Budapest, Hungary…and walking along the Danube River

Jenny here…

Upon arrival to Budapest, I knew that I’d spend a lot of time outside walking and admiring the views of the city along the Danube River. The city is split with Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other. I stayed in Pest, and walked over to Buda several times for different viewpoints. 

I walked straight down to the Danube and crossed the famous Chain Bridge to get to Buda. I first climbed up to the palace, then headed over to Fisherman’s Bastion, a place known for it’s views of the city, which did not disappoint! 

Killer views of Pest from the castle

Chain bridge at night!


The Hungarian Parliament…simply stunning at night!



I had a recommendation from a previous tour guide that I must take a tour of the Parliament, which is the 3rd largest in the world, and it was incredible! I’m so glad I booked my tickets in advance because they were sold out for days! 

The back of the Parliament during the day


I found the local Christmas Market and honestly ate most of my meals there, growing tired of sitting at a table for one, sometimes it’s nice to eat in a setting like a market where there is great people watching! I tried goulash soup and several Hungarian sausages (and potatoes and veggies) with lots of mustard and bread. I indulged in more Glühwein, of course. 


One afternoon I walked back across the river to Buda and climbed up the huge hill to the Citadella for more views of the city, this time a bit foggy and wet from the neverending mist that day.

Views atop the Citadella


After an afternoon of walking the Riverside (again) on both sides, I enjoyed a local specialty called Lángos, a deep fried Flatt bread with sour cream, garlic and shredded cheese….yum!

Tasty Lángos!

On Saturday night, I made it to Rudas Bathhouse, which is a very popular thing to do in Budapest. These bathhouses have been around for ages and the water, all different temps, is sourced from local hot springs. It was a relaxing way to end the day, but unfortunately I have no pictures because, well, water. Google it…it’s really neat!

I spent some time in Budapest at my hostel relaxing and doing some trip planning as well. My time overall in Budapest was super easy going, although I walked miles upon miles each day by the river, I truly loved the sights of this city! 

~Jenny

Vienna, Austria and my glorious introduction to Christmas Markets in Europe!

Jenny here…

I made my way to Vienna by bus from Krakow and arrived at my adorable hostel that evening. I was greeted by the reception with a warm cup of homemade apple and cinnamon tea, so nice! I asked the hostel if there were any Christmas Markets on yet, and they gave me a whole guide to all of the markets which happened to be starting up the following day…lucky me! 

In the morning, I started off with my traditional guided walking tour, got acquainted with the city and learned about it’s history. 

I also found out that coffee and tea houses are a big thing in Vienna, and it’s not unusual to hang out for hours at one enjoying cakes and tea or coffee. That day the temps happened to be below freezing, so after my tour I found a highly rated tea House to hang out in for a bit that afternoon until I was ready to go to my first Christmas Market. 

I decided to just go to one market my first night, made my way there and immediately purchased a mug of Glühwein to warm me up and began browsing up and down the adorable cobblestone streets lined with stands filled with locally made products and food and drinks. I had a lovely time and even purchased a new pair of mittens (wool) to keep my hands warm in these freezing temps! 

Entering Spittelberger Nightmarket

Mmmmmmm….glüwein!

After the market, I took the metro to an area of town with lots of old restaurants that was suggested to me by my tour guide that morning. She said to go to this area for local Viennese/Austrian good. I hit the jackpot with an adorable small restaurant with about 10 tables and a wrap-around bar, which I was able to take a seat at and order some beers and delicious schnitzel! Yum!

Typical Austrian (and German) meal

I had one night left and I made it to the 2 largest Christmas Markets in Vienna and had a fabulous time wandering around, observing the lights, festive booths, and stuffing myself with amazing food and more Glühwein. 

The entrance at Rathaus Christmas Market…stunning!

Local sausage in a roll…so good!

Karlsplatz Advent Market!

Delicious cheese spaetzle!

