Thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane!
If you missed it, here is Part 1.
The countries and cities I visited:
- St. Gilbert
- Czech Republic
I really enjoyed the small taste of Eastern Europe, but wish that I had gone to more countries on the eastern side. The architecture was beautiful, the history was rich, and the food! I will never get over how delicious the food was in Europe.
For one of our ten day trips we went to Italy. Most of the destinations were planned out, but we were able to spend three days at any place of our choice, as long as we made it to the next destination on time.
I will admit, Italy wasn’t my favorite. While I did some cool things while there, I just didn’t feel as attached as I thought I would.
By this point in the semester, a lot of us were exhausted from all the travel we’d been doing, so we didn’t want to stay in Prague for the entire weekend. We left on Thursday afternoon and returned to Salzburg by Saturday, instead of Sunday.
Because Thursday and Saturday were filled with travel, we really only had one day to explore Prague. Even then, we went to the Museum of Communism as a class, so in reality it was more like 2/3 of a day.
The Museum of Communism was really informative and eye opening. I have always enjoyed learning about WWII and the Cold War time period, so being able to see a lot of the history, in a place where it happened was absolutely mesmerizing. If you ever go to Prague, definitely check out the museum.
We decided, since we didn’t have a lot of time, to do a free walking tour to try to take in as much of the city as we could.
One of the stops was at the Prague Castle. This was a beautiful sight to see. Our tour guide informed us that it was made up of different architectural styles because it took several centuries to finish building.
The next stop was at a monastery that has been around since the 12th century, that also brews beer! The beer was fantastic and the sights were spectacular from the monastery (see first picture under Prague).
After the walking tour ended, we explored the city for a little while and I bought one of my favorite books: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.
And I finished it on the train ride home.
I dreamed about going to Poland for years, mostly because I really wanted to see Auschwitz-Birkenau. After reading Night by Elie Wiesel, I wanted to see this place in person. My husband went while we were in high school and I was so jealous. He got me a book from there and it just made me want to go more.
I just want to make a side note: I am truly fascinated by this period in history because it baffles me how one group of people could commit such atrocities. I spent a long time growing up reading as many holocaust books I could get my hands on, as well as Nazi biographies, and anything and everything about the holocaust and Hitlers reign in Germany.
And finally, I was able to go.
To be able to go there and see the place where so many people died. To see, in person, the location of all the stories I read. It is something I cannot put into words. I cried a lot walking throughout the camps, seeing the exhibits of hair, shoes, luggage. It tugs on your soul, but I think it’s something everyone should be able to see at least once in their life.
The day before we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, we explored the city center of Krakow.
In part of the city center there were these market tents, where people were selling different knick knacks and different pieces of history. It was funny because some people were selling different currencies, and I found American quarters being sold at more than their actual value. I wonder how many people bought those.
Anyway, I ended up buying a pin from one person because it seemed like a good piece of history to take with me.
We continued to walk throughout the city center, where there were so many food stalls. My heart and stomach were in heaven. I can’t remember everything I ate, I just remember it was all amazing.
We also went on a free walking tour with a very charismatic American tour guide. I definitely would recommend going on a walking tour just to get an idea of the city and the history, before trying to do things on your own.
To be honest, when going to Budapest, I wasn’t really expecting to like it very much. I hadn’t heard too much about it, outside of the events that took place in the ’50s. Many people told me there was a lot to offer and I had an open mind, but I did not expect to be amazed by what was there.
Budapest was a beautiful city, broken up by the river. You could tell which side of the river you were on pretty easily, just because one side was more touristy than the other. We stayed on the Pest side of the river, close to all the restaurants. We were there for about three days, and most of it was spent just walking around. I didn’t really tour any museums, I just wanted to take in the food and the city.
There was so much to love about Budapest. What I enjoyed the most were the statues that were scattered throughout the city. Sometimes I would be taken aback by how realistic they were, almost confusing them for real people.
One of my favorite things about Budapest was the food. There were so many different types of food, it was fantastic. One night we went to a Mexican restaurant and it was really interesting to see the difference in Mexican food from Texas and the Mexican food in Budapest.
I also had something called Kürtőskalács. In English it’s called a Chimney cake. They take dough and wrap it around something akin to a rolling pin and basically cook it in a rotisserie oven. After it’s cooked, they can roll it in a bunch of different toppings. I just got cinnamon and it was so delicious! I wish I had a picture of it, but I ate it so quickly!
We found the stall on this little island on the river, where we also found a running track. I already ran in the morning, so I didn’t run on it, but it had a cool Nike screen above it to keep track of laps and time. But I did climb some trees.
The trees were absolutely gorgeous and so much fun to climb.
The last thing we did was look for the Jewish memorial along the river. One of the girls said that the group who came to Budapest the year before couldn’t find the memorial, but we had a pretty easy time finding it. And it was beautiful. Some people put flowers in some of the shoes and it made it that much more meaningful to see.
As I said earlier, Italy wasn’t exactly my favorite place to visit. There were a lot of cool things that I did, but overall, it just wasn’t the same as some of the other places I went to. But there were some amazing things that are definitely worth seeing/doing that I would consider going back for.
Known as the floating city, many of the people I was with really wanted to go. I figured, why not? Even though Venice is known more as a romantic city, I was excited to try and find something non-romantic to do.
Unfortunately we didn’t really find too much we wanted to do. There were a lot of people selling selfie sticks. A lot of people trying to sell us stuff on the side of the streets. We did go to a cathedral that was absolutely gorgeous, with some of the original flooring from when it was first built. That was a great treasure.
I also went to a shop where they create glass blown figurines. I bought a couple cute ones and we just went back to our hotel.
We took a day trip to Verona while we were staying in Venice. We wanted to go because it was the setting of Romeo and Juliet, so we wanted to see the inspiration from the great William Shakespeare.
We went to an amphitheater called the Verona Arena. Even though it was small, it was beautiful. I like to think about what people would watch in there back in the day, pretending I was there too.
We went to some of the markets in the town, ate some fresh fruit, and then went to the area where Romeo and Juliet “took place.” It was a little too touristy for my taste and a little disappointing, but what can you do?
I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about Rome, but also a lot of bad things about crime. I never really had any bad experiences luckily, but Rome wasn’t my favorite either.
One of my favorite things I did in Rome was a 9 mile run I did on the Appian Way Road.
It’s one of the oldest roads in Rome, with a ton of history. I decided to run to it from our hotel and run along it for a few miles, then run back. It was probably my #2 run that I had while in Europe.
I think Florence was probably my favorite city in Italy, but for one major reason.
This magical piece of artwork.
As we were walking through the museum, looking at the other art, I walked into this room and it was like being in a movie. Time stood still and I was in awe. David was absolutely gorgeous. And to think somebody actually made this with their hands.
I stared at David for a long time, walking back into that area just to see him again. If I could go back to Florence for one thing, it would be to see David again.
I also found a very small museum called the Dante House Museum. It is supposedly on the site where Dante Alighieri was born. It was relatively small but packed with information about Dante’s life and his work. I am a huge fan of the Divine Comedy, so it was awesome to be able to see some of the original work in person.
That’s Part 2 of my adventure!
Hope you stick around for the last one!