After an hour car ride to the Agen station, a 2 hour train ride to Toulouse, a nearly missed hour shuttle bus to the airport, a 3 hour flight to Turkey, a 12 hour overnight layover, a 2 hour flight to Athens, a 1 hour shuttle bus to Athen’s bus station, a 3 hour terrifying bus ride to Petra, a 3 hour delayed ferry ride to Ithaki, a ½ hour taxi on the edge of cliffs, we arrived in Ithaki Greece. And we thought opting for a flight would make things easy. Nevertheless we groggily awoke to a beautiful view overlooking the island Kioni, unable to distinguish the dream like haze from the incredible scenery, or our two day travel hangover.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent the days snorkeling in the incredibly warm Aegean Sea. As the tropical world under the sea was still relatively new to me, I was blown away by starfish, an octopus, and the many parrot fish (as colourful as the name suggests). Brett’s uncle Neville and aunt Anna rented a car and we tested the terrifying narrow roads to reach different beaches along Ithaki Island. Despite the winding roads virtually wrapping around the DSC_0045edges of cliffs, the width basically fit one car. Dodging the monstrous coach buses that made the daily trip to the ferry ports just made these trips all the more ‘exhilarating’.

We went out for dinner and splurged on sampling some authentic Greek cuisine. Among these was “saganaki” (fried cheese- tastes delicious not nutritious), moussaka, and my personal favourite the mydia (mussels) cooked in tomato, garlic and herbs.

DSC_0124We only planned for one night in Athens before heading out to another island, and despite its famous Acropolis, one night was enough. Perhaps we were not used to the chaos and pollution having spent a week in a tropical oasis, or perhaps we succumbed to the 40-degree heat, which put a cherry on top of our melted Sunday. After a 10 hour ferry ride, we arrived in Amorgos. Our first impression was that the island was somewhat barren, but this didn’t phase me, as traveling has emphasized the overused and underrated saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”.


Amorgos, although beginning its climb towards another Greek island tourist hotspot, was still untouched by the mobs. The winding maze-like village was so distinct from the other islands, immaculately decorated in wild flowers, and overgrown vines of grapes canopying over cozy pillowed patios. We snorkeled at the rocky “Anna’s Beach”, which had a full view of a beautiful monastery nestled high up between its colossal cliffs. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEager to see this monastery up close, we climbed up its steep stone staircase the following day. Anna’s father Nick, at the ripe age of 94 even made the slow and steady climb, which was enough to bring one local to tears, to then shake Nick’s hand in pride, and rightfully so. Neville jokes that Nick is like a celebrity when returning to his hometown, particularly popular as he is one of the only local’s alive in his generation who speaks English as well as Greek.

When we reached the entrance of the monastery, we noticed many people coming out wearing ridiculously colourful and oversized clothing. We couldn’t help but laugh at the outcome of a dress code instructing long skirts and covered arms for females, and long pants for men. It was like a game of dress-up, as people tried on (and tied on) the pile of ragged clothes, attempting to keep their

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcomposure as they toppled up the steep stairs tripping over their sarongs or XXL pants.  Brett who came in shorts, attempted the skirt option but apparently only the male priests could get away with that one. All laughs aside the monastery was absolutely stunning, and I cannot imagine a more peaceful place on earth.  

The next week we spent on the islands of Oia and Santorini.  Naturally, we booked the cheapest ferry to Oia, which meant our ride looked like a toy fishing boat next to the super tanks we were used to coasting on. That morning, Anna mentioned over frappes that she was hoping the weather would be calm out there, and I naively assumed it would. Smooth sailing at first quickly changed into a terrifying boat ride. As the boat violently rocked from side to side, people were getting absolutely drenched, clutching to the benches to stay upright, and even other strangers when necessary. I was logically telling myself (as I do when it’s a bumpy plane ride) that the odds of getting into a car crash is higher then a boat capsize, although my paranoia gave me doubts on this Greek island ferry. I can now laugh at the memory of us soaked tourists flailing around as the boats’ deck dipped back and forth on 90-degree angles, but isn’t it funny how radically memories can change in retrospect.

