Rome.. You are my favourite!

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
the photograph?
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!
Yummm Pizza
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
#touristobligations
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!

 

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Birthdays in Berlin!

Berlin Cathedral, a very spectacular sight!
Berlin is not a city I really thought I would visit whilst in Poland but I am certainly glad that I did. The real motivation behind this trip was to celebrate the 18th birthday of one of the girls who is on this trip. It was made even more convenient in that we could catch an overnight Polskibus there and back (though we opted for the day bus back) which only took 9ish hours. I never thought I’d say that a 9 hour bus trip wasn’t that bad but I guess you get used to these things while travelling! Five of us headed up on the Wednesday night, we were lucky enough to get the Thursday off work, meaning we had a good three days to explore the city. We stayed in the Heart of Gold Hostel in the mega dorm (42 beds split over two rooms). It was a pretty good hostel, only downsides were you had to pay for breakfast (4 euro, which wasn’t so bad considering I also made sandwiches for lunch and dinner) and the WiFi was very sketchy. It was very well located about 5 minutes from the museum island and very close to the U-bahn and S-bahn lines.

Enjoying the bus tour!
We spent our first day exploring Museum Island as it was so close (and it was highly likely we would start to crash come about 3pm). We visited a two museums about ancient history. I found that the buildings themselves were simply worth the visit, they had some amazing architecture and the flaking wall paper inside (even though I’m sure some of this was deliberate) reminded me of how much I do love old buildings. I believe I have more pictures of wallpaper than I do of the exhibits! This same day we also checked out a market where we bought lunch. The market had all sorts of goods and gave us an affordable food option (4 euro, can’t go wrong there!).
With the ‘Gueards’ at Checkpoint Charlie
The next day we did a bus tour of the city. We opted for the bus tour as Berlin is so spread out and such a tour allowed us to get on and off as we pleased. We got off to see the Berlin Wall monument and found out a bit of information regarding Nazi and Communist Berlin. This was quite eye-opening as I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about this. We then walked up to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ which was the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin. We stood in line like proper tourists and got our pictures taken with the ‘guards’. We then headed to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum which was one of my favourite things we did in Berlin. The museum cost 9.50 Euro (for a student) and was well worth every penny. It detailed the events that occurred over the time that the wall was present and described the lives of important people and different ways people attempted to escape. This type of information was never covered in my year 9 humanities lessons (probably because it didn’t affect Australian’s) so I spend a long time reading different peoples stories. The extremes that people went to in order to cross the border (hiding under car engines, building hot air balloons etc.) really highlighted how hard life was in East Berlin.
East Side Gallery!
Of course, we also visited the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall which has been covered in murals by a number of different artists. We spent the day strolling along the wall admiring each section and taking way too many photographs and selfies. It was a beautiful day and we were able to view some of the most famous pieces including the painting of the two leaders kissing (not sure what its name is). Some of the pieces had strong messages (often of freedom and peace) whereas others were harder to decipher. This was my second favourite part of the trip!
We also hit up the ‘Matrix’ club which was described to us as a tourist trap but we went anyway. It was a pretty fun place but was well worked by the pickpockets. So just a warning to be careful with your valuables as we had two phones taken from peoples bags. You know the drill wear your bag in front of you and avoid bags with a top zip! If your stuff does get taken report it to the police so that you can claim it back on insurance. We did have an awesome night though, the music was awesome! The good thing about it being a tourist trap is that there is an abundance of other English speaking people!

Well that’s Berlin in a very small nutshell and to all my beautiful friends who are planning on travelling, add this to your list! 

Krakow Take Two!

To keep my travels up I decided to go back to Krakow, the first place out of Warsaw which I visited at the beginning of this trip, for the weekend that just past. It was quite a last minute decision but definitely a good one. I stayed in a hostel call Mosquito Hostel and for those of you who know me, yes I was absolutely a bit nervous about whether there’d be any mosquitoes… I didn’t particularly fancy swelling up like a pineapple! Thankfully there were none and the hostel was actually incredible. The rooms were great, beds were comfy, the lockers were big enough to fit a suitcase (my 35L backpack fit in very easily), the free breakfast was delicious, and the overall atmosphere of the hostel is best described as relaxed party. You could get involved if you wanted but at the same time you could have an early night and not be too disturbed! I participated in the hostels organised event on the Saturday night (free polish vodka tasting) and went out to a couple of places with them as well. It was a great night and I met some awesome people!
‘The Last Super’ carved in salt in the cathedral. Not surprisingly
the miners were very religious so there are a lot of carvings
that have a religious background. We were repeatedly told that
the artists behind these works were just ‘talented miners not
artists’. Pretty incredible!

