Throwback: First Days in Australia

I flew to Australia dec 26th and landed dec 28th (yay long flights and time changes!).the next day I went straight to this festival in the bush with some of my friends and their friends. It was hard to get used to the sun, get used to the time change, and used to the culture. I realized that I was very ill-prepared for this trip as I hadn’t really planned anything. Looking back I definitely would have made plans and bought flights prior to arriving in Australia.

“It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s T-minus 8 hours until midnight! We are 17 hours ahead of my hometown Austin and I’ll have 17 hours less in 2017 and 17 additional in 2018 (assuming I don’t change times at nye next yeah aha).

I’m at the festival Lost Paradise And experience what an Australian festival is like. So far I’ve realized that while it’s fairly similar to any other camping festival I’ve been to, I don’t know any of the artists playing because they are mostly Australian. The one artist I did know somewhat well and was excited for was FKJ who played yesterday and exceeded my expectations immensely. He’s pretty much a one man show.

Some of our squad at Lost Paradise

It’s really really hot outside. Like extremely hot sun. I was pretty sun sick the first day, but by today (day 3) I’m feeling much better and well rested. Just hoping I make it through the night this time without passing out. I’m not even drinking much, just water and Powerade.

The group I’m with is some of my friends from their exchange in Austin plus their friends. Thankfully I didn’t have to bring anything like tent or chairs or sleeping bags and it was all provided. These people are incredibly nice and fun. Their into festivals and the music and costumes and it’s inspirational! I’ve been slacking on my creativity and sewing lately and it makes me want to just sit in my room all day and create things.

I’m a little worried about the cost of everything in Australia as I have been slacking on budgeting and really planning activities and things to do and such. After the festival I’m really gonna bunker down and get 👏🏼 things 👏🏼 done 👏🏼.”

Throwback – Cancun Spring Break ’17

In honor of Spring Break 2k18, I bring you some posts about my experience last year in Cancun. I was too lazy to get it posted here, but not too lazy to write about it on my phone. Go figure. It was a great time, although a little more expensive and less spanish-y than expected:

For spring break this year I wanted to do Mexico. I have never been and now that I have a passport, I decided it was time to check out those white sand beaches.

We had a wonderful time meeting people, hanging on the beach, practicing our Spanish, and dancing all around. We saw a circus show and a Latino-themed show at our resort. The shows had some amazing dance numbers including a quad-skating dance number. This was incredible impressive because they were skating and dancing, but also used props to propel themselves off the ground while the partner skates. It was something I had never seen before, and I was awestruck.

I am also newly inspired to learn to merengue, it was so graceful and fast and beautiful to watch.

We made a lot of cool friends who we went on spontaneous adventures with, such as checking out the club scene downtown, or checking out the in-house “discoteca.”

Cancun was also not as affordable as I had expected. Our resort was all-inclusive so drinks and food and resort activities were included in the (hefty) price tag. I was given advice by some to bring US dollar bills for tips and also not to drink the water (only bottled water or purified!). We took note of all the suggestions, but still didn’t quite know what to expect.

The peso is down, so you would think that things are cheaper. Strange thing about this place is that the American dollar is such a commonly used currency. You are constantly asked whether you want to pay in USD or pesos. Be aware of their “tipo de cambino” or their exchange rate because sometimes it is better than the actual rate and sometimes it is worse. I definitely overpaid a few times because I wasn’t quite paying attention.

We stayed at the “Grand Oasis Palm” which we soon learned that this was the family resort and not the spring breakers destination resort. Honestly it was probably for the better, sure there were kids all around, but there were still tons of people our age and we got to relax a lot more.

This resort was also the root of many inside jokes between us and our new friends. The motto of this resort family is “Oasis Loves You,” but the love is hardly felt because of all the hidden fees and lackluster service. We arrived at the hotel and were told we had to pay a $30 insurance fee because we were under 25. Also it has to be USD cash. Well okay… thanks for the warning. The food was decent, better some places than others. The lines to get drinks and food were always long, you had to tip if you wanted any service. It was hard to find or get bottled water anywhere. There were all these extras you could buy and everything was so expensive.

