So I was so busy for the last few weeks of my time overseas that I was unable to actually write up any blog posts on the places I had visited! I’ll be posting about London, Ireland, Warsaw/Krakow (with mum), and Paris soon. I’ll also probably do some posts on things I’ve learned, a list of hostels I stayed in with reviews etc. at some point too.
*pictures to come as soon as my hard drive stops playing hard to get*
|View from the fortress in Dubrovnik|
At the beginning of this trip I said that I was not interest in doing any type of tour as I didn’t think I would a) enjoy it b) get the most out of which ever country I happened to do it in. Well that changed relatively quickly when I discovered that I had 10 extra days that I needed to travel for before getting to meet up with my beautiful mother in Dublin on the 16thJuly. I was also under the impression at the time that I would need to leave the Schengen zone as my national visa expired on the 10th July. Turns out this wasn’t entirely necessary as I only needed to leave Poland and get a stamp saying I left Poland. Though considering the difficulty I’d previously had getting stamps within the Schengen zone it was probably a good thing that I decided to leave it!
I had been interested in spending some time in Croatia for a while and looked into ways that I could travel there not on a tour. However, I soon realised that I would prefer be with people and I was sick of organising my own itinerary so decided to do an 8 day Contiki! And boy was it worth it! My Contiki started off in Split on the 4th July, however I chose to arrive 2 days earlier so that I could spend some time exploring by myself. Plus I finished placement on the 25th June and had nothing much left to do in Poland. I stayed in a cute little hostel called ‘Hostel Split Mediterranean House’ which was about a 5-10 minute walk from all the central attractions. It was more like a house than a hostel but I can’t fault it aside from being a little bit hard to find (with this said it’s in pretty much the perfect location: central and quiet). Kate and Elda, the two ladies running the place, where both very helpful and friendly.
|The contrast between mountains and beaches was spectacular.
Quite a few of us remarked that it looked like the view had
been Photoshopped together.
Tourism wise I spent some time wandering around the Split port and admiring the view as well as exploring the Diocletian’s Palace and swimming at the beach. The Palace is absolutely breathtaking, basically I just wandered around on my own taking which ever street I wanted to at the time. Some streets could fit a car whereas others barely fit me! It was also super interesting watching how the locals actually lived within this palace, it was a functioning part of their city- I even found myself in a fish market by accident!
|Some of the sail crew and I eating some really tasty Gelato
in Makaska in front of the surreal mountains.
The beach was about a 15 minute walk from the centre of town and was the perfect way to finish off the day. I was a bit shocked to begin with as the beach was pebbles and concrete, not sure how Europeans do it as my feet certainly did not like it! The water was, however, beautiful! It was clear and warm, with very little movement making it the perfect place to float and relax- you did have to walk out a fair way before it was deep enough but this meant you were out of the way of all the ball players and children splashing in the shallows! I was also introduced to my first ever ‘pizza sandwich’ which was essentially a rolled up pizza (well at this place anyway) and was absolutely delicious!
|The giant floating jumping castle which turned us all into
children again. It was so much fun and we definitely got
longer then the 30 minutes we had paid for!
My Contiki ran from 4 July to 11 July, and included 7 nights’ accommodation on the boat as well as some meals and extra activities. We docked in Pucascia, Makaska, Bol, Wild Bay, Hvar, Korcula, and Dubrovnik. Each city/town was different to the others. Pucascia was a quaint little place, seemingly untouched by tourism, and famous for its stone mansionary (the White House was build using stone from here). It was a beautiful place to spend our first night. There was a particularly cute little beach where we spent some time swimming. Makaska was a much larger, much more tourism orientated place and this was evident by the large amount of water sports and activities available. We spent some time climbing around on one of those floating jumping castle things which was a great group bonding experience, as well as a whole body work out!
|The beautiful clear, still, blue waters of Wild Bay,. The little
slice of paradise we got to experience during out overnight
moored at sea.
A few of us then went and tried our hand at jet skiing! Ahhh this was so much fun! I cannot believe I have never tried it before. Speeding through the water and jumping over waves was so much fun. I only almost capsized twice, but hey got to keep the adrenaline flowing somehow, right! They have a really fun club here called ‘Cave Bar’ which is essentially a bar in a cave. Good music, lots of people! Next was Bol, another town similar to Makaska. Nice bays, lots of opportunities for water sports. We then had our ‘special’ overnight stay at wild bay; a picturesque bay with clear, blue water. We spent a large proportion of the day just chilling on the boat and swimming around the bay. It was absolutely beautiful! I can vividly remember watching the sunset and wishing it to never end!
|After a long, hot wall up the mountain we finally got to see this
view of the famous town of Hvar.
