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.

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Interlaken, Switzerland

From the start of my study abroad, I had a list of top places I wanted to visit while here in Europe. Switzerland was close to the top of my list. Everyone here warned me about how expensive Switzerland is and I quickly became discouraged, thinking I wouldn’t be able to make it to the cute little towns my friends back home told me all about. Luckily, I was able to find a cheap flight and inexpensive accommodation, making Switzerland a reality! So I hopped on my tiny plane to Zurich and stepped into the unknown of Switzerland. Zurich was pretty far away from where I was planning to stay in Interlaken so I had to figure out a way to get from here to there without it costing me an arm and a leg. Coming across a train ticket window, I ended up asking a man what the heck I should do to get where I needed to be. Luckily, he was amazingly helpful, he helped me buy a train ticket to Interlaken, converted some of my euros to Swiss francs, and gave me a free bar of Swiss chocolate. Off to find my train platform, I headed down the escalator and realized I had already gone the wrong direction, awesome. Back up the escalator I went, hoping the train ticket guy didn’t catch my moment of immediate disorientation. Finally finding the correct platform, I must have looked like I belonged or had some sense of what I was doing even though I surely didn’t, because a pair of old English gentlemen came up to me, showed me their tickets and asked if they were in the right place. This was a blind leading the blind moment when I told them “yes, you’re in the right place”… “If I’m in the right place”, I’m thinking to myself. While waiting for what ended up being the right train, a woman getting off a different train came up to me, pointed at my striped, mustard-color, hippie-esque pants, and started speaking German about them. Smiling in response, I have no earthly clue what she was saying about my pants but I’m just going to assume she was complimenting them. For all I know, she told me there was a giant stain on the butt of my pants and I smiled idiotically in response, oh well. On the 2 hour train ride to Interlaken, I realized my phone wasn’t working. Normally I use my Slovenian sim card on all the trips I go on, but the catch is it only works in EU countries, of which Switzerland is not a part of. So here I am, arrived in Interlaken with no clue how to get to my hostel, no matter, it’s just a minor roadblock. Bought a Swiss sim card after a small struggle to find an English speaker and now I was ready to still get lost on my way to my hostel. It was a twenty minute walk to my hostel which gave me ample time to become discouraged and lost in a dead end street. IMG_1726ReHere I am, at the end of a dead end street, lost in Switzerland when a black and white cat materializes out of a yellow flower bush to greet me. It’s amazing how cats seem to sense my helplessness and appear just when I feel furthest from home. Man, I miss my cat. With cat hair covered pant legs, I continued toward my destination. Eventually, I made it to my hostel, checked in, and walked up three flights to my shared room. So far, I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but the accommodation in Switzerland was much more expensive and it was all I could afford. The hostel didn’t seem so bad the first night because my six bunk room was empty and I had it all to myself, that would soon change.

