Friday, 18 September 2009

Final chapter

I've been home a couple days now and realised I need to finish my blog so here goes.

Berlin was fab, I did the free tour of East Berlin and it was amazing! We saw loads of Pre WWII sights as well as Nazi related buildings, artefacts from the Cold War and memorials, excellent! I would have tipped the guy more than a fiver but I really couldn't afford too. He was brilliant, told loads of interesting stories, including the most dramatic account of the fall of the Berlin Wall and completely made the city come alive with history, I would definitely recommend it! I also went to the East Side Gallery which is the largest remaining section of the wall, it is covered in art which is currently being repainted to celebrate 20 years since the fall. The art was fantastic! I also went into the Reicstag, to view the city from the famous glass dome which was really beautiful, despite queueing for an age in the cold.

The next day I wondered around the city a bit more to see some other sites and have a stroll through the beautiful Tiergarten. That afternoon I was meant to catch the direct train to Copenhagen. I was half an hour early so patiently waited on the platform for the train. Some how the train came and went without me even realising. How this happened I'm not sure but it was definitely the most retarded thing that happened to me. I managed to find an alternative route where i had to catch 4 train, I arrived in Copenhagen at 2am, fun! Berlin was amazing though, I love the city and really want to go back. There aren't many buildings standing that were built pre WWII but those that are, are covered in bullet and shell holes, graffiti and all sorts, it really make the history come alive and make you realise how recent the war was. Berlin is still a beautiful place despite suffering so much trauma in the last 100 years!

Copenhagen was ace, apart from the terrible bedroom I had! The city was beautiful and serene with plenty to see and do. There were bikes everywhere and I was convinced I would be run over (fortunately not)! I walked around for hours, went to see the Little Mermaid (not great), the harbours, Tivioli (the hugely popular theme park where I went on the rides on my own, sad!) and other sights which I can barely even remember now. I ate the most amazing mussels of my live and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. The next morning I took a trip to Kristiania which is a free community in the heart of the city. Everyone was on drugs, most stoned, and the atmosphere was so chilled out you could have fallen asleep at the various bars. Everyone lives together and work alongside each other to keep this community going and too not become a refuge for the junkies. There are frequent raids from the Danish police but generally the place is really peaceful. You aren't allowed to take photos which is a shame because there is a lot of beautiful graffiti art and nature as its pretty much a park wit a few buildings.

I found some amazing vintage shops in the city, the selection of clothes and accessories was amazing, unlike the prices!! The high cost is a running theme throughout North Europe, Copenhagen wasn't the worse place for rip off prices but it was still bad. Despite that the city was an amazing place.

That afternoon I caught the ferry to Oslo. On board I watched Harry Potter 6 and slept! Not the most exciting part of the trip!

I arrived in Oslo the next day with no clue where to go! Eventually found the hostel, dumped my stuff and proceeded to explore as i was only in the city for 24 hours. Oslo was very pretty but with little to actually see. Everything was expensive and the free museums weren't amazing. I saw some cool Viking artefacts but the museum with the impressive boats was too far away.

My next port of call was Stockholm which was much more interesting. First of all the city is massive therefore there is a lot more to see. I went to the palace and saw the crown jewels, royal apartments and the museum. I went to the view point, the harbour, wondered around the old town for hours, I went to the comic shop which was full of FREAKS! I have nothing against comics, I read them myself but the people here were a new bred of weird!! I was mesmerized by the half marathon that afternoon and ended up watching against the road side for at least an hour, the people were amazing and I found myself a bit emotional by the whole experience. One of my room mates at the hostel had actually ran it so it was fun talking to him that evening about the whole experience! I want to run the London Marathon one day so my first step is going to be to dig out some trainers and start running.

