Weekend in Vienna

A few summers ago, I took advantage of an invitation and went to visit my friend in Vienna.

It was my first proper visit there, so I decided I would enjoy Vienna and see the city I’ve  heard and read so much about. Being a history geek, I know a decent amount about the history of the region and the Habsburg family and I was excited about seeing it all in person.

So, on a Friday afternoon after work, I hopped on a train. I made the wrong decision of grabbing a seat in a compartment with four Australian teenagers, who were doing a big Eurotrip and despite having already visited Berlin, were convinced that they were “going to Germany.” All in all, it was not a very comfortable train ride.

Four and half hours later, I stepped off the train in Wien Praternstern, where my friend was eagerly awaiting me. We walked to her place, which did not take long and grabbed dinner on the way, while catching up on the recent events in our lives.

On Saturday morning, I was woken up by the sound of rain against the window. Luckily, it was just a short shower and we were soon able to leave and explore the city. We walked and I saw some of the main sights –  St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Opera house. We ducked into a few stores along the way, which made me realize that my German is worse that I thought.

After a walk through the city, we hopped on the metro and went to see the Schonbrunn palace. After making our way through large amounts of tourists – and stopping at a café for lemonade and the famous Sacher Tort, we finally emerged in the palace gardens. The only word I can think of to describe them is magnificent. The palace and gardens  were bigger and grander than I imagined them. Even the sun decided to come out from behind the clouds. While walking through the gardens, my mind went back in time, imagining the lives of those who lived here a mere hundred years ago and their ancestors. We climbed up to the top of a hill, where the Gloriette stands. The view was amazing and it is easy to see, why this specific site was chosen for the palace.  We sat down in the grass and I was taking in every moment, every image.

schonbrunn-palace-944799_1280

After deciding that we should probably get going, we went back to the apartment to make dinner. We had a lazy evening, but decided that we shouldn’t stay in. So we went for a walk in Prater. We wanted to avoid the tourists and the loudness of the attractions, so we walked through the park.

Sunday morning came fast and with it the need to pack. We then went for a short walk, where I bought a few mandatory souvenirs and postcards, and saw the Hundertwasser house with its interesting architecture and fun designs.  A short visit to Starbucks (and the purchase of the Vienna mug from their collection), concluded my visit and I got on the train to go back.

I have to say, I really liked Vienna. Nothing there surprised me – the architecture and history makes it very similar to Prague or Budapest. I wish I had more time there, which means that I am definitely planning on coming back – there is still so much to see. But, before I visit again, I plan on improving my German and reading more about the city’s fascinating history.  


READ MORE: 

Japan

Arima Onsen


Easter in the Czech Republic

Even though the Czech Republic is mostly an atheist country, we’re pretty big on certain holidays that originate in Christianity. Just like Christmas, Easter is a big thing. So, we’re going to take a break from Pav’s Japan coverage and tell you a bit about it.

Easter markets

In bigger towns, such as Prague, they have Easter markets, similar to the ones at Christmas. Everything is decorated in spring themes and people can walk around various booths, buying Easter decorations and food.

The traditions

An important aspect of Easter traditions are the decorations. People usually decorate their homes in a spring theme – branches, flowers, Easter eggs (which can be quite elaborate), bows in vibrant colors. Yellows and reds are very prominent.

Food is a big part of the celebrations. People bake lamb, usually instead of meat they make a pastry.

Easter Monday

This is actually the biggest day for celebrations and also the hardest to explain to our non-czech friends. Sunday is usually used for preparations for Monday, which is a national holiday and everybody gets the day off. Girls decorate eggs and boys maeaster-1274835_1280ke their pomlazka, which is made of braided twigs and decorated with bows. On Monday, boys walk around their villages or towns, door to door and lightly whip girls with their pomlazka while saying a poem. This is done to symbolica
lly ensure health and youth for the girls for the following year. As a reward, girls give the boy eggs that she decorated the previous day or chocolate (for adults, a shot of alcohol is also acceptable). It may sound odd to outsiders, but it is a part of the culture and history.

What do you think about Czech Easter traditions?


READ MORE: 

Japan

5 things I never leave at home


San Francisco in less than 3 Days

A couple of weeks ago we went on short (2.5 day) trip to San Francisco and yes, we did a lot of touristy things! It was our first time on the West Coast, so we took advantage of the nice weather and explored some of the main sights.

 


IMG_6259Friday night we walked from our hotel, which, amazingly enough, was right by Union Square, to the Fisherman’s Wharf. It was about a thirty minute walk, half up an excruciating hill and the second half of it down. The directions weren’t complicated, literally we just had to walk straight. So that wasn’t an issue, we only got a little doubtful when we got into a very sketchy looking Chinatown. But we made it through and were rewarded with a really good fresh crab and a octopus-calamari salad when we got to the Wharf.