Today, I had plans to go to Jungfraujoch or “The Top of Europe”. The ticket for the several trains to the top of the mountain were quite expensive, but I was already on the train so there was no turning back now. On one of the transfers to a different train, I was sitting all by myself when an older Chinese man comes and sits across from me, snapping photos out the window. Then, another younger Chinese man comes and sits right next to me and they start speaking in Chinese to each other. Oftentimes in a situation when people are near you, speaking a different language, you assume they are talking about you out of paranoia. Now in this situation, they really were talking about me. Tapping me on the shoulder, the younger Chinese guy gets my attention to ask if it was alright if his friend took a photo of me. IMG_3656ReIn response, I gave a confused look as he grabbed his friend’s phone and showed me a photo of myself taking a photo out the window. Super weird. Not a terrible photo though.  The younger Chinese guy spoke a little English and he asked me to take a photo at the top of the mountain and I said yes, not trying to be rude. Little did I know that I had just agreed to spend the whole day with them and their Chinese colleagues who were next to us on the train. Jungfraujoch was set up as a step by step tour through the several attractions. The first room my new Chinese friends and I walked into was 360° video screen showing a trip through the mountains, it was really beautiful. Next, up the elevator to the viewing platform over the Swiss alps. On the elevator ride, one of the Chinese girls in the group gave me a piece of chocolate and they all taught me how to say thank you in Chinese which was pretty cool. Never thought I’d be learning Chinese in Switzerland. Getting to the top of Jungfraujoch was worth the trip. DSC_4798ReMiles and miles of mountains and clouds to the point where the two were indistinguishable. DSC_4800ReFor the first time at one of these touristy spots, I had someone to take a photo of me, in exchange for taking a slew of smiley photos for the Chinese group. Fun fact: when the younger guy asked me to take a photo at the top of the mountain, he meant with him, so now I have a fantastic photo of me and my newly made friend from China, haha. Enjoy. They also had this really interesting egg snack that they told me I had to try.tb1.vvugfxxxxaxxvxxxxxxxxxx_0-item_pic-1 Apparently it’s a very popular snack in China, it was an egg but it was a really dark brown color. I asked if it was chocolate and with their collective english skills, they still didn’t know what I had asked so they made me try it anyway. IT WAS NOT CHOCOLATE. It was an actual hard boiled egg, but what was it boiled in? I may never know. Nothing can describe my horror after I was expecting chocolate and bit into a vinegar spiced egg thing. Lord help me if I visit China someday. Next, we made our way down to the ice palace. Elsa would have been impressed. There were ice sculptures and ice tunnels, it was pretty cool(pun intended). Desperately trying to keep my fingers from falling off, I kept rubbing my hands together. Being a universal sign for “I’m cold”, the Chinese guy kept jokingly offering me his jacket to which I continuously declined. IMG_1756ReAll jokes aside, it was nice to have people to experience things with for once and he ended taking a decent photo of me looking genuinely happy in the ice palace. On the way back down the mountain, my new friends invited me to come with them in their rented car at the bottom of the mountain to Grindelwald, deciding it’d be poor judgment to get into van with a bunch of strangers with whom I have a prominent language barrier, I politely declined and proceeded back to Interlaken. Perfectly enough, one of the stops on my way back was a town called Lauterbrunnen in which my best friends back home informed me it was their absolute favorite place they had visited on a trip in high school. Lauterbrunnen was a charming little town situated in a valley between two mountains with a stunning waterfall in the center, streaming down from great heights. Living here must be a dream everyday. With the setting sun, I had to take the train back to Interlaken. Walking up the three flights of stairs, I mentally prepared myself to actually have roommates tonight even though I prayed for continued vacancy. Slowly, I opened the door and found four guys who had made their homes in the bunk beds of my room, well our room now I guess. Two of the guys were my age, from Louisiana, and studying in Madrid. They were nice enough but left late to go party and made a terrible drunken ruckus when they came back at 2:30 in the morning when the rest of us were snoozing. After they had left to do whatever it is they did, a girl came in and took the very last bunk right above me. I was relieved there was another girl in the room, but I’m not sure it was worth her annoying phone buzzing against the wood irregularly, keeping me awake. Turns out it was also bothering one of the men at the other end of the room as he audibly sighed in exasperation after every annoying buzz. Obviously much more confrontational than I, he got up, came over and woke up the girl to tell her to turn off her phone. She seemed pretty upset, but the buzzing ceased. Sometimes it’s nice to let someone else fight your battle. Once the confrontational guy fell asleep after the lack of phone buzzing, he was own problem with his resounding snores. Yay, staying in a hostel!

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 Started my day by dropping my favorite earring in the sink. Frustrated with myself, I went downstairs to eat my free breakfast of toast and yogurt then spilled my coffee all over the place. Off to a great start. Choosing an empty seat, I sat down next to a girl who I found out was in Switzerland to go skydiving. So cool, I definitely have skydiving on my bucket list, maybe not this weekend though. Interlaken is situated between two beautiful lakes and surrounded by mountains and I wanted to explore both while I was here. After breakfast, I got on a bus to the train station to spend a day at Lake Brienz and explore some waterfalls. DSC_5062ReGiessbach waterfall ended up being really beautiful and there were barely any people there which made it so much better. Looking out from behind the waterfall, I could see the lake, mountains, and hotel Giessbach which was probably crazy expensive, but beautiful. Feeling like I didn’t get the full waterfall experience, I headed down to the bottom of the waterfall and ended up climbing over a few rocks and walking around.

