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.

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.

 

Day in Trieste

Spent a quick day in a little known Italian town called Trieste. There was a bus full of exchange students who had the opportunity to visit a cave, tour an anti-aircraft shelter, and walk around the city of Trieste, or Trst as the Slovenians call it. DSC_3312Edit.jpgSo far I’ve only visited one cave in Slovenia even though there are about 10,000 different caves in the country. Walking around in the cave was stunning and also quite frigid, as the temperature dropped every couple meters. Going to another cave while I’m here is most definitely on my list. After the cave, we went to the bomb shelter which was an experience all in it’s own. I’m planning to write a blog post specifically about the bomb shelter and some perspective on what I’ve experienced being an American in Europe.

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Once in the heart of Trieste, we were given time to walk around the city freely. Most of my classmates paired up or went as a group to find food. Not me, I spent my time alone, wandering around, enjoying the beauty and snapping some photos. The sea called to me first, I went directly to the pier and spent some time just sitting on the edge with my feet dangling over the water. fullsizeoutput_6311Noticing a small gelato truck, I left my spot on the pier, chose raspberry and enjoyed the BEST ice cream I have ever consumed in my lifetime. I’m honestly still dreaming about the sweet, berry flavored gelato. Still having a couple hours left for exploration, I walked around the old town of Trieste. Cute old buildings, impressive statues, cute cafes, colorful streets, leftover carneval confetti, and a curious Katrena walking about, genuinely enjoying life. There was a moment on the pier when I became overwhelmed with a sense of thankfulness and unfathomable gratitude for any and every person who helped me get here. If anyone would have told young, post-cancer me that I’d be studying in Europe and traveling solo to foreign cities when I was 20, I would have scoffed. Seriously, I’ve already done so many things I never expected to experience in my lifetime.

 

 

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.