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Each month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

budapest great market hall nagyvasarcsarnokIn this month’s featured review, reader David Guarino recaps a recent European trip in which Budapest was the highlight: “The next day (own our own time), we headed off to the Great Market Hall (Nagyvasarcsarnok) via a trolley — easy to board and disembark,” writes David. “The market was exceptional, with lots of places to buy gifts, paprika and food. We had a typical Hungarian lunch at a food stand in the market — nice time.”

Read the rest of David’s review here: Prague, Vienna and Budapest. David has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review by November 25, 2014, and you could win a $200 eBags gift card!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

what people have forgotten at hotelsEver forgotten you were traveling with your mother and left her behind at the hotel after you checked out? How about your spouse? While you may have wanted to leave him or her behind, a poll by LastMinute.com of 500 hotels around the world found that these scenarios actually have happened.

In Prague a man left his wife behind – the hotel didn’t say if it was accidental or planned! And a hotel in Ireland reported a traveler forgot that his mother was with him and left without her.

Perhaps even odder are items left behind that someone probably shouldn’t have been traveling with in the first place. For instance, a man left behind snails in a Budapest hotel room. Maybe he was planning on asking the chef to cook him some escargot? Another guest, in a U.S. hotel, left behind $10,000 in cash.

Snails aren’t the only animal guests have left behind. A hotel in Washington discovered a customer had forgotten his snake, while a dog was left behind by its owner in a Milan hotel.

“You Want What?”: Bizarre Hotel Requests from Guests

Another big “oops”: a police officer forgot his gun and badge in Las Vegas. I guess what goes to Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Of course, more commonly left behind are cell phone, camera and laptop chargers. Passports are another oft-forgotten item.

Reading about what other people have forgotten in their hotel rooms got me to thinking, what kinds of stuff have I left behind?

I’ve been pretty lucky. The worst thing I’ve forgotten was a favorite pair of black evening pants (which I still miss very much, by the way). But I remember a time, back when I was a kid, when my family discovered on the drive home from New England that my sister had left behind her beloved stuffed duck, Engineer. I don’t know how far from the hotel we had gotten, but we turned right around to go back and get him.

Finding Hotel Rooms: No Vacancy? No Problem

Overall, the writers here at IndependentTraveler.com are pretty good about remembering to check their hotel rooms before leaving. But a few of us learned this the hard way.

Adam Coulter, the senior editor at the U.K. office of our sister site CruiseCritic.com, recently left behind his iPod speakers, an electric toothbrush charger, a hooded sweater, several T-shirts and his swimsuit at a hotel in New Jersey.

Another CruiseCritic.co.uk staffer, Jamey Bergman, and his wife left their laptop behind in a hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Luckily all turned out well as the hotel FedExed the computer to their final destination free of charge (though they still argue over whose fault it was).

What have you left behind in a hotel room?

— written by Dori Saltzman

berlin Brandenburg gateTwenty-two years ago tomorrow, the first step was taken towards a united Germany (and an Iron Curtain-less Eastern Europe) when the two Germany’s signed a treaty to unite East and West. While the Iron Curtain didn’t actually come down that day, it certainly sustained a major chip.

Thinking back on it, I’m reminded of my own trip behind the Iron Curtain when I was 16 years old. I’m struck by how far away those countries seemed.

In some cases (like Berlin and Warsaw), the actual hours and minutes it takes to get there have shortened, as nonstop flights to these cities are now available from many U.S. cities. But in all cases, the feeling of distance traveled has shrunk significantly.

Nowadays, when you arrive at the airport in Budapest (or Warsaw or Prague), it doesn’t seem all that different from the airport you departed from. There are arrival, transfer and departure signs in the local language and English; plenty of people are smiling at you; and everyone is welcoming you to their country. Chances are you’ll whiz through security and immigration and be on your sightseeing way in no time.

Berlin Travel Guide

Head out onto the streets of Budapest and Warsaw, and you could be in any major European city. Even Prague, with its charming medieval architecture, is so overrun with expatriates from the U.S. and England that you never feel you’ve traveled too far from home.

But 22 years ago, it wasn’t like that at all. Back then those destinations were sooo far from home – not because of the physical distance but because of how far away from the familiar they were.

Until I went to Budapest at age 16 (back in 1986), I had never seen soldiers walking around with automatic weapons before. I’d seen it on the evening news, sure. But not in places that tourists go.

As a teenager I was used to going through an airport basically unremarked by security. But in Budapest my luggage was checked thoroughly. For what, I’m not sure. We were told ahead of time that blue jeans were a hot commodity in Eastern Europe, so maybe these guys (who were probably only a few years older than me) were hoping to score a pair of jeans or a Walkman!

Once in Budapest, the faraway-ness of it all intensified. There were soldiers everywhere. People walked quickly, with their heads down, and never smiled our way. But the most foreign (and scariest) moment of all occurred when a girl in my group accidentally took a photograph of a police car and two policemen while snapping a picture of an immense building. They immediately came towards us, demanded her camera and then exposed the film.

Culture Shock: Outside the Comfort Zone

Never before had any of us ever been subjected to anything like this. To say we were farther from home than just 10 hours or so would have been an understatement. Truly, we had traveled to another world.

Did you ever travel behind the Iron Curtain? How “far away” was it for you?

— written by Dori Saltzman

kapital inn bed and breakfast budapestHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is 125 euros per night. Nancy, who gave the first correct answer, has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

The room pictured was one of two deluxe rooms at Kapital Inn Boutique B&B on the Pest side of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary. The four-room boutique inn is on the penthouse floor of a 19th-century building, in the heart of the city next to Andrassy Avenue, in Budapest’s District VI. Daily breakfast is included in the rates, with a fully stocked complimentary snack stash for post-sightseeing noshing.

To check rates and read about other properties in Hungary’s capital city, see our favorite Budapest Hotels.

— written by Jodi Thompson