Bear with me; I’m more of a “Here’s what I thought about all this week” than a “Here’s what I did today” kind of guy. Last week I found myself traveling through the once former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Djordje and I took an overnight train from Belgrade and arrived in the capital of Hungary ten hours later. The city reminds me of New York. For the few hours I was there, lugging around a backpack filled with only the basics and a camera in my hand, I felt like I was home. The avenues are wide and the streets are long, trees canvas the sidewalks, and surprisingly beautiful rows of scaffolding remind you that you’re in Europe and not on the East Coast. The architecture of the city blew me away. From the colorful houses to the bright green parks, I was in love.
Budapest is actually a union of two cities, and you can still feel the differences between the two. Pest is the low lying, inner-city, while Buda is the romantic hill-top get away. Budapest truly gave me a feeling that I was walking through the American stereotype of Europe, and I absolutely loved it. Djordje said Prague was better.
Three hours on a train later: Vienna was more like going through a museum. The rush hour almost seemed robotic, and (for me) the city gave off a ‘look – but don’t touch’ type of feel. Which it should really. Vienna was the capital of Austria-Hungary, it was designed specifically to demand respect and embody power. It was made so that even foreign kings would feel like a nobody, so I definitely wasn’t alone. Statues and flower gardens fill the city, but I kept hoping to find some attraction that broke the norm. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much with the time I was given; which leads me to sum up what I learned about backpacking:
Don’t do it. You’re robbing yourself of an amazing cultural opportunity. By trying to hit as many cities with as small of a budget and as little time as possible, you’re missing the entire point of visiting the country. As someone who studies cultures, there was a churning in my stomach when I stepped foot into Hungary and didn’t know anything about it. I binged on information when I came back, but during the experience, all I could take in were the sights. All the sounds, tastes, and feels escaped me. Devote your time to one or two places and make sure you actually learn something. Take something back with you that’s not a magnet to put on your fridge.