Thursday, 21 August 2014

Eurotrip Part 1 - The highs and lows of being an Australian backpacker in Europe


Hello loyal readers,  it's been a while! I cannot believe it's already been a month since I left Melbourne and made the 24 hour journey to Europe. I have already had the time of my life which makes me incredibly excited for the rest of my trip. I've had a few people ask about my Blog so I figured it was about time I shared some stories. So as I enjoy some much needed downtime in Milan, I've started jotting down some stories from my journey so far. It's probably more exciting for me to write about than for anyone else to read, but I've been extremely slack with keeping a travel journal so this will at least serve that purpose.

Without trying to sound cliché,  so far I've discovered that a place is only as enjoyable as the people I'm with. The places I've loved so far have had a lot to do with the people. I think I could be in the most beautiful place in the world but without good people around me,  it wouldn't be the same. I'm also finding that I appreciate a lot of things that I would generally take for granted back home. And I guess that's the point of traveling!

I'll try not to ramble on too much but here are some of the highs, lows and funny moments of my trip so far.

Pre-flight.. Just a little bit excited

 Zagreb and Tomorrowland

My first stop on my Eurotrip was Zagreb; capital of Croatia.  Random I know but this was the place I'd organised to meet a few friends to fly to Belgium for Tomorrowland. I had a couple of days by myself to begin with to revive from the flight so I arrived at my hostel extremely daunted and hoping I'd make a friend to explore the city with.  Being a typical Australian traveler,  my first stop was the hostel bar and it was there I made my first friend and immediately lost my fear of traveling alone and not meeting anybody. A couple of days later, I was reunited with my old work friend Pete and met two of Pete's friends; Joey and Evan before we headed to Tomorrowland the following day. 

The days that followed were completely crazy. For those of you who don't know what Tomorrowland is, it's a 3 day dance music festival with DJs playing across a number of different stages over the full 3 days. It was the most well organized festival I've ever been to in my life. Every detail had been thought about and the whole set up was absolutely amazing. The photos below don't even do the festival justice but give you an idea of just how incredible it was. 

    

The Tomorrowland Crew

Alexa and I

View of some of the crowd

As crazy and amazing as the festival was, it was very full on and made me realise that even though I had a lot of fun, 3 day dance festivals aren't really my thing. I figured, at least I went to the best dance festival in the world to figure this out! In saying that, we also had a great group of people and I managed to meet up with my friend Alexa from Melbourne so I didn't by any means not enjoy the festival.. I just prefer a more relaxed atmosphere.

Highlights

David Guetta playing Titanium to an amazing fireworks display - highlight of the entire festival

Arriving at Frankfurt airport (I think that was the one) to free drinks and food for all Tomorrowland travellers

The entire set up of the festival - transport, food, the stages - everything!

Buffet breakfast every day at the hotel (have to enjoy the small things in life!)

Fails and Funny Moments 

Arriving at the hotel with Pete (both single travelers) to our room with a double bed and "Mr and Mrs Fulford" (my surname) displayed on the tv

Killing time between flights back in Croatia by watching Planet of the Apes and not being able to understand a word the apes were saying because the subtitles were in Croatian

Having a crazy Croatian cab driver who told us he didn't actually own the cab then tried to sell us his paintings AND told us he was a spiritual healer and gave us his business card.. (his and number written on a piece of cardboard). I was just happy to make it out of the cab alive

Arriving in Split at midnight after the festival to realise we'd accidentally booked accommodation for August rather than July 

Split and Sail Week Croatia

Pete and I arrived Split after Tomorrowland, planning to have a few quiet nights before yacht week which basically includes partying every night in a different location in Croatia. The quiet nights did not happen. We stayed at a great social hostel called Adriatic and had such good people in our room each night, we had to go out with them. Out friend Lakkis (another ex work colleague) also joined us in Split so the reunion called for a few celebratory beverages. The next 5 nights or so in Split included a pub crawl, jamming sessions in the hostel room (thanks to someone bringing a guitar along), and far too much drinking. The days basically consisted of lying on the beach and eating icecream. It was a great week with equally great people. I was a little bit sad to leave to go on our sail but this didn't last long.

