Winters in the UK are so dark and dreary. By February I felt like it had rained forever and that I’d never don a pair of flip flops again. With a glass of wine in one hand and searching flights with the other, I booked an outbound to Vienna and inbound from Budapest. Soon after the confirmations pinged into my emails. There was no going back!
I walked into departures at Gatwick with a rucksack on my back and what felt like a bag of spanners in my tummy. The flight was over and done within two hours. Vienna airport appeared to be just like all others and I now felt silly to have been so nervous.
First stop, tourist information to pick up my Vienna PASS, definitely worth getting and then onto the CAT train. There was only one stop and it was Vienna!
Once I’d found my apartment and dropped off my things, I headed to the museum quarter. Hofburg Palace, Natural History & Kunsthistorisches Museums were quickly ticked off my list. The Leopold Museum, which houses works from Klimt and Schiele and the MOMOK (modern art) were well worth the visit too. That evening I attended the Film Festival which was located at the Rathausplatz. Whilst watching the big screen, I snacked on Marillenknodels, a warmed Viennese dumpling with apricots in the centre and rolled in biscuit crumb, a must try!
Vienna is vast and hop-on buses are a must. Stops include Schonbrunn, Belvedere and the Staatsoper. Schonbrunn was stunning and one of the most memorable moments of my trip, scaling the hill to the Gloriette, the Vienna PASS gets you to the viewing gallery at the very top. Further stops include places like the Museum of Applied arts and Hundertwassers haus, a must visit.
I was two days into my first solo adventure and I was fast asleep by 9pm, ‘wanderlustedly’ exhausted!
Welcome to Slovakia! Once I’d navigated my way through the Slovakian bus system and ticket machines, I found my Airbnb accommodation to be directly in front of the iconic St Martins Cathedral and I also had a lovely view of the Castle.
Bratislava is a small city and easy to cover on foot. I only had 24 hours here, so being smaller worked in my favour. Initially, I walked around Bratislava Castle then towards the city centre via St Michael’s gate. The gate is a preserved medieval fortification which dates back to the 1300s. Once I was beyond the wall and onto the city streets, I found them to be busy and with beautifully coloured buildings. Kapitulska Street is a great example of this, it’s known for its picturesque and quaint colourful houses. Walking towards the centre you will also see lots of curious statues such as, Cumil (Man at Work) and Schone Naci. In the centre of the old town is Roland’s Fountain. The King of Hungary in the 16th century ordered it to be constructed, to provide a public water supply, which is still used to this day.
Old town Bratislava has many cafe bars and restaurants where you can sit and watch the world go by. For me, one of the most enchanting parts of Bratislava is the contrast between the old and the new in such close proximity. My 24 hours in Bratislava was nearly at an end and via a couple of history museums & the Blue Church (St Elizabeth), I made my way to the bus station to catch the FlexiBus to Budapest.
During my time in Budapest I visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, definitely pay the extra 600HUF to climb to the top of the spire, as the view is spectacular! Then I continued on my travels towards the banks of the Danube to see the infamous ‘Shoes’. I had to take a moment and everyone else who was gathered around were also silent and alone with their thoughts. Just beyond the ‘Shoes’ is the Hungarian Parliament building, a building of stunning architecture. On from there, I made my way to Heroes Square (Hosok Tere), then jumped back on the M1 which is the oldest metro line in Budapest and has been in constant operation since 1896 to Szcehenyi Thermal Baths. Whichever thermal baths you chose, the experience is wonderful and the health effects to my skin have been noticeable.
Further along and beyond Chain Bridge is Margaret Island. Margaret Island is one of the many islands of the Danube and has plenty to see and do whilst there. I hired a golf buggy and had an absolute hoot!! I’m glad they did not have cameras because mounting a pavement and going airborne as I scrambled to get back on the road was probably not deemed as an acceptable driving style.
On the final night I booked myself on a dinner cruise. The views were sensational, as the sun set on the banks of the Danube. I met some others who were also travelling and once the cruise had ended we decided to head to the Ruin Bars in the Jewish Quarter. We went to a club called ‘Instant’ and we all had such a brilliant time.
After 3 hours sleep and only 12 hours until I caught my flight home, I crossed the Liberty Bridge for the last time and went to check out the Pest side of Budapest. There were lots of Museums and places of interest on the way to Buda Castle, including St Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Buda Castles Funicular was a worth the few hundred HUFs too, even just to rest my feet for a moment or two before heading back across the city to pack and fly home.
My exposure to solo travel has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. It was something I had only dreamt about prior to this trip and I am living testament that ‘dreams can come true’. The six days were filled with colour, experiences, smiles, tastes, knowledge, blisters and memories that will last a lifetime.
I truly cannot wait to embark on my next solo adventure….
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