DSC_0087I knew Santorini was the most visited Greek island, but I had my doubts of it being “The Most Beautiful”. I can’t help but think of euro signs when a destination is sold to me (I mean told to me) using such a description. As the ferry drifted closer to its mighty cliffs with those characteristic white and blue buildings peering out overtop, Santorini whispered, “I told you so”. We stayed in a lovely family-run hostel with the owner “Ambros” and his two daughters. It still surprises me, especially when meeting families, that ten hours away from land, there are bustling communities nestled on what feels like the edge of the world. Not only that but 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcivilization thrived over 3.5 thousand years ago, which we were fortunate enough to see for our own eyes at the island’s Akrotiti ruin village. It had been preserved from the Thera volcanic eruption, one of the largest recorded in Earth’s history. We stood beneath what would have been once 7 meters of volcanic debris, which miraculously froze this village in time. Some of the large earthen jars were even found to have traces of olive oil, onion and fish.

DSC_0010Imentioned in my first blog that nothing feels more like time travel then flying, but that was before I could gaze into this 1500 BC ruin village, magically preserved by nature itself.

aging in agen

As I have mentioned before, we have been trying to bus from city to city as much as possible throughout our travels. It turns out that despite the ease of a simple click of a mouse to purchase tickets online, catching the bus proves much more complicated. In Blois, our first problem was the lack of actual bus station or office, to pick up these pre-paid tickets. We phoned the company and were told it was of course “impératif” to have a hard copy despite any reservations. Secondly, as we have noticed in other cities throughout Europe, the bus stop to pick up travellers was conveniently located at some vague exit on the side of the highway.In the end despite our bus being 40 minutes late, from a different bus company then we had booked, and with a sign only reading “Portugal” on its windshield, we somehow made it to Bordeaux.

DSC_0627As many know Bordeaux is renowned for its superb wines, but the city itself resonates. Sometimes you arrive in a city that gives you the sense that wandering its streets is enough of an itinerary for a day, so we made it just that. Bordeaux felt like a massive outdoor art gallery. We wanted to take a wine course at le Maison du Vin, but it was closed for Sunday, so instead we headed to a wine museum. 

DSC_0686The exhibit was set up in an old wine cellar with fascinating antiques to tell its history, like the first labels and bottles ever used.  We later had a lesson on the grape varietals around Bordeaux, but what better way to teach then with examples, or in this case samples, so we tried some pleasant blends of Semilion Sauvigon Blanc, and Cabernet Merlot.

We had scheduled a few months ago plans to be picked up in Agen for our first workaway experience. Workaway is essentially an internet site which allows you to create a profile to become a member, and then search for other host-members on the site to set up a work period in exchange for board and food. Although we e-mailed several times in the past week but had not heard back from the hosts recently, we decided nonetheless to take the train to Agen and hope for the best. Christina, an Aussie, picked us up in a hustle with two baby twins in the back. We could discern pretty quickly how this e-mail might have slipped her mind, as she clearly had her hands full. The next two weeks was hard work but nevertheless such a nice OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbreak from the hustle and bustle of backpacking. We had found a family who knew how to find the fun in a bit of chaos. The four kids I was majorly responsible for were all under 4. Despite that, Freddy put into perspective the expression “the terrible twos”. An energetic adventure seeker, Freddy never walked, but ran, and consistently with his two hands behind his back in a sort of reverted Superman pose. Unfortunately, unlike Superman, he was a ticking time bomb for accidents. To put his character into perspective, we went to “Circus day” for one afternoon, and the gymnastic teachers caught on pretty quickly. They would urgently clear the way for other children every time they saw Freddy’s curls bobble up in line to hit the trampoline launch pad. His mom Christina joked, “he’s wild, but at least he doesn’t sit around and winge”. Too true.

