Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Day 13 - 30th August 2011 - The magic of Budapest, Hungary

During the coach trip back to Poland, where we would catch our return flight to the UK, we stopped off in Budapest for a few hours. At first we were given a guided tour by coach through the city, then we were given a bit of free time to get something to eat and explore by ourselves - unfortunately, only an hour since the older people of our group were tired and did not feel like hanging around for very long. Despite this Budapest is truly a majestic city - the buildings are incredible and there is certainly a lot to see and explore.

We saw a magnificent cathedral which is almost too big to fit into a picture, as well as the oldest bridge in Budapest. We crossed over this to Pest on the other side of the river (since Budapest was originally two cities - Buda and Pest), where we climbed up a hill to get a magnificent panorama of the city in a castle-like area with lots of steps and statues. This area also seemed to have lots to see and would definitely be a place to come back to, demonstrating the grandeur of Budapest from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the top there was a statue of Budapests first king and the photo opportunities are endless, with battlements and adornments all over the place.

In addition to the magnificent architecture, Budapest is also a transport enthusiasts paradise, with retro trams, a railway station, trolleybuses all vying for the keen photographers attention. The trams go across the river on the wide boulevards that form the bridges and there appears to be many scenic routes that it is possible to take with more time in the city. I have marked Budapest as a definite place to return to and spend more time, as it would be quite easy to spend a few days here before moving on to see other parts of Hungary, which no doubt also have much to offer in terms of history and culture.

This brings to an end the two week adventure I have had, and marks the fairly significant achievement of having seen exactly half of the major countries of Europe - 20 down, 20 left to see! Despite the tiring nature of the coach trip, my enthusiasm for travel has not been dampened at all and has only increased my desire to see more and more unusual countries in far-off places.

Day 12 - 29th August 2011 - Donji Štoj/Ulcinj, Montenegro

As today was our last last day with our coach departure scheduled for the evening, we just hung around in Donji Štoj, the little village like area where we were based in our accommodation. Since we didn't have to vacate our apartments until the coach came to pick us up, we sat around playing cards for a while before heading over to the beach for a final swim. The beach here is very big so is not particularly crowded and allows for a pleasant swim - the water was very warm at around 30 degrees, certainly warmer than most swimming pools back home! We met our friends from our apartment building whilst we were on the beach so we sat talking to them for a while and sunning ourselves, which was a pleasant and relaxing way to spend the final day - definitely needed with another 30 hour coach trip ahead of us.

After the swim it was mid-afternoon so we went back to pack our things up and get something to eat, after which we all just sat on the roof of the building whilst the sun set, playing cards and chatting. A very pleasant end to a very pleasant holiday in Montenegro - rather nicely, I managed to capture this wonderful sunset from the roof, as if the country was saying 'Goodbye' to us in it's own way!

Day 11 - 28th August 2011 - Ulcinj, Montenegro

Today was our last full day so we decided not to do much and headed once more into the centre of Ulcinj to meet Damian and Ira. We had something to drink in their room, which was quite a bit smaller than ours and Damian showed us how to make the Turkish style of coffee that is so prevalent over here. It's prepared in a small pouring cup with a handle that looks a bit like a small pan that you put on the stove, filling it with water, loose coffee grains and a bit of sugar. Putting it to the boil it all forms together to create a nice foamy coffee without the need for an expensive electric coffee machine.

After this we went to a wonderful little pebble-dashed beach which is much less crowded and less commercial than the main beaches on the seafront. It's not as shallow and you have to step across some more stones to get to the sandy part of the sea in order to swim more comfortably, but it's a wonderful place and looks a bit like a miniature version of the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Italy. After a brief swim we returned to the Old Town for a bite to eat before returning to where we're staying for a relaxing evening. When we got back, I bought myself one of the little coffee cups to take back with me, as well as some coffee to go with it - an inexpensive yet memorable souvenir!