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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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

Relaxing in the Polish Mountains

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.
SLOVAKIA

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! 

I’m in love with Paris

 

French Salad- yummmm
Yep, I know its cliché but I am honestly in love with Paris. A week ago I was lucky enough to be able to visit Paris, not only this but also visit my dad in Paris which also meant I didn’t have to stay in a room with 12 other people but rather got my own room and sofa bed in his apartment! I had heard mixed opinions of Paris, some people such as my mum and dad, love Paris, where as others thought it over priced and dirty. I am definitely one of those who love it. I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in central Paris, and together with my dad I saw many of the sights of Paris both tourist and makeshift-Parisian (my dad has been to Paris every year for about 25 years and hence knows his way around pretty well!). I arrived on Thursday afternoon not sure what to expect and feeling a bit unlucky after having some problems with check in and flights, but after about 5 minutes of walking through the streets I felt relaxed and at home! I was also lucky enough to have lovely weather (~20 degrees) all weekend, which undoubtedly made both the city more beautiful and myself able to appreciate it more.

 

Stainglass windows at Sainte- Chapelle
It’s safe to say that I made to most of the opportunity we left the house by 9am and returned after 10pm every day. We walked so much that my feet hurt for the week afterwards, and we saw so many different sights that neither of us can remember everything we did. We visited the Sainte-Chapelle and Conciergerie (which my ISIC card got me into for free). The stainglass windows in the Sainte-Chapelle were incredible, I did not expect them to be of such as scale and beauty nor have I ever seen anything quite like it before. The Conciergerie, an old prison where Marie Antoinette was held for two months before her execution, was also very interesting from a historical point of view.
Dad and I at the top of the Eiffel Tower!
We visited the Notre Dame and I found it was quite amazing how quiet it was, even with about 200 tourists wondering around. The Arch De Triumphe was incredible, and I was able to observe one of the scariest roundabouts in Paris (there are no lines and you give way to people coming onto it….). The Catacombs, not entirely sure how to describe them aside from completely unexpected and completely worth it.  Musee d’Orsay and L’Orangerie, the former was worth it just to see inside the building, a converted train station, and the latter houses Monet’s Waterlillies which are just stunning! I could have spent all day staring at them if it weren’t for all the annoying tourists! Of course we also did the Eiffel Tower, one of the highlights of the trip was climbing all 669 steps to the second floor before taking the lift to the top! The view was incredible, and my dad was able to point out places all over the city. We saw the Madeline, Opera, and walked down Champs Elysees (and shopped…), ate at cute French cafés and simply wandered through the streets and parks of Paris.

 

Notre Dame from a bridge
The highlight of the entire trip has got to be my last night in Paris when dad took me to some restaurant that overlooked the Eiffel tower. We ate dinner and drank French wine while watching how the Eiffel tower changed at sunset before heading over to join the tourists at 10pm for the hourly light show! I had such a wonderful time, and it was definitely the best weekend I have had so far!  It is safe to say that I will be back, and hopefully before the end of this trip.

 

Teaching in Poland!

What my 4’s know about Australia!

So considering it has been almost 2 months since I arrived in Poland I think it is fair time for me to actually write about what I have been doing: teaching! I think I have written a bit about my school adventures so far (locking students in classrooms etc) but I haven’t really written much about what I do. The school I am at is a Private Catholic School for Girls (it accepted its first class of boys this year), and is called the Cecylia Plater- Zyberk Schools, but students and teachers simply call it ‘Platerki’. The school itself is housed in an old building which has an extensive history, I’m told it was used as a hospital during the war! It is also very centrally located about a 20 minute walk to Centrum (central train station).

A gift from a student

The kids start school when they are 6 years old, until possibly this year they started at 7 years old. I teach mainly the younger children aged 6 to about 14 (I think). In the younger classes (0, 1, 2, 3) I tend to take on more of an assistive role, simply acting as a native speaker or extra set of hands. These kids are full of energy and often learning is the least of their priorities compared to running around like crazy! I really admire the teachers who take these classes as they are so patient and organised. The kids are really cute though and it is common for at least on of them to run up to me in the hallways and give me a big hug. Whenever I walk into the room I am greeted with a loud ‘Hello’, or ‘Good morning/afternoon’ which always brings a smile to my face.

Front of the school!

Jonathan (partner volunteer) and I have more recently begun to run classes with the older students (4, 5, 6). We are often called in to sub different classes when the English teachers are sick or on school trips. I have had to quickly get used to preparing lessons at a moment’s notice and learning how to adapt ideas to different classes. It has happened that I have come to school prepared for one class and found out that I would be teaching an entirely different one! Games are often a good option as the students work so hard that they appreciate a bit of fun! Hot seat, hangman, and 2 truths and 1 lie are all super popular.

So far the students seem to like me which is a huge plus! Just the other day I got given a bookmark by one of my 4’s saying ‘You are Hero’ accompanied by a floating cape, legs, and head. Not sure what happened to my body but it’s cute all the same! On student’s name days or birthdays they bring in sweets and always rush to give me one. Little things like this really make my day. So that’s an over view of my teaching life!

4 weeks of Polish adventures….