Turns out I had too much fun at the waterfall because I missed the bus back to the main train station and had an impromptu hour hike around the lake. It was a long walk, but it kind of turned out great because it was the most beautiful walk through hills and right by the the bright blue lake. During one of my detours, I was by the edge of the water, searching through pebbles in the lake to bring back home to my sister who requested only rocks from my various adventure spots. Intently searching for an interesting looking pebble, crouched down in the water, I hear a hissing sound near me. Startled, thinking that it might be a snake, I look up to see a giant, very angry, white swan staring in my face then it lunged at me, trying to bite me! DSC_5307Re.jpgThis was one unhappy swan, perhaps because I didn’t have any food as an offering. I was able to catch a photo of this very swan terrorizing two young girls down a bit further after it had given me a heart attack. I’ve never been afraid of birds, but this one is a different story. Just look at it. Evil, I tell you. Other than my being attacked by a bird, the unexpected walk to Interlaken was delightful. Back in Interlaken, I walked around the town shops a bit and then decided to sit in the middle of Höhematte Park to enjoy the mountains and great weather. While sitting in the grass,DSC_5412Rs I noticed several paragliders landing right in the large expanse of grass before me. One particular paraglider flew right over me before landing a couple feet beside me, it was a tad frightening but also pretty amazing. So very badly I wanted to be one of the people paragliding over the alps. Before coming to Switzerland I looked into paragliding but it seemed like something I’d maybe do later in life when I had more money or time to plan. Trying to rationalize going paragliding, I started thinking about how I hadn’t actually gone out to eat or spent any money on food in Switzerland whatsoever. That night in bed I made and appointment for paragliding first thing in the morning.

Woke up super duper excited for paragliding this morning. First things firsts, I ate breakfast seeing as it’s the only thing I’ve been eating here. I was sitting outside on the balcony eating when a Japanese guy came and sat next to me. He didn’t speak English very well but he was quite friendly. What I did get out of the conversation was that he and a friend created an app, he wanted to bike from New York to California next summer(good luck), and he told me “all foreigners are so beautiful, why are you not all in movies?” so that was a fun conversation. I tried to help him with some English words while he was speaking and he taught me some Japanese, who knew I’d learn so many random things in Switzerland? He asked to take a selfie with me and then I headed outside. The paragliding van was supposed to pick me up outside my hostel but they ended up driving right on past me so I ended up walking to the paragliding meeting point, well actually I got lost and then Luki, my tandem flyer guy, found me looking lost in the street nearby. We hopped in the van and made our way up the mountain, they asked if I wanted the lower or higher jumping point and I chose higher so we kept driving. Everything happened so quickly, there was no time to build up anxiety or fear. I stepped into my harness, he set out the parachute, and we were all set to go. Defying all logic, we began running toward the edge of the mountain, took two final large steps, felt the wind catch the parachute, and then I was paragliding!

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It was an incredible feeling, there was no fear whatsoever. I was expecting to feel some sense of panic or uneasiness but there was nothing but pure joy and excitement. Now I know what it feels like to be a bird! Glorious feelings of freedom and wonder as I looked down and out across the stunning Swiss alps and beautiful Interlaken. Honestly there was some point when I felt as though I must be dreaming. There was no way I could be paragliding in Switzerland, it was beyond belief. So happy I could’ve cried, just kidding, I don’t cry about emotional things. There is a video of me controlling the parachute for a second and my guide spinning us around a bit which was awesome. I absolutely hate the way I look/sound on video so I thought about not showing anyone but what’s the fun in that?

Best experience ever 10/10 would recommend. So glad I decided to go paragliding on a whim in Switzerland. After a perfect landing, I said thanks and went on my merry way to Lake Thun. St. Beatus Caves are located on the side of Lake Thun, I knew they had beautiful waterfalls and I was not disappointed. DSC_5476RsSeeing the stunning waterfalls leading up to the caves really made me want to visit the inside of the caves themselves but the ticket was pretty expensive so I enjoyed free waterfalls on the outside instead. Instead of taking the bus back to the city, I decided to take a long walk along the lake and stopped to sit on a log in the shallow part of the water and enjoyed the mountain views for a couple hours. So, this sounds really odd but one photo I really wanted to capture on this trip was a photo of a brown Swiss cow because they are cute and I don’t know, maybe I’m just a weirdo. Well on my way back to the city, I had to walk through some of the countryside and I found cows! I walked up pretty close to them and I wanted to get closer but also was trying to be sneaky because I wasn’t so sure if the owner of the small farm would be keen on me being there so I snapped a few photos DSC_5746Reand headed back to my hostel. Tonight I had all new roommates. Four of them were Korean-American couples who were amazingly kind. Talking to one of the women, we discovered her daughter’s name was Katrina and she was the same age as me which is crazy! She was so excited to have met someone with the same name as her daughter and was eager to tell her husband who had just walked into the room. They asked me all sorts of questions about my studies, where I’ve been, where I’m from, and things I’d done in Switzerland. She was so surprised I had gone paragliding and told me someone would have to pay her to go paragliding. It was like I had Korean parents for a night. Her husband told me that I was living life studying abroad, and traveling with my parent’s money. I was like hold up… I’m not traveling and studying with my parents money, I’ve been saving money from working for years and earned a scholarship due to good grades and I’m proud of it. Impressed, he gave me two thumbs up for being so independent. I think I gained the respect and approval of my Korean father in one night, it was a great feeling. The next day was my last day in Switzerland, I ran into my Korean-American roommates in the breakfast lobby and they asked to take a photo with me to have and send to their daughter. Third time I’ve had my photo taken with an Asian person in Switzerland, kind of funny. Leaving Switzerland was sad because it’s the most brilliantly beautiful place I’ve ever been. I do look forward to going back to my temporary home in Ljubljana, and being able to eat food at a decent price again. 

