16.2 miles later, day 1 is complete! I can't believe the walk has officially started, and now that we are in the first accommodation, I can recount the arrival in Sopron and the first day!
Zoe and I arrived in Sopron last evening around 5 PM, and were charmed by the small city beauty, elegance, and simplicity. As we walked into town, we ended up running into Fly, a fellow Peacewalker from England! We ended up walking all around town because being the lack-of-common sense person I am, I did not book any hotels. SO note to future Peacewalkers: book accommodations way in advance because Sopron can be a pretty pricey place!! There are guest houses on the outskirts of the city that tend to fill up quickly, but are much cheaper than the hotels downtown. Afterwards, we met up with Theresa and Bridget, both from Ireland, and had a lovely dinner at Deak Etterem (who Donal, a veteran Peacewalker who was going to join our group but unfortauntely got pneumonia, had reserved for us) discussing tomorrow's logistics and getting to know each other, before calling it a night. Zoe and I ended up best case scenario couch surfing with a native Sopron architect, Attila, who was very hospitable (and taught us a lot about Sopron!). Zoe and I talked pretty late into the night, when we decided it would be best for her not to do the peacewalk because her pack had been bothering her and really digging into her shoulders, and walking such long distances would certainly not help. I couldn't be more grateful to her friendship, kindness, spontaneity, and genuineness, however, and I cannot wait until she is a future Peacewalker :)
The next morning, after a nice breakfast with Attila, I said goodbye to Zoe at the train station, and headed to meet up with the group at Hotel Löver! Fly and I ended up arriving a little later, so we ended up walking the day together, as Theresa and Bridget had started ahead of us. And dang, what a day!
We started off the walk through a good amount of shady forest area which was quite nice since the sun was out, and soon, ended up on a hill where you could see where we had left behind Sopron. We then walked through many stretches of grape vineyards that were absolutely stunning--we passed some rolling hills that reminded me of the Sound of Music. All the while, we were following red arrows that were painted on trees, rocks, and signs (with stickers!) by the wonderful Cressey and Peter, who had gone before us. There were a few countryside houses along the way which were really nice, and all the while, Fly and I shared wonderful conversation!
We stopped in a little town for some ice cream & coke to cool down, and when we continued along our way, we got hit with first a light drizzle and then some pretty big rain drops! Fly and I decided to go off the route and instead turn into the closest city for shelter from the rain, and hey, what's a walk without some rain?! As we took refuge in this town, we realized that there was a sign pointing to Neutal very close ahead that said 5 km, and after thinking a lil bit about the rain that may still come, we decided to follow that through the town and hope it ended up converging with the path again. So we walked through the town--which was beautifully neat and tidy and quaint--and when we reached the end...THE RED ARROW ONE AGAIN APPEARED! Instincts of directional sense had prevailed!!!
We followed the arrows after that quite easily until the last stretch, where we couldn't quite see any more but we came into a clearing, and while we were confused at first, ended up being our first nights accommodation!! We had made it in at around 3:40 PM (woo!) and I had never smiled so widely :)
Theresa & Bridget came in a little afterwards and we shared dinner together and got ready for bed--at around 9 pm!! And now, my body is aching, my shoulders are sore, my clothes are drying, my mind is nervous, and I am honestly a little scared for the days to come, but every day is a new day, and I'm super proud of finishing Day 1. Here's to tomorrow, and crossing back from Austria to Hungary!
PS. Thank you for helping me calm my fears and nerves and worries. This is going to be a challenge, but it's one I want. You know who you are :)
As I write this blog post, I am sitting in a hammock in this out-of-the-way absolutely wonderful, serene, hippie-like hostel in Budapest, as it is my last day before heading to Sopron to meet my group and begin the EPW! When I came to Budapest, I was alone, but now I am with Zoe, whom I met when I first arrived and decided to drop her travel plans to walk the European Peace Walk with me, especially since my day was not yet full. Life is truly too short to not adventure and challenge yourself!
The beautiful Zoe on our hike to The Citadel in Budapest! (Check out the sick shoes!)
