From Prague, to Budapest, to Salzburg, to Zurich, my first travel break was packed with adventure, chaos, and memories that I will never forget. After weeks of planning lodging, transportation and excursions, it was finally time to embark on my 10-day European adventure.
Stop 1: Prague
After class on Friday, Mary Catherine, Sarah and I flew to Prague as our first stop. The flight went great, then we hopped on a bus heading to a metro station (literally ran and hopped on…bus ticket? Oops). We jumped off at the metro station to find that to get ticket we needed Czech coins instead of bills. We spotted KFC way down the road and went to buy some french-fries to get some change! FINALLY we got our tickets and were on the metro headed towards our Air B&B. For those of you that don’t know, Air B&B is a company that allows people to post open rooms in their homes where you can stay for a few nights. We found it to be WAY cheaper than any hostel! Our host greeted us and had our room perfectly prepared with maps of the city and comfy beds. We were finally settled in Prague! Here’s some photos of our wonderful stay, only about a 25 minute walk from the center of the city.
After we unloaded our bags and got a little settled, we met up with one of my wonderful Elon friends, Amory, who is currently studying abroad in Prague! She took us to a pub for some cider and hot cocoa, walked us down to where she takes her film classes in the city, and took us to her favorite late-night food spot, a tiny burrito place where we were all too excited to have a quesadilla that tasted like America. Thanks Amory for such a fun night!
Our first morning we went on a beautiful walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was so animated and knew so much about the city. Some highlights included the astronomical clock, the Jewish cemetery, the opera house and the old town square.
Our tour guide let us know about cheap student tickets to the opera, so we went for it! We saw Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It was beautiful and such a wonderful experience.
The next morning we met up with some of my other Elon friends who are studying abroad in Prague, and then we went on a tour of the Prague Castle, the largest castle in the world! It was like an entire town in itself and we were all awestruck by its beauty and massive structures.
After the castle tour, we walked across the Charles Bridge and went out to dinner at a famous Michelin Star restaurant called Mlynec. It. Was. Amazing. The currency is a major bonus in Prague. One Czech krone equals 0.046 USD, so we paid a normal amount for a nice dinner that was actually worth way, way more! You must go to dinner here when you visit Prague. We all enjoyed our last night as we ate while overlooking the Vltava River.
We then raced to the train station and thankfully hopped on our overnight train to Budapest just in time. Note to self: trains have NO mercy. It was stopped for maybe one minute and then took off again. Be ready to step on to your train when you travel right when it is schedule to arrive!
This train was a nightmare. That is all. Packed, dirty, people with colds, loud, bright lights on the whole time. Ugh. It got us where we needed to go, but it was definitely a low point of travel. You’ve got have some experiences like these to get the full “broke college girl across Europe” experience though!
Stop 2: Budapest
We arrived in Budapest early in the morning and checked into our Air B&B that could not have been in a more perfect location. We had no idea our apartment would be on the nicest street in Budapest with the Louis Vuitton and Gucci right downstairs.
After some exploring, we got ready for our cruise on the Danube River, the water that separates Buda from Pest. After sprinting down the water asking every human in sight where the meeting point was, we finally found our boat (after almost hopping on a boat to Amsterdam…oops again.) This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. We got the best seat out on the deck and sipped champaign as we sailed between Budapest lit up in the night sky. You must do this if you ever come! It was breathtaking.
After the cruise we went out to dinner at a traditional Hungarian restaurant that served some of the best food we had ever had. Some of our favorite Hungarian dishes were the fried dough (an amazing soft baked dough with cheese on top), and paprika bread. YUM.
The next morning we went on another amazing walking tour. Always look into free walking tours while traveling. They’re amazing! We went to Saint Peter’s Basilica, walked across the chain bridge, went up to the castle, and then ended at Fisherman’s Bastion.
Too soon, it was time to say bye to Budapest and we were on our train to Salzburg. This train compared to the one from Prague to Budapest was like flying first class in the lap of luxury! The train was so clean, quiet and comfortable. The only uncomfortable situation was when two Hungarian men got into an argument with me in sitting right in the middle…so peaceful.
Stop 3: Salzburg
We arrived safe and sound that night in Salzburg in our hostel that we were SO lucky to have an 8-person group room to ourselves the first two nights! And one of the beautiful things about Salzburg is that everything is in walking distance, so again, we could walk just fine from our room to the city.
