Traveling to five different countries with five different languages and several currencies is exhausting. At this point in the Runcation, I knew I would want something familiar. So I made a stop in Salzburg to take in the views and a few Stiegl. It was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to plan anything or navigate any new streets. The thing about solo travel is that you need to be “on” 100% of the time. It’s all you out there. You need to plan, navigate, and communicate every step of the way. Having a travel partner or group allows you to share this responsibility or at least take turns, but on your own, it’s a one-woman show, which is fantastic, but also physically and mentally draining.
It felt nice to go to a few of the old hangouts and viewpoints, including a refueling stop at Stiegl Keller, a hearty bowl of gulasch at Café Central, a solid people watching session in the Mirabellgarten, and a run along the Salzach and to Hellbrunn. My legs were absolutely beat, but stopping in Salzburg made for a perfect holiday-within-a-holiday!
Just in time for a rest day, I boarded an old-timey train to Ljubljana. The Slovenian capital has been on my list for a few years now and has been a top recommendation of several friends. This cosy city didn’t disappoint and is perfect for wanders along the river and nice Slovenian wine. I definitely didn’t stick to the three themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, and I wasn’t exactly on my proper planning game, but I walked up to the castle, took a very rainy day trip to Lake Bled, sampled Slovenia’s honey liqueur, and enjoyed some Slovenian wine with a couple other travelers and education enthusiasts.
I was pondering a run one afternoon, but seasonal allergies and tired legs pondered otherwise. So, I took a vote, and a run through Ljubljana did not happen. This scenario perfectly captures the beauty of solo travel.
And just like that, I was onto the final leg of the Runcation and half marathon number two of the trip: Budapest. This was my second visit to the Hungarian capital and second half marathon along the Danube. After straying from the themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, I jumped right back on them in Budapest:
History– I chose to do the Communist walking tour of Budapest. The guide walked the group through life in post-war Budapest and painted a picture of the current political climate in the country. It’s always a nice bonus as well, when the people in your tour group ask fantastic and relevant questions. Speaking of relevance, later that day, I walked into a massive rally protesting the results of the country’s parliamentary election that took place just one week earlier. It was interesting to see, but it didn’t take long for my fear of crowds to take over and navigate myself elsewhere.
Beer & Food– The last time I visited Budapest, it was Christmas Market Season- a joyous occasion. This time around, the spring markets were up and running! Here I was able to refuel with Hungarian gulasch, Hungary’s national dish, chicken paprikash, and what ever they had on tap. I also sampled Unicum, the 80-proof Hungarian herbal liqueur. My top recommendation for a trip to Budapest, however, is a meal at Kisharang Étkezde. This gem in the heart of the city offers inexpensive, authentic, and hearty Hungarian cuisine. I went for dinner after the race, and I was starving. I started with csülkös bableves, which is a delightful ham, bean, and dumpling soup. I then enjoyed hortobágyi palacsinta, which I can only describe as a magical cross between an enchilada and a pierogi but with a paprika sauce. The combination of the two made for the perfect last meal of the Runcation.
Running– Before this, I had never attempted two half marathons so close together, but figured if my body can keep up with marathon training, then back to back races wouldn’t be the end of the world. However, my legs wanted absolutely no part of it at this point in the trip, so I ran solely with my heart (15 April is a day where the heart tends to take over). The pre-race logistics were a bit of a nightmare, and will probably prevent me from recommending this race, but the race itself was lovely (shoulder-to-shoulder for several of the first miles, but otherwise lovely). Running this race was an absolute battle, and I left it all out there on the streets of Budapest. Despite a frustrating Garmin malfunction in mile 3 that left me doing mental math for the next 10 miles, I can say with certainty that I couldn’t have run any faster, and that is a good feeling. The chip time says I ran this race one minute and ten seconds slower than Bratislava, a consistent showing that impressed me. I then spent the afternoon soaking my tired legs in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.
All in all, I would rate the Runcation as a challenging success. Two very consistent and quick races outran my previous half marathon PB, which was set in Glasgow in October 2017, and I am so grateful that this trip turned into an opportunity for several of my passions to collide. Now that I’m back at work, it’s time to start planning the next adventure! Stay tuned for that. Click here if you missed Part I and Part II of this series!
Thank You Notes: Runcation Edition
- Thank you to ice cream for being the most perfect snack for an afternoon wander. The best part about being on holiday is that it’s pretty much expected that you break for ice cream around 1500. No questions asked.
- Thank you to fellow hostel-goers for plenty of stories, laughs, and travel recommendations.
- Thank you to travel days for being a built-in rest day with scenic views.
- Thank you to race medals for being the most perfect souvie.