Two weeks ago, I had my first week-long break with my study abroad program. For this break, I travelled to Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungry with two of my roommates from Villanova and then I met my parents in Toulouse, France for the second weekend. Here is just a short summary of my break (and of course lots of pictures)!
My break started out a little unexpected as on my train to Marseille to catch my flight to Vienna, I realized I had forgotten my passport in my house in Montpellier. The train had no stops between Montpellier and Marseille so I spent an hour and a half frantically google searching to try to find out if there was any way I could get back to Montpellier and still make it back to my flight on time. After a while, I realized I didn’t have any choices and I needed to just book a flight for the next day. In total, that day I took 2 trains, a bus, and an uber and went from Montpellier to Marseille back to Montpellier and then back to Marseille. Who knew you could get to Marseille twice in an afternoon! I finally secured my passport and I booked a flight for early the next morning. After a crazy day of traveling and spending the night at a tiny hotel by the Marseille airport, I was so excited when I got to Vienna!
I met my friends in the Vienna airport and we spent 2 and a half days exploring Vienna- I loved every minute of it! We stayed in the appartment which we found through airbnb and which was full of artsy decor and liberal stickers (so naturally we felt right at home). While we were there, we made the most of our time and visited many of the palaces and museums. Vienna even has a whole street dedicated to just museums! We decided to pick the natural history museum because it looked cool (and we got a student discount at it). There was a really interesting exhibit on evolution which had different skulls from our human ancestors. It made me think about how that may not have been able to be present in some places in the US. We also got to see two palaces which were absolutely gorgeous. One of them (Belvedere Palace) the is now an art museum and the other (Schönbrunn Palace) is still decorated like it was when the Hapsburg dynasty ruled over Austrian empire in the 16th century. Walking through the palace I just keep thinking how crazy it is that one family needed three dining rooms, two ballrooms, and SO many paintings. We also went into St. Stephen’s cathedral which is a famous church in Vienna and is directly in the middle of the city. While we visited so many places in Vienna, we still took some time to try some of the local foods. Thanks to the help of one of my friends who is studying in Vienna, we got some great tips on where and what to eat. In my opinion, Vienna isn’t really known for that much good food considering it is just a lot of fried meats or heavy dishes, however, they are known for their chocolate cakes. Of course no one had to tell me twice that I should eat chocolate cake! After spending a few days in Vienna, we woke up early and watched the sunrise as we boarded our bus to Budapest for our second adventure. (Pictures below are from Vienna)
We arrived in Budapest around 10:30am on Tuesday morning after a beautiful bus ride through the Austrian country side. The minute we stepped off the bus we realized how different Hungry is from Austria. First, the Hungarian language is nothing like I have ever heard before. Even in Vienna, where they speak German, everyone spoke english and I had heard German before so it wasn’t as foreign to me. Whereas in Budapest, while most people spoke English, sometimes their accents were so heavy that it was hard to understand their English. Not to mention that they use so many consonants next to each other that we weren’t able to pronounce any of their words. Figuring out public transportation meant that we had to say “we are getting off at stop S” instead of trying to say the street name. Definitely very different to me when I was used to being in France and being able to read/pronounce French (for the most part).
Other than the language, Budapest was a beautiful city and I am so glad we decided to visit! A fun fact about Budapest is that it used to be two different cities- Buda and Pest! The Danube river runs between two cities and they are now connected by bridges and together they form Budapest. Who knew! We checked into our airbnb (an apartment right in the center of Budapest) and immediately started exploring. Tuesday we visited the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest and because it was a quiet Tuesday afternoon we were pretty much the only ones in the museum. The museum was well worth the visit and it was interesting to learn about the Holocaust from the views of the Hungarians in a country that lost so many of its people. In fact, 1 out of every 3 people who were killed at Auschwitz were Hungarian. One of the most striking parts of the museum was the wording it used to describe the events. The exhibit itself is called “From Deprivation of Rights to Genocide” and throughout it there was an emphasis on how the Hungarian government was directly responsible for the massacre of its people. I think the reason this was surprising to me was because most of the time through the history of the US many people downplay and fail to take responsibility for some of the harsher parts of our history.
After the museum, we treated ourselves to an AMAZING dinner at a ruin bar called Mazel Tov. Budapest is known for its many ruin bars which are located in old or run down buildings and now are bars and restaurants with funky decor. Mazel Tov is located in the Jewish district of Budapest and offers Israeli street food in an indoor garden. Allyson and I both had falafel sandwiches which were delicious. The next day was my last day in Budapest so we fit everything we could into one day. We saw the famous chain bridge, Buda castle, a church with a tiled roof, a church built in a cave, and of course we spent some time in the thermal baths. Along with ruin bars, Budapest is also known for its numerous thermal baths- but baths might not be there best word to describe them. We wanted to check them out so we went to the largest one in the center of the city. It was in a pretty old building which opened up into a large area with three outdoor “baths”. They were all different temperatures (one warm, one cooler lap pool, and one hot) and we decided on the warmer two. It was kinda weird being in an outdoor pool in winter, but the water was so nice. Definitely glad we checked it out, but not sure it lived up to all of the hype.
After a crazy week of traveling and sight-seeing, I was happy to have a weekend to relax back in France with my parents! We explored Montpellier and some of the surrounding towns, took a trip to the beach, and had a wine tasting at a vineyard. As this post is already too long, I won’t go into more detail, but all in all it was an amazing week filled with great friends, beautiful sights, and delicious food. Au revoir for now!