DSC_0660Besides the work the family treated us to the French culture through wining and dining.  We finally tried fois gras (duck liver), as it’s a specialty of the Agen region, however does not hold a special place in either of our hearts (and stomachs). Duck confit however, was memorable in a much more positive way. Sometimes I had the joy of cooking for 10 plus people when friends visited, factoring Christina’s allergy to gluten and dairy, while encouraged to use whatever was ripe that day in their extensive veggie garden. In all they had tomatoes, lettuce, plums, courgettes, cucumbers, zuchinis, aubergine, every herb imaginable, pumpkin, cherries, and even more of what was not yet in season.

We also had a few nights of a crossover with the earlier “workawayers” image-1and borrowed the family car to drive to another village for dinner. As it was Sunday, and past 8 oclock almost everywhere in the small town of “Condom” (no typo here) was full. We ended up in a random restaurant “Le Vert Galant” that appeared to have crepes on the menu. It turned out their specialty was not crepes but tartines, as well as glaces salées et sucrées (sweet and salty ice cream). We had fun trying to work out if my translation of the menu could actually be accurate for the oddest combinations of foods.

imageIn the end we were all pleasantly surprised with our choices, including this sausage and pear walnut salad with Reblochon (cheese) ice cream. Unfortunately the kids were absent for that meal, as they would have forever appreciated the concept of adding a scoop of icecream to every meal.  

Paris Je T’aime

DSC_0367We embarked on a 12 hours overnight bus ride to Paris. With each new back cramp, we had to remind ourselves that not only were we saving heaps by avoiding the train, but we would save on one night of accommodation in pricey Paris. We had three full days to explore this iconic city, so as soon as we stepped off the bus at 7:00 am the race begun. We started with the view of the city at sunrise, at Sacred Coeur Cathedral, nestled on top of the hill near our hostel. We later visited the famous Notre Dame church, which was classically beautiful, but aesthetically not quite as impressive as someof the churches we’ve seen in some smaller towns of Europe. We chose to climb the Eiffel Tower at night, as we heard the lines were shorter and the view remarkable. We soon realized that this tourist attraction merits all of the fuss, as bit by bit we saw the city come to life at night. Experiencing cities from above, somehow helps me grasp the concept of themagnitude of 2 million people.


DSC_0459Especially at night, you can picture one light as one person, and imagine how many individual stories are playing out simultaneously. It really made me feel smaller within my own story, which was actually more comforting then it sounds. We later switched perspectives to see the tower from below, and caught the nightly 2 minutes of it set off like fireworks in twinkling lights.

The next day we headed to the Louvre museum expecting a massive line, but were pleasantly surprised at how fast it moved. It was truly a maze of masterpieces, and despite 4 hours or so we naturally could not see it all. We were unable to solve the mystery of whether or not DSC_0528Mona Lisa smiles, as a mob of tourists surrounds her little portrait, bombarding her with flash photography at every second. My guess is poor Mona does not smile for that.

Paris was as vivacious of a city as I had imagined, which made the charm of the next stop of Blois (blah) sound even less appealing. Nevertheless, we sat around in the train station for a good 3 hours which gave Paris enough time for an encore. I noticed a piano sitting right next to the platform, which kind of pleasantly threw me off considering all of the grungy train stations we have seen across Europe. A young boy sat down at the bench, and beautifully played my favourite piece from the soundtrack “Amélie”. The whole scene felt like a lovely Paris cliché, and I can’t really describe what it felt to be apart of it.

We could not call Blois charming upon first impression, mainly because our hostel was tucked away in a rough area of town. Luckily we had arrived early enough to allow some exploration, because the old area of town left much more of a lasting impression. We read in a Europe guide that besides having some great castles, the region of Blois takes pride in  its fine cuisine. We found a decently priced restaurant and ordered two salads, which seemed to be the only viable option of a meal in that heat. I was presented with a mound of mixed lettuce topped off with grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms and onions, fresh tomatoes, grated gruyere, and cubed fried potatoes. Whoever said salads don’t suffice for a full meal has never tried one of these “tours de force”.

