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Prague-Mikulov-Budapest (post GAS tour adventures)

I wanted to do a quick write up as a thank you for all the good information I received on this forum, both from questions I asked and from reading through countless other posts. I won’t describe each day in detail, but I’ll list out in general the things I did in each city and any useful info I learned along the way. This first post will deal with Prague and then Mikulov and Budapest will be in the replies. The first part of my trip was the RS GAS tour, which has been well detailed by quite a few others, so I won’t really get into that. Suffice to say it was an incredible experience with lots of beautiful scenery and amazing history and great food.

I travelled on the GAS tour with my parents, and after the tour ended in Vienna we took the train to Prague. We did a lot of walking and exploring the city. I had visited Prague before on the Eastern Europe tour, so we skipped some things that I did the first time. Over the 2 full days we were there we managed to tour the Jewish Quarter, went to a concert at the Municipal house and did a walking tour called “Parks and Views” that led us up Petrin Hill, by the Strahov Monastery and around the castle to Letna Park. That tour was the most amazing 5 hours that we could have spent in Prague. After I booked it the tour was discontinued by the company who ran it, so it was just the 3 of us with a local guide who told amazing stories and answered all our questions. We absolutely loved it, but the guide said it hasn’t been very popular because most people want tours of the Old Town or the Castle so they were getting rid of it, which is a shame. The tour was with Urban Adventures. I believe that now you can only book this particular tour as a private tour, instead of it being a regularly offered one, so it's more expensive than what we paid, but I would say it's worth it if you want to get out of the city center and do something a little different.

My parents had to fly home from Prague, but I had a bonus day there with a coworker of mine who happened to be traveling the same time as me and our trips overlapped in Prague for one day. We visited Vysehrad Castle for more great views of the city before going on a food tour by Taste of Prague, which was amazing and a fun way to get to try lots of Czech specialties at once. We also went to a small concert at St. Martin in the Wall church, which was a beautiful setting. There was only about 25 people in the audience, which made for a very fun and intimate concert. Very different than the Municipal House concert.

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After that my coworker continued on with her vacation and I went my own way. I took the train to Mikulov, where I stayed for the next 3 nights. Getting there was definitely an adventure, since the train line is under construction and doesn’t go all the way through and the replacement bus schedule was definitely NOT what was posted online or on my ticket. I might never have figured it out if a helpful train conductor hadn’t noticed the destination on my ticket, explained that the ticket was wrong and helped me figure out where I needed to go. Fortunately, I managed to get there and I stayed at Pension Baltazar, which I loved. Very cute little place and I had a nice sitting area in my room where I could spend the evenings relaxing with a glass of local wine.

I spent most of my 2 full days in Mikulov enjoying the great outdoors. The first day I set out following the recommended walk in RS book from Mikulov to Pavlov, but my plan was to walk to the ruins just outside of Pavlov and then back to Mikulov instead of taking the bus. Long story short, it turns out I can’t follow trail signs well, even though they are color coded and well marked, and I got a little lost and ended up walking 14 miles instead of 12, but it was still an amazing day. I loved the scenery and all the castle ruins and just getting to be out and away from the crowds after the craziness of the GAS tour and Prague. My second day I stayed a little closer to Mikulov and explored some of the nearby hills and ruins. I carried a book with me that day and I found a few good spots to sit and read for a bit.

The biggest failing of my trip (and by that I mean that I was the one who failed) was with the restaurant situation in Mikulov. It was part language barrier and partly due to me not realizing that it was a holiday when I was there and that restaurants would be more crowded, but on 2 of my 3 nights I could not find anywhere to eat dinner. One night I tried to eat at 7 different places to no avail before I gave up. I mention the language barrier because it is very possible that they tried to tell me that “you can come back in an hour” or something like that and I simply couldn’t understand. One of those nights I was able to visit the convenience store and pick up a few things to have a little picnic in my room, but the other night it closed early for the holiday and I had to settle for a dinner of mini-bar pretzels. Lesson learned: in the future, when I’m visiting a small town where I can’t speak the language, I will have a bigger stockpile of snacks! I call that part of my trip the “diet.” I’m not trying to complain, just wanted to mention this for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation. The one dinner I did have in Mikulov was at Sojka and Spol and it was delicious.

