Saturday, May 30, 2015

100 Km under in Krakow, Poland

We had our first actual warm day while in Krakow, Poland! It was a gorgeous city, especially on a gorgeous, sunny day. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Warsaw, Poland

Today, according to my FitBit Flex, I walked 8 miles along the sidewalks of Warsaw and I was lucky to be able to cover nearly everything that I had wanted to see in the city. I had such a wonderful day, but now I am exhausted...but before I turn in, here is a little bit about Warsaw and what I saw there:
With fresh bouquets of flowers for sale on every corner, how can you not love this place?
This morning, my tour group went on a bus tour through the city, and then we had the afternoon to explore on our own. We stopped in a famous park with a monument to Chopin, the famous composer. Apparently the rest of the park is gorgeous and a great place to relaz, but we didn't get a chance to explore it further.  
We spent a lot of time in Old Town Square, and we saw the statue of the mermaid, which, according to folklore, helped found the city. 
I did not realize that Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, so I was surprised when we walked by her house and museum, which was decorated with her accomplishments, as can be seen above. She is so highly looked up to in the science community. 
My family and I love pierogis, so we stopped at a restaurant which had a huge selection of them. We ended up eating spinach and cheese pierogis and then blueberry pierogis for lunch. They were delicious! And the restaurant that we were at had the menu translated adorably into English, complete with a pierogi poem. 
The Memorial to the Warsaw Uprising, above, is definitely something to see on a trip to Warsaw. It is very powerful and the figures are larger than life. 
We also visited the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard, which happens every hour on the hour. 
For the rest of our day, we just explored the city on foot and we happened upon a nice open air market, complete with delicious bread and crafts! 
A definite highlight of my time in Warsaw was my stop in A. Blikle, which was Charles de Gaulle's favorite bakery and coffee shop. They are known for their rose donuts, seen above. The donuts were sooooo good. 
And the dark chocolate mocha tasted even better than it looks! What a fantastic stop. 
I would definitly put Warsaw on my list of places to visit again. It had the perfect mix of old and new, and it is full of history and hope.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Poznań, my first taste of Poland

On our bus trip from Berlin to Warsaw, Poland, we stopped for a short while in a little town called Poznan. Although there were many tourists in the town, it was mostly because several bus tours stop there on the way to Warsaw. 
The Old Town Square was adorable and there were several different groups of schoolchildren and tourists visiting. At noon, everyone was gathered underneath the town hall building to watch the clock strike 12. Two little wooden rams come out of the clock tower and butt heads 12 times. The children would count in Polish along with the clock chimes and it was super adorable. 
Since it was our first time in Poland, we found ourselves a little Polish diner to have lunch in. We had spinach pierogis, traditional vegetable soup and strawberry crepes for dessert.  
The town was full of fountains and statues, as well as little quiet streets. It was a lot different from the busyness of Berlin and Frankfurt, and it was honestly kind of nice to get away from tourist-central. 
Polish is even harder for me to understand than German is! Hopefully we can get by for the next few days. 
While we were exploring, I found some propaganda from the Capital... I have no idea what the poster says, but President Snow is on it and I thought it was really cool. 
I will probably never get to Poznan again, but the people that we met there were sweet and it was a quiet little town where we enjoyed a nice afternoon and break from the bus. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Berlin's Best

Since my family and I are on a fast-paced bus tour of Central Europe, we get to see a lot of different cities and places in two weeks, but at the price of never having quite enough time in each of the places that we visit. It is a trade off, but I think it is worth it. It just means that I am going to have to visit some of these great places again in the future to see everything! 
The symbol for Berlin is a little bear, so there are all these bear statues all over the city. Here is one of them which was in front of an artsy hotel. 
I have found that I actually really like Berlin. There is a whole lot of history packed in one city, and it also has a lot of culture and nature, which I thought was surprising.There are parks and forests all over the city and (as I saw in Frankfurt) everyone rides their bikes. I love it. I love the pace of the city and seeing people in business clothes and helmets, riding to work along the bike routes alongside cars. If only the US could make bike-culture normal. 
Above is a photo of me with a painted section of the Berlin Wall, found at the Allies Museum. I cannot imagine being separated from family and friends by a wall which just showed up in my home city, basically overnight. The other side of the wall faced East Berlin, and was unpainted and had bullet holes. People in East Berlin could not be anywhere near the wall, or they would be shot at. 
We could see the stark contrast not only on the Wall itself, but also in the styles and histories of the different sides of Berlin. 
Above is another, larger section of the Wall. I had learned about the second World War in school, of course, as well as the division of Berlin afterwards, but never in such detail. The city itself just exudes history, and I have absorbed so much in my short time here. 
Now, not many parts of the Wall remain, but there is a cobblestone line drawn through the entire city which shows the divide. This part of the line was near the tourist spot, Checkpoint Charlie, which was where the main checkpoint along the divide was. 
Our bus tour brought us to Wannsee, where we visited the place where the Nazis had their meeting about the "final solution." It was scary to think that they decided the fates of hundreds of thousands of people in one 90-minute meeting. 
Another humbling experience was walking through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which can be seen above, as well as the mini Holocaust Museum which is housed beneath it. The memorial is made up of hundreds of stone blocks of varying heights, which are meant to look like coffins. They symbolize those who were killed during the Holocaust, a part of Germany's past. You can walk through the memorial, between the blocks, and sink beneath their surfaces. It becomes kind of like a maze and may make you feel a bit claustrophobic. This memorial was so powerful, and has become one of the best that I have ever seen.  
Our tour also made a stop at the Brandenburg Gate, which is a gorgeous arch in the middle of the city. It made for a great photo opportunity. 
Another great part about Berlin, in addition to it's abundance of history, is the abundance of coffee shops and bakeries. Our tour guide called Berlin the coffee shop of Europe. Above is some dessert that we had with lunch. We also tried Schnitzel.  
The best dessert that we had in Berlin, by far, came from Berliner Kaffeerosteri, which is a gorgeous gourmet coffeeshop and bakery. Their specialty is a blueberry cake, which I will dream about for the next few years. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Just an hour in Weimar, Germany