I had a wonderful time in charming Vienna and it was such a fun place to go to lighten up my spirits (after visiting Auschwitz) and started to get into the Christmas mood!

~Jenny

Krakow, Poland and a Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp

Jenny here…

I decided to head to Krakow after Prague, to cidit the city but more importantly to visit Auschwitz. I know the importance of visiting all places with a history, however horrific they may be. It’s what makes me well-rounded in my travels; we can’t only go to the fun places, sometimes you have to see the bad to remember how far we’ve come. 

I stayed in a nice hostel right smack dab in old Town Krakow and wasted no time walking around the city. I made some friends and had a nice dinner before calling it a night. 

On my first full day in Krakow, it was below freezing and pouring rain, but I only had 2 full days here and the following would be at Auschwitz, so I bundled up and threw on a poncho and headed out for a walking tour. This was honestly my first day that I can recall on this trip where the weather was really just miserable, but I’d probably only be here once so I made the most of it! 

Papal Window – Pope John Paul II is from Poland and visited Krakow many times. He would stay here and greet people from this window.

Beautiful park in the city

One of the many churches in Krakow

We ended the tour near the castle and I wandered about the grounds for a bit before deciding I needed warmer socks. So I went on a search for warm wool socks and found some within an hour. I then settled in for a couple hours by a heater in a tented bar in the old town square where I got acquainted with Glühwein, or hot red mulled wine. Yum! It was warm and tasted like Christmas in a cup! 

I decided on some local fair for dinner and ordered pierogis from a restaurant near my hostel before calling it a night. They were so delicious!!

Polish Pierogis filled with potato, onion, cabbage and cheese..so yummy!

I woke up the next morning knowing the day would be a gloomy one. I made it to the bus to head to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp, where we had a guided tour for a few hours, taking us through the grounds of the 2 different camps. We heard horrifying stories of how the people arriving at the camps truly had no idea where they were heading and what was going to happen to them. Some of the Jews even paid the Nazis for essentially their own death, but thinking they were buying homes in another city where they were to be allowed to live. Most people were sent directly to the gas chamber upon arrival to the camp, and walked right into the chamber under the impression that they would be showered. So incredibly shocking and painful to hear, but necessary. 

Arbeit Macht Frei – Work will set you free

Cans of Zyklon-B, the poison of choice used by the Nazis to kill thousands of people at once in the gas chamber

The SS told them to label bags so they had a better chance of returning to the owner, all lies in order to keep everyone calm

A small percentage of the shoes turned in by the now prisoners

A railcar that would arrive to the camp carrying no less than 100 people on it for up to 3 days

One of the crematoriums that the Nazis blew up prior to liberation

That evening I made it to a restaurant recommended by my friend Kim, who I hung out with in Spain, and it was truly adorable and lifted my spirits a bit after such a depressing day. The food and beer were simply delicious! 

Still all bundled up…it’s freezing out!

Delicious Kielbasa (Polish sausage)…Yum!

I wasn’t originally planning on making it to Poland, but I’m so thankful that I did. Krakow is absolutely adorable and I really liked my time spent here, even if some of the history from the region was horrendous. 
~Jenny

Prague, Czech Republic…You’ve Won Me Over!

Jenny here…

I was ecstatic to finally make it to Prague! I’ve dreamed of visiting this historic city and it’s charming little streets and old buildings…and beer, oh the beer! 

I started off in Prague by going on a walking tour, as I typically do to familiarize myself with the city and I fell in love pretty much immediately! I was staying in a hostel located right off the old town square which is a beauty in itself, and that’s where the meeting place was for the tour as well. We roamed the cobblestone streets and learned the history of the city and how it’s one of the very few cities in Eastern Europe that didn’t get destroyed during WWII, so the buildings are so old and as authentic as they seem. We walked through the old Jewish quarter and ended with sights of the Prague Castle, what a stunner! 

Old Prague Square

The famous Astronomical Clock

Old Jewish Quarter

Rudolfinium

Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral

I spent one afternoon exploring on my own and found a cute daytime market with food and drink and indulged in some raclette, a beer and my first trdelnik, a sweet treat that can be found every 10 meters in Prague. 


