Last week I returned home after spending about 12 days in Europe. I’m still not sure how or why I have been blessed with two back-to-back European trips, but I have seen, felt, and experienced so many beautiful places and people over the past year and a half and I am extremely grateful.
My cousin Leah and I graduated high school back in May. We were promised graduation trips by both our grandpa and our uncle, with the only stipulations being we had to agree on a location for the trip (obviously). We discussed the matter very seriously amongst ourselves and decided to do a European river cruise.
The idea was that a river cruise would be able to show us the largest amount of countries in the shortest amount of time, but would operate as our home base every night. Every day we would wake up in a different city, but we wouldn’t have to unpack and repack 15 million times. We ended up picking a Danube River cruise that would take us through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany and then we added Paris onto the end of the trip.
Before I get into the post any farther, I just want to take a minute to thank my grandpa and my uncle for this amazing trip. I realize that not many teenagers get to take a trip like this, and I truly feel lucky and blessed to have a wonderful family that supports me and recognizes my accomplishments. I also feel lucky and blessed to have a family that has the means to make this trip happen.
Day 1: Budapest
Today, after flying from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to London, we finally landed in Budapest. A driver took us from the airport to our hotel, which sat right next to the famous Chain Bridge. After unpacking our bags and changing, we headed out into town to get dinner.
Dinner was at a restaurant recommend by one of Uncle Jon’s friends and it was incredible (looking back I think it was the best meal I had on the trip, and that’s saying a lot). Located in a typical European alley, the restaurant had a quaint feel and a wonderful menu. I ordered steak, which is very unusual for me, and loved it. I took pictures of everything we ate that night and will make sure they are posted below. On top of the wonderful food, our waiter was cute and that’s always a plus.
After dinner we went back to the hotel and crashed, hoping to get ahead of the jet lag enough to be ready for the full day ahead of us.
Day 2: Budapest
Today was all about exploring Budapest. We enjoyed a very filling 2 hour breakfast at the hotel, then lugged our suitcases to the dock so they could be put on our ship (we were leaving Budapest that night). We then began our adventure on the hop-on hop-off city tour buses.
While on the bus, we saw a lot of interesting places, but we went by very quickly and only got a few explanations of what everything was. Eventually the sun and heat were too much and we had to get off to stop at a cafe and get water. We then hopped back onto the wrong bus and had to get off and find a cab to take us in the right direction. The cab was tiny and I had to ride on my Grandpa’s lap all the way up the hill to the citadel sitting above the city.
The view from the citadel was breathtaking. We could see both Buda and Pest (fun fact: they are technically separate because the river cuts through them) and our ship on the river. On the way back to the ship we sat in the same tiny cab and Leah had to sit on my lap. Two Hungarian men pulled up beside us, laughed when they saw us, and tried to talk to us. None of us knew Hungarian, but our cab driver wouldn’t repeat what they said so it was probably a good thing.
We checked in at the ship and explored our beautiful, mobile home for the next week before going to the chef’s dinner. Everything was delicious and there were a lot of combinations that were unexpected, but surprisingly good. We sailed out of Budapest that night and went to the top deck to see everything along the water lit up. It was gorgeous.
Our time in Budapest was very rushed and we weren’t able to see or learn about the majority of the city, so I would definitely love to go back eventually and take the time to explore everything.
Day 3: Bratislava
This morning we hung out on the boat since we didn’t dock in Bratislava until 3 pm. I ran and worked out and watched as the boat went through the largest lock on the Danube. I don’t quite understand how locks work, but sitting on the boat and watching it go up or down because the water level is changing is pretty interesting.
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, has had many different names throughout history, and was a place I had never heard of before deciding to take this trip. It is now one of my favorite cities. Leah and I went on the castle “hike” (it was more of an uphill walk) after we docked and got to see the church where Maria Theresa was coronated. I quickly realized that Maria Theresa and her daughter Marie Antionette would be focal points of the entire trip, which was fine because girl power, right? We “hiked” up to the castle where Maria Theresa’s favorite daughter (not Marie Antionette) lived and were able to see Slovakia, Hungary and Austria all at the same time from the top.
After the castle visit, we walked through Old Town, a charming city center that looks and feels like one would picture Europe to look and feel like. We went to a restaurant our cruise manager Martina recommended for dinner and I had onion soup and a potato pancake filled with meat. Leah and I walked around after dinner and went to a really fun, famous ice cream shop where the servers throw the ice cream around, do tricks, and joke with the customers. The city center was full, but still quiet and relaxed and we felt very safe. It was a very welcoming atmosphere.
I really enjoyed Bratislava and can’t wait to visit again. Because it is only 1 hour from Budapest in one direction, and 1 hour from Vienna in the other, it is the perfect place to stay.
Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.