London Day II

Taking a break from writing a 15 page essay to write this blog. I know, it seems kind of weird taking a break from writing by writing, but writing a blog is much more fun. My second day in London was full of very popular touristy things. First, I set out for Buckingham Palace which was beautiful but so crowded I could hardly see through the mass of people.Day2 Compared to all the places I’ve visited thus far, London has been the busiest. It’s also getting closer to summer so I know tourism is about to spike and any trip from here on out is going to be claustrophobia inducing. Even the back of the palace was full of people and I was done staring at it. To be honest, I might have been more excited to see Chipotle than the palace, oops. I enjoyed the gardens around Buckingham palace much more than the palace itself as there weren’t as many people. I walked around this area for a little while before heading to Westminster Abbey. D6C72ECF-9A64-41AB-BF7B-4709BC4F8CFF
On my walk toward Westminster, I saw Big Ben off in the distance. I knew Big Ben was under construction but I still thought I’d be able to recognize the iconic building. Nope. Big Ben was so covered in scaffolding there was no telling it was even the right building. In fact, some random fellow tourist got my attention to ask me if that was indeed Big Ben and after I said “yes”, he seemed very disappointed. Same dude, same. There was only one visible face of the famous clock, but otherwise it was entirely unrecognizable. Oh well, maybe if I get to come back to London later on in life, I’ll actually get to see it scaffold-free and it’ll be that much sweeter.

 

 

84CD8302-8B13-4A7E-8C13-EC37C33468DDNearing Westminster Abbey, I decided to stop for an iced coffee and have a little break in Parliament Square Garden. It was nice to stop and enjoy the views for a little while. Sometimes those are the best little moments of a trip. Just sitting in the grass, enjoying how life has brought me to visit these astounding postcard-worthy places. Ooo, also a quick shoutout to London and Europe in general. No unnecessary plastic straws! As you can see in my shameless selfie, the straw they gave me was made of paper. Most places in Europe have been banning plastic straws to better the environment and I’d love to see the U.S. follow suit. I can’t name one time in Slovenia where I’ve been given a plastic straw which is amazing. I’m actually considering writing a blog about how eco-friendly Ljubljana is compared to the United States. Sorry for the short mental detour… back to Westminster. As I walked closer to the Abbey, there were a few street performers, including a man playing bagpipes. Here, I’ll share a video and bless your ears as well. Haha, oh the bagpipe.

Westminster Abbey was beautiful but the line to get in was unreasonably long and there was an entrance fee. Most of the churches I’ve come across have had free entrances so anytime one costs money, I’m a little less likely to see the inside. I’m a traveler on a budget, sorry. Look at that beautiful gothic architecture on the outside though, geesh.

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Westminster Abbey

Next up on my cliche London day I walked over the Westminster bridge to get a closer look at the London Eye. The London Eye was immensely larger than what I had imagined in my head. Part of me wanted to experience taking a ride on the oversized ferris wheel so I checked out ticket prices. After seeing how much it would set me back to  be locked in a glass box with 24 strangers for 45 minutes just to make one revolution of the wheel, I thought I’d rather just observe it from the ground. Also, for those of you who thought it moved at a typical ferris wheel pace…wrong! The London Eye moves so slowly, you can barely tell it’s even moving. Just thought I’d enlighten those who’ve never been able to see it in person. I know if I had bought a ticket, I would have been excited for the first five minutes then incredibly bored the rest of the ride.

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Near the London Eye there was a fish and chips restaurant flooded with people, so I figured it was about time to eat something. Disappointingly, I don’t like fish so I ordered chicken and chips instead. Nothing to write home about really. Tasted like bland fried chicken and fries. Sorry London, but everyone already knows you aren’t famous for your food scene. The food wasn’t great, but the view was beautiful as I found a ledge looking out over the Thames with a good view of London. After finishing my food, I walked through Jubilee Garden to the Golden Jubilee bridge where I walked back across to the other side of London. The National Gallery called my name and I filled the rest of my day with art.

Okay, I won’t overload you with all the photos of the magnificent and iconic pieces of art I was able to see because it would be an entire gallery. Seriously, pieces from Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, Jan van Eyck, Botticelli, Da Vinci… the list goes on and on. The National Gallery was stirring with visitors, normally I’d find it annoying that I couldn’t take a photo free of people in a gallery, but I had an exceptionally fun time taking photos of other people enjoying the art. Looking at all the ways people observe art is really interesting, from taking selfies, sharing with a loved one, looking through someone else’s phone camera, drawing a re-creation, or looking at the painting right in front of you in a book. After all, art is interpreted differently by each person. Every painting, though it may be the same, is distinct dependent on the beholder. Enough of my rambling, here are the photos I took of complete strangers at the National Gallery.