Feeling a mix of nerves and excitement for the 22 days to come ahead (including the two optional stops), but since being here at the Shantee House, I definitely feel an inner peace that is just so calming. The house is covered in trinkets from travels, the walls are bright yellow with rainbow stairs, the garden in the back sports a hammock and a meditation structure, and the people are just so dope. I had a great conversation with Bori, who works at the house, that reminded me of why the EPW was created in the first place. She told when the Shantee House was first created, there were very few backpackers because Hungary's borders were closed. There was a lot of political turmoil in Budapest when the Soviets ruled the city, and uprisings in 1956 left much of the city in destruction. In the next decades, however, the city began to rebuild and tourism also began to rise. In 1989, the Iron Curtain between the Hungarian-Austrian border came down, people began to move freely between countries, and both Budapest and Hungary began to grow and develop! For her, it's been really amazing meeting people from all walks of life who come to the house. We also talked about the atmosphere of peace that the house has, and how it is so important to cultivate your inner garden, and make sure that you are at peace with yourself. Our conversation made me think of not only how the walk will allow me to be at peace with myself and nature, but also the larger mission of the EPW that should be celebrated and remembered. Good vibes, good vibes :)
The inside of the Shantee House!
SO this was an amazing place to stop for the night before we leave to Sopron tomorrow! I did have two nights in Budapest in the city center, however, which was definitely a very different and wild experience, and if you would like to hear about it, feel free to read on!
Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, with the Danube river that flows through the middle, dividing the two. The Chain Bridge, connecting Óbuda ("old" Buda), Buda, and Pest, was opened in 1849, and later in 1872, the three separate settlements were unified into the capital city of Hungary!
As you walk around Budapest, you can definitely feel a different vibe with atmosphere and architecture in different places, reflecting the two unique cities, and making Budapest such an interesting place to explore! The city center in "Pest" reminded me of medieval times and across the bridge into "Buda" had more small town village-like feels. I met some wonderful people at the hostel I was staying at: Jess from Australia, Allie from Wisconsin, Benedict from Germany, and of course, Zoe from Oklahoma! We explored the city together as a group and went out together at night (I will not go into the stories of the night, but if ya ask me, I shall not hold back). The day we explored around, we walked up The Citadel, went to the Buda Castle, and saw the Matisse church: check out pictures in the gallery below!
Things to remember about Budapest:
-Zoe, Benedict, and I went to the post office (Posta) to send some of Zoe's stuff home and everybody there was so sweet, and at one point, we had the entire office --albeit tiny--helping us translate Hungarian, figure out sizes and packing, etc. Go people!!
-Norbert, the archery guy, on top of the Citadel! He is a sharp shooter and has always wanted to travel to Salt Lake City--hopefully next year :)
-Cooking some #klassic traveling food from Hungarian goulash to eggs with this paprika sauce to frozen vegetables (to get a balanced diet!)
-Stopping in random places along our walk & meeting some amazing people at hostels (met someone I had a mutual friend with--go figure! The world is both small and large waiting to be explored :) )
While I was not able to go to a bathhouse during my time here, Budapest has certainly left me Hung(a)ry for more (sorry for already used this joke) -- I will be back soon!
Crazy fact: These stone lions, decorating the Chain Bridge, were built in 1852 and survived through the Battle of Budapest during WWII!
Well hey there! Thanks for asking ;) On my back right now I am sporting a 40 L REI Co-op women's pack, which was an adventure in itself getting it! I found out that not only is my torso so small that carrying anything larger makes it look like a "monkey humping a football," but also according to the legendary B-Man (who has hiked the Appalachian Trail not once, not three times, but twice!), when you are traveling, you will often want to look towards the sky for various reasons, and your head should not be restricted by a looming backpack. Regardless, I found that this pack fit me the best and I'm excited to travel with it!
So let's get to it -- The Contents:
•5 synthetic short sleeved shirts
•3 pairs of basketball shorts
•2 pairs of leggings
•2 micro fiber towels
•Shoes (flip flops, ankle shoes, and wearing hiking boots!)