Our first morning we just had to go on the Sound of Music tour! It was perfect in every way. My mom had done the same tour when she visited Salzburg and highly recommended it, and it was honestly one of my favorite things we did this trip! We saw the outside of the home where the von Trapp family lived, the lake that’s in the backyard of the house, the famous gazebo where Liesel and Rolf sing “16 Going on 17,” and the church where Maria and the captain get married. We also saw the abbey from a distance! When we went to the church, we got to stop and spend some time the adorable town of Mondsee where we enjoyed some crisp apple strudel to keep up the Sound of Music feel!
After our tour we spent time in the Mirabell Gardens and ran down the tunnel where Maria and the children ran through. We hopped up and down the steps and ran around the Pegasus sculpture where they sing “Do, Re, Me.” The gardens were stunning.
Next, we went to Mozart’s home and went through the museum. I loved this. We got to see Mozart’s original pieces, see some of his instruments, listen to his music, and see his letters. We ended by having some Mozartkugel, the best chocolate ever- so tempting to bring some back!
The next day we went on a tour of the salt mines in the Bavarian mountains! The drive was incredible. In the salt mines we rode a little train deep into the mountains, slide down miners’ slides, walked throughout all of the deep tunnels, and even rode a little boat over the water inside.
Next, we ascended into the mountain on a tram and went up to the Salzburg Fortress. The view from the top was amazing. The clouds finally lifted and you could see all of Salzburg and the surrounding Alps. I could have stayed up there forever. Lastly, we went to the top of the Hotel Stein for the free view atop their rooftop bar at sunset.
That night we watched The Sound of Music and pointed out all of the places we had gone on our tour. In the morning, Sarah was off to Munich for Octoberfest and Mary Catherine and I were off on our bus to Zurich!
Stop 4: Zurich
Our bus (that we each paid about $25 for) was AMAZING. It was a double decker with reclining comfy seats and a perfect view out the front. Leaving Salzburg at sunrise to drive through Germany was picturesque. Seriously look into traveling by bus with Meinfernbus! So cheap and so nice.
As soon as we hopped off the bus in Zurich, Mary Catherine and I went to the famous confectionary: Conditorei Schober.
Beautiful and delicious are understatements. We both had a cup of their world famous hot cocoa and a slice of passion fruit cheesecake. What a way to start off Zurich!
We then went exploring around the city and visited two famous churches, the Fraumünster and St. Peter. Chagall’s stain glass windows in Fraumünster were absolutely incredible to see in person, and the largest clock face in Europe on St. Peter's tower was amazing. In St. Peters we met some girls studying abroad in Italy from California, and we hit it off so well we all went to dinner together in the cute walking streets of the old town. It was so fun to make some new friends in Zurich and share study abroad stories together!
The next day we went to the top of Mount Üetliberg and got a bird’s eye view of the city. The train ride to the top of the mountain was beautiful, and the walk to the top through the woods was so refreshing. We looked out over Zurich and the surrounding mountains and reflected on how thankful we were to have the opportunity to travel around Europe.
Swiss cheese fondue was next up on our Zurich food bucket list! We went an adorable restaurant in a hotel known for the best fondue in town. Delicious.
We did another free walking tour and got to hear about the history of Zurich as we roamed the streets. We ended at Grossmünster, the last church to check off our list, and were in awe again of the beautiful architecture.
Lastly, we went to the Kunsthaus Museum and wandered for hours admiring works by Picasso, Miro, Monet and Chagall.
After ten days of traveling from country to country, managing foreign languages, currency, and public transportation, I was so excited to be back in Copenhagen with my host family. This was a moment of realization that my study abroad experience has officially become where I am comfortable, happy, living and thriving. I would have never thought that Copenhagen would be a place that would bring me so much comfort and peace. When I stepped into the airport, I was relieved instead of overwhelmed by hearing Danish. The metro felt like my car at home as I sat down and had no fear where I was going or how to get home. The pumpkin on the front porch of my host family’s house brought me feelings of fall in Nashville, and laying down in my bed reminded me of coming home for Christmas break from school. Copenhagen now gives me feelings of home, instead of feelings of travel. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, and I can’t help but to beam when I reflect on how this city has transformed from a place of newness and insecurity to a place of comfort and tranquility.