Ahoj! (Slovak for Hello/Goodbye it sounds like A-Hoy)
Another month has gone by here in Germany and I am starting to see the inevitable end of my time here in Darmstadt. It has now been 8 months since I have been in the United States and thinking back on how things were in my first months I have realized that being here has become just normal life. Easter was just a few weeks ago and so we had a “long weekend” which for me was my normal weekend since I don’t have classes on Friday or Monday. A lot of the exchange students took this opportunity to travel, and so did I. Two girls from Indiana who are new this semester on exchange from Purdue, one of my friends from Ireland, who has been here for the year with me, and I took a trip to Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava. It was 5 days, 3 cities, and an absolutely crazy adventure.
The trip was through this program called “pm2am Student Trips.” There are several programs like this that organize trips for students for a cheap price and have everything planned and ready for you. Some other programs around Germany are called “Studenten-Uniflucht” and “Studifahrten.” Most trips have a pick-up in Darmstadt or Frankfurt, so we don’t have to go far to get to a pick-up location.
Our trip started on Thursday evening at 9pm. We went to find the pick-up location and met a few others going on our trip as well as a few people waiting for another bus for a different student trip with a different program. Finally, around 10pm we were on our way to Vienna and our 12-hour overnight journey. We stopped in Nuremburg around 1am and picked up more people and around 10 am we were finally in Vienna, Austria. We didn’t get much sleep but we only had about 7 hours in Vienna before we had to leave again to go to Budapest. So we rallied with some breakfast, found some Wi-Fi and made a plan for the day. For our trip there was a guide from pm2am who kept us on schedule and made sure we all made it back onto the bus. Now we had to talk to him a few times to give him some information for our hotel and some other things. Even spending just 7 hours in Vienna it was amazing and I wish we could have had more time in the city.
Next stop Budapest, Hungary! Each of the 3 cities we were at all were located on the Danube river are all actually really close to each other. The longest part of the journey was the drive from Darmstadt to Vienna and from Bratislava to Darmstadt and those were about 12-15 hours each. We made it to Budapest that night after the 3-hour journey from Vienna. Once we got checked into our hostel and settled in to our rooms for the night our guide took us out to meet with the rest of the group. Our bus number was 6 and we had about 70 people on our bus and in our hostel, but there were at least 5 other busses of people doing this same exact trip. They took us to a ruin bar in downtown Budapest where we met some other people that were on the trip with us. We ended up chatting with two girls from Ireland who had been studying in Mannheim, Germany, which is only a 30 min drive, or 1-hour bus ride from Darmstadt. It is always great to meet new people and from different cultures but I think we are sort of drawn to the people that speak the same language as us or who come from our same cultures, and countries. We met many cool people on the trip but we really made friends with the Irish girls, probably because of our language and we spent the most time with them because we also had a person from Ireland with us. I have a friend from Brazil who pointed this out to me when I told him we had met Irish girls, he said it’s just like him. He is always more likely to make friends with the people who speak Spanish, even though in Brazil they speak Portuguese most can also speak Spanish fluently.
We had the next full day to spend in Budapest and we had a tour guide for the morning. Our bus took us to some major spots and we were able to see a lot of stuff that we wouldn’t have been able to see if we went on our own and walking. That evening we met up with the whole group and we had a boat party on the Danube River. Seeing Budapest lit up at night really was amazing. Budapest is actually two cities and its separated by the river so Buda is on the western bank and Pest is on the bank opposite. Buda has more hills and is really just where families live. Pest is the flat side and its really where all the night life and fun stuff happens.
The next morning, we got up bright and early and headed to Bratislava, Slovakia. We got into Bratislava and immediately took a walking tour with a guide. At some point we got sick of our guide and decided to walk around on our own and see what we wanted. To be honest there wasn’t much to see in the city besides the castle and a few other things. By that afternoon we were all running out of energy and I was really sick, I think it was worse because we were traveling the whole time. I don’t think I have been this sick since I have been in Germany and I was feeling pretty miserable, dreading the ride home.
Overall the trip was amazing despite being sick the whole time. I can now add 3 more countries to my list of places I have traveled. Including Germany, I have now been to 9 countries of my goal of 11 countries in 11 months, not including the United states. With my time here in Germany ending in just a 3 short months I’m going to do my best and travel as much as I can while I’m here.