished and went to the next stop on our list.

 

Wat Banan Temple

This is a really small but beautiful temple a little outside of Battambang and it is definitely worth going there. You have to go up a very steep staircase but once you are on the top you get a really nice view.

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It’s a long way up there, but definitely worth the effort.
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Nice temple at the end of the staircase.

Killing Caves and Phnom Sampeau Temple

Our Tuktuk driver told us a lot about Cambodias history and the victims of the Khmer Rouge who came to death at those killing caves. It is unbelievable what happened at this place not that long ago.

From the Killing Caves it is a nice walk up to Phnom Sampeau, which is also a really beautiful temple around Battambang, it is more modern than Wat Banan though.

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Phnom Sampeau temple
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Be aware of those cheky little monkeys up there ;P

 

 

Last stop Battambang Bat Caves

After walking down from Phnom Sampeau our last stop were the Bat Caves, this was just amazing – at 6 p.m. millions – and I really mean millions – of bats come bursting out of this hole in the mountain and fly towards the countryside, where they spend the night.

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Bats looking for food

 

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Bats come bursting out of the mountain

 

 

After that our Tuktuk driver brought us back to our hotel and his friend drove us to Phnom Penh the next morning, which he arranged for us! What a lovely day 🙂

 

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Welcome to the jungle (Koh Kong Cambodia)

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Riding the long tail boat through the mangrove forest of Koh Kong

Koh Kong was our last destination in Cambodia, since it’s located right on the border to Thailand. They offer lots and lots of tours and activities there like island tours, kayaking, fishing, hiking and so on.

We decided to do the Cardamom Mountains Trekking for one day which was around $20 per person plus a little tip for the guides. This tour included pick up from our home stay, drinks and lunch (we got some fried noodles with shrimp and fresh fruit).

The Tuk Tuk driver picked us up at 8:30 in the morning and brought us to the boat, it was just my friend and me and those two really nice guides. It took us around one hour and a half up the river until we got off the boat and directly into the jungle with which I fell in love with immediately.

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One of the guides walking in front of us clearing the way with his machete

 

After a while we stopped to take some pictures, I have no clue what time it was by now, I was so amazed by all of those gorgeous views that I didn’t check my watch even once. The hike itself wasn’t very exhausting or hard, it was pretty hot though which made it a little challenging but one oft he guides always reminded me to drink something 🙂 and once my water was finished I got a new one within a second.

 

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Short stop to take pictures at this amazing viewing point

 

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After this short break we went deeper and deeper into the jungle.

Around noon they took us to a really nice place where we had lunch, got to take a swim and explored the jungle and the amazing waterfalls by our-selves.

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This is where we had lunch. We didn’t see any other people during our trek at all.
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Our guide , showing us around.

After lunch break we hiked back to the boat and arrived at the city around 4.30 p.m.

What an amazing day 🙂  so if you’re planing on a short stop in Koh Kong traveling from or to Thailand you should definitely consider staying the night and trekking the jungle!

If you’re more into relaxing and beaches another tip is the Koh Kong Island Tour which I really enjoyed too, I’ve never seen such a beautiful and quiet beach before! Koh Kong Island is just a really tiny island where you can spend the night in some cute little huts, if you want to.

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The beach looked like a postcard ❤

 

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Crystal clear water and white beaches.

 

Posted by Kerstin

5 things I love about staying in Hostels

I love traveling, I always did and from the moment I was able to make my own decisions on travel plans, I never booked into a normal hotel or a club again. I mean, don’t get me wrong, for a few occasions, let’s say , a honeymoon or a romantic weekend getaway, I would really love spending a few days in a luxurious hotel room with a bathtub, room service and most of all PRIVACY. But for the rest of my travels, I would always prefer staying in hostels.

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Picture taken in Minka, Colombia.

For those of you who haven’t stayed in hostels yet , this might come shocking ,  because hostels are usually associated with noisy, drunk bunk neighbors and tiny, packed and often unhygienic bathrooms , also for a lot of people, it’s just the LAST option (in case of lack of money) they’d take when traveling.

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Casa Loma, Minca, Colombia.

But for those of you who have some hostel experiences already, you might understand me. Because, there is no way you could ever meet so many open minded and fun people in a hotel. Not only because, there is no way so many people would spend time in a hotel lobby instead of their cozy, awesome and pricey hotel rooms.
This is different in a hostel. In the evening, hardly anybody stays in their room ( or being more accurate) in their bunk.  Everybody is eager to be somewhere nicer and also, hearing all the guitar sounds, singing and chatting from the common room , hardly anybody would want to stay alone all night.

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Paradiso Hostel in Nelson, New Zealand.

