Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Ok, Now Where Did She Go This Time?!?

Friday, March 13th, 2015

That’s right folks! Spring Break 2015 has come and gone. Did I just sit around and do nothing all week long? OF COURSE NOT!! This adventure took me to Costa Rica with my Tropical Biology class. Yea, you read that right, I got to spend a week in paradise for college credit! Check out the highlights of my trip below!

 

 

21 Things That Studying Abroad Has Taught Me

Monday, December 8th, 2014

And now the fall semester is winding to a close, and as I look back on my summer semester abroad, I am reminded of all the things that studying abroad has taught me and has helped me grow as a person.  Although there are probably more things than what I have written about, this is what came to mind first.

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bow lines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  – Mark Twain

 

  1. It’s OK to be on your own sometimes.

    DSCF8307While living in Germany, I lived in an apartment with three other German girls, none of whom ever spoke to me. It was the equivalent of living on your own, but only in a one-room apartment.  Since I am an only child, the quiet didn’t seem to bother me that much, but when it did get to me on occasion, the fact that I was living alone just made me have to get out of my apartment and visit friends, or explore the city.  Travelling on your own gives you a chance to actually take in everything around you, instead of being distracted by your friends’ conversation.

  2. It builds confidence.

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    Whether it was figuring out the rail system, or looking for cheap and clean hostels, you learn to be confident in yourself and trust your own instincts.  Especially when everything is in another language, it can be a bit intimidating, but you have to know (or at least look like you know) what you are doing.

  3. Anytime is the right time for a Bratwurst.

    Anytime of day, whether it’s lunchtime, dinnertime, or almost midnight, you somehow find room for a €1 Bratwurst from Domplatz.  Even though some Germans said that they weren’t that great, they were the cheapest Bratwursts in Erfurt, and very rarely would you get a stale Brötchen – that only happened if it was almost closing, or if they were at the end of a bag…

  4. It’s never too late to discover new places.

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    Even during my last few days in Erfurt, I discovered a new park, and a new alternate route into the Altstadt!  Even after living in one place from years (or in this case months), you can still find new places to explore.  The world is such a fascinating place!

  5. Take advantage of the proximity to other European countries.

    Everything is relatively close together in Europe!  Use this to your advantage, and travel to other countries.  Since we were only allowed to miss two classes of each course, and each course met only once a week, you could technically skip a full week of classes and go backpacking!  This is exactly what I and three other friends did!  We skipped a week of classes and travelled to Rome!  With the help of cheap travel and accommodations, it was a relatively cheap trip!  We found round-trip train and airfare for less than €100, and 6 days in a bed-and-breakfast was around €250 per person!  If you walk around the city, you are really only paying for food and souvenirs during your trip.
    After classes were completed and before I flew back to the United States, I had a little over a week to carry out any last ditch travel plans, and that’s exactly what Anneka and I ended up doing.  It wasn’t really spontaneous, since we did have to plan in advance for this, but it was definitely worth it!  We bought a ticket that allowed us to use any train (including high-speed trains!) for 5 travel days within two months.  Our ticket package included Benelux and Germany, and we definitely took advantage of the opportunity in front of us.  We travelled through Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany: 11 cities within 6 days.  (I know it seems a little ambitious, but we did it!)  The cities we visited were (in this order): Luxembourg, Brugges, Bruxelles, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Münster, Dortmund, Essen, Düsseldorf, Köln, and Bonn.

  6. Trains are almost never on time…

    I had many late trains while travelling abroad. You just have to be patient and know that you will get through this hassle.  From our Benelux trip, Deutsche Bahn was the only train company that was late. Trains in other countries were very punctual compared to Germany.  The worst train delay we had was on our return journey, from Bonn, back to Erfurt.  We had to travel from Bonn to Mainz, where we would catch a connecting train that would take us back to Erfurt.  However, there were MAJOR delays and our first train was over an hour late.  We had no chance of catching our connection and it was the last valid day for our ticket! AHHH!!  Since we had no idea what to do, we hopped on a train to Frankfurt, in hopes that there would be possibly more connections since it was a bigger city.  While on the train, we asked a ticket collector what our best option was, and thanks to her, we were able to catch a train the next morning back to Erfurt with very little hassle!  The downside to that, we had to spend another night in a train station.

