Getting around in the Balkans can be a bit of a challenge. Highways are few and far between (connected by slow, two-lane roads that wind themselves through and around the mountainous region), and since the Balkans are broken up into various small countries with no freedom of movement treaties, no easy regional airline exists. But sometimes one wants to do a quick jaunt to nearby famed cities for a bit of exploring, to Vienna and Budapest, for example. Enter that dubious, albeit inexpensive, airline – WizzAir.
WizzAir only flies to and from Vienna out of Tuzla, a small town about two hours northeast of Sarajevo, and only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. On Fridays and Mondays, it flies between Sarajevo and Budapest. With a bit of creative booking, I had a flight out to Vienna on Wednesday and a flight home from Budapest on Friday, with a husband who gamely drove me to Tuzla Wednesday afternoon.
To say the Tuzla Airport was in the process of a massive renovation would be an understatement. After a frustrating check-in process (note as of time of posting: even though it is stated nowhere in their documentation, website or emails, WizzAir requires online check-in or they will fine you), and navigating around barriers and under scaffolding, I was finally on my way.
Armed with a small backpack and a reservation at an excellent hostel, I arrived late and was up early for a morning of exploring.
The day was perfect – it was sunny and warm, and a top-rated brunch spot was blocks from my hostel. I sat at Ulrich with a book for almost two hours, slowly eating my breakfast and sipping consecutive flat whites.
Then I wandered for hours, taking pictures and exploring side streets until lunch time.
Around noon, I found Sacher Cafe and took a seat in the middle of a table reserved for nine. A few months earlier, my friend Dawn Marie was planning the Knokey Family Takes Europe tour. Her son was getting married and the newly married couple and a few family members were game for a post-wedding jaunt through Austria and Hungary. She and I immediately plotted our surprise: I would join the group in Vienna on Thursday for lunch, then take the train with them to Budapest for an evening in the city before we all flew out on Friday.
Within 15 minutes of me being seated, this gang entered the restaurant and it was hands down one of the best greetings/reunions eva! I was so excited to see them and stoked to share in their last evening on the continent.
We wandered around the parks and castles of Vienna, then jumped on the train to Hungary – passing the time with card games and bottles of wine. The trip went by in a flash and soon we were dashing through Budapest, attempting to make our dinner reservation at Hungarikum Bisztro.
Stuffed beyond comfort levels, a few of us decided to waddle back to the hotel. Our plans for bedtime were scrapped, however, when we instead popped up to High Note Sky Bar for cocktails.
We shut the place down, and were practically shooed out after closing.
Friday morning came early and we decided to tackle the Jewish Quarter, Budapest’s District 7 and home to one of the largest WW2 Jewish ghettos. Today it is the center of cool, with its thriving night scene, edgy boutiques and an abundance of street art.
Speaking of art – this lavender and passion-fruit mimosa:
One last round of too much food and delicious cocktails. It was the perfect ending to a whirlwind trip!