Almost three weeks ago, I visited two countries in one weekend – Hungary and Austria. I am very late in writing this blog post due to being caught up with midterm exams – and afterwards, a ten day trip to Greece (read about it here and here) but I decided that this weekend trip was such an amazing experience I wanted to share.
We left on a bus Thursday night with SmartTrip and were supposed to arrive at our hostel early Friday morning – but one of the students on the trip forgot his passport, and so we did not pass border control. The bus driver had no choice but to go back and take him to the nearest train station. Then, we went through border control again and a couple hours later, we finally made it to our first destination – Budapest, Hungary.
After dropping our belongings off at the hostel, we took a walking tour through Budapest. It was especially interesting to learn about how Hungary’s involvement in WWII.
First, we visited the German Occupation Memorial, which was built as the government’s way of dealing with the past and stating that Hungary wasn’t responsible for sending some 450,000 Jews to their death during the occupation. The memorial created a lot of controversy, and to protest, people actually created a “living memorial” – personal belongings, photographs, candles, stones, and more.
Next, we visited The Shoes on the Danube Bank , which was the most saddening but moving memorial I have ever visited. There are 60 pairs of rusted shoes – all of different shapes and sizes- lined up against the river to commemorate the Hungarian Jews who were lined up and shot by the river during the winter of 1944.
Although we visited many buildings, monuments, and even went to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, this memorial was truly the one thing that stuck out to me the most when I think about my experience in Budapest.
The next day, we stopped in Vienna, Austria. Our hostel was located right by a huge open air market where we spent much of the day walking , shopping, and tasting food. Bryana had a Falafel, and I tried a Käsenkrainer, which was a sausage filled with cheese in a baguette. It was delicious.
After Vienna, we headed to our last stop of the weekend – Salzburg. Here, we toured the gardens where the Sound of Music was filmed, visited Mozart’s birthplace, and walked across the Love Lock Bridge.
By the end of the weekend, my roommates and I were all pretty exhausted from traveling. We had spent a lot of hours on the bus just getting to each of our destinations, but the experience was 100% worth it.
In the lobby of our hostel in Vienna, there was a wall with various inspirational travel quotes. One of these really stuck with me, and I think I will remember it for years to come. It read “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.” Upon visiting a new place, it is common to have fears, doubts, and worries. As humans, its our natural instinct to fear the unexpected.
I am beginning to embrace the unexpected and treasure it for all the places it has taken me, the people it has connected me with and the memories it has given me. I encourage each and every one of you take chances, to push your own boundaries, and to start something new. Do it for YOU. You will be so glad that you did.