5 Travel Tips for Budapest

Budapest is a cool city. Matt and I did a lot of walking while we were there. There’s nothing more interesting than walking around a new city. I feel that walking around allows you to see unexpected things more frequently than when you just take public transportation. Matt and I walked everywhere in Budapest and we definitely got a great feel for the city for the amount of time that we had. Here’s some tips that we collected to help you navigate the city successfully.

 

Check out the view from the Fisherman’s Bastion and get a bite to eat.  This location provides a great lookout over Budapest. You can see the parliament building across the river. It is a great place to take awesome photos of the city. Matt and I also grabbed a bite to eat at the HB Cafe which is in the structure. Once again, it was an awesome view and we had some great food.

 

Walking around to see the sites. Matt and I managed to snag a hostel in between the river and where Heroes’ Square are. These two areas of the city are in opposite directions. We split our trip in half visiting each area. Walking along the streets we got to see the true character of city. Check out all the museums, castles, bookshops, and restaurants along the way.

 

Public transportation can be confusing. Plan ahead. Matt is awesome at figuring out our public transportation routes. We typically utilize public transportation solely to get to and from the airport. Budapest’s public transportation is a beast. Matt spent lots of time working out how to get to and from the airport. It was a bit more complicated considering we had taken the train in so getting to the airport was new for us in that city and we took a very early flight. It’s definitely doable but take the time to do the research and a lot extra time incase you get lost.

 

Take the tram up to castle hill. Sure, we could have walked up to the castle. But we didn’t want to. It was fun to take the tram up the hill even though it was a bit expensive. A panoramic of the city slowly comes into view as you ascend the hill. And it was nice to not have to walk up that steep incline.


Check out a Hungarian secret box.
Matt and I found these after we got off the tram on castle hill. We collected coins for my cousin during our trip and needed a box to put them in. This type of box is so cool. You have to remove secret panels in order to get to the key. It was an awesome souvenir to bring home.

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7 Things to Do in Krakow

Matt and I enjoyed Krakow a lot. If I could describe Krakow in one word and one phrase it would be cheap and high quality. I think that’s a combination that everyone can appreciate but doesn’t come across often. I hope to visit more of Poland in the future because of the great experience I had in Krakow. If you like older cities that have their own charm as well as great food, Krakow is for you. Krakow’s location also affords you a couple of great day trip opportunities (Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine) that are definitely worth seeing. Plus, it’s easy to spend a couple extra days there as the city’s atmosphere and cheap prices make you feel like you’re taking a lot in without doing typical tourist activities. Here are some activities you might consider adding to your list when you visit Krakow:

Gardens on Wawel Hill

Gardens on Wawel Hill

Visit Wawel Castle: This is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. It holds a lot of history for the local community as it used to be the country’s seat of power. Hands were changed, things were destroyed, but now the castle is restored to a great condition. Opt for the full tour and see the state rooms, collection of oriental art, armory, private apartments, dragon’s den, and, my favorite, the lost wawel. It’s a beautiful, ongoing archaeological excavation that you can visit by walking raised paths. The only downside is that I couldn’t take pictures. Don’t forget to visit the cathedral on site which has free entry.

See the Salt Mine: If you and your fellow travelers don’t mind going underground and a bit of adventure, check out the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I’m a big fan of visiting underground sites and caves so this was just my cup of tea. Take a tour to learn all about the mine’s history and see some interesting art made entirely out of salt. It’s a completely different world down there that you shouldn’t miss. And it’s only a twenty minute drive from Krakow. You can get there by using public transportation or you can book a tour in advance. See Krakow is a tour company that will pick you right up at your hostel/hotel. You pay a bit extra but I think it’s worth not having to deal with the stresses or arranging transportation.

Sunlight on Royal Castle, Wawel Hill

Sunlight on Royal Castle, Wawel Hill

Make the Trip to Auschwitz: Visiting Auschwitz is a heavy experience but I think it is something everyone should do when they visit Krakow. It takes about an hour or so to reach the site from the city. I arranged a tour through See Krakow and it worked perfectly. Auschwitz is quite busy; when you arrange a tour, your guides take care of everything for you so you don’t need to wait in line for tickets. Touring Auschwitz will impact you for the rest of your life. Don’t miss it.

Dine Out: Like I said, Krakow is cheap. You can eat at a good restaurant for a reasonable price. With my boyfriend, we would each get a drink, appetizer, main meal, and one dessert for $30 (US Dollars) total. The cheap prices mean that you don’t have to feel guilty about splurging on a big meal once a day. It’s definitely worth it. If you’re like me and don’t usually dine out while you travel, make an exception for Krakow. It’s a steal.

