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Meet the friends who will take you around Lisbon, Turin and Budapest

The Local and Lufthansa will reunite three pairs of long-distance friends in Turin, Budapest and Lisbon. Join us for the journey!

Meet the friends who will take you around Lisbon, Turin and Budapest
Photo: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic

That’s a wrap, folks. The Local recently closed a competition in partnership with Lufthansa, offering three pairs the chance to win a trip to three of Europe’s most exciting cities. To enter, we asked our community of travel fans to tell us who they wanted to go with and why.

We’ve now picked the winners and the trips are all booked!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing short videos documenting the reunions, as the winners take us on a tour of the three European cities. Now’s your chance to get to know them before they go off exploring.

Lisbon trip: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic

“I have a lot of friends all over the world because war separated us.”

Have a read of Lufthansa’s Lisbon city guide

Photo: Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic. See their group post here

Long-time school friends Irena Savic and Asaki Dizdar Mehic were brutally torn apart by the Bosnian war. Irena and her family fled to Belgrade in Serbia, where she lives today, while Asaki ended up in Oslo, Norway. The pair lost touch until ten years later, when they found each other on Facebook.

It didn’t take long for them to plan a reunion in person.

“That was very emotional and amazing! We have another friend who lives in Croatia now and she was there also. When I saw her and Asaki, that was something wonderful to see them again,” Irena told The Local.

Since reconnecting, Irena and Asaki have nurtured their friendship through travel. In February 2018, the pair spent several days in Amsterdam, exploring the city by foot and enjoying a full day in the Van Gogh museum.

Travel often means a reunion for Irena and the Amsterdam trip was no exception; the pair were also joined by another school friend who had been living nearby in Rotterdam.

“I have a lot of friends all over the world because the war separated us,” explains Irena. “A very large number of my friends are in foreign countries and travel is always a good way to see them.”

Fortunately, the time apart hasn’t come between them and the pair still enjoy each other’s company as much as ever. Irena explains that Asaki is an excellent travel companion because the pair both love to stroll around new cities — walking as far as 15km a day in Amsterdam.

But is Irena prepared to walk 15km a day in Lisbon, the City of Seven (very steep) Hills?

“I was born in the mountains, so I’ll be okay!”, she laughs.

Turin trip: Isabelle Wallin and Natasha Held

“I was surprised that you could become such good friends in one week!”

 

Photo: Isabelle Wallin and Natasha Held. See their group post here

Isabelle from Stockholm and Natasha from Newcastle may seem unlikely friends, but it’s the unlikely friendships that can become the most dear.

Check out Lufthansa’s city guide for Turin

The pair were both 20 years old when they struck up a friendship in Ayia Napa during summer 2011.  Natasha, who was on vacation with friends, envied Isabelle’s bar job and the two vowed to return the following year to live and work together.

What surprised Isabelle was that they stayed true to their word.

“It was crazy that we just met in a week and decided to do this a year later! So I think that was very spontaneous and I was more spontaneous because of her,” she says.

Isabelle and Natasha have since developed a close friendship despite the distance, keeping in touch online and visiting each other’s home towns.

Isabelle’s visit to Natasha’s native Newcastle even rubbed off on her in a surprising way.

“I started talking in a Geordie accent after I stayed with her!”

Despite the distance, the friends are still bonded over a love of sunshine and good food – both of which they hope to enjoy on their trip together to Turin.

“I know all about the pizza and pasta – we have to find what’s really local though,” says Isabelle.

Budapest trip: Alex Newcombe and Pau Revilla Besora

“You need friends if you’re in a different environment. It definitely makes it easier and more enjoyable.”

 

Photo: Alex Newcombe and Pau Revilla Besora. See their group post here

A bromance is a beautiful thing, and no-one knows that better than Australian Alex Newcome and Spanish Pau Revilla Besora. The pair met at university in Denmark and have maintained their friendship following graduation.

Take a look at Lufthansa’s Budapest travel guide

“It made my time in Denmark a lot more fun. We’ve had a lot of good times here. It can be tough coming from Australia to a very cold place and probably the same for Pau coming from Spain,” says Alex.

Pau may be back in Spain now but that hasn’t quelled their friendship. Since graduating, the friends have toured Spain, visiting Andalusia and Catalunya, and building their personal portfolio of “in jokes”.

“We have a lot of in jokes that don’t make sense to anyone else which always happens when you’re travelling,” he says.

One particular joke is on Alex, who developed a taste for empanadas in Spain.

“I made a big deal about them so Pau kind of teased me a bit about that because they’re nothing special there, but they were for me!”.

Alex looks forward to “walking around, having some beers and eating some street food” as well as checking out some of the local museums.

Pau, he says, is the perfect travel companion which can turn a good trip into a great one.

“He’s really good fun and up for anything.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Lufthansa.

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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