Technically, this part of the trip started back in Prague, where we were about to board our night train to Bratislava. Most of the trains in Europe have little compartments, so we figured we'd be fine dosing in one of those so didn't bother to reserve a sleeper compartment. Boy, do I regret that decision.
This train turned out to be a huge big long carriage with no compartments, that reminded me much more of trains at home. It was busy, noisy and as we got on at midnight, littered with empty beer cans. Ew.
|One of the many glamorous aspects of interrailing: waiting around on station floors|
We were to disembark at Bratislava at about 6am, and since we were waking up at least every 20 minutes we cleverly decided that we wouldn't need an alarm. Massive error. At one point, I woke up, the train was quite empty and stationary and I look outside to see a sign for Bratislava. S**t!!!
I woke Sara up, and we tried to get our bags down from the ceiling rack but in another genius move we had padlocked them together - this was actually sound advice from another traveller, as it's much harder to steal a bag if it is attached to another one! However, in my sleepy but panicked state, I was fumbling with the (probably cheap) lock and it broke. So, we had to drag our bags down and to the end of the carriage, where the conductor literally threw them off as she blew the whistle, we jumped down and the train left immediately.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the most exciting part of Bratislava. (The subsequent moment where we tried to ask a Slovakian cloakroom attendant for scissors to separate our bags was also high ranking.)
We ended up at our hostel ten minutes later, but of course, our room was technically booked for the following evening so we couldn't get into it, it was too early to do anything anyway and we really wanted some shut-eye. Luckily, the kind guy at reception led us outside where there were seats and big cushions, and brought us blankets so that we could have a sleep. Not so luckily, we woke up a couple of hours later with other guests eating breakfast just along from us. Not the best of introductions.
Oh it makes me laugh just thinking about it. (I was not laughing at the time.)
We luckily managed to get into our room after breakfast where we freshened up then headed into town to explore Bratislava. Which took all of about ten minutes. I am being slightly harsh there, but we did see the best bits of the town in just a few hours, an hour of which was taken up by a free walking tour. The guide for which was not up to Filip's standard, but I think it was her first ever tour and she was pretty good, and it's definitely a great way to be introduced to a city.
|Cannonball in the town hall|
|"First Skyscraper in Bratislava" - we were not impressed|
|View from our €1 lunch|
After wandering back down to the main square, we came across this little festival involving a somewhat bizarre performance of a local dance which involved people shouting at the same time. It's not something I have any urge to see again but for me, coming across random things like that is one of the best things about travelling.
As you can see, Bratislava is a very picturesque town, though I would say you don't need more than a day to explore it.
The next morning, after catching up on some lost sleep and attempting to avoid our creepy male roommates, we headed back to the train station to travel to Budapest.
Three of our friends were actually in Budapest as well, also on an interrailing trip but doing a slightly different route. We dropped our stuff at our hostel (The Marco Polo Hostel - great, cheap hostel with well designed dorms that give you plenty of privacy) and then headed down to meet them at the river. We wandered past the Parliament (apparently modelled on Westminister - can you see the similarities?) and up to Castle Hill.
I should explain at this point that Budapest was previously two cities: this side of the river is called Buda and the other is called Pest. Buda has more of the historical buildings while Pest is where all the cool ruin bars are. I loved this about Budapest and you could really tell the difference between the two sides.
There's loads to explore on Buda Hill, so much so that Sara and I returned at another point to see more.
|Fisherman's Bastion on Buda Hill - hello Disney castle?|
Most of us then headed over to Gellert Hill, where Jade picked some plums for us to snack on and we climbed all the way to the top to see the Liberty Statue and get a lovely view of the city and the river.
That night, on recommendation from the other girls who had been taken there by another traveller, we went for drinks at one of Budapest's many ruin bars, Szimpla Kert.
You enter through this dark dodgy looking doorway, which opens up into a vast space with various different rooms, including an outdoor area. The seats are made out of things like old cars, and the tables are accessorized with used tires. It felt like a little hidden secret, but since then I have seen Szimpla Kert on just about every travel list concerning Budapest. And the wine was as cheap as the beer: bonus!
Another highlight of our night in Szimpla was bumping into Luke Pasqualino, who played Freddie in Skins and is D'Artagnan in BBC's Muskateers at the moment - swoon. I had my back to him at first, so didn't notice until Sophie said "That guy over there looks like Freddie from Skins," and I immediately realised that's because it was. Que a lot of girly giggling and unsubtle behaviour...
We plucked up the courage to talk to him while some of the girls were at the loo, and asked if we could get a photo with him when they got back, but we were distracted by some chatty Irishmen and he was led off by a ladyfriend so alas, this sneaky shot is from when we first spotted him sitting behind us!
After a bit of a lie in the next morning, we went on another free walking tour in the afternoon (can you tell I'm a fan?) which started at St Stephen's Cathedral in Pest, and ended up back on Buda Hill.
|Love Lock 'tree'|
The next day we headed to one of Budapest's thermal baths, the Szechenyi baths, and spent a good few hours dipping in and out of the naturally heated pools and jacuzzis and even attempted the tradition of sitting in a hot sauna before plunging into a freezing pool - the locals were not impressed with our subsequent squeals. The water is supposed to be very good for various health conditions - I'm not convinced that one visit will make a difference, but I'd certainly advise going if you're in Budapest!
|Photo from the bath's website|
Before walking back to the hostel, we made sure to try Langos, a deep fried flatbread available with various different toppings. As a Scot, I'm well versed with deep fried things, so I thought it was delicious although I did have taste of garlic in my mouth for the rest of the day!
We meandered down the lovely streets of Buda back to the hostel where our friend Laura, who was joining us for the rest of the trip, was waiting! We hastily walked her down to the riverside where she could at least see some of the sights before we left the next day.
And of course, I couldn't leave Hungary without trying goulash!