Hello and welcome to blog 4! We have now been in Holland for a whole month on Thursday past – we can’t believe how quickly time is flying by here.
Firstly let me apologise for the lateness of my blog last week, especially to wee Speckles Ballantine up in Omagh – I’ll try not to let it happen again! As anyone who follows me on Instagram has probably guessed from our non-stop spamming this week, we had a Spring Break holiday. So, being the broke students that we are, we decided to whisk ourselves away to tick some countries off our long travel wish list. So the week before was a bit mad getting work done and packing for going away so I didn’t get the chance to write a blog post! 😦 However, feel free to click here for a brief blog on that week before!
This blog will be a long one, with lots of pictures! If you can’t be bothered reading the whole thing, scroll to the very bottom and watch the short videos! 🙂
The night before we left had been mental as we tried to pack 5 days worth into our trusty backpacks. If you have ever met Rachel Glenn you will know this is a task in itself, considering the last time we stayed up in Port, Rachel had enough bags of clothes, shoes and makeup to style the whole of County Antrim! I wouldn’t be the best person for packing light either as I (and poor Gwen) discovered when I had to bring 3 suitcases here with everything vacuum packed to the max. This was no problem for Erin – I’m pretty sure she could pack all her stuff for a whole week into a sandwich bag and still have room for a chocolate bar. Anyway, we finally got packed up Monday morning started early with a 5am start as we had to cycle into Nijmegen train station at 5.30 to catch a 6:09 train. Well, it was 5:58 and we were just approaching the roundabout before the train station and we were getting caught in all of the red lights, so of course we just checked for cars and ripped on through (Davey Glenn and Stevey B will not be pleased to read this) but desperate times call for desperate measures and we actually made it on time – ONLY FOR THE TRAIN TO BE DELAYED.
After two trains and a bus, we made it to Eindhoven Airport and even managed to sneak in a quick coffee before boarding. Erin nabbed the window seat, and of course fell asleep within 15 minutes of taking off – I still managed to get this beautiful picture (of the clouds, not Erin) – she is never getting the window seat again!!
We safely made it to Budapest and were pleasantly surprised by the sunny weather – a good bit different from the clouds and rain we have been having in Nijmegen! We successfully navigated to our AirBnB (thank goodness for Google Maps) and were a bit wary at first as it slightly resembled a crackhouse from the outside. However, once we had got the lift to the 6th floor (#penthouse) and into our apartment, we were very pleasantly surprised with how clean and homely it was, with a view of Parliament out our window – especially as it was only costing us £7.50 a night! We headed out for food and a wander around, discovering an AMAZING donut café along the way – where all the donuts were square.. I only wish we had one of these on Stranmillis Road.. A possible new business venture?
Anyway, after consuming our bodyweight in donuts and fruit juice, we headed off to Budapest’s famous City Park (full of nature protestors – shouting at us as we stared), Hero Square (full of couples showing far too much PDA!!) and eventually the Széchenyi thermal baths.
At the baths we approached a very rude Hungarian cashier who informed us there were no cabins (private changing rooms) left. I couldn’t fully understand his accent so I just agreed and said yep we need a ticket for the baths. WELL, talk about regret!! We went down to get ready for the baths and found open changing rooms where women of all ages were baring ALL – apparently Europeans are very comfortable with themselves. Well not these 3 Northern Irish! We just hid in the corner just hoping the 60 year old in front wouldn’t turn around.
After being scarred for life yet again, we left the baths and went in search of food!! As it was quite late, hardly anywhere was open so we ended up in a random pizzeria called Den Haag, which ironically was a Dutch themed restaurant… We weren’t complaining though, the meal cost about £3 for a pizza each along with a glass of lemonade (strange version – sparkling water with lemons in it) the size of my head.
On Tuesday, we discovered a VERY cheap bakery close to our apartment so we had Nutella filled croissants for breakfast – beware, our diet on this trip did resemble a child left alone in a sweet shop – no judgements please. We headed off for another day of adventure, experiencing the Hungarian markets – where Rachel mistook a butternut squash for a sweet potato (don’t worry, we don’t let her cook for us alone) and I found an array of tang farmer hats. We then crossed Liberty Bridge to begin the hike up Gellert Hill. I never thought I’d see the day I’d be going up such a hill – I can barely make it up Cardiac Hill at Stranmillis most days! The views were so worth it though!
We came down the hill for lunch where we struck a deal with a nice man in a café who offered us a sandwich and coffee with a free donut … Offer us free donuts and we’ll never refuse! We were then faced with another hill, but thankfully this time we could get a cable-car thing (it’s apparently called a funicular) up. Even though it was around 3 euro, even the finance minister herself was still feeling the hill so she permitted the purchase and up we went to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. Again, we were met with amazing views as well as a strange Hungarian man who tried to give me a hug while running about singing to himself and a man who was down on one knee who we actually thought was proposing at first, but then realised he was just taking millions of photos of his girlfriend. Poor Rachel near had a coronary (hint hint Peter Riddles).
That night, we met up with some friends from Stranmillis for dinner who are doing Erasmus in Budapest. It was so lovely to see them all and just have some good oul Northern Irish bant. We went to an Italian restaurant where we were all amazed by the waiter who memorised all 7 orders – I can barely remember to make lunch in the morning never mind remember all of that! He also chastised me when I went to pour my own drink – insisting that he would do it – Mark Peden .. I would like service like this at home please!!
After a lovely night, we went home and the finance minister began sorting out who owed who money and what we had spent so far. Well, this was not the highlight of the trip, especially for Rachel who just kept repeating ‘I just don’t want to budget, Erin please don’t make me’. It ended in hysterical laughter though, as Rachel couldn’t understand why me and her just couldn’t split the 2000HUF she had left in her purse. By this point Erin was getting severely annoyed that we weren’t going to abide by the Erasmus Budget 2017 and pointed out that we were breaking the House Rules of the apartment by laughing too loud… She needs her sleep is all I’ll say.
On Wednesday we went to try another donut café (I SAID NO JUDGEMENTS PLEASE!!!), see Margaret Island and the parliament buidings. I was very excited when we were coming through the courtyard of Parliament at sunset and some Hungarian soldiers began marching to a trumpet and drum to take down the Hungarian flag. It felt like a mini Scarva! We finished off the evening with dinner, gelato and a chocolate chimney.
On Thursday we set off to the metro to get our 8:40 train to Austria. We were well pleased when we discovered we got our own private cabin, until two Hungarian men who smelled like they had bathed in vodka decided to plop in beside us. Thankfully, we had a changeover in Vienna and we arrived in Salzburg around 3. We checked into our hotel and went to see some of the locations where Sound of Music was filmed!
We looked like absolute eejits skipping about and re-enacting some scenes, but sure we might as well live up to the name of hallions!!
Also, when we returned to the hotel that night, the receptionist informed us that they were showing Sound of Music on their hotel channel – so we all piled into bed for an old fashioned girly movie night, until Erin piped up ‘Right, does anyone have any Lidl chocolate with them that I could buy off them, I really need some chocolate right now.’ To Erin’s delight (and ours – we would never have heard the end of it about the budget if she had to spend 1.50 on the minibar chocolate) Rachel had some chocolate so Erin’s chocolate addiction lived on…
Have a fantastic week!