I travelled with one of my lovely best friends from home, Meri (pronounced Merry) and we decided earlier this year to get to know our European neighbours a little bit better this summer. (Side note: I’m heartbroken over Brexit, loved our European community). I would always choose more of a backpacker style holiday than an all-inclusive because I love immersing myself in new cultures, exploring and staying on the move; so we decided to do 8 cities in 3 weeks and get a little taster of each place. We travelled between cities by coach which was very cheap, comfortable and reliable and I would recommend.
We’ll start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (Sound of Music reference fyi, this is relevant, you’ll see) in Berlin. First full day in Berlin we realised we’d made a packing faux pas as it was actually quite cold, but we managed in our summer clothes, albeit either cold or drunk. We had an amazing first morning; RECOMMENDATION: the free alternative walking tour. Our tour guide was a guy named Peter who had been living in Berlin as an artist for the last 8 years and was really passionate about the music and arts culture within Berlin that makes the city so unique. This was the concept of the tour really, history and politics from a music/arts perspective. The youth in Berlin are amazingly politically-minded, made me feel ashamed really for my lack of knowledge in politics but it inspired me to become more involved. There are absolutely no politics lessons in the British curriculum (unless you study it at A Level) so I still feel like a complete beginner, I might get ‘Politics for Dummies’ on my kindle. Anyway, so I learnt a lot about Berlin and I really encourage you to go and find out for yourself!
That evening we met up with an old friend of mine from Bahrain, Aoife, and went to a vegan-friendly Vietnamese restaurant then a cool rooftop bar for the sunset, Klunkerkranich. The next day Aoife took us on a mini cycling tour of the city, we cycled through the iconic templehof airport which closed in 2008 and became a recreational space and home to thousands of refugees by popular vote in Berlin. We then saw the (underwhelming) Brandenburg gate and visited the holocaust museum which is very sobering but a must in order to appreciate past and present Berlin.
Next on our tour was Prague which was a little hotter thankfully. With beautiful gothic and renaissance architecture, Prague’s finest attraction is the city itself. We spent our days walking up and down the markets on the river, visiting churches and castles and soaking up the relaxed, happy atmosphere. We went out one night to this underground bar that used to be an old train station, the music was trippy and repetitive and techno; the air was humid and hot; the drinks were expensive, but the night ended up being good. We also witnessed the changing of the guard which we were very excited about until we realised it happened every hour, not such a unique experience!
Salzburg was one of my absolute favourite places. We only spent one night but I was already planning my next holiday there before we’d even left. A river runs through the city with mountains and beautiful buildings either side; the air was so clean, it really was such a picturesque place. With multiple classical music concerts happening every night, Salzburg attracts a slightly richer crowd and is subsequently more expensive however the hostel we stayed in, Yoho, was quite reasonable. The next morning we went on a Sound of Music tour which I loved and was one of the highlights of my trip!! I adore musicals, especially the Sound of Music so it was such a special experience to see where they shot the scenes and learn about the real Von Trapp family. Our tour guide was fantastic, a mix of cheesey and dry humour, very informative and friendly. I decided when I’m older and have more money, I’m going to visit Salzburg in the winter, stay in a nice hotel, see an opera or a concert and ice skate on the frozen lakes, it’s on my to-do list.
From there we went to Vienna, another beautiful city but what made our visit so special was that we were a 5 minute walk from the famous Vienna Film Festival. There were loads of gourmet, international food stalls and a buzzing atmosphere all day. The first night we saw a Swedish Clarinetist and the second night we saw an opera. The featured image in this post is of the pedestrian traffic lights in Vienna, half of them were two men and the other half two women, in celebration of gay pride. Amazing. The city is beautiful, I recommend doing some researching and picking a few places you want to go/eat, because at first glance there’s not much to do.
After Vienna came Budapest and the arrival of Jack and Charlie; Jack being Meri’s boyfriend. We went on another great free tour around the city, learnt all about Hungary’s interesting, lesser-known history and got orientated with its small capital. Our tour guide was very patriotic and portrayed Budapest (pronounced Budapesht) in a majestic light. We learn that Hello is pronounced ‘seeya’ and Goodbye is pronounced ‘Allo’ ironically. If you want to say ‘cheers’ in Hungarian, say ‘I-guess-she-can-drive’ fast and slurred. Budapest has churned out 3 Nobel prize winners (all of which were in the same chemistry class at school, I wonder if they were friends), is the birthplace of the Rubik’s cube and is the main exporter of various materials. It’s also where the famous magician Harry Houdini was born – we visited his museum. If you’re in Budapest, a few more must-visits are the hot spring bath-spa’s and the ruin bars which come alive at night. We visited a few amazing ruin bars, including one that was voted in the top 3 bars in the world a few years ago! Dedicate at least one morning to lying in because the ruin bars are a must-see.
Our last 3 cities were all in Croatia, we spent one night in Zagreb to explore and 3 in Split then the boys went home and me and Meri had 4 nights in Dubrovnik. We had one of our best nights out in Zagreb then made our way down to Split the next day. We stayed in a beautiful apartment which we found on Booking.com and spent our first day chilling out on pebbled beaches. The second day we explored the old town and visited Sandy beach, a small cove which has the only sand beach in Split and the third day went on a tour to the national park which has the most amazing waterfalls!
Dubrovnik was spent reading, relaxing on the beach, swimming and drinking red wine on our balcony, a perfect way to end our holiday. It’s so important to get out there and see the world. To realise that literally anything is possible if you know where to look. You don’t have to settle for the lifestyle you grew up with and you certainly don’t have to end up in a 9 to 5 job you hate, praying that England gets more than 2 weeks of sun this year. I love the sun, it makes me happy and I want to live somewhere where it’s normal to wake up to sunshine. I also love experiencing new cultures and challenging the narrow perspective of social norms you’re used to and realising that everything you consider rude / polite / right / wrong is completely different in other parts of the world and that you don’t have to live your life according to the morals of the town you grew up in.