Its been a while since I’ve actually done a solo trip so this was back to stepping out of my comfort zone and it took a lot of willpower to pull myself off the couch and figure out where to take myself. Especially when all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and sleep for a week.
Ask anyone that I’m close with and they will tell you that even they had no idea where I was going. The trip started with the dream of South Africa, it then changed to a small Europe trip with various changing countries focused around Barcelona. The day before I left I completely changed my plan and decided to surprise everyone as to my whereabouts in the big bad world.
I packed my bags, booked my ticket 5 hours before departure, and hoped for the best (and prayed to the standby gods – always a necessity with non-rev travel!).
After some very fast walking through the Munich airport I arrived, jet lagged, into Budapest. A city that I had eaten chocolate croissants and gotten lost in 9 years ago with the aspiration to actually visit for real at some point in my life. I walked around this beautiful city with a small plan of some things that I wanted to see and do but allowing myself to stumble upon random street music and get lost once or twice.
I met an Australian in my hostel so we spent some time in Buda, and Pest, and sticking our hands in the Danube for good measure. We took a lovely evening river cruise to see everything the city had to offer at night (which is basically stunning views of the old architectural buildings lit up in golden yellow hues). We ate goulash right out of a bread bowl and explored the original Ruins Bar. We went to the city market and dashed in and out of souvenir shops to avoid the rain. I took a stop at the Szechenyi baths to relax for an afternoon where, luckily, I was only asked once if I wanted to hold a locals hand while I was floating around. Budapest was such a fantastic city, with so much to offer – highly recommend.
Now – I like to think I’m fairly smart and well oriented with the world – but I will admit that there are a few things I don’t know. Like for instance, when I traveled in Eastern Europe last year I was blissfully unaware that the area I was in was known as the Balkans.
This is very similar to not knowing that Latvia and Lithuania were part of the Baltics – and now that I know, I’m kicking myself for only visiting two out of the three – Estonia, I will be back for you!
This brings the second stop – Riga. This cute little town where I literally just wandered around the streets getting lost and enjoyed sitting in one of the many parks while people watching. Seriously, the cutest little old town and so many green spaces. It made me want to go out for a run everyday, which of course we know I didn’t actually do because of my profound hatred of running. So I wandered through the streets, learned about the history of the country, and enjoyed the big city market with all its cheap fruit and cheese.
I’m my mothers daughter, and occasionally find myself in a museum while I’m traveling, but I always learn a little bit of the history of the countries I visit. The history in Europe is so deep and profound and recent and cannot be overlooked. The Baltic countries just came out of occupation in 1991 and the stories are things that I cannot imagine having to live through. If you have a chance, visit the area and find out for yourself; If you don’t, do a quick search and read all about the different occupations between the Soviets and the Nazis and how it affected the people in these torn between countries.
I was going to fly from Riga to Vilnius but decided that for a few bucks less and an equivalent time I would take a bus across the countryside so I could experience some of these two countries outside of their capital cities.
Vilnius was just as beautiful as Riga with its old city streets, food markets, rich history, and weird food (Cepelinai – google it, and then don’t ever eat it). It also had its own tiny republic of Uzupis which had its own government, an army of 12, and an Independence day that fell on April 1st. It also had a very well written constitution that I think some other countries could benefit from adopting…
Much like Riga, I wandered around the streets, met a few locals, piggybacked on an elderly tour group who welcomed me into their group because I was a fellow Canadian, and I tried my best to find vegetables in a country full of meat and potatoes.
After a fully relaxing and sleep filled vacation I hopped on a plane – ran like a madwoman through the Amsterdam airport – and reversed all the sleep I had done by staying up for 24 hours on my journey back to home turf (Insert shameless plug for Jet Airways India – great airline with amazing staff).
The adventure was not over yet though! A trip isn’t a trip without a surprise visit to see your best friend.
Jenny and I spent a few lazy days drinking wine, falling asleep mid movie and enjoying the beautiful fall weather while watching our national sport – which neither of us had actually watched before – and exploring an outdoor Arborium. This is a beautiful thing that I had never heard of before – if you ever find yourself in Guelph check it out!
After almost missing my flight back to Halifax because of crazy commuter traffic on the 401 (seriously, how does anyone live here, its a minimum 2 hour commute to work every. single. day.) I hopped on my plane and headed home for a few days of getting settled back into a normal routine before starting work again.
So until next time – which will be shortly – and then I promise I will take a break!