Firstly, a very Happy New Year to you all! I'm hoping that 2014 is a year for adventure and accomplishing lots of my goals - I hope you all achieve everything you're hoping to.
In December I managed to squeeze in a final adventure for 2013 by going on a European road trip with my sister. We managed to drive through five countries in a week and fit in stays at Budapest, Vienna and Prague - all beautiful cities. In the mad Christmas hustle and bustle that ensued when we got back, it wasn't until now that I had a chance to look through my photos of a busy but lovely festive holiday. Having never been to Budapest before, I fell in love with the town on our first morning there, when we got a boat from our apartment south down the Danube river into the centre of town and saw the sights from the cabin. We fitted in with the locals by doing some shopping in the Central Market Hall and indulged our inner tourist by seeing the sights, my favourite of which was the fairytale like Fisherman's Bastion. It was in this town that we also visited my highlight of the holiday - the Szechenyi Thermal Baths in the city park. Built in 1913, the baths are stunning inside and out, and the pools themselves were so relaxing. It was a great experience to step outside in the 3C temperatures of the December evening and run straight into a pool of 36C water.
We had a shorter stay in Vienna and it was a blur of stunning, grand venetian buildings and multiple Christmas markets. I'd love to go back and have a longer stay there as I feel we barely scraped the surface.
On our way from Vienna to Prague, we took a slight detour and visited Kutna Hora, home of the Sedlec Ossuray - a grim but at the same time fascinating church decorated with the bones of up to 40,000 people. I had been to Prague once before in summer 2012, but in the winter it's a whole new experience. The town was heaving with mulled wine carts and the Christmas Market in the Old Square was a real treat. The last time I visited I had had a broken camera, so I was very happy to be able to get back to my snap happy self on this trip :)
On our final day, we got up at 5am to drive to Auschwitz. Despite it being an 8 hour round trip, we wanted to make the effort to see it as the Holocaust is not something that should be forgotten. The surroundings of the concentration camp were exceptionally beautiful - the Polish countryside was locked in winter's clutches - it was a bright winter's day but with ice around the ground and fog weaving through the woodland that was next to the camp. It was odd that the place was so peaceful and yet was the scene of a horrific crime of which will never be forgotten - even having seen the evidence in the camp, I found my mind still couldn't comprehend the sheer numbers of innocent people who had lost their lives.
Despite this thought provoking end of the holiday, needless to say, that after this trip we came back with plenty of Christmas spirit, a few presents, fantastic memories, and probably a few extra pounds.