I know what people say. Traveling by yourself is dangerous and scary and you probably just shouldn’t do it. I cannot contradict that statement, but I went ahead and did just that anyway for my spring break. Well for a portion of my spring break.
Every time I talked to my parents about my travel plans, I put on a confident façade and told them it would be alright, that I’m a grown ass woman, and that all of the Europeans travel by themselves, which I don’t actually know if that is true or not. However, as the time drew near to set out on my solo adventure I got nervous myself, despite what I was saying to my family.
I would like to think that I have done a lot of traveling in my life, but when I flew to Spain in January it was the first time I had ever been on a plane alone. But like I said, I’m a grown ass woman and nothing would get in my way of seeing as much of Europe as I wanted to.
So check my itinerary out: Friday to Sunday I would be in Germany visiting a friend, Sunday evening to Tuesday night I would be in Budapest completely ALONE, and on Wednesday I would meet a friend in my study abroad group in Prague along with a couple of his friends from home and we would stay there until Saturday night. All of the traveling until we returned from Prague to Madrid would be solo and I would also be exploring an Eastern European city alone for two full days. I was excited and full of dread at the same time. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
The traveling turned out to be the easiest part. In my opinion, that’s all common sense. Just follow the airport, train or bus station signs. Easy enough. Once I was in Germany, I was able to indulge in a wonderful meal that certainly was not on the Spanish Mediterranean diet plan. I’m not quite sure what it was, but there were noodles, meat, and thick gravy to go on top of it all. I was in heaven. (My eating went downhill quickly while away from my host mother. No one was there to make me eat fruit four times a day).
The friend I stayed with was actually a foreign exchange student of one of my summer babysitters nearly 12 years ago! Traveling throughout Europe is all about connections people! The night I arrived, after a nap thank God, she took me to a club and we stayed out until about 7 in the morning. Let me just tell you, those Germans do not mess around.
Luckily, the next day I recovered quickly and she took me to the quaint university town of Heidelberg. It was such a beautiful city sitting right on the Rhine River (my spring break practically revolved around cities on rivers). Home to an old castle and beautiful bridge across the river, Heidelberg captured my heart. Along with the delicious schnitzel I had for lunch.
The next afternoon, I was off on the next part of my adventure, the scary part. I kept telling myself, “Just make it to Wednesday and you won’t be alone anymore.” It is very hard to be confident about traveling alone in an unfamiliar place as a young woman. I am grateful that my parents insisted on me staying in a hotel rather than a hostel. I felt a little safer in my small room there and I truly did not mind being alone. Luckily, the hotel was very helpful with what I should do in the city as well.
On the first day, I did a walking tour that took me to many parts of the beautiful city of Budapest. The city is so old and striking in almost a gloomy sort of way. Maybe it was just that the weather was a bit dark while I was there, but something else seemed to be hanging over the city that I cannot quite put my finger on.
Later in the day, and this was probably my favorite part of Phase Budapest, I went to the natural thermal baths. They were outdoor, naturally heated pools and in the cool evening air they felt wonderful. I also tried out several different saunas as well. I felt fully refreshed after eating a traditional Hungarian meal of chicken Kiev and heading back to my room to prepare for the next day.
I can honestly say that my favorite part of being alone in Budapest, were the meals. I know that sounds strange, who the hell likes to eat alone? But I found it truly enjoyable. I had my Kindle with me wherever I went and to just be able to sit down after a long, successful day of exploring and relax was something else.
On my second day in Budapest, I did a lunch cruise on the Danube River (I told you my trip was all about rivers). It was extraordinary. Again, more traditional Hungarian food and the sights from the river were incredible. I even got to see some of the buildings that I had missed on my walking tour the previous day. The rest of my day was spent trying to soak up as much of Budapest as I could before catching a night train to Prague.
After a grueling night of no sleep, arriving in Prague at 4 in the morning, and waiting almost 11 hours to meet with my friend, we went to our AirBNB to relax for the rest of the evening. I am ashamed to say it, but we ordered pizza. PIZZA in Prague. Some days you just need pizza though.
The next day we set out to enjoy the city. The entirety of that day was spent on a Hop On Hop Off tour bus, with a guide that looked identical to Emma Watson, that took us to the Prague Castle. It was huge. I cannot even begin to explain all of the different parts of the castle we were able to see. It was absolutely exquisite and full of history.
The last two days were spent exploring the other sights in Prague including the Charles Bridge which stretches across the Vltava River, Oldtown, the John Lennon Wall, and many other smaller neighborhoods. We also (finally) tried Czech food. I had roast duck and potato dumplings. On Saturday we took another night train (If you can avoid it do not ever take a night train unless you get a bed) and began our journey back to Madrid.
I was exhausted when we arrived back on Sunday, but it was so worth it. I would not trade those 10 days for anything in this would. Even if you don’t have to travel solo out of necessity, I recommend it anyways. I learned so much about myself and expanded my independence and capabilities. I feel like I could do anything now!
In the next installment: the boyfriend and family come to Spain!