Well, we finally made it to our last destination on this trip, the lovely city of Rome! As I talked about before in my Florence post, I’ve dreamed about going to Italy for a while, and seeing The Lizzie McGuire movie when I was ten only made my urge to hop on a jet plane to Rome even more intense (as cheesy as that may sound). Continue reading
After saying our goodbyes to the city of Prague, we took the train to Vienna, Austria. Despite the beautiful weather reflected in the photograph above, we stepped off of the train into pouring rain. Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, Emma and I are not strangers to heavy downfalls of rain, the problem was that we yet again had trouble figuring out the right directions to get to our hostel. Getting off the metro line in Vienna, we ended up walking about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, so by the time we arrived at the hostel sopping wet, I don’t think we even needed a shower. Continue reading
After saying our goodbyes to the city of Berlin, Emma and I boarded the train to Prague in the morning and set off on our next adventure. The train ride was really smooth with beautiful views of the hillsides and rivers along the way. Although we were both really exausted and ready to pass out on the train I managed to stay awake for a little while to soak in the beauty of the countryside. Prague has been on my list of places to visit for quite a while, especially because my Grandmother’s family was from the Czech Republic, and being over in the U.K. this year for Uni, I found it the perfect opportunity to visit. Continue reading
As briefly mentioned in my previous post my best friend and fellow traveller Emma and I took a six hour walking tour around Berlin to quickly get to all of the sights in the city within the limited amount of time we were staying in Germany. The walking tour that we decided included history spanning from World War I all the way through modern day Berlin, which not only enhanced the tour but also the manner in which the history was taught because we got to physically stand in the locations in which major events occurred. Our tour began at 10:30 in the morning, which was perfect for us because we were able to sleep in a bit while leaving enough time to arrive on time and enjoy a full day in the city. After picking up a small group of people from a nearby hostel, we walked to the first destination located at a beautiful synagogue that had been saved from being destroyed from attacks during WWII by a police officer and the fire brigade. This made visiting this particular location that much more powerful because a lot of the buildings in Berlin were completely demolished or visibly damaged during the war, so the fact that this synagogue still stands is absolutely incredible. Continue reading
If there was one key lesson that my friend Emma and I learned from our traveling adventures, it was: if you think a destination is in a certain direction, turn around and walk the other way. . .Let’s just say having a good sense of direction is not our strong suit but sometimes it makes visiting different places more interesting! This was a pretty consistent theme with our trip which I will explain later on, but let’s just get on with our stay in Berlin shall we? Hopping on the train to Germany went very smoothly and overall we had a lovely ride over to Berlin with only a minor delay at one of the stations where we had to transfer trains, but unfortunately due to the delay we arrived to the station in Berlin a lot later than we had expected which made it a bit tricky to figure out how to get to the apartment that we had booked to stay in since it was in a neighborhood a bit out of the city centre. I felt really guilty for making the apartment owner stay up waiting for the two of us to arrive and check-in, but I suppose there are some things you just can’t control. Of course knowing our issues with direction, we made sure to carefully follow the directions the owner had given us, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and ended up walking ten minutes in the opposite direction. Continue reading
This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. The exterior of the Hostel Grand Place.The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)The opposite wall of the seating area.
We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!The entrance to the Museum.Fashions constructed using chocolate!The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.
It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.A view from the top floor.
Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .
Happy New Year Everyone! Wow, it is incredible how fast time flies by . . . Looking back on 2013, it is amazing to reflect on the different people I’ve met and become close to, and how much I feel I have grown as an individual. It is interesting how much things can change in the length of a year. Although I have always dreamed of living and studying in a different country, it always seemed like a distant reality and I feel so lucky that I was able to fulfill that goal in my life this year. These past few months living abroad have allowed me to meet so many amazing friends and provided opportunities to explore new ways of life and mature as an individual. This year I was able to ring in the new year with, you guessed it, my cousin! We took a little stroll to the champ-de-mars and got to witness the Eiffel Tower light up when the clock struck twelve (Yes I know that the Eiffel Tower normally does this, but there is something rather special about it on new year’s eve don’t you think?) Crowds of people gathering to watch the Eiffel Tower light up along with fireworks.
I can’t wait to see the new experiences I’ll have and memories I’ll make during this year and it will be very interesting to do some time traveling back to this year abroad when next year rolls around. Yes, tomorrow will just be another day, but it will be a day to start fresh with the optimistic sense that if I continue to strive for the hopes and dreams I manufacture in my head, I can continue to live a fulfilling and happy life. Thank you for following me on this journey and I wish you all the best in 2014!