I’ve gotten used to this routine: wake up, stuff my face with the free breakfast of fresh bread and jam the hostels often offer, wander the streets of "insert-city-name" to stop in a picturesque café for a leisurely cappuccino and some mid-morning people-watching. Re-energized, I wander for hours, hitting up the major attractions and stumbling upon even better alleys and surprises. Sometimes, I will find a market and sample the goods. More often than not, I encounter some church or castle that pays homage to some historical figure who apparently needs your 11 euro entrance fee to feel loved. To no one’s surprise, I usually invest that 11 euro into coffee.
Now that I am back in my Belfast “home”, where I'm currently studying abroad, I look at my photos and sigh because they now only represent memories. Rather than write some deep letter to you all about finding yourself through travel (and to relive it for a short while), I thought I would give you my best tips/recommendations for if you choose to ever visit some of these incredible places. I like to think these tips best encompass what traveling is: great food, fascinating people, multiple mistakes, and memories of what made this trip oh-so-right.
10 Things I learned from my 3 weeks of backpacking:
1) London Heathrow airport is not the most comfortable place to spend the night, especially because they close down their departure terminal until 5 am.
2) In preparation for Berlin, starve yourself for a week so you are ready to try something new every 3 hours: fried pork knuckle (Lowenbrau au Gendarmenmarkt), pumpkin seed bread (every bakery possible), incredible coffee (The Barn), melt-in-your-mouth steak (Nansen), decadent chocolate (Fassbender and Rausch), and belch-worthy beer…I feel no shame in fitting this all into a 24-hour period.
3) If you miss the sea while in Munich, just pop on over to your local Englischer Garten streams to watch the surfers hit the artificial waves.
4) Feeling like Bond in Casino Royale? Take a 1.5 day trip outside of beautiful Prague to visit the small spa town that is Karlovy Vary. Go on some reflective hike, take advantage of the spas and mineral water, and yes — eat overpriced cake in Grandhotel Pupp, where that very same James Bond movie was filmed.
5) Nothing better than getting tipsy during aperitivo on Milan’s Navigli River…well, except for the unlimited buffet that often comes with it.
6) When buying metro tickets in Vienna, “single fare concessions” are meant for dogs and small children; please select full fare journey… believe me, I figured that out from the very violent arm action coming out of the irate train man.
7) Fancy a nightly stroll? By day, Budapest has some of the most amazing views along the river — but once it's dark, it’s magical.
8) You thought you knew clean, before you got a hammam. I went to Aabla Spa in Marrakech, Morocco, where you can bargain $20 for a 45-minute hammam done by the most mothering woman, and get a 1-hour massage. Mint tea and friendly smiles included.
9) And one more for Marrakech because I loved it so much: TAGINE. http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293734-d1097803-Reviews-Chez_Chegrouni-Marrakech_Marrakech_Tensift_El_Haouz_Region.html
10) If all fails, just smile and someone will take pity on you…in all seriousness.
Cheers from Northern Ireland,
© 2014 Princeton Traveler