Since we are on a bus tour of Eastern Europe, there are some days when we are on the road for long periods of time. Like today, for example, when we drove from Frankfurt, all the way to Berlin. I guess I had not realized just how far the cities are from each other. We passed through a lot of green fields and some small towns. 
The highlight of the trip was definitely the hour we spent in Weimar, which is a small but very famous city in Germany. 
It is Geothe's hometown, as well as a center for music and culture. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller are pictured below:
Although we only had an hour for lunching and touring this wonderful city, we were able to see a lot and I took a lot of photos (mostly of buildings). Unfortunately, I know very little about the sights that are in my photos. 
It is the perfect German town, with cobblestone streets, a gorgous river, little cafes and many bratwurst stands. 
There were cute little buildings around every corner as well as SO many bikes. 
All I know is that I could live in this house. 
Stay tuned for my next post on Berlin!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Frankfurt, Germany

I have stayed in the city of Frankfurt for the past two days and have finally gotten over the jet-lag. I flew through the night and got to the airport around noon, German time. Although the rest of my first day here was rough because of how tired I was, we made the best of it!
When my family and I checked into our hotel, we realized that we were a little farther outside the city center than we thought we were, but we ended up finding dinner at a great authentic German restaurant called Sachsenhauser Warte, pictured below. 
I think it looks like Rapunzel's tower. It is also a guest house. 
Inside, there were beautiful flowers and places to sit for dinner or drinks. We tried a local cider-like drink called apfelwein (like "apple wine"). When the waitress brought it to us, she brought a pitcher for us to share as well as a huge glass bottle of seltzer water. She had to explain to us that we fill our glasses for the most part with the apfelwein in the pitcher, and then dilute it a bit with the seltzer. Although it was not very sweet (like other ciders I have had), I enjoyed it and I really liked trying something local. 
During our second day in the city, we decided to visit the Botanical Gardens, which were about a 15 minute bus ride away from center city. Although it cost about 7 euros per person to go into the Conservatory, the outdoor gardens were free. 
They were mostly made up of wildflowers, and there was also a huge pond with loud frogs. 
I have no idea what this sign says.
We traveled by subway back into the center city and explored on foot. The Cathedral was super tall and towered over the entire city.
We stopped for lunch along the Main, which is one of two rivers that run through Frankfurt. The other is the Rhine. People have started putting love locks on the bridge that we crossed, and I have found that this now happens with just about any old bridge in Europe. The original love lock bridge is in Paris and it is a complete tourist trap. 
Anyways, this bridge had a lot of locks and even more pigeons, and it also offered a great view of the river, which was very active. We saw all kinds of boats and barges along the river and there are also many museums nearby.   
My experience in Germany so far has been very different from other trips to Europe, especially because of the langauge barrier. I speak both English and Spanish, and although English is very widely spoken in just about any country, I have noticed that I have had a harder time here than in places like Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. The languages in these countries at least have similar roots and sounds as Spanish, which always make getting around easier. 
Having absolutely no background in the language makes even ordering at a restaurant a lot more difficult. 
At least we have the basics down: Hallo, Nein, Bitte, and Danka.
Tomorrow we will be making our way to Berlin! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking in Toronto, Canada

