the 18 hour travel day.

Well it’s noon & I’ve already been awake for over 7 hours. One of the many perks of traveling the cheapest routes possible. As I type this, I still have 4 and a half hours until my bus to Aarhus leaves from Copenhagen & I’ve already been waiting for 4 hours. But, I woke up in Prague this morning so I really have nothing to complain about! I’ve spent the last week traveling around Berlin, Germany & Prague, Czech Republic: two very different countries that I was dying to visit. Let’s start with Berlin.
After visiting Auschwitz just days before going to Germany, I knew this was going to be a very interesting trip. I had just seen what the Nazis had done to millions of Jews and now I was going to their headquarters to see where it all began. The most satisfying thing was the fact that we were able to see Hitler’s bunker where he committed suicide because he knew he was going to get captured towards the end of World War II. Just days before, I had seen a place where he caused so much pain and suffering for so many innocent people, and then to be able to see where he was finally in a sense defeated…that was one of the most incredible things.

Hitler’s bunker

By the way: in every city I’ve visited, I’ve always done a free walking tour. These tours are completely free and at the end you just tip your guide based off of how well you think they did or how much you enjoyed the tour. I’ve learned so much on these tours & highly recommend them to anyone traveling around Europe. Without these tours, I would literally just be looking at cool buildings & being like “oh ok that looks nice, no idea what it is but I’ll take a picture of it”. But with these tours, the guides give you an in depth history of what happened at the major buildings and sites of the city. They’re awesome. I especially recommend a guided tour in Berlin. We waited until the last day to take the tour which in hindsight I feel was a mistake. Up until the tour I was enjoying the city, but I felt as if the city was too large and modern. I wasn’t getting that German feel that I was really looking for. We visited the East Side Gallery, where artists have created beautiful portraits on pierces of the Berlin Wall. This was so cool because people were able to turn the wall, which was something so horrible, into something completely beautiful.

East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery

When we finally decided to be smart and take the tour around the city, I was amazed at how much history was right under my nose. I learned that the Berlin Wall was actually not a straight wall, but actually a circle that closed off West Berlin. This was weird though, because West Berlin was the free half of the city. West Berlin was the only free section of all of Eastern Europe. There was a wall to keep Easterners out, but the West Berlin citizens were allowed to leave freely. The wall was literally put up over night, and if you had someone you knew on the other side of the wall, it would be another 28 years until you saw them again. Isn’t that insane. WOW I am ranting but I found all of this so interesting. Also, the reason Berlin is so modern is because the entire city was destroyed in WWII. There was almost nothing left. The buildings and churches that look old are made to look that way to remind people what the city used to look like. And still to this day, Berlin is still rebuilding from the damage it suffered from the war. (fun fact: I got to see the hotel where Michel Jackson was seen hanging his baby out the window. Just when you think you have seen it all….)

Hotel Aldon, where Michael Jackson infamously dangled his son, Blanket, out a window

After 3 days in Berlin, we took a reaaaally early bus to Prague! This bus was LAVISH. It only cost 15 euros and we were waited on hand and foot. We were given coffee, hot chocolate, tea, literally anything we wanted. There were movie screens on the back of all the seats (which were leather btw) & there was wifi hallelujah. Back to Prague, though. (another fun fact sort or relating to my rant above: the reason Prague was so well preserved during World War II was because Hitler loved the city so much. He was planning on vacationing there after the war so he didn’t want any damage to be done there. Interesting right. And also kind of twisted. What a terrible guy).

In Prague we did another walking tour where we learned all about the history of the Czechs and the Slovaks, how the country of Czechoslovakia came to be, and how the counties because two separate republics. We toured old town and saw the Astronomical clock move (sort of underwhelming but something you have to see).