We constantly talked about how we “love waiting in lines” and “we love to tip.” We laughed and joked around because we knew it was annoying and frustrating. Our friends were supposed to be in a different and nicer Oasis resort, but they had overbooked their hotel by 300 rooms and sent the rest of the people to ours.

We bought a deal on Expedia which was a combo of visiting the Chichen Itza Ruins and also swimming with Dolphins. The Mayan ruins tour had pickup at 5am. I made it, but my friend Connor didn’t. We stayed up all night with out new friends and when 5am rolled around she was not having it. I went and luckily slept the three hours on the bus. It was really cool! The mayans had a lot of rituals related to the harvest, including some blood sacrifices. Their architecture skills were impeccable. Every spring and fall equinox the sunlight creates this pattern down their mountain temple that has 7 triangles leading down to the bottom where there is snake head sculptures.

The dolphin experience was also pretty cute. I’ve never gotten to pet a dolphin, but they felt like a sharks leather, but a lot slimier. The dolphins were so nice and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. We paid almost $100 to get our pictures from the dolphin adventure. We got a cd-disk and it was fine, I was going to put it in my laptop. But nah, my computer decides to eat the disk and we realize my computer has a dead CD drive and we will have to manually get it out later. We’re hoping there are pictures are actually on there. Note: My dad pried the CD out and we were able to download the photos on a different computer!

One of the nights we decided to go to the clubs downtown. All of them included an open bar in the cover price which ranges from $60 to $100. We paid $65 to go to Mandala which played a variety of top 40 and electronic music. It was different than most clubs because it was all open at the front. You could still see the whole street that the club was situated on. We had taken a shuttle with some other people in our hotel and they gave us a table. It was so fancy, like we were getting table service. They brought us a bottle and these milkshake tasting shots, plus they kept refilling our ice. It was great service! Although later we learned that some of the guys in our group were tipping nicely, go figure.

The morning we had to check out we made it right at check out time. Problem was they cut off your resort wristbands during checkout, meaning we couldn’t get food anymore. We got to keep them, minus this part with a number that they cut off. We took the sewing kit from our room and sewed them back on our wrists so we could go and eat still. It worked, and no one said a thing.

The last difficult encounter we faced was getting to the airport. We had booked a super shuttle to take us there because it was cheaper than the taxi. Turns out we booked it for 4 days in the future and not for that day. We asked the front to call a taxi and they said it would be $25 usd or 400 pesos (equivalent to approximately 20 usd). We didn’t have anymore cash so I went to the ATM which only dispenses US dollars, charged me $5.80 for use, and a 10% “exchange rate commission fee.” It was a very expensive taxi (especially compared to our shuttle).

We made it to the airport in which we had a flight to Mexico City and an overnight layover there before we finally headed back to Dallas.

Irish Working Holiday Visa – Updated!

Update: So I mailed out my application on Monday, it is Friday afternoon and I have just received an email from the consulate in Chicago that my application has been approved and I can move on to step 2 of the application! This is really exciting as I had expected it to take over a month to hear back, but it was within the same week! I cannot contain my excitement. I already have tickets to enter Europe and go to France, but now I just need to buy tickets from France to Ireland and then tickets showing I’m leaving Ireland. I also need to find some medical insurance that will cover me for an entire year abroad. I’ll do some more research and update when I have found some options! I also should look into booking an appointment with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, better sooner than later!

Original: Today is the day! The day I finally mailed out my visa application for an Irish working holiday visa. It was such a relief to finally have all my documents together and to have it out in the certified mail.

Below is my checklist of all the documents I needed. I was most hesitant about sending out my university diploma, but after having sent it and talking to a nice postal working I am confident i’ll get it back in pristine condition. I’ll update when I hear back in about a month!