One evening, I went on an organized Beer Tour and it was such a fun time! Not only did I learn about the history of beer in the Czech Republic, and how in a small town nearby called Pilsen, they came up with the way that beer is brewed all over the world to this day, but we also tasted delicious unfiltered beer from several pubs around town. I made some fun friends on the tour and we ended up hanging out long after the tour was over!

The next day, I opted for a guided tour of the castle, and met up with some Italian friends made on the beer tour. We were amazed at the sheer size of the castle, and in all reality, it’s more like a village, since it’s made up of a bunch of different buildings. The castle grounds also houses the enormous and beautiful Saint Vitus Cathedral.

St. Vitus Cathedral

Stunning city views from the castle grounds!

The back of St. Vitus Cathedral…stunning!

My Italian friends!


For dinner, the Italian girls and I, along with another guy we met on the tour, decided to head further up the hill to a monastery where they also brew their own beer. We heard from our guide that the restaurant there is very nice and the beer is some of the best in the world, so of course we had to try it out! I ordered the crispy roast duck for dinner and it was phenomenal! The beer was up there with the best I had ever tasted! 

The best duck I’ve ever had!

We walked the famous Charles Bridge back and took in night views of the castle and the city. 
I spent one rainy evening hanging out at a cozy restaurant/pub enjoying beers and food, and ended up at a table full of guys on a reunion of sorts from all over the Czech Republic. It was so random and so fun, topped off with great beer and food! 

I can still taste the deliciousness of these housemade chips and garlic sauce!


I think that Prague is one of the most charming cities that I’ve ever been to, and that is saying a lot. I loved every moment in this beautiful city!

~Jenny

Berlin, Germany…My Introduction to Winter for the first time in 2017

Jenny here…

It was bound to happen at some point y’all, I finally met winter in 2017. I’d done a dang good job of avoiding winter the entire year (starting off my travels last January in New Zealand and Australia). I made a quick stop in Amsterdam at Jackie’s to ditch my summer clothes and shop for winter, then headed off for Berlin. I was super excited to finally make it to Eastern Europe, a part of Europe that’s totally new to me! 

I walked a ton during my time in Berlin, as I had plenty of days there, so was never in a rush to see the next place. I did a couple of walking tours in the city, one being an alternative tour about the street art which is a huge part of Berlin, and another more traditional tour highlighting historic buildings, stories, and walls. Really just one wall, you know the one, the Berlin Wall, or what’s left of it. 

Brandenburger Tor

Holocaust Memorial for survivors

Standing over Hitler’s War Bunker

Checkpoint Charlie

I walked the strip of the Berlin Wall that’s still standing, now known as the East Side Gallery – the wall is decorated with graffiti from artists all over the world. 

I went to a few museums focusing on the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust and WWII. I had an extra day so booked a day trip to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp outside of Berlin, and it was quite the solemn tour. This wasn’t an extermination camp like Auschwitz, but thousands still died here. Walked right into the room to be gassed, thinking they were getting showers. It was just horrific to be reminded of the dark history of the region.

Each day after visiting museums that basically depress you, I found desire for beer, lots of delicious German beer. And German food, oh how I missed thee! (My dad’s mother is from Germany and I’m spoiled by her German cooking throughout the year when I’m home.) I ended up finding one super cozy restaurant in a cute neighborhood and visited it several times for dinner and drinks and just a place to hang out for the evening. 


Berlin is such a cool city with something for everyone! I enjoyed my time here thoroughly.
~Jenny

Lisbon, Portugal and Sintra Day Trip

Jenny here…

I was lucky enough to be able to head over to Lisbon from Seville via bus, and arrived at my amazing hostel in the evening, welcomed by free and unlimited sangria in the social room. Lisbon was already starting off on a great note! I had heard from some travel friends that Lisbon has the best hostels and took the recommendation from my Aussie friend Cat (met in Barcelona) and booked the Good Morning Lisbon hostel, which she stayed at in her time there. 

