It is amazing how traveling to other European countries is like traveling to other states in the US. In addition to exhaustively exploring Stockholm, I have taken advantage of the close proximity and relatively inexpensive price of flights to check out other European countries. These past 2 weekends, I traveled to Oslo and Budapest with friends from my class. It’s fantastic to be able to take a short flight to a new country with a unique culture, landscape, cuisine, language, architecture, and more.
For our first trip we decided to fly to Oslo. We had heard rave reviews of the natural beauty of Norway. We were told that we had to check out the Fjords, which are deep, narrow rivers that feed into the sea and are located in between steep mountains that cut through the mainland. After a one hour flight, we rented a car and began our 4-5 hour journey to the Fjords. On the way, we stopped for food and to wander around the unreal scenery around us. In the US, I live in Illinois. When I go on longer road trips, I typically go through long patches of cornfields or grasslands in between cities. In between Oslo and the Fjords, it felt like we traveled through different seasons and continents as we passed snow covered mountains and frozen lakes to sunny, green forests next to still, blue lakes.
Once we arrived at an entrance to Aurlandsfjord (our chosen Fjord to explore), we hiked and kayaked for several hours. The views were extraordinary. We wanted to explore every inch and see every angle. It was so unique how this entire region was almost entirely devoid of human interference and untouched. Before we left, we all jumped in the lake, which was still ice cold, but refreshing! On our way home, we stopped at a popular outlook where we could see the landscape from very high up (first picture of the article). The next day, we explored Oslo’s restaurants, gift shops, Opera House, and Akershus fortress.
For our next trip, we spontaneously decided about a week in advance to travel to Budapest since we wanted to explore a region outside of Scandinavia. Budapest is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and we heard that everything in Hungary was way cheaper than in Scandinavia — which it was! Our 3 bed 3 bathroom Airbnb room was cheaper and far nicer than our 4 bunk bed, 1 bathroom hostel room in Oslo.
In Budapest, we first explored several monuments and famous attractions such as St. Stephen’s Basilica and Fisherman’s Bastion, then checked out a pool that had several saunas. I have discovered that I personally, do not like the intense heat of a sauna, but I do enjoy a super cold plunge afterwards in one of the cold pools. Later at night, we went on a scenic wine cruise that took us by the Parliament building and other views of the city. Afterwards we checked out a ruin bar which are popular in Budapest. They are created from abandoned, old buildings and then were very creatively converted into bars to make a very unique experience.
I highly recommend traveling to other countries/cities when abroad if you are able! If you plan ahead, flights can be very cheap (<$100). I have never been to Europe prior to studying abroad this summer, so I have been taking every opportunity I can find to make the most of my time here.