Day 5 took us on to Hvar, the heart of the tourist world! It is very easy to imagine that the rich and famous would really feel at home here. Essentially it was a giant resort. Even though it was something like 38 degree we persevered and climbed up to a fortress which gave awesome views of the entire bay. Alex and I opted to go into the fortress museum thing and got to see the inside of the fortress, even the old dungeon! I think this was made especially worthwhile considering the dungeons were a) super awesome and creepy and b) the temperature was much cooler underground! Hvar had a great night life too, can’t remember that bars we went to but they were certainly good fun!
|Lets put it this way, stairs were not hard to come by but
certainly made you wish you had done some form of
exercise before visiting Croatia!
The following day our boat of hangovers arrived in Korcula, the town famous for being the birthplace of Marco Polo.It was a cute little town, and had so many lovely little streets that you could get lost in. We wandered around the bay eating gelato and looking at the many stores that bordered each street. I also climbed the bell tower with a few of the girls. The steps were so worn down and I quickly regretted my decision to wear thongs! But the views were spectacular, you could see the whole city, up the river/inlet thing, and out to sea all at once.
|View of the beautiful, walled city of Dubrovnik. Very hard to
forget this spectacular sight!
Then came our last stop of the sail: Dubrovnik. Here we did a walking tour around this beautiful walled city, and got to see and understand so much more about it compared to the other places we had been. The walls surrounding the city have really created this type of separation from the word and given a very unique feel to the city. The walking tour told us all sorts of information including why certain things were as they were. For instance in one place there was this staircase where, in the past, the creepy men would go to perve on women as when the women went up the stairs they lifted their dresses and the men could see their ankles. When this was discovered the council, or whoever, redid the handrails so to block the view of ankles! Finding out little things like this really brings life to a city.
|Kayaking around Dubrovnik was both rewarding and terrifying!|
Our Contiki also offered an optional kayaking tour which gave us the opportunity to see Dubrovnik from outside the walls. It started out as a beautiful day, a bit windy but nothing too rough, and it was quite a pleasant paddle out to the cave/swim spot. We were able to chill for a bit, have a swim, and if you were crazy enough you could jump off the rocks. The paddle back was slightly harder, and by slightly I mean very much. The wind had picked up significantly and the water was very rough. I was in a kayak by myself as our group had odd number, and I was proudly informed by our guide that the kayak I was in was nicknamed ‘the bathtub’ which made tackling the waves, which essentially required you to paddle up hill, quite challenging. I remember at one stage towards the end I looked too my left to see a wall of water coming for me and thinking ‘Oh sh*t’. It was all good fun!
After the Contiki finished I stayed in Dubrovnik for one more night. I stayed at Hostel Marker Dubrovnik which was good enough for one night. A few of the girls on my contiki had booked a private room in the same place which worked out well as we hung out together. We chose to visit the fortress on top of the hill. You take a cable care up there and get a fantastic view of the city, well worth the 100kuna or so that it cost. Croatia was an incredible place to visit, and the Contiki was perfect for giving me a taste of what the country has to offer. Definitely will be going back!
|GELATO!!! Basically what Ella and I lived off!|
Paris, you have quite possibly been replaced as my favourite city in Europe! For my last weekend on placement my friend and I visited the beautiful city of Rome. We were lucky enough to both score an extra day off leaving us with two full days and two half days to explore this beautiful city! This Rome trip was everything I have been craving for quite some time, a beautiful city, a central hostel, amazing food, lovely locals, and it was all relatively affordable (for the euro). We flew WizzAir in to Rome Ciampino airport, which was my first experience with WizzAir. I found that while the flights were okay and were on time, the seats were very uncomfortable and I did not have enough room (this was less of a problem for my friend who is average height!). It was, however, a cheap flight and got me to Rome! We stayed at Four Seasons Hostel which was about 10 minutes from Termini and an easy walk from all the sights we wanted to see! It was a nice hostel, and had comfy beds. There wasn’t really a common room which made it hard to meet other people but the hostel did participate in a pub crawl which seemed like fun (although we didn’t go on it). The only complaint I have is that the showers were always too hot! It seemed that you ran out of cold water in the evenings and the only time I could have a decent shower without getting burnt was in the morning. Overall it was a good place to sleep (so long as you didn’t have certain disrespectful people in your dorm like I did but that’s another story).
|One of the adorable streets we came across. Come on with a
Vesper in that prime position did you expect me not to take
On the Saturday we did a free walking tour which started at the Spanish Steps, and took us to many of the major sights, finished up at the Vatican City. The good thing about this tour was that we hadn’t really considered how many sights there were to see and had we explored on our own we probably would have missed a few. Furthermore, our guide was also full of interesting knowledge about all the places we visited. We saw the Pantheon, which is absolutely spectacular especially on the inside, we also saw many different obelisk’s, all of which had different stories to tell and were so intricately detailed. We saw Trajan’s Column, and saw a very real depiction of the ‘living city’ of Rome. Basically, the square with Trajan’s Column is full of buildings built from all different eras, it was so interesting to look at the changes architecturally. We saw heaps more than these few things but I can’t quite remember all the sights so all I’m going to say is do a walking tour!
