Berlin was off to a crazy start before I even got there. The night before my flight to Berlin, I lost my wallet in a bar. My wallet had almost $100 worth of Hungarian cash in it, and all of my credit and debit cards. So, not only did I not have any cash, I also had no way of obtaining any cash or buying anything for that matter. Luckily, I hadn’t lost my key card to my dorm room in Budapest, my public transit pass, or my drivers license, so I went to bed and decided to face my problems in the morning. Thankfully, my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, so I spent the morning ordering new credit cards and asking my parents to wire me money to a Western Union until the cards came in the mail. Still stressed out, with 200 euros in my pocket borrowed from my generous roommate, I set off to the airport to meet my friend Mallory in Berlin.
I’m excited to finally be sitting down to write about Copenhagen, even if it is five months later. When people ask me my favorite place I went, I always say, besides Budapest (which of course I am biased about because I spent the longest time there), it was Copenhagen.
It was one of the only cities I could picture myself actually living in, if it wasn’t for the lack of daylight in the winter and the outrageous prices. But I’m from the Midwest, so I’m used to dark winters, and if I made a salary in Danish krone, then I think I could make it work.
Our outstandingly comfortable Ryan Air flight (hint – sarcasm) landed around 5pm, so our first day in the city was short. We took public transit from the airport to our hostel; the trains in Copenhagen are very clean and they have nifty headphone ports built in for you to listen to the radio, albeit with a lot of static.
If you’re traveling to Copenhagen though, I don’t recommend relying on public transit. You have to specify when buying your ticket which station you are getting off at and tickets are very infrequently checked by patrolling workers, which leaves you with the moral dilemma of paying for a $5 ticket or risking it in the hope that yours won’t get checked. It’s also just inconvenient – there aren’t enough stops to make it easy to get around the whole city. But while I was there, they were building new stations, so I think the city knows it has room to improve in that department. We found it quickest and easiest to bike, although it’s a little difficult when you have to stop and pull out your phone for directions frequently. So most of the time we walked. A lot.
This post is what I’m going to call my “final installment” of reflective posts from studying abroad. Saying Goodbye captured my feelings right after leaving Europe, Cultural Differences in Hungary provided a more lighthearted look back on the experience (which I think I really needed more than anyone), and now that I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect, I’ve come up with a few lessons I learned while abroad.
The semester came and went faster than I could have ever possibly imagined. It seems like not long ago I was arriving in Budapest, nervous and excited. But four months quickly passed and as cliché and corny as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. Whenever I saw Facebook posts from my friends returning from study abroad spouting how life-changing the experience was and how they will never forget it, I just passed them off as humble-brags and didn’t think much of it. But they were right. It opens your mind and pushes you out of comfort zones. It provides new firsts, new friends, and some life lessons along the way too.
One lesson I learned is that material things are completely unimportant. When your life can fit into a single suitcase and carry-on bag for four months, you re-wear the same clothes, wear through the same few pairs of shoes, and make-do with what you have. And did I ever feel deprived? Not once. It was almost nice to not have as many options to choose from when getting dressed in the morning!
On my last day in Budapest, I woke up and walked to my favorite bakery to get a pastry and coffee for breakfast. I said hello to my favorite bakery worker who I usually make a little small talk with whenever I go in. It was a busy Saturday morning, so when I tried to say goodbye as he handed me my coffee, the noise of the espresso machine and the other customers drowned me out. He busied making the next customer’s coffee and I walked out the door. At first, I was a little sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. But maybe it was better that I didn’t get to say goodbye, because goodbyes are too final. And because I know I’ll be back to Budapest very soon. I don’t know when, but it was a city that felt like home to me after only a month of living there, and there’s no place like home.
When living in a new country, it’s probably best not to see only one city. Following the advice of my father to go somewhere in Hungary besides Budapest, a few friends and I took a day trip to Eger in early October.
I wasn’t going to blog about Eger at first, but then I thought, small towns deserve as much recognition as big cities! Why not tell you all about somewhere you’ve most likely never heard of? So here’s a short post about the cute little town of Eger, Hungary!
Eger can be reached by a two-hour train ride from Budapest. The best advice I can give about Eger is just to stroll around and take your time. It’s not a very big town, however it is quite charming. There are a few pretty churches, a nice main square, cute restaurants, a castle, and best of all, Szépasszonyvölgy, or more commonly known among tourists as the Valley of Beautiful Women.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted about a trip. My first excuse was midterms, but those have long come and gone. In fact, finals start in two weeks. My current excuse is life, which isn’t really an excuse. However, a trip almost every weekend with classes, homework, and laundry to fit in between each trip is exhausting and all I want to do during my limited free time is watch Netflix and sleep.
But I finally decided – no more excuses! If this blog is going to be consistent, I have to make time for it in my life, no matter how busy it is. A few minutes ago, I hesitated between clicking the next Gossip Girl episode or finally starting this blog post. It’s not that I don’t enjoy blogging at all; I do enjoy writing this blog quite a lot. But I decided that it’s time for a new post format.
Rather than go through each detail of my trip, I’ve decided to just play you the highlight reel. The length of my past posts made me put off writing this one, which is not something I want to feel about my blog. Now with the excuses out of the way, let’s talk about Kraków!
I left for Kraków on October 22nd… yeah I’m a month behind on posts. But I am determined to catch up! Anyways, my friend Margaret and I took the 10-hour overnight train from Budapest to Kraków, which was not that bad because we got beds and slept the whole time.
Right when we arrived we walked through the park surrounding the city center, which made a great first impression. People were running, biking, walking their dogs, and taking their kids to school. The foliage was full of beautiful yellows, reds, and oranges. Definitely take time to just walk around the city through the park, especially if you visit Kraków in the fall.