  • Apply for VisaFill out WHA Form
    • Photocopy of US Passport
    • 2 Passport Photos
    • Current ResumeGet 2 references – I got them to write letters recommending me including their contact information
    • Diploma
    • Bank Statement Make sure it says at least $4,000 by end of the month (I borrowed money from my parents for this)
      • $352 money order – Buy at Post Office
  • Visa Part 2Buy Return Airline tickets – or at least tickets showing you are exiting Ireland at some point within a year
    • Find and buy medical insurance for duration of trip
    • Original Passport

Note: I would have taken a photo of my final envelope, but USPS doesn’t allow photos of postage due to fraud. I’ll snap a pic when it is all returned to me.

Milan Sights to See

Duomo

-Lucky shiny leg

-Damage from bomb, thought to be the leg, actually just a random part on the door

-Statue of liberty, the original (lady liberty eventually was a mix of this and French statue)

-took forever to build

-Visconti family

Visconti family seal

-Snake eating a human, seen on the inter soccer team and a car logo

-Viper because of Dante’ poem

Hospital business school

-don’t touch the grass, because of the graves

Bones chapel – Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa

-decor came from hospital graves

Opera house – La Scala Opera

-Amazing acoustics, best in the world.

-You haven’t made it in opera unless you’ve performed here

-bombed, but rebuilt within a year exactly because of the amount of photographs that were available

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

-Built to commemorate Italy being unified in 1861

-lit by gas lights at first, but was the first place in Milan to get electricity

-First Prada store opened here

-Savino, first restaurant in galleria

Merchant market

-Great acoustics

-where the word bankrupt came from

Stock Market Exchange

-the finger, the guy

Traveling in Italy (using metaphors) – Another Rant

Here is another one of my rants on Italy, this time I used a bunch of metaphors and similes. Some of  these metaphors are actually based off of real things, like travelling for an hour and a half and the place you are going to is closed. That happened when we tried to go to Pompeii. Anyways I’ve changed a lot of my thoughts since I wrote this. I’m not always this cynical, just when I’m fed up with frustration. Maybe you can relate.

Traveling in Italy is like driving down the road when all of a sudden a yeti comes and totals your car.

Traveling in Italy is like scoring a touchdown, only to realize the ref called a flag just seconds before you succeeded.

Traveling in Italy is like your boss giving you a raise, but then your house catches fire.

Traveling in Italy is like smelling a beautiful flower, only to realize it is the devils breathe.

Like finding a perfect tinder match, only to learn you are being catfished.

Traveling an hour and a half on a train, only to realize the place you were trying to get to is closed.

Trying to buy a discount card, only to realize you didn’t read the fine print that said you had to be an EU citizen.

Running to the bus because it was on the other side, hopping on just in time, but catching someone’s mucus spit on your backpack.

Buying a nice quality bag, only to realize the supply exceeds the demand and you overpayed.

Every train being delayed, except for the train you arrive a minute late to.

Having your phone company tell you 4G data is free all day, but  getting the edge network (slowest data) 70% of the day.

Getting on the wrong train when your train at the same platform is late, and end up passing your destination and having to retrace your steps.

Asking to try on a pair of shoes a size larger and being told you can’t because they won’t fit your feet, but buying them anyways and then fitting perfect just like you thought.

Traveling in Italy has been really hard. Everything may be going well, but then a curveball is thrown at you and it can ruin your day. We’ve learned to not let everything be ruined, but instead we laugh. We laugh a lot because things are constantly not going as planned. The country is beautiful, but the people are not. The country is rich in history, but has a corrupt and poor economy. Lots of nature, but equally as much pollution (and cigarette smoke). Point is, Italy is not all that and a plate of pasta. It is full of pasta, very good pasta, but the country itself can be defined in one word: Challenging.

Everything is challenging. Whether it is transportation, information, eating at restaurants, finding something open, etc etc etc. The store is never open when you want it to be. The train never comes on time, except when your running late. The internet almost never provides enough information, and your stuck having to fend for yourself and think quick on your feet.