DSC_0540We got up early and took the bus to Le Chateau Chambord, one of the most famous castles in the Loire valley. Built in the 16th century it still stands quite impressively, with a giant stone staircase in its centre, spiraling like a tree to the top. The place boasts a mere 400 rooms and 360 fireplaces. It was stunning but felt lonely, and I couldn’t imagine such a colossal castle feeling anything but that, nestled in the woods surrounded by 13 000 acres within a 40 km stone wall. I learned that the loneliness of the place may have been a mutual feeling, as King Francois visited his “hunting lodge” no more then twice in his lifetime.  DSC_0590

italy to france

We long debated whether or not to budget Venice in our trip. As we were already traveling in the northern area of Italy, we justified it despite the cost. Right off the bat, at the tourist office we faced this problem as our usual free map was nonexistant, and contrary to its description, our hostel was only accessible by boat. We bought a 72 hour transit ticket and came to terms with the price figuring where else in the world would your public transpo ticket permit endless boat rides.


The canals were amazing, and the whole intricate system through the city was much more extensive then we both expected. There’s such a classic feel to the town with gondolas gliding elegantly past the bustle of people. Of course, this is the 21st century, and we had to laugh at the gondaleers, traditionally dressed and skillfully steering two lovebirds down the canals, while texting or chatting on their iPhones.

DSC_0236We visited Murano island, which is famous for its remarkable glass blowing. Although some places charged for it, we managed to catch a free demonstration of the glass blowers working their magic. I admired their perseverance in 33 degree heat as they stood next to blarring hot ovens, which I had already thought was the best way to describe the stifling heat outside.


After a few too many days of eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches, we took the empty jar as a sign that it was time to try some traditional Italian cuisine. This isn’t to say we didn’t try to replace Skippy, but it turns out peanut butter is as scarce in Venice as it is in many other European cities, despite the twenty varieties of chocolate spread or even peanut butter potato chips. We wandered around San Paulo, and after leering over too many patio eater’s plates (which seemed a bit lacking for the prices on the menus), we settled for a pizza stall. We watched them freshly roll out our pizza dough, and for a mere 6 euro we shared a delizioso large thin crust pizza topped off with spicy proscuitto, greuyre cheese and fresh parsley and basil.

After a nine hour train ride from Venice, we arrived in Nice, and oh how nice it was to hear a familiar language. We DSC_0338visited the museum of modern art, which focused mainly on pieces of Matisses’ cut outs, as well as some other nonconventional works like a wedding dress and train made completely out of recycled water bottles.That night I had mentioned that I was itching to hear some live music. After we sat down on the back patio of the hostel to our homemade fine cuisine of pesto pasta and 2 euro pinot grigio, we noticed some of the travellers arranging a band set around us. We were treated to some live music from a Californian Indie Band, “16 Sparrows”, who were backpacking Europe and touring. Hostellers crowded the patio, and we all enjoyed a good 2 hour show. Unfortunately at 9:30 pm an aggressive lady next door decided the soothing acoustics and harmonies were too much, and started shouting and throwing (I imagine her own self-soothing) empty wine bottles.

After our first week we have been thoroughly enjoying Italy and France, but experiencing  what everybody warned us of the steep prices. We did our research to search bus connections, and called many campsites until finally we found a match in Avignon. For 16 euro we could camp walking distance from the town, one-third of the price of the cheapest hostel and 100% bug-bed free guarantee. Not only that but Avignon’s month long theatre Festival, one of the largest in the world, was in its final week of performances. The small town was oozing art, from the thousands of clever posters plastered of the 1200 some plays, to the live street performance teasers.  The guide book even devoted an entire section of plays for a non french-speaking audience, so I chose “Le mur en equilibre” which was described as a movement piece which incorporated acrobatics with live music. The show delivered, and I was reminded again of the power of theatre to move an audience through storytelling, even without words.

It’s Italy!

