This isn't an easy post to write. First off because it was a three week long adventure which is a lot to cover and second because since it only ended two days ago, it hurts to remember it's over.
This was my second and last tour on exchange. My first was in October. Two weeks traveling by bus around Germany with my oldies. My second was three weeks on a bus with my newbies. And now, no more. I still have one more weekend to see everyone all together but then us oldies go home. 80 days people, 80 days and I'll be flying home.
Now onto that tour, it started in Duisburg at 11pm. I pulled up with my suitcase which I promptly dropped unceremoniously on the ground and started showering everyone who was already there with hugs of excitement. I've always had this sort of happy energy that I get randomly when I'm in a good mood but on tour this energy went on basically the whole time probably making everyone think I'm psychotic in real life (I am).
Anyways, people kept showing up and I kept making a show of being really excited to see them. The bus finally showed up, late I might add which would continue to be a trend throughout the entire tour. Everyone got on as quick as possible, me in my excitement totally forgetting to tell my drivers goodbye...oops and we were on our way.
Fact: Prague is the capitol of the Czech Republic and home to approximately 1.2 million people.
Opinion: I found the architecture to be somewhat similar to Bruges which was a city I visited in Belgium and really loved.
Historical landmarks: Prague Castle, astronomical clock, Jewish Quarter, Old Town Square - all of which I visited in my two days there.
Short History Lesson: the Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410. It is the third oldest in the world but the oldest still in use. It has three components; the astronomical dial, "The Walk of the Apostles," and a calendar dial. The astronomical dial represents the position of the sun and moon. "The Walk of the Apostles" is an hourly clock which shows the Apostles and other moving sculptures striking the time every hour. The calendar dial represents the months passing.
Fact: Budapest is among the top 100 GDP performing cities in the world and attracts 4.4 million international tourists per year making it the 25th most popular city in the world and 6th in Europe.
Opinion: it was so much bigger than I anticipated. In most cities we leave the hostel and walk around the city doing our tours and occasionally using public transport. In Budapest we spent a long time on the bus just trying to get to the place to start our tour. I think we crossed over about 6 different bridges each at least two times in the span of three days. Part of this could have been the bus driver being lost, it's kind of hard to tell from the back row.
Historical landmarks: St. Stephen's Basilica, Chain Bridge, Parliament, Fisherman's Bastion, and the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath
Short History Lesson: the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest of its kind in Europe. Its water comes from two thermal springs of 74C (165F). The water contains sulphate, calcium, magnesium, biocarbonate, and fluoride/metaboric acid. The baths are thought to help degenerative joint illnesses, chronic and sub-acute joint inflammations, and orthopaedic and traumatological post-treatments.
Fact: Vienna is the capitol of Austria and has a population of about 1.8 million. It also has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin.
Opinion: I found Vienna to be a very beautiful city and not all that similar to Germany. I for some reason had the impression that because the two countries share a language they'd be similar but listening to the difference between Austrian German and German German should be enough to tell you they're not very similar at all.
Historical landmarks: Hotel Sacher, Pestsäule, Schönbrunn Palace, Hofburg, St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera House, Austrian Parliament Building, Karlskirche, and the Hundertwasserhaus
Short History Lesson: Vienna was greatly impaired by the Great Plague of Vienna in 1679 with a loss of 76,000 people. It was a major trading city because of its location on the Danube River so Vienna frequently suffered outbreaks of the plague. The Pestsäule is a Holy Trinity column (sometimes also referred to as a mercy column) that was put in place after the plague to celebrate the end of the plague and commemorate the lives lost. The column was put in place in 1693 and depicts the triumph of faith over disease.
This here concludes week one of my tour through Europe. Look for week two soon...