Europe Trip Recap

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I wanted to post this yesterday, but i've been trying to catch up from my time gone. I am finally back from Europe and excited to get back to blogging. I hope you all had an amazing last two and a half weeks, because I know I did! Today I am going to share all about my trip, the good, the bad, and everything in-between. It's pretty long but I didn't want to leave anything out. I hope you enjoy! 
Day 1: First stop, London (second favorite city). Luckily with our flight times, the jet lag wasn't bad at all. We flew out of Atlanta Friday evening, July 31st and landed in London Saturday morning, August 1st. The plane ride was long, about 7 and a half hours and it was pretty hard to sleep. I swear this was the smallest seat space i've ever sat in. I couldn't move at all! When we finally got in around 8:30 am, we had a full day ahead of us to explore so we took the Tube to our hotel near Regents Park. The hotel wasn't exactly close to Regents Park so we wandered around the city for a while, suitcases in hand until we finally took a cab to the hotel. We checked in, freshened up, and headed out. The first stop was Buckingham Palace where we saw the changing of the guards and walked around the area. There was a bike festival that weekend so it was crazy crowded with a million bikers...you couldn't get anywhere. After that, we headed to Big Ben and the London Eye, where I had to get a picture with the red telephone booths. Next we headed to lunch where we had authentic fish & chips and lots of cider. Cider is huge in London and I was loving it! Also, the fish & chips were different then what I was expecting. I thought they would look like chicken fingers but nope, it looked like a whole fish...luckily the bones, head, and tail weren't included. Sorry I didn't get a picture of my fish & chips, i'm pretty sure I scarfed it down the second it arrived. For dinner, we had ice cream and just wandered around Piccadilly Circus, their main shopping strip and then called it a night. 
Day 2: We overslept on our second day because some of our adapters weren't working and alarms never went off. But no complaints because I was exhausted from the plane ride! Today, we headed to the Tower of London and had a tour around the area. Right outside, there was a jousting match going on, which was really cool to see. Inside the Tower of London, there were way to many people (over 200) to be able to hear our tour guide so we purchased audio guides and did our own tour. It was cool to see everything but I wouldn't say it's something you must do unless you really want to see the crown jewels. From here, we headed to a food market in Waterloo that they have on the weekends. I was in heaven! They had so many options, but I ended up getting a duck burger with truffle fries and homemade sangria. Best thing ever! Next, we hopped on the Tube and headed up to the Camden Lock Market. It had shops, food, and drinks everywhere but also some interesting people...I wouldn't want to be in this area at night. After walking around for a while, we headed to Abbey Road to see the street where The Beatles took their famous album cover photo. I didn't get a picture on the crosswalk because drivers were going crazy yelling at everyone trying to get one. You would think they would just avoid the road because it's always packed with fans and tourists. That night we got drinks and appetizers in Piccadilly Circus at the cutest restaurant area. The whole street was covered in lights and had tons of outdoor dining. I believe it is on Heddon Street and I definitely recommend going here! 
Day 3: This was our last full day, so we started off early with breakfast at Heddon Street. We ate at a French cafe called Aubaine. It was adorably decorated and delicious! I got a crock madame and latte. Next, we did a double decker bus tour of the whole city. We did this in other cities as well, but this one was by far my favorite. We had a hilarious tour guide and got to learn about and see so much of the city. For lunch, we wanted some more fish & chips so we headed to a pub. London is also known for Pimm's so everywhere we went, they had it. We got a pitcher and it was so great. It even had fresh fruit and mint leaves in it! After lunch, we headed to Kensington Gardens to wander around the area. It was very pretty and had a great coffee shop inside! For dinner, we went back into the city and stopped at a random hole in the wall pub. When we first walked in, there were only older men and it seemed like not too many tourists came in here. It was a very small, old building with a stone fireplace. We took a seat and got some drinks and burgers, which ended with shots and dancing to music put on for us by the bartenders. It was a really fun night that I won't ever forget! 