Take a Walk By the River: Once you’re done your tour with Wawel Castle, enjoy a stroll by the river side. It’s peaceful there. Go back at night to see the city lights play off of the water. Plus there’s a fire breathing dragon statue that looks spectacular at night. You can’t miss it when you come out of the dragon’s den part of your Wawel Castle tour.

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral

Wander Around Market Square: Sure Market Square is expensive. Sure there are lots of people. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a cool place to wander around. Check out all the souvenir stalls in the market building which is smack dab in the square’s center. Wander the streets adjacent to the square to find some cheaper restaurants and souvenirs. Sit down and people watch. It’s busy and entertaining.

Run through the Park: Or walk. The park in the center of the city surrounds the market square so you’re going to have to go through it anyway. It’s worth it to enjoy the green space in the city. Matt and I also used it as a place for our morning runs. It’s a great spot for people and puppy watching.

Rome in Scaffolding

As Matt and I have been traveling around, we only occasionally find ourselves going to see a city itself. Of course we are always interested to see what the city looks like, the type of architecture it hosts, what the culture is like, etc. but we more often than not find ourselves visiting museums. When Matt and I visited Rome, we were visiting the city itself. It was a pretty cool experience because we specifically visited sites that gave us an even better concept of what Rome was like in the past. You go through layers of history in a way that isn’t so evident in some cities. The ruins of thousands of years past are all around you. Public art is centuries old. Plazas were once stadiums. It’s this odd juxtaposition that I’m not quite used to. Coming from the United States, everything is young there. When you’re in New Hampshire, you go up to the mountains to see something really old in the sense of how long ago the ranges were formed. In Rome, you can visit ruins from civilization of the BC era. There’s something magical about being able to visit a place where people lived so long ago and left such clear marks of their lives. Even better, people still live in the city. Rome isn’t deserted or out in the middle of nowhere. Humanity has managed to take root so solidly in that area that you can’t help but marvel at the history laid out before you.

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

 

It’s important for us to never take our ability to see the ancient history of Rome for granted. This became clear to me as I saw so many areas of Rome under restoration. A good chunk of the Colosseum’s exterior is being cleaned of dirt and is covered in a structure to make that possible. The Trevi Fountain is near impossible to see with all the scaffolding covering the fountain. It seems that a lot of Rome was being repaired or restored. As Matt and I arrived in Italy, we asked the staff at the hostel where in the season we were. Matt and I arrived in the first weekend of off season. Perhaps the time of the year dictates the work that is being done on so many places in Rome. Being in the museum field, I can appreciate that restoration work and preventative measures need to be taken in order to prolong the life of objects. It was easy to accept the Colosseum being worked on; over half of the exterior was still visible and now with the original color of the marble exposed. When I got to the Trevi Fountain, I was irritated. This massive structure that I so desperately wanted to see was completely obscured by scaffolding. I knew I shouldn’t be upset because the work that is being done is necessary and good but I really wanted to see that fountain. I told myself that I would just have to come back another year as I looked forlornly through the plexiglass barrier that separated me from the construction. The city erected a walkway through the scaffolding so that the public could still get up close to the fountain. At first I was so annoyed that I didn’t even want to go up to the fountain. Then I realized that not many people can say that they’ve seen the Trevi Fountain in scaffolding and even fewer can say that they’ve had the opportunity to get so close to the sculptural elements, even if some of them were partially wrapped in plastic. So I went on the walkway and I enjoyed it. I’m excited to see what the fountain looks like without all of the scaffolding but I can appreciate that I saw the area at a special, different time.

Trevi Fountain in Scaffol

Trevi Fountain in Scaffolding

Sometimes when you go to see a city, you can’t see all of it. Things are under construction and restoration. That’s life. People live in the city and maintenance needs to be done on the beautiful historical pieces or they will come to ruins much quicker than we would like. Rome helped me to realize that even if there’s scaffolding all over everything, I can still have a unique and special experience with the city that was well worth my time. And it is good to see an effort being put into protecting the world’s cultural treasures.

Detail of Trevi Fountain

Detail of Trevi Fountain

Eating Like Kings in Krakow

While Matt and I were in Krakow, we ate like kings. Matt and I went to a restaurant for every single meal except for breakfasts. And it was all extremely affordable and high quality. If there is one thing I would recommend when you visit Krakow it’s to take advantage of the currency exchange and eat at some awesome restaurants. If you don’t believe me, check out the details of some of the meals that we had including the prices. It will probably blow your mind like it did ours.