Even the language doesn’t make sense. There may be 20 words for one little thing, but you have to choose the exact word based on where you are, you are are, who the other person is, what your relationship is, what time of day or year, and more. For a foreigner they aren’t too picky, they’re mostly happy to see you trying. Though as a foreigner it can be pretty tricky to try and understand if: A) they are using different words than you know (or are used to), B) they talk fast and complex even after you ask (in Italian) to slow down.

So many people come to Italy and you hear them talk about its beauty and how it was so amazing. There are different kinds of people who travel though, some book tours, others live it out themselves. Those who book tours (both all inclusive and individual ones) typically have an easier time seeing and doing things. Everything is planned, they don’t have to worry about other costs or something going wrong. Those who live it out themselves typically choose to plan things on their own, without the direction of a guide. The latter also typically go more so off the beaten path. The former ends up sticking to touristy things and definitely getting a different experience.

I am the latter. I am stubborn and I like to plan everything myself so I have room for flexibility and exploration. I’ve been on a guided tour of a whole city and it sucked. I felt trapped. I couldn’t explore or spend the amount of time I wanted to at places and not everywhere we went was I interested. I like to experience the real culture, not a fake one that tour guides try to make it out to be. When you live in the rough, you learn to adapt. When you live in Italy, you begin to expect nothing to go the way you planned. That is what I have become. I have let go of my expectations and nothing can surprise me anymore.

I don’t think everyone has the capacity to travel abroad. I’m sure other countries leave people feeling this way, but Italy seems so much more so than all the others I’ve been to. Italy seems to be rough on other travelers I have met along the way. Everything is backwards, people are rude, Sunday is the worst day of the week because everything is closed, and you become an early bird because the only thing to do in Milan after 8pm is go to a club or bar with equally posh Italians who all look 20 years older than their real age because they smoke so much. It’s been really life-changing living in Italy, and traveling abroad in general. I have 2 months left until I go back to the mothership, and I cannot wait. I will go home a new person, with new skills, new knowledge, a new perspective, and knowing everyone who thinks Italy is the greatest place ever…. is wrong and they must not have actually been to Italy.

I think the reason people talk so well of Italy is because they had such an amazing guided tour experience. The country truly is beautiful, and if you are paying the people then they are nice. Otherwise expect to get shorter on your change.

Would I recommend living or studying in Italy? No. Just don’t do it. Visit Italy while you are abroad, but don’t make the mistake in living there. If you really feel so inclined, then be prepared knowing it’s challenging.

Airport troubles and Heading Home

The day I left was difficult. It was my flight to go home. Milan Linate airport was super foggy and thus getting the plane to London took some extra time. We left late, delayed the landing, then also delayed our taxi to the gate. It was a rough 4 hours or so.

I tried to find my connection, but alas it wasn’t even on the connections board. I talked to a lady and she told me to stand in this immigration line and rebooking was on the other side. I was constantly updating my parents about my flight and even though it was the middle of the night, my dad was constantly checking his email. He told me that apparently my flight was 2 hours delayed and I might be able to make it. I run to the bus to take me to terminal 3.

Standing in line at the UK Border

I run and approach yet another security check. I anxiously wait and get through it somewhat quickly. I run to the board and I still can’t find my flight. I ask an attendant nearby and he says, “let’s talk to British airways.” He brings me up to a tall British man who I give my boarding pass to. “Unfortunately yes you miss your flight, but I will work to get that all fixed off,” he says as he runs off.

I didn’t even have to wait in any line, but I am just standing there where he once was. I sit down. I’ve had to use the bathroom for a good 3 hours now, along with being dehydrated and I had poured out my water at security. Plus I have gone without a meal for a good 7 hours. The man eventually comes back asking for my passport, he tells me that my flight will be tomorrow and that I’ll be in a hotel tonight. Best news though: it’s a direct flight home.

I wouldn’t be able to appreciate a direct flight as much as I do today. Seeing my hometown on the screen, the thought of doing customs in my own city, and not having to worry about switching to another flight all mean so much more to me.