I visited the Wieliczka Salt mine and did the English ‘Tourist Route’ tour. For 64zloty (student discount, thank you ISIC card!) it was most certainly worth it. The tour went for 1hour 45minutes and the whole time we spent in the mine was about 3hours. The tour took us through 3 of the 9 floors (I think) and gave us an extensive history of the mines as well as taught us some folklore about the creation of the salt mines etc. We climbed down about 420 steps and the whole way we were walking in salt corridors on salt floors. They even had some multimedia presentations to add interest (though I only found the last one any good!). The sheer scale of the mines as well as the amount of salt that is still there was mind blowing. There were all these salt statues and pictures that had been created by the miners (not trained artists). They were fairly incredible! There were also heaps of gnomes around because apparently they came out at night and finished off the miners work/ protected the miners! Definitely worth a visit!

Some street art by ‘Blue’ and an unknown artist that we saw
whilst on the Jewish Quarter Tour

On the second day I did the free Jewish Quarter Tour. Basically it took us over to the Jewish area and told us about the history of the Jews in Krakow. We visited the outsides of a couple of Synagogues, including the oldest one in Krakow, and our guide gave us an extensive history of each. We also heard stories about individual people and events that happened there. One such story was that after a new Synagogue was built some teenage boys wanted to rob it and the community found out about this plan so worked on a way to protect the synagogue. The synagogue was next to a grave yard and it was thought that it was from this direction that the boys would try enter so all the women and girls dressed up in white dresses and walked around the graveyard all night! Sure enough the boys were scarred out of their minds and ran away! The tour was really good and I would definitely recommend it!

As usual Krakow is a beautiful city full of history and atmosphere! Loved pretty much every minute of it (minus the cold and rain). That’s all from me! Off to Berlin tonight so will post some photographs on this post next week. Enjoy yours week/end!

*So turns out my photographs from this trip are actually pretty ordinary so hopefully the above two will keep you satisfied otherwise google should help!*

A weekend in Prague

Lennon Wall
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.
Astronomical Clock
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! 
Yellow Fields!
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

Norway!

The New Architecture of Oslo. They look a bit like Lego
 houses from a distance. This view is from the Opera
House, but there is also a great view arriving
from the airport!
So I can’t think of a catchy title of this so let’s just get straight to the point and say I went to Oslo, Norway! Wow, I never thought I would actually go to Norway because, well, who goes to Norway? It was actually a rather spontaneous decision when a friend (another gapper) messaged me asking if I was interested, and I, being the slightly travel obsessed person that I have become, said ‘hell yes!’ While not the most popular tourist destination, we chose to visit Oslo (the capital) because well that’s where the cheap flights would take us, and quite frankly we knew nothing about it. We stayed at an awesome little hostel ‘Anker Hostel’ which was pretty central, clean, modern, good Wi-Fi (somewhat sketchy in the rooms but hey you are in a hostel it’s not going to kill you to head to the common room!), super friendly staff, and a good atmosphere. We played quite possibly the weirdest game of UNO with the staff on our first night!
Being cool at the Royal Palace!