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From there I took the train to Budapest. Even with the help of the staff at Pension Baltazar we could not make any sense of the train/bus replacement situation, so to avoid missing my connection since I had purchased my ticket ahead of time I opted to simply take a taxi to Breclav. I just looked at it as peace of mind and a way to use up the last of my Czech cash. It was definitely the right decision for me as I’m a worrier about these things and I would have been very stressed about it.

When I arrived in Budapest I got myself a 7 day travel pass and took the metro to my hotel, which was the 7Seasons Apartments. It’s a bit of an interesting place, as at first glance you feel like you’re living in a strip mall, but my studio apartment was very nice. I was there for 5 nights so it was nice to have a kitchen and a washing machine. Plus, the location was perfect, walking distance to a lot of things and for everything else I was right by the Deak Ferenc metro and tram stops.

I had also been to Budapest before on the Eastern Europe tour, so I had already seen many of the “normal” tourist sights. This time I really wanted to just wander around and enjoy the city more, instead of rushing from site to site. Over my 4 days there I was able to do a Ruin Pub tour, walk up Gellert Hill, see a concert at St. Stephen’s, explore Margaret Island, take another food tour, visit the Hungarian National Museum and the Semmelweis Museum, stroll through Szechenyi Park and spend an afternoon at the zoo. I also did plenty of eating in Budapest to make up for my “diet” days in Mikulov. Shout out to James for recommending Vakvarju, that was one of the best meals I had on this whole trip.

Sadly, after Budapest I had to fly back home and get back to real life. My hotel booked my airport transfer and it was free since I booked directly with them online. I had to leave at 5am and I was more comfortable doing that than taking the public bus by myself at that hour. Plus, it's hard to beat a free ride.

Now it's time to start dreaming of my next European adventure.

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A few random thoughts:

The weather forecast was almost worthless. I should have gone with my gut and done an even 50/50 split on warmer and cooler weather clothes, instead of looking at the forecast and panicking and thinking I would freeze to death on this trip. In reality, it was over 80 most days. I definitely could have left one sweater, my extra thick socks and at least one scarf at home. And I wished I had a pair of shorts to hike in. I packed reasonably light; 3 pairs of pants and 5 shirts, but I chose the wrong ones for sure and had too many “warm” accessories to go with them. Live and learn, I guess. When I was packing the forecast said we would have freezing rain in Switzerland when in reality, I got sunburnt there. I was so happy when it finally rained on me in Budapest on my last day as I had been carrying around my stupid raincoat for 25 days and had never worn it. I suppose it could just as easily have gone the other way, but we were all making jokes about our useless rain gear.

I loved having a transit pass in Budapest so I could just hop on and off any tram or metro I wanted without worrying about buying tickets for each one. I felt it really gave me the flexibility I wanted to change my mind on the fly. One day I noticed as the sun was going down that the lighting was really pretty so I took the metro to the Buda side just for 5 minutes so I could get a picture of Parliament across the river in the beautiful sunset glow. Another day I was walking home and it suddenly started raining so I hopped on a tram instead. It worked out so well.

I think my new favorite thing to do when I travel is to take a food tour. As a solo traveler it’s a great way to get to try lots of new dishes at once. When I travel with someone we often order a couple things to share, but that’s harder to do that when you’re alone. The food tours in both Prague and Budapest let me try lots of different things in smaller amounts so I got to experience more of the food culture of each country. Plus, it’s a great way to have some company here and there at meals if, like me, you sometimes get tired of sitting alone in a restaurant. This will definitely be something I look for on future trips. I also really liked the Ruin Pub tour. I'm not much of a drinker, other than the occasional glass of wine, so this was a great way to experience this part of the culture, but not feel awkward sitting in a bar by myself not drinking.