I have traveled on ferries before, but never overnight and as far as another country. We left at 8 pm and would arrive in

DSC_0300Ancona Italy, by 7 am the next day. We had been told horror stories from fellow travellers, of overnight ferries in which employees would come around to wake up people in the cabin so as to encourage sales of the private rooms. We were relieved therefore, to see people spread out across the deck in sleeping bags, or like us even had camping mats (which honestly top past hostel mattresses). We trained to Florence the next morning, excited for our first Italian destination. The next day we waited in line at La Galleria dell’Accademia for an hour and a half, stubbornly avoiding the extra 8 euro for a reserved spot in a shorter line. We admired the impressive 17t foot statue of David, which we can both say is more remarkable then pictures can really depict. What made David even more impressive, was its contrast from the series of unfinished statues by Michael Angelo leading up to it, which really makes an audience imagine the seemingly impossible process of creating life from slabs of rock. We later hiked up to the top of the “Rosa Garden” for an amazing view of Florence. That night we  joined our hostel for yet another free sangria night, with an endless bowl that the drunken staff kept refilling. Despite the pricey food in Italy, when you can buy a 2 euro bottle of wine that far surpasses the equivalent worth of cooking wine in North America, sangria night is always a good night.

DSC_0229After a quick stop in Pisa (yes, the tower leans) and a short visit in Genoa,  we were eager to discover Cinque Terre. Like the name suggests, it is five (cinque) lands (terre), of villages nestled on cliffs over the sea, close enough to hike from one to another. The hostel prices were out of our budget, but we found “Camping Sfinge” close by. As we were setting up tent, I noticed the leftover squashed fruits on our sight, and I couldn’t help but think that the last people could have followed a canadian camp rule “no waste no trace”. I was too quick to judge, because looking up at our shady tree, we noticed some sort of fruit growing. I shimmied up the tree and found tons of ripe small plums, which were enough to satisfy our hunger until we could walk back into town for some groceries. Turns our there were tons of fruit trees growing at the campsite. The figs and pears were too sour and out of season, but we found some interesting ripe fruit which tasted like a cross between an apricot and a mango. I clearly remember its taste and of course completely forgot its name, meaning I might have to e-mail the campsite owner to once again ask about this “bizarre fruit” (which she may think the same of me). DSC_0313

We visited the first village, Monterosso, early enough to beat the heat on our trek to the village Vernazza. Unfortunately construction on the path prohibited us from hiking, and looking at the sides of those massive cliffs we thought it best not to test our luck with falling rocks. We caught the train to the next hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, and after a long walk uphill in 35 degree heat, we seriously considered skipping the last downhill bit to jump from the cliffs into the sea. We camped for a total of 3 nights, and spent the days hiking, swimming, snorkeling and fruit picking.

After three nights in the ‘wild’, we arrived in Italy’s fashion capitol of Milan. We naturally fit right in with fashionistas, smelling of “eau to sea salt” and sporting the latest trend of polka dot prints of bug bites. Milan’s train station is a bustling frenzy of fun, but a dangerous place for your toes, whether they are destined to be run over by a rolling suitcase full of a week’s worth of shopping, or a towering two inch heel that cuts like a knife. Either way Milan is a delight for the eyes, as we gazed upon an impossibly squeaky clean piazza with beuatifully decorated buildings, full of lavishly dressed people who somehow all seemed to walk with a sense of purpose.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were endless museums to see in Milan so we got up early to make the most of our day. Our second stop of, “Muse de lart nouveau” was really a breath of fresh air. We would have paid to explore the museum although it was free. From cubism, to an interactive exhibition on optical illusions, to Andy Warhol, we stayed for an entire afternoon, refreshed by this innovative art and their pristine air conditioned quarters.

Croatian Vacation

I remember coming across an image in a travel magazine of sea kayakers dipping in and out of Croatian waterfalls and ever

DSC_0235since then I have always wanted to see Croatia for myself.  Our first stop in the capital of Zagrab was somewhat anticlimactic, but convenient as a central location to take a day trip to “Plitsfist” falls. As it is a national park and world heritage sight, the price was high and the tourists were plentiful. We avoided the crowds by heading up a path to experience the roaring waterfalls from above. I finally could bring my dreams of Croatia to life (although the kayaking will have to happen in a less protected area). We even came across a sign describing the preservation of the park’s “Daphne laurel” plants, making this destination all the more essential to my travels.