Budapest in 3 Days

Day 1:

First day in Budapest and no part of me wanted to leave my comfy Airbnb bed, but… Budapest calls. Jumping on a tram to the other side of the city, I started my full, exciting, beautiful, and exhausting day in Budapest. After getting off the tram, I headed into the Budapest underground metro system in order to get to my destination of City Park. The thing about this is that I definitely didn’t have the right ticket to ride the metro but nobody checked and I hopped on board unimpeded. Honestly, figuring out the public transportation systems in each city you visit is extremely difficult and I didn’t really feel like spending half my time working out the logistics of which ticket to buy and which bus/train/tram/metro system was which so I basically just go with it and hope for the best, haha.

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Heroes Square

Once I got off the metro, I walked up the stairs onto a street facing Heroes Square which was a large open area with impressive statues and museums at either side. Walking a bit beyond Heroes Square, a giant beautiful castle appeared and of course I went straight toward the gorgeous piece of architecture to get a closer look. Vajdahunyad castle was originally made with wood and cardboard but became so popular that it was built permanently with brick and stone. The castle was so beautiful on the outside and I wish I could’ve seen the inside but I try to spend the least amount of money I can on my trips so seeing the outside was sufficient enough(free) for me.

My next plan was to go to the House of Terror, sounds like fun right? To me, absolutely! The House of Terror is a three story museum with exhibits on the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary. Since the fifteenth of March happened to be a national holiday, this museum was free for the day! The history fanatic inside me was both intrigued and deeply disturbed by the story of this building. Hungary was occupied by both Nazis and Soviets, thousands were tortured and killed in the basement of this very building. Comprehensively telling a story of the power struggle and daily misery experienced by Hungarian people, the House of Terror was an incredible museum. It’s nearly impossible to grasp the dark history enveloping the world during this time, but I really felt the history while walking through the basement torture chambers and prisons. Easy to say, I really enjoyed this museum and should probably make an effort to visit more museums when I travel places… even if it costs me a couple bucks. Next, a long walk for a quick visit to the Hungarian State Opera House which was under construction so I wasn’t able to see the old, beautiful architecture as it was covered up.

Lunch time in Budapest was interesting. I decided to try the Hungarian food special called langos. IMG_1477Since it was a national holiday, there were little parades, shops, people celebrating, and food vendors selling the popular fast food. Langos is a fried circular dough with a layer of sour cream(yuck) then cheese. When the the woman working the food stand asked me if I wanted the classic Hungarian Langos, I said sure because I didn’t really know what I was ordering anyway. Turned out classic meant covered in fatty bacon… which I despise. Reluctantly, I ate about a quarter of this until I could not force any more down… then I found a bench outside St. Stephen’s Basilica and fed the rest to some pigeons.

 

Already sitting outside my next destination, I took a few steps and headed inside St. Stephen’s Basilica. With only a 1 Euro donation, I was able to explore the most beautiful building I’ve ever been in my life. Upon entering the place of worship, I looked up at the ceiling and my breath was taken away. Sitting down, I took in the beauty of the interior architecture for a little while. Feeling overwhelmed by the stained glass, murals of Jesus, statues, and gold tainted details, I really wanted to share the exquisiteness so I Facetimed my Momma and showed her around the Basilica because I knew she would appreciate the splendor as much as I was. Since there were people worshipping and signs suggesting silence, I tried to keep my photo taking to a minimum due to the annoyingly loud shutter release, but it was pretty stunning, take my word for it…or look up other photos on the inter webs.