Day 4: Today we took a plane to Budapest bright and early but still had the whole day to explore. We did have one set back though, one of our friends bag's got lost. After waiting around for a couple hours to figure out what was going on, we headed to the hotel. We stayed at the Boscolo which was amazing by the way, and then went out to explore the city. We couldn't all agree on somewhere to eat for lunch so we had McDonalds. Only a few days away from the US and we already wanted some American food. I tried one of their McFlurries and it was disgusting. It had caramel, chocolate, and a cream filling in it, which sounds good up until the cream part. I didn't know about the cream filling because my cash register guy didn't speak English. When I asked what was in it he couldn't really tell me, so I had to go off the picture. After this, we walked toward St. Stephens Basilica passing the high end shopping district, which was a really nice area. At the church, we toured around the inside and got to see the beautiful ceiling! Near the church was a gelato place called Gelarto Rose, where they make roses out of gelato. Definitely go their, the gelato is great and looks really pretty as well! With our gelato in hand, we walked around the river front and then headed back to the hotel to relax for the night. 
Day 5: Located in our hotel was a famous cafe, The New York Cafe. We got to eat breakfast in there and it was probably the most amazing breakfast spread ever. They had so much food and even a mimosa station! Today was the day we finally met up with our tour group so we were happy to get some good food in before we started eating in hostels. After breakfast, we did a bus tour of the city. It was great to be able to see all of the city but the tour was very boring. There was no guide, just an audio tape that you had to listen to through headphones. The one good part about the bus tour was that it took you to the Buda side where you could see the castle and also takes you up to one of the highest parts in the city. You could see everything from there (definitely recommend). The bus tour also came with a river cruise so we did that next and got to see their parliament building up close. Then we were headed back toward the hotel when we got stopped by a huge rain storm that turned to hail. It came out of no where and we couldn't go anywhere for about two hours! Once the storm passed, we hurried back to our hotel (we were behind schedule) to get our bags to meet everyone at the hostel. Once we got there, the man at the reception desk told us that our group had already left for dinner and we were suppose to meet them there. So we dropped off our bags and walked over to dinner. We had absolutely no idea where we were going, all we had was a little area circled on a map. Luckily another waiter helped us find the right place but once we got there, no one was even there yet! About 30-60 minutes later, the whole group finally strolled in following our leader, Noddy. She beelined right towards us already pissed because we were late checking in. We also learned that the whole group was Australian with one Canadian, one Korean, a couple Kiwis (New Zealanders), and now us six Americans. For dinner, we ate traditional Hungarian food. I had stuffed cabbage, which was actually really delicious. I'll definitely be making an at home version in the future. 
Day 6: Today we headed to the House of Terror to learn about Budapest under Communist and Nazi rule. It was interesting but very long and way too much to read. I wouldn't recommend this unless you want to read a short history novel. After that, we headed back towards the river to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial for the Jews in Budapest who lost their lives during World War II. It was very moving to see. Next we wandered around the city because we had seen everything we wanted to see. We threw up peace signs with their newest outdoor art giant, walked around the market, and then got lunch and drinks at a restaurant called Terminal. They had so much outdoor dining it was wonderful. We enjoyed some cold beers and BBQ sandwiches on their patio that had misting fans. I haven't expressed this yet but Budapest was hot. After being in the sun all day, we needed shade and a fan stat. We hung out there for a few hours and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. Across from our hostel, was a whole side street filled with restaurants and bars. We got dinner down there and ate out on the patio. Budapest is a relatively cheap city so I got a whole bottle of Hungarian wine (they are known for it) for $7 and it was actually really good! After dinner we headed to a ruin bar, which are really big in Budapest. It was located in an abandoned old building and was really cool! Definitely go to one if you are ever there. 
Day 7: Today we loaded onto the bus and headed to Vienna (fourth favorite city). We had a 2 and a half hour ride ahead of us with a stop in Bratislava for lunch. In Bratislava, we got to see their castle which over looked the entire city and then we toured the city center. The town was really cute and had a lot of old charm. We had lunch at a hidden restaurant in-between a bunch of buildings. I just loved the atmosphere! But, like I said previously, people are not in a hurry in Europe. We had an hour to eat but by the time we got our beer (brewed in house), we only had a little time left to eat so we got pretzels to go. The beer and pretzel were good, but I was sad I didn't get to try some traditional Slovakian food. Back on the road we went towards Vienna. Once we got into the city we did a driving tour and then stopped at the Schnapps museum. Our tour guide was so funny and kept it very interesting! At the end, we got to sample whatever we wanted. I didn't absolutely love any of them but it was nice to try! Next we arrived at the hostel, which we found out had no AC. It was miserably hot. Usually this part of Europe was colder but it was in a rare, extremely long heat wave and we were there for it. That night we went to Prater, Vienna's fair. We walked around and explored the area. I'm not much of a ride person so I didn't ride any of the rides. I did find some funnel cake donuts though, and I am a sucker for those! My sister and I use to have them at the mall all the time when we were little. I was so happy! 
