Top 10 highlights of my Central Europe trip

Most of my regular readers are aware of my rushedoptimized one week trip through Central Europe. As usual, I kept tinkering with the itinerary until the last moment and this is what finally transpired:

The Plan

Day Itinerary Lodging
1 5 hours in Budapest Overnight train to Warsaw
2 8 hours in Warsaw. Train to Krakow Hostel in Krakow
3-5 Auschwitz, Krakow sightseeing, Wieliczka salt mine Couchsurfing
6 Olomouc, CZ Hostel, Olomouc
7 Litomysl day trip, Prague at night Park benches,Prague

I fell in love with the charm of Central Europe. Diverse history, stunning locales, Communist-era architecture juxtaposed with baroque churches and shiny modern buildings, tasty food, friendly people…What’s not to love? The best part is the uber cheap cost of almost everything. Excluding airfare, I spent under USD 200 for the entire trip, most of which was due to transportation and attraction ticket expenses. My costliest meal in a sit-down restaurant outside Prague was USD4(INR 250). Try getting that even in Indian cities!

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Love’s in the air, Krakow

Highlights of my trip

  1. Crying in Auschwitz: I know what you are thinking. How can crying be highlight number 1? Auschwitz changed me by instilling the fear of “Life is short”. That’s the power of Auschwitz; it forces you to self-reflect and actively contribute to making the world a better place. Read more
  2. Hitchhiking in Polish countryside: My penchant for sleeping in buses landed me in trouble when I missed my destination, jumped off in the middle of nowhere in pouring rain and got lost. Fortunately, an angel gave me a ride back to civilization. Read more
  3. Barbecuing at night by River Visla: On my second night in Krakow, my couchsurfing host invited me to barbecue on the grass banks of River Visla. Krakow is impressive during the day. However, at night, it is magical, especially along the river. Add in barbecue, guitar and the excitement of evading cops and you have an experience to cherish forever. Read more
  4. Czech canola fields: Some of you probably know about my obsession with photographing red barns. A red barn in a yellow field is even better. I got exactly that near Olomouc, a beautiful off-the-beaten path UNESCO heritage Czech town. Read more
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    Pastel facades of Litomysl
  5. Impromptu trip to Litomysl: Litomysl was the highlight of my short trip. A cute, artsy small town with pastel facades and a unique castle. Read more
  6. Sleeping out in the open in Prague: I forgot that I am getting older and planned to roam around Prague at night. However, my energy sapped around midnight and I ended up sleeping on park benches. Read more
  7. “Talking” to a grandma at a bar mlkzeny: The name,Bar-mlkzeny(milk bar) sounds weird; but it is a cheap, communist-era, Polish canteen. I found one where delicious food is served straight from grandma’s kitchen. The grandma tried to tell me stories of how she escaped Holocaust. I mentioned “tried” because she spoke only Polish and translate apps found it difficult to translate her dialect.
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    Empty main square of Olomouc
  9. Warsaw Museums: I am not a museum kind of guy. In fact, I have literally slept at a number of museums from the Getty(LA) to Met(Ny). The museums in Warsaw on the other hand were different. My visit to Warsaw uprising museum &amp Museum of Polish Jews was probably the most interesting part of my whirlwind Warsaw trip.
  10. Private couchette in a sleeper train: I have traveled across India in sleeper trains. However, the trip between Budapest and Warsaw was my first overnight train trip outside Indian. Fortunately, I had an entire 6-person couchette to myself and traveled like a king.
  11. Meeting a ‘KGPian’ while roaming around Budapest: On my walking tour in Budapest, I started talking to an English backpacker who mentioned that his Indian dorm-mate would be joining later. It turned out that “the Indian guy” and I share our alma mater. Small world! It made the drab babbling of the guide much more bearable.
  12. Grub:I know this is the 11th highlight. But, how could I not mention the food! Everything I tasted, from pierogis to ‘stinking cheese’ was delicious. The entire region is a budget foodie’s delight.
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One of the best meals I had in Europe: a local white fish with Sun dried tomatoes. The local bohemian cheese sauce on the fish was the bomb. This meal in a fancy restaurant near Litomsyl castle, CZ cost USD 4.

My list is highly biased and random. I literally noted down the points as I recalled them. I find it intriguing that if I attempt to chew the cud on any trip, I recall the experiences rather than the attractions themselves. Makes me wonder if it’s worth chasing the Wawel and Prague castles even if I am short on time.

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