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Far East Movement July 18, 2013

Posted by mcwaples in Travel Log.

Hello friends, it’s been a while, so let me tell you of my travels a few weekends ago to Budapest and Prague.

 Day 0/1: After many delayed trains, an unexpected free night in a Swiss hotel, escaping out the window at 4am because the door was locked, and another 10 hours of trains, my group and I arrived in Budapest, Hungary. The first thing we learned: Eastern Europe is much cheaper than the west. Our hostel served us a delicious traditional goulash, a night’s stay, and breakfast in the morning for a total of 9 Euros each (about $12). In Paris, I couldn’t fathom something like that for less than 50 Euros…Upon leaving the hostel the first night, we went out, embraced the beauty of the city at night, and enjoyed one of the top 3 ranked bars in Europe: Szimpla. Not your run of the mill pub, Szimpla is a two-story open air “ruin pub” given the distinction because it was built from historic ruins. After enjoying the local brew, treating ourselves to some hookah, and making friends with some British rugby hooligans, we retired for the evening to brace ourselves for the next day.

Day 2: Budapest is given its name for the fusion of the two sides of the Danube River it spans: Buda to the west, and Pest to the east. We began our adventures on the less urban, more scenic Buda side, spending a good while hiking to the summit of the highest point in the city, which houses an historic fort. Following an hour or so enjoying the views, we trekked north to find the city’s famed palace (where much of Austro-Hungarian history was made). Upon leaving the Buda side, we sought to relax. Therefore, we went over to the famous thermal springs and happily spent several hours there cycling between cold baths, hot baths, and saunas. Unfortunately, however, we were swindled 8000 Forints (about $30) each by a metro attendant for a common tourist-trap mistake on our tickets, so we were in a bit of a foul mood the rest of the day and did not seek many adventures in the evening.

Day 3: Just as we were about to forgive the country, Hungarian officials messed with us again. This time, on the train leaving for Prague. In the Eurail pass, there is an optional/not emphasized portion for one to fill out destinations. Having never been checked for that, we had not filled that portion out, and were shocked when the train attendant demanded 50 Euros each for the “mistake.” As the foul demon had our passes in hand ready to rip them, we could only negotiate to 30 Euros a piece before angrily paying him and leaving his country for good. After a long train ride of bitterness, we were welcomed by Prague with open arms. We realized the Czech crown (0.05 USD) is a friendly currency, making a kingly dinner very affordable. Next, we decided to explore the nightlife with a boat tour/party followed by a 5-story club that made that night a night of fun, networking, an awkward ripped shirt story, and a fun 4am run through Prague to return to the hostel.

Day 4: This was one of my favorite days in Europe. My group and I began by crossing the Charles Bridge and taking in lots of sights before heading up to the castle located where? On top of a hill, of course! In addition to the incredible view of the city from there, it was also interesting seeing just where people were thrown out of windows in the First and Second Defenestrations of Prague (historical events leading to bloodshed such as the Thirty Years War). Following that adventure, we saw a flag monument to those killed in World War II, the oldest Synagogue in Europe, the John Lennon wall of random artwork, the largest platoon of swans imaginable, and lots of Franz Khafka tributes including a not so appropriate fountain. After a dinner in an awesome medieval restaurant, we tracked down the sunset by going up to the metronome on a hill (formerly the largest monument to Joseph Stalin outside of Russia) and were impressed to also observe a moonrise on the other side of the city, making for an awesome end to the weekend. All in all, Prague became one of my favorite cities for its beauty, historical significance, friendliness, and cost-efficiency.

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