Backpack Banter Three Cities. Three Weekends. How much can you get out a two day trip in... Budapest Berlin and Barcelona
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Budapest A Weekend in Budapest Budapest has it all to offer the young traveller and with direct flights from Edinburgh there’s no excuse not to savour the city’s delights. When you arrive in the largest city in Eastern Europe for the first time there is definitely something to grab everyone’s attention. Budapest was founded in 1873 through the joining of Buda, Pest and Old Buda, with the famous Danube River running between Buda and Pest. And it is the perfect East meets West city with its gritty, romantic, bohemian culture and atmosphere means it is the perfect getaway that ticks all the boxes. From St. Stephens Basilica to a pub-crawl of the ruin bars the city has something to offer everyone. One of the best ways to get around is to rent a bike or get an open top bus tour. Another thing to prepare for is the sheer size of the place however something quite reassuring is the number of grass parks around the city centre, including City Park which plays host to one of the famous thermal baths. Budapest is a spa city with thermal springs bubbling up
from the deep and with a bathing culture dating back to Roman times. And thermal baths are one of the best features of Budapest and taking a dip in one of the historic baths should be on every visitor’s to-do-list. It’s a fun and pleasant way to relax after touring the city and the thermal water’s healing power is an added benefit if you’re trying to cure a hangover. There are six baths which are placed all around the city. All are equal in quality but going on size, the grandest surely has to be Gellert or Szechenyi. These baths hold 15 indoor pools, three outdoor pools and 10 saunas and steam rooms. If you visit during the summertime be sure to get to Szechenyi on a Saturday night where the biggest bath turns into the biggest party in Budapest. Locals and travellers from all over the world come together from 10pm till 3am to dance and drink in a truly unique experience. There is an endless amount of attractions to visit in Budapest but the highlights might include the tallest monument in the city, Heroes’ Square, Parliament building, Royal Palace and Margret Island, which is an island, situated on the Danube. Perhaps the best way to see these attractions is to take a walking tour of the city. The free walking tour is highly recommended as it covers most of the main attractions. Remember to tip the students who take the tour as they give Parliament building
4 great insight into Hungarian culture, traditions and history. Accommodation in the Pest side of the city is the most convenient as most of the nightlife and good pubs are situated there. There are many hostels for travellers but none have a friendlier atmosphere than Come On Inn hostel in the Old Jewish quarter. A bed in a dorm for three nights will cost £35pp however a studio apartment for two would cost £120. The hostel has everything you would need and more, providing a The Szechenyi baths real family atmosphere for the guests. For travellers willing to spend a little bit more Hotel Budapest Center offers a luxury double room for three nights for £200. Guests can enjoy their breakfast in the comfort of their own room or in the stylish dining lounge before setting off for the day. The location is just 200 metres from the Astoria or Franciscan Square metro lines. Eating in a foreign country can be daunting for some people but experiencing Hungarian food gives you a real flavour of Hungarian culture. If you are on a budget and looking for a cheap authentic valuable meal then visit the Blue Rose restaurant situated round the corner from the famous Szimpla Kert ruin bar. Order the Hungarian set menu for four courses including bread and Goulash soup – Eastern Europe cuisine – Sopska salad, grilled pork with chips and Hungarian ice cream, all for the equivalent of £7.20. For travellers wanting something extra special, go to Zeller Bistro, ranked the number one Hungarian restaurant in Budapest. Situated in the Pest side of the city Zeller offers main courses from the equivalent of £6 and
still provides great value for money. The only downside is that it is so good you need to make a reservation. Once your stomach is lined it’s time to hit some of the bars. The seventh and eighth districts of the city are loaded with pubs, mainly the famous ‘ruin bars’ which are essentially bars and nightclubs in derelict tenement houses and factory buildings. They have a vintage feel to them but there is no specific design and certainly no rules. There are always groups on pub-crawls of the ruin bars and it is probably the easiest way to get around most of them, as they can be quite difficult to find without a guide. They will usually end the night in the ruin nightclub “Instant” where travellers will swap stories and swig on a cold one. Jet2 fly direct from Edinburgh – a Thursday to Sunday return flight will set you back £214pp including hand luggage, with the flight times being generous so you have as much time in Hungary as possible.
Berlin A Backpacking Scot in Berlin There is really no excuse not to travel to one of the most accessible and affordable cities Europe has to offer. Berlin delivers on every aspect of culture, seeped in its historic oppressive past; modern Berlin is quite the parallel.