The hotel they put me in was close to the airport, I got a bus voucher to get me there and back. I also got dinner and breakfast. Dinner was a bunch of fried food, but I could not have been happier. French fries and fish sticks and chicken tenders and more. Fried food: An American’s Dream. The room was pretty quirky as well, and really nice. Having my own double bed and my own cozy little room was so refreshing.

Quirky picture in my hotel room’s bathroom

Getting to the airport the next day was also so relaxing. It was nearby, I didn’t have my 2 huge and heavy suitcases, I already had a boarding pass, and security took less than 5 minutes. I got to my gate and it was a short and easy wait for my flight to board.

I hadn’t taken a flight this long before. I think my longest was around 6-7 hours, this one was a solid 10. I tried to sleep, but only got a scattered 3 hours. I was delighted that they fed us, something I honestly did not expect, but looking back I understand it is probably mandatory to do so. I watched 2 movies, played countless games of solitaire, and walked around a couple times. We were in the new Boeing Dreamliners (787), and it made me feel rather fancy.

Customs was also easier itself than I expected. Apparently the Austin airport is special in that you don’t have to fill out any papers because everything is recorded electronically. The process was very simple. While waiting for your bags, go through this line til you get to a machine, scan your passport, answer the prompted questions (which replace the need to fill out the paper form), get a receipt, and have it checked by personnel. They will write a number on it, which corresponds to which line you’ll need to go through once you collect your bags. I finished that first process and waiting on my bags for a bit while longer. Once they were collected, I handed the receipt and my passport to the officer, he asked me if I need to declare anything, to which I answered “no” (an honest no too) and I went out the doors to see my family waiting for me.

My first long-term trip has been a success and it has been so amazing. There are so many things I look forward to and I cannot wait for the future! Adventure awaits!

Rimini in the Winter Wonderland

I spent a weekend exploring the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. I went to Bologna and Rimini, and neighboring city-state (country) of San Marino. It was a wonderful time! I find that the more I explore Italy, the more I like it. I’ve realized that the north of Italy just isn’t my style. I think of Milan as the New York City of Italy: everyone dresses in black, biggest subway system in the country, people are a bit on the rude side, crowded, expensive, fashion, etc etc. I didn’t much like NYC when I visited, so getting out of Milan and around Italy has been good for me.

I really liked this region, at least the places I visited. I visited a couple weeks ago, when most of my american friends were celebrating Thanksgiving and the start of the shopping season. I spent a day in Bologna, eating, and walking around. Italy has black friday sales, and so of course, I shopped around a bit. I was with this girl from my school, a chinese girl name Lu. We had booked a hostel in Rimini for 2 nights since it was a bit cheaper than in Bologna.

Bologna is the food capital of Italy, so of course I had to try some of the famous Tortelloni.
Bologna is the food capital of Italy, so of course I had to try some of the famous Tortelloni.

The day we went, there was a national strike, so we had to take the freccia trains at their higher cost to get to Rimini. We took the frecciabianca and it was a nice hour long trip. We got to the hostel to find it almost completely empty. Winter/fall is the dead season, as Rimini is a coastal town known as the “Italian Riviera.”

Walking around we could definitely tell it was meant for summertime fun. The coast was full of beach areas, where you could pay to get an umbrella, shower off, and eat. All of them were closed, with the exception of a few restaurants. It made getting to the sea fairly easy. Walking down the coastline was really nice, and unlike other italian beaches I’ve experienced, there were a lot of shells here. I collected and brought home quite a few. Even at this time, the beach wasn’t dead. There were tons of people taking “una passeggiata,” or a stroll, down the water. The weather didn’t even feel that chilly, it was nice, but still jacket weather.