My final journey was to get another overnight ferry to Helsinki, where I proceeded to sleep for 12 hours. Helsinki was amazing! I wandered around the markets, took a boat trip around the islands, went Christmas shopping and more. By the end of my trip I had seen so many churches, cathedrals, parliaments, city halls I couldn't really be arsed with doing that in Finland so I just walked and explored without a tour book. I chatted for ages with the people at the Hostel and generally had a great time in the vibrant city. I went to an Irish bar and had a stupidly priced cider and tried to buy reindeer meet but 50 quid was too much for a tin!!

After 2 nights in this fab city it was time to get my plane home! A guy from the hostel was also travelling to London and was on the same flight as me, excellent, so it was fab to have company on the otherwise boring 3 hour journey. Mummy met me at Gatwick and after seeing her I realised the trip was at an end!

I had a bloody amazing time and so glad I went, even on my own. It did get a bit lonely at times but I still had the best 5 weeks ever and can't get over how many places I've been and how much I've seen, A LOT! It was nice to come home, I was completely exhausted and in desperate need to vitamins plus I missed everyone a bit by this stage but I'm determined to do more travelling now, but with some friends!

Now that this journey has ended the next is about to begin. In a week and a half I start my masters at Surrey Uni and I'm mega excited! I don't think I'll update this blog until my next adventure but who knows you can never be too sure! So until next time, go see Europe everyone cos its great!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Eastern Europe. Done

It's been a while but I've been so busy I haven't been able to sit down on a computer for more than a few minutes. I'm in Berlin now after an exhausting ride on the over night train and instead of looking around the city today I've slept instead!

Last time I wrote I was nearly finished my time in Zagreb where I would be leaving for Budapest. I am probably the only person to say this but I really didn't like Budapest, the city was vast and full of trashy building and dirty roads. My hostel was pleasant but in the morning, without fail, the builders / protesters / commuters would wake me up with their screaming and drills. The sight seeing didn't go to well either,  after walking for an age I stumbled across Buda (old town) and found the castle, the cathedral and some lovely little cobbled streets lined with candy box coloured houses. OK so far you may think, until I got horrifically lost trying to find the river again to cross back into Pest (new town). Bear in mind the Danube is massive but i still managed to spend 2 hours tracking it down. Eventually made it across, found some more churches and the biggest Synagogue. A couple were getting married at one place which was extremely romantic, except for the horrid tacky car that waited for them outside. I tired to find my way back to the hostel but didn't know where to go so just hopped on the metro instead. I spent the evening hanging out with the hostel folk which was extremely enjoyable.

I would go back to Budapest in the future with some friends in hope for a better experience but i think the big city style put me off as I've been used to smaller locations.

Next stop was Bratislava. I already had some doubts before i even got there and the grey concrete box of a train station and graffiti didn't do much for my opinions: Went out the first evening with my rooms mates (a bunch of friendly English boys and 2 extremely obnoxious welsh girls) to a local club which was pretty awful except for the cheap drink. It was a Sunday night so the place was dead but i was taught to appreciate minimal music so it wasn't all that bad. A friend of the boys (the most obnoxious, ignorant arse of a man I've ever met) was extremely drunk and started to sing racist songs, take his clothes of and be an all around idiot and then wanted to know why he didn't have a girlfriend... shocking!!! Went sight seeing the next day and my impressions of the city quickly changed. The city centre was tiny but extremely pretty with its little colourful streets and eye catching buildings: I walked around the castle, saw the changing of the guard at the government building and wandered about the markets.

The following day I was back on a train but this time to Vienna. The journey was only an hour long and the two cities are the closest capitals to each other in Europe and possibly the world. Vienna was AMAZING!! Big but so much to see, it really is a city of art and music. I went to the butterfly house which was beautiful if not a little scary when these massive insects were flying directly at your head. I walked around the old palace, the opera house and into the museum quarter which is where i spent all afternoon. I went to the Leopold Museum which had a nice collection of art including the biggest collection by Egon Schiele which was really interesting. Then there was KUNSTHALLE which was full of modern art, some of it I liked (the photography portraits) but some of it was really strange (videos or utter randomness). The last gallery was MUMOK which was full of contemporary art, again some was interesting whilst other pieces were completely bewildering! My favourite place was the Haus de Musik which was a museum dedicated to the art and science of music. There were loads of interactive sections where you could create music and then there were the sections about the great composers and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, I could have listened to the music all night!