When we eventually reached the Vatican State. Being the smart little cookies that we are, we had pre-booked tickets for the Vatican museum and had brought clothes to cover our shoulders and knees which meant that we skipped the long line and went straight in with no problems whatsoever. However, just a warning that there are heaps of ‘tour/information guides’ around who will try talk you into taking a tour around the museum rather than doing it yourself. For us, we didn’t need a guided tour and found it incredibly frustrating that we were continually stopped by these people. I would suggest taking the tour if you want in-depth information about the pieces and rooms, but if you aren’t as interested in this just do a self-guided tour!
After the Vatican museum we had heaps of time to explore the small, quaint streets of Rome. We had lunch at a classic tourist-trap restaurant, then strolled around to find a lovely little gelato shop. The gelato in Italy is incredible! It is the real deal, each flavour is actually genuine! I had some of the richest, mouthwatering chocolate gelato that I have ever tried and some of the best lemon gelato that just made everything seem so fresh and alive. I even found a lemon seed in one of them! It is safe to say that we spent the majority of our money on Italian food, especially gelato! We even found ourselves at a beautiful, little, traditional Italian Pizzeria, where no one spoke English and we ordered through hand gestures. By gosh the pizza was incredible, and absolutely nothing like any pizza I had ever eaten before! I can’t even properly explain it so all I’m going to say is if you are in Rome take a stroll out of the tourist area and find restaurants that aren’t designed for tourists! You won’t regret it! On our strolls we also found our way to a number of market squares and sights, such as the Trevi Fountain (which unfortunately is closed up).
|The classic ‘I was at the Colosseum’ photo
We also visited the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum in one epic day trip. Once again we pre-booked tickets but were dismayed to find that we didn’t get to skip the line as much this time. The system at the Colosseum is that first you line up to buy your ticket and then you join a different, longer line to enter the building. In the end we did save some time but if you are there off season or early morning I can’t imaging you’d really need to worry about pre-booking. I would recommend getting there early though as the entrance line may seem long but they probably haven’t reached their maximum capacity yet which means the line moves fairly quickly. We waited 30 minutes tops and it was well worth it! Once again we did a self-guided tour and enjoyed it immensely, however if I were to go again I would definitely do a guided tour just to get that little bit more information about what I was actually looking at. Regarding all three sights, it felt very surreal to be standing in a place where people had been hundreds of years ago, and thinking about all the different events that had occurred there over the years was mind blowing. We spent all day exploring and I had the sunburn to prove it!
So this has turned out to be very long and I apologise for that! However, Rome was an incredible experience and is such a beautiful city that no words can really capture. If your dream is to wander through quaint little streets and get a real dose of history, Rome is the place to go! I certainly can’t wait to one day further explore Italy!
|Couldn’t think of a better person to travel Rome with!
Thanks for make our last trip so much fun Ella!
Even though I have been in Poland for 4 months, it still amazes me that I can say that I am ‘popping over to insert country here for the weekend’. But here I am, doing just that. Last weekend I was lucky enough to visit Prague, Czech Republic. I travelled up on the overnight Polskibus (70zloty each way) on the Thursday night and came back on the Sunday morning. I must say that upon arriving in Prague at 5:30 in the morning I was a little apprehensive about my ability to find the hostel on my own but I somehow managed to find my way very quickly and arrived at Hostel One Home Prague at about 6am. The hostel was amazing, and the staff were fantastic. They let me check in straight away and the minute a bed was free I was able to put my stuff in my room (which turned out to be at about 8am). One of the best things about this hostel (facility wise) was that each bunk had a shelf and powerpoints meaning that even those on the top bunks (AKA me…) could charge their electronics and keep the essentials (such as water, a book, wallet etc) with them at night.