Astronomical Clock

We saw the Jewish quarter and the Jewish cemetery. Back in the 15th century, every Jewish person in Prague had to be buried in this cemetery which was not very big. At certain points, the graves in this cemetery are 12 graves deep. Some people say that this gave inspiration for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe located in Berlin, which we were able to see just the day before. In this memorial, there are many rectangular stones that are different heights across an uneven ground. Again, the timing of my trips and seeing these sights has been incredible.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (located in Berlin)

Later in the day we crossed the famous Charles bridge which gives beautiful views of Prague from either sides of the river. Across Charles bridge lies Prague Castle. You can see it from miles away and it is breathtaking. On the same side of the river is the John Lennon Peace Wall. Here, people are free to spray paint messages of whatever they want. There are paintings of John Lennon himself, his lyrics, and inspirational quotes. We spent almost an hour reading everything on the wall. Easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

John Lennon Peace Wall

One of the nights we were there we went to the Prague Ice Bar!!!! I’ve always wanted to go to one of those so I was stoked. They decked us out in parkas and gloves and we were ready. We got inside the actual ice room and literally everything was made of ice. The walls, countertops, the tables, the glasses, everything. They only let you stay inside for 20 minutes but after the first 10 I thought I was going to die of hypothermia. I lasted the full 20 though and after needed about two liters of hot chocolate. Oh wow I just said liters & not gallons. I am so metric system….

inside the ice bar

Now I know it doesn’t seem like I am actually enrolled in school but I promise I am and I do attend class! I have two presentations this week so it’s time to get back to real life. Exams are starting at the end of May so as shocking as this sounds, I will be spending this next month in the library buried in text books.

currently studying in starbucks waiting for my bus…i’m not a total bum I swear

That is until I see a cheap flight that catches my eye…….

Advertisements

On a more serious note.

This post will be relatively short, but the main reason for my trip to Poland was to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Auschwitz in person. I have always been so interested in learning about World War II and Nazi Germany that I could not leave Europe without visiting the concentration camp in person. Poland seemed so far away though so I didn’t think I would actually make it there. I had watched countless documentaries about Auschwitz and Birkenau and read many books about what had happened at that horrible place and I never imagined that I would be able to walk the same paths as those who were so cruelly placed into camps and sentenced to death. Nothing could have ever prepared me for what I saw during my tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I can’t even put into words the emotions that I felt during my time there. It is something that I think you need to experience in order to understand. No TV program or textbook can ever do it justice.  What happened inside those gates all those years ago will never be forgotten. We cannot let it be forgotten.

buda buda buda buda rockin everywhere.

Hello again! I’m back after almost a week of traveling around Eastern Europe.  I spent time in Budapest, Hungary and Krakow, Poland. Both are cities and counties that had never crossed my radar before going on exchange. I had friends that went to Budapest and RAVED about it for weeks so I obviously had to go and see what all the hype was about.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I fell in love with the city of Budapest. Everything about the city was just so cool. For those of you who don’t know (myself included before this trip) Budapest is split into two parts; Buda and Pest, divided by the Danube River. Buda is the older, hilly side of the river with landmarks such as the Citadella and the Buda Castle. Pest is the younger side of the city. It is flatter and is home to Heroes Square and St. Stevens Basilica.  We stayed on the Pest side for the majority of our stay. We stayed at the Carpe Noctem Vitae Party Hostel in Budapest and I hands down believe that is the best hostel in the world. If you are planning a trip to Budapest, do not stay anywhere else.  Everyone that works and stays there is just looking to have a good time.

overlooking Buda

 

St. Stephens Basilica

We went on a walking tour around the city the first day in Budapest and saw both sides of the river. We went into on the famous markets and I tried Hungarian Goulash for the first time. It was soooo good.

Hungarian market

Of course we had to have dessert, so we tried another traditional Hungarian food, langos. Again, amazing.

munchin on that cinnamon sugar langos

That night we went on a river cruise down the Danube with people from our hostel. So much fun. And seeing the city at night was beautiful!

Budapest from the river cruise

The next day we spent the entire day at the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, which is the largest medicinal bath in Europe.  Talk about relaxing.  We were literal prunes before we forced ourselves to get out.

best day ever

After the baths then we walked to this festival near a castle and ate dinner on the lawn. Perfect weather, sitting in the park with music playing in the background, surrounded by your friends; those are the moments I am going to remember the most.