Vienna is my kind of city – palaces, fancy cafés, beautiful architecture, and an appreciation for coffee. Plus, Austrians like their desserts as much as I do. Excuse my language, but Vienna makes you feel like one classy-ass-motherfucker. Great vibes made for a great weekend.
On Friday morning, my friends Derek, Molly, and I hopped on the bus for a three hour ride from Budapest to Vienna. After flights and overnight buses for previous trips, a short bus ride was very welcome. We arrived around 10:30am and walked about 20 minutes to our hostel to drop off our bags and buy metro passes for the weekend. We each bought a “Vienna Card” because it was only a few more dollars than a metro pass and included the metro as well as other discounts to museums and restaurants around the city. Don’t buy this if you are a student. At every single place where the Vienna card gives a discount the student discount is either the same or better. It was only a few extra dollars though and we learned our lesson to research before we buy anything like that in the future.
From there we took the metro to the Naschmarkt, which is an outdoor market. It was raining but we still wandered around. We kept seeing a certain pastry at many of the stalls so each of us decided to try one. I can’t remember the name of it or seem to find on Google, but there were a few different fillings; poppy seed and walnut seemed to be the most traditional, but there was also sour cherry cheesecake, apple, and apricot. I tried the cherry and it was pretty good! We needed a little more nourishment than a pastry provided though so we found a restaurant for brunch. After some eggs and coffee, we started wandering the city.
We looked at the Secession, which is a beautiful art nouveau building. From there we saw the St. Charles church (Karlskirche), where we impulsively decided to buy a cheap ticket to go inside, which was totally worth it. The church is beautiful and there is a lift up to the dome where you are just a few feet from stunning frescoes and can get a great view of the city. One thing I love about Vienna is that you can literally just walk around and find something cool to see or do. You could spend the whole day walking without a plan and have a great day.
If I learned anything from my trip to Prague, it’s that weird things happen in Prague. I’m not going to list them all right now, because that’s no fun. You’ll have to read about the normal things I did as well to hear about the weird things.
Before we even left Budapest though, things got interesting. On the way to the bus station with my travel companions, Alyssa and Anum, we encountered the end of a Hungarian soccer game. As we were leaving the metro, floods of people were trying to enter while cheering “Magyarország!” (“Hungary” in Hungarian) and drunkenly waving flags; it was like being a salmon swimming upstream. As we waited for the late bus to arrive we gawked at all the cute Hungarian guys walking by and wondered where they’d been this whole time we’d been in Budapest so far. We quickly decided that we needed to attend a game soon.
The bus eventually arrived and we set off on our seven hour overnight journey to the Czech Republic. After semi-successfully attempting to sleep while sitting upright for the whole ride, we arrived to the Prague Florenc bus station at 6:45 am. Being frugalistas, we decided to take the metro to our hostel rather than take a taxi. Well, this took a while. First we got lost trying to find the metro, even though it was right next to the bus station. Then we found the ticket machine but it only took coins and we only had large bills. Then we tried to get change by buying a pastry from the bakery in the metro station. Anum and I got change, but they wouldn’t give Alyssa change (weird). So we went back up to the bus station to ask another bakery and a Burger King to give us change for our bills; the bakery gave me change but refused Alyssa again. We still didn’t have enough change for all of us, so we decided to try the convenience store. Turns out you could just buy metro tickets at the counter there… who knew.
After easily navigating the metro once we hopped on (even with a transfer… we are metro pros after living in Chicago), we got off at the station near our hostel. Now was the matter of walking to the hostel. After a little wandering in the wrong direction and asking a police officer for directions, we finally found our hostel. We dropped our bags off at Hostel Santini and set off for the Old Town Square. On the way there a woman literally stuck her tongue out at Alyssa… like I said, Prague is odd.
Last Sunday night I arrived back at my dorm tired and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I definitely didn’t feel like a million bucks, but I had just gotten back from a weekend in Italy with views, people, food, and experiences worth more than a million bucks.
Thursday morning we awoke at 4:15 to make our 7:00 flight from Budapest to the Rome Fiumicino Airport. I traveled with my friends Molly, Margaret, and Solveiga, who all live on my floor and go to DePaul as well. After sleeping most of the hour and a half long flight, we landed in Rome at 8:30. The adventures began when we split a cab to Termini station; the cab driver weaved in and out of traffic quite dangerously (which I’ve come to expect of all European cab drivers at this point), tried to point out landmarks to us in very broken English and mostly Italian (which none of us speak), and literally exclaimed “Mama Mia!” several times. The cab ride ended at the Termini train station where we dropped off our carry-on bags so we wouldn’t have to bring them around all day. By this point it was 10:30 and we were starving, so we tracked down a paper map and set off to find some food.
After some mediocre sandwiches at the first food place we could find, we ventured towards the Colosseum. We took in the beauty and fascinating history of the Colosseum and the Forum, then walked to the Victor Emmanuel monument, which is very grand and regal. On the way to more monuments, we stopped for some gelato, which I proceeded to spill all over my hands and onto my white shirt… typical. However, the stop was not in vain because we found ruins that operate as a cat sanctuary, much to Molly’s delight. After petting some cats we walked to the Pantheon, which was probably my favorite monument just because it is such a marvelous building. On the way to the Trevi Fountain, Molly and I stumbled upon the Church of St. Ignatius; the ceiling fresco is definitely worth the visit if you are ever in Rome. From there we found our way to the Trevi Fountain, which was disappointingly under construction. The fountain is very beautiful, but the water effects weren’t operating. I still threw a coin into the small area they left for coin tossing because apparently doing so means you will return to Rome one day.