 

Cafe Botanica  (55,50 Polish Zloty = 16.60)

  1. Raspberry Creme Brulee – I’m a huge fan of creme brulee so I jumped at the chance to get some in Krakow. I’ve never had raspberries cooked into the custard before but it was amazing.
  2. Caprese Salad with Bread – This salad was an option in almost all the restaurants we went to.
  3. Foot Long Panini with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Garlic Sauce: Move over Subway! This foot long panini cost be about US$3.50. And it tasted awesome.
  4. Pot of Black Tea
  5. Large Black Coffee

 

Nova Krova — An All Vegan Restaurant (63 Polish Zloty = 18.84 USD)

 

  1. Quinoa Spinach Burger with Grilled Vegetables, Lettuce, Pickles, and Spicy Sauce: This was not some rinky dink veggie burger. This thing had heft!
  2. Barley Salad with Cucumbers: Refreshing, healthy, and cheap. What more can you ask for?
  3. Beetroot Soup with Coconut Milk, Pumpkin Seeds, and Sprouts: They gave me a lot of this soup and I enjoyed every single bite. I also ordered a burger so my stomach may have felt like it was going to burst but it was worth it.
  4. Orange Lemonade
  5. Regular Lemonade
  6. Millet Burger with Vegan Mayo, Arugula, Pumpkin Seeds, and Tomatoes: This burger was absolutely delicious and, like the quinoa burger, huge. I was so full after this amazing lunch.
Beetroot Soup, Nova Krova, Krakow, Poland

Beetroot Soup, Nova Krova, Krakow, Poland

 

Bon Appetea (23,30 Polish Zloty = 6.97 USD)

  1. Matcha Coconut Bubble Tea with Tapioca: I had been passively looking for bubble tea my whole trip and this was the first place I came upon. The matcha bubble tea was so yummy!
  2. Passion Fruit Green Bubble Tea with Mango Boba
Brownie with Ice Cram and Caramel Sauce, TriBeca, Krakow, Poland

Brownie with Ice Cram and Caramel Sauce, TriBeca, Krakow, Poland

 

TriBeca (65 Polish Zloty = 19.44 USD)

  1. Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce: This was so yummy. And I ate it before my meal. No shame.
  2. Handmade Strawberry Lemonade with Mint: This lemonade was light and refreshing. Plus it was all natural. It didn’t have any extra sugar like you would probably see in American Strawberry Lemonades.
  3. Huge Caprese Salad with Bread
  4. Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula and Bread: I tried this out instead of the typical caprese salad that I’d been seeing everywhere. It was delicious but it was so much food. I couldn’t even eat it all.
  5. Large Americano
Beet Salad, TriBeca, Krakow, Poland

Beet Salad, TriBeca, Krakow, Poland

 

Morskie Oko (58 Polish Zloty = 17.35 USD)

  1. Potato Pancakes: These were so creamy and delicious. I need to figure out how to make these when I get home.
  2. Large Jug of Mineral Water
  3. Fava Bean Pierogies with Caramelized Onions: This dish was my favorite of the two pierogies we tried. These were the best pierogies that I have ever eaten.
  4. Spinach and Cheese Pierogies with Caramelized Onions

 

Like the information and photos you found here? Check out my food blog Ravenous Wander. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh was a beautiful, walk-able city for a tourist. A lovely, green park separates the older section of the town from the new. You could take public transportation if you want but walking affords lots of photograph opportunities and the possibility of stumbling upon an interesting café or shop. I would go back to Edinburgh in a heartbeat. It’s a happy, welcoming city that makes you want to come back again and again. Here’s my list of activities to partake of while you are in Edinburgh.