Festival at a castle we passed by 

After a few amazing days in Budapest, we caught a 7 hour bus to Poland. Fun fact: I can now say I’ve gone to the bathroom in Slovakia (we had to drive through there to get to Poland).  I was very unsure what to expect from Krakow. I had an image in my head of what I thought Poland would be- kind of run down, dirty, old. It was NONE of those things. Krakow was one of the cleanest cities I have been to. Our hostel was in the heart of Old Town and we were so close to many beautiful buildings, markets and churches. Krakow is very small and totally walkable. We were able to visit the Jewish Quarter one afternoon and go inside the oldest synagog in Poland.

the market square in Krakow

We stayed at Greg and Tom’s Beer House and again if you ever find yourself in Krakow, I wouldn’t stay anywhere else. For $15 a night, we were given free dinner, free breakfast, and free snacks all day…hellllo why wouldn’t you stay there. And it was super clean. Can’t beat it.

FREE breakfast at our hostel

My trips around Europe keep getting better and better. Just when I think one can’t top the next, it does. Tomorrow I leave for Berlin, Germany and then Prague, Czech Republic so we will see how this trip falls in the ranks. I have high hopes…

spring breaaaaaak.

I have been back in Aarhus for a week now after my whirlwind 12 day spring break vacation and have finally caught up on my sleep and laundry.  I think I slept for 32 hours straight once I got off the last bus home! All of our travels were more than worth it though. Over the course of 12 days I was able to visit 5 breathtaking cities and make memories that I will never forget. Italy of course was amazing. All that gelato oh my. And pizza. Can’t forget about the pizza. After Italy we headed for Spain. We spent 3 wonderful days in Barcelona.

We spent our first day sightseeing all across the city. We visited the Barcelona Cathedral, walked down the famous Las Ramblas (which was actually disappointing in my opinion but oh well), saw the Sagrada Familia (under a ton of construction but apparently it always is and will never be finished…) and spent the afternoon in Parc Guell overlooking the city.

IMG_4573
Barcelona Cathedral
IMG_4560
Cute outdoor patio near our Airbnb
IMG_4593
Sagrada Familia
IMG_9068
Me being dramatic overlooking Barcelona at Parc Guell 

The next 2 days were spent how I like to spend my vacations…at the beach. We all just hung out and had such a chill time. And I of course couldn’t leave the beach without being obnoxious and getting cornrows.

IMG_5141
who let Anna and I get in the water 4 times… it was still March..
IMG_4759
The gals on the beach in Barcelona (thankfully clothed this time)

The last night in Barcelona we went out for traditional Spanish tapas, or appetizers. We went with a tour group and got to try food from many different restaurants around the city. Had to show off the new hair at as many fine establishments as possible.

IMG_4814
obligatory selfie before tapas 

After a few days in Barcelona it was time to hop on a plane and head for IBIZA. It was the off season so it wasn’t as live as I know you’re thinking but it was still a great time. Our Airbnb was literally right on the beach so we just had to walk out the door and we were on the sand. It was incredible.

IMG_4875
basically our private beach

We spent most of our time at the beach but one of our days in Ibiza we explored the older part of the city and found the most amazing views from the top of some cliffs. IMG_4905

So naturally, we had to have a photoshoot on top of it.

IMG_9602

IMG_5144

We had such a fabulous week in sunny Spain that we thought…what better way to top off the trip than in rainy, dreary London!! On the real though, London is my favorite city of all time. I went when I was a senior in high school and absolutely fell in love with everything about it and knew I had to come back. The sights, the accents, everything. I swear I’ll move there one day. Since we basically only had one full day in London we took advantage of it by booking a hop on hop off tour and rode around all day on a double decker red bus. You don’t get any more British than that.

We were in London on Easter Sunday so I had the privilege to attend Easter service at Westminister Abbey. That is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. We saw Big Ben, The London Eye, Parliament, Hyde Park, The Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus (not an actual circus to my surprise, more like a square), Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.

IMG_5076
Taken moments before we got hailed on 🙂
IMG_5108
One Direction shot a music video on top of that bridge fun fact

Our Airbnb was right along the Thames River and one night we were able to visit the oldest riverside pub in London, The Prospect of Whitby, which opened in 1520. It was such a neat place and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling through London!

After many busses, planes, and trains, our journey finally came to an end. The memories I made throughout those days will last a lifetime and I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be able to travel to so many places so far with such great people.

Next stop..Budapest, Hungary and Krakow, Poland!