The hostel I stayed at was super, it had it's own bar and was so much fun. The first night there i had two cocktails and due to a recent lack of alcohol consumption i felt slightly inebriated. The second evening was time for an early night due to catching an early train in the morning to Krakow.

After a long bookless journey (I'd finished Breaking Dawn several days ago) I arrived into Krakow which is beautiful. The people in my cabin on the train started drinking beer at 9am and began shots at midday, I politely declined when they offered me a vodka!! Except for the extremely unfriendly Polish locals this city was a joy to stay in. The hostel was great, we had a BBQ in the beer garden and the basement has been converted into a brilliant bar and pool room.

The following morning I went to Auschwitz which as you can imagine was rather horrific! The place wasn't as bleak as I had imagined as a lot of the building are red brick but despite that it was still ghastly. The day I went also happened to be cold, damp and grey so the atmosphere was even worse. There were literally rooms full of human hair and personal belongings. The tour was great, in terms of depth of information but I can't say I wasn't glad to leave. I don't think it ever properly sunk in that over 1 millions people died there (90% Jewish) and a lot of the really terrible parts i.e. the 'shower' rooms and incinerators had been destroyed when the Nazis tried to burn the evidence of what was going on there but despite that it was still utterly disgusting!

Back in Krakow I walked around the castle (another one I hear you say) which was really pretty and other parts of the old town and down to the river. That evening I caught the night train to Berlin. The night train was a first for me and I was terrified of being robbed as I've heard so many stories. It was fine except I didn't sleep well due to the freezing, noisy carriage and the obvious discomfort of the bed! I shared the cabin with a group of friendly people which is more than I can say about the neighbours who sounded like they were having a riot because so many noises were coming through the walls.

We arrived in Berlin this morning (3 hours late) where I will be based for 2 more says before heading to North Europe. I'm planning on doing one the the famous Berlin free tours tomorrow and going to the Jewish museum. I've only got 10 days left before I return home and I'm glad to be in a more civilized part of Europe

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Ljubljana and Zagreb

I'm in Zagreb after a long day of sight seeing and will be heading to Budapest tomorrow so this is what I've been up to in the mean time.

The train ride to Slovenia was lovely, really picturesque so despite the duration it was really nice to stare out the window! We actually stopped in Austria on route which I didn't even realise until yesterday!

Ljubljana is an absolutely lovely, a really gorgeous, small city. There weren't too many sites except the castle, plenty of art deco buildings (fab!) and museums and galleries which I didn't even bother to go in to. The castle was on the top of a hill and looked over the city, perfect for seeing how Ljubljana is situated in between massive mountains! The architecture was stunning, I loved the style of the buildings and the little bridges were perfect. I did a little bit of shopping and got some awesome harems and a ring, had some yummy ice cream and the biggest burger I've ever seen (Mexican flavour)! Because the city is so small it's extremely enjoyable to walk around without the ability to get (too) lost. The hostel was lovely and the cool temperatures meant I finally got some decent sleep.

The following day I got the train to Zagreb with Emma from the hostel, it was only a short journey but still was nice to have company. For the FIRST time on my adventure I got stamps in my passport. One when we left Slovenia and then when we entered Croatia, very exciting! Went to the hostel for a chilled out evening and listened to a Croatian girl sing and play guitar on the terrace, lovely! I'm supposed to be in a mixed room but I'm the only girl, the snoring is NOT nice! Hung out with a local girl and my room mates and had a really nice evening.