The first day we went out for a wander and checked out the sights. We wandered through the streets of the market square and saw the Astronomical Clock. The clock was actually very beautiful, especially in the evening. On our first night there we sat around the clock along with a whole lot of other tourists and just had a nice catch up. Grace almost scored a puppy, but that’s another story. The evenings were so warm and relaxed. I know I talk about the ‘atmosphere’ or ‘feel’ of a city a lot but it is something I really notice when I go somewhere new. Warsaw has a very busy lifestyle so going to places like Prague where people seem more capable of taking time to relax is always lovely. It was also a great place to catch up with the girls! We also strolled across the Charles Bridge and admired the sculptures (not sure if that’s the best way to describe it) and checked out some of the street stalls! We then wandered to the Lennon Wall and admired the street art. I’m really excited to check out the Berlin street art after seeing this wall, quite spectacular! We wandered over another bridge to get a different view of the Charles Bridge with the Prague Castle in the background, definitely worth doing as it offers another perspective of the bridge! We also checked out the Dancing House, which is a building modelled of two people swing dancing. Was actually quite fascinating to look at and kind of made me question whether I was actually seeing it correctly or getting a migraine! We otherwise wondered around the streets and wandered in and out of the stores.
|Prague Castle Cathedral|
The next day we spent the whole day exploring the Prague Castle (along with every other tourist in the bloody city!). The castle is pretty spectacular and the cathedral seemed to me like something out of a storybook (small town Australian talking here). We got there just in time to see the changing of the guards or something like that. While everyone was busy watching it we climbed to the top of the South tower of the cathedral. It was less steps than the Eiffel Tower but it felt a lot harder and seemed to take much longer! With this said the view from the top was well worth the climb! It also meant that we could actually watch the guards from above and by the time we climbed down the queue to buy tickets was out the door!
The city is truly a beautiful place (though my favourite place is still Paris!) and I am definitely adding it to my list of places to revisit some day! The entire weekend cost me less than $180AUD, accommodation, food, and transport included! The bus was roughly 11 hours each way but we travelled through some beautiful areas. My favourite were the yellow fields which reminded me so much of home, except everything was green rather than brown… But it was still all so beautiful! Next week’s big adventure is Krakow and then off to Berlin the following weekend! Time is flying by! It’s scary, yet reassuring, to know that i will be home in 2 months time! But before then I still have many places to see so stay posted! Missing you all (if I know you that is…)
|View of the city from the South Tower|
|The cabin we stayed in.|
So this past weekend (last weekend not this current one) I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the mountains with my host family! We stayed in their friend’s cabin in apparently one of the wildest areas of Poland. The house it’s self was lovely with basic amenities (no electricity, wood fire to heat water etc.) but this added to the charm. While at first I was a tad apprehensive about no electricity, it was actually a very relaxing way to live, plus gave me a well needed detox from technology! The house was the furthest out in our area and was an hour’s walk away from the Slovakian boarder. I hear this walk is very beautiful but the day we chose was very foggy so I saw very little scenery but I still made it to the border!
|The first Graveyard we visited|
The mountains themselves were so different to the mountains I’m used to seeing in Australia. There were some many different shades of green that I was almost convinced I was looking at a painting. I is quite frankly one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and I hear that in the autumn it becomes even more so. Most of my days I spent relaxing in the house or on the veranda reading a book or sketching whatever came to mind. My host family took me on two walks up the mountains to visit some WWI graveyards. The first one was on the top of a really steep mountain that made me wish I had kept up my fitness regime. It was well worth it though! The graveyard had these huge memorial towers surrounded by a circle of graves. The second graveyard was just up the mountain next to our cabin and reminded me a bit of the graveyards I had visited in Japan. Both were very peaceful and had an air of respect to them.
Trip to Slovakia:
Due to the close proximity to Slovakia my host family were kind enough to take me there on a day trip! We visited two towns (which I should probably ask about their names but I’m too busy eating Milka chocolate to move) which were quite different to places I have seen in Poland. In the first town we checked out the Old Town square which was reminiscent of Polish Old Towns but still had a charm of its own. The weather that day was beautiful and the Old Town was almost empty giving it a very relaxing feel. We even got ice-cream and didn’t freeze to death with it! I got to visit an old church (which cost money to get into…) which had alters dating back to the 1400, possibly even older as I didn’t look at all of them. We then took a stroll around the area, visited a couple more churches, and enjoyed the sunshine before moving onto town #2.
|A building in the second town we visited|
Town #2 was much more of a tourist place as it was home to some mineral springs with water that was meant to be really healthy for you. People were wondering around everywhere with bottles which they intended on filling up from the two different springs. Each spring had different water, one smelt like rotten egg and the other was salty in taste. Not exactly what I would carry around in my water bottle but it was very popular! This was quite a beautiful town, the whole area we walked through was basically a mixture of a park and town. It had obvious hints of communism with some huge buildings which had been purpose build for communist government officials. There were also buildings from before the communist era (a type of palace I think) which were quite stunning. The drive through the mountains, and over the border, was also amazing.
At the end of the 6 days I didn’t want to return to Warsaw. There is something about the isolation and ruggedness of these mountains that just made me want to stay there forever. I have found myself on multiple occasions wishing that I was back there! This trip was by far one of the best things I have done in Poland.
Left: I found this area quite beautiful!