Day 8: The next morning we headed towards the city square to see St. Stephens Cathedral. The cathedral had the most beautiful roof tiling that we could see even better when we went to the very top. The views were amazing and the breeze was a great break from all the heat. After, we went down to the Catacombs below the church. It was spooky but really cool to see. They had the Habsburg family (royal family) in coffins down there and a ton of bones. That night, we went to an opera/music concert. It was nice to get dressed up and go somewhere nice for the evening but honestly, the concert was pretty boring. Call me an uncultured American (some people did) but I just couldn't stay interested. The musicians played melodies, a man and woman danced to the music, and there were opera singers. I was tired from a long day and I would start dozing off, so I had to fiddle around to stay awake. A plus was that during the intermission, you got a free glass of champagne. I would not recommend this unless you really like classical music. 
Day 9: Today we headed on a 5 hour bus ride to Krakow, Poland (third favorite city). Once we checked into our "hotel", also without AC, we headed into town. I say "hotel" because it was pretty crappy. This hotel wasn't as hot as Vienna, but it was still pretty brutal. Once we got into town, we wandered around. This town was small enough to walk around and had beautiful old buildings with cobble stone streets. We went inside the church and looked at the beautiful ceiling and architecture. Then we wandered up to the castle grounds and goofed around. We had traditional Pierogi for dinner and headed back to the hotel for the night.
Day 10: The next day we were up early to tour Auschwitz. It was extremely sad and moving to see everything and hear about all the things that happened there. Definitely make a trip out there if you are ever in the area. While I was there, I got some books that I can't wait to start reading. After that, we headed into town to wander around. We had an amazing pizza for lunch and then headed to Schindler's Museum in the Jewish Quarter. If I could do it again, I would pass on the tour. Luckily for us, on Mondays the tour is free so we didn't have to pay anything to get in. It was very long and reiterated everything we learned at Auschwitz. It also was far from the city center so we had to take a golf cart taxi. After, we still had some time to kill before the bus came so we enjoyed a cocktail at a rooftop bar overlooking the Vistula River. I got a raspberry mojito and it was so good! Also while we were in town, I picked up some Żubrówka, vodka flavored with a specific type of grass only grown in a certain forest in Poland. That night, we went to a pub crawl in town with some people from our group. It was a lot of fun! We got to see different types of bars and meet people from all over the world. 
Day 11: Onto Prague...another 5 hour bus ride and another hostel without AC. Once we got into the city, we did a walking tour aka sprinting to keep up with our trip leader. The city is very similar to Krakow but way bigger. It had beautiful old buildings with cobble stone streets. The city center was a fun place filled with lots of people and restaurants. After the tour we headed back to the hostel for dinner. Even though there wasn't any AC and it was a little far from town, this was probably one of my favorite hostel atmospheres. They had a beach volleyball court, large bar and food area, and a pool (didn't ever get in but still). That night we just hung out around there and did laundry...much needed! 
Day 12: The next day we headed up to the Prague Castle and Church. It was a steep hike up there but it was worth it. The buildings were beautiful and the views were amazing. You also got to go through a lot of the side streets and see vendors, stores, and houses. On the way down, we stopped at the John Lennon Wall and enjoyed music and cool graffiti. The Wall was breathtaking and great for pictures. We even found our Phi Mu letters graffitied on the Wall. Definitely stop by here if you can! Next, we headed to the Jewish Ghetto. We walked through the cemetery that was covered in tombstones and went inside the Children's museum where they had kids drawings from World War II. It was extremely sad and something you must see. They also had a lot of Jewish vendors in the area with one of a kind items. That evening, we went on a river boat cruise. This is the number one thing I would say to not do. We literally went in a figure eight and saw the same things the whole time...so boring! That night a couple of us went out in Prague and enjoyed the night life in the town. We even went to an America bar! 
