Exploring a few European capitals – Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna

Budapest certainly lived up to everything I’d heard and I could see myself spending more time there if ever an opportunity presented itself. The city is an interesting mix between East and West Europe with lots of history, many beautiful sights and a great night-life.

As I’ve often said, places are often about the people you meet and I was fortunate to enjoy some great nights with awesome people – a group of Swiss students on a weekend trip from Geneva and then 4 British folk who were on various missions. Budapest has heaps of very funky, and arbitrary bars, and we found a few thanks to the “Spy” map we were given at the hostel (this map can be found in a few cities and is one that includes details about pubs, clubs, restaurants, hostels etc. As well as random fun facts about the city & crucial phrases to help you get by – I like your muscles & Do you like flowers being just 2 such examples)

Tucking into the best falafel in town
Tucking into the best falafel in town (in Vienna)

As I’d been in Hungary before, I introduced everyone to the awesome Egeshegedra (cheers in Hungarian) – love that word!

One of the highlights of the travels was the Hungarian folk music band we saw at this awesome bar on my last night in town – 4 violinists, a flute, a Hungarian instrument I have never seen before (a long pipe really), the instrument 1 bigger than the cello, a singer … it was absolutely fantastic sitting on the floor of this cellar pub listening to Hungarian folk music. After a few songs, some traditional dancing kicked off and yours truly got involved – we all know that the only dance I can do fairly well is one called the Turtle dance so I had no hope really. Great fun nevertheless and a real highlight for the memory bank.

From Budapest, via the varsity town of Sopron where I spent a night singing Elvis at the local karaoke bar, I made my way to Vienna to catch up with Ingrid, whom I’d met hiking volcanoes in Guatemala. It was great seeing an ‘old’ friend again and she showed me round brilliantly. While I enjoyed seeing a few of the sights; the beautiful Schonbron palace, a few churches, the stunning architecture that the city is known for etc., I am not a huge museum fan so I chose to skip those. I far prefered dancing like a muppet at this awesome club called Flex, being introduced to the best falafel in town by Andi, Ingrid’s roommate, sampling cheese at the local market & enjoying dinner with Ingrid & her folks in her home town of Modling.

One of the bronze statues dotted around the city centre
One of the bronze statues dotted around the city centre
One of the bronze statues dotted around the city centre
One of the bronze statues dotted around the city centre

While I was in town, there was a house party at their place & I met some super people here. Having just checked the rugby score, I was well surprised when 1 girl rocked up in a Sharks jersey. Who would have thought. One guy I met at the party, Gabriel from France, joined me on my trip to Bratislava for a day and we had a great time wandering about the city.

 Dotted round the city centre are these bronze statues, two of more famous one being the Paparazzi and Man at Work). We also discovered the beautiful blue Church of St. Elisabeth,   tried some delicious local food and contested a serious game of table tennis at this random store we found. See you in Paris someday buddy!


Serious game going on here!
Serious game going on here!

Back in Vienna for 1 night, I headed to the opera to see The Barber of Seville – Figaro, Figaro. While I know nothing about opera, even I have heard of this one so when in Vienna & all. I had no idea how it all works but I lined up about 2 hrs before and paid EUR4 for a standing “spot”. As I was early enough, I got an actual spot which meant that I had a bar to lean on & little screen in front of me with subtitles – awesome! (If you come later, you stand in between the 2 standing sections so you have nothing to lean & no subtitles). I thoroughly enjoyed the music and the experience & recommend it to anyone visiting the city.

I’ve now just made my way into Czech. The plan is to spend some time in the south wandering about Cesky Krumlov & tasting beer at a few breweries before heading onto Prague & the varsity town of Ollomocs. Beer costs EUR 1 here; I like this place already.

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