So, for our first blog post, Brooke and I decided we would write our own take on our first solo sister trip. This past June, Brooke wanted to take a trip before moving back to the States. I basically forced myself into her vacation plans. That’s just how I roll. Next thing I knew, I had planned our entire vacation and she was going to have to like the itinerary…she really didn’t have a choice. But, lucky for her, I know what I’m doing (with the help, of course, from Rick Steves–my idol). So ok, Eastern Europe is what we were thinking. Mostly because we’re poor. As it turned out, eastern Europe has everything we could’ve dreamed of and more. When planning a vacation on a short time line, you need to have a game plan. That was my goal, to figure out exactly what we should be doing in each place for each day.
To some people, that may sound too “planned” and not “spontaneous” enough…but trust me: the last thing you want to do while you’re in a city for 2 days is sit in your hostel and play the “what do you want to do?” “oh, I don’t care, what do you want to do?” (insert Jungle Book scene here). Everyone wants their vacation to be “unique” and “not touristy” but let’s be real–these sights and experiences are touristy because they’re things you CAN’T miss! I like my share of authenticity from time to time, but I’m also that happy tourist with my fanny pack on sitting on the Big Bus Tour in almost every city. And Rick Steves wouldn’t have it any other way.
People, I highly recommend Rick Steves travel books. I do not work for him (although it would be my highest honor) nor am I making any money by telling you to buy these books (unfortunately), just trust me. You can read it in the comforts of your own bathroom if you’d rather drop dead than let the rest of the world see you read such a thoroughly researched piece of work.
Long story short, I planned this monster of a trip, and I’m proud of my work. I basically dragged Brooke from place to place, read aloud from Ricky’s book (I have zero shame) and learned some amazingly fascinating history.
Here’s how we did it: (if you’re interested…if not, just keep scrolling)
Flew into Madrid, Spain (that’s where I met up with Brooke and also happened to be the cheapest starting point for the flight to our next destination). The next evening, we flew to Budapest, Hungary. We got in pretty late, at about midnight, but that flight was $52 so we were not complaining–and it was built into the schedule of course. We stayed at a pretty nice hostel for 3 nights. This gave us 2 and a half full days in Budapest. From there, we had a train ticket (bought online in the States on raileurope.com) called the Triangle Pass connecting Budapest, Vienna or Salzburg, and Prague. We didn’t want to spend too much of our time in transit, we wanted to spend the majority AT the destination (duh). So, next on the list was a 2 hour train ride to Vienna, Austria. We spent two nights there in a hostel. One of the days we took an hour bus ride to neighboring Bratislava, Slovakia. The next day, we took a 4 hour train ride to stunning Prague, Czech Republic. we got there in the early afternoon, spent one night there, and then left on a night train to Krakow, Poland. We spent one night in Krakow, and left in the morning to go back to Madrid.
That’s the basics, I don’t want to bore you any longer.
So, I’m a history freak. A mega anthropology nerd (I have a really expensive degree to prove it). I guess the cool thing to be now is a “history buff”, right? Whatever you kids are calling it these days, that’s what I am. So the history alone in these destinations (the siege of Buda by the Ottomans, the lengthy reign of the Hapsburgs in Austria, the deep rooted Jewish traditions of Prague, and the medieval whispers of Krakow) are why I travel. A glimpse of life as was once lived is my obsession. The traumatic past of eastern Europe is beyond fascinating. If anything, it attempts to teach you how to become a better person. By being able to step back from such horrific events of the past and seeing that maybe things of this nature are still happening, but in a different way. That maybe as a human race we’ve become numb to our surroundings. And maybe even though we said “never again” and that the “lesson was learned” we continue to torture one another for simply being different.
ANYWAY, I don’t know who just took over there. Ha. I just dove into that pool and forgot my floaties! But I’m being real people! LOVE EACH OTHER. K? K.
Here’s some pictures I took (or maybe Brooke took, who knows) that I found interesting! And that’s my five cents on the matters of the world for today!
Mother Mary statue created in 1515 During the Siege of Buda (Buda is on the left side of the Danube, Pest on the right) the Ottomans had turned Matthias church into their mosque. In this process, they had plastered this lovely statue into the wall, hiding it from their muslim practices. In 1686 the mosque crumbled when gunpowder being held in a castle up the street detonated. Amongst the rubble (and shining rather brightly–or so it’s said) was this exact statue of Mary, peering out lifelike in the face of the muslim Ottomans. This terrified the Ottomans and it is said that Buda was taken back by the Hungarians without a fight. Ahh, nothing like religious statues to scare the pants off of oppressors.
So, this photo is more interesting now than when I took it… On the 10,000 Hungarian Forint is King Stephen I. He was Hungary’s last “grand” prince and subsequently their first King–and a Christian one at that. They freaking LOVE this guy in Hungary! He’s on their money, he has his own basilica, and appears to be in the stained glass windows of the Hungarian Parliament Building. What’s interesting is that, as a Christian King, his bust is surrounded by the star of David. Just pointing out how curious it is…that is all…
I want to start off by saying disregard the sign, we were told we could take photos from this distance…just not any closer. Please don’t throw us in Hungarian prison! Anyway, this is the room housing the Hungarian Crown. Now, I’m sure this doesn’t sound like much, but just hold the phone. This crown, sword and rattle-like thingy are incredibly important and used to hold incredible power. This (as I’m sure you can assume by now) is also known as the Crown of Saint Stephen. Hmm…no mystery there. BUT. This Holy Crown is held in such high regards it is actually superior to those who wear it. This means the king rules “in the name of the crown”. Wow. It is also rumored that at one point in history there was no heir on the throne so the Holy Crown ruled the country on its own.
Stunningly decorated on the inside, this is where the Habsburgs lived and ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Habsburgs (can also be spelt Hapsburgs, both are correct) came from the Habsburg Castle in Switzerland. These people literally ran the world for the greater part of 400 years. It was never one person ruling the world, it was people from the same lineage ruling their people all over the land. They were the rich of the rich. They had many famous members, such as Maria Theresa (not the Mother Theresa you’re thinking of…), Franz Josef, and the beloved Empress Sisi. If you are in Austria, you MUST take the audio tour of these apartments. You will be shoved into the lifestyles of the rich and the famous of old. The tour focuses mainly on the tragic demise of Empress Sisi and her husband Emperor Franz Josef I.
Bratislava has had a rough past. Continually torn between the oppression of communism to the east and the more oligarchic ways of the west. The most monumental structure of this history is the hideous Bratislava Castle (excuse my French). A structure was built here by Empress Maria Theresa (same lady from my post before!) as a vacation home. Close enough to home in Vienna (hour bus ride in modern times) yet far enough for a change of scenery. She fell in love with Bratislava and insisted that she build a castle there. However, this castle went up in flames in 1811 and wasn’t rebuilt until 1952 into the amazingly bland structure it is today. Go ahead and guess who built such a block in 1952…
This chapel in St. Vitus Cathedral is decorated in 1300 semi precious stones and depicts the passion of Christ as well as the life of St. Wenceslas himself. It’s roped off to the public for obvious (SEMI PRECIOUS) reasons. Off to the right, guarded by 7 locks leads to the Crown Chamber which holds the Czech Crown Jewels. They are viewable to the public only every eight years.
❤ Big B