Bouncing around Europe

The plan was to visit every country in the EU (before March 2019 for reasons). The plan was to spend at least a month in each one, ideally in one place, and just kind of absorb the surroundings. I alternate remote laptop work with city wandering, rural hiking, chilling out with the kindle in parks, coffeeshops, and vegan cafes.

Things haven't gone quite to plan so far though. I've been pulled around by people and events, in no logical order. Not complaining, but I really need to slow down for a while.

My stay in Budapest was cut short on both ends, as at the beginning of March I had the opportunity to stay with Elizabeth and her family in Ljubljana for a long weekend. On the 21st of March, began a Vipassana meditation course in Mariazelle, Austria. I'd applied to sit, then agreed to serve when they emailed to say they were short-handed.

Dreading the complicated and lengthy public transport options to the Austrian mountains, at the last minute I managed to catch a ride with another meditation student from Budapest. I made no onward travel plans, guessing I could wing it at the end of the course; I wanted to be in Bratislava, but was confident I'd get a lift at least to Vienna.

I did. I slept almost the whole way and was surprised to find myself deposited in a random suburb around 11am. I metro'd to Erdberg bus station, which is not particularly well located. Oh also it was Easter Sunday. Nothing was functioning. No coffee, no food. The bus station was open, but their internet was down. Which meant... they couldn't sell any tickets. I was told to hang about half an hour, then buy a ticket from the driver on the next bus to Bratislava. The bus was full. Next bus in an hour. I went back into the station and it seemed that the internet was back on, and they were frantically selling tickets to frantic people. I joined a line. By the time I got to the front of the line, the internet was broken again. I asked after the nearest wifi hotspot, and was told to go to MacDonald's two subway stops away. That seemed like a hassle, so I wandered into the main bus pickup area, and hopped onto a FlixBus network for just long enough to buy a ticket for the next Bratislava bus with the Flix app, which I'd had the great foresight to download and hook up to my paypal right before I left the meditation center. Onwards.

Bratislava was a stop-gap. My next 'pull' was to meet my sister in Vienna. We hadn't seen each other for about three years, and she was over from the US for a conference. Her AirBnB was covered, so she agreed to let me sleep on the couch. Vienna is expensive, and spending a full two weeks there wasn't hugely appealing; hence Bratislava.

Good choice! I loved that city.

Vienna airport is about half way between Vienna and Bratislava in fact, so my sister caught a late bus after her flight landed and stayed in my AirBnBs for two nights in Bratislava. I packed a majority of my touristing in during the last two days of her visit.

We took a dead cheap and great quality Regiojet bus back to Vienna. We left our luggage in the FREE!!! lockers in the main Bratislava bus station for the first half of the day. I spent the week in Vienna working, indispersed with a little wandering and my first ~ ever ~ visit to a hair salon. There are plenty of vegan food options, including a bakery right in Stefansplatz metro station, though I mostly cooked in the flat. On my sister's free day, we hiked through vinyards to the eastern most foothill of the Alps (or something).

I caught an exceptionally good value Regiojet train to Brno, next. On the Vipassana retreat in Mariazelle I shared a room with P, who subsequently invited me to visit her in South Moravia any time. Since my next 'pull', a week after Vienna, was to Lyon for TheWebConf, and there are good Prague-Lyon bus connections, this is where I went next.

I spent a delightful week staying with P, her sister and parents in Hustopece. We synchronised our work hours, and when we were both free she took me to visit attractions in local villages, and for long walks in nature. We meditated together mornings and evenings almost every day. P is a yoga teacher; I joined her classes when there was space.

It so happened that P also needed to be in Prague on the 21st of April. We took the bus from Brno the night before, and stayed with her friend. In the evening we took a touristy river cruise, and went to Loving Hut. The next morning we walked from the suburbs to Prague Castle, and ate a good breakfast together.

I bussed to Lyon via Munich. The latter half of the journey was full of frustrated people, constant interruptions by the Swiss police, and general chaos. I didn't sleep much.

I have been to Lyon twice before, with my high school French exchange program. I've done the tourist things, though I don't remember them. I stayed with a friend, and mostly my time was filled with TheWebConf and trying to work. It was a hot and sunny week. I got to see a few people I haven't seen for a while and whom I was very happy indeed to spend time with. I almost didn't come to WebConf. France is the wrong direction. But I'm glad I did.

The week wound down quietly. With a late bus on Saturday night I spent the day between the library (wifi sucks, ports blocked), the river bank, YAAFA (no wifi, good falafel) and Perrache bus station (excellent wifi, seats, power).

I arrived to Munich bright and early, left my bag in a bus station locker, and explored.

Next stop Krakow, via another night bus. This time I was headed for a hostel, so I got to sleep in a bed. I explored the town center, and ate some good stuff. After brunch the next day I took a train to Gdynia. This was five hours, and much more expensive than Rome2Rio had led me to believe it would be, but such is life. I could've for half the price taken a 10 hour bus or a night train, but I kind of just wanted to be on my way.

In Gdynia my new landlady picked me up from the train station, I signed a one month lease for a room in a shared flat, and thus begins, at long last, the slowing down.

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