For the end-of-year I traveled to Eastern Europe (though people who live in this area prefer it to be called Central Europe) with fellow Indonesians in my dorm, joined by Betet, Icil & Quang. I actually wanted to go to Spain & Portugal, but then I heard that there's an Ebola case in Madrid. Besides, the plane ticket to Madrid / Barcelona is really pricey in Christmas time. Therefore I decided to go to Eastern Europe, where the cities are easily reached by bus, which costs around €10-20 a ride. The route was Vienna, Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest, Warsaw, Krakow, Berlin, and Prague. Overall, it was a really memorable trip with lots of inside jokes and incredible experiences. Eastern Europe is gloriously cheap, too. I'm proud to say I only spent around €10 per day. That's less than what I bring to meet up with friends in Surabaya.
We arrived in Vienna on the night before Christmas, Dec 24. Since it was already pretty late to do some sightseeing we ended up joining the Christmas mass in the St. Stephan's Church, the main church in Vienna.
We left Schönbrunn pretty early, so we decided to go somewhere a little far before spending the evening at the city center. We looked at our city map and decided to check out the Zentralfriedhof, where famous composers like Mozart and Beethoven are buried. The guide told us to get off at Gate 3. We strolled around the vast cemetery for over an hour to find the tombstones of these famous people, and after this close to giving up we found them conveniently located near the main entrance, which was Gate 2. To think we could've spent only 15 minutes if we got off on the right stop...
Some of the weird tombstones I came across while looking for Mozart's
Granted, the tombstones were intricately designed, but I expected them to be...bigger. Like a shrine, maybe? I mean, they were among the greatest composers of all time! These were undoubtedly smaller than my grandpa's tomb near Malang, which had places you can sit on and those chimneys for burning fake moneys and stuffs.
I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to capture the buildings in Vienna's Old Town due to the early sunset during winter, turns out Vienna at night is even more beautiful with the buildings illuminating the streets.
We tried to make a Christmas tree.
Viennese Opera Hall!
Our first destination in Bratislava was the Devin Castle, about 20 min. bus ride from Bratislava. This ruins of a castle were located in the most western part of Slovakia, where you could see Austria across the river. This is one of my favorite places throughout the trip, since I think the place is underrated. Only saw a handful of tourists there and we pretty much got the place for ourselves, which was awesome for photoshoot sessions.
At the recommendation from the really nice hostel staffs we tried Slovakian food for dinner, at Slovak Pub. You can tell that the restaurant wasn't expensive if I could afford eating in it.
Traditional Slovak cuisine, which were pretty much potato and cheese, with more cheese. Was too cheesy for my taste. Thank God we ordered them to be shared.
Apparently they're quite famous
Blue Church in Bratislava, which was, well, blue.
The famous Burg Bratislava (Bratislava Castle)
Next stop was Budapest, which, I think, was the highlight of the trip. No wonder George Ezra dedicated a song for the city. The sights were amazing, though I wouldn't really felt safe living there. Thankfully one of Katrin's friend, Robert, was kind enough to be our local guide for the day. He showed us around the city and also introduced us to cheap restaurants. Amazingly we only spent €20 for our whole 3-day-stay.
In the morning we hiked (more like, took the bus then walked for 5 minutes) to the Citadella, which was some kind of monument for freedom or something. The point is, you get an amazing view of the whole city, plus the Danube river!
Entrance to the Vajdahunyad Castle (I got all this from Wikipedia)
The breathtaking Parliament building, which you can never get tired of seeing.
View from the Buda Castle (the castle itself I didn't get the chance to photograph since it was so freaking big)
The Great Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe
After a long day of walking we spent dinner at McD and was surprised to find how cheap it is. A meal consisting a McRib sandwich and 1 all-you-can-drink Beverage costs only €3. This picture above was a desert called Makos Guba, a traditional Hungarian dessert made from poppy seeds, vanilla sauce, bread, and cream. Surprisingly poppy seeds come from the same plants as opium.
This apple pie costs only 5000!!!
The guy on the right was Robert, our guide.
Next we headed to Poland, first visiting Warsaw, the capital city. We arrived in Warsaw at night and had to leave for Krakow the next day, so we only had about 4 hours for sightseeing. It was more than enough, though, since to me Warsaw wasn't that memorable and it was -9˚ outside.
