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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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

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.

 

Just some pictures of me with Squirrels…

 A week ago I ventured out to Lazienki Park for the first time. The park is known for the ‘Palace on the water’ which is essentially a beautiful palace which looks like it is floating on water. Anyway the high light of the day for me was seeing squirrels for the first time! So cute, and so brave these little rodents were everywhere and keen to interact if you pretended to have food! Warsaw is beautiful in spring!

Poznan!

So this past weekend I traveled to the city of Poznan with my host family. This trip was different to previous trips as instead of staying in hostels I was actually seeing the city from a ‘family’ point of view. I was doing things that people who know the city do more so than a tourist. I stayed with my host family at their Grandparent’s house. The ‘house’ was actually a tiny, communist-style flat with two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and kitchen. It would probably fit into my living room at home! Simply staying here was a great experience as it showed me another way of life for Polish people. I spent the majority of the weekend hanging out with my host sisters as it was also my last weekend with this host family (I change families this coming Sunday but am in Gdansk for the weekend). We hung out at the park, went to get ice cream, and strolled through the forest. It was all very relaxing and enjoyable.
I did, of course, still manage to get a tourist’s view of the city and visited the Stary Ryneck (Old Town) on Saturday, which was also the first day of spring. The Old Town was gorgeous, there were these ‘Fish Sellers Houses’ which were basically colourful houses but they were super cute. As it was the first day of spring there was some kind of market and celebration so the Old Town was bustling with people doing all sorts of things, it was also a relatively small Old Town compared to others I have seen. I also went to the Poznan Military Museum which was really interesting. Unfortunately the majority was in Polish so I understood very little, and I wasn’t going to force Melanie (my host sister) to translate everything. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the bottom level which was a replica of the trenches during the war (I suspect WWII). We went through the museum twice! The best thing was it is free on Saturdays! I definitely recommend.

I can’t comment on the nightlife as I didn’t experience it, but by all accounts it has one of the best nightlife’s in Poland! I will update this if I return (which I plan on doing). Next on the agenda is Gdansk, Paris, and Amsterdam! Stay tuned lovelies Xx
Panorama of the area I stayed in Poznan!