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So I was having a jolly good time at the National Gallery and was nearing the end, when a man in his late 30s came up next to me while I was looking at a painting. He made a comment about the paint color of the room and how it was different from the others and I was like yeah, that’s an interesting point. I’m not one to be rude to people so of course I responded to his comments on the art. From that point on, this man creepily followed close beside me to every painting I went to. Standing way too close for comfort, I kept stepping further and further away from him and stopped responding to his comments on the art. I really thought this guy would take the hint but he sure didn’t. This older guy was determined to make the rest of my time at the museum incredibly uncomfortable. Luckily, I had already almost seen all the rooms of the gallery so I was able to tell him I was leaving just to escape the awkwardness. It wasn’t so easy though. Before I left, he asked me if I wanted to go have a drink with him, which I definitely did not. So, I told him I didn’t drink and I’d rather just spend the rest of my day alone. Sort of brutal and also dumb because now this random stranger knew I was alone. Wow, I’m really not great at talking to strangers and I was super anxious. Now that I was on high alert after angering a creepy stranger, I left the museum in a rush to get as far away as possible. Of course I had on my bright yellow backpack so as to be super identifiable in a large crowd. Way to go Katrena, you told him you were alone and you have a backpack the color of the sun in a crowd of muted colors, awesome. Freaked out, I naturally called my mom for comfort and then called my older sister for someone to call me an idiot I guess(haha, thanks Kass). I ended up walking down the road to a very busy McDonalds where I ordered a coke(with a paper straw) and hid out in the basement seating area until I figured the coast was clear and I headed back to my airbnb. Fun times in the hustle bustle of London today.

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Vienna Waits for You

DSC_5847ResizedSpontaneous trip to Vienna, Austria! When I say spontaneous, I mean spontaneous. I planned this trip two days before I left. To kick off my little weekend trip, my bus was two hours late so I had to kill lots of time at the bus station and it was pretty dang chilly outside. Luckily there were a two girls waiting for the same bus and I heard them speaking English so I went up to them to tell them how late our bus was. They were really nice girls about my age from Ireland who invited me to go have a coffee with them while we waited for our very late bus. It’s always fun to meet random strangers on my solo trips. Uneventful bus ride to Vienna…then to start my adventuring. Arriving in Vienna in the middle of the day, I went into the subway system to buy a ticket for the next 48 hours and noticed a couple of Canadian girls struggling with the ticket system so I helped them out and spoke with them for a while until they hopped off the train a couple stops before me. My inexpensive airbnb was an apartment owned by a girl who lived in Vienna. I knew I’d be staying in her living room area on a sofa-bed and I was fairly skeptical about how it’d work out. After walking up three flights of stairs, I made it to her door. Her apartment was so cute. The living room area was covered in plants, there were vintage pieces of furniture, a record player, books, and interesting art, plus she had an adorable pup. After dropping off some of my things, I headed into the center of the city. I got out of the underground and started walking with no destination in the middle of the city when someone taps on my shoulder. I turned around to find a young guy standing in front of me. He started saying something to me in German, then I told him I only spoke English. He switched to English and proceeded to say he wanted to stop me to tell me I was beautiful. I honestly don’t remember how I responded. Probably some dumbfounded look followed by an extremely awkward thank you. I think I might be in a parallel universe where people think I’m attractive, It’s very weird, unfamiliar and unpleasant. He asked me what my plans were for the day and I told him I would just be walking around the city. He asked me if it would be alright if he walked with me, I feel like if I said no to him simply walking with me, that would be quite rude so I ended up wandering about the city with some blonde haired, blue-eyed Austrian guy. He had some helpful tips about the area and certain museums to visit so that was cool. After having some coffee, I was anxious to explore the city so we parted ways.

