Eastern Bloc Tour 2k17

Last Day: The Long Journey Home

Friday morning was quiet. Many of our tour members had departed by the time I woke up. Some had gone on to other adventures, some were just on their way back home to Australia or Canada or the States.

 

I made sure I got packed and ready with enough time to say goodbye to Brodie and Katy who were returning back to Belfast, Ireland. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I spent the majority of my tour with these two awesome ladies, and spent almost every bus ride next to Brodie. People thought we came together, we were so close. We started calling each other our Contiki Wives. When we were “mad” with each other we threatened to get a “Contiki Annulment,” for our Contiki Marriage was a Catholic one. No divorce allowed.

 

I had breakfast with the two of them, and walked them out when their cab arrived. I totally didn’t cry when they left. Nope. Not one bit.

 

If you know me well enough, you know that I’m lying.

 

Ten of us remained on the bus for one more day to hitch a ride back to Berlin and depart for home from there. I’d gotten better flight rates out of Berlin rather than Warsaw, so it made the most sense for me. Emma had departed to lead a cruise trip through Croatia so she didn’t join us. Instead we had Rhett, along with our trusty driver Frank, to drive us back to our original port, Berlin. Rhett was a nice guy. He played our old day song and wake up song, the same way Emma would have to get everyone going. But I mean, he didn’t dance on the bus when he did, so he’s no replacement.

 

We journeyed on the bus nearly silently for the entire trip. It’s safe to say that nearly all of us were exhausted from our travels. So many peoples’ adventures didn’t end there though. Hollie is off to Scandinavia and the British Isles. Adam’s spending time in London, then Finland. Alex is off to Amsterdam. Lydia’s going to Greece. Those Aussies, man. They get to Europe and they go hard. I did one two week tour and now I’ve got a date with my bed and my dogs.

 

After a weird rest stop at a McDonald’s next to an IKEA, (what happened to our Slovakian rest stops? Castles? Dancing fountains? No?) we seemed to float to our destination. Six hours on the bus went by like lightning.

 

 

We arrived in Berlin (which looked odd in the sunshine!) and said some more goodbyes. Hollie, my roommate, was off to join her next Contiki. I wished her luck, but of course she knows her roommate won’t be as awesome as me (heehee I know she reads these). We also said bye to Frank, our awesome driver. Nobody could navigate scary backroad three-point turns in the middle of Poland quite like Frank. We took one last group photo and then there were seven of us left.

We checked into the hotel at which we had begun our tour. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t the nicest one we’d stayed at, and was the only one without air conditioning. Boo.

 

After a bit of a freshen-up, those of us remaining- Alex, Lydia, Joe, Gabby and I met at Timeless, a pub and restaurant, for dinner. I got one last delicious schnitzel (and two last gigantic piña coladas) to enjoy my last evening in Europe, while we all reveled in the highlights of our adventures.

 

 

The next morning, Lydia and I joined each other for breakfast. Our flights were close in terms of takeoff time, so we decided to split a cab rather than trying to navigate the bus system. After a quick breakfast and lovely conversation, we brought down our bags and asked the front desk for a taxi. It was there within three minutes, and we were at the airport in another ten. The whole process went very smoothly. And the whole cost of the trip was only 12 euros!

 

Our flights were at different gates so once we reached the airport, we went our desperate ways. It had been a while since I’d been completely solo, but luckily this was the last leg of my trip.

 

In line at check-in, I made friends with a girl from Vermont who was leaving Berlin after a few months there on a biology internship. I’ve run into her a couple of times since we first met, considering we have the same flights. She’s very sweet. I haven’t caught her name, but we’ve bonded a lot over the Berlin airport’s odd security layout and the fact that we almost missed our flight to Boston because it took so long for our first flight to leave!

 

Oh and for the first time I was pulled aside for a random check for explosives. They just wiped a litmus-type test on my bags and pockets. Nothing scary. The German security lady was actually really nice. And also, considering I have the face and disposition of a Disney-animated cartoon bunny rabbit, it confirms that their tests truly are random and not profiled. Yay for equality!

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With just a few hours left of my flight, here I sit, fulfilled from yet another journey to my favorite continent. Much like my last trip, I know what everyone’s going to ask. “What was your favorite?”

 

Budapest.

 

Different from last year, yeah? Well, last year I made a list of superlatives, which was my way of defending myself from having a favorite. So even though I have a favorite…

 

Budapest.

 

…I’m gonna do that again anyway. Also Brodie and I spent the whole trip describing the “aesthetic” of places, in which you point out the essence of a thing based on what your senses would experience. Sights. Tastes. Smells. Sounds. So every place will get an aesthetic and a superlative. Here we go.

 

 

Berlin-

Aesthetic- Construction cranes. Graffiti.  Currywurst. “Fredric” on a horse. Rain. Shiny high-rises. German rap music.

Superlative- Cutest mascots. The city was full of bear statues as a nod to their flag, and East Berlin’s Ampleman guides pedestrians merrily across the street.

 

Prague-

Aesthetic- Jesus on a wrought iron cross. Warm cinnamon sugar. Rainbow buildings. Street violinists. Gold leaf. Artists on bridges. Light-up dance floors.

Superlative- Most beautiful architecture. Turn a corner and you’ll see the most beautiful building ever. Turn another corner and you’ll see one prettier than that one.

 

Vienna-

Aesthetic- Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Clean white buildings and streets. Almdudler apple soda. Sunset on a ferris wheel. Ballet and opera. Mozart–and men dressed like Mozart.

Superlative- Most friendly. Austrians smile! They want to make sure you’re having a nice day–and thoroughly enjoying your delicious chocolate cake.

 

Budapest-

Aesthetic- Paprika. Cerulean swimming pools. Dachshunds on parade. Tree-lined streets. Fruity hookah smoke. Gold buildings glittering on black water.

Superlative- Most all-inclusive. Like museums? Opera? Food? Sunbathing? History? Scenic photography? Shopping? Architecture? Coffee? Ambling down the sparkling Danube on a classy riverboat? Wanna do it for cheap surrounded by nice, mostly English-speaking people? Look no further.

 

Krakow-

Aesthetic- Pirogues on tap. Fairy tale castles. Silk flowers. Pope John Paul II’s face. Blinged-out horse-drawn carriages. Mini scoops of lody. Jazzy Jewish violin. Dragons.

Superlative- Best Walking Tour. Ewa, please tell me stories about dragons and princesses every night before I go to bed. Please.

 

Warsaw-

Aesthetic- Musical benches. Giant twirly ice cream cones. Hoofbeats on cobblestone. Pastel sunsets. Marching bands and fire twirlers. Rose gardens. Vodka on fire.

Superlative- Cheapest nightlife. For the entire night in Warsaw I think I had like 10 drinks or something and spent like less than 10 Euro. God bless the Polish Zloty.

 

I couldn’t bear to give out the coveted “best food” superlative to anybody in particular. I tried thinking about it. Prague had the delicious chimney cakes. Poland had more pirogues than my stomach could handle. Budapesters’ blood is basically paprika. And then like, schnitzel. Praise schnitzel. Honestly the food was good everywhere.

 

At the end of my tour, I’m grateful. Grateful to have seen so many amazing places. Grateful to have made so many friends, hopefully ones I will keep for a lifetime. Grateful to have experienced so many activities that some only hope to experience. Grateful to have an awesome and welcoming family to return to. And lastly, grateful to have so many people traveling with me digitally, reading along with my adventures and keeping me company from afar. Thanks for staying in touch, friends.

 

And with that, I just wait for my plane to land. Until next time.

Auf wiedesehen.

Group Photo

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