During my Europe trip back in June, we traveled through Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia. In part one of my travel diaries, I shared about my experiences in Munich. It was a great start to my trip; I had already learned so much about German culture and ate some of the most incredible food. After two wonderful days there, we headed to Passau to start an 8 day cruise on the Danube River.
While we were on the cruise we went to several small villages along the river. We were only in some towns for a few hours, but they were so tiny that it ended up being the perfect amount of time. Seeing these places was one of my favorite things about my trip because I got to see parts of Europe that people don’t normally get to see.
Our first stop on our cruise was to Durnstein, Austria. We arrived at 7am and were only there for four hours, so we were quick to hop off the boat as soon as we got the chance. Durnstein is one of the cutest places I have ever seen. It looked like a town that would be in a Disney movie with its perfect pastel buildings and ancient cobblestone streets. The town was only about a mile long and mostly consisted of wineries, tiny shops, and the ruins from an old castle.
We decided to hike up to the ruins and it did not disappoint (warning: wear proper shoes for this). The views were absolutely breathtaking and it was so cool to read about the history of what had happened in Durnstein. After the hike, we spent the rest of our time sampling locally made schnapps and exploring through the shops before having to head back to the boat to our next destination.
If I’m going to be honest, Esztergom was one of my least favorite places I visited during my trip. There was not as much to do in this town as the others but there is one thing worth mentioning, the Esztergom Basilica. This basilica is the largest Catholic church in Hungary and let me tell you, it’s huge. Standing by the pillars and even the front door made me feel like I was only 3 inches tall. The church even contains a huge crypt and a treasury full of beautiful jewels and artifacts. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos of anything, but they were very interesting to look at and read about. One thing I was able to take a photo of was the altarpiece painted by Michelangelo Grigoletti (picture above), which was absolutely beautiful.
We got to Bratislava after leaving one of the most incredible places I have ever been to (read about it soon in part three). I don’t know why, but my whole family wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I mean, you never hear much about Slovakia let alone Bratislava so we had extremely low expectations. Guys, Bratislava completely blew us away. I was so sad that we were only there for half a day because I would have loved to try more of their food and they looked like they had great nightlife. The city is composed of two parts, the new town and old town. The new town is what you can imagine, more urban and industrial with a shopping mall and such. The old town on the other hand is very historic with the classic European cobblestone walkways.
The older part of Bratislava was so fun to explore. It is filled with endless alleyways that are home to restaurants, pubs, clubs, and shops. One of the major highlights of Bratislava was wandering into the most beautiful bakery Konditorei Kormuth. They had endless varieties of cakes, delicious coffees, and the entire place was covered in original hand-painted murals from the 18th century. I’m not normally a cake type of person, but their’s was light and delicious; I ate the entire slice in record time. The rest of the day was spent going to pubs and speaking with the locals. It was a beautiful place in every way and I wish I could’ve spent more time there.
Seeing these little villages during my trip really opened up my eyes to all of the history and culture these small countries have to offer. If you get the chance to go off the beaten path and explore those not-so-popular towns, do it. But don’t get me wrong I loved the big cities too, and I’m talking all about my favorite place I visited in part three!
Want to check out the rest of the series? Check them out here!