•Rain jacket & rain cover for backpack
•Silk bed liner
•Many pairs of socks
•7 pairs of synthetic underwear & 3 sports bras
•3 casual dresses, 1 pair of jean shorts, 2 summer shirts( will be traveling after the Peacewalk)
•2 3.0 oz of sunscreen
•2 nalgenes on the outside of pack
•Camera & extra power pack
•First Aid Kit
•Print out of all my travel documents
•Some trail mix (yummers!)
My biggest regret is not bringing my Ukulele with me. Last summer, when I traversed around Iceland with one of my roommates, it certainly brought up morale when we were sitting on the side of the road waiting to be picked up as hitchhikers (never had to wait more than 30 minutes though!). I also realize with everything I do, I enjoy it substantially more with music--the song as I am writing this post is "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli (in honor of my best friend Ki who inspired this post!).
But I digress. I was originally worried I should have gotten a bigger pack, but after walking around Boston a little bit before heading to Vienna, I felt much more free and lightweight, which I hope will serve me well on the walk! That said, I have one more day until it begins--holy dang!
Howdy! Since I touched down yesterday and have had the chance to explore one city already, I thought it may be a good time as any to write my first city post! After taking the CAT from the airport straight to the city, the first thing that struck me about Vienna was the beautiful dichotomy of the quaint-ness & touristy -- there's a great blend of parks and busy streets, birds trilling and cars honking.
This happened to be one of the hottest days in Vienna, reaching 90 degrees, but luckily, a wonderful stranger-now-friend, Fabian, came to my refuge by taking me around the city in his dope stick-shift car.
This is Fabian and schnitzel (which we had for an early dinner)!
Fabian and I met through Summer Playbook, an online platform used to connect students during the summer to meet up and hangout with people who will be in the same place as them. Fabian happened to be in Vienna, his hometown, during the time I was there, and we ended spending 9 hours together checking out the city, talking about politics and everything under the sun, and joking about each other's catchphrases (basically the extent of his is "boom", "burn", and swearing). It was an amazing introduction to the city, and honestly, the architecture took my breath away!
Johann Strauss, a famous composer, in Stadtpark!
Some church that we walked by--look at that contrast lighting!
View of Vienna from the top that was actually insane--thank you Fabian for driving me up!
The Rathausplatz at night!
After looking at traversing around the city, we ended up walking around District 1, a pretty touristy area filled with many shops around. We got froyo at a particular place (because according to Fabian, the other 5 places we passed were not the real deal), and continued to share life thoughts with each other. At the end of the day before heading to the hostel, we stopped for some coffee & cake. In fact, an interesting observation Fabian pointed out was that the US does not seem to have any bakeries that solely serve bread, and I wonder why that is-- Bring back the bakeries, America! Anyway, while we were eating, suddenly it started raining, drizzling and then crescendo-ing into a pour and back down until it stopped, which lasted all of 10 minutes. It was very interesting, but through the rain, a beautiful amalgamation of colors shone through the city!
I stayed in a hostel in District 7, a very busy and young area. After Fabian & I said our goodbyes close to midnight, I headed to my hostel in District 7, another very busy and young area. And of course, what would a first day traveling be without some random mishap? For me, this was locking myself inside the bathroom after I finished showering. After turning the key every which way and ramming all my weight against the door, I was rescued by a guy from Wisconsin, who I threw the key to over this open ledge and he helped me open the door. What a #klassic cat move, and God bless this wonderful human.
The next day, was my day to prove to myself, yes I can walk around a city by myself with this 40 L pack and be independent! I exchanged some money, walked around 7 miles through parks and streets (which is less than half of what I will be walking everyday on the EPW, but definitely built confidence!), and saw a guy in a horse mask playing an accordion! What a time to be alive!
A thought from today on moderation: As I walked around looking for a public fountain to fill up my water bottles and quench my thirst, it wasn't until around 90 minutes later when I finally found one. When I did find it though, I was so freaking happy I did a little jig, and I realized that this was simply because I found water, something I can have anytime, all the time back home. I had the same feeling of elation when I found an amazing döner kebab stand in the middle of the street that sold a döner with Pepsi for 2.5 euros! It got me thinking about how we appreciate things more when we don't get it as much. When I thought about how saturated my life is with so many different things, it prevented me from appreciating such life-giving miracles like water and food! Especially in an era of consumerism, it's nice to slow down, carry your entire life on your back, and be grateful for what is now taken for granted.