I’ve been staying in quite a lot of hostels by now and I have to admit, not all of those nights I love to look back at. There was some pretty nasty things happening sometimes and there was a lot of awkward moments as well.  But for me, that’s part of traveling, because in the end you’ll def. have more stories to tell and learn more about yourself and also your fellow travelers  when staying in a hostel, rather than a hotel.

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Dinner at the Paradiso, New Zealand.

 

So here are my top 5 things I love about hostels:

  1. When you travel solo for a while, there will be times when you feel lonely and sometimes even kind of lost. So, when staying in a hostel, you can be sure, that there is always going to be somebody who is up for cooking together, drinking (cheap) alcohol with you or at least there will be somebody who plays the guitar all day long.
  2. You always find out new things about the place you’ve been traveling to when talking to fellow travelers in hostels. There is always the obligatory long-term backpacker , who already knows all the tricks to get the most out of everything at the lowest cost. Then there is usually somebody who read all the travel guides there is, so you can ask that person anything. There is at least one who made friends with a bunch of locals already, who of course know the best and most beautiful things to do and see anyway. And best of all, there is a lot of other travelers who are as eager to explore as you are.
  3. There is always somebody who bakes bread or brownies for everybody to share. ( but you know… beware of the brownies)
  4. Hostels are by faaaar cheaper than hotels and the times where there are only shappy and disgusting hostels to choose from are OVER. With a little research you’ll be able to find gorgeous hostels all over the world, which come with all the benefits listed above and even comfort.
  5. If you are up for party, you don’t need to go far. Almost all the hostels I’ve stayed in did have a hostel bar ( or at least they sold alcohol and put on music) So , If you are tired from exploring all day long, but still want to have a few drinks, music and social interaction, check out the hostel bar.
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Gorgeous Hostel in Cancun, Mexico.

Posted by Lisa

10 Reasons why I fell in love with Ireland

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1. It is always an adequate time to grab a beer in a pub, no matter what time in the day it is. Also, an Irish Pub can’t be compared to a regular pub in any other country… there is this very unique atmosphere which is hard to describe to a person who hasn’t been to an Irish Pub. You just have to experience it by yourself! But I’ll try to give you an impression.

To me the most memorable things were the bunch of broody older guys who seem to be perfectly at piece sitting there for hours, without talking, just enjoying their beers. Also the Irish music played by the live singer and his/her guitar. There was a singer in every single Pub I entered. I also love the way the Irish stay true to their beer brands. You wouldn’t be able to buy an imported beer in a true Irish Pub.

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2. People, even the ones who work in the touristsector, don’t treat you like you are just another tourist. They really make an effort to give you the chance to get to know the real Ireland and it’s culture. Me and a friend walked into the National Gallery in Dublin, but since it was the 31st of December, most parts of it were closed. So we were about to leave the building again, when the security guy stopped us, obviously feeling bad about the situation and immediately trying to make up for it by telling us stories about Ireland and the first and second world war. We stood there and listened to him for about 20 minutes and afterwards we couldn’t believe how nice this guy was for sharing all that with us.

3. The way even adults are totally fine with still believing in fairies, leprechauns, spirits and so on. It goes so far that, if you destroy or harm a fairy fort, which are believed to be portals between the fairy world and our world, you have to pay up to 25.000 euros. Also, it is also a commonly believed fact that, if you harm a fairy fort, the fairies will get their revenge. There are stories (even in Irish newspapers) about people who lost all their money, got into accidents and so on, after they messed with the fairies.

 4. The vibrant cities with lots of culture, museums, shops and nightlife, but within 30 minutes you are in the total nature with rough cliffs, the wild Atlantic and most importantly very few people who would be destroying your quality time with nature.

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5. The way Irish people seem to be so connected to their history and heritage. Almost every Irish person you’ll meet will be able to tell you some historical fact or legend about a castle, a city, a statue or their ancestors.

They keep their history and their heritage strong by not only remembering but practicing their ancient traditions.

6. The Irish humor –> as mentioned in my previous post.

 7. The cliffs.
Since Ireland is an Island there is quite a lot of stunning cliff scenery to be seen. The feeling I got, standing at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the rough Atlantic Ocean… I can’t even put it into words. 20141228_124103-001

8. There are SO many rainbows to be seen.
Since the conditions for a rainbow to appear are perfect in Ireland, with rain and sunshine take turns almost hourly. Rainbows are also a big part of the Irish mythology. I’m sure most of you heard about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

9. The green.
No doubt, one of the most commonly knowncliché of Ireland is that the island is unbelievable green. Since I went to Ireland in winter, I didn’t expect to see any of it. BUT, I couldn’t believe my eyes when we got to the countryside and there it was… Green in hundreds of different shades… so beautiful I can’t even imagine what it must look like in summer.