  7. Sleeping in a train station is not ideal, but doable.

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    When you are in a bind, and the next train isn’t coming until the morning, if push comes to shove, you can sleep at the train station  Just be sure that you are travelling with at least one other person, so that you can take turns staying awake and keeping watch on your bags and surroundings.  If you plan on doing this as part of your trip, it can get pretty chilly at night, so either be prepared for cold, or pack an extra jacket.  Or both.

  8. HOLA is a great thing when you want to watch your American shows that are blocked by GEMA.

    No other explanation is needed.  This little app that works within your browser, changes the VPN of your computer to think that it’s in another country.  This was a life saver when I needed to catch up on Grimm and The Walking Dead while abroad.

  9. Making friends with other international students is one of the best parts of studying abroad.

    DSCF6020Most likely, they are in the same situation that you are, so they are your support system and understand what you are going through.  You will also have lifelong friends from all over the world once your semester/ year abroad is complete.

  10. Travelling pushes buttons you didn’t know you had.


    From my experiences abroad, I learned that I am such a pain when it comes to finding the hostel from the train station.  Anneka can vouch for this, since we have now travelled through 6 different countries together, and everytime, without fail, I would get fed up with the crappy directions that google gave us, and get really moody until we found the hostel.  Then everything would be fine.

  11. Wanderlust is an actual condition that you can never get rid of.

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    Ever since returning from Europe, all I can think about is when I will go back, and where I will go next trip, and which of my new international friends I will visit first.  Also since returning, I have been reading so many lists about travelling, and secretly agreeing with every point they make.  Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
    EX 1
    EX 2
    EX 3
    EX 4
    I have then proceeded to look at maps like THIS and think, “Wow… I need to see more places and travel more within the United States.”

  12. Your travel companions will be your new lifelong friends.

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    Maybe this is because you bond over the same travel experiences, or maybe because you are all the other person has, but you definitely become very close friends and will always have a travel buddy, even once you return home.  Luckily for me, my travel buddy goes to the same Uni as me! (Talking about you Anneka!)

  13. Pack lightly when backpacking.

    The only way not to kill your back while travelling is to pack light.  The only way to do this is to wear the same outfit for multiple days.  No one will notice if you change your scarf or jacket for the pictures!  Other travelers will understand, and this is completely acceptable in my book!

  14. Keep a souvenir from each city you visit.

    Choose one method and stick with it.  For me, I have collected postcards from every city that I have visited, and now I can look back through them and remember all of the places I have seen and things I have experienced.

  15. Studying abroad is less about the studying and more about the experience in a foreign country.

    DSCF5441Much to the dismay of my professors, I spent more time travelling and exploring new places than I did actually studying for the classes I took.  All of my classes abroad were fairly easy, and the teachers were not as strict as the ones at my home university.  I think that they understood that we were international students and just wanted to get a side of education with our travels.

  16. A phone is really not that important.

    After living a full 5 months without a phone was a nice break from the electronic device being surgically attached to every other American at home.  It is why I agree with videos like THIS and THIS and believe that there is a world that exists beyond the 4-inch screen, 12 inches from our face.

  17. Culture shock does exist.

    I did experience some culture shock; however, mine was not when I arrived in Germany.  I had reverse culture shock when I got back to the States.  The only problem I encountered upon arrival in Germany was jet lag, and getting used to the time difference.  The biggest culture shock, which I had to overcome, was the workload at my home Uni.  The courses are so much more rigorous here than they were in Germany.  I struggled to manage my time and focus on how much work I actually had to do to pass my classes at home!  It has taken some time to get used to the workload again, but I think by next semester, I will be fully acclimated again.  There was also the shock of having to drive everywhere, when I was so used to taking the tram and train everywhere.  This shock I got over pretty quickly, though.

