alrighty, here we go. I’m going to update you on 5 cities in the span of an hour bus ride. In this edition of How Is Ellen Still Alive??? we visit Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Munich and Dublin, meet up with a couple friendly faces, make some new friends, fall in love, find comfort in discomfort, finally make a plan or two, spend time watching Christmas movies, and make sure Ellen is home for the holidays (kind of).

travsBuda-23.jpgAfter last post. I was headed back south from Annaberg-Buchholz, stopping through Prague on the hunt for Budapest. Turns out, Brian (remember him from Sevilla and Lisbon??) was there for the weekend, so in my 3 hour bus layover, I sprinted for old town, determined to see familiar faces. Brian, his roommates and I  chatted over mulled wine for a while before I had to convince myself not to miss a bus just to chat for longer. I boarded the bus at 11:57, meer minutes to spare.

The next morning, I woke up in Budapest. And let me tell you, it surprised me. Gorgeous city, gorgeous people, ridiculously cheap, genuine, humble, authentic. One of the only places I’ve been that didn’t feel like it came out of a travel magazine. Would definitely recommend.

I spent 5 days there. Many of these days were me, waking up tired and slightly hung, wandering towards the kitchen to ask receptionists to extend, finally working up the courage to go out, and spending the afternoons either wandering down the river or relaxing in thermal baths. I met up with Matt (from Berlin and Prague?) and his Israeli friends in the hostel and went out with them a couple nights. Cool people. I also met an incredibly hilarious 30 yr old Canadian electrician from Vancouver that made me laugh every time we saw each other. And this isn’t even the falling in love story either! The Canadian, also called Matt, was headed to Bratislava and would end up seeing me there too. Incredible person.

What happened in Budapest took me off guard though. I met an Aussie named Peter at a pub during the hostels jäger bomb train night (5 bombs for 12€ is a pretty great deal btw). Peter had a 2 year visa to work in England and was doing a bit of a eurotrip before he started work. I ended up spending the entire night talking to him. Just talking. All night long.

The next morning, we texted each other, met up, and spent the entire day talking to each other. You know the people you really vibe with? That was Peter for me. Instead of coming back early for happy hour (as many people do in party hostels) we found a pizza place, talked for hours, came back to the hostel, walked netflix, talked more and said our goodbyes (he was staying at another hostel). And that was it. An almost normal, almost needed, almost perfect couple of days. With a genuine, hilarious, mutually interesting person. Oh what I would give to go back to that feeling…

The next morning, I left for Bratislava (which is so underrated btw), hung out with Matt some more, explored the town, and took a breather. Slovakia is also a very underrated country. I cannot stress this enough. Go visit Slovakia.

While in Bratislava, I met up with David, a kiwi I met in Budapest. David is also on a eurotrip. He’s a semi professional skier, a business/marketing graduate, a kind and easy going human, and a great travel partner. I ended up going to Vienna with David.

So. Vienna. (Notice how quickly we’re traveling through these cities. This is what happens when you slack off on blogging).

Vienna is like Kensington, but everywhere. The wealth in this city is unbelievable. I went to an opera with a german girl (Marie), when ice skating twice (with both David/Marie and Aussie Matt/Israelis from Budapest), visited the most incredible Christmas market, spent a day watching Love Actually and sleeping on a massive bed.

This is where I started thinking about getting home for the holidays. You see, I happened to book a flight from Munich to Dublin for the 19th, almost 2 weeks ago. I was sitting in Vienna, looking at overnight busses to Munich when David convinced me to go to Prague. Which is when, instead of going west to Munich, I hopped a bus northeast with him to Prague.

And that’s how I ended up in Prague for the 3rd time. Which was actually really great cause, somehow, David and I got a private room for the same price as a dorm room, so we spent the day in our pajamas, watching Frozen, eating Asian food, unsuccessfully drinking wine. I only say unsuccessful because that overnight bus left us wrecked and we passed out halfway through. I spent a day (mostly sleeping) and night (at the dog bar) in Prague before I convinced myself to go to Munich and not miss my plane. I booked my bus before David woke up, convinced I wouldn’t be swayed from my destination again.

When I left for the bus station, he packed his bags and came with, ultimately deciding Munich would be a good place to go too. We watched Elf on that bus ride.. quite the cinematic experiences over those few days, huh?

Getting into Munich and night and leaving Munich in the morning didn’t give me much hope for seeing the people/culture/food/Christmas markets, so I went out for some pasta, got my free drink from the hostel, got into pajamas, and went to bed.

Woke up the next morning, said a quick goodbye to David, and headed for the airport. I’m not going to lie, the idea of going home to Ireland had me excited. I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia of it, or just the thought of being with family for the holidays, or some very very deep yearning to be back in a culture I love, but regardless, I could hardly keep myself together.

I landed mid afternoon. Going through customs in Munich had me realizing just how long I’d been in Europe (86 days) and just how close I’d be to deportation if I didn’t get my Irish passport renewed soon. With that in mind, I went straight to the Irish Immigration office in the city, figured out all the logistics of my stay ( i.e. I never have to leave! ) and booked a hostel in the city for the night. I chatted with some people, went to bed early and took the next day by storm. Which brings us to yesterday. When I surprise visited my aunt and her kids, scared the living daylights out of my grandparents, Got surprised by a very timely uncle, and asserted myself, rather quickly, back into the mix. We spent the evening catching up, drinking around the table, talking about everything under the sun. Those nights are the ones I live for.

Now, I suppose I should explain the bus before I forget. I’m headed to Waterford for Christmas. There, I’ll meet up with another couple aunts and uncles, my grandparents (again) and a boatload of cousins. But that’s another story. Stay tuned for some good old Christmas festivities!

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