  1. The Edinburgh Castle: Going to this site should be an all-day event. Straight up, it’s a bit pricey but totally worth it. Cut down costs by bringing your lunch with you. Buy the tour book (you’ll see it at the ticket counter) and forgo a tour (which is more expensive). Plus it gives you the opportunity to explore at your own leisure. There are a few museums on the grounds that are jam packed with exhibitions plus there’s the castle itself. You will easily fill your time.
  2. Ghost Tour: While in Edinburgh, you might hear of the possibility of going on a ghost tour. If you want a different type of tour, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. Matt and I did a two hour ghost tour with City of the Dead tour company. We had fun hearing the stories and Matt eagerly took pictures of various locations to see if any ghosts would show up in the resulting images. It definitely made me want to learn more about the history of Edinburgh so I could figure out where the ghost stories fit into everything.
  3. Sunbathe at the Princes Street Gardens: Remember that lovely, green park that I mentioned? It’s smack dab in between the new and old portions of Edinburgh (Princes Street and the Royal Mile). Grab a coffee and go sit out on the grass or in a bench. It gives you a different perspective of some of the city sites as the park is in a large sloping grassy area. There are bridges that traverse this park so you can kind of get a perspective of how much it slopes. Spending some time to relax in this garden is a great way to take a break from all the tourism you’ll be doing.
  4. Get Out of the City: Edinburgh is a great jumping off point for tours to the Scottish Highlands. Matt and I used a free (well, tip what you think the tour was worth) tour service called the Hairy Coo Tour. It was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone. There are tons of other tours though that include whiskey distilleries and more extended excursions into the Highlands. They can get pricey though but the Scottish Highlands are definitely worth seeing.
  5. Support a Local, Independent Coffee Shop: Matt and I indulged at Castello Coffee Co. a couple of times while we were in Edinburgh. It’s on Castle Street right off Princes Street where all the major shopping is. I absolutely love going to independent coffee shops so this was lots of fun for me.
  6. Check Out the Free Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Want to see some cool art? Check out these museums. They’re free which makes them even better! While Matt and I visited Edinburgh, we mainly focused on the Generation exhibition that they had going on which was a cool way to become more familiar with modern and contemporary Scottish art. I’m sure that they’ll be putting on other great exhibitions in the future.
  7. Visit the Farmers’ Market: Buy and eat some local food while staring up at Edinburgh Castle. Farmers’ markets offer foods that are comparable to the prices of grocery stores or better. You’ll support the locals and may even get to experience something new. The farmers’ market on Castle Terrace runs on Saturday mornings to the early afternoon. You can grab breakfast there, buy a lunch for later, and then work your way to the castle. Matt and I did this and it worked perfectly.

8 Things You Should Know About Brussels

When Matt and I arrived in Brussels, he wasn’t impressed. We did arrive in the evening so he didn’t get the best glimpses of the city while we looked for an open restaurant to relieve our hunger. We saw a couple fighting aggressively in the street (thankfully they stopped before it escalated to the point where Matt would’ve had to step in). There were more sirens than Matt had heard our whole trip (he’s very aware of those things). The streets seemed dirty. I told Matt to try not to let his first impressions ruin our visit to that city. I was convinced that it would be a great experience and it was. Brussels is beautiful (though admittedly it is a bit dirty). And it provides tons of great food to its lucky visitors. Here are my tips for when you visit the lovely city of Brussels:

 

  1. Get Ready to Indulge. There are tons of beers, fries, waffles, and chocolates that you need to try when in Brussels. Just give in to it. It’s a great experience for everyone, foodie or not. I accepted my fate, enjoyed my time, and started to eat healthier again once we left the city.
  2. The Belgian Flag Isn’t Normal. Notice how the flag is flying vertically instead of horizontally in the picture below? That’s how the Belgian flag is supposed to fly but it is placed horizontal to meet international standards.

