Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mishaps, Lost Items, and Tips for Travel

On my Central European Adventures this past week, I visited Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Ljubljana. All of these cities were spectacular, and they were all so different from each other. When I visit a city, I love to go off and explore on my own and find little cafes or shops that aren't necessarily on the tourist guides... I think the best way to experience the culture of a city is through it's people. My 10-day adventure taught me so much about these countries, and even though I only got a taste of every city (two days is DEFINITELY not enough for Vienna...), that taste now fuels my hunger to go back.

A European Adventure can't be complete without a few mishaps though...

The night I flew into Prague, my friend was supposed to get there an hour before me. When I got to the airport, I couldn't find her anywhere, and then I checked my Facebook...she missed her flight. Reality sunk in that I would be spending my first night ALONE in Prague, that is if I was lucky enough to figure out the public transportation system and find my hostel first. Thank God my superior navigation skills kicked in (thanks Grandpa) and I made it to my hostel safely. I spent the evening wandering around Prague, which was surprisingly void of tourists, and I just soaked in the tranquil beauty of this fantastic city.

Moving onto Budapest...the day we were supposed to leave for Vienna, we missed our train. Being the geniuses that we were, we were looking at the arrival time on our tickets and not the departure time...yeah. **Begin panic mode** As much as I love Budapest, there was no way I was going to be stuck in Hungary for the rest of the trip. By some miracle, when we got to the train station, the ticket lady said we could use our tickets for the next train without any extra charge!

In addition to these travel issues, knowing me, I can't go anywhere without losing something. Here's the final tally at the end of the trip:

1. Water bottle- left in the Central Market in Budapest
2. Black scarf- Pretty sure is on a train to Vienna...
3. Piccell phone- I think it's on that same train...
4. Cheap black boots I got in Kosovo- Well, technically I didn't lose these, but the soles were basically falling off and they weren't worth the extra weight in my backpack

At least I didn't lose my passport, right?

When you're traveling to so many places, figuring out hostels and transportation can be difficult, and then little things like what to pack or what to buy in the different countries without blowing through your bank account just complicate things even more. So here's a quick list of travel tips that I've learned:

1. If you're going on a long trip, try to find cities that are close enough to get to by train

Train tickets are much cheaper than flights, bottom line...and they really aren't sketchy at all! We took an overnight train from Prague to Budapest and it was very safe, but they did wake us up four times to check tickets. Trains might not be the most comfortable option, but are planes really that much better? Also, most trains have a Dining car or a snack cart that comes around with food :) Another plus is that you get to see the countryside!! On the way from Vienna to Ljubljana, we rode through the Alps...and it was breathtaking.

2. Try to fit Day Trips outside of the city center into your schedule

Even though you might not have that much time in the city already, taking a day trip to see the countryside is worth it. In Slovenia, we decided to take a day trip to Postojna and see the Postojna Caves. The caves alone were incredible, but getting to visit a small town and getting to see the natural beauty of the country really maximizes your visit. I wish I had time to visit Český Krumlov outside of Prague because it's nice to get away from the tourists for a while.

3. Use a backpack!

I managed to fit everything I needed into my regular hiking backpack and a purse. It can be a little like Tetris trying to fit everything into the backpack by the end of the trip, but for traveling purposes, it is incredibly convenient. My backpack fit as a carry-on and I didn't have to drag it down cobblestone streets like you would have to with a huge suitcase. Also, some flights don't charge for one checked bag (I know...it's an anomaly but they do exist) so just ask the ticket lady at the baggage counter when you get to the airport if you want some extra foot room on the plane.

4. Don't be afraid to wander on your own

With that being said, first off, be safe about it. Walking around by yourself in a sketchy city at night is not safe, but in the daytime if you want to visit some museums or go in the really pretty churches or find a cute cafe for a latte, then you'll be fine. The cities I went to were tourist-friendly and I always felt safe. In Prague I found the best cafe that I would have never stumbled upon if I hadn't decided to do my own thing for a couple of hours. **Also, hostels have tons of pamphlets and maps about locals restaurants, shops, cafes, and tourist sites, so take as much info as you can!!**

5. Pick a theme or get creative for souvenir shopping

If you're like me and are a trinket fiend, souvenirs are like kryptonite. It's impossible for me not to by the cute little troll statue that will just sit on my desk, collecting dust, for the rest of my life, and your excuse for buying it will sure enough be, "But it's cute!!" I have to admit, I did give into my temptations, but it is okay to by souvenirs, just don't go overkill. If you are going to give in, try to buy things that are unique to every place you go. You can get magnets or keychains anywhere, but what about a spice bag of Hungarian paprika? I also decided to do a sort of souvenir "theme" In every city I bought a small book on the country's folk or fairy tales. I think my Hans Christen Anderson class is going to my head...or maybe I'm just unleashing my inner child. But in all seriousness, books are great because they will last you forever and they are much more meaningful than a snow globe (even if it is pretty)

That's it for now, but my next few blog posts will be about the top things to do/see in Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Ljubljana so keep a look out!!

Hej hej,

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