Budapest to Athens: It’s only five days and counting until I shake off my Eastern Europe /Balkans virginity on my month-long solo trip.
Several practical questions – beyond the emotional ones around the excitement of it all – are whizzing around my head as I count down the days to my departure.
Why hadn’t a trip through Eastern Europe and the Balkans occurred to me before?
Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans have long staved off their mid 90s no-go status. I heard tales of majestic cities, captivating coastlines and historical fascination. “Right,” I thought, “it’s time to put a temporary pause on my long-haul obsession.” Duly decided, I booked myself a short hop flight of a mere 2hrs 20 minutes from Manchester to Budapest.
How do I choose which places to go to en-route from Budapest to Athens?
My next thought, after a brief sojourn through a couple of travel guide books and more than a couple of websites: How the hell am I going to try and see everywhere I want to see?
Simple answer to this one, I can’t. Boo! I’m going to have to pick and choose. For example: I’ve reluctantly decided Dubrovnik and Split can wait, as I can easily fly there direct from my local airport (Leeds/Bradford) in the future.
My route is still only a vague plan, but I do know I’ll be catching up with an old school friend in Budapest, and a former work colleague in Zagreb, Croatia.
Beyond that, I’m torn. Ljubljana? A little detour to my wish-list destination of Bologna? Lake Ohrid? Mostar? Meteora? Delphi? Sarajevo? The Bay of Kotor?
Hmmm, maybe I need to book another trip!
How will I manage with the Greek alphabet? And getting by in Albanian?
As I continue to struggle with improving my Spanish, is there any chance whatsoever I’ll remember the bits of Greek alphabet I learnt in A Level Maths (aged 17), and from preparing a book design layout for Homer’s The Iliad (aged 19) in my first desk-top publishing job? Alpha, beta, kappa, delta, epsilon err … err … *googles frantically*
And what about all those other languages I’m going to need – pretty much a different one for every country from Budapest to Athens. Albanian, anyone?
Money matters: Will I be able to divide by 368 in Budapest?
Apparently there are 368 Hungarian Forints to the British Pound. Who knew? Best get practicing my times tables. And long division.
Which countries are even in the Euro? (Yup, showing my “we love the pound” British-ness there!) I’ll be learning to love Lek, Kuna and Forints on my trip.
I’m going to try out a Travel Worldwide Debit Card – one of those cards you pre-load before your trip. I’ve not used one before, but so far the company I’ve used have been super-efficient. I’ll report back after my trip, but I’m hoping it will save big-style on those pesky ATM charges and foreign transaction fees.
I’m planning on staying mostly in AirBnB places, so I should be able to get clothes washing done pretty easily. Needless to say, that means my major concern is shoes. Obviously. Can I narrow my packing choices down to two pairs? Tricky.
Keeping in touch
Will I be able to meet my mum’s strict instructions of sending her and dad an email ready for her to read every Tuesday morning? “Tuesday, Julie, Tuesday. That’s when I’m going to go to the library to read my email”. OK, Tuesday is it then!
Mum and dad won’t get internet at home, in case it gives them a virus. There are no words.