We had finished our night partying and camping at the Czechout Party, so the following day we made our way towards Prague – one of my favorite cities in all Europe. This was my third time in Prague, and as expected, it didn’t fail to impress me (again).
We had again an amazing apartment with GowithOh, located in the center of the new town of Prague. As you can imagine, we had spent the past three days either camping or sleeping on the car, so the shower and super comfy beds were gloriously welcomed in our journey.
We literally used the apartment to recharge (ourselves and all our equipment) as well as catch up with work. The apartment was walking distance to all the major sights in Prague, so we took the night to go to the main square to see the astronomical clock hit the hour, walked along the Charles Bridge, and a few more sights. I wrote previously about Prague, so you can check here how to spend a day there.
After leaving Prague, we did some capital hopping on our way to Budapest – hitting Vienna and Bratislava in a span of a few hours. Did you know that Vienna and Bratislava are the closest capitals in the world? And that Bratislava is the only capital in the world to border two countries?
We didn’t have the chance to explore more of both cities, but luckily I did visit Vienna previously on my Eurail Trip – so I can highly recommend you to visit it.
Prague, Vienna, and Budapest are considered to be sister cities. While Vienna is the more serious and modern one and Prague is the bohemian popular sister, Budapest can be considered to be the younger sister who is competing for beauty and attention.
We reached the Hungarian border from Slovakia, and here’s where things got interesting. This was our first “monitored” border, so we handed our passports as asked.
The officer immediately asked in a strong Hungarian accent for something that sounded to me like “vinaigrette”. What?! Turns out he was asking for a “vignette” and we didn’t have it.
We didn’t know if it was real or a scam, so I immediately went to facebook and asked readers if such thing existed. Immediately I received a couple responses vouching for the existence of the vignette. (I have to thank XCOM Global for the excellent international mobile wifi device they gave us to allow us to update live on the road. More about them in an upcoming post)
As we learned, countries like Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and a few others, require you to buy a vignette (or a permit/tax) that let’s you ride the highways in their country.
We crossed Austria and Slovakia without one… Ooops! We didn’t know about it. Now, he was requiring us to buy the Hungarian one, and to provide the Slovakian one. The Hungarian we could buy at the border for $15, but we had no way of providing the Slovakian one since it was already 10pm and the office was closed. The officer refused to let us pass without one, until at one point he calls Alex to get off the car and takes him away from it. He tells him to stand behind a van (awkward), from where he will make his bribe offer.
The officer told Alex that if he paid 30 Euros, he would “provide a paper” and let us through, of 20 Euros to let us through without a paper. We chose the latter, and off we went to Budapest!
The next day we spent walking around the city, and in my case, revisiting my favorite sights. One thing I didn’t do before that I didn’t miss this time was to bathe at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. This is the most popular sight in Budapest and it is the biggest thermal bath in all Europe. Just looking at the huge neo-baroque building that houses the pool will give you that impression immediately.
Don’t miss the baths (like I did the first time)… I mean it! And try the 40 degrees Celsius pool. Ohhhh soooo goooood! I wrote about my experience in Budapest when I visited it the first time. You can read it here and see what Budapest is all about.
From Budapest forward, our plans started to become a bit messy, and you’ll see why on the next post.
[box type="note" border="full"]As you might know, the Mongol Rally is not only an awesome adventure, but also a way to help charities from around the world. We are raising money for Set Her Free and Cool Earth and we’ve pledged to raise a total of $5000 to help restore the lives of girls formerly enslaved in sex trades (Set Her Free) and to reforest the Amazon (Cool Earth). Would you help us reach our goal with a small donation to make some good![/box]