I had such an amazing time in Budapest, I didn’t think that Vienna was going to be able to match it. Whilst I was on the bus crossing the border from Hungary into Austria, I was preparing myself to be disappointed.
After getting off the coach, I was a slightly discombobulated and felt as though I was still in Hungary. In the UK, if you want to go to a different country, you usually have to fly (Wales and Scotland don’t count because we’re all in the same boat and part of the same nation). Therefore, when I got off the coach, I didn’t feel as though I had travelled to a whole new country. A country that uses a different currency, speaks a different language and is a lot more expensive compared to the one that I had previously been in.
My new home
By now, I was feeling like a pro at this solo travelling malarkey and managed to navigate myself to my hostel no problem at all.
Unlike my Budapest hostel, that was similar to a small house, this hostel was more like a hotel. It was very commercial and spread over numerous floors. It seemed as though it was built (or at least refurbished) for the purpose of being a hostel.
Upon check-in, although I was served promptly and efficiently, I felt like just another bed number. It was very different to the friendly and homely experience that I received in Budapest.
Please don’t think that I am complaining, I’m not. The hostel was super clean, the rooms were spacious and the beds were comfy. I’m just trying to highlight the differences between the two approaches.
I spent the evening unpacking and getting to know my new roommates. I was in a female only dorm with six beds. The other beds were occupied with ladies from Germany, America, China, Hungary and the Netherlands – all of them were awesome in their own way.
Getting to know Vienna
The next morning, I ventured back to the tube station and headed into the city. On my list of things that I wanted to do, was to walk the Ring Road – which is exactly what it says on the tin, a circular road that runs around the outside of Vienna. According to my Google research beforehand, this activity was a must and it seemed like a good place to start.
Whilst I was in Budapest, I was getting sunburnt and was wondering around in strappy tops and sundresses. I knew that Vienna was going to be colder, so I opted for jeans with a t-shirt and took a hoodie along for good measure. In hindsight, I should have taken a winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves! Although it was bright and sunny, the wind was icy and cut right through me. It would have taken me about half an hour to go back to the hostel and grab my coat, so I opted to man-up and just put up with it for as long as I could.
Whilst walking I was looking around at the buildings, the traffic and the river Danube and I felt nothing except cold. I had walked about half of the Ring Road and still felt absolutely zero. Zip. Nada. There was no magic. This might sound crazy, but I couldn’t feel Vienna! I could have been walking in any city. So, I sacked off the Ring Road and headed straight for the city centre.
Within a few minutes, I started to see some of the most amazing architecture, modern shops surrounded by historic buildings, horse-drawn carriages and ornate fountains – THIS was Vienna! All of a sudden the city came alive and I started to forget about wanting my coat.
How do you cross the road?
As in most cities, there’s lots of traffic and numerous pedestrian crossings with traffic lights. Now, I’m not sure how they work in the rest of the world, but here in the UK, there is a small box near the crossing with a button. You push that button and wait for the red man to turn green, and then you can cross safely.
In Vienna, you have these boxes at the traffic lights (shown below). I’m not sure if you have noticed, but they don’t seem to have an obvious button. I stood there for ages, at almost every crossing, pressing and squeezing every part of the box trying to work out how the damn things worked.
In the end, I posted in a travel group on Facebook asking if anyone knew how to operate them. The answer was that they are specifically for disabled and blind people and the box clicks to alert them when it is safe to cross. As a fully abled person, all I had to do was to just wait and it would turn green on its own. So, no more looking like a confused weirdo on the last day whilst squeezing random objects.
Although I think it is a bit silly that their traffic lights don’t have a standard button, I do have to applaud Vienna for their traffic light couple. Instead of a single green and red man, they have a series of cute couples around the first district area.
I did try taking a photo of them, but it was quite difficult to do without getting run over, which kinda defeats the objective of having them in the first place. You’ll have to settle for an image I stole from Google – aren’t they cute?
It was my last day in Vienna and I had run out of socks. I had to wear my boots to the airport because they were too big to fit inside my bag, so I needed a pair of socks. This resulted in me having to go through my dirty laundry bag and sniff all of my previously worn socks, trying to work out which ones were the freshest. It was at this point that all the glamour of travelling went right out of the window.
At the airport, my feet were in so much pain. I just had to take my shoes off. For the last week, I had been walking an average of 16km (10miles) per day in shoes that were not designed for that amount of walking, and I was starting to suffer. I had numerous blisters, broken skin and huge bruises on my big toes. I thought that all my shoes fitted me fine, but after walking a fair distance in them, apparently they don’t.
It felt similar to when you go out in some fabulous looking, but killer heels. By about 2 am, your feet feel as though they have been through a cheese grater and you would rather walk on broken glass than have them on your feet for 1min more. I had reached this point where my feet were hurting so much, that I just didn’t care if I gassed out the people around me. Admittedly, as I removed my shoes, even I could smell my feet. I was still rocking my 2-day old socks, which by this point I had been wearing for 10 hours that day. But having no shoes on was total bliss, and as an added bonus, people gave me an extra 5-metre radius of space!
First adventure = complete
Whilst on the plane back to the UK, after successfully completing my first adventure (with my shoes back on my feet) and crossing Budapest and Vienna off my Travel Bucket List, I started to read the in-flight magazine. Inside was a map of Europe and all the top destinations. I sat there staring at all the places that I am going to visit this year and it made me very excited for what’s to come.
In truth, I couldn’t decide which city was better, Vienna or Budapest. They were incredible in very different ways. Both cities will always be special to me because they were part of my first solo travelling trip. Giving me not only an unforgettable experience but the courage to do it all over again.
Here’s to the next adventure.