Time and time again we randomly get giddy like school children and look at each other with exuberance and say, we’re in Paris!, or Bruges!, or Amsterdam! We have been on our journey for close to eleven weeks now and sometimes it is still hard for us to actually fathom what we are doing. Are we really travelling the world? This can’t be reality. We must have fallen asleep at our work desks and are about to wake up at any moment. Well if we are actually sleeping, please don’t wake us up. We’re not quite ready for this dream to be over.
A lot of places we’ve recently visited feel and look like they came right out of a dream world. Most recently, Prague and Budapest, the latest stops on our rootless and roaming adventure. While in Prague, our couchsurfing host took us to the top of the Jindrisska Tower, the highest belfry in the city, to gaze down on the world below us. The views were absolutely stunning. We remember saying to him that no photograph we take or arrangement of words we come up with can accurately depict the endless amount of sights that fill our vision. So all we can do is urge you to experience it for yourself at one point in your life. We promise that you will not be disappointed. The same feelings encompassed our bodies and souls when we summited Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest. Again, you must see it for yourself to believe it.
So what exactly have we been up to the past couple weeks since leaving Germany? If you read the previous two paragraphs, you guessed it, visiting the Czech Republic and Hungary. Both were former allies of Germany in WWII and then thanks to the Soviet Union, communist countries (the belfrey in Prague, mentioned above, was actually at one point a communist spy tower used to keep a watchful eye on the American embassy located just a short distance below it). These days both countries are happy, independent democracies with very unique, yet similar histories, cities and cultures.
Let’s talk about Prague to start, the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague is a fascinating city and an architectural paradise. It is home to a vast array of buildings and churches with eight centuries of architecture to goggle at. The unique thing is that all the different styles are mixed together throughout the city. There will be Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Broque, New Classical, Art Nouveaux and Communist buildings arranged along side of each other on the streets. It is a site like no other. Thanks to our couchsurfing host (a history teacher we should add), we received a personalized tour of the city to sightsee and learn. Also thanks to him, we “learned” about some local bars and Czech beer.
Since Prague and Budapest were both part of the Austro-Hungarian empire they have similar feels and looks. Keeping with the theme, Budapest has just as much architectural uniqueness with the varying building styles all immersed together. Budapest is just slightly larger, by about 30 squared kilometres, and has a larger population. The real visual treat of Budapest (pronounced Buda-Pesh) is the Parliament Building. It is an unbelievable site. So beautiful that Freddy Mercury even asked if it was for sale during a visit there in 1987. Designed by Hungarian born architect Imre Steindl, the construction on it started in 1885 and finished in 1904 making it the largest building in Hungary. It is rumored that Steindl got his inspiration from the House of Parliament in London and he just made his version bigger. We have now seen both the Parliament in London and the Parliament Building in Hungary and we agree the Hungarian version wins (although both are spectacular). In summary, visit Prague and Budapest. Both awesome.
Now that our time has come to an end here, what is next for us? Croatia! Which we originally had no plans to visit, but as fate would have it, will be our home for the next three weeks. Three weeks in a country you didn’t plan to visit you may be asking? Well…. thanks to something called the Schengen Agreement, which we found out about a month ago, we needed a place to explore outside of the Schengen Area so we wouldn’t overstay our visa. So we’re off to Croatia – a stunning coastline sliver of former Yugoslavia.