Our very last trip into Europe was a 10-day affair involving four countries, five cities and one airline going bust.
It was August 2009, and I was suffering from severe morning sickness, but there was no way we were cancelling our last opportunity for European travel simply because I was hanging out in public toilets a fair chunk of the time.
We started our trip in Budapest – a city I fell instantly in love with. It was exceedingly beautiful, the people were lovely and the food was delicious. We stayed in Pest, but spent most of our time wandering back and forth across the Danube into and out of Buda, across the many bridges.
We went to a large food market that smelled of heavenly smoked paprika, and Tall swam in the thermal pools of the famous Gellert Hotel.
We took a bus to Margaret Island for a picnic lunch and a lazy afternoon in the sun, and visited Dohany Street Synagogue, the second largest “working” synagogue in the world. We ate the best Wiener schnitzel meal I’ve ever had, and wished we’d saved this gorgeous city for the end of our trip.
From Budapest, we travelled on to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Right from the start, we were put off, after being hauled off a train and fined €80 for sitting down before validating our tram tickets. My explanation that I was pregnant and needed to sit down fell on deaf ears, and we quickly realised that we had been targeted as easy prey by these transport “officials”. Nevertheless, we paid the fine and carried on, grumbling all the way about the supposed fall of communism.
The town itself had a very contrived feel to it – it felt as though it had been rebuilt (following the fall of communism and Czechoslovakia) with tourism in mind. The town square was filled with cafes and market stalls, and everyone spoke textbook English. Don’t get me wrong – it was very pretty and worth the visit, but it felt like a movie-set at times.
We visited Bratislava Castle, which was destroyed by fire in the early 1800s and rebuilt in the 1950s – and it’s still undergoing its transformation. “Underwhelming” is the best word I can think of to describe it; it only looked impressive from a distance.
~ Stay tuned for Part Two! ~