Day 13: Next stop, Berlin! But first, a stop in Dresden on the way. This was a beautiful city but we were only there for 2 hours for lunch and then back on the road. Once we got to Berlin, we had a driving tour of the city and stopped at the Berlin Wall and the Soviet War Memorial. The Wall was good to see but not what I expected. I guess I expected it to look more warn down but it was covered in art from a competition they had in the past. Next, we headed to the hostel, still no AC, but it was a cool old building with nice bunkbeds. Once we were situated, we headed out in search of Birkenstocks but sadly all the stores were sold out of what we wanted...very disappointing. For dinner we tried currywurst, which was actually really good. Then we called it a night because we had an early train to catch in the morning. 
Day 14: We decided to take a train to Amsterdam (absolute favorite city) a day early because we were leaving the tour a day early and would of only had one night there. We headed out to the station around 6 am and got some breakfast and coffee before we boarded. In McDonalds, we meet an American family that were traveling as well. They were so sweet and loved hearing all our stories. Luckily, they were going on the same train to Amsterdam with us so they helped us find the platform and sat by us as well. After the 6 and a half hour ride into Amsterdam, we headed to our hotel for the night (still no AC but it was a lot cooler in Amsterdam). That night, we went and saw the I Amsterdam sign, had a Nutella waffle with ice cream, a Heineken, wandered around, and ended the night with drinks on one of the many canal bridges...it was perfect! 
Day 15: The next morning we headed to the Anne Frank house at 6:30 am to get in line for when it opened at 9 am. It sounds crazy I know, but during the day the line lasts around 3-4 hours. No thanks, I would rather just sleep less and explore more. We were the first ones there but were joined by others about 30 minutes later. Amsterdam is not a morning city...nothing opened around us until 9 am so we couldn't even get coffee or breakfast. Luckily, the Anne Frank House Museum had free wifi for people waiting in line, so we got to use that while we waited for it to open. They finally let us in around 8:45 am and it was a really amazing tour. You got to see all about Anne Frank and the others hiding in the Annex (definitely something to do once in your life). At the end I bought The Diary of Anne Frank and a few post cards. I can't wait to re-read it! Next we went and got breakfast at a coffee shop next to our hotel which was amazing! I got a brie and jam sandwich with a chai tea latte. After, we checked out of our hotel and went to explore the city on our last day. We had done everything we absolutely wanted to see, so we just wandered around for the day. Outside of our hotel was a huge market filled with clothes, jewelry, food, and other random items. I absolutely loved it! We tried delicious Poffertjes, which are like small pancakes and I got a wedge of Gouda cheese from a market stand. It was the most amazing cheese I had ever had (and that's saying a lot)! After, we went to the hostel to meet up with our group and just hangout at the bar playing card games until they arrived. Once they did, we headed to the Red Light District. 
*Warning: about to get R rated* 
Our group went to a Sex Show that night which was one of the funniest things ever. When we first heard about it, we thought it was strippers or something like that but no, it was an actual sex show. I guess we were too naive to think it would be an people actually having sex. I was one of the last to come in, so I was on the front row next to one of our guy friends. Once the show started, strippers came out and it was actually really funny. They pulled the guy next to me on stage twice and I died. Literally crying. I don't want to go into the details because it would be another couple pages, but you should definitely go to one if you are ever over there. Except the end, two people actually had sex on stage and it was pretty uncomfortable. They tried to make it funny but it just wasn't. After the show, we wandered around and ate at a Chinese place for dinner. Overall, Amsterdam was my favorite city by far and I could move there tomorrow...I just need to find a job! The only thing I didn't like, was that the bikers ruled the streets. You couldn't walk anywhere without a biker ringing their bell at you telling you to move. But now I am so happy to be home in the USA where water is free, English is the primary language, and my cellphone has service! God bless America!

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha the last R rated section! I can’t wait to hear even more trip stories next week! Sounds like you had a blast :)

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