Last month we followed the summer to Budapest, Vienna and Prague as guests of Contiki. Now when you think about a summer holiday destination, Eastern Europe isn’t necessarily the first place that springs to mind. Its rich history, medieval beauty and fairytale castles are usually pictured under a thick layer of white snow. But in countries where winter temperatures drop below freezing, summer is when they truly come alive.
From the moment we arrived in Budapest, the city was buzzing. It was a balmy afternoon and the bars were already packed. Locals were sipping cocktails and strolling down quaint cobblestoned streets like they had all the time in the world. The city is split in half with the beautiful river Danube separating Buda from Pest (pronounced pe-sh-t). We spent our time chilling in cool cafes, getting up to mischief at thermal baths and shopping for hand-woven fabrics in Buda, the bohemian side of town. We hit up outdoor bars, designer boutiques, local flea markets and edgy galleries while in Pest, the more cosmopolitan of the two.
What we bought: Tribal Chanel-inspired top from Zara, silver ring and vintage 1960s alarm clock from the flea markets, and a hand-woven table runner from a local craft market.
With my birthday falling on our first day in Vienna, our second destination was always going to be special. I made the most of it by spending a crazy night at an amusement park and a shopping mission to not just one, but two Zara stores. Austria is a country that takes its winter sports so seriously, that in summer it’s common for bike lanes to get overtaken by locals power-walking in tiny spandex short shorts with ski poles in their hands, training for ski season. We got our culture on for the 150th anniversary exhibition of Gustav Klimt at the Leopold Museum, where we got to see 400 postcards and messages that Klimt sent his lifelong friend Emilie Floege.
What we bought: Aqua and tropical-print pants from Zara, Gustav Klimt ‘Attersee‘ print and a rum and coconut liqueur from the Old Vienna Schnapps Museum.
Prague, Czech Republic.
If Paris is the city of love, then Prague is the city of extreme PDA (public displays of affection). Everywhere you looked there were lovers getting it on. We don’t just mean holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. We’re talking about steamy make out sessions that would get you fined for public indecency back in your hometown. We visited a spectacular 9th century castle, popped into a medieval sex museum, got all hipster by riding bikes around the city and partied with the locals until the sun came up.
What we bought: Fresh berries!
My summer in Europe was short, but it left a lasting impression. It wasn’t just the amazing cities we visited and crazy experiences we had that made the trip memorable, it was the people I shared it with. I’d never been on an organised tour before, but I can honestly say this Contiki tour was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Travelling has the wonderful ability to not only encourage new experiences, but new friendships too. My tour group met as strangers in Budapest and parted as great friends in Prague. We literally laughed our way through the entire trip and with reunion drinks already locked in with the Aussie crew, I can’t wait to relive the good times all over again.
We travelled through Europe as guests of Contiki. The trip we were on usually starts in Berlin then heads to Prague and Vienna, finishing up in Budapest. We were on a tight schedule so we went the other way around and skipped Berlin. If you’ve been inspired to visit these cities, check out Contiki Berlin to Budapest – and Berlin, we’ll be coming back for you soon!