Month 9 recap

I thought I was quite the jetsetter in September, hitting 6 countries on one continent, but I traveled even farther afield in October! After Europe, the Middle East, and ultimately Asia, all in one month, I’m ready for a break!

Prague downtown square

The Church of Our Lady before Tyn is lit by the setting sun in downtown Prague as seen from Old Town Hall.

Same same but different

Leaving behind the well-worn cities of central Europe, I headed east to the former Soviet and Baltic states, many of whom I knew next to nothing about before visiting. I had a general outline pictured in my head that I’d go from the Czech Republic south through the former Soviet countries, down to Croatia then up and over to Italy before heading eastward.

I bounced from city to city, quickly having trouble remembering in which city I saw that one building, and which city I ate that one thing. Soon, I was having to rack my brain to visualize who I met where. At that point, I knew I was traveling too fast, and trying to cram too much in per place!

It didn’t help that I found many of the cities visually and culturally similar. The shared histories of these small nations contributes to a blurred national identity across the region. That being said, I was able to find some unique aspects of each country that did stand out in my mind.

The bone church in Kutná Hora with its macabre death displays, the Wieliczka Salt Mines with hand carved works of art, and the somber fields of Auschitz, were all highlights of the first half of the month.

Wieliczka salt mine krakow

The Great Hall deep underground at the Wieliczka Salt Mines outside of Krakow, Poland.

Party hard

When I arrived in Budapest I found a dull, grey, and gloomy city the whole five days I was in town. Adding to the depressed weather, I was in the throes of a chest cold that had me up most nights attempting to stop hacking up my lungs. And yet in between those two dismal lows, I found myself at the most happening party scene of my trip.

I had vowed to be more social than I had been in Czech and Poland and elected to stay in a hostel famed for its pub crawls and nightly activities. I generally choose places that are a balance of party and pleasant, but this place was 24/7 party, drink, get sick, and drink some more. I guess when the weather is so poor, it’s the one thing that cheers you up. It sounds like I didn’t have the highest opinion of the party scene, but I actually did enjoy myself for the most part (except for when my lungs hurt so bad I wanted to die!).

One night, I did a memorable (which is remarkable considering how much beer was consumed) tour of the city’s “ruin bars” that have sprung up in the old Jewish Quarter. These bars started illegally as unlicensed squatters in the long abandoned shells of the once vibrant old town district. When the city would swoop in to shut one down, another would set up shop just down the road. Eventually a legal understanding was met with these establishments and the area has flourished. Each one has a unique and oddball character. One eccentric bar had a table made out of a crop-top convertible, a chandelier made from chairs, and neon lighting everywhere.

budapest palace panorama

Budapest palace, on the left, overlooks the Chain Bridge as it crosses the river Danube.

Rainy season

This month I discovered that it rains pretty much everywhere in Europe in October! I did not see a full day of blue sky for two whole weeks — I actually kept track! With all that gloom I had to be very conscientious of using my clear days to their utmost advantage and I really put myself out there walking all over most of the cities I visited. Several days during the month I walked 10 miles or more a day!

I found the most walkable were the small and quaint like Krakow and Ljubljana. Both can be covered end to end in 20-30 minutes and their size encouraged exploring nooks and crannies and hidden secrets. They were by far my highlights for the month, and I high up on my list of places to return to explore.
During the rainy days, I began to explore local cafes and restaurants to find good places to work and write. As I move into the latter stages of my year around the world, I have been more focused on improving this website and chronicling more of my experiences.

I found a lot of really cool hip little places in Vienna, Budapest, and Ljubljana and have been inspired to keep searching out these creative nooks in each new city I visit. I’m looking forward over the next months to share these new stories and get better about posting here regularly!

Skyscrapers light up the water over the Dubai Marina.

Skyscrapers light up the water over the Dubai Marina.

Into the desert

My last stop of the month took me far across the sands of the Middle East to the United Arab Emirates and the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I was there for a short three days, but tried to fit in as much as humanly possible, often staying out late into the night taking photographs. The city is an architecture buff or photographer’s dream, with the highest concentration of skyscrapers anywhere in the world.

I’ll have a post up soon explaining what to see if you are able to stopover there even if it is just for 72 hours or less!

Countries Visited: 8

Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, United Arab Emirates, India

Cities Visited: 10

Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Vienna, Bratislava, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Goa, Hampi

Budgeting

Accommodation:

$398.04 or $12.84 per day I stayed in dorms throughout Europe averaging about $13 a night. Not as good as Asia, but certainly cheaper than Western Europe. I could have found a few cheaper places in a couple of situations, but I chose quality over price. I also had little to no other options in Prague and Ljubljana as most places were fully booked. In the UAE, I stayed on hotel points I had earned from work travel in my previous job. Otherwise I would have been looking at $100+ a night at the cheapest hotel!!

Food:

$482.65 or $15.57 per day Food was one of the things I was surprised wasn’t cheaper in Eastern Europe. Sure many backpackers I met were eating kebabs and döner every meal, but I wanted to live a little and ate out for many dinners. I did splash out a couple of times in Vienna spending about $22 a meal. My meals in the UAE ran about $20 per day and in India at the end of the month, I spent $6 a day!

Transport:

$444.55 or $14.34 per day Ugh, another costly transport month. I took trains between all the cities in Europe and while I tried to do overnights when I could to offset housing costs, I still spent a decent chunk of change on tickets. $45 for Prague to Krakow, $102 from Krakow to Budapest, $47 on to Ljubljana, even the bus to Vienna ran $32. It really adds up over time. I’m not sure how to cut down costs here. Some people do rail passes, but with how fluid my plans always are I’m not sure it would make much sense.

Entertainment:

$340.15 or $10.97 per day I took a couple of higher priced tours in Poland to salt mines and Auschwitz, but I feel like I got my money’s worth. The only other high price item of the month was the absolutely obscene entry cost to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Even though it is the world’s tallest skyscraper, the entry fees start at $60 a person! I ultimately paid $80 as the only day I could go only had higher priced tickets available. It would take me 3 days to spend that amount in most countries in the world. While I enjoyed the experience, the price was extreme.

Miscellaneous:

$112.80 or $3.64 per day  Single biggest spend in this category was to purchase my Indian visa. I got a Visa on Arrival which was good for a single entry for up to a month and it cost $61.80. Not a good return on value, so if I end up going back, I’ll be sure to get a proper tourist visa in advance that is good for 10 years. I also got a haircut in Slovenia for $15 and spent $10 on Facebook advertising for this site.

Total

$1778.18 or $57.36 per day Down $160 over the previous month reflects moving on to cheaper countries, but still higher overall than I would like. November will be even better and I’ll be shooting to get under $1500 to offset these pricier last couple of months. Through the end of October, I’m sitting at $56 a day for 9 months, so close to my goal!

Next Month

In November, I’ll finish my trip through southwest India, then head on to country #30 — Vietnam. It’ll be my first time there and I have next to no plans. I like getting back to making it up as I go. At the very end of the month, I’ll return to my happy place, Koh Tao, Thailand, where I’ll be working as a divemaster for 3 months.

Logan Brown is a travel photographer and journalist. He left his hometown of Washington, DC, in January 2015 to see and experience the many places he has only dreamt about. When he is not writing for the Nomad Photographer he can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.

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