  18. In theory, a blog is a great way to document your adventures abroad, but in reality, I let mine fall by the wayside.

    When I first left the country, I blogged almost every week to try to keep my website updated.  Slowly my blogs began to be spaced further and further apart, until I started to fully neglect my blog around late June.  It was at this point that I just posted my pictures on Facebook, and neither posted pics, nor updated entries.  I failed to share about my experiences about Berlin, Rome, Benelux, and my ordeal with my return flight home.  Although I shared these stories with family and friends by word of mouth, these memories never made it to page.
    Long stories short: You need at least a week to experience all of Berlin.  Warm and sunny Rome was a nice change from rainy Germany and the Colosseum IS as great as they say it is.  Benelux was such a whirlwind trip that I would like to go back and spend more time in each city.  Luxembourg had an extensive system of Casemates that holds a lot of history for such a small country.  Belgium has great beer, chocolate, and fries.  The Netherlands have great cheese (Gouda!) and lots of tulip fields (although I did not get to experience these tulip fields, it is on my bucket list and I will definitely go back when they are in season!)  The Kölner Dom is huge, and the Rheinturm in Düsseldorf has amazing views at night.  You can see for miles from up there! (Although I was only up in the tower at night, I think you can see the Kölner Dom from there during the day!!)  My return flight was cancelled, and I was booked on another flight, compensated for a night in a hotel, upgraded to economy plus, then upgraded to Business class at the terminal.  (I would now recommend Lufthansa to anyone who asks! Such a pleasant flight, once everything was sorted out with United…)

  19. Trust your gut.

    This was the first time that I travelled internationally by myself, and it is a completely different creature than travelling within the United States.  You have to have faith in yourself that you can accomplish anything!  When my United return flight was cancelled, I was rescheduled on Lufthansa and upgraded to Economy plus.  When I got to the airport the next morning, security was more of a hassle than usual – Once through normal security, I was “randomly” pulled aside to do a full body scan, where they had to swab the screens of all of my electronic devices, and then I had to power all of them on (I was flying about 1 month after THIS new law was added).  Once getting through that hassle, of course my gate was at the VERY end of the terminal, and it was a 10 minute walk there, with the rolling walkways.  Once at the terminal, I proceeded to stand in the line for the people at the desk without thinking about it.  By the time I reached the front of the line thoughts of getting out of line versus staying in line had all run through my brain.  Of course I decided to stay in line, just verify that I was booked on this flight, since my previous flight was cancelled.  It was here, that the woman upgraded me to Business class, at no extra charge!  I was one happy camper once on the plane!  We got to board first, and then they served us drinks while Economy class was still boarding!  The 3-course meal was served on REAL plates and we had a choice for each course.  They also served us complimentary wine, if that was what we chose to drink.  I was smiling from ear to ear the entire flight, and there was nothing that could stop me!  Once we landed at Dulles, we deplaned faster than economy, which meant that the customs line was substantially shorter and I got my luggage and got through customs faster than my parents could get to the airport from work!  I ended up waiting on them! (That never happens with international flights!)  Was all of this just luck? Or was it because of a gut feeling?  Even if your gut tells you to stand in a line for no reason whatsoever, trust that feeling… It may get you a $2,200 upgrade at no cost to you!

  20. Have no regrets.

    DSCF8092
    This one is a little hard for me, because I had one major regret at the end of my semester abroad.  In the middle of the semester, a group of friends decided to go on a road trip to Croatia.  It was a long weekend, and I had a paper due when classes started back up on Tuesday.  I stayed behind in Erfurt to write my paper.  I regret not going to Croatia with them.  From their stories and photos, they had a phenomenal time and I wish that I had gone too.  Instead of staying behind to translate one stupid paper, I wish that I had asked for an extension and went to Croatia with them.  For most people, even getting the chance to study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience.  Take advantage of every opportunity that you get.  Don’t let any pass you by.

  21. Never stop travelling.

    As I write this, I am saddened by the fact that I am no longer in Europe for all of the festive holiday traditions, including Oktoberfest and Weihnachtsmarkt.  I yearn for the day that I can return to Germany for the holiday season and experience the real thing.  I made so many great memories that will last a lifetime and many good friends, with whom I hope to stay in contact for years to come.  The world is such an incredible place and I just want to see it all!  I have grown and matured so much throughout my travels, and the more I travel, the more I hope to grow and thrive on this breathtaking planet we call Earth.  In the wise words of Saint Augustine, “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  Never lose that wanderlust.

 

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people.  Let your memory be your travel bag.”  – Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

Grateful.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

It is truly a beautiful thing to be able to be in your twenties and to travel.

You’re only obligated to yourself, you’re living out your passions and creating new ones… the world is at your feet and you’re going to learn new things about yourself in the most unsuspecting ways.

It is absolutely beautiful what I am being exposed to here… so much culture, so many people from different walks of life and mindsets. So many endless possibilities if I open myself up to them!

I’m very grateful that I can live this out while being productive in terms of my future career goals at the same time.

Life is Good!

Life is Good!

 

 


So much to do, so much to see!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I would like to publicly apologize for how long it has been since my last post… These past few weeks have been incredibly busy with schoolwork, travel, and sightseeing! I simply have not had enough time to sit down and write a post!