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Heading to another interesting piece of history, I made it to the Danube Promenade DSC_4087Editwhere a memorial called Shoes on the Danube honors Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes and shot by Arrow Cross militia men, their bodies falling into the river. This country has such an interesting history, there were museums, statues, exhibits, and memorials everywhere. Architecture was probably my favorite part of exploring Budapest. Most iconic is the Hungarian Parliament building. You can see the ginormous building from practically anywhere in Budapest but since I was so close, I decided to get an up close look. DSC_4116EditTrying to take a photo of the entire building while standing in front of it is nearly impossible because the sheer massive size. Conveniently enough, while I was taking photos in front of the Parliament building, the guards changed posts and it was a pretty cool spectacle. Setting out for my next interesting piece of architecture ended in some disappointment as the Great Synagogue was closed. After taking some unsatisfactory photos of the outside, I moved on into the inner city. Luckily enough, I stumbled into a cute little parade and then went into a couple souvenir shops. Apparently embroidery is a big thing in Hungary because souvenirs are covered in floral embroidered designs. I love embroidery so much and I miss doing it when I’m at home, so it was pretty difficult to keep myself from buying everything, especially with the very persuasive vendors.

Feeling my stomach rumbling, I realized that I hadn’t actually eaten anything all day since I hated the Langos. Passing a restaurant sign advertising Hungarian dishes, I walked backward and entered on in. IMG_1480Looking over the menu was a chore, but I settled on Paprika chicken and noodles because it’s one of the dishes most commonly found in restaurants in Hungary,  besides goulash, the national dish, but I didn’t really feel like eating beef stew. I really didn’t know what to expect but I’m trying to be more open with food because at home, I eat like a small, unhealthy child. Of course, in the middle of my plate is a huge dollop of sour cream. I hate sour cream, why are they so obsessed with it here? But guess what Kassie(older sis)? I ate it all. I even ate the dark meat on the chicken leg. Overall, it was pretty good, I was not disappointed. By the time I left, it was dark and rainy. Taking the scenic route home, I walked back to the other side of town over the illuminated chain bridge. I attempted to take some decent long exposure shots but I forgot my tripod back in Ljubljana like an idiot. Oh well, I was still able to experience Budapest at night and it’s a whole new view.

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Day 2:

This morning I went on a journey to the top of Budapest.

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First stop: Fisherman’s Bastion, a building/terrace overlooking Budapest

 

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Right next door: Matthias Church

Next, I headed for Buda castle and also stopped to see the funicular which is the second oldest in the world, using weights to raise carriages up the hill.

 

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Buda Castle

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Funicular

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, my daily adventure took me to new heights as I climbed to the top of Budapest called Gellert Hill. Walking up the stairs nearly killed me but I finally made it, the view was worth the near asthma attack. From the top, there was a barely visible rainbow resulting from the drizzle.

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Can you see the faint rainbow?

After enjoying the view for a little while, I went back down to the city and wandered around and visited some shops, found some art to buy of course, and just enjoyed some free time in the city. As I was walking around, some guy tapped me on the shoulder, slightly alarmed, I turned around to see a guy in his late 20s with long hair smiling at me. “You are Hippie?”, he said in a thick accent. Confused, I replied with a shrugging hand gesture. “I like your style” he replied, then he waked away. Super weird encounter considering I’m wearing big overalls covered in distressed holes, an oversized “Harvard for Earth” long sleeve shirt I stole from my brother-in-law, dirty hair covered with a thick brown headband, no makeup, and my black combats boots. I was looking real rough… perhaps that’s what he’s into, haha no judgement. As I was walking the streets of the inner city, I passed an ice cream store that allured me with a swirled cone made of dough, dipped in cinnamon sugar, coated in nutella, and filled with strawberry ice cream. d4a09bd6-fa9c-437d-9817-1154cbb8bf29.jpgIt was beginning to become dark so I decided to head back to airbnb. Since Budapest is a big city, I needed to jump on the tram to get back to my room in a timely manner. Jumping onto the tram, I realized it was going in the complete wrong direction then course corrected by getting on the opposite bus. Finally going in the right direction, I realized there was a guy checking the validity of passenger tickets coming closer to me, one passenger at a time and I still hadn’t bought a ticket. Can you blame me for trying to save a buck? Also I was still horribly confused by the entire ticket system and it turns out not as many Hungarians speak English as the Slovenians so I couldn’t find any help. Anyway… the man was coming closer and closer until I was able to hop off at the next stop unchecked. Needing to make it home, I was supposed to get back on a different bus, but the man was waiting to get onto THAT bus to check some more tickets. So, I waited about 15 minutes for the next, next bus and by the time I made it back to the apartment, it was much later than I originally intended. This is definitely not the blog for people who want to know a lot about food and what I’m eating in all these fun countries because I might be the first human who doesn’t need sustenance in order to live. Having not eaten anything but a cone of ice cream all day, I stopped in a small grocery store outside the apartment and grabbed some noodles for a super late dinner because I know my mom would want me to eat something even though I wasn’t hungry(you’re welcome Ma). I also bought a thing of crushed red pepper because I can’t find it anywhere in Ljubljana and I can’t live without spicy in my life; priorities right?