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Downtown Vienna was immense and bustling, full of people, stores, towering architecture, statues and the great St. Stephen’s Cathedral. As luck would have it, St Stephen’s was under construction, covered in scaffolding and barely visible. Therefore, I was only able to take a few decent photos of the beautiful gothic-style church. Vienna is a beautiful city full of history, classical music, and art, I did not expect such a grand downtown area. The weather in Vienna that day was rather unfortunate, very cold and dreary. As I did not bring my gloves from Ljubljana and I was constantly taking photos, my hands were so raw. I wandered into a souvenir shop to warm up and found that my phone was nearly dead and I had conveniently left my portable charger back at the airbnb.DSC_5891Resized When traveling, I rely so heavily on google maps to direct me everywhere I go, so having a charged phone is necessary. Forced to go all the way back to the airbnb apartment, I got there when the sun was beginning to set. I didn’t really feel like wasting the evening away so I headed back out and walked to Schönbrunn Palace. The walk was a bit longer than I expected but it was quite nice to see bits of the sunset peek through the streets of Vienna. Turned out to be a very beautiful walk, although intensely chilly. Once the palace was in view, there was no mistaking I had made it to the right place as the colossal piece of architecture stood in front of me. DSC_5928ResizedIn the back of the palace was a large park, gardens, statues, and even a zoo. I wasn’t able to get any photos because it was quite dark and becoming increasingly cold. I found some trolley to take me near the airbnb. Sleeping proved rather difficult, turns out staying in a living room with loads of open windows means early rising the next morning.

Museums Day! Today was mostly taken up by visiting several museums. I wanted to start out the day by going to the Belvedere Museum to see Gustav Klimt’s famous painting The Kiss before things became too busy. The Belvedere Museum was a work of art in and of itself.

A large beautiful pond in the front and an extravagant garden in the back. Once I got inside, I went straight for the Gustav Klimt collection where a long line had already formed. Bored, waiting alone in line, I looked up to the most exquisite ceiling. DSC_6001ResizedWaiting in a room to look at art was another work of art. I swear, everywhere here is a piece of art. I wish the photo would do the real thing justice, but honestly none of the photos I’ll be posting will come close to seeing these works of art in person, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth sharing or experiencing through an online platform. Closer and closer I got to the front of the line. I was so excited to see The Kiss in person. Before coming to study in Ljubljana,  I never thought about all the incredible works of art I’d have the opportunity to appreciate in person. Here are some my favorite of Klimt’s I was able to see:

There were so many people gathered around The Kiss, but I was still able to get a decent photo once I waited it out for a window of time with less than 20 people gathered. Some of my other favorite pieces I saw included:

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Napoleon Crossing the Alps –Jacques Louis David
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A Pathway in Monet’s Garden -Claude Monet

 

I saw many more incredible pieces of artwork but I’m sure you guys don’t want to see every single photo I took, besides, I still have two more museums to go! Hahaha, sorry. After the Belvedere, I sought out a classic Würstelstand to buy some Viennese street food.   After all, how could I be in Vienna without eating sausage?IMG_1996 Completely unaware of what to order, I basically just pointed to the first thing on the menu, then the vendor asked me what kind of sausage I wanted and of course I said “the spiciest” and I was not disappointed. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of meat but it was pretty dang good and the warm bread it came wrapped inside was more than ideal(mmm bread is always the best here). Having been on my feet all day and walking around the city, I wanted to find someplace warm to sit down. I had eyed a Starbucks around the corner and was intent on getting a coffee before leaving Vienna. A little background: there are absolutely no Starbucks in Slovenia. Zero. So when I see one elsewhere on a trip, I get quite excited. After a quick coffee break, I headed to Museums Quartier where several museums are located in Vienna.

Passing by the Natural History museum, I went straight for The Kunsthistorisches Museum to see more remarkable pieces of art! So many marvelous pieces to choose from, but I’ll show you a few of my favorites again.

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The Crowning with Thorns -Caravaggio
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Vienna Viewed from the Belvedere Palace

IMG_2439By the time I left this museum, the only museum left open was the Mumok, a modern art museum. Full of exceptionally weird and abstract art, the Mumok checked off all the things I expect from a modern art museum.

Sorry to my readers who don’t like art, this post was probably boring. I love all of the art, even the super weird art that generally makes no sense. Yay art day! I spent all day at museums in Vienna, what a dream.

Last day in Vienna and I decided to use my half day before my bus back to Ljubljana in a graveyard. Yep, in a graveyard. Before I get to that though, I had to gather my things into my backpack to check out of my airbnb. I’ve become really efficient at packing for trips in a single backpack(I bet my family doesn’t believe me) and I’m pretty proud. Before going to the cemetery, I quickly stopped at a second hand clothing shop recommended to me by the girl I stayed with over the weekend. The shop was rather depressing and sparse, I miss thrift shopping back home. Okay, onto the cemetery. First of all, I think old cemetery headstones and mausoleums are super cool. Secondly, some extremely important composers lay in this graveyard. I was able to see the resting places of Johann Strauss, Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

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Bye Vienna! Thank you for a marvelous, spontaneous weekend trip.