Anyway, where do I begin? How about where I left off…

The weekend of May 23 – 25, Anneka and I traveled to Innsbruck, Austria and Neuschwanstein! That’s right folks, we went to another country!! AUSTRIA! We left after our Friday class, around 13:30, and arrived in Innsbruck around 20:00. We had to change trains a few times, but we got there!

Off to Austria.. OOH!

Off to Austria.. OOH!

First impression of Innsbruck: smelly. Smell was not what I was expecting, arriving in a city that I had heard so many good things about! Anneka and I first had to find the hostel before we did anything else. After about a 45 minute walk and 2.3 miles, we finally found it. At this point, it’s almost 22:00, and we’re both starving. We found a cute little Italian restaurant and decided to eat there – a glass of wine and half of a pizza.. you can’t go wrong with that, can you?

Fancy dinner with Anneka

Fancy dinner with Anneka

We woke up early, so we would have all day to explore the city. The sight of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking!! I kept taking pictures of the same mountains because it was just so majestic! Once we left the hostel, we headed toward the city center, and we first encountered the Zeughaus museum, but we decided not to tour it, and we said we would rather spend our time seeing the sights of the city, than inside a museum. So we ventured onward. Next we had a look inside of the Jesuit church, and then out to look around town!

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VonTrapp escape route.. (For you, Dad!!)

VonTrapp escape route.. (For you, Dad!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wandered into the Bundesgarten/ Hofgarten behind the Landestheater, and discovered a knarly tree, great for pictures, and a jumbo chess set! The chess pieces were in a covered shelter-type area. Since the floor was wood, there were no markings for a board, so we set up the pieces and just imagined the squares. Although our board was a little larger than it should have been — our was 8×11, instead of 8×8, woops! We actually almost played a full game! I was about one move away from checkmate when two men asked if they could use the pieces to play a game. Since there were two sets of pieces, we said yes, but then they started taking the pieces we were playing with! It was only then that we realized that the boards were just outside of the shelter, around a group of benches… It was time to move on anyway, so we just called it a checkmate and went on our merry way.

 

Giant chess!

Giant chess!

It was a gorgeous day! The clouds just seemed to float through the sky and the light breeze was quite refreshing! We decided to take a break from exploring and sat down in a cafe and had a cappuccino and cake! I ordered an Apfelkuchen and Anneka got a Sachertorte. We split both of them, and the Sachertorte was delicious! It was my first time eating one, so I was surprised at how much I liked it. For those of you that know me, you know that I don’t really like chocolate cake, or chocolate flavored things. (I’d much rather just have a bar of chocolate than a chocolate cupcake or chocolate ice cream.)

Afternoon snack - Cappuccino mit Apfelkuchen und Sachertorte.. YUM!

Afternoon snack – Cappuccino mit Apfelkuchen und Sachertorte.. YUM!

After visiting the Grassmayr Bell Company, we wanted to visit the Ambras castle, but on our walk there, we realized that it was too far away and we were too ambitious to try to make it all that way and back to town before our train left. However, along the way we did run into the Olympic Ice Stadium and Tivoli Stadium! The Olympic Ice Stadium was home to the 1964 and ’76 Winter Olympics, and although we didn’t go inside, it was cool to snap a picture of the Olympic rings!

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After a day of walking all over Innsbruck, it was time to head back to the train station to catch our train to our next destination: Füssen! Füssen is the village that is closest to Schloss Neuschwanstein. We arrived in the village around 23:30, so we didn’t really have any time to see the town before heading to the hostel. The next morning, we were up and out pretty early. Since it was a Sunday, not much was open. On top of that, it was about 07:30, so it was still too early for the places that would be open. Anneka and I eventually found a little cafe that was open, and grabbed a pastry and coffee for breakfast. After that, it was off the the castle! It was about 09:30 when we arrived, and we still had to buy tickets, then make the hike up the mountain to actually get to the castle.