Day 3:

Last day in Budapest! I decided to have a pretty relaxed day because I had been doing a ton of walking and climbing and also, since I had to check out of my airbnb early, I had to carry all my belongings on my back all day which includes a heavy laptop and several camera lenses plus toiletries and clothes so my back was basically dead by the end of the day. I walked to Margaret island, an island in the middle of the Danube between Buda and Pest. DSC_4531Edit.jpgA decent sized island with parks, rose gardens, tandem bicycles for rent, playgrounds, fountains, and medieval ruins. I wish I could have seen the island in spring when all the flowers are budding, but it was still pretty and the weather was surprisingly warm. I enjoyed my time walking around and sitting in the Japanese garden. Heading back to the main part of Budapest, I looked up antique markets in the area because it’s my favorite place to be. Desperately wanting to buy antiques, I decided I didn’t have any room in my backpack for anything extra or breakable so instead I meandered around enjoying the familiarity of old jewelry and dust. My next stop at Starbucks seems kind of dumb, but my back was killing me from walking through the whole city, and there are zero Starbucks in the whole of Slovenia so I was very excited to see the green siren calling me in for coffee and free wifi in Budapest. Time to head for the bus station back to Ljubljana, my temporary home! I know this was a long one to read so thanks for sticking with me.

 

 

 

The Floating City

After my social work class, I hopped on my 10 Euro bus to Venice and the adventure began! My bus was delayed for an hour at the Italian border as the polizia italiana did a very thorough check of our passports with a few complications with some of my fellow passengers. Finally making it to Venice, I took a people mover to the main island and set out to find my airbnb. As the sun had already set, it was a tad more difficult to find my place and I ended up near the right address but not quite.

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Spontaneous photoshoot in my Airbnb

Thank goodness a young Italian guy sporting a man bun came out of nowhere, said my name in a fun accent, handed me my temporary keys, then led me to the right door. My room was actually really nice, and conveniently right in the middle of Venice. Excited about my first actual day in Venice, I woke up super early, opened my window and saw nothing but fog. Fog is my absolute favorite! Anytime it’s foggy at home I jump on the opportunity to take photos because it looks so amazing. Setting out for San Marco, I walked 20 minutes through beautiful, fog covered Venice. By the time I arrived at San Marco, thick fog still covered everything. Piazza San Marco was full of beautiful architecture but I couldn’t even see anything due to the fog, so I walked along the water for a while, waiting for the fog to dissipate. Of course I really wanted to take a gondola ride but they were all crazy expensive so I just stood on the bridges and watched as others floated along underneath me. After San Marco, I walked around the little streets of Venice and visited a couple little shops. There was a multitude of cafes, pizzerias, clothing stores, tourist shops, shops full of carnival masks, and my favorite which was an adorable lavender store.

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Grand Canal

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Rialto bridge

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St. Mark’s Basillica

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Doge’s Palace

On a whim, I decided to take a ferry to Murano, a little island north of Venice. Colorful and full of works of art made of glass, Murano was a nice little escape from the tourism of Venice.

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Murano

Since this city is known for glass-making, the streets were overflowing with locally made pieces of glass works of art. Unfortunately I couldn’t necessarily buy a tiny glass flower to be put in a suitcase and accidentally crushed when it’s time for me to go back home. CC45C81D-887F-4ECF-99BC-9659238E4941Realizing I hadn’t eaten anything in quite a while, I searched around for a decent place to eat in Murano. I ended up finding a restaurant with a patio by the ocean and I freaking ate an entire pizza by myself. Turns out my capacity for eating is expanded when I have nowhere to take my leftovers. Exhausted, I took the ferry back to Venice and took a glorious nap. I made sure to wake up before sunset then took a stroll and facetimed my family so they could see a little bit of Venice. After it got dark, I walked around the main canal and tried to find a souvenir to buy. Undecided, I checked out some shirts and other knick knacks but nothing really seemed right. I came across a little shop full of Murano glass trinkets and an old man sitting down, sketching illustrations of Venice landscapes. He had a little box full of his beautiful art for sale and I found my perfect souvenir, plus he had a cute little dog sleeping in the corner of his shop which was even better.

