May 26, 2015, by James
4 top backpacking destinations to beat the exam blues!
This you right now? Sick of it? Want to get away?
Here’s where you could be once it’s over…
Budapest is defined by its river. The Danube cuts it in half, one side is old, one side is newer, and both sides are pretty. Pest, the newer side, is known for its windy streets, unique bars, chilled atmosphere and cafe culture. The latter needs to be seen to be believed, the world’s best cakes at 70p a slice? Sign me up!
Buda, the older side, is known for its churches, museums, architecture and sights. As a lesser known tip, The Hospital in the Rock Museum, a hospital turned Nazi hideout, turned operating nuclear bunker, is worth a look. If you ever want the terror the Cold War realised for you, an hour tour will leave you scared, nihilistic and with a sudden urge to listen to John Lennon.
My favourite memory from Budapest is standing on the top of Gellért Hill at sunset, looking over the entire city. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen 2 million people in a single view, but it certainly leaves an impression.
Berlin is a fractured city and remains so even to this day, except now its fractured nature is its freedom. Every street tells a story, from the shrapnel holes in the stonework (incredibly common), to the graffiti mural of a local legend, to the underground nightclub dedicated to a bizarrely specific genre of music almost nobody has ever heard of. Paris may be pretty but Berlin is always where the heart is. I want to recommend particular areas but the truth about Berlin is that there is something for everyone, do some research or just turn up, either way you’re unlikely to regret it.
Dubrovnik is 26 degree heat, blue waters, terracotta roofs and buckets of suntan lotion. It has an interesting history too, acting as a brave holdout for Croatians during the terrible civil wars that broke apart the former Yugoslavia. That said, while the history of Yugoslavia is a fascinating topic (and the subject of my dissertation) what you’re really here for is the sunshine. A sunset stroll across the medieval walls holds the kind of romance you just can’t muster in a 12 degree spring outside the Lenton Sainsbury’s.
4. County Galway
Galway is the reason Ryanair exists. Book a trip three days in advance (so you know the weather is going to be lovely) and it’ll cost you £38 return, book it a month in advance and the train fare to the airport will be more expensive than the flight. For that you can visit the rustic beauty, biking trails and literary pedigree of the Aran Islands, go for intense hikes in the hills surrounding Leenane or check out the theatre, architecture and pubs of Galway City. As a side note Gaelic Hurling is one of the best spectator sports in the world. It has the flair of good football, the intensity of rugby and the outright brutality of ice hockey all in one affordable sport. Go in the spring or summer if you fancy catching a game.