What was I up to this weekend? Thursday morning, I set off with the boyfriend for our first road trip! Four days and 30 hours later, we arrived in Phoenix, AZ. If you didn’t know, we are moving here. You never know when you’ll have the time and reason to drive across country, so we decided to go for it this time. Shouldn’t everyone drive Route 66 at one point or another? Anyways, I am so glad we did drive. Comedy Central radio kept us awake and laughing most of the way and I am now the proud owner of reward cards for three major hotel chains.
It was amazing to see the changes in scenery, so I thought I would share road shots from each state across the trip. I had never seen a cactus, let alone a desert full of them!
Have you ever driven across country? Where were you traveling to and from?
I think Budapest might be one of my very favorite cities, but I’m not sure I can exactly tell you why – just a feeling. I do remember driving into the city and instantly falling in love though. It just had such an old elegant charm. It is no wonder the city is known as “The Paris of the East.”
Definitely, our experiences in Budapest don’t hurt my love affair with the city. The first night, we took a spectacular dinner cruise on the Danube River. We had a lovely dinner of traditional Hungarian food, had local wine, and viewed Budapest’s stunning illuminations (including Parliament and the Buda Castle). This is not something to miss, and I know I will remember the cruise for a long time. It was a romantic and special night.
It was the next morning touring Heroes’ Square, Budapest’s “Buda” and “Pest” sides, driving over the Chain Bridge, and Castle Hill when I fell even more for Budapest. The cathedral, and Castle Hill in general, were amazing. The city has so many treasures, from the East and West train stations to the spas.
That afternoon, we visited an excavated Roman city (which thrilled this former Latin student!) and traveled to Szentendre (St. Andrew). Walking past ancient walls on the narrow cobbled streets of this medieval river town was the perfect afternoon. I am not exaggerating. The streets are lined with decorated nice little Hungarian shops with embroidery, ceramics, and paprika.
Wine tasting and dinner at a winery (sensing a trend here, huh?) ended our time in Hungary. I am not sure there is anything better than good food, great wine, and interesting company in a beautiful city.
Budapest has delicate and lovely detail on what seems like every inch of the city. Most buildings rely on private investors for restoration, but I just know if Budapest was able to clean up and renovate, it would be that much more of a gorgeous marvel.
It’s so fun to reminisce and share photos from the trip, and I am so glad you all enjoy following along too.
Prague, oh Prague. You truly are a fairytale city.
Before going to Europe, everyone raved about Prague, and I must say, the city lived up to the expectations.
(I do realize how photo heavy these posts are. It’s like picking a favorite child, though, so I just insert a good chunk of the pictures I took. Hopefully you all don’t mind ; ) Also, you can click on any picture to see it full size.)
When we first arrived, after dropping off the bags, we headed dinner at U Cisaru, a lovely little restaurant on Prague’s Castle Hill. We tried traditional a traditional Czech meal of paté, beef and dumplings (by we, I mean I tried Michael’s), with our fair share of Pilner too, of course.
Next we took a Prague by night walking tour. This was the perfect introduction of Prague, walking through Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, and to the Magical Charles Bridge lined with saints. Seeing the Prague transformed from the warm sunset glow to night lit up by illuminated buildings was stunning.
One stop on the tour was a quaint restaurant for drinks and a lively accordion player. You haven’t lived until you spend an evening in the basement of a pub in Prague, singing and cheers-ing “na zdraví” with a room of people. Fun fact – in Prague, men typically drink lighter colored beer, while darker, sweeter beers are for the women. I did have one of these dark lagers during the night tour, and it was exceptionally good.
The next day was all about more Prague sites. We visited the 1,000 year old Prague Castle (the largest ancient castle, says the Guinness Book of World Records) with the St. Vitus Cathedral in the grounds. Each wing is opulent and grand. The castle, its history, and the views it provides are all extraordinary.
We spent time seeing the Powder Gate, Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, and the astronomical clock. We explored Old Town Square and the Estates Theatre, visited an outdoor market, viewed lots of Prague crystal, and took a relaxing cruise on the beautiful Vltave River. We strolled Kampa Square and saw David Cerny’s “Babies” and “Hanging Out.”
