During this past Spring Break in April,
I went on a trip around Central Europe to the countries of Hungary, Austria and Poland (cities Budapest, Vienna and Warsaw respectively). I initially thought about giving them each separate entries like I usually do. However, these cities blended together at points and I was in depression during this time so what I did in the cities didn't differ or see cultural aspects out of the norm either. Still I will breakdown my experience in each:
My time in Budapest was fun in its own weird way with significantly cheaper currency (no euros), Magyar language that I barely even understood and it was ok because everyone knew I wasn't Hungarian. It was a pretty easy city to traverse with buses, trains, and trolleys everywhere and an awesome airbnb host. The food was surprisingly wonderful from paprikas (chicken with paprika), goulash (soup), hurka (sausage), delicious Kürtőskalács (funnel cake), and the wine. I highly recommend all of it and getting lost in the old Jewish Quarter for the quirky ruin bars. These bars are made from the ruins of older buildings from the destruction of World War 2 in the past and yes that did hit hard.
The other fun aspect of Hungary was the bathhouses based on Roman baths and everybody was out there - all ages but definitely not all ethnicities at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. I also had a nice and enjoyable free walking tour which was my main process in Central Europe. I definitely recommend this cheap and fairly entertaining beautiful city (open alcohol carry!) to visit as a change of pace from Western Europe.
Austria - Vienna (Wien)
I only went to Vienna for a day, but I tried to indulge in as much as I could for the six or seven hours I was there. The absolute best part was the central loop and all the Strasses (streets) and Platzs (squares) that a variety of perspectives. There were swanky and fashionable clothing pieces, phenomenal churches, an impressive library, and the wonderful Sacher Torte cake and cafe. This cafe is exceptionally gaudy and it works with the classiness of Vienna. I had a free walking tour to explore which was a blast to use and even had some fun figuring out Vienna's different red light system (they're outside of doors as you walk). In the end, the main highlight was meeting an Ethiopian lady who worked at a restaurant I was in who thought I too was Ethiopian. A surprise and welcoming face in a sea of whiteness - which is towed oddly in Austria since it is part Western Europe with euros v. Central European historical struggles.
Still, the city and country is a blast and an alternative to Germany. I really want to explore more of it someday as I felt there was still much more indulge in this city filled with Mozart, coin-operated bathrooms, and cafe on cafe on cafe.
While I was only here for a stopover, I figured it would be imperative to explore the city center of Warsaw with a free tour. The tour had many of the usual European highlights of churches, some cafe where famous people visited and World War 2 statues and remnants. At the same time, Warsaw and Poland for that matter offered a little more than the usual due to the fortitude of the Polish and the more humble approach of non-colonizing white people. I didn't face racism there I was pretty much ignored and without much fanfare since that country had a hell of a history and my tour expressed how much Hitler razed to the ground when they tried to resist. Poland is also not known for having slaves or colonizing people so the people had an air of working class about them especially when I went to the milk bar*.
*Polish milk bars are a must. Since the head lady doesn't speak english you tell her what Polish delights you want (I highly recommend the perogi and borscht!), she writes down the number and you pay, then someone calls your food and you get it. It's cheap and simple and was a stable means of quick and common eats during the communist days.
Beyond that, this is the home of the composer Chopin and his music and vodka can make good uses for all that extra zloty you'll have.