Warsaw's Main Square, they say.
And this was supposed to be the symbol of Warsaw. So anticlimactic it reminded me of how I felt after seeing the Manneken Pis statue in Brussels.
Thankfully Krakow was slightly better than Warsaw, more touristy, I'd say. There's a walled area inside the city, where the old town is located. The old town itself was beautiful, though we only spent about 2 hours outside and hurried back because of the freezing cold. I wanted to try the traditional dishes sold at the Christmas Market but didn't get to eat much since I was like, "If I eat I'll have to take of my gloves". Once in the hostel we checked the weather, only to discover it was -15˚C outside. No wonder.
A nice traditional Polish dish with bread, sausage, and onion.
We celebrated New Year's Eve in Berlin, since last year I spent NYE in Positano, a relatively small village in Italy and the next day I had to hitchhike to town because the buses weren't operating. So I thought, better play it safe and spend it in a big city in Germany. And Berlin seemed "young" and "hip" so it was bound to be a great experience. I wanted to celebrate it at Brandenburg Gate, but it was closed everywhere with police and the streets were filled with people lighting up their fireworks--in the middle of the street--so I was pretty scared for my life. All around we had to look left and right to avoid the fireworks. After all the troubles heading to Brandenburg Gate we finally gave up and chose to celebrate it at Alexanderplatz near our hostel. It was a nice and much safer experience, filled with couples and old people. An adventurous bunch we are huh.
Our NYE dinner was also far from fancy. Katrin read in the internet that there's a famous Halbes Hähnchen (half chicken) for €3,5 near our hostel so we decided to try it. We got off at this shady area called Görlitzer Bahnhof and spent like 30 minutes trying to find the damn chicken. Google Maps told us to cross this park which was dark and empty so we were reluctant at first. But then we saw a woman going inside the park so we were like, "Okay! We'll follow her!". Turns out she was buying drugs. We walked as fast as we can without showing how afraid we were. The freaking chicken place ended up to be located just a minute walk outside the metro station. Way to go, Google. Fortunately the chicken was awesome, though I would never go back there again. FYI we ate next to a garbage truck.
NYE isn't complete without drinking beer. So we thought we'd try local Berliner beer. It was awful. I only bought the 0,5 L one and didn't even finish it. I need my Augustiner.
One of the destinations I didn't get to see the last time I went to Berlin in the summer was the East Side Gallery. It's the remains of the Berlin Wall turned painted with murals all over.
...And the Checkpoint Charlie, the famous checkpoint located at the border of East and West Berlin
in front of the Berliner Dom
Prague was the last stop. To me it was nice and all, albeit overrated. Too many tourists in my opinion, and definitely not in the same level as Budapest. I guess this is what I call "The Budapest Effect"
Our first dinner at Prague was at this Vietnamese/Thai restaurant. The Pho costs only €3 and we were like "OH MY GOSH THIS IS SO DELICIOUS" in every slurp. We even went so far as saying that we're gonna have every meal in Prague at this place. That's exactly what we did. Ate here 4 times in 2 days.
St. Vitus Cathedral
The Dancing House
One of the oldest vineyards in the world located in Prague Castle
One particular memory I will always remember in Prague was how broke we are. Since I don't want to lose to much money I only exchanged enough amount of Czech Korun to last for two days. On the very last day I only had a handful of Korun left and didn't want to exchange more since I only needed like, 2 or 3 Euros tops. So I had to calculate my meal down to the very cent. I needed 197 Korun and had 200 Korun (about 7 Euros). I couldn't even upgrade my Pho from chicken to beef because it costs 10 Korun more (which was roughly about 0,3 Euros). This was the time I felt the poorest. And then the restaurant charged us 5 Korun extra for our takeaway meals so instead of having 3 Koruns left, I had to ask my friend for 2 Korun. On the very last day we decided to walk to the train station instead of taking the subway / tram. I spent my very last Korun buying ice cream at McDonalds. Had we used the subway I wouldn't even be able to afford a 50 cent ice cream at McDonalds. Literally have never been this poor. Was an exciting experience to remember, though.
As for the End-of-Year lists, I'm not sure when I'm gonna post it, maybe some time next month since this month I'm gonna be super busy with exam preparations. Finally, a great new year to you guys!