Yes, we were literally chilling our way into the new year. The location could not have been any better though. We were jostling among the milling crowd in front of the beautiful City Hall of Vienna. The fireworks were a bit of a damper but the view was amazing. What made it even more special was that Vienna was just a one-day stop for us.
A group of people (including me) recently went on a week-long trip to the gorgeous cities of Prague, Vienna and Budapest. It was planned meticulously months ahead but even then we were clueless about what to actually do when we reached there. We followed the popular travel-blogs and made up a check-list of the sights we wanted to cover. And then we went about doing just that. I will try to explain everything concisely though. I could write a whole journal paper on this trip, but I need to sleep as well.
Our trip started with a train to Eindhoven from where we flew to Prague. We were welcomed with an unbearably cold weather. That didn’t deter us however from venturing out to the marvelous St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle. After crossing the historic and unusual Charles Bridge we entered the tightly-packed Old Town and treated ourselves to some delicious trdelnik and hot chocolate. In the old town and on Charles Bridge we found street performers playing tunes, making live portraits and levitating in mid-air. We visited the Lennon Wall, the Kafka Museum, the astronomical tower and many other monuments I don’t remember clearly now. But I was mesmerized by the Kafka monument. I would definitely mark it as the highlight of Prague. I thanked myself for taking the proper accessories to insulate myself from the cold. I had to look for coffee every few hours just to get some warmth.
We headed next to Vienna on a bus. We were relieved by the relatively better weather in Vienna. The city center was packed with tourists and locals getting ready to welcome the new year. Stephansplatz was the epicenter of all the celebrations in the city. Like in Delft, the market area was lighted up and decorated. I met an Afghani waiter at a stall who recognised my origin and was happy to take my order in Hindi. Among the churches I liked St. Peter’s Catholic Church the most. It’s as simple on the outside as it is gorgeous on the inside. The interior is an exquisitely crafted wonder. As the time neared the end of the year we headed towards Hofburg palace and at one spot we could see the Hofburg Palace, the Parliament, the Museum of Natural History and Rathaus (City Hall of Vienna). We went along with the crowd towards Rathaus where we counted down the seconds to the new year and greeted each other. It took a good deal of walking to reach a station where we could get back to our hostel, since everyone was trying to get back home at the same time. After a good night’s rest we paid a visit to Danube tower which was well worth the money and the time. The whole of Vienna was visible from atop the tower. It was quite windy though, strong enough to make us scurry back inside.
Later that evening we took another bus to Budapest. But after reaching the address of our pre-booked hostel in Budapest we found out that it didn’t even exist. Even the local shopkeepers had never heard of the hostel. But luckily, after some searching we were able to book an apartment for the whole group. We also found an Indian restaurant (Kashmir Restaurant) run by some people of Pakistani origin. I had some chicken biryani there (for the first time in about 5 months) but it felt like ages. The next day we went to St. Stephen’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Széchenyi chain bridge, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Margaret Bridge. From atop the hill of Buda Castle we got a really pretty sight of Pest. The Hungarian Parliament was quite a sight at night from Margaret Bridge as well. Later in the night we visited Szimpla Kert, one of the most popular ruin pubs in the city. As soon as we entered it felt as if we had come into another planet entirely. The atmosphere inside was eerie but welcoming. I would definitely recommend a visit. The next day we took a nice long hot bath in the pool of Széchenyi thermal baths. It was refreshing and much needed after all the walking we had done. We missed some spots in Budapest owing the rains and fatigue. So we promised to ourselves to visit Budapest again!
The trip was exhausting but it gave us plenty of good memories. We headed back to a new year, tired but happy and ready to blend back into our schedule of classes and assignments. I learned a few lessons such as not to take heavy boots on long trips and to always check properly before booking hostels. We grew closer as a group and made quite a few inside jokes. Ironically though, we never failed to find a place to chill.