Our tour was at 10:25, but only about 30 minutes long. Since King Ludwig II died before completion, construction ended abruptly, and the castle remains only 1/3 completed. I would’ve loved to have seen the unfinished parts of the castle and it also would have been interesting to see what the castle would have looked like if it was 100% completed. Neuschwanstein is already huge, but if it was three times that size, it would be gigantic! Sadly, you can’t take pictures inside the castle, but the view from up there was incredible! Although it was a little hazy, you could see for miles! (Or should I say kilometers?) After our tour, we made another hike, up even further, to the Marienbrücke, or Mary’s Bridge, which is from where most pictures of the castle are taken. Once we hiked back down to the bus pick-up point, we rode back to Füssen just in time to catch our train and start our long journey home. I would like to go back to Füssen and explore the village itself, because there is also a castle there (Hohes Schloss), along with a few other sites that I wish we had time to see. We also did not have enough time to visit Hohenschwangau, the home of King Ludwig I, A.K.A. the parent’s castle.

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For more information on Innsbruck, click here.

For more information on Füssen, click here.

For more information on Neuschwanstein, click here.

 

The following Thursday, 29 May, was a holiday and we didn’t have classes, so Anneka and I spent the afternoon in Saalfeld, visiting Feengrotten, which literally translates to “Fairy Grottoes.” Feengrotten is a cave attraction in southeastern Thüringen, so we were able to get there for free with our student IDs. It was a dreary day and it had rained all morning and continued to rain the entire time we were there. Even though we were underground in the caves, it was still cold and damp, so it wasn’t the best experience that i could’ve had, but I’m still glad that I went! There were great photos though! However, I do have to say that it was not my favorite cave system.. That would still be Mammoth Cave in Kentucky!

29 May was a holiday in Germany, so it was like another Sunday – almost all stores were closed and the only places open were bars, pubs, and some cafes. What holiday could this possibly be, you ask?  It would be Männertag, or in English, Men’s Day. It’s the German version of Father’s Day, but it is celebrated VERY differently. Here, it’s a day where men venture out and the women and children tend to stay inside. The men enjoy a day full of drinking and bar hopping. Some even pull wagons full of beer with them! Originally, the men would actually go hiking and camping on Männertag, but I think nowadays, most men just go out drinking. On our way home, Anneka and I did see some men with camping gear on the train, and we applauded them for actually camping on such a cold and dreary Thursday!

For more information on Feengrotten, click here.

On 31 May, I decided to explore a part of Erfurt that I hadn’t seen yet. Jill and I rode the tram to the old town, got off, and got lost in the streets, findings new places and discovering new things. It was such a lovely afternoon and the weather was just perfect! After exploring a part of the city, Jill and I met a few other friends in Nordpark to grill and we had a picnic!

9 June was also a holiday, and since it was a long weekend, a group of exchange students decided to take a road trip to Croatia! I really wanted to go, but sadly, I had a 10 page take-home translation that was due in a few days, so I opted to stay behind. Another group of exchange students decided to dress up and go out to eat, and so we have dubbed this as “Fancy Friday.” On 6 June those of us that stayed in Erfurt dressed up in fancy clothes, took lots of nice pictures, and then went out for burgers. That was probably a sight to see: fancy people chowing down on a big ol’ burger… The next day, Anneka, Katie and I spent the afternoon at a spa. It was such a relaxing day! Sunday and Monday, however, I spent all day working on my translation. I had to translate into German, so it required a lot of effort and time. Sunday and Monday were incredibly hot! It was at least 32 degrees here! (That’s roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have no AC… yuck!) When I went to class the following Tuesday, a handful of the class wanted to turn it in late, and the instructor was completely fine with that! If I had known this before the others left for Croatia, I definitely would have joined them. Not going to Croatia is the one thing that I regret thus far..

The weekend of 13 – 15 June was Krämerbrückenfest in Erfurt. The closest comparison that I could think of was a Medieval version of a Renaissance Fair. It was all there: the dress, the festival food, the vendors, the masses of people, everything! I have never seen that many people in Erfurt before. I actually did not enjoy the masses either. After Krämerbrückenfest, it just reinforced the idea that I made the right choice in choosing to study in Erfurt! :)

For more information on Krämerbrückenfest, click here.

