I love to travel; it takes me away from my daily routine and errands. Traveling gives me an opportunity to discover myself. It makes me realize, how amazingly beautiful our world is; full of fascinating people and interesting things to do.
This time, I am back in action exploring Eastern Europe. It was a perfect getaway trip with my friends for 13 days; traveling around the capital cities of Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. This was the first time; I was visiting Europe without coming here for work. In my mind, I was constantly contemplating on how unique of a cultural experience this would have been if I was here for a few months instead of a short time. Nonetheless, it was the perfect trip to get introduced to these countries with a striking first impression that’s going to leave me with no option but to return back to adore its beauty again.
My flight from U.S. was via Paris. The guy next to me definitely made this long journey pleasurable. He was a talkative Spaniard, who only understood Spanish, which made it all the more fun. It was fun talking to him because it forced me to brush up on my elementary Spanish skills, lol. Within an hour of my flight landing, the rest of my friends also arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport; hence the shenanigans began. Since it was a weekend, Berlin proved to be the perfect starting point. We took the city hop on and off tour, which allowed us to conveniently cover all the major highlights in the short time we were there. With Germany’s dark past, Berlin is bursting with a rich history. Though, the modern day Berlin is very socialist. Culture is quite diverse from what we could tell. The food was also quite interesting, with a heavy emphasis on potatoes and beer; a must try staple food, currywurst. We meet a bunch of foreigners here, who were traveling and making the most of the last few days of the summer, just like us. Meeting new people and making friends is the best part of traveling. It fascinates me to meet people from different parts of the world as they each have a story to share; thus changing my perception of life.
We caught an early morning fast train. In 4 hours, next up was Prague for us. If I have to describe Prague in one word, it would be…beauty! It is breathtaking everywhere you look. Prague is relatively small compared to Berlin but in no terms was it short on its enchantment. On the first day, we just roamed around on our own, admiring its old splendor while absorbing the Czech culture. Czech’s are very laid back people, however, a bit estranged at hospitality. Later, we found out from our tour guide that this is due to their culture and the communist mentality that was oppressed on them over the generations. Prague is divided into two half’s; Old town located at an elevation of a hill (consisting of the palace and acres of land with palace owned properties) and New town (more for the commoners). The iconic Charles Bridge connects both the towns. All of us decided to take the guided walking tour to see each of the towns in a stretch of two days. It turned out to be the best decision for us. We meet so many amazing people from around the world, who were part of our walking tour and together we got an excellent interactive glimpse of the Czech’s capital city. We also took a night cruise to admire Prague all lite up from the Vltava River. Prague was full of people and more so of tourist. Hence, mostly everyone spoke English and the food varieties were also very continental. One interesting thing we noticed, most of all local men we meet, (i.e. tour guide, bartender, taxi driver, restaurant waiter, etc.) all were of different nationalities but they each had moved to Prague because they fell in love with a Czech girl. Each of the men was in pursuit of chasing a girl. Haha. It is said that Czech women are the most beautiful looking women in the world!
After another four hours on a fast train from Prague; we made it to Vienna. Vienna is stunning; it looks like a Fairytale story setting in real life. White buildings everywhere with marvelous architecture make it a magical city. It was hard to absorb all of its beauty in one sweep. I was stunned by its miles and miles of charm. It is hard to explain in words, I haven’t seen any city like Vienna. To me, the city is a stunning woman wearing a crisp white gown with diamond jewels. The quality of the air is excellent; the tap water is the purest water you’ll ever find; coming straight from the Alps. The roads are extremely clean and most of the people you see are all dressed professionally in suits; giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. Vienna caters heavily to the international crowd; there is a large United Nations presence here as well. I can’t imagine how exciting of a place Vienna would be to live and work in. Due to the limitation of time, we decided again, to take a 2-day hop on and off tour bus, in which we covered all major highlights of this city. Also, I meet up with an old friend, who I know from working at the State Department in Italy. ‘On a side note, the most treasured thing that I have acquired from working with the U.S. Department of State is making friends and knowing people, all over the world.’ Not to any surprise, the culinary and the night scene in Vienna were excellent, very elegant. One of my favorite memories from Vienna was the apartment we lived in. The alluring setting consisted of white walls, white sheer curtain, white furniture, wood flooring and with an accent of red chandeliers. To top it off, a Mercedes waiting downstairs to take us around.. is my kind of European lifestyle. ☺
After a week long of exploring, we were back at another round of weekend shenanigan’s, with our last stop at Budapest. While riding the short 2-hour train ride, is exactly, when we began to feel the Hungarian excitement. Most of the passengers on the train were young and were already in a party mood. Budapest is known for its young and vibrant appeal; very laid back and a fun city. Budapest has a massive thermal bath culture; there are several public baths in the city. They believe that it heals the body and keeps the mind fresh. We decided to take on the bath culture a notch further and booked our tickets to a “Sparty Night”. The Szechenyi Thermal Bathhouse is over a 100 years old and is Europe’s largest bath complex; on selected Saturday nights it turns into a Spa party for the youth. Attending the Sparty was probably the craziest, unique and coolest experience for all of us. Another highlight in Budapest was watching the fireworks show, for the Hungarian Independence day, from the iconic Chain Bridge. Over a million people had come out to see the fireworks display and to enjoy a day full of live music, food, and festivities. Talking about food, it was excellent; a little on the hot side but very authentic and true to its culture. Even their traditional coffee has a kick of peppers in it! Lol. Eggs are a very big part of their diet; omelets and desserts are a must try as they are simply delicious. My favorite place was the New York Café, it is exquisite. They tag themselves as the most beautiful café in the world, and they are definitely not lying. Since FIFA world cup was going on, we had a great time catching the game with a group of diverse people from around the world.
Four major cities, in four major countries, in 13 days, with great friends, is enough to make this trip full of lasting memories to treasure for a lifetime. Once again, I fell in love and I left a piece of my heart in these countries- to their amazing culture, their culinary experiences, to the interesting people I meet along the way and to all the wonderful moments I had. As I am moving through this life, my travel experiences are leaving marks on me. After each new journey, I am not the same person that I was before…the experience that comes with traveling leaves me a bit more informed and more aware. It makes me realize how big this world is and how much there is still left, yet to explore.
With the holidays just around the corner, I hope you fill your life with different escapades and not things. The experience of traveling gives you an opportunity to share stories for years to come!!!
Take care, until next time! Tschüss.
Photo Courtesy:Google & Dhara Shah