The next part of my trip was in Vienna, Austria. Though I honestly didn’t get much time to explore the city as most of the time we were on the bus. We left Budapest at 8:30 am and drove to Vienna, which took about 3 hours (I think…). Once we got to the city, we had a short bus tour of the city. Then we were dropped off in the most touristy area of Vienna, with all the high-end shops, to explore for an hour and a half. When we got off the bus, this was when myself and my little group, the two people who joined the tour in Budapest, decided to walk away from all the tourist areas and explore and take in what we could.
*A slight sidenote: but Vienna has a ton of graffiti everywhere. And not like pretty artistic graffiti but just sloppy tags. It was really strange to see all over old buildings and in the main city
We walked down side streets and took in all the beautiful architecture of the buildings and the narrow streets. We found this little chapel/church hidden in a building, and it was so stunning. I didn’t take any photos inside as people were in their praying and it would have been rude. But I did manage to snap a picture of the open door outside. [photo right] We also found this little court/plaza area that was so serene and beautiful to stand in.[photo below] The walls of the building were yellow, and they were covered in ivy. It was very picturesque and just so Europe if that makes any sense.
After our brief break off the bus, we had to go back on our bus to do a ‘proper’ bus tour and go to Schönbrunn Palace for a tour. Schönbrunn is stunning, and I could have honestly spent the whole day there instead of 2 hours. 2 hours was not enough time to see it all. The tour through the building was interesting, and the tour guide was good at her job, but I would have instead explored at my own pace if I had a choice. The grounds in the back of the palace were honestly breathtaking. I recommend going and exploring the grounds in early November. It was a perfectly crisp and cloudy day which made the brief walk of the property so peaceful and exactly how I wanted to spend my time in Vienna.
After that quick tour of the palace and back grounds, my group and I went to Café Residenz at Schönbrunn Palace for their famous apple strudel. And let me tell you was really good and surprisingly not that expensive.
From here we went back to the bus to finally check into our hotel to relax a bit and figure out dinner. Some of the group had a concert to go to, but I did not. So I got myself organized a bit and relaxed for a short time before I decided to head back out and find some dinner. After walking around the general area around the hotel, I settled on a traditional German restaurant. I wasn't the only one who found this place, two others from my tour group did. So we just teamed up and had a good meal together of Wiener Schnitzel and a good dark beer. After this, we walked around a bit and found this cute little bakery and grabbed something for an evening snack. I bought a slice of carrot cake; it was pretty good.
The next day we had a short half day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. And let me tell you, the old town is stunning. But you will hear more about that next blog post. But after we got back from Bratislava, we had time to explore on our own. Not a lot of time because we had a group dinner that evening at a bierhaus. So my little group and I decided to walk down the street from our hotel to check out the Naschmarkt. It's a pretty cool small market but it honestly so crowded and not something I recommend checking out as it's mainly a grocery market for locals and a tourist trap. But we spent a good hour or so wandering around looking at everything and taking in the surrounding buildings. After we had enough of the market, we found a little cafe to grab some hot chocolate and head back to our hotel.
From there we had about an hour or two before we had to leave for dinner. I took this time to export all my photos and get started editing them. Dinner was a hilariously good time polka music, beer, and delicious food. I one hundred percent recommend checking out Das Schreiberhaus.
My only regret for Vienna is that I didn't have any time to explore and see the museums. There are over 100 museums in Vienna, and I didn't get to see any of them. I will one hundred percent go back one day to properly experience the city, Schönbrunn, and the museums.
Never in a million years did I think I would get to go to Europe, especially when I was freelancing full-time and on my own. I thought this might happen sometime in the future, but somehow I managed to go and cross off something of my ‘bucket list’ and twenty-eighteen year goal list. Honestly, at the beginning of the year, I didn’t even have my passport, I didn’t have my passport when I booked my trip in September. Thankfully though, everything fell together as it was supposed to (with no hiccups) and I got on a plane, to my first stop, Budapest, Hungary on November 6th.
