From Bratislava To Gdansk: How I Traveled Through Eastern Europe

A life 2022

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From Bratislava To Gdansk: How I Traveled Through Eastern Europe
From Bratislava To Gdansk: How I Traveled Through Eastern Europe

Video: From Bratislava To Gdansk: How I Traveled Through Eastern Europe

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Text: Natalia Bukrinskaya

I will say right away: I really like to travel, but I never have money for a comfortable stay. Therefore, when in mid-July my boyfriend found almost free low-cost airline tickets to Bratislava for October, I said: “Wow, you! Where is it? What's the difference, let's go! " This was the beginning of our preparation for the journey to unknown places. Bratislava borders on Austria and Hungary, so we had a choice: to go further along the route Austria-Germany or to Hungary and Poland. After much deliberation, we were inclined to the second option, since the budget was very limited, and we were not sure until the last that the trip would take place. Vienna, on the other hand, seemed to us too pretentious and expensive, and we never particularly liked palaces and theaters.


As a result, we stopped on the route St. Petersburg - Moscow - Bratislava - Budapest - Krakow - Warsaw - Gdansk - Kaliningrad - St. Petersburg - I even had to write everything down on a piece of paper. We chose such a path so that the distance between cities was small. So, bus transfers were short - we would not get too tired of them and could see more cities. Many acquaintances did not share our enthusiasm and now and then raised their eyebrows: "Eastern Europe is a 'scoop', a criminal situation and devastation!" But this only fueled our anticipation of the trip, because with all our hearts we craved adventure.

Then the most pleasant thing remained: to book accommodation and tickets. Contrary to the prevailing opinion due to the film "Eurotour" that you can open a restaurant for a dollar in Bratislava, housing there is quite expensive compared to other cities on our list. In addition, having rummaged on Airbnb, I found out that there is simply no decent apartment in the capital of Slovakia, and in the end we chose a hostel. The rest of the accommodation was easily found on Airbnb, and thanks to the discount coupons that the site provides, we managed to save decent money on apartments. For example, four nights in Budapest cost us only 50 euros, and the rest of the bookings had a discount of 11 euros per each code with the name of the area.

Finally, on September 28, we left Moscow for Bratislava. The departure was quite comfortable compared to other European low-cost airlines: there was no need to register in advance and print boarding passes. In addition, Pobeda allows you to carry ten kilograms of luggage for free, which was good for us, because we are big lovers of shopping. Plus we took a half-empty suitcase with us to put our purchases there on the way back.

Arriving in sunny and hot Bratislava, we immediately went to check in to the hostel and walk. We had little time here - only a day - but it was quite enough to walk around the city at night, see the main sights and drink local beer. Bratislava left a very good impression: a well-groomed and green capital with friendly people, public transport that runs to the nearest minute, inexpensive establishments. The next day, I accidentally met my old friend near the Bratislava Castle. After sitting with him in a cafe on the path, we went to the station to leave from there to Budapest - the main city of our trip.


Budapest is supportive of poor tourists: a lot can be seen for free or for little money

Arriving at the station, we realized that real adventures were just beginning: our bus was late for an hour, we risked not being in time for a meeting with the owner of the apartment. We got to Budapest at half past seven local time, and we only had an hour left to exchange euros for Hungarian forints, buy SIM cards, figure out how to get to the place of residence, and, in fact, on the road itself.First of all, we went to the bus station to find an exchanger or ATM. Here the first disappointment awaited us: a taxi driver tried to deceive us, who said that everything was already closed, and offered us to buy currency from him at an extremely unfavorable rate. Going down to the floor below, we found there both a cash desk and an ATM.

After receiving the money, we were faced with disappointment number two: absolutely nothing was sold at the bus station in Budapest, except for buns, so we were left without SIM cards and the Internet and could not see the route to our temporary home. We had no choice but to take a taxi. But even here we were unlucky: when we came to their parking lot, we met the same blacksmith, and he announced us a price of twenty-five euros for a trip of three kilometers. But there was nothing more to do, so we got into another car and for a robbery twenty euros got to our destination.

Having settled in an old house with a courtyard-well, as in our native Petersburg, we nevertheless decided to go in search of SIM cards, since the wifi in the apartment did not work. At the exit from the house we were overtaken by the last, fourth blow: my friend smashed the phone tightly. Frustrated with so many mishaps in the last couple of hours, we returned home and went to bed.

In the morning my birthday came - we decided to celebrate it with a trip to one of the famous thermal baths. We chose the largest in the city - Széchenyi. This is a huge complex, which consists of indoor and outdoor pools with different water temperatures, several saunas, and a gym. At the end of September it was +26 and it was possible to sunbathe on its territory. The entrance ticket costs about fifteen euros, we paid about three more for renting towels. After the water and sun treatments, we went to a nearby fair to try local pastries: kyurtoshkalach (a hollow bun with various sprinkles) and langos (a yeast dough cake with sour cream, cheese and onions).


Budapest is supportive of poor tourists: many attractions can be viewed for free or for little money. It's nice when there is a platform open at any time of the day for viewing the city from a height, with secluded places where you can admire the view alone. In Budapest, this is Gellert Mountain, located in Buda, the western part of the Hungarian capital. There are many attractions on the slopes, and at its highest point there is the Statue of Liberty with a palm leaf in its hands, symbolizing the victory of the Hungarians over the communist regime forcibly imposed by the Soviet Union. Observation platforms at different levels offer a gorgeous view of the majestic Danube, bridges and sights of Pest.

