We’ve had a pretty incredible month and plenty of SMAZING days, checking out Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, a touch of Czech Republic & the North-Eastern part of Austria. Our heads are spinning just a little as this part of Eastern Europe is the home to some truly amazing sights making it a treasure trove for any traveller.
We love the history, grandeur, opulence & the pace of Europe’s BIG cities. As we spent 6 months being beach bums and keeping away from this sort of ‘civilization’ we are now like sponges soaking it all up. We are loving it & don’t feel at all like we’ve OD’d on European cities, culture or architecture yet! Our feet and backs have reminded us however, just how little they’ve been used and are not quite use to walking in closed shoes and on concrete for 6 hours at a time.
The first thing you notice when leaving a “hot” country of the South is the road users! It was actually a shock when arriving in Slovenia and being able to merge into traffic, bikers wearing helmets, seat belts being used, indicators being used, no horns blasting, not being in a race with a pedestrian trying to cross the street…..bizarre…… and it also made me realize just how lapsed I’d become and how I much I’d embraced this ‘hot-headed’ driving technique. Order and patience rule the roads of Central Europe and it’s taken some getting use too! We can’t reveal who took out, the toll booth boom gate on entry or who took out, the row of witches’ hats when leaving but we are sure the Slovenian road authorities will be happy if we never return!
Slovenia is a small, quiet, polite, friendly, clean, non-confronting with a handful of attractions. It’s a picture perfect, postcard like country with perfectly manicured farm land, rolling green fields, lovely little villages & a church spire or castle on every hill top. The water ways have a high concentration of limestone which makes them appear this amazing jade green color, but it doesn’t show up well in my pics.
Slovenia’s 2nd largest lake
Lake Bled is Slovenia’s 2nd largest lake and is apparently crawling with tourists in summer. I’m glad we went in winter! It was a nightmare trying to find a park so we could have a walk around the lake……I would hate to go in high season. From Lake Bled we then went to Vintgar Gorge. It has this rickety boardwalk system that hugs the gorge walls and follows this amazing gorge for 2kms. It truly is spectacular and is the highlight of our visit to Slovenia.
Ljubljana the capital is small with a trendy vibe; I felt like I was walking in a glossy home mag spread with every shop, bar, café just so picture perfect, chic or Mo-Co as I like to call it.
We skipped the famous Postojna Caves in the south of Slovenia. At the outrageous price of 32euro.…yes that’s 32euro per person…..we didn’t feel they would be that much better than the totally amazing gouffre de padirac cave in France. (a bargain at 8euro per person).
We then headed to Hungary and spent a few days around Lake Balaton, before hitting Budapest. To be honest we didn’t think much of the Hungarian countryside but what the countryside lacks it certainly makes up for it in city of Budapest.
Budapest – Paris of the East!! It sits on the mighty Danube River and I really wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it as much as we did. The castle, parliament, bridges, beautiful baroque architecture, the bath houses, THE FOOD…..if it’s not on your bucket list then it should be….It is just amazing.
Tourism departments in Budapest must be doing something right as there are tourists everywhere! This is no mean feat especially considering its winter & low season!
There also seemed to be a lot of industry in Hungary, factories dot the landscape and there are huge Hypermarkets everywhere! All busy with locals spending money along with a decent international student population; it was such a nice change to see all these things in one place. I really don’t know anything about the state of their finances or banks and our friend Alex in Luxembourg who works for the EEU might be able to tell us otherwise but for an outsider who’s been travelling the EU for over 12 months it seems like Hungary is going places and holding up well compared to some of its cousins in the south and west.
Without meaning too, we’ve actually been following the Danube river as it either boarders these countries or not far from the boarder. Hungary is ofcuase famous for the Danube River & particularly the “Danube bend”. It’s a group of villages and towns, such as: Esztergom, Szentendre & Visegrad which are lovely and easily accessed from Budapest
And then there is Vienna
And then there is Vienna……..Again we must have looked like side show alley clowns. You could spend a small fortune visiting all the museums but we didn’t feel the need so ‘opted out’ as there is sooooo much to see just by walking the streets. Vienna is a true gem on the European map and seeing it in the throes of winter doesn’t detract from its beauty. It would be a site to behold in summer seeing all that gold leafing on statues and buildings shimmer under the sun light.
We refuse to pay to enter a church but St. Stephen’s Cathedral is free, so in we went. It was beautiful and you really do have to admire the craftsmanship of the Romanesque and Gothic period. The Hofburg & Schronbrunn Palace however are not free & where closed on the days we were in town, so we didn’t get to go inside them, Rose wanted to see the Schronbrunn, but really they are so beautiful on the outside we don’t feel disappointed. If you’re coming to Europe in the future then Vienna is a MUST SEE.
Since we were ‘in da hood’ we also popped over the boarder to Slovakia a few times, along the Danube bend & checked out Bratislava (Slovakia’s capital) when in Vienna. Not much to report on here and I’m glad it was only a 2 hour round trip.
We are now currently in Linz, upper Austria which is also on the Danube River and is only 1.5hrs from Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic. So, since we are ‘in da hood’ then a day trip was in order to Cesky K.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage town in the Southern Czech region of Bohemia. It is built around both sides of a river and has a fairytale like appearance. We went mainly to see the bears they keep in the castle moat, but of cause it’s winter and there in hibernation so…dumb us It did give us a taste of Czech Republic and we look forward to exploring the country some more in 2013.
The Christmas markets are everywhere! And if you’re into that sort of thing you’d be in Christmas Market paradise – I can just imagine my friend Liz. T. spending hour here, buying 1 of everything and being surrounded by the nativity sets & decorations in her living room.
In recap Budapest & Vienna are 2 awesome places that have given us a fresh boost of energy and have reminded us of just how much of this huge continent we are yet to experience and explore. Eastern Europe truly is a gem and it’s so great knowing that there is still more to see next year and we are now really excited about checking out Poland, Russia, Romania & Bulgaria.
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