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! 😉

 

 

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

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!

Fernweh

Ich muss ja ehrlich sagen, ich bin ein Mensch der IMMER Fernweh hat. Ich weiß auch nicht woran das liegen könnte, schon als ich 8 war, wollt ich immer in einem Internat wohnen und nicht daheim. Am liebsten wär mir noch ein Internat in einem fremden Land gewesen. Nicht das mich jetzt jemand falsch versteht, ich komm aus einer total normalen Familie, mir hat es an nichts gefehlt und trotzdem weiß ich ,dass ich immer schon weg wollte.

Zum ersten mal wirklich befriedigen konnte ich mein Fernweh mit 13. Damals hab ich mein gesamtes erspartes Taschengeld hergenommen und bin für 2 Wochen zum Sprachkurs nach Malta geflogen. Damals mein erster Flug und mein erstes mal außerhalb des Europäischen Festlandes. Ich kann mich bis heute an das Gefühl erinnern, dass ich bereits bei Betreten des Flughafens verspürt hab. Bis heute ist das mein Lieblingsgefühl. Diese Mischung aus Aufregung, Ungewissheit, Vorfreude, Neugierde, Glück, Freiheit und Anspannung. Es gibt nichts besseres!!!

Seitdem dreht sich bei mir eigentlich jeder Gedanke um die nächste Reise. Gespart wird sowieso nur für das nächste Flugticket und die Liste an „Places to see before I die“ wird täglich länger.

Am liebsten würde ich ja das Reisen zum Beruf machen. Schon immer hab ich auf die Frage: „Was willst du denn beruflich später mal machen?“ geantwortet : „Mhm… ich weiß noch nicht wirklich, aber auf jeden Fall möcht ich was machen mit dem ich um die ganze Welt reisen kann.“

Diesen Gedanken hab ich natürlich bis heute nicht aufgegeben und auch wenn ich mir auch jetzt noch nicht sicher bin was ich genau mal beruflich machen werde, weiß ich doch ,dass ich dabei nicht NUR in Österreich arbeiten werde.P1070406

Niagara Fälle – Foto von der Kanadischen Seite aus geschossen.

Im Laufe der Jahre hab ich auch schon einige der oben erwähnten „PLACES“ auf meiner Liste abhaken können. Ich hab schon über ein Jahr in den USA gelebt, ich bin für ein Monat in meinem Traumland Neuseeland rumgereist, ich hab drei Monate in Kolumbien gearbeitet und mir dabei so viel wie möglich vom Land angesehen. Ich war schon in Mexiko und in Kanada, hab mir alte Maya Städte und die Niagara Fälle angesehen, war schon am Grand Canyon und bin im Abel Tasman Kajak gefahren.

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Valle Cocora Salento Kolumbien

All das hat mein Fernweh aber nicht gemindert, sondern ganz im Gegenteil sogar verstärkt und ich kann es kaum erwarten das nächste mal am Flughafen zu stehen und nach meinem Gate zu suchen.

Die nächste große Reise steht zum Glück auch schon in Planung. Peru und Argentinien sollen es werden. Da ich aber erst voraussichtlich im Spätherbst wieder für längere Zeit aus Österreich weg kann, muss ich mich in der Zwischenzeit mit einem Kurztrip ( 2 Wochen 😉 ) Spanien ablenken.