    Belgian Flag

    Belgian Flag

  3. Buy Some Chocolate From the Grocery Stores. Don’t get me wrong, you should go and indulge at all of the chocolatiers around Brussels but you can get chocolate that is just as good from the grocery stores. Matt and I picked up chocolate from there and saved money. I recommend Dolfin’s Masala Chai chocolate bar. It’s awesome.
  4. Not All Belgian Fries Are Fresh. Our walking tour guide reminded us of this. The tour guide recommended Fritland which cuts its fries fresh each morning. No frozen fries there. Matt and I did some quality control for you all out there. We can confirm that Fritland’s fries are indeed fresh potatoes. Also, the locals eat their fries with mayo or tartar sauce. If you want to eat like them, give it a try. It’s great.
  5. Visit the Waffle Corner. Right near the Manneken Pis (a major tourist attraction that is simply a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain) is a lovely corner with waffles that cost one Euro each. Toppings are extra. I enjoyed the waffles plain which is how the locals eat them. I tried one with powdered sugar too but it’s a bit messy. If you get a plain waffle you can walk around and stuff your face simultaneously. No need to step to the side and wait until you’re finished eating to enjoy the city’s sites.
  6. Planete Chocolat Gives an Awesome Chocolate Talk. Matt and I looked into taking a chocolate tour of Brussels. It was a ton of money so we decided to just visit the big chocolate places on our own and try their confectionary wonders. For a mere seven Euros each, you can go to Planete Chocolat and do their chocolate talks on the weekends. You get five pieces of chocolate, a hot chocolate (a legit one, mind you), a chocolate making demo, and information on chocolate’s history. Totally worth it. Plus they make their chocolate all by hand. I’m sure that the commercial chocolatiers can’t say that.
  7. Viva Brussels! This was the awesome free walking tour that Matt and I took the first day that we really started exploring the city. Of course, they ask you to pay what you can or what you think the tour is worth. It was worth a lot in our opinion. We were able to see all the tourist attractions and learn local tips at the same time. I’d suggest it to anyone visiting Brussels. It definitely helps get you oriented. Plus, I love the tour companies that let anyone have access to a good tour. I believe that the amount of money in your pocket shouldn’t limit on your ability to go on a really nice tour. (It can certainly feel that way for those of us traveling on a tight and small budget.) Viva Brussels delivered an impressive product.
  8. Get Beer from the Grocery Stores. Just as with the chocolate, you can still get great beers at the grocery stores. Matt loves trying new beers so he went this route to save some money. Don’t bother buying beers from the tourist shops. They just jack up the prices and you can probably get the same beers at the grocery stores. Matt did this with some of the Trappist beers and saved two to three Euros a bottle as opposed to the tourist shops.

 

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If you like all the food advice I had in this post or if you just like food in general (and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t), check out my food blog on Tumblr called Ravenous Wander. That’s where you’ll find more detailed information and pictures of my food adventures during my backpacking trip.

6 Tips for Visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam is an awesome city. The canals are beautiful and the culture is rich. The city accepts everyone and, it seems, all of their personal and diverse beliefs. Amsterdam made me feel welcome. I highly recommend Amsterdam as a travel destination. That being sad, here are a few tips for traveling in Amsterdam:

 

 

  • Leave for the Anne Frank House early. Don’t fret if you can’t reserve tickets in advance. (I tried to but they were sold out for the whole week I was there.) Just plan to arrive at the museum early as a long line builds and is sustained throughout the day. I arrived there at opening time and waited about forty-five minutes in line. It’s totally worth the wait though. You get to see Anne’s original diary which is very moving. Plus, it’s one of the cheaper visits you’ll do in Amsterdam at a mere nine euros each for adults.
  • Definitely take a canal tour. Matt and I splurged a bit to take an open boat canal tour and it was worth it. Amsterdam is totally different when seen from in the canals. Plus it offers great opportunities for different photos that you wouldn’t get standing on the side of the water. And the whole great memories thing too. Don’t forget that you can bring some booze on your tour. I brought a shake which was just as wonderful on a hot day in Amsterdam.
  • The Van Gogh museum is packed and kind of not worth it. Matt and I each paid fifteen euros to get into this museum and we were disappointed. The place was so packed that we really didn’t get to see the art. Matt and I love Van Gogh so we thought the trip would be worth it. We dutifully went through each floor and read the text panels to make the pricey visit worth it but it was just too crowded. Go on a slow day or don’t go at all unless you really, really, really love Van Gogh.
  • The canals are beautiful at night so you should probably go there. Matt and I walked the canals almost every night we were in Amsterdam. Plus we stuffed our face while doing it. Amsterdam doesn’t go to bed until early in the morning so there are plenty of opportunities to people watch and eat some food. Matt and I sat by the canal and dangled our legs over the edge. It was fun and beautiful.
  • Watch out for bicyclists. Having lived in two cities (DC and Syracuse), I am used to the occasional bicyclist. I’m not used to the flocks of bicyclists that you’ll find in Amsterdam. It feels very chaotic when you first arrive. The bikes definitely pose more danger than cars. Cars yield. Bikes don’t. They’ll just go right through a crowd of pedestrians who have the right of way. So double check before you walk out into the street.
  • Rent a boat. I wish I had done this. You don’t need a license to drive a boat around the canals. The police even put up easy to read signs so you’ll know what rules to follow while you operate your boat. I’d say just be cautious when you do it. It seems like it would have been a really fun experience and a cool way to see Amsterdam.

IMG_0492

Above is a cool sign that police post in the canals. You don’t need a license to drive a boat. Heck, you don’t even need to read! Boat plus alcohol equals collision and lots of swearing.