Looking down the coast in Rimini
Looking down the coast in Rimini

We spent one of our days exploring the city-state San Marino, which was a 50 minute bus ride from the Rimini train station. I think we chose a great time to come because there were very few tourists, which made our stay extra enjoyable. I read about how San Marino can sometimes be too touristy, but our experience was just right. Not everything was opened, but we still went shopping, saw the main sites and museums, climbed the towers, and did a mini hike. Definitely a great day trip! I even sent postcards using the San Marino postal service, I’m hoping it is more reliable than the Italian one.

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One of the famous tower in the Republic of San Marino

Our last day we spent wandering around the Rimini city center. We had already traversed some of this path before, trying to find a restaurant to eat at. The city center was full of people, but still didn’t feel crowded. The streets were lined with christmas lights at night and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Rimini’s old town has a few key attractions namely, the Augustus Arch, The Ponte Di Tiberius, and the Surgeon’s house. The arch and bridge are on opposite sides of the city so makes for a good walk. The surgeon’s house is cool, there are ruins from ancient times and you’ll even be able to see a few skeletons. Mhmm very cool. The ticket for that got us into the City Museum, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a bit of time to kill. It’s like every other museum in Italy and we just wandered until we were bored.

The Ponte Di Tiberius. The Romans were able to build this bridge to capture the perfect reflection of the arches on the water.
The Ponte Di Tiberius. The Romans were able to build this bridge to capture the perfect reflection of the arches on the water.

Overall the atmosphere of the city felt so much more relaxed in comparison to uptight Milan. People were smiling everywhere, full of energy. People were willing to help you, and not just because they wanted your tourist money. I felt they were truly genuine. It was a great change of pace. Since the city was in its dead season, people probably were happy that their city wasn’t overrun with tourists and beach bums. It felt like a place to live, and not just a place you could visit.

I spent a bit of time looking what there was to do in Rimini in the winter. While there is not a whole lot of touristy things to do, I enjoyed walking around in the park and talking to people. I met a few italians or italian-speaking folk in the hostel, and I even learned the cyrillic alphabet. Would I recommend going? Yes! It is still a beautiful city in the winter, and doesn’t have that touristy vibe. There are several day trips you can make from Rimini, good food, and the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of a huge city. I think it definitely captures that romantic italian vibe, without all of the stress of people everywhere and the pressure to visit things.

Napoli, Italy (Naples)

Naples is full of activities, excursions, history, and people. We got there and suddenly found that there was so much to do and so little time. This area of the Mediterranean, overlooked by Mt. Vesuvius, is also covered in geological history. We spent some time at the island Capri, explored parts of mt. Vesuvius, wandered around a castle and more. So much to do, and so little time, but I’ll break it down.

What we managed to do:

– Island of Capri
Famous for the blue grotto, we took a ferry from Naples to try and go see it. Unfortunately it was closed due to rough seas, but we hear it is rare to be there on a day it is open. We took a tour around the island and passed the grotto entrance, which was almost fully covered by water. We did get to see the beautiful green grotto, full of emerald waters created by the yellow sandbar. The island itself is beautiful and relaxing (and also expensive), we kept thinking it didn’t feel like Italy and almost more Greek as it was covered almost entirely by white homes. After eating some limoncello gelato, we skipped the hike up to Villa Jovis (Tiberius’s place) and headed home.

The green grotto of Capri
The green grotto of Capri

-Archaeological museum
Lots of cool artifacts, got in a couple fights with Italians (about the arte card, see below for more). Should go see if before heading to the ruins.

-Mt. Vesuvius on horseback
Highly recommend, and very affordable too! Check it out here, http://www.horseridingnaples.com/ It was one of the highlights of our trip!

Taking a horse up to Mt. Vesuvius!
Taking a horse up to Mt. Vesuvius!

– Herculaneum
An ancient ruins right under Mt. Vesuvius path lies Herculaneum, or in Italian “Ercolano.” You can see frescos still in tack, wood that has turned to charcoal, and all the aspects of an ancient Roman city. This city was covered in lava after the volcano blew, so was preserved in a different way than Pompeii.