Saturday, 14 June, I visited the Thüringer Zoopark right here in Erfurt! It was raining on and off throughout the day, but it was quite an experience for Erik, Anni, Alena, and me! Within the first five minutes of being inside the park, Erik was pooped on by a bird! Being from Finland, Anni had never seen a giraffe, elephant, or rhino before, so when we approached their exhibits, Anni became really excited and couldn’t hold back the smiles! There was also a nature trail in the park, and Ali and Erik ran ahead further down the trail, while Anni and I studied the map, since we didn’t have a lot of time until the park closed. When we started to catch up to them, Erik and Ali jumped out from behind a bush and scared Anni so much that she actually threw her phone a good 3 feet in front of her! (Or should I say 1 meter in front of her…) I was right behind Anni, opening a bottle of water, and if it had been a few seconds later, Anni would have had water all over the back of her hair… The major difference between zoos in the USA and Zoopark is that you could actually walk through some of the enclosures where the animals were! There was no glass or fence between you and the animals! We walked through the enclosures of White-tailed deer (in the North American section of the zoo…), Kangaroos, Monkeys, and Lemurs. There was also a ‘petting zoo’ section with Billy Goats, some of which were very photogenic. The elephants’ enclosure was very small for such large creatures, but the zoo is in the midst of building a new, much larger exhibit for them! We stayed at the zoo until it closed, but we did manage to see everything there! Later that night, we met a larger group of exchange students to watch the fireworks that were happening over St. Petersberg. What a display! Since July 4th is not celebrated in Europe, I’ve had my fill of fireworks to make up for the ones I will miss in the States. :)

Sunday, 15 June, David and I used our student IDs to travel to another Thüringen town: Gera. We only spent about 2-3 hours there. It was a very small town, and it definitely needs some TLC. The architecture around the city was quite interesting – one building would be renovated and taken care of, and the neighboring building would be falling apart, with paint peeling, fading colors, and other signs of decay. It is very apparent that the city has not fully recovered from WWII. Nevertheless, it was still a decent way to spend a Sunday, avoiding doing homework..

Following this post, there will be photos from all of these places posted! Go take a look!

An Apology

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Dear readers,

Yes, I know that I am about 3-4 weeks behind on posting another entry, but I have been extremely busy with classes and assignments that I simply have not had time to blog. I promise you that another post is in the works! I have started it, but still need to finish it…

I am travelling again this weekend, so you will have to wait a few more days to read about my adventures! They say a picture is worth a thousand words.. How much is 200 pictures worth?? :)

Thank you for reading!

–Nora

Farewell America, Hello Europe!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Kate and I are off!

Watch out Europe we are coming for you! 8 countries and 3 weeks lay ahead of us of new adventures and experiences. For those of you who do not know our travel plan it is…

Dublin>London>Brussels>Amsterdam>Luxembourg>

Paris>Interlocken>Nice>Barcelona

My favorite part about it is, in all of these large cities we have a list of cultural activities and sights to see but when you scroll the itinerary we created to Brussels it literally just says “chocolate and waffles”.

Obviously I started off the day on a good path when on the way to the airport I called it a post office. Dad said he was going to stick a stamp on me and hope for the best.

 

Kate And I!

Kate And I!

Just wanted to give a shoutout to the parental units and say thanks for everything! Both Kate and I are so excited!

Daddio and I (insert mother here ^)

Daddio and I (insert mother here ^)

Kate and her momma bear

Kate and her momma bear

We were a little worried boarding onto our little hop over flight to Charlotte because the announcer started declaring all of the cabins full and Kate was trying not to check her bag. We got lucky that we happened to find a space (after I shoved some unknowing persons stuff far to a side) and didn’t have to worry about it. Now we are currently sitting in the Charlotte Airport waiting the arrival of our plane. Kate and “Little Osprey” (her backpack) are sitting across from me while i’m just praying on “Cookie” (my suitcase) meeting me in Dublin…

See ya in Dublin!

-KK


Almost Here!

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Hey everyone!

Just wanted to get the ball rolling on the blog and say it’s almost time to leave! Soon I will be heading back over the pond but now with one of my best friends Kate. We are just backpacking around the continent for about 3 weeks and I couldn’t be more excited.

Waiting on Wednesday!

-KK


Würzburg

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

This post is LONG overdue, but better late than never, right? A few weekends ago, a group of 9 of us took a day trip to Würzburg. It was 17 May, to be exact. Since the town was in Bayern, we bought a few Schönes Wochenende Tickets and headed south! The ticket allows you to travel on all regional trains throughout Germany, and up to 5 people can ride on one ticket. With 5 people, it only costs about 9 Euro per person!