For lovers of nightlife, Budapest is ideal: Hungarians love bar-hopping, there are a lot of decent establishments in the city for every taste and budget. They are mainly concentrated in the Erzhebetváros Jewish quarter. There are also so-called ruin bars - for example, one of the oldest "Szimpla", where we went. Such establishments are located in abandoned buildings with shabby walls, no doors and broken furniture. The prices are correspondingly low - for two drinks we paid about three euros, so walking around the bars here will not be as expensive as in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

Of course, like typical tourists, we did not refuse to go to the museum, but we chose not the most ordinary one - the Ludwig Museum, which specializes in contemporary art. This is the Eastern European branch of the museum in Cologne, which we visited a year before. Two exhibitions were presented: "The History of Wroclaw Avant-Garde Artists" and "Young Artists of Poland". I was especially impressed by the first one, which tells about the art of the Polish city of Wroclaw in the 1960s and 1990s.

Budapest left behind a familiar aftertaste: the same bridges, the same wide river, courtyards-wells, majestic architecture, little things that you can pay attention to endlessly, and parties - this city is actively living.However, you should be prepared for a large number of homeless people - they can be very annoying, demanding attention and money. The locals are mostly friendly to them.


The symbiosis of urban species and wildlife won me over in Warsaw

Then we moved on PolskiBus buses. If you buy tickets on the day of the start of sales (they open in two and a half months), then you can grab them for only 1 zloty (17 rubles). We managed to buy a flight from Krakow to Warsaw for such a price, for the rest we paid 5-10 zlotys.

After Budapest, we ended up in Krakow, and then in Warsaw and Gdansk. They are all alike: the same old center with all the attributes due to it, such as cobbled streets, squares, "toy" houses. Many cities in Eastern Europe suffered during the war, and Warsaw and Gdansk were practically razed to the ground and rebuilt, so the old city is more of a historical setting than architectural monuments.

In Krakow, we especially closely studied the Jewish quarter, the territory of the former ghetto and went to the Schindler Factory Museum. The building is built on the principle of a spiral: visitors walk through the dark nooks and crannies from installation to installation. First, they see pictures of happy pre-war people, then the occupation - the arrest of professors of the Jagiellonian University, the shooting of civilians, the creation and then liquidation of the ghetto, the horrors of the concentration camp, an exposition about the personality of Mr. Schindler and the lists of people he saved. The exhibition closes with a huge portrait of Stalin, symbolizing the liberation of the Russian troops. The effect of complete immersion is achieved through a realistic soundtrack: crying, screaming, gunshots, the sound of breaking glass, claps are heard. The museum is interactive - you can walk wherever you want, touch everything with your hands, twist, pull. At first, we had the idea to visit one of the concentration camps - Auschwitz near Krakow or Majdanek near Warsaw. But the impressions in the end wore us out terribly, and after visiting the "Schindler's Factory" we were so shocked that we decided to postpone such a difficult trip until next time.

Warsaw was the most inhospitable of all cities that we have visited during this time. It is very similar to Berlin: there are few attractions, many gray, faceless buildings in the spirit of Orwell's ministry of truth. In addition, the landlady deceived us and, instead of a cozy attic, gave us a small family in the attic with a broken shower and no kitchen. Moreover, on the second day our room was opened with a coded lock by some Polish teenagers who convinced us that it was they who rented it. At first it was very scary, but then we realized that there was nothing to be afraid of. Shouting "This is Warsaw!" they apologized and left, but we thought to ourselves that we need to rent a house, for which there are already reviews.


Truly in this city I was bribed by the unique symbiosis of urban species and wildlife. There is a large azienki park with peacocks and deer, which miraculously survived during the war. There is also a huge garden on the roof of the university library - a real bioindustrial paradise in the realm of glass and metal, where both students and ordinary citizens rest. The Copernicus Science Center is a five-minute walk from the library. We stayed there for three hours and visited several exhibitions. We especially liked the “RE: Generation” section, where, with the help of game tests and assignments from the field of psychology, sociology and neurobiology, you can learn everything about your inner “I”: about your personal qualities, about relationships with people, about how you can make their contribution to urban space, and so on. We left the museum happy as children, clutching in our hand a portrait drawn by a robot on paper. Before going to the Science Center, it is worth taking a look at its official website and choosing your favorite expositions - this will help you see as much interesting as possible in a few short hours.

The next and last stop on our trip was the city of Gdansk and nearby Gdynia.Here we slowly began to return to normal life: we were again on the Baltic Sea, walked along an empty beach and a shipyard, chased seagulls - everything was almost like in St. Petersburg. From +26 we got to +8 and for some reason were happy to return to our usual dullness and cold.

A big plus of the trip was its relative cheapness and proximity to Russia. Poles are friendly, open people, and a similar language makes communication comfortable even for those who only know Russian. In this country you feel at home and you are not afraid that you might be misunderstood. In my opinion, for beautiful architecture and parties it is worth going to Hungary, and for history and modernity - to Poland.

As for saving on the trip, it was a great help for us that we cooked at home: I love to try local cheeses and fruits, I love making simple food from local products, like scrambled eggs and omelets with different fillings, pasta with different sauces, burgers. I have a whole list of quick and tasty dishes that take no more time to prepare than a trip to a cafe, and the savings are significant. The whole trip, including accommodation and transport and excluding shopping, cost us a thousand euros for two.

I want to say that my intuition didn’t let me down - we made a really fascinating and varied route, and constant travels made us feel a bit like heroes of Kerouac's “On the Road”. We looked at all the cities and countries from the front side and from the inside out, saw luxury and simplicity, visited the hills and the sea (and in Krakow we even looked at the Tatra Mountains from afar), languished in the heat and shook from the cold, spent time in palaces and squats, hung out on the outskirts and drank cocktails at the tables of trendy cafes, felt the history and modernity, asked and answered questions.

Photos: Nightman1965 -, Renáta Sedmáková -, flashpics -, Marcin Chodorowski -

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