Today, March 10th, is my bone marrow birthday. Eight years ago, I was laying in a hospital bed and received my bone marrow transplant. Honestly, I don’t really like celebrating my actual birthday but this birthday is meaningful to me. I didn’t do anything when I was born to earn a celebration, but I did endure chemo and radiation and come quite near death to have a reason for March 10th to mean something. Usually I celebrate by going to dinner with my family or they buy me a Papa Johns pizza, stick a candle in it and sing happy birthday terribly off-pitched and annoyingly loud just the way I like. Although, this year I’m celebrating by traveling the world and taking advantage of the life I’ve been blessed with! I’d say spending the weekend in Italy is a pretty great way to celebrate my life.

 

Bled and Bohinj

Everyone in Ljubljana has been telling me to visit Bled and Bohinj and I finally had the chance to go! I woke up early in order to have sufficient time to explore, but things never really go as planned for me. Blindly trusting google maps, I ended up at the wrong bus station, walking around completely lost. Waiting for another bus took an extra 20 minutes and by the time I arrived at the correct bus station, my bus had departed. Two hours later than I had intended, I was on the full bus to Bohinj. Pushing through people, I snagged a window seat and I’m so glad because it was the prettiest bus ride imaginable. Slovenia is seriously such a geographically gorgeous country.

DSC_3056Edit     One by one people stepped off the bus until I was the only one left. Starting to think I was hopelessly lost, hearing the bus driver say a bunch of Slovenian words ending with “Bohinj” was so relieving. DSC_3011EditI got off the bus and started wandering around in the mountains around the lake. Hiking through the woods brought me upon several beautiful streams and waterfalls, I’m so glad I chose the lesser traveled path through the woods instead of by the lake. Walking around in the woods was so relaxing and wonderful. I’m used to walking around in the woods back in Missouri so this was a nice transformation of scenery. I didn’t actually take very many photos while at Bohinj because I was so entranced by my surroundings and also I had to run back through the path to get back to the bus to Bled.

Once at Bled, I stepped off the bus into the cutest little town settled around a lake, with a beautiful castle on a hill overlooking everything. Wanting to get the best view, I trekked up a million stairs up to the castle. There was a cute little museum, a restaurant, a blacksmith shop, and a gift shop, but the most appealing aspect was the view. DSC_3100EditOnce atop the castle, you can overlook the whole lake with a nice view of the mountains. I can’t really capture the essence of being there, but hopefully the photos do it some justice. You can kind of see a little island in the middle of the lake with a little church on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go out onto the island and see the church even though it would have been extremely interesting. Maybe I’ll take another trip to Bled before I leave Slovenia.DSC_3091EditDSC_3107Edit.jpg

Before the day was over, I had more bus troubles. My bus was scheduled to come at 6pm or technically 18.00 here, but they didn’t have one come until an hour later. So, I walked back over to the lake and snapped some photos of the castle at night and then wasted an hour at a small cafe. DSC_3304EditBack at the bus station, there were about 5 people waiting at the bus station. One of them happened to be a girl my age, so I went over and asked her if she was also studying in Slovenia and she replied in an American accent that she was studying in Germany but visiting Slovenia. This is the first American I’ve met here and she happened to be from North Carolina near the same area my sister and brother-in-law used to live, sort of a weird coincidence. We spent the whole hour bus ride back to Ljubljana talking. It was nice to talk with someone from my country for a little bit, but it made me appreciate my experiences with meeting people from all over the world a bit more. It’s much more enriching to have a conversation with someone from a different culture, learning about differences and similarities between customs and norms. Anyway… it’s really late here and I’m falling asleep. Thanks for keeping up with me!

Abandoned Buildings Wherever I Go

At home, I love visiting abandoned places and it never crossed my mind that I would find one here in Ljubljana. Originally, I planned on going to the center of the town and attempting to find a bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding but my day turned out completely different. As soon as I had gotten to the bus stop, I received a message from the girl who lives in the room next to mine asking me if I wanted to go on a walk with her. She is from Lithuania and seemed amazingly nice so of course I said yes. We ended up walking across town to Tivoli park which is basically woody hills with walking/hiking paths. Stumbling upon an impressive abandoned building, we began inspecting ways to get closer. Climbing up the hill to get closer, we realized the whole building was surrounded by fencing to keep people out. Personally, I was ready to jump the fence and enter into the creepy old building but wasn’t sure if she’d be down for the adventure as well. DSC_2939Edit.jpgShe ended up telling me about an abandoned building she used to visit in Lithuania which ended up getting torn down and how she wanted to go into this building as much as I did. So I hopped the fence, went on in and she followed after. The building looked like an old hotel or maybe apartments, we both discussed how it was a shame it had been abandoned. We climbed up the three flights and discovered the top had been burned, explaining the abandonment. Finding a patio, we climbed out a window and onto the landing then into another section of the building. DSC_2957Edit.jpgA creaking door slammed shut behind us and we had a brief moment of terror, we chalked it up to the wind but still disturbed, climbed back through the window to the main section of the building. Turning the corner into what looked like an old bathroom, she gave a little shriek, apprehensive I hurried over to see what had startled her. There were red, bloody, dragged handprints on the walls thanks to a previous disturbed graffiti artist. After a laugh, we went back down the rail-less cement stairs and left. I will have to come back later when it’s not freezing and take some sweet self-portraits.