The fights to Budapest all went smoothly, and on time, so I managed to get to Budapest at 4 pm on November 7th. (I would defiantly recommend traveling with Lufthansa - everything was so clean and friendly.) The downside of getting into the city so late was that it took an hour to get to my hotel because it was rush hour. And let me tell you traffic in Budapest is no joke.
After an hour or so car journey I finally got to my hotel and checked in. I got myself settled, and then around six met up with the tour group I was traveling with for dinner at the hotel. Now, I knew going into this that I would be the youngest person in the group and that was confirmed at dinner. I think I was at least 40 years younger than most people there. (Not mad about it at all it’s just amusing to me.) All the people were friendly (though if I hear ‘It’s courageous of you to travel alone’ I might scream…) and the two other people that got to Budapest on the 7th became my little group. Because what I found out at dinner was that the tour originally started in Poland, so myself and the two others joined in midway through the tour. And since the trip began before us, people had their little groups already, which is entirely reasonable, so I just teamed up with the other two people.
So, the tour of Budapest started the next day at 8 am. We had a bus tour that took us around Budapest and the first actual stop we had was a Matthias Church and at the top of Fisherman's Bastion. But first here are some photos from the bus to our destination.
"Matthias Church is one of the finest churches in Budapest, and the most unique churches in Europe. Located atop the Buda Castle hill, it has been serving the citizens of the Buda Castle Hill since 1015, its foundation by the first Hungarian king. The church has a breathtaking interior with colors inspired by orientalism and romantic historicism. Its mystically exotic atmosphere paired with its Neo-Gothic features differentiates it from any other church." [source]
Matthias Church was beautiful. All the details in the architecture of the church building, the paintings, and sculptures in the church were absolutely breathtaking. Like most of the places I saw on this trip, I could have spent hours just looking at the details. I do think my favorite part of the church was its colorful roof.
Even if you don’t like churches I will still recommend going the plaza outside of the Matthias Church, the top of Fishermans Bastion, for this stunning view of Budapest. You will not regret it.
After we spent a little over an hour at Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, we headed off to Hero’s Square to see the The The Millennium Monument.
“The Millennium Monument in the middle of the square was erected to commemorate the 1000-year-old history of the Magyars. Archangel Gabriel stands on top of the center pillar, holding the holy crown and the double cross of Christianity. The seven chieftains who led the Magyar tribes to Hungary can be seen on the stand below. Statues of kings and other important historical figures stand on top of the colonnades on either side of the center pillar.
When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus the last five spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburg emperors were replaced with Hungarian freedom fighters when the monument was rebuilt after World War II.
In 1989 a crowd of 250,000 gathered at the square for the reburial of Imre Nagy, former Prime Minister of Hungary, who was executed in 1958.” [source]
After the quick stop at Hero’s Square, we headed over to the Great Market Hall. The building itself beautiful and, yet again, has a stunning roof. I mean look at that detail and pattern. If you are from Cleveland, Ohio, like me, you will fell right at home here because it’s a larger version of the West Side Market. Though honestly. I wouldn’t recommend going here as it’s pretty much a tourist trap. Yes, locals do shop here and the first floor sells meats, cheeses, pastries and veggies but there is a ton of touristy booths and a ton of people. (Even in the ‘off’ season of November.)
The last couple of stops of the day were to the Hungarian Parliament building and to St. Stephans Basilica.
After our last stop we headed back to our hotel around 4 pm. Most of the tour group signed up for a boat wine & dinner tour on the Danube River for the evening. But I decided that wasn’t for and since I only had one day in Budapest, I wanted to experience a traditional Hungarian meal. So, I asked the front desk at the hotel for restaurant recommendations and headed off to a placed called Firkász Restaurant. The food was great and the space was cozy. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are near by.
Sadly this was the last place in Budapest that I got to check out as I only had one day here in Budapest. I absolutely loved Budapest and I will for sure be going back as one full day in the city is not enough.
In December, I had the chance to photograph my friend Megan and her family. We met up around sunset at Crocker Park, an outdoor mall like plaza, in Westlake, Ohio. We took some photographs on this little train that drove through the streets of the plaza because Jack, Megan and John's son loves trains. Plus, we had some time to waste as we wanted the sun to go down a bit so we could get all the pretty winter lights.