There is an absolute vibrancy about Berlin that is quite unique, unsure whether it spans the whole of Germany; the liberal, staunch atmosphere grabs you from the Schnitzel to the Spree. From fun to fascinating Berlin provides an endless amount of culture and zest. Start you trip to the capital by getting a tour of the city, some of the free tours provided are first class but I would recommend hiring a bicycle for the a day and viewing it that way, as it enables you to be in charge. The roads are extremely bike friendly and it is the perfect vehicle for exploring and getting to and from all the main attractions. Visit the Unter den Linden as soon as you can to get familiarised with the main boulevard and to see Berlinâ€™s most important and historical buildings. Here you will find an array of museums, Cathedrals, War Memorials, Embassies, and the famous Brandenburg Gate. Food in Berlin can be found cheap and cheerful. Specialities such as the Bratwurst and Currywurst can be located at thousands of food stalls across the city, accompanied with chips and hardly ever stretching 5 euros. Another excellent attraction for food is the Burgermiester CafĂŠ where you will find the best burger and chips in Berlin for less than 4 euros. An ideal stop here would be during summer on the way back from a day spent at the Badeschiff, a floating outdoor swimming pool situated on the river Spree. A bizzare concept for people who only know the river Clyde, but one that ultimately leaves you amazed and slightly jealous our Scot-
6 tish weather hinders opportunities such as that. Other must see attractions include the Memorial of the Berlin Wall and the poignant Holocaust Memorial, which acts as a reminder to the not so distant, devastating history these parts possess. Both are extremely moving and could take up hours of your time, yet both are free, providing cost effective rich cultural trips. If you are in Berlin over a weekend definitely visit the Mauerpark on the Sunday afternoon for a exceptional experience. The park is transformed into a sort of mini fes-
the nightclub till sunrise. Renowned for its strict door policy Berghain is perhaps the most infamous with a supposedly ‘anything goes’ rule once you get inside. Other major clubs like Tresor, situated in an abandoned power station, possess a different type of pounding energy and Watergate also holds the special attraction to clubbers as it sits floating on the river Spree. Entry fee to these nightclubs usually range between the 10 and 20 euro bracket depending on who is performing on the night. For travellers looking for a quieter affair Berlin offers some very distinctive bars. The Weinerei bar on
Holocaust Memorial tival with a massive flea market, street performers, musicians, and many beer and food stalls available. If you look around on a summer Sunday you will see scores of families and groups of friends having their own barbeques on the grass enjoying the atmosphere. Best of all though is the ‘Bearpit Karaoke’ at the amphitheatre on the hillside of the park. Members of the public take up the challenge of singing their song while the public audience either laugh at them or join in, it truly is a great way to spend your Sunday and did I mention it is free? When it comes to clubbing Berlin provides quite the selection, especially for the techno lover who won’t leave
Fehrbelliner Street is more of a social experiment than a public house. On entry you hire a 100ml glass for 2 euros, and then participate in an extraordinary experience. You are allowed to drink as much wine as you wish, but you have to keep in mind how much you are drinking because at the end they ask you to pay for how much you have taken. Therefore no one is monitoring or policing your intake, so it's more of an honesty policy. There is also a buffet of food that goes by the same rules. For accommodation I would look no further than St. Christopher’s Inn situated on Rosa-Luxemburg Street in the Mitte area of the city. Three nights in a 12 bed dorm on a weekend will cost £60 but it is well worth it if you want to meet other groups of travellers. The hostel has a bar which provides food and stay here entitles you to 25% off the price. Return flights with EasyJet from Glasgow vary throughout the year but rarely exceed £150 with hand luggage.
Travel Adventurous friends Agness and Cez from Poland call themselves ‘Etrampers’, a phrase they coined to describe the lifestyle they have chosen. Combining a shoestring budget of travelling the world with their online content about all of their experiences. What made you want to travel? Cez: In my case travel bug has a name – Agness – don’t get me wrong, she did not bite me. She just convinced me to go with her to France, Italy, Spain and Egypt. That’s when I started to think about travelling more. Not a long time later I decided that I had enough of my 9-5 job, steady-Eddie life and I was in a need of real adventure. That’s when the bug matured and there was no way back… Agness: Travelling has always been in my blood. I wanted to explore the world since I was a little kid, but I could not afford it. When I went to the university and got my first parttime job, I was able
to save some money and then my real adventures started. My first real travel journey was in August 2011 when I set off to China for 10 months and made me realize travelling is my real passion. How long have you been travelling for? Since August 2011. What has been your favourite place to visit? Cez: Truly difficult question for anyone who travels. There were so many memorable experiences, of which many could be described as the most memorable, that I don’t believe I could list them all on my own blog. Nevertheless, I think one comes first to my mind when asked such question. It’s the visit to Zhangjiajie in China that made me awestruck. Imagine walking on a man-made balcony situated near the top of 800-metre high vertical cliff. Now, take into consideration that I have a considerable fear of heights. Then, suddenly, My foot slips into a hole… I fell only half a metre because it was too small for my body, fortunately. Yes, it was hard for me to breathe for another few minutes. Agness: For me it’s been every minute spent in Lhasa, the capital city in Tibet. When people heard the first sentence, they always ask “What was
Tips with Agness Walewinder so special about Lhasa?” During my whole stay in Lhasa I felt like it was my place on Earth. I felt so connected with everything surrounding me and really would like to settle down here in the future when Tibet eventually gets entirely free. I am interested in Buddhism religion, the scenery was just incredible and people are so hospitable. How do you finance your world travels? Unfortunately we were not born in rich families, we don’t get any financial support from anyone and we never had any possessions we could sell to travel the world either. How do we do it then? It’s simple – we work our a***s off in every single country we travel to. We were full-time English teachers in China, web designers and photographers in Cambodia and who knows what else we can do in the future! We also control our limited budget by never buying too many clothes, rarely partying, always cycling or walking instead of using cabs and local transport and sleeping in deadcheap hostels. Nevertheless, travelling on the cheap doesn’t mean we don’t treat ourselves with some good food or won’t go to do some amazing activities. It rarely happens, but it does happen. The most important to us is to keep the balance. That’s our main
rule – “if you spend too much one day, make sure you spend less the day after”. In this way, we can slowly travel all 7 continents without (hopefully) any debts! What advice would you give anyone thinking of travelling the world? If travelling has been your dream, make it come true as soon as possible. Leave your comfort zone and make it your priority. If "PLAN A" doesn't work out don't worry, you still have 25 letters left! You can keep up to date with Agness and Cez on their travelling adventures by visiting their Etramping website.
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Published on May 15, 2014
In the first edition of Backpack Banter we look at two famous destinations in the heart of Europe along with an interview from two traveller...