We recently finished off a leg of our trip we fondly called, “B cities with Barry.” I know, what a totally original and non-self-explanatory title! Our friend Barry joined us in Europe and we visited: Barcelona, Budapest, Bratislava and Berlin. It was just a coincidence that they all started with the letter B. After months of traveling as a duo, it was really fun to have a good friend join us on the trip. Below is a recap of all we saw, ate and did!
B city #1, Barcelona: Forca Barca!
Barcelona started and ended on a bang. We hit the ground hard on our first day with Barry by doing a Free Walking Tour. Matt had previously done them on his first European adventure and we had success in Madrid so we decided to try it in Barcelona. Our guide was incredibly energetic and told us all about the Catalan life, history as we walked around the Old Gothic Quarter. We saw the spot that Christopher Columbus returned to after discovering America.
That night, we went to my first ever football (AKA soccer) match- FC Barcelona vs. PSG (Paris) in the Champion’s League round of 16. While, we were slightly bummed that Barcelona was already down 4-0 from the first leg (and no team had ever comeback from 4 goals down in Champions League history), we were incredibly excited to experience 100,000 people in Camp Nou. We figured it would be a pretty low-scoring game since PSG would just play conservatively and defensively. Barry is a huge football fan and a referee and we were excited to have an expert at the game.
Well, it ended up being a pretty historic and epic game. Barcelona scored in the 3rd minute and scored once more in the 1st half to make it 2-0. They were still down 4-2 in the aggregate, but there was quite a buzz in the stadium. To open the 2nd half, Barcelona scored quickly to make the aggregate 4-3. Unbelievably, PSG scored about 10 minutes later and had a nearly insurmountable lead since they were up 5-3 in the aggregate. Because the tiebreaker is away goals, Barcelona had to score 3 more goals. With 3 minutes left plus stoppage time, Barcelona still needed 3 goals. Miraculously, Barcelona scored on a free kick in the 88th minute, a penalty kick in the 1st stoppage minute and an incredible goal in the 5th (and last) stoppage minute to win and advance to the quarterfinals. The celebration was something we’ll never forget. Enjoy the photos and we’ve included a link the last goal Barcelona scored.
Our last day in Barcelona, the three of us did a self-tour. We roamed the streets, checked out the inside of churches and saw the outside of the famous Sagrada Familia church by Gaudi. With all the roaming around, we knew we had to prepare ourselves. So we started off with a local treat: churros and hot chocolate! (The chocolate is too thick to drink, so you end up dipping your churro into the chocolate sauce!) To end our time in Barcelona, Matt and Barry decided to go for a swim in the frigid waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
We had a blast in Barcelona but were excited to head off to our B city #2: Budapest, which was Matt’s favorite European city from his previous trip.
B city #2, Budapest: Bridges, Baths and Bars
Since I’ve known Matt, he’s always called Budapest his favorite European city so I was geared to finally get to see it! After arriving that night, Matt took us to the Hummus Bar- an establishment he had been raving about for years. Matt’s falafel at the Hummus Bar was like my Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok.
We were not disappointed as the falafel came on top of a giant bowl of hummus. It was so yummy; we went back twice (the second time to try chicken schawarma!).
Another fun thing about having a friend travel with us was that we ended up jamming a ton of things into our itinerary each day. Since Matt and I have been on the road for a long time, we occasionally would take a slightly more relaxed approach to site seeing. But Barry only had 11 limited days so we made every day count!
We started things off in Budapest the same way as in Barcelona- with a 3-hour walking tour. Together, we explored both the Buda and Pest (pronounced pesh) sides of the cities. We saw the famous Parliament, walked along the Danube and crossed the Chain Bridge.
There are 8 total bridges in Budapest that span the Danube. The most famous bridge is the Chain Bridge, but some of the others are really cool too. Little did I know this would spur the boys to cross a bunch of the bridges. Spoiler alert- we only got to 6.
Through all of this exploring, we got to see some amazing city landscapes on both sides of Budapest. The Pest side is quite hilly and provides breathtaking views of the city. I could try to use words to explain how incredibly beautiful the views were. But, I think these photos would do a better job.
We ended up doing a ton of walking in Budapest and did a lot of fun self-exploring. Some highlights:
- Cave Church: We hiked up to the Liberty Statue and got to see a high-up view of the city. On our hike down, we discovered a church built within a cave and on that day it was free entry!!
- Bars: Budapest is known for its unique ruin bars. Since they’re built from abandoned and spaces, they each have their own different feel while sharing a similar basis. One of our friends, Evan also gave us a recommendation of local brewery that we tried and really enjoyed. And along the way, we found a sweet pastry shop. (Double win!)
- Baths: We couldn’t go to Hungary and not indulge in the thermal baths. After a cold day of walking around (and from bridge to bridge), we took a break to warm up and relax in the thermal baths. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed here, so you’ll have to take our word for it.
- Opera: Our last night ended with a performance at the Hungarian State Opera House. While none of us are huge opera fans, we were still moved by the beautiful sounding orchestra, incredible acoustics in the opera house and powerful voices of the singers.
B city #3, Bratislava: So much walking, so little time
Bratislava was our shortest B-city stop. We only spent 1 full day there so we decided to pack as much in as possible. After we arrived and settled into our amazing AirBnb (our host left us snacks, beer and we had a living room area to hang out), we immediately left again to go explore the castle and the city. We snapped some photos, I had a Taylor Swift “Blank Space” music video moment on Snapchat and on the way we spotted a cat café (more on that later).
Here are our Bratislava highlights:
- Walking Tour: The first full day was kicked off with a free walking tour. Our guide was university student and gave an amazing tour: full of knowledge, energy and just genuinely wanted everyone to have a good time. We saw a few famous statues, the Blue church and got food recommendations.
- The Castle at night and scenic views: We ended up going to the castle twice since we liked the city views so much. Plus, we got to see what it looked like at night!
- Cat café!: We stumbled upon a cat café during our walk and we just had to stop in. Matt and I have been to one in Seattle but couldn’t resist not visiting the one in Bratislava. Plus, Barry needed a cappuccino and I got to try the local lemonade. J
B city #4, Berlin: Our last stop with Barry
Berlin: where our party of three became a party of four before it went back to a party of two. Huh? Basically, Barry’s current roommate (who is a pilot) joined us for one day in Berlin. You know what they say, the more, the merrier!
Berlin is a city full of history so there was a ton to see. The biggest highlight of Berlin was all the history the city had to tell. Again, we decided to use a walking tour (but this time we used a non-free one) to see all sights and to get the entire historical context. We saw a bunch of places but here are a few highlights (that we saw either on tour or on our own):
- The Brandenburg Gate: Truly a historical place to see! Instead of trying to stumble on why its significance, I’ll borrow the words of Wikipedia: “Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and today is considered not only as a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.”
- East Side Gallery: is a famous freedom memorial in Berlin. Once a wall dividing Berlin, it now features the work of over a hundred artists. It was really great to walk along to see the art and the symbols for freedom. We also went to the spot that Matt and Jonas took a photo at 7 years ago.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: We saw the outside of the memorial during our walking tour and then went back afterwards to walk through the exhibits on the inside. The outside of the memorial is abstract, rows of carefully placed stelae, leaving one to make her own interpretations.
- Other WWII history: We saw the few remaining buildings from the Nazi Era, the spot above where Hitler committed suicide and a moving memorial for book burning that occurred during WWII.
- Barry: We were sad that it was our last stop with Barry. It was great to have a friend with us on the road! Thanks (as always), Blarence for joining us for the ride!