It’s important to note that Norway is the world’s most expensive place, even more so if you are a volunteer/student traveller who has been living in Poland for three months, but luckily there was heaps of free things to see/do, as well as the handy Oslo Pass, to keep us occupied for two days. I would definitely suggest getting an ISIC card (if you are eligible) before going as it enabled me to get discounts on pretty much everything (especially relevant if you are flying budget on Ryanair and get to Rygge airport as you will need to catch public transport to Oslo and the ISIC card gets you a good discount on the Rygge Ekspressen bus!). It also got me a notable 20% discount for the Oslo Pass (this discount is only available from the Information Centre).
OPERA HOUSE! While I don’t look particularly
impressed, I absolutely loved this place. When this
picture was taken I was soaking wet from the rain!
We decided to do one day walking around Oslo and another touring some of the museums that we got free entrance to with the Oslo Pass. We hit up the Oslo Cathedral on our first day, and being so centrally located it would be a mistake to miss it! While not nearly as impressive as places I visited in Paris, it certainly had a unique charm and some beautiful paintings that covered the roof. The great thing about Oslo is that everything is well and truly within walking distance, so day one involved a bit of walking. We accidently found ourselves at the Opera House, a result of my horrible map reading skills, which was quite possibly my favourite sight. Very reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, the building was white and very architecturally interesting, it was also much more ‘user-friendly’ meaning that you could pretty much walk all over it! The first time we were there it was raining but I thought that the grey clouds added a dramatic flair but it was also very impressive against blue skies.
Because we had too…
We did a free tour of the Norwegian Parliament building, which was absolutely incredible. The guide was very engaging and knowledgeable, I not only learnt a lot about the Parliament but also about Norwegian history and people! It was here that we were also finally given the answers about these awesome pants, dubbed ‘the Norway pants’ by us, worn by all these young Norwegians. Apparently they are part of the Norwegian schoolies traditions, where they wear these pants and part for a month before their final exams. Not a bad system! We also checked out the Royal Palace where we watched the changing of the guard and had some fun with the Royal guards who I swear were younger then we were. Made one smile when we waved goodbye to him! We then hit up the Arkershus Fortress and Castle, and visited the Resistance Museum located within the fortress. I, for one, really enjoyed strolling around this area as it was very different to anything I had seen in Australia! That night we were lucky enough to meet some Norwegians who were staying at the hostel and showed us a karaoke bar/club that turned out to be very popular.
Vigeland/ Frogner Park
The next day, after certain people who had stayed up to watch the sun rise (not me) dragged them out of bed (which I was quite impressed by), we headed over to the museum area of Oslo which was on a peninsula type thing. We had activated our passes the previous day and caught but 30 from our hostel which took us straight to the front of the Kontiki Museum, a museum documenting the life of an explorer. We also checked out the Fram museum (basically the museum is a ship), the Maritime museum, Viking ship museum, and lastly the Norwegian Folk museum (a huge open air museum that documented changes in houses over the centuries). All of which were included in our Oslo Pass! We then went to Frogner, also called Vigeland, Park which is famous for being the world’s largest sculpture park made by one person. There certainly were heaps of sculptures, many of which were quite disturbing but very interesting all the same. Definitely check it out, preferably when you aren’t hungover and lacking in sleep, as it is huge!
Our flight home was eventful, first being delayed 20 minutes and then having to circle for another 20 minutes before landing due to heavy fog. We did eventually make it back to Warsaw where we stayed at the Warsaw Central Hostel, as it was 1:30am and trains back home stopped at 0020. The hostel was nice enough for the night, and it was close to my school which was a bonus! It’s safe to say teaching the next day was a bit difficult, and a few students inquired to why I looked a bit rough! All in all it was a pretty good weekend. Oh I forgot to mention, they gave out free Oreos on the street in Oslo!
Missing you all back home 🙂

Krakow

This weekend was our first weekend away from Warsaw since arriving. A few of the gap family went to Krakow for 3 days. We caught the Polskibus there- would really recommend this to anyone who planned on traveling in Poland, it is cheap, comfortable, and has WiFi that works intermittently. We stayed in a hostel called ‘Pink Panther’, it is about 2 minutes from the Market Square, has free WiFi, free continental breakfast, has good showers, and an overall nice atmosphere. As expected there was a mix of lovely and some not so nice people. But we did have a lot of fun!

Krakow itself is such a beautiful city! Unlike Warsaw, Krakow was relatively untouched by the war and as a result the central part, ‘Old Town’ , is actually old (unlike Warsaw’s which was rebuilt after the war). The city has a very romantic feel to it, i especially loved walking around on the walking tour, as well as simply making our way to the train/bus station/mall (essentially all were in the same building). Walking around the square on Tuesday night was also beautiful, however Krakow is very much a student, party city so there were some very shady characters. I wouldn’t walk around by myself at night but in groups it is fine.

The party scene picked up on Friday and Saturday night, needless to say we went out to some bars and clubs. We also went to Karaoke on Saturday night which was loads of fun. I would point out that Polish alcohol is much stronger that the stuff we have at home, so yeah…

We visited Auschwitz, very emotionally intense. Some of the exhibits were just so heartbreaking. I learnt so much more about the camp and how the prisoners where treated. Absolutely horrendous. I don’t know exactly how to explain the experience other than interesting and necessary. Definitely a must if you are in the area.

We also did a free walking tour at the recommendation of two of the guys in our dorm, so glad we listened to them! It took 2 hours and showed us all the key points in Krakow. Definitely keen to explore some more when if I go again. I also saw the ‘legendary’ Krakow dragon, yes it even breaths fire. I loved the architecture, history, and legends that are throughout the city.

Well here are some pictures 🙂