DSC_0218After discovering the beauty outside of Crotia’s capital, we were keen to see another smaller city, and chose Zadar. We arrived to a blistering hot sun, which did not phase us, because people running around in their bathing suits hinted their would be a beach close by. Our next few days were the first that truly felt like a holiday. Although I can’t deny that backapacking Europe is a vacation, the constant researching, and planning a few days ahead of yourself to book hostels, or guarantee a cheap bus in high season, can be stressful. Recently we have also been applying to find a “workaway” position to volunteer on a farm or family house in exchange for board, which has been taking up much of our precious time. In Zadar, however, we could wander around the beautiful little town without a map, without a real purpose, and with the only real stress of remembering to reapply sunscreen to us two glowing-white foreigners. Although there were not too many sights to see, we did check out the musical steps. The fact that these are so difficult to describe, explains the geniality behind the design itself. A series of tubing embedded in the stone walkway along the harbour are adjusted to create musical notes from the pressure of the waves of the sea. Each wave against the tubes makes a similar sound of when you blow over a bottle to create that hallow low whistle. Watching the waves and hearing its constant hum of tunes, just connects you to the sea on a whole other level.

DSC_0321I was thrilled to see nets in the sea set up for my favourite sport of water polo. My Croatian coach once described the tournaments they would play in the sea, which seemed exotic to me, especially since the sport is so rare in Canada. I was fortunate enough to stumble across a poster for a tournament that night. We watched a game with the cheering crowds on the dock. It turns out the game was the beginning of a tournament with the next round in Dubronik, and then the finals in Split, so I’m hoping our dates will match up.

The next few nights we spent in the small town Sibenik. Besides its beauty, the town did not seem to have too much going on, which proved more then enough for us. We rented kayaks one day and managed to explore some the coastline. Our hostel was

DSC_0386quaint with an amazing balcony nestled in between the narrow stone streetways, and we spent both nights hanging out and sharing stories with fellow travellers. 

We took the bus to spend two nights in Split, expecting a touristy scene. Stepping off the bus we were once again approached (as we had been in the other 3 cities in Croatia), by several locals holding up pictures of apartments asking if we needed a place to stay. It speaks to the low employment rate even in a richer city, although once again does not reflect on the character of its people, who seem so full of life. We spent the day walking around old and new town and making our way to the beach in the late afternoon when the sun (and therefore crowds) seemed less intense. We had calamari over-looking the sea. One thing I have learned is that Croatians love their tanning, cigarettes, and seafood, so at least we could indulge in one of the three.


We took the ferry to the island of Hvar, which was on the way to our next stop of Italy. We bought a cheap snorkeling set, and I could experience some tropical adventures that beats childhood memories of catching minnows in Canadian lakes. We realized that night that the ferry to Italy which we were planning to catch in a few days, only left once a week. Our trip to the island Hvar was cut short, although it feels like the kind of blissful tropical paradise that might have been impossible to leave without a real reason.DSC_0420

Hungry for more Hungary

June 27th 

On our fifth night in Budapest, we escaped a storm to visit one of its famous bath houses. Budapest is called “The City 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof Baths” due to all of its uniquely designed bath houses,benefitting from natural thermal waters with healing properties. At the “Gelert Bath” we found a series of lavishly decorated rooms, with steaming hot pools, and cooler ones, in which you could simply rotate from one to another, outside and in. Having been built in 1912 in the Art Nouveau Style, the stunning architecture made up for that somewhat uninspiring trip to the Fine Art Museum a few days earlier.

July 1st


Although we were thoroughly enjoying the city of Budapest, we wanted to see some smaller towns in Hungary. We decided on the town Eger, and took the two-hour rickety train ride with some guys from our hostel, really unsure of what to expect besides a castle and winery.