On another note, I think I had sunscreen all over my face today and I didn't notice until I decided I went to the bathroom in the train station (which you also had to pay 0.5 euros to get in--blasphemy! Bathroom rights for all!). But ah, such is life. I am now on the train to Budapest, and will be staying here for 3 nights to hopefully take in as much of the city as possible! Until then :)
Woah! I can't believe this is actually happening!
This is the first time I've ever blogged my adventures because I tend to be a "live in the moment" type of traveler (although I do think there's nothing like pictures to capture the moment), but 2017 is for trying new things: hence, the European Peace Walk.
I've heard so many people who just are free spirits and travel and I find myself wondering why I have not just let myself go. I realized it was simply fear holding me back: fear of not using my time productively, fear of others' judgement, fear of being selfish by focusing on myself, fear of uncertainty and instability when all my peers are doing internships that are career-focused. Once I recognized that and thought about all the times I said I wanted to walk across Europe and truly challenge myself physically and mentally, why not the hell do it now?
So here I am, waiting for my plane to Vienna! And I guess it's a good time to introduce myself :)
My name is Catherine, and I am an adventurer, student, and life-lover. Writing intros always seem formal to me and I don't think I'm a formal person, so let's do extreme cat facts!
•I grew up in Pittsburgh, currently live in Boston, and hope to travel the globe! My dream is to visit every single country, but if that doesn't happen, travel to as many dang places as I can :)
•The only smell I can think of that I really dislike is "new car." There's something about it that makes me feel sick. On the other hand, I love the smell/breathing in of fresh air--Iceland forever holds the standard for high quality air (and if you find something better please let me know!)
•I've done some extreme sports like skydiving and bungee jumping, but I am honestly one of the most scared people I know (a true scaredy cat with strong emotional reactions to just about everything)
•When I was younger, I loved Pokémon (and still do), Yu-Gi-Oh, and this very interesting show that I am still unsure of what it is called Boobah (definitely look it up). I also suck at pop culture references and even after I watch movies, I still don't remember them enough to either quote them or understand when other people quote them.
•One of my biggest goals for the next two years is to run the Boston Marathon! I've run two half ones so almost there?
•I LOVE food, am very adventurous in what I try, and tend to eat anything in front of me, so if you ever want to explore, hit me up! This summer, I am definitely trying to work on willpower when it comes to food because right now, I have absolutely none hahahah
•Without my family (parents and older sister, Lily), boyfriend (Grant aka Nature G), the most supportive friends from all walks of life, & mentors, I would not be the person I am today. To them I say thank you ❤️
•Someone once told me that optimists are always late. I can confirm this, and I apologize to everyone I have given a heart attack to especially when it comes to catching flights at airports.
•I would love to go into education in some capacity and love being with kids (because I am a kid myself!) Unsure what that exactly means, but time will tell and life shall take its course!
•I think I have become more introverted since I've gotten older although I am still pretty out there weird and extroverted. I love more than anything listening to people's stories and these days tend to do a lot of reflecting. A goal of mine for the EPW is to learn how to be comfortable being alone (especially as I travel myself in the beginning!)
So there's me in 10 bullet points--that's kinda wild! I'm really excited for the adventure ahead and definitely really nervous because I don't think I have prepared myself enough, especially when it comes to all the physical walking. In fact, the first and only time I've ever backpacked for more than just a day hike was my school's pre-orientation program where we were in the woods for 5 days, and not gonna lie, those were definitely 5 really tough days. But I'm all about the challenge, and if you don't do things you're scared of, how do you ever expect to grow? It truly is a time to be alive, and since this post has already gone on quite long, I'll leave it here right now, and say hasta la vista for now!
this is me right before bungee jumping (where I didn't realize they only harnessed the ankles) so while I am smiling, I am also freaking the f out!!