It has been 4 weeks since I arrived in Poland (it will have been a month on Wednesday!), and in this time I have done, seen, and learnt a lot more about Poland than I knew in the first place. So here is a list of not very abbreviated dot points about my adventures and misadventures over the past few weeks. Mainly focusing on learning Polish culture and teaching.

  1. I know that I have mentioned it before, but getting used todrinking bottled water rather than tap water has been a massive change to home. Furthermore, trying to explain to waiters that I would like still, cold water seems to always result in a problem.
  2. Having dinner at lunch and lunch at dinner. So in Poland the biggest meal of the day, called dinner, is eaten when us Aussies would generally eat our lunch. Consequently, they have a small meal called ‘super’ when we would usually eat our dinner. I am particularly fond on the Polish tradition of have soup first and then the main meal. I tend to have lunch at school so have been able to try a number of different Polish meals (while not really knowing what I am eating).
  3. The shopping centres are open until like 10pmevery night! This is awesome, just because I don’t have to feel rushed to get all my shopping done before 5 (not that I have actually been doing that much shopping but the thought still stands).
  4. People don’t stop at pedestrian crossings. It’s basically a massive game of chicken. Taxis are the worst. I feel like I may die every time I go near a road.
  5. The Poles are very self-conscious about their English and only the very confident will talk in English. With this said, the majority of Polish people can at least understand English. So don’t go slagging off at someone in English thinking they can’t understand you, it is more than likely that they can and that you will get your butt kicked.
  6. Alcohol is very cheap and very accessible. You rarely get asked for ID when going in to clubs, or when buying alcohol. Furthermore, there shopping centres have so much alcohol for sale, in some supermarkets I swear that there is more alcohol than other goods!
  7. Fat Thursday. A day when stuffing your face with Ponczki (Polish doughnuts) is a cultural experience. Need I say more?
Ponczki
 
 
School adventures so far:
1.      accidentally locked a student inside a classroom the other day. The entire class laughed hysterically, I will admit that while it was embarrassing it was much more hilarious.
2.      Walking into the wrong classrooms
3.      Some of the native English speaking students love nothing more than to have an English conversation. I had a great conversation with a 7 year old about her pet leprechaun and the general existence of faeries. Of course this was in between completing English tasks….
4.      Students are so excited to have us there, they always smile and say ‘Hello’. The younger students also love to give hugs.
5.      The students speak amazing English, they are super shy about it and many of the older students don’t say a word because they are scared that they will make a mistake.
6.      One of the scariest things is when one of the English teachers asks me about English grammar. Then I become shy because I don’t want to make a mistake because that would be just awkward…
7.      One of the cutest things is when I give a lesson on Australia and talk about ‘Gang Gangs’, ‘Bungendore’, and “Coolamon”. They think they are the most ridiculous words and laugh every time I say them.
8.      I have had to say “Hi my name is Sammy and I’m an 18 year old from Australia….” So many times that I sometimes I sound like a robot or simply forget facts about myself and stand there looking like an idiot.
 

 

Anyway, that’s a brief overview of my Polish experience this first month. Some of the points I have talked about before, but they are pretty important parts of my current life. Hope life is treating all you wonderful people back home well!

Two weeks in Poland

Cześć! Blog post number two coming from the faraway land called Poland! I have been in Poland for almost two weeks now, but it feels like so much longer. This week was my first week with my host family. Well I actually spent this week with both of my host families as my first host family was away until the 2nd so I stayed at my second hosts house for a couple of days. Both families are absolutely lovely, and are friends with each other which make life somewhat easier. I also started teaching at the school on Monday. The school is over a hundred years old and its history is extensive. Interestingly it was a hospital on the frontline during WW2. The only downside is that there are about 4 levels all of which require the use of 2 flights of stairs to access… Looks like I won’t be needing a gym membership!
The ‘Bubble Mall’ is the nickname given to ‘Zloty Tarasy’, which is essentially the central mall in Warsaw. Typical mall, but has become a point of reference for quite a few Warsaw-based volunteers.
So far my explorations of Warsaw have been limited but I have finally seen the Old Town! The Old town is essentially a depiction of what Warsaw looked like before it Warsaw was destroyed in WW2. It is very interesting and more what I would have expected Warsaw to look like before I arrived! Warsaw itself is easy to get around and I am slowly getting used to the public transport system. It so strange for me coming from country Australia where I had to drive everywhere and now being able to just jump on a tram, train, bus or even simply walk to where I need to go.

Key facts from this week!
1.      In Poland they don’t drink tap water. Instead they buy water from the supermarket. This is quite strange to get used to, especially considering there isn’t anything wrong with the water.
2.      English music plays in shops and malls. It feels as though you could be at home. Furthermore, pretty much everyone speaks some level of English.
3.      I bought ice cream/gelato for 5 zloty! Like that is a single coin and costs about $2AUD. Everything is going to seem so expensive when I get home.
4.      Booked to go to Krakow next this coming weekend, accommodation is costing roughly $30AUD. With free breakfast and karaoke!
5.      Transport via the ‘Polskibus’ is really convenient and you have free WIFI on the bus. The train takes half the time but free WiFi…..

6.      I am with a mobile provider called ‘Plus’ and they send me so many messages each day just promoting their services. Which would be more handy if they were in English….