DSC_0256Walking through the town we came across the Mariot, a tower which I had read about that was climbable, although apparently somewhat sketchy. After heading up I understood what “sketchy” meant, and basically if you are clastrophobic or have vertigo, skip it. The narrow winding stone staircase with 97 steps is much too small for two-way traffic, so we waited for the current pair to come down. They seemed so relieved to have made it, I was half expecting them to kiss the ground. Once we finally made it to the top, we could shuffle around the narrow tower, with barely enough width space for our two feet. It was an amazing view, because although we had all seen higher heights, we had never been able  to lean over an edge like that for a bird’s eye perspective. I was amazed by the lack of regulation, especially seeing a rather large man waiting to head up after us, who I couldn’t help but wonder if it were humanly possibly for him to fit.

After checking out the charming Eger castle (or what was left of it) we walked to “The valley of Beautiful Women”, which to the disappointment of the guys, had nothing to do with its title. Instead it was filled with vineyards and wine cellars,particularly famous for its “Bull’s Blood” variety. We wandered in and out of these cellars, sampling delicious wines from the makers. We took turns buying each a bottle of 1200 forent (4 euro) wine to enjoy on these patios, surrounded by Hungarian folk musicians.


DSC_0370Keeping up with the traditional Hungarian drink and music, we needed some traditional eats. We tried “Palacsinta” or a crepe filled with chicken and a rich cream, goulash soup with plenty of paprika, and venison stew. The food was tasty, but like other traditional dishes we have tried in Hungary, we were right to expect something salty and heavy, perhaps which might have been more agreeable on a colder day.


After the sticky train-ride back from Eger, we all ventured to one of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. These are basically run down buildings that are turned into 1-3 story bars, with dancing, live music, and even ping-pong tables. The bars had plenty of character, as it felt like a labrynth winding around to different rooms, sometimes thinking you had opened a door to outside before realizing this particular room had no roof.


DSC_0343We arrived in Budapest on a good note. It is usually a red flag when there is no official sign to your hostel, and the address leads to an abandoned apartment building. Turns out many hostels in Budapest are found at the top of ancient stone staircases, or rickety old-fashioned elevators, but inside they are quaint and welcoming.  We noticed right away that the food was cheap (although 1 euro is 300 hungarian forint) so we trusted a local’s suggestion of the “Hummus Bar”. We ordered something from the board, taking our chances as the only communication with the shop owner involved some form of a game of charades. The food took ages, but we were in no rush, especially when we noticed it seemed to be a one-man show. The elderly man bustled up and down the latter like stairs doubling back for a fork, pita bread, or homemade spicy sauce he insisted on. Together we paid the equivelant of 8 euro for an amazing meal, beer included.

We went to the museum of Fine arts hoping to see the exhibition on Monet and Gaugin. Unfortunately we were two days early for this collection. Although I was thrilled to get a discounted ticket as I put my European passport to some use, it was not quite worth the price to see depressing dark paintings of animal carcasses next to fruit bowls, or morbid religious figures bleeding to death. We later climbed to the top of Vermezo hill, overlooking the two sides of the once divided “Buda” and “Pest”, which was a much easier sight on the eyes.


Because our first free walking tour in Prague had been so successful, we opted for another go. Our leader Emma, had been living in Budapest all of her life, and her infatuation with the city was contagious. Despite the sights, we also received extensive lists of possible ruin pubs to visit, cheap hunagarian restaurants, and were taught some basic words in Hungarian; one of the world’s most difficult languages. As an example “egészségedre” or “cheers”, if pronounced with the wrong inflection on one of the Es, can really mean “coming from the bottom”.DSC_0293

After the tour we observed our newly marked out map of once hidden local secretes. From it we ventured with some guys from our hostel to one of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. These are basically run down buildings that are turned into 1-3 story bars, with dancing, live music, and even ping pong tables. The bars had plenty of character, as it felt like a labrynth winding around to different rooms, sometimes opening a door and thinking you had ended up outside before realizing that this particular room had no roof.