I really saw the value in RS tours when I revisited Prague and Budapest. In both cities I was able to jump off the train and start using public transport and finding my way around with no concerns or confusion because I had been there before with a fabulous guide who taught me how everything is done. There was no learning curve and I didn’t have to do tons of research because I had learned it firsthand. Going on the Eastern Europe tour gave me the confidence to visit these cities again on my own and I had a great time doing it.

Thanks to all of you whose posts I’ve stalked over the years while doing research and who have answered my questions. My first thought when looking something up for a trip is always, “what do the RS forum members have to say about this?” Hopefully this information can be helpful to someone else and if not, feel free to ask questions.

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Thank you Allie for your wonderful trip report. Two things you said struck a cord with me. I too love food tours as a solo. I took my first one in Amsterdam a couple years ago. Great food, stories and an opportunity to get my bearing of the city. The other one is the weather forecast. My husband I leave on the 30th for Florence and Rome. I will pack a mixture of clothes and not act like I'm going to the Arctic. Being a Southern California girl, I start freaking out when the weather drops below 60 :-) Maybe 2 scarfs will be enough.

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1010 posts

Thanks for your trip report. Although I have no plans to visit either Prague or Budapest in the near future, I always enjoy getting ideas for future travel. And, as a single traveler, I agree 100% with your fondness for taking food tours. I’ve had some great experiences on food tours, and I enjoy spending time with other folks as a means to break up my solo travel a bit. I also enjoy cooking classes for the same reason. Also, my friends at home look forward to eating the ethnic foods I’ve learned took while on vacation.

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3240 posts

Allie,
Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. We are currently planning a future trip to this area and appreciated all your recommendations! We have been on a couple of food themed tours to Italy and enjoyed the cooking classes and the great recipes we brought home to share with family & friends. I have already bookmarked your thread! Bon Appetite.

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224 posts

Great report, Allie! Which of the Taste of Prague food tours did you take? And if you recommend the company you used in Budapest, would you mind sharing their name? I've only taken one food tour before (Devour Tours in Madrid, wonderful!) but am looking forward to taking at least one or two next September when I hope to visit, Prague, VIenna and Budapest. Thanks!

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125 posts

grlilley- Being from California myself I did the same thing. I saw the forecast and panicked when I saw the words "freezing rain." Plus it was still over 100 here when I left and somehow in my mind anything below 70 degrees sounded like jacket weather. :)

Patricia- I like the idea of doing a cooking class. I might have to try one of those on my next trip. These were the first food tours I had ever done, but I'm sure they won't be the last.

slws2137- With Taste of Prague I did the traditional Czech food tour. I don't consider myself a "foodie" as such, but I'm part Czech so I thought it would be fun to try the traditional foods. When you register they also send out a little mini-survey to find out a little bit about you to help customize the tours for the groups. They asked if we drank alcohol, if we liked sweets and how much walking we were willing to do in addition to the standard questions about food allergies/preferences.

The one I did in Budapest was with Taste Hungary. Sorry I left that out of the report. I did their Culinary Walk that starts at the Great Market Hall. I enjoyed the fact that we wandered past many of the market stalls and tried a few different things there while learning about various food staples in Hungary before leaving and going to several other places in Pest.

And just in case anyone is curious. The ruin pub tour I did was with Urban Adventures and it was the Fine Wines and Ruin Pubs tour. Obviously we were given drinks at each of the stops since that was the point of the tour, but as someone who doesn't drink much I never felt pressured to finish anything. I would taste each one and then decide if I liked it enough to drink any more, but there was no pressure and it was a lot of fun. I booked this one last minute with the 10% off coupon I got after my Urban Adventures tour in Prague.

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12758 posts

"The weather forecast was almost worthless." Very true. I don't go by the weather forecasts in central Europe as they pertain to May and June unless it states rain is definitely to be expected.

The 3 times I visited Budapest as day trips were all in May, all were comfortable to still have a light summer jacket along. Temperature-wise expect it to be warm to hot in May, ie from 22C to 26C, and hot in June in Czechia, Vienna, Budapest, and Poland.

Thanks for the interesting reports.