Excited as I am, I didn’t mind that my cash was stolen in Athens Airport, perhaps continued my epic Europe trip. When I landed at the Schwechat Airport in Vienna, where a friend was waiting for me I suspected that this will be one of the best holidays ever. After a hearty greeting she drove me to Baden, a small town close to Vienna, where she lives. Followed by a brief rest with the typical Austrian breakfast which contains cheese and sausage, we went on a tour of this truly wonderful place. Baden is only 25 kilometers away from Vienna, so the name ‘Baden near Vienna’ is often used, to distinguish it from other Baden in Central Europe.
My high-school best friend Anne and I had not seen each other for almost 4 years, and it took as a lot of time to catch up. We were too excited to meet again as if we were in junior high. She introduced me to her Austrian husband Alex and her cute angel Amelie. Although I did not want to intrude, she insisted that I spend some time with them and learn about the charms of Austrian culture and, I would add, cuisine. During that time I had the opportunity to see for myself how a connection between Filipino and Austrians is harmoniously functioning, despite cultural differences. In between, Anne talks about our high school days and recollections of the wonderful moments of youth. Non-stop laughing as we remembered our classmates, teachers and all craziness we had way back. Alex was able to teach me many details about Austrian history, culture and way of life. I was pleasantly surprised. I was especially fascinated by the story of Austrian monarchy, the powerful empire that dominated the territories of Central and Southern Europe until the end of the First World War.
The second day was reserved for a stopover to Vienna. I was really excited about the visit, because it is known that Vienna is the ‘cultural gem’ of Europe, and finally got the opportunity. After the obligatory morning ceremony which included homemade Austrian sausages and beer, we continued our tour of Vienna in the hop-on hop-off bus. For only 15 euro you’ll enjoy the city’s land on a double decker bus with an audio guide and wifi. The first thing you notice when you arrive in Vienna is such a lack of tension, nervousness and stress which might seem simply strange to you. There is traffic on the streets, but no one makes a sound, everyone is quietly waiting for their turn at the traffic light, people are leaving their parking spotfor 15 minutes, but no one makes a fuss about it. In the garage there is a special parking space for women (Frauenparking) so that the ladies would not be feared, because the garages are the places where very unpleasant and dangerous things can happen, especially at night. Next to these parking spaces is the exit, so that a woman can get out and get into the vehicle quickly.
While we were searching for the opera house in the vicinity of Bezirk, we met a team of journalists who wrote articles and reported on tourists in Vienna and wanted to know more about my impressions. The feeling was phenomenal, for the first time I was in front of cameras and microphones. The famous Vienna Opera is located in the center of Vienna and, interestingly, the cheapest tickets at the Vienna Opera normally cost 126 euro (standing), and the most expensive are up to 400 euro. Close to the opera, we found the famous hotel and bar Sacher, andthe better known cake with the same name that is really very tasty, served with creamy whipped cream. After the cake, we continued to the Schönbrunn Palace, a grandiose building from the 18th century. And, I must admit that we have spent a decent amount of timein the Prater amusement park. We finished the tour of Vienna with lunch in the famous Schweizerhaus. The next day was reserved for visiting the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava.
Bratislava is only 2 hours away from Baden. After the morning coffee, which is one of the tastiest I’ve had in the Slovakian capital, my friend and I have decided that we should tour Bratislava on foot. Although somewhat overshadowed by the big European cities of Budapest, Vienna and Prague, Bratislava, with its 400,000 inhabitants, is by its size and geographical position, the optimum place to live. This city is not crowded with tourists, as the other European metropolis. The spirit and Slovaks and Bratislava can really be felt in the center of the city. The most famous sight is the Bratislavský Castle, an old castle, which is located 100 meters above the Danube, whose history dates back to the 10th century.Many call it the ‘upside down table’, because of the characteristic shape of the towers at the edges of the castle. After the castle, we went to the old part of Bratislava. The old town is not big, so this is an easy and quick visit. 51 meter high tower of Michael (MichalskaBrana) is the only preserved observatory of the city’s defense system, and today’s appearance is markedby the statue of St. Michael in the fight against the dragon. There is also an exhibition of weapons from the Municipal Museum, as well as the ‘point zero kilometers’, with inscribed distances of 29 cities. After another pause we’ve had in the café next to the Roland’s fountain, we decided to go back to Baden and prepare for tomorrow’s trip to Budapest.
Budapest is a little farther from Baden, about 3 hours drive, but worth it. Budapest is a city of wide boulevards and narrow cross-streets – a reminder that it was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is a city that has been created for walking, which we did and started at the center of the city, wandering through the grand boulevards and admiring the architecture. In the center of Budapest, there are two very important museums, the Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of the Holocaust.Váci Street has always been the main pedestrian and shopping street in Budapest, after which we went on a promenade along the Danube, boarded onto the the tram and went to the Kossuth tér square. On the Kossuth tér square we found the Parliament, one of the symbols of Budapest and one of the biggest parliaments in Europe. Make sure you visit it, you will not regret it. Hungary is one of the most fascinating country but unfortunately my time wasn’t enough to explore everything. Perhaps, there’s a reason for me to go back and I’ll make sure next time I’ll stay longer.
This is where my tour of Eastern European cities has ended. I am so thankful Anne and his husband Alex hosted the whole trip. It was such a great trip We had so little time and so many impressions. My next adventure – Cologne.