Today I must have walked the whole length and breath of the city. From the top of the hill (old town) to the train station at the other end past the new town! My first impressions of Zagreb weren't great because there was a lot of graffiti everywhere but once I ventured into the centre I suddenly found (to my surprise) much older buildings and less anti social behaviour! The old town was gorgeous. Full of old winding cobbled streets lined with colourful little buildings and churches aplenty. My favourite smell of this trip is probably the inside of a church, they all smell different but there is always a musky incense aroma! I bought a gorgeous necklace and found the international book shop to buy the final twilight instalment, woopie!

In the afternoon I dandered into the new town to have a look at the theatre, fountains, statues and other places a tourist would find interesting! I saw so much today I can barely remember. The city was full of lots of little green parks which were really relaxing to walk around. The flowers were in bloom and the various bars were perfect for a sit down and a drink!

Zagreb is pretty cheap in places but it's a pain not being able to use the Euro. I don't think I would bother to come back but I would like to explore more of the country, the coast and south is meant to be beautiful!

My hostel is next to a chocolate factory and the smell is intoxicating! I bought a bar from the shop and it tastes incredible.

I've got a really long train journey to Budapest tomorrow but fortunately have a new book for company. Tried to learn some local words but was laughed at so don't think i'll bother in Hungry!

Ciao xx

Monday, 24 August 2009

Venice W.O.W

I've just arrived in Ljubljana so I thought I'd let you all know how Venice was.


All the canals made the city seem so romantic and fairy tale like, I absolutely loved it! I went to St Mark's which is definitely my favourite cathedral, it's so Gothic and spooky inside, I loved it! I took the water bus up and down the Grand Canal several times taking in all the scenery and surrounding sights. It was mad arriving in the city because it felt like the train was floating on the water. After a lot of walking about and getting the general feel of the place I went to the Lido AKA THE BEACH!! The sea was gorgeous but I forgot my swimming stuff so couldn't go in :-( but I did enjoy lounging on the sand! Wondered about some more and probably crossed a millions bridges and I DIDN'T get lost which everyone normally does.

The following day I went to Verona to see the Romeo and Juliet sights which was so lovely. I was only there for a few hours so I only saw Juliet's balcony, her tomb and the amphitheatre (third largest in the world). As you walk into Juliet's house there is an arc covered in love graffiti, so romantic, so i wrote a little message (cheesy i hear you say) I also bought the play and wondered around enjoying the delightful little city. Juliet's house had a fantastic little art display by Quinn (I think) it was painting and sculptures of flowers, so vibrant and colourful, I really enjoyed it!

The hostel I stayed at was fab, awesome people, a fab location and breakfast and dinner included! The only bad side was when I was woken up by one of my room mates being sick on the floor, lovely!!

There were so many pigeons in the city, it reminded me of the guy who gave me some random bird food in Milan so they would fly up to my hands, horrid! He took my photo and then had the nerve to ask for 5 Euro, i gave him 20 cent!! I had so much fun the last few days I can barely remember what happened so there isn't much more i can write. Venice was incredible and I really want to go back again. It was bloody expensive but worth it... maybe! I would have like to do a gondola ride but they are super pricey so maybe next time.

I'm sad to leave Italy and all the nuns (there have been so many!) but I think I've eaten enough pizza and gelati to last a long time so bring on Eastern Europe. I've finished Eclipse so I desperately need to find a book shop to buy the final instalment, until then I'm reading Romeo and Juliet. I also bought the most ridiculous sailor hat in Venice, it's ab fab!

Ciao for now people

Friday, 21 August 2009

When in Rome

Tonight I'm leaving Rome for Venice even though the last two days have been fantastic! Rome is massive compared to any place I've been on my trip yet which in turn means much MUCH more to see! The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine where incredible especially when you consider they've been around for more than 2000 years, It really is like stepping back in time to another world almost! I particularly enjoyed the forum which is where Roman civilisation' first developed all those years ago. The place is obviously in ruins but the peaceful atmosphere and magnificent architecture allows you to walk around for hours forgetting you are in the middle of a busy city. I took a visit to the Vatican to see St Peters Basilica and the Museum! The Cathedral was beautiful and the museum was extremely impressive, probably the biggest one if been too, i walked around for HOURS! The museum finished with the Sistine chapel which was beautiful!

