Thank you to NomadicMatt.com for the fantastic 12 day trip to Europe! I entered the contest explaining why I wanted to go to Europe and what I planned to do while there... Next thing I knew, I won the biggest prize of my life! You see, I last visited Europe in 2008. I haven't been to Budapest and Vienna prior to this trip. Although I've been to Prague, it was 8 years ago. I love the city and have been wanting to go back there. When I received the news that I've won, I couldn't sleep because I was giddy in anticipation.
Traveling around Europe is wonderful because I can experience more than 30 different nations and its culture, heritage, people, food and languages. My past trips have been eye-openers. Thinking back, I laughed at my old self because I was naive and did not know what to expect. Nevertheless, I recalled fondly of the excursions I did with my twin sister: making last minute decision to travel to Switzerland hence cutting short our London trip, booking Swiss accommodations hours before we were supposed to catch our airplane, hopping on and off trains to catch as many sights and attractions as possible, treading in the pouring rain while searching for our Interlaken hostel and hoisting our luggage in an unknown place, exploring villages by foot only to discover we were lost and there was no bus running, getting a ride from a complete stranger who did not speak a common language (we communicated by hand signals), and ditching my sister and luggage to race to our Zurich hostel only to discover the check-in counter was closed. I ended up walking up and down the stairs and found the guy. All these experiences appeared stressful but I enjoyed every single moment.
English and Malay are the only languages I speak fluently. However, this does not stop me from learning other languages. In Prague, I relied on sentences from my guidebook to get around. The city map was not in English but I had no problem interpreting where I wanted to go. Prague Castle was breathtaking because of its history and brilliant architecture. I enjoyed weaving through the castle and its grounds. Looking out from Charles bridge was beautiful. I bought a pair of earrings from a stall on the old bridge and received compliments on them. Also, I could spent hours observing intricate details of the medieval Astronomical Clock. Did you know that Prague is one of the fewest European cities that has buildings built in the 10th century? Amazing!
In Vienna, I got by with English and sparse broken German. I went to an opera and watched the Vienna Boys' Choir. Whoever decided to have boys singing is genius! I've seen many boys' choir in my life: Montserrat Boys' Choir and Montreal Boys' Choir to name a few, but Vienna Boys' Choir was, in my humble opinion, the best. I decided against dancing the Viennese waltz because it was costly. But it did not stop me from seeing a few dances in private ballrooms. Walking around Vienna was inspiring. It embodied the essence of Europe but unique to its neighbors.
Budapest is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the continent. The Castle Hill, the River Danube embankments and the whole of Andrassy ut lived up to their UNESCO World Heritage Sites recognition as they were breath-taking. It was easy to get around Budapest since most people speak English. One of the highlights of my trip was bathing with people from around the world at the Szechenyi medicinal thermal bath. I know the idea of sharing a bath with others' body fluids is mental (English slang word for crazy) but it was something I had to do. After a quick dip and Swedish massage, I wrapped up the evening by hipster hip bob to the vibrant electronic music.
However, the real reason I like to travel is sampling cuisines from the country. I remembered disliking olives until I tried them in Spain and instantly fell in love with these little morsels. Strange things like jellied eels, baluts, fish eyes, durian (I happen to like them), kopi luwak and fried ants (they tasted like miniature fried chips) appear odd to some people but loved by many. Food is my passion, hence that's why I created this blog.
In Prague, I consumed schnitzel-like pork served with cabbage and knedliky (dumplings). The hearty food warmed my soul especially walking around in the cold weather. I don't drink beer so I did not think I missed out much. Nevertheless, some of my friends thought that I danced like a drunkard! I ate trdelnik, a waffle dough cooked and grilled with sugar and almonds, and washed it down with a strong cup of coffee. In Vienna, I ate light meals consisting of freshly baked sandwiches because I wanted to fill my belly with desserts. I heard great things about its desserts. My first dessert was a slice of Sachertorte, a popular Austrian chocolate cake. I was told that it is so popular that Americans pay to have Sachertorte shipped to the USA. I went to another pastry shop to try the Apfelstrudel, better known as apple strudel. The apple filling was delicious and inspired me with ideas on how to improve my popular apple pie recipe. At the end of my meal, I ordered Vienna coffee, a traditional cream based espresso drink with chocolate shavings. So delicious! In Budapest, I started the day with a large breakfast consisting of sandwich, cold cuts, cream cheese, sausages and fried eggs. For lunch, I sampled gulyas, a traditional Hungarian goulash. I didn't have dinner since I was still full. Instead, I tried roulade and shared pancakes with my friend. These desserts were not overly sweet, which was perfect for me. I know I was happy when I stuffed myself with good food!
Overall, my trip was marvelous. I couldn't be more thankful to Nomadic Matt for providing this opportunity. Stay tuned because I'll post pictures soon!
I woke up slowly from my deep slumber. I checked my watch and noticed that I have slept for 10 hours. I realized that I dreamed I won the trip to Europe....
For more information on the contest, check out the link:
Written on 8/28/12