The free breakfast at the hostel was the best I’d encountered in my many months of hostel life! Every morning we had someone cooking eggs different ways, Toasties (versions of grilled cheese), fresh veggies, fruits and even chorizo! Yum!

Yummy!

I went on a walking tour of Lisbon and realized that this city has crazy similarities to San Francisco. It’s a super hilly city, has a trolley system going around the whole city, is by the water, and even has a bridge designed by the same guy that designed the Golden Gate Bridge. The views from all over Lisbon are just spectacular! 

One evening, I made it to a lookout point for sunset, and realized it was a really cool hangout spot. There was a stand selling beers, people bringing their own bottles of wine and a full on band playing great music. The sunset was brilliant too!

One afternoon I spent a few hours seeing the city on the trolley! It was such a fun experience and a great way to get around to the different points in the city. 

For dinner, I had to try the famous dish that I’d heard all about from travel friends, called Peri Peri Chicken. Its simply a grilled chicken but has amazing flavor and was cooked to perfection! 

Did I mention the restaurant only offered bottles of wine? No problem!


My hostel offered a unique guided day trip to Sintra, a town nearby that everyone says is a must-see, full of palaces and mysterious legends. I left for the day with a few others from my hostel and our adorable local guide and we had a great time. We started off in Sintra at the Quinta da Regaleira Palace. The grounds were really beautiful and there was a set of tunnels and caves used by the Free Masons years back, which added some intrigue to the place! 

We had an authentic Portuguese lunch at a super local spot. I enjoyed a traditional dish called Bitoque and tried out the house made red wine and 7up combination that’s simlar to the delicious tinto de veranas in Spain, so tasty!! 

We made our way to the highest point in the area for views, then on to the most Western point in Europe! So stunning!

Views of the most Western point in Europe

Europe’s most western point!


Our crew for the Sintra day tour! Fun times!

On our way back into Lisbon, we stopped at the beach to enjoy a local treat called Travesseiros de Sintra, a yummy pastry with almond and sugar! So delicious!! 

On my last night there I finally decided to try the famous Portuguese egg tarts, and realized what a fool I had been to not have had one earlier! They are so scrumptious it’s not possible to just have one!

Portuguese egg tarts…so addictive!!

I absolutely adored Lisbon and it’s certainly a city that I would return to in the future! 
~Jenny

3 Glorious Weeks in Sunny Spain

Jenny here….got behind on my posting…again. I spent 3 amazing weeks in Spain room mid September to early October.

San Sebastian, Spain

I flew from Greece to Barcelona, Spain and immediately took a train to San Sebastian, where I would be meeting back up with Derek and some of his family and friends who were there on holiday for a long weekend. We had a great time catching up, making new friends and hanging out with a wild crew full of Irish and Australians…fun times. We hung out on 2 of the stunning beaches in town, ate at many of the delicious pincho bars and consumed an incredible amount of yummy red wine that costs 2 euros a glass.

IMG-20171001-WA0006.jpgWe spent one afternoon at a cider house enjoying amazing food served family-style to long picnic tables, and sampling all of the different barrels of apple cider.In the evenings, we hung out on the small narrow cobblestone streets enjoying endless glasses of red wine and laughing a lot.Our last day in San Sebastian was spent hanging on a gorgeous beach!San Sebastian turned out to be one of my favorite cities in Spain, with some of the best food that you can find in the country, cheapest (good) wine, and incredible beaches!

Barcelona, Spain

I had a few days to spend in Barcelona and I immersed myself in the incredible architecture that the city is known for, and also tasted some amazing tapas while there.

My first day included a tour around the city seeing all of Antoni Gaudi’s famous buildings and hearing the history about this widely-known architect that made such an imprint on this incredible city.