It was about  2.5 hour ride there, so we left around 9:30 and arrived in Würzburg around noon. Anni read (just on Wikipedia) that the oldest pizzeria in Germany was in Würzburg, so we thought that would be a cool place for lunch.  However, once we got off the train, most of the group just started towards the city with no plan of where we were going or where this pizza place was. After a minor debate, and directions on an smart phone, we were on our way to pizza. Of course things did not go according to plan… We stumbled upon the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Palace, so of course we had to stop for pictures! There were beautiful gardens on the grounds surrounding the palace as well. We asked someone to take a group picture of us in front of the palace, but like all Germans do, they literally just took a picture of us, with no palace in the background…

Exhibit A:

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After a stroll through the gardens (I felt like I was in “Gnomeo & Juliet” with all of the trimmed and shaped hedges.), we made our way to Kiliansdom and had a look around the cathedral. Anneka mentioned that she thought it was very modern for a church – the entire inside was white!

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At this point, we had already wandered around part of town, seen a few sights, but we still had not found the pizzeria, and it was already after 14:00! We were all hungry, and instead of trying to find this place, we agreed to split up, find food on our own, and meet afterwards to continue our adventures through the city. Anneka and I came across a farmers’ market happening on Marktplatz (their version of Erfurt’s Domplatz), so we found a small stand and had Currywurst for lunch, yum! Anneka had mentioned to me earlier, that she loves seeing/ visiting all of the different churches and there was another church located on Marktplatz (Marienkapelle), so we were going to have a look inside, except a wedding had just come out of the church, and we didn’t feel like we should explore.

Anneka and I were a few minutes early to the meeting place and time, so I left my stuff (including my camera) with Anneka, while I ran to the bathroom. It wasn’t until I returned to Erfurt Saturday evening that I found the lovely pictures Anneka took with my camera. Here’s a few for your enjoyment: :)

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It’s 15:00, and time to meet up with the others. Since we were in the city centre, we were surrounded by churches and when the clock struck 15:00, you knew..

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Next we headed towards Festung Marienberg, which was a huge fortress overlooking the entire city! As we crossed the Alte Mainbrücke, there were a ton of people on the bridge, but none of us knew what was going on. I finally got close enough to the rail to see that there were a bunch of plastic ducks in the river! Erfurt also had an event similar to this; People decorate plastic ducks, and then they are all placed in the water, and the first duck to cross the finish line wins. I don’t really know all of the logistics behind the event, but that’s the gist of it.

It was a major hike to get to the fortress on top of the hill. (On the way down, Jill and I counted and we think there was about 250+ steps to the top.) Halfway up, we found a bench, but only the Europeans stopped to rest, while the Americans continued upward. So much for the lazy American stereotype!!

Ewa, Alena, Anni, & Minna (Poland, Slovakia, Finland and Finland) take a break ;)

Ewa, Alena, Anni, & Minna (Poland, Slovakia, Finland and Finland) take a break ;)

Earlier in the day, I had wished for an overlook of the city, and I think I got my wish from atop the fortress. The view was spectacular! Pictures do not do it justice!

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After a long but exciting day in Würzburg, it was time to catch the train home. I had an amazing time in Würzburg and would definitely go back another time and see the rest of the city that I didn’t see during this trip.

Erik all tuckered out on the train home.

Erik all tuckered out on the train home.

 

Fun Story!!

Anneka and I witnessed a full wedding while in Würzburg! In the morning, the bride rode past the palace in a old fashioned convertable. After lunch we saw the couple just after the kiss, once they exited the church. And then we saw the party guests going to the reception at the fortress, followed by the wedding party driving by, once we had descended the fortress!! We joked that we pretty much attended the wedding, the bride and groom just didn’t realize it. :)

More pictures from Würzburg can be found here.

 

Goodbyes

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

I am still catching up on Italy and Greece posts, but as today I fly back home to Virginia (with only a small delay) I wanted to jump ahead and give you my thoughts on the end of my time in Ireland, and mostly about the friends I have made here.
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Last Week in Cork

I will readily admit I spent the last week in Cork in deep denial (although does it really count as denial if I realize it is denial?). Even as I shed tears over more goodbyes than I wanted to ever say, and made last stops at all my favorite haunts, went to the UCC campus for the last time…I was determined to plow ahead. Avoid thinking of now and focusing on everything good that I was coming home to. That more than anything has helped me keep it together this last week. All the things I missed from home; from Reese’s cups to my boyfriend to regularly washing all my clothes (and for free).

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I have focused on all the positives of going home and tried my best to ignore what I will miss most about Cork.

