Ten days in the Austro-Hungary Empire

Austro-Hungary Cover

I’m getting lazy.

Before this trip I promised myself that I would write a dedicated, individual blog post for every country that I visited. Today I break that rule.

This past week and a half, my wife had a great time toeing the border between Central and Eastern Europe by visiting Budapest and Vienna.

Each city was quite pleasant yet somewhat unremarkable at the same time. I will consolidate this leg of the journey into a single post; after all, both places were controlled by the Austro-Hungary Empire not so long ago.

Here are some of the highlights from Budapest and Vienna:

Budapest, Hungary

Now that we’ve visited Budapest, we can pronounce it like the locals do: “BudaPESHT”. Our friends will think we’re douchebags.

Now that we’ve visited, we can pronounce it like the locals do: “BudaPESHT”. Our friends will think we’re douchebags.

After three months of traveling frugally, my wife and I decided to live it up and blow some credit card points on a five-star hotel, the Corinthia. Pretty nice place and full of haughty staff members. I loved seeing the look of disgust on our receptionist’s face when we checked in. I was wearing my Venture for America hoodie and carrying two weathered backpacks. The receptionist looked me up and down and definitely was not impressed, especially since the other guests checking in were wearing business casual attire (why isn’t that weird?).

Budapest is very beautiful. It’s got the pretty buildings, interesting history, blah blah blah. The main takeaway for me though is that Budapest would be a great place to live. It’s not too big (about 2 million people), the neighborhoods are safe and clean, and getting around is definitely easy.

When we visited Budapest, I saw an old employee of mine that I have been trying to recruit over to San Francisco for years. Now that I’ve seen where he lives, I understand why he wants to stay.

I recommend visiting, but maybe for 3-4 days tops.

Vienna, Austria

One small part of the giant Habsburg Palace. It’s the stereotypical European royal palace.

One small part of the giant Habsburg Palace. It’s the stereotypical European royal palace.

Classical music and great sausages—that’s what Vienna is for me.

It’s a lovely Central European city. My wife was nerding out quite a bit while we were here because she is an 18th and 19th century history buff. She had tons of fun facts to share about the Habsburg family.

Quick summary of the House of Habsburg: they had a pretty huge empire spanning Central and Eastern Europe for six hundred years. Generally liked by their people (well, maybe just the Austrian side). They lived opulently. Things fell apart in the early 20th century when they backed the wrong people for World War I and II. They were done after that.

While in Vienna (called “Wien” by Austrians), we were able to catch an opera, see some impressive royal relics, and eat mediocre yet super overpriced food. Like Budapest, this city is laid back. Very pleasant place to live, although things do shut down pretty early across the city (8:00 pm or 9:00 pm is not uncommon).

Again, I think it’s worth visiting, but 3-4 days tops.

Some European travel tips

Three tips I picked up while traveling Europe:

  1. Use Airbnb. Hotels are super expensive, but Airbnb apartment rentals can be quite reasonable. Having a kitchen and laundry machine is a huge plus too. You can book Airbnb apartments fairly last minute, I’ve done some the night before arriving to a new city.
  2. Avoid taxis. Generally they are a huge rip off. Try to walk or take public transportation. Europe is awesome when it comes to their metros and buses.
  3. Trains > Airplanes. Last minute flights between cities in Europe can be very expensive. Trains, in comparison, are quite cheap (30 to 100 Euros per ticket). The easiest way to book train tickets is at the train station itself. Buying online is not always possible. And try to do overnight trains in a first-class sleeper. It’s more expensive (around 100 Euros per person), but they are really comfortable and save you a hotel night. Net-net, you’re saving money.

We’ve got a lot more of Central and Eastern Europe to explore. Next stop: Prague, Czech Republic.

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