Next, we went to one of the two Mexican restaurants in Ljubljana. We sat down, I expected a waiter to come bring us chips and salsa as per usual in America but they never came. I explained how in our Mexican restaurants, we always get free chips and salsa before our meals and she thought that was amazing and also abnormal. I ordered taquitos because it seemed like a safe choice that couldn’t be messed up… I was incorrect. Mexican food here is so incredibly disappointing, hahaha. IMG_1029We take it for granted, but we are truly blessed by the rich hispanic culture in America and benefit greatly through wonderful food. They served my taquitos with nacho cheese, like sports arena nacho cheese. So weird. Also, the taquitos tasted like nothing, so bland and plain. Maybe I’ll try the other Mexican cantina and see how that one holds up. Although, I may just stick to the pizzerias and Italian food. I’ll keep updating you guys with my food adventures here in Ljubljana. I need to try some actual Slovenian entrees soon. I’m a little hesitant though because it’s a lot of soups, meat, sausage, and potatoes. The only thing on that list sounding appetizing to me is potatoes so wish me luck.

Dancing and Desserts

First week of classes is in the books. My first class was Critical Theory of Culture and the professor dived right into his four hour lecture on human consciousness, Hegelian dialectics, commodity fetishism, phenomenology of the mind, and all sorts of other fun convoluted theories. Pretty intense way to start my semester, I’m going to need some serious concentration to stay awake during his lecture. Next day I had an 8am class called Media Criticism and we watched Citizen Kane in it’s entirety during the first class, I was ecstatic. I definitely look forward to whatever this professor has in store for us this semester. After this class, I went to find the bookstore to buy my textbook. The problem is I had no idea where the bookstore was, so I was just wandering around aimlessly around the faculty. Luckily, I noticed another girl from my class also wandering around aimlessly. I watched as she went up to a Slovenian student to ask where to buy the textbooks and slyly joined them down to the copy shop. The Slovenian student ordered three copies of the book for our class and then relayed the message to us that it’d be 20 minutes until our books were ready. I ended up having coffee and pizza with the girl who was from the Netherlands, and the Slovenian student from my class. It was nice to chat with new people for a little while, until our books were ready. Prepared to spend $100 on my new textbook, I was happily surprised by my 10£ book! Europe’s higher education system is most definitely treating students better than I’m used to. I told several people how much I’m used to spending on textbooks each semester and they were all equally astounded by the figure.

Wednesday night, the faculty of social work put together an event for foreign exchange students where we learned dances originating in Resia Valley. There was a girl playing the violin and a man who played the cello and taught us how to do the dances.

There were about 40 foreign exchange students spinning, clapping, and stomping together. Normally, I never would have thought to take a classic Resian dance class and I even considered skipping out on this event but I’m so glad I went because it was a fantastic experience and not one that I’d imagine many have the chance to say they’ve done.

This morning I went to an organic, Slovenian food tasting. The providers of the food told us all about their mission to provide fully organic products to the people in Slovenia. Discussing using recycled boxes and better packaging, I became excited about how many people are working around the world to reduce waste and make our earth a better place.  Besides the inspiration, the food they brought was fresh and delightful. Bread, cheese, oils, honey, and fruit, I didn’t even need to go get lunch today!

The best part of the food tasting was dessert. They gave each of us a Krofi which is a doughnut-like pastry with a marmalade center, covered in powdered sugar. I will be determined to get another of these at a bakery before the week is over. After filling my belly with food, I traveled by bus across town to buy myself a bicycle. The thing about traveling by bike everywhere is I haven’t ridden a bike in years and honestly it’s never been my greatest strength so honestly, I’m a bit nervous about it. So I buy the second-hand bike from some guy and wobbly ride it away. Things are going swell until my pant leg gets caught in the gear and I realize I’m going to be forced to walk my new bike an hour back across town to my apartment. Exhausted, I finally made it to my temporary home and was able to get the gear oil stains out of my pants. All in all, it was a good but also terrible day.