These countries make up my second-tier shortlist of my favourite countries in Europe. Although very different in their own rights, they have so much in common (The Danube river, Goulasch, etc...). I have begun this journey from the capital of Ostarrîchi and followed the river to the 2 closest countries.
We will be visiting Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary through this article.
I started my journey from Vienna and drove down to the Budapest. The London-Vienna trip took slightly over 2 hours and cost around £40-50. There are plenty of flight options to the Austrian capital as at least 5 airlines offer the service. The rental car went for around £10-12/day and the cost of living was pretty affordable therefore the trip would count as a budget "voyage".
Where to stay?
Similar to my trip to Japan (if you haven't already read the article, here is the link to it), the only planning I did was around the rental car (cross border requirements, insurance, etc. I will most certainly write about how I get the best deals with car rental companies at some point) and the itinerary. AirBnB is your friend here, for instant booking when you make up your mind at the last minute - Just make sure you check the distances though...
Perhaps my first cross-border road trip, I learned on this trip one can visit more than one country if enough preparation is done (A word I kind of despise when it comes to "holidaying" but definitely key to success). It only takes a little time to get a good grasp of the map - Here are a few pointers:
See where the airport you're landing in is situated on the map
Take it to Google to find the landmarks to visit and other fun things to do
Calculate the distance from the nearest city on the other side of the border
Come up with a to-do list
You get a pat on the back from me for daring to go beyond the borders!
More often than not, you tend to realise that the next nice pitstop is not worlds away from your initial holiday destination (if you take those blinkers. from your face). On this occasion, all I had to do was to follow the Danube river stream to take me through the Austrian, Slovakian and Hungarian capitals.
Needless to mention what it represents to the Roman, Austrian, and later the Austro-Hungarian Empires. The first World War has kicked off due to the killing of the Austro-Hungarian heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud were also residents of the city if I have not yet convinced you that this city is a big deal. Vienna is today the capital city of the Republic of Austria and certainly its most populous region.
The Schönbrunn Palace is the result of the Roman Emperor purchasing the floodplain it sits on, to put a game for his recreational hunting. It is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in the country and became over time the holiday home of the Austrian Royals.
The initial build dates back to 1569 and it was renovated in the 1740s...
An aerial view of the 260-hectare edifice...
Entrance fee: €22/£20
Vienna Islamic Centre
In 1969 the Viennese Community purchased an 8,300 m2 and pledged to build a mosque however have encountered numerous financial difficulties to start the build. This was brought to the attention of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, back in 1975, who promised to finance the construction himself. In 1979, the Austrian President went on to inaugurate the mosque and this was covered by the local media.
The interior very much feels like an Ottoman build and bears the Turks creativity stamp- But I may be wrong about this ...
Just a random shot from me. I love taking photos of kids and senior citizens...
Entrance fee: Nil
The building is made up of two Baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. It also was once the summer dwelling of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the liberator from the Ottoman domination.
I think the name Belvedere, literally meaning nice view in Italian, definitely makes sense...
Of course, I had to spoil the view for you guys...
Another aerial view!
Entrance fee: €16/£14
The capital and largest city of Slovakia, Bratislava is also the most beautiful city to my liking for sitting along the Danube river (any water point makes me love a city, that easy...) but if you have higher standards, the city is surrounded by vineyards, mountains and hiking, and cycling trails.
Bratislava Castle is the main castle of Bratislava and stands on a rocky hill directly above the Danube river, in other words, you just cannot get a better view of the city.
I did not initially realise how much I loved living on the edge...
Until the wind almost blew me towards the outside of the wall...
Entrance fee: €19/£17
The castle remains are a consequence of Napoleon's army's attack. It was later declared to be a national cultural monument of Slovakia. Its position on a high cliff over the Morava and Danube rivers, and standing on the frontier between Slovakia and Austria, it offers a unique panoramic view. I really think Bratislava is the city of views!
They even have a medieval setting with some goblin tales to accompany your stroll...
I even had some time to go through a training session with some medieval tools.
And I "just about" hit the target...
Entrance fee: €4/£3
Budapest was created in 1873 by the merger of three cities: Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. The town spreads on the banks of the River Danube. There are 7 bridges and 2 railway bridges In Budapest. Except for one bridge (Erzsébet híd), all bridges were destroyed during the Second World War.