01.09.2012 - 01.10.2012
So I thought I would try and give my fantastic blog readers a different style of blog from me, namely because I'm so behind in my writing and otherwise because it was such a whirlwind of countries and sights I think this might be the best way to lay out my Central Europe trip. So please find below the dossier of my 15day trip in Central Europe.
Trip: 15 days in Central Europe
Starting point: Vienna - Austria
Ending point: Budapest - Hungary
- Czech Republic
- Cesky Kromlov
- Czech rock formations
- Tatra Mountains
French Canadian woman x1
Canadian man x2
Scottish woman x1
American woman x1
Dutch man x2 (1 tour leader)
English/Australian woman x1
Australian woman x2 (my roommate and I)
I believe my roommate needs a special mention as she made a particular impact on my trip...judge for yourself if it was a gift or a curse!
Group generally got along well, one person I couldn't wait to never see again, but got along well with all of the women.
I had the lucky experience of being placed with an Australian girl who was legally deaf, and I'm sure suffered from autism. After my time with the children in Vietnam I knew no matter how lovely and well meaning they were that they were tiring to be around...unfortunately with my roommate I didn't have the liberty of going home at night and hanging out with friends like I did in Vietnam. I thought I would chronicle my experiences with her so you could get an understanding of my time travelling through Central Europe.
- Woken up first morning with roommate yelling "what time is it?" with the curtain open...it happened to be 6.12am. Should have seen that as a warning.
- Pushed a window out of a door in a bathroom is cesky kromlov.
- Broke a toilet seat off in our Prague apartment.
- Kicked me from her bed in the middle of the night.
- Set her alarm at a pitch she couldn't hear for 5.15am.
- Two nights in a row turned the light on at 4.30am for 30mins as she said "she couldn't find the way to the toilet" - didn't seem to be a problem for the 10 days proceeding these two mornings.
- Woke up at 620am opening the window to busy krakow to take pictures of the sunrise.
- Described to me in depth how she shouldn't have eaten so much saukraut that was now giving her gas.
- Got lost for 3 hours in the mountains of Slovakia - after texting and calling her all evening she came back with a laugh wondering what we were worried about...after we felt nauseous that she was lost after dark in the Tatra Mountains.
- Snored like a freight train when she was asleep.
- Woke up at least 2 hours before our scheduled departure to pack her bag...after spending an hour the night before packing the same bag.
- Locked me out of our room when she was having a shower and advised me to come back in 20mins and try the door by posting a note on the outside of the door.
Well it seems like the Eastern Europeans have never met a pig, potato or cheese they didn't like.
I had some fantastic meals - but was definitely excited to have a vegetable other than a potato when I arrived in France.
Below is the food highlight from each country:
Now if you were to match up a country with each what would you guess?
If you picked the following you'd be right:
Schnitzel - Austria
Pork knuckle - Czech Republic
Goulash - Hungary
Cabbage rolls - Poland
Potato pancakes - Slovakia
Not to mention I did the hot chocolate tour of Central Europe which was definitely worth while....I think after Italy, Slovakia had the best hot chocolates.
Number 1 highlight for each destination:
Vienna - After getting the bus to Vienna from Croatia, and enjoying the first days with Troy and Bonnie from my Croatia trip I had already got a good fill of schnitzel and some of the sights. The highlight on the intrepid trip with the group was walking up the spire of st Stephens cathedral...while it almost took my entire energy supply, and my stable mind from the +300 winding stairs with only enough room for one person going one way, the view was beautiful, and something that you can't go to Vienna without doing (even though for some people it looked like the last thing they would do in their lives as I was sure I was going to see at least one person fall over from a heart attack). As a reward for all of those stairs we went to enjoy some cake and hot chocolates to make sure we absolutely doubled all the calories we had just burnt off.
Bratislava - Bratislava was a great day trip on the train from Vienna. While it was a small city, it was lovely to take in a city that really feels like college town. We had a great lunch at the local university hangout after a trek up the hill to the castle of Bratislava. While it wasn't my favourite place, it was a nice train journey and day trip from Vienna.
