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The Wonders of Eastern Europe (and Austria) June 25, 2013

Posted by B.R. Smith in Travel Log.

The past few weeks have really been a blur, leaving me little time to recollect my thoughts much less put them on paper. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit Vienna, Prague, Baden-Baden, Paris, Ghent, Brussels, Brugge, and Antwerp. At the moment, after the hectic first half of the summer, I’m situated in my room at Worcester College at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

As hectic as it was, the travel portion of the Oxford Program was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my short twenty years of life. I will recount some of the things I’ve been a part of these past few weeks. The last time I posted on here I was in Budapest, Hungary. Probably the biggest surprise of the trip, Budapest was a wonderful city. Situated on the beautiful Danube river, Budapest is a cultural hub in Eastern Europe. In sharp contrast to the crowded streets of Rome, Budapest lacked the throngs of tourists typical of Rome and Florence.

The ancient baths in Budapest were incredible! Hopping into a sauna for ten minutes then jumping into a cold mint pool is painful, but oh so nice.

Possessing a cleanliness that would rival the bald head of Mr. Clean, Budapest was an attractive city for Europeans (I’m lumping the U.K. and Ireland into this, though they aren’t really Europeans) to visit. In one day I met two Irishmen visiting for a wedding, an Italian student on a weekend break, and a group of British folk on study trip. It was something else to see the world’s youth gathered in a single place exchanging laughs and helping each other navigate a foreign city.

We left Budapest and crossed the Hungarian countryside towards Vienna, Austria. It was nice to indulge myself in the Wiener schnitzel and sausages for which Vienna is famous. The music history in Vienna is impressive. All the Classical greats studied and composed here. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, you name it. Fortunately, my teacher informed us of an optional concert in the famous Musikverein (look how beautiful it is here: http://melomem.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/musikverein1.jpg) where for a measly five euro we were able to see the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Praised as one of the best philharmonics in the world (yes, world), they showcased a musical precision I would not have appreciated had I not been taking a music appreciation class during my travels. It really was incredible to watch and listen. Afterwards while the sun was setting, a few friends and I enjoyed a cup of coffee in a way that would make Europeans proud. Coffee has taken on new meanings while here in Europe. No longer is it a get-a-to-go-cup-and-chug sort of thing. This wonderful beverage deserves better than that.

Thankfully we were able to avoid most of the flooding of the Danube while on our trip to Budapest and Vienna (both of which are situated on the Danube). We did see some of the after effects, though. The Danube is a gorgeous river. The architecture of both Vienna and Budapest complemented it well. Initially, I was a bit skeptical of Vienna and Budapest. Now, I would recommend these cities to a European traveler. They don’t have the historical attractions that a Rome or Florence has, but in terms of a comprehensive experience they were great. I realize this post is a bit long, so next time I will post about my experience in Paris (without a doubt my favorite city) and Belgium!

I still can’t figure out how to post pictures on here. It says there’s not enough space left for my upload. I’ll get this figured out by next time!

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