Lakkis, Pete and I at a beautiful viewpoint in Split

Pete and I arrived at the yacht and I was quite surprised to see that it actually was a small yacht and unlike all of the bigger sail week boats. To begin with, they made the assumption again that Pete and I were a couple and put us in a room with a "double" bed that was actually not much bigger than a single. With all due respect to Pete, I didn't really want to have to share a tiny bed for a week on a yacht with no air con so they moved us to another boat and to and even smaller bunk bed which worked out just fine. 

We had such a great group on the boat with a few other Aussies, Brazillians, Canadians and a Scottish guy. We were a little nervous moving boats (and they were nervous for us to join them) but by the end of the week the group was all very close and we were all sad for it to come to an end.

We stopped at a number of beautiful Croatian locations including Makarska, Vis, Hvar and a couple of others I can't remember the names of (terrible I know and makes me realise why I should've been keeping a travel journal). Each day we'd wake up, go for a swim and just lounge around in the sun then party at night. We were living the life. 

Makarska 



The Sail Week Croatia crew (minus Pete)

Highlights

Adriatic Hostel and the awesome people we met there plus nights spent jamming in the room

Banana and Nutella crepes and eating icecream every day

Getting lost in Split and ending up at the most beautiful view point in the city

Seeing Pete and Lakkis attempt to busk on the streets of Split and make 5 Kuna for their efforts (about $1 AUD)

Waking up and jumping in the ocean every day

Our sail week Croatia family

A club in Vis inside of a castle

Fails and funny moments

Our "free wifi" on the boat only working for about 2 days.. Then realizing how much better off we all were without it

Me not reading our sailing booking properly and realizing the day before that we didn't actually get to go to Dubrovnik (King's Landing for any Game of Thrones fans) which was the place I was most excited about

Me not reading our sailing booking properly again and thinking that by "breakfast and lunch provided" they meant that they cooked for us.. We had to cook and clean 

There were so many activities listed on the website for our sail but we didn't have access to any and watched from afar as the boat next to us had a crazy amount of fun with all of their activities (to be fair we had an amazing time.. But there was a little bit of boat envy going on)

Budapest and Sziget Festival

This is the part I'm most excited to write about. Being the most recent, I have a better memory of what happened each day and also because Budapest and Sziget Festival have been the best part of my trip so far. 

I arrived in Budapest on Sunday just over a week ago, completely exhausted after sail week and ready for bed. I met up with my friend Maddi who was also happy to have a quiet night. 

Next minute, we met our Scottish room mates who were going on a pub crawl and decided it'd be a great idea for us to join them the night before a week-long festival. We were also joined by Maddi's friend Alice and her new Canadian friends Adam and Mark who had decided to stay in Budapest a few extra days after realizing how much fun Austrlaians are (and Budapest is a pretty great place). The pub crawl turned out to be a much bigger night than expected and the following first day of the festival was an absolute nightmare. We really didn't think that through.

All struggling with hangovers and lack of sleep, we made our way to the festival in what was easily 30 degrees heat minimum. After Tomorrowland, I had high festival expectations. Also being a Falls Festival regular back home, I assumed a week long camping festival would be similar in Hungary with designated areas for camping. We arrived with no idea where to camp or what to do.. Not one at the information points could help us and we eventually discovered there was no designated camping area and we had to just find anywhere we could fit a tent. After hours of searching and struggling in the hear with our tent and backpacks, we finally found a campsite then failed miserably at putting our tent up. Luckily, our nice Dutch neighbour felt sorry for us and helped us out. By this point, I'd started feeling pretty terrible and was losing my voice. Still, I stuck it out and watched Blink 182 and had a great night but had completely lost my voice by the end of the night which would then continue for the next 3 days. We tried to pack 5 of us into a 3 person tent and realized the music pumping right outside our tent was not going to stop (it stopped at 5am for about an hour or 2). 