Prague has a long history of adaptations and changes, which is clearly visible from the different styles throughout. The city was not destroyed by WWII, like a lot of other central European cities, so ancient historically aged structures are found throughout in styles from medieval gothic, to baroque, to communist-era.
I also loved Czech humor. Our local guide, Andre, was so funny (in addition to being incredibly knowledgeable). He joked, ” Us Czech’s don’t shoot each other, so we have to make fun of each other.” And that they do.
Okay, so I got just a little bit of history in there, but basically, Prague is a city of dreams. A cathedral, a statue, or an ancient artifact is around every corner. So yeah, Prague, I like you.
Let’s talk about Regensburg, Germany for a minute, shall we? Regensburg was “just” a quick stop between Munich and Prague, but really, Regensburg is not just anything. It’s spectacular. I only spent an afternoon in the city of just under 140,000 people, but an afternoon was all that was needed to convince me of its’ amazement.
Regensburg is a postcard central European town. Located where the Regen and Danube rivers meet, Regensburg is full of cafe- and shop-lined walkways. Sunshine, cobblestone streets, and kiwi gelato – I’m convinced this is really all I need in life.
Luck would have it that our stop in Regensburg coincided with German Catholic Day. German Catholic day only takes place once every four years and travels to difference cities each time, so it really was a coincidence. It also meant that the usually quaint and relatively quite city was bustling.
Even with so many people, Regensburg has a charming quality not found elsewhere. I would even go so far to say that this was one of my top favorite visits on the trip (though I’m pretty sure I have said that about each place at some point). We spent time traveling the streets and seeing the sites, and I have to say, I wouldn’t mind to go back.
Regensburg is known for its’ stone bridge, the Porta Praetoria (a Roman gateway and Germany’s most ancient stone building), and the St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Fun fact – Regensburg’s sister city is Tempe, Arizona. Guess who is moving near the Tempe area next month? That’s right, this girl!
So, take a look at a few photos from the day, and maybe fall in love a little bit just like I did.
A day of travel and 4,500 miles later, Munich was welcomed with open arms. The city was the first taste of central Europe and also where the trip ended. It is full of charm.
I fell in love with simple German architecture and the old world feel of Old Town Munich. It seems like every home has flowers in its windows, which is definitely something the U.S. needs to adopt. We spent our first afternoon in Europe roaming the streets and exploring the city.
It was surprising to be able to walk to the opposite side of Munich, around it, and back in just a couple hours. We saw the Marienplatz (Munich’s central square), with its Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel. We learned that Munich is “München” to the locals and the third largest city in Germany. We saw BMW’s headquarters, the 1972 Olympic Park, and the site of Johann Georg Elser’s assassination attempt on Hitler. We ate salami sandwiches from a local street cart and Michael had the chance to say “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” when asked a question in German.
A highlight was stumbling across an old, ivy covered church in a less crowded part of town and just realizing “Wow. I am really here right now.”
The last night of the trip finished with beers and dinner at a traditional biergarten. I was really enjoying the beer with every meal. Did you know that there is a “German Beer Purity Law” that keeps German beer pure, natural, and free from unhealthy and cheap ingredients (exports unfortunately excluded)? It makes the beer there so good! Hops farms line the highway through Bavaria.
There wasn’t much time in Munich, but the time spent was beyond words. The juxtaposition of new and old is evident on every street, and they blend to form a beautiful city.
Guten tag! S0, I’m back on U.S. soil, rested up, and in the middle of catching up on everything.
Stay tuned for back-to-normal posting and a likely overwhelming amounts of pictures from the cities we visited the past couple weeks. For now, here are a few snapshots of the trip from my phone. It was absolutely fantastic!
I am writing this in advance, so I can’t be 100% certain, but I am going to go ahead and go out on a limb and say that my five highlights for the week are
Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria. Just a hunch. ; ) Have a great weekend!