In front of the magnificent Segrada Familia

We ended at the Segrada Familia, Gaudi’s greatest unfinished masterpiece! We learned a but the different facades, which can be seen on 3 of the sides of the outside of the cathedral, and simply take your breath away with the detail. The following day I was able to get a tour of the inside of this insanely large cathedral, and it was absolutely incredible!

I had a tip from a travel buddy that once lived in Barcelona, to go to the Bunkers del Carmel for the best views of the city, so a few friend I’d met from my hostel joined me on the trek up to the Bunkers and we took in the breathtaking sights of the entire city!I did another tour of the Gothic quarter in Barcelona and learned more about the history of the city and some of the most important buildings in the city. Here I met Cat, an Aussie girl that I totally hit it off with and we hung out until we both flew out the following day.A group of us from the hostel went to a delicious highly recommended (by several people) tapas restaurant called Vitalus. We shared lots of different tapas plates and some tasty sangria!On our last morning, Cat and I went to the famous Boqueria Market, once voted the best market in the world, to wander around and grab different bites of food for lunch. Cat and I went up and down every gorgeous, colorful aisle taking in the fresh food sights and smells and ordered some local Catalonian food, shared an empanada, and skewer of grilled meat! We ate 2 fresh fruit cups each, they were just so delicious and cheap!

My time in Barcelona was so nice, I thoroughly enjoyed the city’s sights, food and drink…what more could I ask for?!

Granada, Spain

I flew down to Granada on a recommendation from some friends I met in Barcelona. When I originally arrived in Spain, I had no plan other than to eventually make it down the southern coast and get to Portugal. I relied on word of mouth from friends made at my hostel to plan what cities that I would visit, so that’s how I ended up here in Granada! I am so glad I did, because it became my favorite city in Spain!

My hostel was fun and social, with loads of activities keeping us busy. My hostel was also great in that they were able to get me tickets to the Alhambra, a huge Islamic palace and fortress in Granada built in the year 800.

I also went on a walking tour of the city led by a guy that worked for my hostel, which included seeing the famous graffiti around town, having a beer in a “cave” with a local that lives in it, and ending with an incredible sunset view over the city.

 

I also hiked the Sierra Nevada mountain range with people from my hostel, which was so great to be back to hiking and the great outdoors with spectacular views!

One night our hostel offered a special on paella, so much group of friends opted to enjoy that for dinner on our outside patio, then we took in a local Flamenco dancing show which was so entertaining and a neat experience!

Another one of my favorite things about Granada is that pretty much every restaurant gives you a free tapas with the order of a drink, so I never paid for food in this city! I also met a friend, Kim, originally from Malaysia but living in England for 10 years now. We hung out on and off over the next week!

Seville, Spain

I headed on a bus bound for Seville and immediately joined some friends from Granada for tapas and drinks and just relaxed for the rest of the evening. 

I did a walking tour of Seville where we saw most of the main sights in the city and learned the history of the town. The tour ended at the stunning Plaza de Espana, which is breathtaking!

We took a break from the sun and listened to this guy play some great music!

After the tour, Kim and I got tickets to go inside the 2 cathedrals in Seville, the 2nd being the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, called Cathedral de Sevilla, which also happens to house the tomb of Christopher Columbus. 

The tomb of Christopher Columbus

That evening we went to the Metropolitan Parasol building for a stunning sunset! We then enjoyed a free vegetarian paella dinner at our hotel which was delicious! 

The next evening, our last one in Seville, we found a great recommendation for a local tapas spot and basically ordered the whole menu! 

Cadiz, Spain
Kim and I decided to take a day trip to Cadiz, to see this ages old beach town that is considered one of the oldest cities in Europe! We took a train to town, then walked around viewing the cathedral, taking in some food at a local market, then lounging beachside for some rays. We also enjoyed some tinto de verano drinks in the square before heading back to Seville that evening. 

My time spent in Spain was so amazing, and I am so thrilled that I was able to make it to this region in Europe! Up next, Lisbon, Portugal!

~Jenny