The Irish also have quite a variation of names for its green, which makes the importance of green in Ireland obvious. Grass Green, Seaweed Green, St. Stephens Green, Flag Green, Hedge Green, Tree Green, Clover Green are just some of them.

10. Irish blessings.
There was at least one Irish blessing in a frame in every single room I went during my stay in Ireland!

„May your joys be as deep as the oceans,
your troubles as light as its foam.

And may you find sweet peace of mind,
wherever you may roam. „

„As you slide down the bannister of life,
may the splinters never point the wrong way.“

and my absolute favorite…

„May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.“

The Giant’s Causeway

20141228_142542-001 - Kopie As mentioned in my last post, I had a great time exploring Ireland with Paddywagon Tours. Everything was a tad better than I expected from a bustour and I totally fell for Ireland in the 5 short days I’ve been there. When a friend and I decided to go to Ireland for NYE, we didn’t really know much about it, besides of the usual stereotypes of beer drinking guys in pubs and lots of green and sheep in the countryside.  So we started doing a little research and soon found out that there is a couple of must-sees in Ireland, and since the country is rather small, 5 days were enough to see at least a couple of those. (Although I know now that 5 days were faaaar to short for my taste and that I’ll definitely be back in Ireland within the next two years ) 20141228_140011-001 The first thing I put on my „Things to see“ list was the Giant’s Causeway. It has been an official Unesco World Heritage since 1986. Besides of its stunning appearance and the truly breathtaking atmosphere, the Causeway is also famous for the tale that comes with it. This tale we got told by our amazing bus driver John on the ride up to Northern Ireland and the way he told it, as if it was an historical fact and not a legend, really fascinated me. I will give you a short summary of it, but , as I found out now, there is hundreds of different versions around in Ireland and the one that John told us is just one of them. So… If you already heard a different one… Don’t take it amiss. IMG_20141228_153120 So, here we go: The story goes that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool built the causeway to get to Scotland and combat with a rival giant called Benandonner. When he got there he found that the Scottish giant was asleep but also far bigger than himself, so Finn returned back across the causeway. When the Scottish giant woke up he came across the causeway intent on fighting Finn. Finn’s wife dressed up her husband as a baby and when Benandonner arrived she said Finn wasn’t home and to be quiet not to wake up the baby. When Benandonner saw the baby he decided that if the baby was that big, Finn must be massive. So he turned tail and fled back across the causeway ripping it up as he went. All that remains are the ends, that now form the Giant’s Causeway and on the island of Staffa in Scotland where similar formations are found. IMG_20141228_114331 The drive from Dublin to the Causeway took us about 4 hours, but we stopped at a few other sights on the way, so it didn’t feel that long at all. On the way we also stopped at the dark hedges, which were, like the Giants Causeway, used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. We also stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, were we were able to walk a swinging rope bridge across a cliff. This one was not included in our tour and to be honest, I wouldn’t do it again. It was definitely less exciting than the pictures I’ve seen promised. IMG_20141228_154945 We got to the Causeway around 2 pm, and were quite hungry by then. Luckily there was a couple of options at the Causeway visitor center and we filled up on sandwiches and soup and started to walk the long route (approximately 1hour) towards the sight. We also had the option of walking the short route (about 20 minutes) , but since all the other tourists did that, we decided that it would be worth the hike if we get to experience all the beautiful scenery and magical atmosphere without hundreds of fellow travelers. 20141228_143842-001 We got to the Causeway when the sun started to set and this made the whole scene even more beautiful. I truly fell in love with this place, so full of magic and wonder and the stone formations really do look like something supernatural. 20141228_144304-001 For all those who are really interested in the history, geology and legends… there are audio tours available at the visitors’ center, which are included in the Paddywagon Tour package if you decide to go there with Paddywagon Tours. On the way back to Dublin, we also stopped a couple of times to look at castles (there are SO many all over Ireland) and cliffs, or to have a drink at a famous Pub. We got back to Dublin around 8.30, totally tired but entirely happy. I took so many pictures that day and whenever I show them to one of my friends, they all decide that they want to go see the Giants Causeway as well. I can’t believe until 1,5 month ago I didn’t even know it existed. 20141228_144016-001 I really had an amazing time in Northern Ireland, even though, we forgot to exchange our euros into pounds and weren’t able to buy anything in the little pubs and stores on the way. So … if you travel with euros, don’t forget that the currency in Northern Ireland is pounds! 😉 I can’t wait to get back to Ireland in summer. I really want to rent a car for my next visit and just drive around the countryside for a couple of weeks!