Salut à tous! One thing that j’adore (I love) about France is how committed the French people are to their vacation time. Unlike any other abroad location, the HC students in France can always count on at least three full weeks off during a semester, which is parfait (perfect) for exploring Europe. So, with my first full week of break this semester, I made plans with a few friends to visit three countries that I never dreamed of visiting in my lifetime : Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
The first stop on our tour was Budapest, Hungary. The city was charming and had a culture clearly distinct from all the other countries I had previously visited this year. It was clear that I was no longer in western Europe when I couldn’t even piece together what the language read. One distinct characteristic of Eastern Europe that I grew accustomed to very quickly was the cleanliness. Their value for order was especially apparent early in the morning when I saw shop keepers sweep their sidewalks and throw away the sweepings not into the street, but into their OWN TRASH BINS, something you would never see in a city like Paris, Rome, or even New York. Budapest had some amazing sights to see and the famous thermal baths are definitely a must-do for anyone looking for unique experiences while studying abroad. Overall, my exploration of the city was great, however one situation sticks out in my mind that does not match all the others. While leaving the city Abby, Ava, and I thought it would be cheaper to take public transportation instead of ubering to the bus station. So we bought three tickets for the tram and then transferred into the metro, where the same tickets were ACCEPTED by the machines. Upon leaving the metro we were stopped by security who checked our tickets and told us that we had to pay a “tourist fine” of 6000 forints (20 dollars) for not buying two separate tickets for the tram and the metro, even though this law wasn’t posted ANYWHERE. Because we didn’t happen to have 18,000 forints in CASH, the security had to walk us to an ATM where there was an EXTRA 3000 FORINT CONVERSION CHARGE (10 DOLLARS). I was fuming to say the least. In the end, the Budapest Metro basically robbed Abby, Ava, and I a combined total of 90 DOLLARS and left a horrible taste of the city in our mouths. But I digress…
In Vienna, Austria, our luck improved. After seeing all the beautiful buildings and Habsbourg Palaces we were able to meet up with our international friend from Tours, Zelie! It’s honestly super chouette (cool) having friends who travel the world like Zelie because you never know where or when you will run into one another. Together, we had a typical Viennese afternoon chatting in a fancy café, where I almost accidentally tipped our waiter 50 EUROS (luckily Zelie stopped me before I pressed enter on the card reading machine). That night Abby, Ava, and I were exhausted and were so close to bailing on our plans of going to the 3 euro Viennese opera which was recommended by all of our friends who had already visited. After a few minutes of rationalizing our decision with a, quand à Vienne (when in Vienna), we decided to tough it through and hopefully get to the opera house before the tickets were sold out. After arriving to the ticket booth we were dumbfounded when we saw that the show that was being performed that night was none other than SWAN LAKE. Luckily, we were able to secure three of the last tickets and enjoy the show in the nosebleeds.
The next city on our tour was Prague, in the Czech Republic, where we met up with our friend Nate! It was great catching up with Nate because I hadn’t seen him since Oktoberfest in September and it was refreshing to add a new member to our travel group dynamic. In Prague, we spent four days sight-seeing, eating, and “fika-ing” (sweedish term for having a coffee break and chatting with friends). Although Prague was not my favorite city of the three, I had the best time there just relaxing and enjoying myself in a foreign city with three friends.
Then, after Prague I returned back to France to have my 1 night in Paris with one of my best friends, Caroline, who is currently studying abroad in
Paris Rome for the semester. It was a dream come true walking the Seine and visiting the Princess Diana Memorial with her before she jetted off to Dublin.
This trip was truly amazing. It was great seeing three cities that I never thought I would have the desire to visit in my life, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that Europe isn’t just the few west-most countries like France, Spain, and Italy. It also reminded me that I still have so much more to see before the year comes to an end, so hopefully I will be able to cross a few more countries off my list before my time here is up! Wish me luck!
Leçon du jour: Pour changer la mentalité d’un individu, il faut juste changer son environnement -inconnu
“to change the mentality of an individual, you have to change his environment”