Friday, September 7, 2012

My Chance to Make my Dream of Visiting Central Europe a Reality!

I love to travel, plain and simple. I know that sounds cliche because, well, pretty much everyone loves to get away from time to time. However, for me, it's not just about taking a week off work and unwinding on a beach somewhere, it's a lifestyle. Travel is what keeps me going, it's what keeps me alive. My parents loved to travel and I got the bug before I could even walk. Ever since I caught this bug, the only way I know how to keep the debilitating urges to leave town from taking over my dreams, my thoughts and my every move is to take a road trip, book a flight or sail across the gulf. It doesn't really matter how far I go, as long as I go somewhere...anywhere. I love everything about travel. I love packing because when that suitcase comes out of the closet, that's when it really hits me that I am going somewhere. I love layovers and waiting for delayed flights at the airport because they allow me to have the chance to meet so many people in one place going to so many different places. I love trying new foods and finding those little cafes and restaurants off-the-beaten track that I can call my own for a time. I love learning about new cultures and meeting the locals to learn about our differences and realizing that we are not so different after all. I love getting on a bus or a train in a new place and just going off into the unknown.

I've been all over North America - Canada, The United States, Mexico, Cuba and soon Costa Rica - but I have never left the continent. After Costa Rica, my thoughts will be occupied with trying to find a way to get myself to Europe, Central Europe in particular. And this is why I am writing this blog post; I'm hoping to snag myself an unforgettable experience in three cities that are near the top of my bucket list; Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
I can only imagine what it must be like flying into Prague with its 1100 years of history sprawled out below. When I think of Prague, I think of large, medieval, almost spooky buildings and cobblestone streets that have stood the tests of time and conflict. I can just picture myself taking a midnight walk along those old streets under a blanket of thick fog with only the diffused glow from the old-fashioned street lanterns guiding my way to the old Jewish Cemetery. This is how I would explore Prague. Of course, I'd do all the touristy things too, periodically venturing back and forth between the Old Town and the New Town like someone had given me a time machine for my birthday. I'd explore the Gothic churches and old castles. I'd admire the displays at the art museums. I'd take a stroll across Charles Bridge. I'd wonder in awe at The Astronomical Clock that has been ticking since the year 1490. I'd relax with a locally-made, caffeinated brew at a famous coffee house. I'd people watch along the Vltava River. And of course, I would stop to pay tribute to one of my heroes and, in my opinion, the most inspirational person who ever lived, John Lennon at the Lennon Wall. But it's the unique and lesser known attractions that I am most interested in. The Museum of Communism. The KGB Museum and its collection of items related to the Soviet Secret Service. The Mirror Maze at Petrin Hill. I'd sip on a Gambrinus beer at Bunkr Parukarka, a hillside nuclear bunker from the cold war era which has been turned into a nightclub. Later into the evening, its the raw and rough Zizkov neighborhood that will draw me in to experience an underground nightlife like no other on the European Continent.

I hear that the best thing about traveling in Europe is how easy it is to get around from place to place. So many small countries are located close together so naturally, it would make sense to hit up Vienna, Austria after a stint in the Czech Republic and how could a city nicknamed The City of Music not impress me, an avid lover of all music, including the classical greats that made Vienna their home. Vienna has also been named one of the most liveable cities in the world and, just from the little bit of research I did, I can see why! A low crime rate, tons of parks and green spaces and a penchant for preserving arts and culture. I can just imagine what it must be like to walk those old city streets and explore all those well-preserved little nooks and crannies. But instead of walking those streets, I would hire a horse and carriage to show me the sights. I can almost picture myself dressed in my best and making my way to one of the beautiful palaces to attend one of the famous Vienna Balls or arriving at the State Opera House to see a live opera performance the way it is meant to be seen. Nah, they probably wouldn't let the likes of me into those classy joints but I would certainly try to crash them anyway! Late on a Friday night in Vienna, you would be more likely to find me walking around, scaring myself silly in the Central Cemetery where 2.5 million people have been laid to rest. Now that's creepy but I think it would make for some great photo ops.

Next stop, Budapest! Its been said that Budapest is the most beautiful city on the continent. Well, let's see; Cruising the River Danube, exploring the largest thermal water cave system on earth, bathing in one of the many hot springs, sipping on caffeinated beverages and rubbing shoulders with the poets and writers of Budapest at Central Cafe, learning about various terror regimes throughout history at the House of Terror, exploring the gardens and ruins of Margaret Island and strolling the old city streets of this revered and ancient city. Well, based on all of that, I'd have to say Budapest has more going for it than just beauty although the stately bridges, tree-lined parks, spectacular skyline and beautiful castles and churches are certainly appealing to the eye.

This is my dream for my next trip, or next stage in my life as I often call each and every adventure I embark on. Every trip I have taken throughout my life thus far has enlightened me more about myself, the world and the people I share this planet with. With each and every voyage I embark on, I gain more knowledge about the world around me and I gain more empathy, hope and unity with others who are also on this journey. For me, a trip never ends, it stays with me long after I return home.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” – John le Carre

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness" - Mark Twain

“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless, it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’” ~Louis C.K.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain

1 comment:

Carey | Happy Steps travel blog said...

Central Europe is dreamy. :-) I've been to Prague but haven't even visited some of the places you mentioned, like the KGB Museum. I do agree with you on meeting the locals and learning more about the culture of a new place. For me, travel is more than just sightseeing.


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