Monday, January 6, 2014

Final Trip of 2013: Central Europe

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are feeling rested and renewed. Dan and I had a great New Year's as new parents. We put Zahara to bed, had a cocktail (!) and were asleep before midnight. It was perfect. Before we get too far into the new year though, I should tell you about our last trip in 2013. It was epic; One week, three countries and too many pastries to count. We definitely did this trip right.

Living here in England is like living in a bubble in which everyone you know is as well-traveled, or more-so than you. It makes for amazing dinner conversation and I get inspired travel tips daily. The best thing about this swapping of travel stories is that destinations that I may not have given a second thought to previously are moved up to the top of my to-do-list. Case-in-point: Budapest. Before moving here I could (barely) point to Hungary on a map, but that's as far as my knowledge or, frankly, interest went. Yet everyone I know who has been to Budapest swears that it is one of the best cities they've been to. I can now agree. It is amazing.


We figured since we are in the area, we might as well see another city that gets rave reviews: Vienna. Dan's parents were there over the summer and loved it. My parents absolutely hated it, but you can't win them all. People here told us the best way to do Budapest and Vienna is, oddly enough, to fly into Bratislava, Slovakia where you can find some cheap flights. Bratislava is only an hour from Vienna and three hours from Budapest. Since Dan and I never turn down the opportunity to add another country to our itinerary, a trip was born.


We viewed Bratislava simply as a jumping off point to get to the real "meat" of our trip. You only need a day (or less) to see the sights, but I do wish we had spent just a little more time in the Christmas market. It was small, but the pastries there looked amazing. We skipped them thinking we'd get plenty in Hungary and Austria, but I regret that decision. We should have had at least one poppy seed strudel!

We took a self-guided walking tour of Bratislava courtesy of Rick Steves. We borrowed his travel guides for Budapest and Vienna and both had chapters on Bratislava. As I said, the city is small, but very easy to get around. They are on the Euro, which makes things easier too. The Holocaust memorial near the former synagogue was a poignant reminder of the city's past. While it once hosted a vibrant Jewish community, only a fraction of the population survived the Holocaust.

Bratislava today is a quirky town. It has become a bachelor party hot-spot, much to the chagrin of locals. My favorite part about Bratislava is all the quirky statues. Most of them have no history at all and are there just for fun.

After a quick chestnut cake (verdict: interesting, but not my favorite), we made a mad-dash to the train station to catch the train to Budapest. It was one of the most comfortable train rides I've been on; we had a cabin to ourselves. Before we knew it we had arrived! Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on Budapest.

Read about our other stops in Central Europe:
Eating and Bathing in Budapest

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