Cesky Kromlov - a beautiful unesco heritage site, Cesky Kromlov is a small village, with winding cobblestone streets, small artists shops, barely any cars and once all the tour buses go home from their day trips, a beautiful enchanted place at night, with the castle built into the hill beside the river lit up at night. However the highlight of this city, was one of the meals. We went to a small restaurant that cooked everything on an open fireplace, and had the most amazing pork knuckle with fresh horseradish in what looked like a cave, drinking wine out of goblets...it felt like a scene out of medieval times.
Prague - Prague...how do I pick just one highlight. You can understand why it was the #1 most visited destination in 2011 as its absolutely beautiful. While all the buildings are gorgeous, and the castle on the hill overlooking the old town of Prague was breathtaking, I would have to say the highlight was walking the streets of Prague, you can get lost down the alleyways of the place, walking up and down the hill to the castle, around the old Jewish quarter, through the square when then clock is opening up and chiming and through the markets that pop up at night where you can grab a crepe or a bratwurst. It is just like Paris in that respect, you can enjoy the city for its beautiful surroundings on foot, at all times of day or night, especially as we were lucky to have an apartment in the old Jewish quarter.
Czech rock formations - lets just say this was a filler destination! Not much of note, all I know is that it was the coldest I had been my whole trip...and the rock formations left a lot to the imagination, but I think between the craziness of Prague and the sobering Auschwitz.
Auschwitz - a humbling and sad tour of a place steeped in modern history. To be at the place where so many lost their lives was very difficult, but the tours were run very beautifully. The tour didn't go without a tear or two shed, especially after hearing the story of people who have returned to auschwitz after being in the concentration camp and finding their bag in a display that they carried in on the train decades earlier.
Krakow - Poland was the one country where it was assumed that I was polish, I had people coming up to me all the time asking me things in Polish, so after feeling like I should be polish, I was particularly fond of krakow. The city itself has a beautiful old town which you still at times walk through gates in the old wall that surrounded the city, and while we splurged one night for dinner in the middle of the square in krakow which was beautiful, the highlight of the city was visiting the salt mines just outside of krakow. Previously a huge salt mine, the miners used to spend time underground creating sculptures of mostly Christian scenes. The highlight was a huge ballroom that they had carved into the mine, including chandeliers carved out of salt, and even 3D murals of the last supper. It was amazing what they did under there, and their beautiful artistry. As the polish are very religious, it was a way of feeling closer to god and safer underground in this big mine!
Tatra Mountains - the Tatra mountains were absolutely beautiful, when you look out the window of our room you can see some of the huge peaks. Hiking these beautiful mountains were the highlight. We did a stunning 5 hour hike through the mountains. It was really interesting as there had been high winds most of the week which meant that many trees were down over the path, so it felt almost like orienteering than hiking. The scenery was stunning.
Budapest - the highlight of Budapest was the walk up to the Pest side of town to look down over the river at all the beautiful monuments throughout the town, it's such a beautiful city, filled with alleyways and Turkish baths. Overlooking buildings as beautiful as the House of Parliament beside the river was amazing, not to mention seeing all of this while listening to a live band and having a gin and tonic...sometimes it's the simple things (especially after prohibition all through the Czech Republic).
Overall, this trip was fantastic, while my roommate left a little room for improvement....the places we went were beautiful, and I can't wait to return to places like Hungary and Poland to explore more.
Once this trip was done, it was back to France to see Sarah and down to La Rochelle to see some of my amazing friends from Vietnam.
So down I went on the train from Paris to La Rochelle to see my partner in crime Clem, and the lovely Nans.
Unfortunately Alban had escaped La Rochelle after he heard I was coming down...or maybe he had work in England, either way, I was lucky to be picked up by Nans at the train station and then spent the rest of the week at Clem's place, trying to improve my French while eating all of Clem's mums beautiful food, seriously, months later I am still dreaming about it.
I had a great time in the seaside town of La Rochelle visiting, it's a part of France I hadn't been too before, but it was really beautiful, and a much slower pace than the crazy cities Eastern Europe that I had just visited.
Here is a quick snapshot of the couple of days I spent in La Rochelle with them...now I need to get them out to Australia!
This was my last jaunt in Europe, it was an incredible 2 1/2 months...and I really felt like I ticket some items off my ever growing bucket list! Thanks to all my friends new and old that welcomed me to their houses, or toured with me, or just met me out for a drink...can't wait to return!
"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles" - Tim Cahill