In case you missed it, I'm currently traveling through Europe, exploring hidden corners and must-see spots in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the UK. I've been posting daily updates from my adventures on Facebook and Twitter, but in case you missed some of those, I've also decided to put together a weekly round-up to update anyone who's interested on what I've been up to for the past 7-ish days.
Here we go with Week 1!
My adventure began in beautiful Budapest, where I stayed with a lovely local woman named Maria in a spare bedroom that I found through Roomorama. I purposely arrived to Budapest 2 days before my Intrepid Travel trip began in order to explore Hungary's capital a bit. I could have easily spent 2 weeks there and would still have had things to discover!
I walked. And walked. And walked. I crossed 3 of Budapest's bridges (the Margaret, Chain, and Elizabeth), rode a funicular, explored Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion, enjoyed strolling along the Danube, and even checked out the famous Szimpla ruin bar in the daylight hours. And I took a LOT of pictures.
(For more of those photos, check out my Budapest photo essay.)
After transferring to the hotel where I would later meet my 3 Intrepid tour mates, I set out up Andrassy Avenue, bound for Heroes Square and the Szechenyi Bath and Spa. After soaking for a few hours at the beautiful bath, I met up with my tour group for dinner, and then hit the Danube for an hour-long narrated river cruise after dark.
Officially the first day of my Intrepid Travel trip, my group and I headed to the train station and caught a morning train to the town of Eger in northeastern Hungary. While Eger is cute and colorful and boasts a nice hilltop castle, the region's real draw is its vast collection of wine cellars in The Valley of the Beautiful Women. After dinner, we went on a short “cellar crawl” (like a pub crawl, but with wine) through the valley, tasting some local specialties and chatting up a guy who turned out to be one of the biggest TV producers in Hungary.
From Eger, we took a bus ride to the gorgeous town of Debrecen, where we had a few hours to explore before taking a train across the border into Romania. From the train station, we took a mini bus to the rural region of Maramures, where we would stay for 2 nights at a fabulous local home stay in the traditional village of Vadu Izei.
Today was spent exploring all the amazing things Maramures has to offer. We began the morning with a visit to Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site where colorful gravestones tell the stories of the dead through pictures and poems. We then had a picnic in the Romanian countryside, visited a UNESCO-recognized painted wooden church in Budesti, met woodcarvers, and got a glimpse into a traditional Romanian home. The long day was rounded out by a visited to Barsana Monastery.
We left Vadu Izei before 5 a.m. in order to catch a mini bus and then an 8-hour train ride to the medieval town of Sighisoara, Romania. This fortified fairytale town is full of old, old buildings and a lot of stories. It's the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (AKA Dracula), and has an interesting Saxon history. We went up the town's clock tower for some nice views, walked up to an old gothic church on the hill, and enjoyed strolling the colorful, cobbled streets.
The Week in Numbers
Each week, I'll try to give you an idea of how I'm traveling, and what things generally cost.
- Number of flights: 3
- Number of trains: 3
- Number of buses: 1
- Number of mini buses: 3
- Number of taxis/shuttles: 4
- Number of times it's rained: 2
- A meal in Hungary: $8-$16 USD
- Gellert Funicular (one-way): $3.75 USD
- Entry to Szechenyi Bath: $15 USD
- Hour-long narrated Danube cruise: $17 USD (student)
- A meal in Romania: $3-$7 USD
- Using a train station toilet in Romania: $0.30 USD
- Photo license at Merry Cemetery: $1.50 USD
- Entry to Sighisoara clock tower: $0.70 USD (student)
*Note: I'm not quoting the price of accommodation, as it's all been included so far. Also, I've been getting student discounts here and there; the regular adult price would be higher.
So there you have Week 1 of my European adventure! Come back next week for Week 2's round-up.
If there's anything more you want to know about my weeks, tell me in the comments!
*Another note: Intrepid Travel has graciously provided me with a complimentary 18-day tour through Eastern Europe. But all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.