-Royal Naples Free Walking Tour
https://napolithatsamore.org/

royal-naples-city-center

-Castel d’Ovo
See cover photo. Legend has it, this castle was built on an egg…

-Walked Around Old Town Naples City Center
-Pompeii
We made time to go Nov 1st, the day after daylights savings ends. Nov 1st is also the day that things close at sunset, which happens to be around 5pm. We got to Pompeii just before 4, thinking we would still have a couple hours (til 7:30pm) to explore the grounds. Nope, last entrance at 3:30 and we spent half an hour on the train for nothing. It was rather disappointing, but we made a plan. Our train didn’t leave til almost 1pm the next day. We would wake up early, catch the train there, and spend our morning exploring. We took the wrong train, but still managed to make it to Pompeii in the morning with time to explore!

Pompeii Ampitheatre
Pompeii Ampitheatre

What we wished we could have done:

-Galleria Boubon

-Castel St Elmo

-Catacombs

-Explored more of Naples

-Eaten more pizza

We only got pizza once, and not even a famous place. We did go to a traditional Neapolitan kitchen (by accident) and had some of the most amazing food. Campognola, check it out.

Day trips to do:

-Ischia island

-Hot springs lake

-Sorrento

-Positano on the Amalfi

-Amalfi

-Other Scavi

-Climbing up Vesuvius on foot

You can't go up to the very top of vesuvius, but on our break we got to see some volcanic rock.
You can’t go up to the very top of vesuvius, but on our break we got to see some volcanic rock.

Scams:

While we didn’t get scammed the traditional way, we still felt scammed by the institution. We bought the Campania arte card, which was supposed to give us free entry into a few places and discounted entry into the rest, including transportation. First problem with this card was we wanted to buy the “young card,” meant for those between 18 and 25. It included almost everything for free and was a hefty discount in comparison to all the other options. Thing is…. in the fine print it wrote that you had to be an EU citizen, but was marketing towards everyone who was young.

1st disappointment: Fine print information.

The card was supposed to last 3 days, I figured that was 72 hours. We bought it around 5pm on the first day and used it to go to the museum. The 4th day, although still within the 72 hour range, we tried to use it for the metro and it didn’t work. Same with Pompeii, except she tried to tell me that the 72 hours was already over (which it definitely wasn’t).

2nd disappointment: Not timed, on a end of the day basis.

In the end we probably didn’t save much. €12 for the museum, €11 for Herculaneum, maybe around €10 for transport…. comes out to about the same cost. We would have been better off researching our options a little better, finding a travel only card, and looking for free things to do, like the Castelle d’ovo.

My Weekend in Krakow

November 14th, 2016

This was my last trip with my trusty travel partner by my side. Without a visa, American citizens can only stay in the Schengen area in Europe for a maximum of 90 days. He arrived in krakow a few days before me and I left a few days after him. I have roughly 6 weeks left in Europe and only 3 more trips in the work with the possibility of a few day trips.

Now to talk about Poland. It is always nice getting out of Italy, and I start to forget the annoying ways of Italians. Poles still have some rude and lazy qualities, but at least they aren’t unreasonable or angry all the time.

Krakow is known for a few things, but most famously is known for Auschwitz, one of the largest German concentration camps ran during the holocaust. It’s located about an hour and a half outside the city, we booked a tour (Cracow city tours) that had all-inclusive transportation, entrance, tour guide, and even lunch. The camp auschwitz was still mostly in-fact, Birkenau –the  largest concentration and death camp– was mostly in ruins. We heard about the how the nazis deceived their prisoners every step of the way until the cyclone-B was dropped. We saw the actual hair of prisoners, shaved and taken from them to make textiles. We looked at the photos of prisoners they registered; faces all carrying similar and dark features. We held each other and thought about Donald Trump. A lot.

These are the pots and pans brought by those who thought they were coming to start a new, and better, life.

