So for our 2018 vacation, mythical gf future wifey and I went to Europe. Specifically Munich, Germany, Budapest, Hungary, and Vienna, Austria. These are all places that I’d never been to before, but such could very easily be said about anywhere on the planet, because in the grand spectrum of things, the world is pretty large.
Needless to say, the trip was pretty much excellent. All three places were great in their own ways, and I look back fondly to the exploration, food and drinking of each of them.
Munich, completely redeems the entire country of Germany for me. When I was younger, I’d often said that Germany was a country that I’d most want to visit in my life, because it seemed like the one country where it was a pretty drastic change to everyday life without having to go into the bush. In 2016, I went to Germany for the first time, but it was to Berlin, which turned out to be a city that embodied hostility, owned their unfriendliness and was just basically an unpleasant place that really made me question my choice of places I wanted to go. I was as relieved to leave Berlin as much as they probably bid good riddance, and I really debated on whether or not I wanted to ever go to Germany again.
Thankfully, future wifey convinced me that Munich would be different, and our 2018 European vacation would both start and end in Munich, which turned out to be a pretty good thing in the end. From the very start, arriving in Munich was arriving in a traditionally beautiful city that had classic European architecture all around, and the historic building and landmarks were stuff like cathedrals and monuments, and not just dingy vandalized wall fragments.
The people of Munich were also way friendlier, spoke more English, which is another thing that I don’t take for granted when traveling abroad, because I’m always impressed and grateful as hell whenever I go to other countries, and there are always people who can speak English as opposed to how it’s like in America where so few people speak anything otherwise.
And the trains in Munich, they actually worked, unlike Berlin, where they were always broken, closed for maintenance, and made absolutely no sense to where they actually went. Much of our time in Munich was spent walking around from tourist destinations to bier hauses, and in a country where beer is pretty much the same cost as water, needless to say, we did a good bit of bier drinking. Hofbrauhaus was a fun tourist destination, but Paulaner was definitely of superior quality in food and beer, but if any one place is worth remembering, it’s the literal cave like cellar of Augustiner, which turned out to be a really cool place in the end.
One of the biggest highlights of the trip though, would be the night train that we took to travel from Munich to Budapest. Europe clearly does the train thing right, and the stars lined up perfectly for us to cash in on the opportunity to take a ten-hour sleeper train between cities, that turned out to be one of the coolest things we did. Sure, it sounds silly to credit sleeping accommodations as a highlight, but come on, how many people do we really know that have actually done the same thing?
Budapest was never a city that I’d ever really been interested in; frankly, my only memories of the existence of Budapest stemmed from this massively large print of the city left in my dad’s townhouse when we moved in, and even then I had no clue that it was in Hungary. Either way, future wifey basically dictated this whole trip, and I was pretty much along for the ride, so to Budapest we went.
Initially upon arriving in Budapest, it’s a stark contrast in feel, compared to the prosperous Munich. The Grand station Keleti is dingy and cold compared to Munich’s and I’m fairly certain some kids tried to scout us for muggers or something when we were trying to purchase our initial metro tickets. But after we got away from the grand station and made our way into the center of the city, things improved immediately.
Budapest is kind of a tired city that epitomizes Eastern Europe to some degree, but if you can get past a lot of the cracked stucco and kind of shabby looking buildings, the bones of the place are still sturdy and have a very high character feel to them. The street we were staying on felt a lot like Florence honestly, and despite the shabbiness of the exterior of the building our loft was in, the loft itself was simply magnificent. The AirBnb team in charge of it were clearly inspired by New York SoHo style, and the whole place was kind of fashioned accordingly.
The rest of Budapest was very nice overall, and we did both looking at historical monuments and the main tourist spots. But we did spent a good evening in the Jewish Quarter, where the city’s more popular bars and restaurants are at, and we both drank at a ruin pub, built in literal ruins of a building, and then ate at a Hungarian street food market.
When I think back to Budapest, I immediately recollect the following: a surprising abundance of Thai massage parlors, chimney cakes, ruin bars, and a currency that proved to be nigh impossible to completely rid ourselves of. I mean seriously, with the final equivalent of $10 USD that we held, we got like 4 slices of pizza, two bottles of water, two cokes, two bags of chips, two chocolate croissants and a macaron; and still had some change leftover. A+ exchange rate, would visit Budapest again.
Now for absolutely no reason at all, somehow I had this preconceived notion that Vienna was going to be this luxurious opulent city. Seriously, I have no reason to believe such was going to be the case, but when we arrived in Vienna and saw a beautiful city adorned with lights and Christmas decorations, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. And coming from the kind of blue-collar run-down Budapest in comparison, entering Vienna was like going to Chicago right after leaving Baltimore. That kind of ruins my analogy that Berlin is the Baltimore of Germany, but I don’t have the gumption to simply hold the delete key to go back on my words.
But anyway, Vienna was easily the most cosmopolitan city of the trip. Munich was nice in a classic and traditional way, Budapest was nice in a grungy and salt-of the-earth way, but Vienna was opulent and luxurious. The main street in which were staying off was practically a mile of name brand shops and thousands of people all over the streets, and the visuals everywhere were a tasteful blend of luxury surrounded by historic tradition.
If there’s one thing I take away from Vienna however, it’s that it was the place where I tried authentic Wienerschnitzel for the very first time. Now it was available to me all the time while we were in Munich, but I had this hunch that it had to be eaten for the first time in its native Austria, and I was adamant about holding off on it until we were in Vienna.
We found this one Schnitzel joint that I had researched and thinking that it wouldn’t be bad if we hit it at an odd time proved nothing, as the place was still packed, at like 3:30 in the afternoon. Regardless, we were able to get a seat, and it didn’t take long before future wifey and I had plates of schnitzels that were literally larger than our heads. And being from the home country, they were the cheapest item, which only added to how good they were. And good, they most certainly were, and I must have eaten like a pound and a quarter of pork, that was possibly the best meal had during the entire trip.
Overall, the trip was pretty much summed up with a lot of walking, a whole lot of eating, and even way more drinking. But as much as Europe does a lot of things right, I will say that when the day is over, I absolutely abhor just how much Europeans smoke, and I conversely love how much America has gone forward with anti-smoking measures. Sure, we have this gun epidemic that nowhere else in the country seems to have, but at least half the country isn’t going to croak slowly from lung cancer in comparison.
Plus, I hate how stingy Europe is with water, and how they charge people to use public restrooms.
But otherwise, the trip as a whole was wonderful, and look back fondly at seeing more of Europe than I frankly ever thought I’d really accomplish in my life.