For someone who lives on the other side of the globe and on a country isolated by the sea, IMFSE opened an opportunity to explore the world like no other. Contrary to my perception of Europe as being relatively expensive, travelling is actually affordable once you discover the tactic. After knowing the schedule of the exams, a friend and I planned for an Eastern European backpacking holiday for the Christmas break starting from December 24, 2017 to January 3, 2018.
Going on a vacation after the exams is an excellent way to relax and recharge for the upcoming semester. So, I packed my things and went on an adventure I have never done before. The journey started in Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic. The city has a well-preserved medieval architecture and it felt like the olden times. I even got to visit the Klementinum, considered by a lot of bloggers as the most beautiful library in the world. And of course, who will miss the Prague Castle which sits on top of a hill which you can see from almost anywhere in the city. My first Christmas in Europe and outside of my country was well-spent in Prague.
Prague, Czech Republic 🇨🇿
The next stop is Vienna, Austria. This city is so elegant that it almost felt like I was dreaming. There is a certain style that is so unique to this city. The accommodation is relatively more expensive but I was quite surprised by the food which is quite affordable for a city which consistently rank among the most livable cities in the world. My favorite part of Vienna, apart from the delicious Wiener Schnitzel, is the Schӧnbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. One word: MAJESTIC.
Vienna, Austria 🇦🇹
Next on the itinerary is Bratislava, Slovakia which greeted us with a snowy but sunny day. This part of the trip is so memorable because it was my first time to play in the snow literally like a kid. The city is not as huge as the previous two so you can visit almost anything in the city in just one day which made it less tiring and I did not feel like I need to rush to see everything. As usual, the castle sits on top of a hill and it will certainly catch your attention. But as a civil engineer, the Most Slovenského Národného Povstania (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) or the UFO Bridge left me amazed because of the UFO-shaped structure in its pylon.
Bratislava, Slovakia 🇸🇰
The next destination is Budapest, Hungary where most of the attractions line the historic Danube River. The city is already beautiful during the day but wait for the sun to set and see the whole city light up in bright yellow at night. This jaw-dropping scenery of the whole city is best viewed from Buda Castle which also stands out on its own, a glimmering castle on top a hill. I got to welcome the New Year in front of the marvelous Hungarian Parliament Building, looking at all the fireworks across the city.
Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺
After Hungary is the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Same as Bratislava, Zagreb is a small city. One of the things I like the most about Zagreb is the traditional firing of the Grič Cannon every day at the Lotrščak Tower to mark the midday. But, the best part is the food trip! Food here is so affordable that we were able to try five different traditional dishes. Zagreb is definitely your one-stop food trip heaven.
Zagreb, Croatia 🇭🇷
Last destination is the small city of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The day started with a foggy tour to Ljubljana Castle which seems so magical that I felt like I was inside a Harry Potter movie. Going down the hill, the sun started to shine and the colorful city architecture which resembles that of Vienna greeted us. It was amazing knowing that Slovenians value their language more as a unifier than any other historic person. That is the reason why they have their national poet’s monument in the center of the city. No wonder why they appear to me as very happy people.
Ljubljana, Slovenia 🇸🇮
I went back to Belgium bringing with me a new perspective that I got from this tour, that you should not box yourself but explore the world around you. You learn cultures. You meet a lot of people. You share a part of yourself to others. From an anonymous quote, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”