Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Maiden Voyage to Europe with Budapest as Gateway.

It was May, 2010 and finally the most awaited day had come for me to fly to the land of my fantasies, EUROPE! And my first point of arrival was going to be Budapest, Hungary via Istanbul, Turkey. Reason for travel? Meant to be business but planned to be a pleasure. Well as an International Business MBA student in ITM Business School, Mumbai, I had opted for studying a trimester in it's partner university ESSCA in France and Hungary with the sole intention of bunking my lectures at ESSCA and explore all or most of my dream destinations in Europe as much as possible.

Buda Castle

I had been meticulously planning for this trip 3 months in advance so that I am not left in a lurch after reaching Europe. Right from digging into my savings, raising little funds from my parents, getting Forex, purchasing Lonely Planet guide/language books, travel gear, EuroRail pass, international health insurance e.t.c I was thoroughly ecstatic about my forthcoming trip. Being a travel freak and having traveled extensively across India all alone, I had gathered considerable experience which was proving handy now. So here were the destinations I planned to visit:

  1. Budapest, Hungary
  2. Paris, France
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Prague, Czech Republic
  5. Zagreb, Croatia
  6. Rome, Italy
  7. Venice, Italy
  8. Naples, Italy
  9. Berlin, Germany
  10. Munich, Germany
  11. Zurich, Switzerland
  12. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  13. Copenhagen, Denmark
Even though this was my first trip abroad, because of my passion for world affairs, general knowledge and national geographic, I was entirely confident of pulling this trip all alone in Europe.

Two great challenges ahead were be-fooling my professors in Europe so that they don't flunk me and my shoestring travel budget. I planned Budapest to be the stopover to most of the above destinations. Reasons being it's an absolutely spectacular and hospitable city..
All set and I was finally ready to fly early morning Turkish Airways flight from Mumbai at 4:30 AM. Flight boarded and after some delicious food and vodka inside the Airbus Carrier, sleepless from the previous night soon I felt asleep only to wake up 8 hours later in Istanbul. Ah! The bird's view of this city of hamams (Sauna) and carpets before landing was gorgeous! I knew it to be a beautiful city and now I was seeing it with utter helplessness of not being able to stay for a day to feel it, since my halt was just for 2 hours.

Then I board my connecting flight to Budapest and after slightly over an hour I touch down at Budapest. And VOILA! I was simply excited! It simply seemed other worldly. Obviously scantily populated, weather outside was cloudy, cold and damp with spine chilling winds giving me an authentic feel of Europe. Then I boarded my bus for the city and I hardly saw any vehicles plying on the highway. Now contrast this with the mad traffic frenzy on roads with a swarming population in India, Hungary was a visual treat!! As the city of Budapest came nearer I could only watch in awe the splendid architecture of it's castles, museums, buildings and bridges on the Danube river. Finally I reach my cozy apartment, had a few shots of vodka with roasted lamb meat, sunk into my fluffy bed and drifted into deep sleep.