Today I climbed the Spanish Steps, threw some money in the Fountain de Trevi (which is where La Dolce Vita is filmed, great film) and saw the Pantheon amongst some other churches and ancient buildings! The fountain was lovely but due to the extreme temperatures in Rome I almost jumped in (which IS NOT allowed)! My trainers completely fell apart today from so much walking, so i had to buy a new pair which was a bit lame!

There have been some lovely people at the hostel (which was not so lovely), I have come across quite a lot of Canadians and Scandinavians and everyone is so friendly! I've finished Twilight and New Moon but fortunately there was an international bookshop at the train station so I was able to buy Eclipse, woop!

I think I've seen enough churches to satisfy the Pope for a life time and I'm not sure how much more sight seeing I can stand in this heat, I hear Venice is HOT! So after Italy I'm taking it easy, there's only so many museums one person can take!

I hope everything is well in sunny England (I hear there is a heat wave) and everyone is having a good summer!

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Home sweet home (if only I lived in Florence)

So I've been in Florence for the last two days and I LOVE it here, the city is amazing! It's quite small but there is still plenty to see and I especially enjoy the tall Renaissance style buildings that shelter me from the sun! I've been to see the 'real' David and the replica, which was pretty breathing taking considering it was carved out of one MASSIVE piece of marble! I saw the big cathedral, the Palazzo Veechio, Basilica de San Lorenzo and other lovely looking building. Today I went to Pisa to see the leaning tower which was pretty cool.... after getting disgusting lost on the way. I made it in the end.... eventually! At sunset I climbed the Piazzale Michalangelo which was incredible, the best views in the city, stunning, despite the millions stairs!

The hostel I'm staying at isn't too bad, met some lovely people and ate goooood food! I really really love Florence and would definitely come back even thought I've pretty much seen all I wanted to. I've discovered i don't really like Renaissance paintings, they're a bit too grand and dark for my liking, but the statues are wonderful! I'm heading to Rome tomorrow morning which will be great even thought I'm starting to get a little fed up of sight seeing, it's pretty exhausting! Looking forward to seeing old Popey!

I best go as I'm using my room mates laptop and they're out of the shower now! Italy is an amazing country but I hate the heat and the mosquitoes, except for that everything is wonderful and I'm having lots of fun!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A tale of 3 cities

OK, so at the minute I am in Milan but before I get to the excitement of Italy I will fill you in on the last few days.

So on Wednesday night I arrived in Barcelona in the sweltering heat. I stayed at an awesome hostel called Barcelona Dream, it was a bit out the way but the place itself was really great. Thursday was dedicated to sight seeing. I went to Park Guell to have a walk about and enjoy Gaudi's art which was fantastic. I really enjoyed they way his mosaics and sculptures are so colourful and stand out so vibrantly against the natural background. Despite the trek (and it really was a mission) up the hill to visit the park it was totally worth it, the place was beautiful and you could see all around the city, truly magnificent. I had to buy one of those flamenco fans because it was so hot and i don't fare to well in the heat! I did visit the Gaudi museum but to be perfectly honest it was over priced and i wouldn't recommend it. I then went to La Rambla to see all the shops and street entertainment which was a lot of fun. I popped into this amazing food market and the produce was amazing. Thousands of fresh fish (you can imagine the smell) and glorious looking fruit. I decided not to buy anything cos it was all a bit pricey. I walked along the river front by the harbour soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the tranquillity of the coast. The city is so alive and energetic it was nice to have some peace. The hostel hosted a paella night that evening which was great fun, yummy food and sangria, great times! Unfortunately I didn't get to see half the stuff i wanted to but it's a place i will definitely by visiting again, I loved it!