 

For dinner we took an Uber to a small restaurant, that the receptionist at our hotel recommended to us, called Pacific Catch. I got an amazing salmon filet with really good sweet potato fries! We were all so happy after that meal, but exhausted! We ended the day and headed back to the hotel. Since we were all jet lagged, all coming for the trip from very different time zones, we ended up going to sleep at about 9pm, so much for being a crazy college student, am I right?

IMG_6270

The next day we went for brunch and I love brunch food, so I was very excited to get good brunch and not just food at my dining hall. We searched around on Yelp! for something that was nearby and lucked out when we came across Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery. We randomly picked it out, because it was close by, but we were blown away with the quality and amount of food we got. It turned out to be a cute little cafe with a really long line. However, we didn’t wait too long and we managed to get a table right away. I definitely recommend this cafe! It is a must! Just make sure you get there at a good time, because I’m sure the place gets even more crowded.

 

Next, came an activity Alena and I feared a little. Ok, that’s a lie, we very afraid of it: biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were up for the challenge, but it was definitely going to be a struggle, since neither of us has gone biking in about 10 years. However, I am quite stubborn, so, with words that I was afraid were going to be my last, I declared CHALLENGE ACCEPTED and got on my bike.

DSC_1835

We rented bikes from Blazing Saddles, I questioned the name of it, but kept my doubts to myself. My favorite, however, was their short video we had to watch before renting the bikes. This amazing and not at all cheesy video gave us an overview of our tour and sights “we definitely cannot miss”. The very excited woman told us not to forget to turn right onto the bridge, which shocked us all, and told us to “just enjoy the view” as we rode across it. Meanwhile the woman at the counter got very sassy about it, clearly annoyed at having to watch the same video over and over.

DSC_1885

We weren’t sure what to expect of the actual bike ride, but we loved this trip! The weather was amazing and the view was priceless and as the video recommended, we “just enjoyed the view”! After a while we even got used to dodging families on the sidewalk (we never got used to cars, but that’s ok, we survived)! The journey was about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) long and took us 4 hours, which I definitely count as a huge success! We managed to get to Sausalito, where we took a ferry back to the ferry building. And we even navigated the busy streets of San Francisco and got back to Fisherman’s Wharf without getting hit by a car!

 

TIP: Bring enough water! It’s a long journey and you definitely need to keep hydrated

 

That night we deserved a nice big meal in a great restaurant, the name of which was forgotten after three glasses of wine. Our dad’s friend order basically EVERYTHING on the menu and we ate almost all of it. And just like the night before, we passed out after our long day.

coast-watermark

On our last day we went the Cliff house and went for a walk/hike along the coast. Finally, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge from all possible angles and took hundreds and hundreds of photos of it, and I felt complete :D. I could leave San Francisco knowing I took more than enough photos, about 400.

We ended our trip with The Cheesecake Factory, so yet again, another big meal. Our trip was so much fun and even though we didn’t manage to see everything we wanted to, we call it a success! We will definitely go back to see more sights and especially tour Full House filming sights!


READ MORE: 

Dubai: first impression

Three Days in Munich


How to plan your trip (without going crazy)

DSCN2952Originally I was going to write this post while planning my three week trip to the US in September, but because, as usual, life happened and I had to cancel last minute. But even though I didn’t go, I went through the entire process of trip planning, so I decided I would share with you how I do it.

Even though it depends on what sort of a trip you’re planning – weekend getaway, road trip across a foreign country or a beach getaway, you have things to learn and plan, so here are my tips

  1. Flight (alternatively bus or train tickets, or car route). Basically, how are you getting to your destination (or the start point of your road trip) and back? It’s always good to start with this so that you have definite time information about the beginning and end of your trip. Personally, I check on websites that compare multiple airlines, so that I get an idea of the prices and can pick who I want to fly with. But I usually end up buying tickets with the airlines themselves, they are usually ever so slightly cheaper and the terms might be better. So it’s worth it to check out both the airline itself and other websites.
  1. Now that you know how and when you’re getting to your destination, it’s time to decide whether or not you will be in one destination for the entire trip or if you’ll be moving around. If you’re going to be moving around and spending time in different places, the next step is to check out transportation. Will you be renting a car? Taking a bus? Train? Look up arrangements, costs and travel times and possibilities. As was the case with my trip to the US, I looked at a few bus companies and AmTrak. I ended up picking a combination of buses that suited my route and budget the best. Map out your entire journey – if I plan on moving around, I like printing a map and drawing my routes in or looking them up on Google.
  1. Hotels! This is my favorite part. I love looking at places to stay and sleep. And since you have your individual trips planned out, you know where you will be staying. Look up possibilities and make sure to look at customer reviews on websites such as Trip Advisor. Also, don’t trust the amount of stars a hotel has. We’ve seen so many different three star hotels – ranging from nearly luxury suites to tiny moldy rooms.
  1. Now that you know the most important things, it’s time to see what you can do and see when you’re there! Obviously, if all you want to do is lie on a beach, your job is super easy. If you want to see as much as possible, look at things that are reachable by public transport or within a couple hours’ drive.
  1. And, most importantly, HAVE FUN!! Be flexible, don’t freak out when things don’t go exactly according to plan, they rarely do. But that’s what makes life interesting :)

My final tip is – you never know when you’ll have or won’t have access to the internet or a printer. Make sure you have the most important documents printed – plane/bus/train tickets, hotel reservations and possibly a list of places you want to go.

