Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland

The last picture-filled recap blog! Say it with me: “Awwwww…”

We left off in Croatia, on our way to Budapest, Hungary. Jessica and I made our way there through a series of taxis, buses, trams and trains and finally arrived on a Friday afternoon.

Hold on — before I continue, a warning: We kind of got screwed in Budapest a few times. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it wasn’t an awesome, beautiful city anyway. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Upon arrival at the place we’d rented for the weekend, we found ourselves locked out of the building with no way to contact the host or the property owner. After a couple of hours of frantic emailing, calling and Skyping we just dropped it and got into a nearby hotel for the night.

We went out to one of the main bar streets and had some delicious street food and beer, before hitting a few of the pubs around town. Most of our time in Budapest consisted of eating, drinking and meeting some cool people (when it was sunny, at least – more on that in a moment) at pub crawls. We did some sightseeing too, though – the river/bridge/parliament/castle area of Budapest is definitely one of the prettiest parts of any city I visited. Check it out!

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, Kraków
This dude was just cookin’ up our delicious meal right there.

Budapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, KrakówOn our last day we had a recovery and relaxation day at the famous baths, before hopping a train over to Prague. We had an overnight train, and despite pretty nice weather all day, we were hit with a monsoon-level rainstorm about two hours before our train was scheduled to depart.

We were only a couple blocks away from the train station, but got absolutely drenched as we waded through ankle-deep (seriously) water on the way there. Needless to say, the train ride itself was one of the more uncomfortable ones.

One thing that stands out now, that I didn’t realize at the time, was the amount of people in the train station. You may have heard about Syrian refugees crowding Keleti Station in Budapest recently? Well, that’s the station we left from. And even though it was a few weeks ago now, we didn’t realize the masses of people in the station weren’t simply hiding from the rainstorm – many were there trying to get away from Syria and into any country that would take them. It’s crazy to think Jess and I were that close to the situation, and were barely aware of it at the time!

So, Prague. We got to Elf Hostel and immediately passed out for half a day because of the horrible train ride and exhausting final day in Budapest. But when we woke up and got to explore the city a little bit, I was pretty amazed by the beauty. My sister had told me in the past that Prague was her favorite city she’d visited, and I saw why very quickly.

From the vibrant old town, to the massive castle and never-ending nightlife, Prague was an absolute dream. Jessica and I met a few really cool people from the States, Ireland, England, Australia and more and went out clubbing with them on our second night (Three things learned from this night that you must know if visiting Prague: Don’t drink absinthe and red bull, there is ONE 24-hour McDonald’s, and there are totally hedgehogs in downtown Prague).

A handful from the group that night (Kimberley from Oregon, Elliot and Peter from England, and Mika from Australia) ended up hitting it off with us and we spent most of the next few days in Prague together on walking tours, out at bars and clubs and just hanging out at the hostel.

Unfortunately, after a week and a half or so of traveling with Jess, she had to split back to Amsterdam for the weekend so she could fly home. I spent the last day and night of my time in Prague seeing an improv show with Mika and doing some solo sightseeing (Lennon Wall was the coolest!) around the beautiful city.

That night, I ate some baked pork knee (naturally) and hopped my final train. It was of the overnight variety, and headed to Krakow, Poland. Here are some pictures from the beautiful Prague:

Budapest, Prague, Kraków
Famous medieval astronomical clock.

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, Kraków
L to R: Mika, Elliot (hiding) and Jess at a pub where you fill from your table’s tap and pay by the liter!

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówKraków, Prague, Budapest attempt 2I shared a cabin with Robert from Poland and Sune and Tanja from Denmark, and we spent a few hours laughing, chatting and drinking beer. Nights like those are a constant reminder of the sheer excitement that comes from meeting new people in unexpected situations. Sitting down in a random train cabin on an overnighter from Prague to Krakow made me three new friends – ain’t traveling the best?

When I got to Krakow, I found my way to the hostel I’d booked (and the same one Kimberley, Elliot, Peter and Mika were staying in!) and waited a few hours to check in. That afternoon, that whole crew and I joined a larger tour group going to Auschwitz. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly sad, humbling experience, but one that I really needed to see.

There’s a full, separate blog on this topic that I’ll write eventually, but just know that visiting Auschwitz should be on everyone’s to-do list if in that region of Europe and you should be fully prepared for any expectations of pain and anguish to be quickly exceeded.

Budapest, Prague, Kraków
A rose left by a visitor on the bunk of a prisoner’s bunk bed.

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówMoving on. That night, we had a few drinks at the hostel before the guys went out and explored the Krakow nightlife. I truly expected nothing of a little Polish city, but found myself falling in love with the vibrant, colorful college town quite quickly. To me, it was a mini-Prague. I couldn’t have asked for a better final stop on this trip.

Anyway, on Sunday, Mika and I took a walking tour of the city (which just made falling in love with Krakow that much easier) and then went on a tour to the famous salt mines nearby later. Peter and Kimberley left that afternoon, and Elliot took off later that night, only to make a glorious return to the hostel around midnight when his train was cancelled. Naturally, we celebrated by partying. As you do.

Elliot and Mika both had to leave on Monday, leaving me alone and friendless until my flight on Wednesday (just kidding, guys…I found other friends!). On Tuesday, I went on the hostel pub crawl with a huge group of guests including some new friends like Tilly and Shannan from the UK and Andrew from Scotland! That hostel (and that city) really knows how to throw a party.

My last day was Wednesday and since I had a late-afternoon flight to Paris, I took advantage of the sunny day and did one more self-guided walking tour around Krakow, including taking a couple of hours to just lounge in the sun under the massive castle, near the river. Here are some pictures from Krakow, my final stop on the trip: Budapest, Prague, Kraków

Budapest, Prague, Kraków
Random observation, but hanging lamps, drainpipes, etc. in Krakow were weirdly awesome and artistic.
Budapest, Prague, Kraków
This is old-school punishment for Polish folks in Krakow – neck goes in the clamps there (on the side of a church) and they’re at a perfect level so that you can’t stand or sit. They’d leave people out there all night in the cold, unable to do anything but squat awkwardly. Mika was kind enough to demonstrate for our tour group, but I don’t have a picture.

Budapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówBudapest, Prague, KrakówPOST DAMN IT

I took my quick flight to Paris that night and spent about 36 hours just hanging out in a tiny hotel near the airport, prepping myself physically and emotionally for my trip actually ending. I’m actually not sure I’ve fully accepted that it’s over now, but we’re getting there.

That’s it for the final recap like this of the trip, but look for plenty more to come in this space. Just because I’m home doesn’t mean the traveling is over. In fact, I just got back from a camping trip in Big Sur…pictures to come soon.

Yeah, you can’t get rid of me and my blogs that easily!

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