Vienna venture

We headed to Vienna hoping that the 30th Annual Danube Island Festival would be a highlight of that weekend. To find the cheapest accommodation possible, we opted for the Wien West campground. Once again we were nestled behind a squad of deluxe camper vans, but nonetheless happy to avoid the mark up in hostel prices during festival weekends.

The free festival stretched 6 km along the Danube river, making it Europe’s biggest open air event. Our OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsenses were saturated with new smells and sounds from bustling foodstands and stages. We finally reached the end of the island to hear the artist Julien LePlay, who was much like a german version of John Mayer. On top of his distinct tone, we actually welcomed the cliché lyrics as he spilled out his heart in simple german verses we could actually understand. We both noticed that the acoustics were better then any we had heard at summer festivals elsewhere, especially impressive while accommodating a weekend crowd of almost 3 million.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe joined the crowds munching on Langos, a delicious greasy garlicky flat bread (think salty beaver tail). This is the kind of addictive artery-clogging snack that we would have been happy to leave behind after the festival, but it turns out it is actually a traditional dish originating in our next stop of Hungary. Hungry?

We moved to a hostel after the festival just in time to pack up our tent to outsmart the coming thunderstorms. We did not however escape getting wet, as we ran around the city with a soggy map in search of the Freud Museum. We later realized the museuem on “Burgasse 19” was not a street address, but actually referring to the 19th district and a completely different Burgasse street from which we were becoming much too familiar with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo my amazement, the museum was actually in the apartment where Freud was born, which later became the office he developed his practice. You truly felt like a patient coming to see Dr. Freud, as you rang the bell to be buzzed into the museum, and later steped into the waiting room with the original furnishing and artwork from over 100 years ago. We saw original pieces of his writings, home videos narrated by Anna Freud, and many other ins and outs that I especially found fascinating 

We later visited the beautiful Central Graveyard, where the famous composers Bach, Brahms, and Shubert are buried. Although I might have once thought this morbid, I have a new found appreciation for graveyards in Europe. It brings a whole new level of serenity when


unlike any other area, you can have complete peace of mind with no need to avoid oncoming traffic, or even worse, the oncoming hawkers.

The Sound of Salzburg

June 18thDSC_0283

Although we could not find a bus to Salzburg, the picturesque train ride through Austria’s rolling hills was an experience in itself. Salzburg feels like stepping into a postcard, as it has to be the most striking towns I have ever seen. We were exhausted and relieved to finally find our hostel, and to put a cherry on top they were screening “The Sound of Music” every night.

June 19th


We hiked up to Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest), the scenic subpeak in the alps where Hitler used to retreat and entertain his guests. I was a bit hesitant to visit a place so beloved to this tyrant (it was a 50th birthday gift), but a hike in the alps is nonetheless a hike in the alps. We only saw another couple on the way up, as most people caught the expensive shuttle bus to the top.


After the long hike up in stifling 30 degree weather, the bus ride down with the rest of the tourists seemed ideal. Unfortunately, the short ride would have cost us over 20 euro, which made our steep 2 hour walk downhill all the more rewarding.

DSC_0216June 20th

DSC_0333We ventured out into another surprisingly hot day, to the Hohensalzburg castle. We admired the museum within the castle, with artifacts so ancient Brett puts into perspective are older then Australia.We later set out to find spots where I could revel in moments from The Sound of Music, like the fountain in Residenz square from “I have confidence” and the Mirabell gardens where they sing “Doe a Deer”. By late afternoon


we (Brett) were all Sound of Music’ed out, and it was so hot, we opted for grabbing a beer in the shade trying to move as little as possible. Salzburg is quite pricey, and on top of that it seems servers avoid giving out menus when we want to check prices, and seem put-off when we ask for one. My theory is I would much rather put my euro towards their tips rather then an expensive menu, so we finally found a spot to do just that. Later that night we (Daphne) watched The Sound of Music having heard the same hills sing that day.