Take vacations. Go to as many places as you can. You can always make money. you can’t always make memories.
Europe is a continent that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. So when Air India announced special fares for the Delhi- Vienna sector there was no chance I’d let go of the opportunity. Fellow wanderlusters from the workplace joined in, and after a few hiccups with the visa formalities we were finally backpacking across Western Europe!
Vienna is the modern European city which has also managed to preserve its traditional past. Since we were on a budget trip we decided to use public transport at all our stops, buying a pass gives you unlimited access to underground, trams, buses for the duration you choose. But what I’ve realised is the best way to explore a place is on foot. Walking around Vienna is a little bit like finding yourself in the pages of a story book. You’ll encounter horse drawn carriages around the corners of buildings with baroque architecture. Now Vienna is an expensive city. Here’s what we did in order to minimise our expenses but not miss out on experiences.
We stayed at a hostel that was located in the heart of the city and at a stone’s throw away from the underground station. The hostel provided an all you can eat buffet breakfast at €3 that was fuel for breakfast and lunch. The Vienna Opera which has hosted the likes of Mozart has tickets priced at €150 but we didn’t mind the “standing tickets” for a German opera for €4! Entry to the grand Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace is free. We explored the well manicured gardens and marveled at the ornate architecture. There are certain sections of the palaces that require an entry ticket and we chose to skip those. The beautiful St. Stephen’s cathedral too has free entry and the choir is sure to uplift your spirits.
Budapest is a must visit for the traveler looking for some fabulous Eastern European experiences. It is ridiculously cheap in terms of food and travel (we got passes issued again) and offers a plethora of experiences for the architecture buff, history junkie, or the party animal. The city is known for its pub crawls which start every night after 8 pm at Oktagon, your guide to discovering some of the best pubs in the city and hanging out with people from all over the world.
We opted for the free walking tours- wherein a tour guide will show you sights and sounds of the city for free albeit with a tip you deem fit at the end of it. I got to know some pretty interesting facts about the communist history of Hungary courtesy through this. The Chain bridge connects Buda and Pest which are separated by the Danube river. When the lights come on at night, it is recommended to opt for a Danube river cruise just like we did. The city looks magical especially the Hungarian parliament and the Buda castle. The Fisherman’s Bastion at the Buda castle offers a spectacular view and must not be missed!
Prague was our last destination and as it turned out we had saved the best for last. Every part of the city is picture postcard perfect. We stayed at Hostel Downtown and had a blast because we would sightsee by day and party by night with the hostel mates.Charles bridge which was barely 400 meters away offers some of the most spectacular views. So was the John Lennon wall where artists from all around the world are given the freedom to paint graffiti.
As with the other cities, it made sense for us to invest in the 48 hour transport pass and opt for the walking tours to know more about the Prague Castle and the iconic buildings at the Old Town Square. Infact, the one of a kind astronomical clock has an interesting history behind it which must be seen to be believed. Prague also houses the gorgeous Klementine Library, however this was a let down IRL since they don’t allow you access to the inner sanctums. The view from the top is great though.
Another thing that I loved about Prague was the Farmer’s Market where one could find traditional Czech artifacts, and local foods including the Trdelnik, goulash and hot mulled wine.
As a schoolgirl I’d learnt this phrase, ‘when in Rome do as Romans do’. This probably is the best travel advice anyone can give you. The best experiences at any destination are the ones recommended by locals, frequented by locals and this trip was all the more interesting because of unplanned itineraries and befriending and relying much on our now-turned-friends from these places!
The trip cost me approximately Rs. 70,000 airfare and visa fee included.
Here’s the breakdown of the expenses:
Return tickets from Vienna: Rs. 29,000
Schengen visa fee: Rs. 7000
Intercity travel in Vienna: 13.6 euros~ Rs. 1000
Stay at Wombat City Hostel, Vienna (3D/2N): Rs. 2300
Brunch: 18 euros~ Rs. 1300
Bus tickets from Vienna to Budapest: 22 euros ~ Rs. 1650
Opera tickets: 3 euros~ Rs. 200
Stay at Art Photography Hostel, Budapest: Rs. 2700
Travel card: Rs. 3300
Food and drinks: Rs. 1000
Sightseeing: Rs. 1000
Bus tickets from Budapest to Prague: Rs. 1250
Stay at Hostel Downtown, Prague : 84 euros ~ Rs.6000
Food and drinks: Rs. 7400
Sightseeing: Rs. 1700