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I have said goodbye to all my favorite spots. Had last meals, last drinks, last shopping excursions at all the most memorable parts of the city center. I have stocked up on Butler’s hot chocolate, eaten more O’Flynn’s sausages than I care to admit to, wandered through Topshop and the English Market. Eaten my last Gino’s extra cheese and pepperoni pizza and scoop of gelato while reading a book. Had a last drink at the Washington Inn. Had my last homemade pot of spiked hot chocolate with friends. My last trip to Penny’s. My last time on the UCC campus, to print my plane tickets.

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I love my friends back home, and I have missed them. These friends from high school, college, and even elementary school who I am so glad to be coming home to finally see after five months. But my college career has been filled with friends fluttering in and out of my life within a semester or two. Now I have made some of the best friends of my life, and the pattern is continued.

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Already we have been flung across the world without any set date of a reunion. Real life will take hold of us, and Skype dates and letters will be the best we can do after five months of constantly being in one another’s presence, traveling together, practically living together. These women had knit themselves into my life faster than I could have imagined, and I can only think myself better for each of their unique influences.

I have learned to be spontaneous, a hard lesson for me and one I needed. I have pushed my boundaries and done things I could not have pictured myself doing a few months ago. This experience has been a time of growth and personal reflection that could not have been nearly as rewarding without these friends.

Soo-li Amy and I

We plan to visit, anywhere in the world we can manage, and as often as we can. We have talked into the wee hours of the night about our lives, and our plans to travel together in the future. We have supported one another through more than you might think in such a short time together. We have said again and again how lucky we were to meet on that first day. How lucky I am to have met these ladies, to have experienced so much life with them.

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It is difficult to relate these feelings, particularly in blog format. Particularly because I have done all I can to deny that I must say goodbye to these amazing people, to this city that has adopted me. I have done my best to look forward to this summer, to being in Virginia, to being back at UMW. I have not put enough thought into the fact that this chapter is ending and I cannot stop its closure. But I seem to be unable to properly express how happy I am to have gone on this adventure, and with such perfect friends along for the ride. I have appreciated all of these friends I have made here, and find myself better for knowing you all.

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The Eighteenth Week Part 2 Florence

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

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Florence was much less stressful that Venice, the train was fairly easy to figure out and I got a cab to my hostel. The hostel was in a perfect location. It was on the same street as the museum where Michelangelo’s David is housed, and I could see the Duomo from the lobby window, so I could walk everywhere. Everywhere I wanted to go into the lines were horrible so I spent most of my two days in Florence walking around and seeing as much as I could of the outside of buildings and people watching at the many plazas.

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Michelangelo’s David
I opted to get reservations to see this, as I didn’t want to waste half the day in line. There’s not much else in that museum, except for several unfinished statues by Michelangelo which were interesting. David is huge, much bigger than I had imagined the statue to be. It made me feel very small, not just because of this hulking marble statue but the enormous skill that took to create it.

By some stroke of luck, I managed to run into the only people I 9sort of not really0 knew in Florence at the museum. These two really lovely women, also from America, helped me find my train platform when I was in Venice trying to get to Florence. I saw one of them next to me at the museum but couldn’t place her, but she remembered me. Traveling alone, even for a short time, makes seeing anyone you might have the briefest connection with particularly enjoyable simply because it’s someone to talk to. I’ve noticed it’s only when traveling alone I meet people in hostels, and it’s usually other solo travelers looking for someone to chat with about the sights you explored that day.

IMG_1483 This obviously is not a picture of David, but it is a statue of Hercules who is a personal favorite myth of mine that I wanted to include

Duomo
I did not go inside the church, but it was my landmark for the days I spent in Florence as you can see it from just about everywhere. I got the most delicious gelato at this little shop right out front three different times. It would just keep hitting me, as I sat on the steps of the Duomo eating chocolate gelato and reading Pride and Prejudice that I was in Florence amongst all this fabulous art and history.

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On my last night, after I got yet another gelato at the Duomo, they were having some sort of charity race. They were playing music and warming up and they left right in front of the church.

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Ponte Vecchio
I’m going to be honest, I have no idea why this bridge is so famous but I can only imagine what an incredible view those rickety (and I’m sure multimillion euro) apartments have. All the shops lining the bridge were expensive jewelry stores for some reason, maybe that’s what connects to the history of the bridge? But most importantly the river was beautiful and peaceful despite the horrible driving and constantly honking horns.

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Piazza Michelangelo
My best friend, who did her study abroad in Florence, recommended this spot to me. It gives the best view of the city and is most definitely worth the walk up the hill.

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