This place made us feel a lot of things. Yes sorrow for the past and the innocent deaths, but also fear and wonder of what the future holds. This camp serves as a reminder of history, and that we cannot let this happen again. It was a heavy week. We wondered if such rounding up of a certain race could ever happen again. Would the media report? Would people know and protest? We saw this hook on the streets of the camp. Our guide explained that as punishment, people’s arms would be bound behind them and hung by the hook. This would break their scapulas, which would make them unfit for work and sent to the gas chamber. We saw an older man wrap his finger around the hook and take a photo. It was the most disrespectful thing I saw all day. Tasteless. Infuriating. How could someone mock a death sentence so casually? This brings up a lot of ethical arguments, questions, and issues. That is what the exhibition is for: to make us think.

Memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in the camp.
Memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in the camp.

Now that the heavy stuff is setting in, we can drown our sorrows in some good ole polish Wodka. I didn’t get a chance to go on a pub crawl or go to a wodka tasting (food poisoning, very fun), but I did get to try some honey lemon vodka. Usually I think vodka tastes like straight up paint thinner, but this stuff was “sipable”. It didn’t make me cringe, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After my boyfriend left I explored krakow a bit with some friends from my Erasmus program. We shopped around and visited the wieliczka salt mine. There are several markets around the city, both in the main square and the Jewish quarter. Lots of little trinkets with Russian influences and lots of warm socks and hats, mittens, and more. Besides typical souvenir things like magnets and keychains, I saw cute little wooden boxes all about and lots of polish pottery.

The salt mine was real neat, not cold inside so perfect for a winter weather day. We were extremely impressed with how big it was. Caverns so large you can hold a wedding or go bungee jumping. There were a lot of sculptures made out of blocks of salt (who could have though?) and we got to taste some of the wall. Very salty, but with some sort of mineral-ly twist.

Super Blurry souvenir pic we got from the Salt Mine. Maybe a layer of salt on the lense??
Super Blurry souvenir pic we got from the Salt Mine. Maybe a layer of salt on the lense??

Krakow has been good, although my Ryanair flights have been a little rough. Too bad the train can’t get me back to milan in an hour and a half. Oh well for now!

Rick Steves is Awesome!

Before I started my journey abroad my employer loaned me some of his old Rick Steves travel guide DVD’s. They were fairly outdated, but I still watched and laughed at how dorky they were. My grandma owns the Rick Steves travel Italy book and she swears that it is the best. My mom suggested I download the app or the podcasts and listen along on his guided tours. “No mom, Rick Steves is for old people.” Well I’m here right now with a complete change of heart. I like Rick Steves a lot, and I think he’s a funny man and a great writer.

Have you ever gotten the audioguide at the museum and found yourself completely bored by it? Yeah, story of my life. Listening to a guy (usually british) talk way too long about something uninteresting is…. well, really uninteresting. What I like about the Rick Steves’ tours are that they are short and sweet. No nonsense, just get to the point and talk about things that people actually care about. Plus it’s guided! We did the Vatican Museum audio tour and we felt it really helped us not get overwhelmed by how huge the museum is. We were able to hit all the big things in the museum, learn a lot of interesting facts, and also LAUGH! Hardly ever have the audioguides included humor. Rick Steves and his female host are able to bounce dialogue off each other to create movement both in the writing and in the audio, so nothing becomes monotone. Sometimes Rick will say something weird.. something that a dude would say. Like “oh look at those pretty ladies (towards a statue)” and his female host (forgot her name) would be like “Rick pay attention! Those are sirens, they will lure you to your death!” Funny things like that. Makes for an interesting storyline.

We have only done some of the audio tours in Rome, including the one in Pompeii. We only had around 2.5 hours there, so listening along to him expedited our trip and allowed us to conquer at least some of Pompeii during our short time. We also used his audio tours to explore some of the neighborhoods in Rome, including the city center with the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Campo Di Fiori, and all the cool things few and far in between.

I know he has several other tours for other cities in Italy, including Florence and Venice, and other for other countries as well. It is worth checking out, plus it’s free! You can check out his website at Ricksteves.com.