The next day I caught a train to Nice. I was originally going to get a direct fast train but the reservations were full so after the panic (Greg and Dom will understand) I found a way, much longer with 4 changes, where reservations were not needed (phew!). This route turned out to be extremely enjoyable and was only an hour longer than the original (a breath taking 11 hours in total)! I made friends with 2 American girls which kept me occupied for the first 3 hours and after that I had some glorious alone time with Edward Cullen!!! To say the route was scenic is a massive understatement. I am no stranger to the sea but seeing it for the first time as we crossed the Spain-France border was breath taking. I don't think I've ever seen the sea so blue and perfect, amazing! We coasted through little French villages where the colours of the terracotta roofs, vivid green foliage and cloudless blue skies stood out against each other like you wouldn't believe it! Looking out the train window was seriously amazing. At one point there was this perfectly situated sail boat all alone in the middle of the ocean, it was like a postcard. The South of France is truly amazing, I would love to live there!

I arrived in Nice late and because I originally thought I wouldn't make it I cancelled my hostel booking, bad idea! Every single place was fully booked and any rooms available costed €150, mad! Fortunately I found Maya, a lovely Canadian girl, who was also stuck! We considered sleeping on the beach, breaking into a hostel to sleep on someone's floor (this we were actually in the process of doing) until Emily came to the rescue and said we could sleep at her apartment in Monte Carlo. After walking around for hours with are luggage, Maya and I boarded a train to Monaco, almost missing it (the last one as well) but spent another hour getting lost until we found Emily. We got to bed after 2 and were relieved to say the very least. What a palava but of course looking back it was all a bit fun!

Whilst running around Nice we got to see a bit of the place but I wasn't impressed! It wasn't as glamorous as I'd expected it to be but maybe this was due to all situation, anyway i wasn't sad to leave it behind. The following day Emily showed us around Monte Carlo which was super amazing, so fancy and perfect, I want to live there, but also was too expensive. We ate croissants and ogled at the €70 millions plus super yachts. We went to the casino and generally fell in love with the place!

That afternoon I got a train to Milan and spent bloody ages finding my hostel! I'm sharing a room with English people which is nice because I haven't come across any yet, but thankfully everyone speaks English anyway! Today I have wondered the city visiting the Duomo which is beautiful (you need to be dressed in certain way to get in and luckily I fitted the bill)! I went to the fancy shopping centre and naturally ogled the Prada and Gucci, wondered around the Opera house (amazing) and went to the Casello Sforzesco which had a really good museum. I chilled out eating ice cream with my feet in a fountain and listened to Italian music outside the castle grounds, lovely!

Not sure what the plan is for tonight but I'm off to Florence tomorrow and looking forward to precious reading time on the train as I'm about to start New Moon, I never imagined I'd love Twilight so much!

The travelling is great, but the weather is vile, too hot for me I feel like melting! Hopefully I'll get back on the net in a few days and PS the Italian as sleazy to say the very least!


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The day before I go...

I fly to Barcelona tomorrow afternoon and to say I’m nervous is a MASSIVE understatement! Don't get me wrong, I am extremely excited about inter railing this summer but the fact I’m doing it on my own is a little scary but hopefully I'll stay safe and meet lots of lovely people! At this moment in time I have done literally no packing, bought zero Euro and can't find my rucksack! Despite these small disasters I am actually prepared for the important stuff, I have booked all my hostels, decided which trains I’m going to catch and started to make a pile of clothes!

Brace yourself for my route...

The first stop is Barcelona followed by Nice and then ITALY where I will be visiting Milan, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Venice and Verona. Them on to Ljubljana, Zagreb, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Krakow, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and finally Helsinki!

I am really excited about spending a whole week in Italy, as there is so much to see, especially in Rome and Venice. I’m also looking forward to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, as I have never been to any of these countries so this trip is really going to be a lot of new experiences.

I hope you all enjoy this blog as it is going to me my main source of communication for the next 6 weeks. I am going to update it as often as I can so you all know where I am and what I’m up too. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you when I'm back on 16th September.