Karlstad – Gothenburg – Berlin – Prague – Vienna – Budapest – Szigit festival

This trip was exactly what I needed… I booked in to a Contiki trip months before I left Aus, and thank goodness I did. It was some serious fun. I left Karlstad on the SJ Speed train down to Gothenburg, checked into a hotel for an early flight to Berlin, Germany. When I arrived in Germany I figured out the public transport system with a lot of confused looks. The older Germans aren’t as good at English as the Swedes. A very old man was playing his guitar on the subway making everyone smile. I was making my way to the hostel to begin the Contiki Trip. I waited casually around the Berlin wall, you know as you do.

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Contiki Meet-up was around 6. We started with a bus tour of the city at night and then just chilled out in a cool little outdoor bar/ Korean Grill. Pretty random, but a good place to get to know each other. We then went to a cool underground club called the Matrix; it’s literally underneath the train station. Great start so far, everyone was lovely, a lot of Aussies which was strangely comforting.

Sunday we had an awesome walking tour with a guy called Lewis. He showed us all of the old Buildings and then spoke a little about the history. For example the ‘Bebelplatz’, this was one of the locations of the Nazi Book burnings. There are very confronting memorials around Berlin. You can tell they have made a huge effort to share with everyone the history, regardless of how cruel some of it is. It may not be apologizing, but in a sense they definitely have stood up to what they have done and made it known with these memorial sites, an offering I guess. We also saw the old University where Albert Einstein lectured and Karl Marx Studied. In the evening we went to a German Beer Hall. This was where I consumed the most meat I have ever have had in one sitting. Then you have to wash it down with a Stein of Beer, essentially a bucket.

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Monday: From Berlin, we drove to Dresden an amazing little town with beautiful buildings. Had an awesome lunch. Late afternoon we arrived In Prague, some fun facts to put the city in to context. They have a ‘beer ambulance’, which delivers beers to your house. The average amount consumed is about 1.5L across the population, per person per day. We explored the large ‘Prague Castle’, which was incredible. The architecture in this city is amazing. We went to some cool clubs, ate a lot of food and arrived back at the hostel as the sun was rising.

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Tuesday we had a bike tour of the city. Now this city was my favourite of the trip and I think it was due to this bike tour. Riding along the cobblestone back streets felt “oh so European”. We got to see both left and right sides of the river, the new city side and the old town. The artwork around Prague is very ‘sexual’ and bold. They just do whatever the heck they want and don’t care what anyone thinks about it. Bike riding is hands down the best way to explore a city. However I did literally have a bruised bottom from the bike and cobblestones combined. I also had a go of a Segway today. We made our mark on the “John Lennon Wall”. Tried a whole heap of Czech food as well, my favourite being Trdelnik which is like a cinnamon damper cooked on a rod, rotating over coals. It was incredible. We went to the famous super club that has about 6 levels all with a different theme. You could spend the entire night in that place. They had an ice bar level, a retro level, your pop music, heavy clubbing music. It was just a maze of clubbing.
Prague is a city I am defiantly coming back too; it combines the new fresh party scene with the amazing historical side. I am just not going to come back on Christmas day, as it is tradition to run around the streets whipping women, to banish the evil from them.

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Wednesday we departed for Vienna, stopping by a Bone church. The story roughly goes that a priest blessed the place and everyone just wanted to be buried here. Soon there was way to many bodies and not enough places to bury them, so they hired an artist/architect guy to construct a church around them using the bones. The story probably has a lot more facts to it, but that roughly is how I recall. It was a very eerie place. There was a chandelier that had every bone in the human body in it. We arrived in Vienna and I had a Schlaf, which means sleep… My new favourite word I think. Austria was very beautiful; we jammed to the “sound of music” most of the time. It has a very interesting history with the old royal family known as the Hasburgs. They were a very insestual family thus all the men became retards, so they had to bring in a queen. This castle was also very beautiful, quite gothic in style. I was in awe of the women walking on the cobblestones in heels; there is a good 5cm between each stone. That evening we went to the Orchestra/Ballet/Opera that was beautiful, we all got really dressed up. Random fact, water is more expensive than a coffee, sometimes up to 5 euro. Tap was the way to go.

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Thursday we had a walkabout tour of the city, went to the Schnapps Museum, also checked out the Swarovski diamond store and then ended the night at ‘Prater’, which is an amusement park. This was a lot of fun.
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Friday morning we departed for Budapest. We had a stop along the way at McDonalds where they actually had on the menu “a royal with cheese” (pulp fiction quote) also a mc rib burger. Other wise all the same. We went to Sans Sebastian statue first of all which gave us amazing views of the city. Traffic was insane getting to the hostel as the Szigit music festival was kicking off. We eventually made it for the first night of Szigit. This was so much fun, much crazier than any Australian festivals I have been too, in terms of rules. For example you could purchase an entire bottle of wine at a bar, this would not be allowed in Aus. Also it seemed you could just set up your tent wherever you wanted. Furthermore the festival was cashless, so everyone got a key card and you just topped it up. This was handy but also dangerous, as you had no concept of what you were spending.

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Saturday was day two of Szigit; we started the morning with a harbor cruise along the Danube River. Buffet lunch as well with Goulash and meats and fruit and cake. Such a great start to the day. Is stopped by an ATM to get some cash out, I got out $100 AUS which was $20, 000 Krona. You felt very rich that’s for sure. Then it was in to the music festival, wandering around exploring the artwork. I wasn’t really a fan of any bands playing on this night but I did discover a cool Spanish band with a friend and I had heaps of fun just dancing around like a lunatic. Everything you can think of was probably at Szigit. It had bungee jumps, gyms, beaches, hammocks, Ferris wheels, tents as far as the eye could see, seesaws. So much craziness in one place, I can see why it is referred to as the “Island of Freedom”.

Sunday was Szigit again, today I saw bands I actually knew and loved. Started with the Kooks, then Outkast and then Calvin Harris all within half an hour of each other. I was up on top of 2 other people at one stage. We had the huge colour party and all together the night was so much fun. Dancing around and a huge firework show to end the trip… Incredible.
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Monday morning I took a plane to Stockholm and then a train and bus back to Karlstad Uni, arriving home around midnight. People were around! Loud music playing was so comforting, to know I would no longer be alone. Tuesday was the start of International student orientation week. The first piece of advice was that you can’t have bad weather in Sweden, you can only have bad clothes. So warm jackets and boots are on my agenda.

So… Six countries in under a month, I’m excited for what is next!
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