After exploring the ins and outs of London for over a week, I was keen to venture further into Europe with some friends to explore some new cities and feel the financial wrath of my desire for independence. So I headed off to Berlin to meet up with a group of 8 girls, only two of which I knew before I arrived. It was sort of one of those situations where everyone just seemed to bring along a friend, and we meshed together as one group, picking up and dropping off people along the way. We all made friends with one another, as well as others, and ended up being a Southern Hemisphere force to be reckoned with as we took on Europe together.
I liked to think that my flight from Stansted to Schönefeld was in the category of “cheap and cheerful”, as it was at 6:30 on a Wednesday morning. Although it was very cheap, it ended up being far from cheerful… Apparently my utterly brilliant mind decided “it would fine” and “I wouldn’t be that tired” when I decide to go out and not sleep at all before my flight. Granted, all did seem fine until I caught a moment of shut-eye on the bus from Victoria to Stansted. That’s when my body started to fight back. No, nope, nuh-uh, not happening, it seemed to say when bus screeched to a halt and the far too cheerful bus driver announced that we had arrived. However, thankfully I somehow managed to drag my feet like a zombie all the way onto the plane and found myself in Germany in no time.
Despite perhaps being too tired to really take anything in properly, I did really enjoy my two days in Berlin. In the short time I was there, I managed to squeeze in visiting: The Berlin Catherdral, Museum Island, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenberg Gate, The Jewish Memorial & Museum, the Berlin, the Reischtag Building, The Berlin Victory Column and AlexanderPlatz. The Berlin Cathedral was definitely a stand-out for me (warning: art-nerd alert). The whole place was immense, and the ceilings tower over you like you just couldn’t imagine. Not to mention the incredibly realistic religious artwork plastered everywhere, and the insane view from the climb to the top.
One of the most interesting things I found about Berlin was that it made no effort to be pleasing to the eye. Most of the buildings (apart from the obvious extravagance of the cathedrals) were extremely dull, grey and flat. Even important establishments like embassies weren’t the prettiest and were clearly chosen and made for their functionality. It was as if someone had tried very hard to epitomise the German stereotype of efficiency over enchantingness in its very capital city. They definitely nailed that one.
I feel as though myself and The Czech Republic had a someone love-hate relationship. As although it was a beautiful place and definitively one my favourite cities I’ve visited, me being me, I couldn’t help catching a bit of bad luck whilst being there. One day I was sitting on an island, in a park surrounded by the Vltava River, eating pizza and drinking wine with my friends whilst we basked in the sunshine and the vibes of the old-school music whirling out of someone’s phone. However, the next, I somehow managed to break my suitcase, pay a lot of money for a new one, lose all of my jewelry (and I mean all of it except for the two pieces I was wearing) and cop an 800 Koruna fine for not bringing my train ticket with me on the metro. To be fair, the day before had been far too perfect, something bad had to happen. But although my horrible last day left me crying and on the verge of a panic attack at the Prague public bus station before jumping on my overnight bus to Budapest, it has by far been one of the best places I’ve visited so far.
This is place is crawling with gorgeous old stone buildings and incredible views that we all couldn’t seem to get enough of. So everyday we meandered further and further through the city, and we managed to visit some pretty incredible landmarks. We saw: Prague Castle, the John Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, the Astronomical Clock, St Vitus Cathedral, Wenceslas Square, Petrin Lookout Tower and the Old New Synagogue. My inner art geek came out once again at the Prague Castle, making it a real highlight for me as a gawked at its gothic features. My friends and I also shared one of those “I love my life and humans are great” moments at the John Lennon Peace Wall when the sun shone and an old Czech man strummed his guitar and sung “Here Comes The Sun” as we read all of the uplifting messages of peace written on the wall. As our time in Prague was coming to an end, I was also equally gifted with a “wow, what a small world” moment in our very nice hostel. As Chloe and I discovered that the boy sleeping opposite to us went to the King’s School in Sydney (essentially a boy’s equivalent of our school, Frensham) and was in the same year as one my best friend’s brothers. But finally I had to bid farewell to this dear old town (not to worry, just until Summer), as we uncomfortably slept our way to Budapest on the overnight bus.
We arrived disturbingly early into Budapest on the overnight bus from Prague, and got to the hostel at around 7 am. Let me tell you that I’ve never heard a place so dead quiet. It seemed that most of our fellow travellers were sleeping off whatever had occurred the night before.
But we settled straight in and explored all that we could from day one. Our nights in Budapest were filled with watching more brave travelers than ourselves attempt olympics and making many friends in the process
, whilst our days were spent exploring the history of the old town. It was really fascinating to learn about the huge divide that the city used to have, and to see how the actions of the past still quite literally left bullet-holes in the city that lives on today. We decided to walk everywhere that we went, and ended racking up at least 25,000 steps a day. The choice to avoid paying for transport anywhere served a dual purpose of getting to see the city in a more authentic way, as well helping to burn off the excessive amount of sugary cocktail buckets and pastries we had been consuming.
These adventures saw us visit: The Chain Bridge, Fisherman’s Bastion, Szechany Thermal Baths, St Stephen’s Basilica, The Hungarian Parliament Building, Matthias Church, Shoes on the Danube Bank, Dohany Street Synagogue, The Great Market Hall and The Liberty Statue. A highlight for me was definitely seeing some of these sights lit up at night, as our hostel had organised a Night Boat Party for the crazies in our hostel, and their sister party hostels. With a free bottle of champagne offered to every person, illuminated old buildings to look at along the bank, and old tunes to sing along to, life didn’t seem to bad.
Unavoidably though, our adventures eventually had to come to an end. And what other way to finish it, than with a 7 am flight back to London? This insanely early flight was only made worse as the journey was then followed by a train, a bus, a ferry, and then another bus to make it all the way back to the boarding house. My Easter Holidays were certainly unforgettable as I’d discovered some of my new favourite cities, spent time with my favourite people, made loads of new friends and even more unforgettable memories.
Until next time, Europe… Bring on Summer Half-Term!