Is there anything you like to do when you plan a trip? Let me know below :) Fun travels!


READ MORE: 

How we flew with Ryan Air

Festival survival tips


A Day in Hungary

Our one-day trip to Budapest quite an interesting experience. Having traveled quite a lot our entire lives, we usually feel prepared for travels, especially single day trips. However, no amount of experience prepared us for our road trip to Budapest.

IMG_6022

Driving from Prague to Budapest takes about 8 hours, which isn’t too bad. And we didn’t have any issues in Czech Republic, or Slovakia for that matter. Our first problem was on the border between Slovakia and Hungary. We had to stop and pay for the highway toll, which really, really should not have been a issue. Yet somehow it was the first hiccup on our trip. We thought we could pay for the toll with a credit card, silly us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t. And what was even more unfortunate was the fact that we did not have any Forints, the local currency. Somehow, we didn’t even have Euros. I know, we should have been more prepared, but we really thought we would manage with a card. Luckily, they let us pay with Czech crowns and we continued on our journey to Budapest.

 

1st big TIP: BRING CASH! Always bring cash of the local currency, even if you think you won’t need, chances are, you will!

 

After getting lost a couple of times and managing to get back on our way, we finally arrived in front of our hotel, Easy Hotel, in Budapest at 7pm. Checking in was a little bit of a struggle, because of a language barrier, but we managed. We even managed to get ready relatively quickly for the One Republic concert, which was the point of the whole trip. Next, we had to figure out how to get to the concert.

IMG_6009

The metro was a whole other experience. We got onto the metro at Oktogon, which is on the yellow line, and had to get off at the Stadionok, on the red line. Should be straight forward enough. Except that Stadionok was not always called that, on some maps it was Puskás Ferenc Stadion. We decided to just trust our gut and get off any stop that has the word Stadium in it.

 

Finally, we made it and we even made it on time. The concert was phenomenal, but that is it’s own story.

 

After the concert we decided it might be safer to just walk back, instead of taking the metro. Plus there was a huge crowd of people from the concert walking in the same direction as us, so we figured we would get back fine. Well after we shed the crowd at the nearest parking lot, we continued our walk, through a somewhat sketchy part of Budapest. After walking through a neighborhood, which was made up of houses fit to be in horror movies, we got to the Budapest Keleti railway station, therefore much closer to the center of the city. We stopped by the closest McDonalds so that we could make it the rest of the way.

 

After another 20 or 30 minutes we made it back to our hotel, where we passed out, resting for the 8 hour drive back.

 

Well, originally it was supposed to be 8 hours. I believe it was more like 10 hours, because, yet again, we got a little lost in Budapest. Well, it wasn’t really our fault. We just didn’t quite manage to get on the bridge to cross the Danube. And the real big issue was that there are very few bridges that cross the river, so once we missed it, we had to drive along the river for about 30 or 45 minutes, before we managed to cross it. Then we had to go almost all the way back to the first bridge, before connecting to the highway.

IMG_6006

Killing so much time by just driving through Budapest, meant that we got hungry when we were still in Hungary. So we stopped for food at a rest stop just before the borders with Slovakia. When looking at the menu, we were very unsure of what the food was. So we thought we couldn’t go wrong with marinated Buffalo wings. Well, we were wrong! Not only were they not Buffalo wings, but they weren’t even wings! We got chicken tenders. Which meant that I didn’t eat, because of my gluten allergy. Well, there was nothing we could do. So after picking at the fries and after trying to get the waiter’s attention, we got the bill. Again, we couldn’t pay with a credit card, so here’s my second tip:

 

            2nd tip: Bring enough cash. And then bring some more.

 

In Budapest we got cash and we thought we had enough cash to get back home. Well, we didn’t expect to stop in Hungary. So we ended up having just enough cash to pay for our food. Although, we got quite nervous, when we were short a couple hundred forints. Thankfully, I searched the car for any spare change and found just enough. Greatly relieved, we continued our journey home.

 

We got lost just a couple more times, but eventually we made it back home. The trip was a little dramatic, especially because of credit card issue, but then again, what is an adventure without a little bit of drama :)