I lasted about half an hour camping and bailed. Adam, my knight in shining armour, kindly escorted me back to the city which turned out to be another massive fail. We got off at the wrong train stop, waited for another train then realized the train we actually had to catch closed at 11pm. Stranded on the wrong side of Budapest, we opted for a taxi and I pretty much wrote off the whole first day as an absolute nightmare. 

We felt terrible for Adam and Mark who were meant to leave for Prague after the first day.. Once again, they couldn't leave their awesome Australian friends and decided to stay a couple of extra days. We had our own little Sziget family and after a terrible first day, we certainly made up for it over the next few days and had the time of our lives. 

Our Sziget family

The next few days included seeing the likes of A Day to Remember, Jimmy Eat World, Imagine Dragons and Skrillex. Voice or no voice, it was amazing. Maddi and Alice decided to brave out the camping but the Canadians and I found a hostel at the last minute so I made the trek back into the city each night. After a couple of failed public transportation attempts, we found taxis to easily be the best option. 

A Day To Remember

Jimmy Eat World


On Thursday, we were extremely upset to have to say goodbye to our favourite Canadians and lost half of our Sziget family. After pushing their stay back about a week already and forfeiting numerous pre-paid costs, they couldn't justify staying any longer.

Maddi, Alice and I headed back to the festival on Thursday after they left and arrived to the busiest day yet (and the muddiest after a day of pouring rain). I rushed to get to the stage to see Bastille who were amazing then saw Lily Allen who seemed completely wasted and Macklemore who put on about the best show of the whole festival. I left with about 2 inches of mud covering my entire shoes.

After that we decided we needed a couple of Sziget free days to rest up for the final day on Sunday. Sunday included The Kooks, Outkast and my favourite of the day, Calvin Harris and an awesome fireworks display at the end. Then it was all over!

What started out as a nightmare, turned out to be one of the best weeks I've ever had. Whilst I wouldn't go back to Tomorrowland, I would definitely go back to Sziget. Maddi and I stayed in Budapest until yesterday then said goodbye to Alice and left for Milan.

Highlights

All of the amazing music

Our Sziget family

Meeting the nicest Canadian guys ever and them delaying leaving to hang out with us.. And maybe partly to see the music. Also, hearing them try to imitate our accents 

The ham steak incident - Adam and Mark spending the equivalent of about $20 Australian dollars each (expensive in Hungary) on the most disgusting looking ham steaks I'd ever seen

Maddi's discovery of the best cafe in Budapest and eating breakfast and lunch there every single day

Eating icecream every day (yes this is a common theme)

The pizza shop next to Wombats hostel which we also ate most days

The pub crawl

Fails and funny moments

The entire first day of Sziget (pub crawl before a festival is never a good idea)

Losing my voice for 3 days

Sziget camping and trying and failing to put up our tent (I may have stated that I know how to put up a tent beforehand..oops)

Failing at using the public transport about 3 nights in a row then finding out we had to take a train, a tram then a bus to get home. Never going to happen

The common Hungarian response when asking a question or ordering food being "no" or "not possible" with no explanation (yes, we don't know their language so partly our fault.. but funny nonetheless)

Not receiving my wine I ordered at dinner about 75% of the time

Managing to sneak alcohol into the festival (sorry festival security).. But leaving with my backpack and managing to accidentall sneak my alcohol back OUT! 

Last day watching Calvin Harris with Alice and Maddi


The Kooks and mainstage


My Canadian friends, Adam and Mark 

One month down, 3 to go

Currently relaxing in Milan, I'm preparing for what are bound to be a big couple of weeks in the Greek Islands followed by Spain, Portugal and Oktoberfest.

Tomorrow marks what would be my little sisters 24th birthday. Being a pretty special and significant day to me, I'm excited to be able to celebrate in a beautiful country with great company. Maddi and I are going to head to Lake Como for the day with a picnic and go out for a nice Italian dinner to celebrate. 

Thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing some more stories soon!


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