We flew to Prague and at the airport jumped in a hire care and promptly drove to Berlin. With the help of a friend's sat-nav we found our way through the north of the Czech Republic. The sat-nav only came with a German-speaking feature, so I had to follow the map and give the directions, which kept leading up off the autobahn and onto tiny, picturesque country roads. Which were lovely and all but after a seven-hour flight we was just eager to get the three-hour drive over and done with and get to Berlin. I have to say, Berlin was a bit of culture for this Middle Eastern-living girl. People walking down the street with their shirts off and a large can of beer in their hands, doesn't happen too often (read, at all) in the streets of Dubai. It's funny how all these little things jolt you when you've been living life one way.
Our first day in Berlin was a balmy 41 degrees. Which is not too bad in Dubai, where we have lots of air con, in Berlin where the buildings are built to keep the heat rather than out it was stinking hot! We just looked at it as a good excuse to have a few German hop-beverages.
The kids were a little overwhelmed by Berlin, but they did love the Berlin Wall. Especially Lil-lil who was fascinated by the memorial and museum and spent many days afterwards filling us in about what she'd discovered about the wall. Which shows why it's so important to remember these parts of history.
|Berlin Wall memorial|
|Preserved section of the Wall|
|The imposing Brandenburg Gate in Berlin|
After a couple of days we headed to Bratislava on our way to Budapest. A few people had told me not to bother with Bratislava, but it was a nice stop-off point and plus another country, so why not? I'm glad we did as I really enjoyed our time in Bratislava. Along the banks of the Danube is a new development with lots of nice bars and restaurants. We ate dinner while the kids ran around on the grass in the late evening sun. The next day we strolled through the beautiful old town and had lunch in a Slovakian pub before setting off for Hungary.
|Old Town, Bratislava|
Budapest has been floating around the top of my travel list for some time and I have to say it didn't disappoint. In fact, the only thing I was disappointed in was that we weren't staying longer. The architecture, the history, the beer, the food, the vibe, the people - Budapest has it all. The only thing that made it difficult was it was 41 degrees in Budapest too, which made it hot and sweaty seeing the sights.
If you haven't been to Budapest and you get the opportunity to go, take it! It's a fabulous city!
|Hungarian Parliament House|
|Lots of Hungarian salami!|
After Budapest, we drove to Vienna, on my birthday. We've been to Vienna before, but the last time we were there it was cold and snowy. We arrived on a warm sunny day and headed straight into town to wander around. The best part was having the famous Sacher Torte with a candle at the beautiful Sacher Hotel as my birthday cake.
The following day we wandered around the city again in glorious sunshine. We met up with some friends who used to live in Dubai and moved back to Vienna about a year ago. They took us on a short bus ride to the hills on the outskirts of Vienna with an incredible view over the city. We wandered down the hill through the vineyards until we found a winery serving food and wine and had a band playing out in the vines. It was magic evening where everything was just right - the music, the food, the wine, the company, the weather. Everything came together just right, there's no way you could've planned it. It's moments like this that make you appreciate living overseas and the people you get to meet. We'd never have found this place if we were on our own.
After Vienna we headed back to Prague for five days. We wandered the town, ate lots of Czech food, climbed the hills to overlook the city. The city was filled to the brim with tourists and there were times I felt like part of the herd. There were moments of bliss though, like discovering a tiny French market on Bastille Day where we ate scrummy French food.
At the end of the five days, it was time for Skip to head home to Dubai and the kids and I to jump on a plane to Ireland. We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with good friends in Dublin "for as long as you want! The whole summer if you like!" I thought the whole summer might be the end of a beautiful friendship, so we opted for 11 days instead.
These guys were really good friends in Dubai (and still now, of course) and within 2 minutes of seeing their faces in the arrivals hall of Dublin Airport it was like we'd seen them yesterday rather than a year ago. Lots of laughter and chatter. They took us all over Ireland, from east to west and south to north. We swam (well I dipped my toes in the chilly water), we climbed mountains, we boated, we hiked and rode bikes, we sat in pubs and we camped, we partied and heard live music. It was a brilliant 11 days. Our six kids altogether had a ball, running outside and adventuring and playing and scampering and trying new things. Just like a summer holiday should be, even if it didn't quite feel like summer to us desert-dwelling Aussies.
We flew back to Dubai, with a quick one night stopover in Prague. Happily back to Skip and our home. Not so happily back to the sand and the heat.
It was a beautiful escape. One of the biggest perks of living here in the centre of the world.