The last 10 days of the trip were a whirlwind. We landed in Budapest then made for Prague before finally ending up in Berlin. Consistent with our expectations, it was easy to be in Europe but also a bit less exciting. We were happy with our decision to spend relatively little time there on the trip. Focusing on "hard to get to and hard to get out of" places was a good strategy. But, Europe is still a great place to visit, so here's a quick rundown.
- Our adventure around Margaret Island in this sweet ride.
- Our amazing apartment in Budapest. It was enormous, with a baby grand piano, high ceilings and a stocked kitchen. Probably the best value accommodation of the whole trip. After not cooking for months, it was great to be able to make ourselves food.
- The beautiful architecture of Budapest and Prague. The cities have similar feels to them, even though Budapest is bigger and a bit edgier. They both are centered around rivers and the height of the buildings is comparable. We walked nearly everywhere in both cities as that is our preferred way of getting to see things rather than hit every "must-see" tourist sight. May is a wonderful time for this as it was sunny with long days, but not too hot.
- Escape the Room in Prague. This may have been Whitney's single favorite activity of the entire trip. As an avid player of the iPad app The Room and its hit sequel The Room 2, Whitney was dying to play in real life. How it works is you get locked in a room for an hour and you have to solve puzzles/riddles to get out. The room was themed as an alchemist's chamber. For those of you who are terrified by the idea, there is someone who watches from a camera and offers you hints (which Whitney did her best to avoid/ignore). We managed to escape with a few minutes to spare. A triumph we celebrated with some of Prague's famous $1 enormous beers.
- Exploring Berlin. If I had any authority whatsoever on this topic, I'd say Berlin is what Brooklyn used to be like. But then everyone says Berlin has changed so who knows. Apparently capitalism just ruins all awesomeness. Regardless, walking around the neighborhoods of Berlin was a huge departure from NYC. There is tons of space, so you can get huge apartments. People of all different ages lives in the same neighborhood, so 19 year old club rats walk past young parents pushing a stroller while old people drink their afternoon stein of beer. It also has tons of public transport options that run with German efficiency, so you can get anywhere in 25 minutes. We loved the flea market at Mauerpark, seeing Nefertiti's bust on Museum Island, and chocolate ice cream at Das Hotel.
- Our final meal of the trip at Facil. It was only fitting to end the great adventure at one of the top restaurants in Europe. Good thing they didn't realize we were wearing our only pair of nice clothes!
- The Prague metro officer who fined us for not properly validating our ticket. We had just arrived off the long bus from Budapest and bought tickets. Being tired and not particularly observant, we missed the validation machine. When we got off the train, he let everyone else walk by but asked to see ours since we had backpacks. He then proceeded to ask where we were from (hint: America doesn't win you huge points) and threatened to deport us. I then said that was ridiculous and impossible. I may have called him a mindless bureaucratic drone whose job would soon be replaced by a robot. Needless to say, we didn't win any favor and ended up with a $80 fine. Not a great start to our time in Prague.
- Our bus to Berlin from Prague. The driver of the bus went to the wrong bus depot, didn't notice that no one got on his bus despite the dozen ticketed passengers on the list, and then proceeded to continue to Berlin. It was only 40 minutes later that we had the ticket office call the bus who refused to turn around as he was already past the traffic. We had to scramble to buy new tickets on a rapidly filling bus and hope for a refund in the future. I'm not optimistic it will ever materialize. Fail #2 for Prague transport.
- Clubbing in Berlin. Those of you who know us well will appreciate the challenge we faced with Berlin's nightlife. Things don't even get started until 2am and the crowd isn't "good" until 430am. Fortunately we were with two friends from the US who are much younger and cooler than us. We hit up Suicide Circus, which is obviously what a club in Berlin would be called. We tried to keep up with the scene and had a great time, but when you're dancing and it's full daylight, you know it's probably time to head home.
- The Sparty in Budapest. Whitney and I felt obligated to act like cliched backpackers and attend a "spa party" or sparty at the thermal baths in Budapest. It was a hilarious scene. First off, it was way too early in the season for night time pool parties. Getting out of the pool for drinks involved a brush with hypothermia. However, it did make for some excellent people watching. It was a less cool version of this.