My first stop on this post-grad adventure lays just a three hour drive away from my hometown in New York. Tomorrow, we will flying out of Toronto to head to Frankfurt, Germany, so we decided to add a few days in Toronto to our trip. I have not visited the city since I was little, so it was great to get to know it again. 
Since it is summer, naturally, I packed summery clothes for our trip... Although I did bring a cardigan, a light jacket, a light sweater, and a rain jacket with me (I still consider this "packing light"), these were not enough to repel the classic Canadian cold... especially the winds of the streets of Toronto. We stopped by the Eaton Centre, pictured above, to see if I could find a heavier sweater and perhaps a scarf. 
Although we did not find anything affordable there, it was nice to window shop. I also really loved the art installation of Canadian Geese.
Later on, we visited Loblaws, a huge grocery store chain, which had a clothing store called Joe Fresh. There I found both a warm, comfy sweatshirt and a scarf for great prices!
We have found some really great breakfasty places on our short stay in Toronto. Pictured above is a glorious mixed berry and goat cheese waffle that I had at the Pickle Barrel, on Yonge Street, just before we went to see the play, Once. Although it was huge, I ate the whole thing, as well as all of the fruit that came with it. I recommend stopping by, and I also recommend seeing a play while in the city, since it is full of great theatres. It reminded me a lot of London. 
Just this afternoon, we went to Figs for lunch ( and I had a delicious Greek omelet. I think I have turned into Ron Swanson with all the breakfast foods I have had in these few short days. 
Another stop that we made was to the Aga Khan Museum, ( which houses art and artifacts from the Middle East. It opened relatively recently, and they are currently doing the landscaping. 
One of our last stops in Toronto was the St. Lawrence Market, pictured below! At the market, you can find local foods such as meat, fish, bread, legumes by the pound, ethnic foods (like pierogis) and lots of olives and Mediterranean bars. There was so much to see. If I lived in Toronto, I would definitely frequent this market, though the prices are a little higher than regular grocery stores. 

That is about it for my stay in Toronto... but I have really enjoyed the feel of the city. It has a lot of different little areas, which I would have loved to explore more, and it was almost like a taste of Europe in North America! I really cannot wait to come back!
Next stop, Frankfurt!
Do you know of any other places that are worth visiting in Frankfurt?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

8 Must have items for any kind of adventure:

If you haven't been keeping up with me lately, I should let you know that I am deep in the middle of packing for a trip to Eastern Europe with my family. My room is a mess... there are piles of clothes on the floor, an open (empty) suitcase, and plenty of miscellaneous items all over my desk and chair.
It is driving me absolutely crazy... but I could not think of a better time to write a post on necessary items for an adventure abroad.

  • Journal and pen- I cannot stress enough just how important it is to document a once-in-a-lifetime adventure! I have been doing this since I was little. Although I usually go overboard and write in my journal every night about the day that I had (where we went, what we saw, what food we ate...), every time I open up a filled journal, it brings me right back to that very day. I have even started bringing along a mini stapler so that I can include ticket stubs and brochures in my journals!
  • Comfortable shoes- No matter where you are going, you are probably going to be doing a ton of walking. 
  • Raincoat- I always take a raincoat with me, even if rain is not on the forecast, just in case it decides to downpour while you are touring. This way, you can still see the sights without having to pop into a cafe, just to wait out the rain. 
  • Portable mirror- I have stayed in one too many hostel to forget my own little mirror. If you are sharing a room with a large group, it is just easier to find a quiet spot by a window to apply your makeup, rather than crowd around the one in the bathroom. 
  • Camera- I love taking photos, so my camera will not be leaving my side for the entire trip. Also be sure to bring a camera card with enough space and an extra battery. 
  • Adapters- Different countries have different kinds of outlets. Do the research and buy the appropriate adapter before you leave, so that you can charge your electronics whenever you want, rather than after it is too late. 
  • Headphones- I never leave home without my iPod Classic and headphones. Having your own music to listen to while on a long plane ride can help make it more enjoyable for you. 
  • Waterbottle (if the tap water where you are going is safe to drink)- Not only is a reusable water bottle much more environmentally friendly and cost efficient than buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle, but it also keeps you hydrated while on your travels. There is nothing worse than being in an incredible place, but not feeling well enough to enjoy it. 
I hope this post has reminded you of a few essentials to bring along with you on your next great adventure! Do you have anything to add to the list?
Stay tuned for more posts about my upcoming trip passing through Toronto and cities in Germany, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary!

Friday, May 15, 2015

My first post-grad summer!

Looks like we made it!
Although it is still hard for even me to believe, I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication studies and Spanish this past weekend! Four years of hard work and a great college experience had led me to this point. It is an overwhelming feeling which can really only be summed up as bittersweet.
Finals week was a total blur for me and the weekend that followed was full of events such as senior formal, a Baccalaureate Mass, and graduation on Sunday. I remember seeing all my friends walk across stage, and then waiting for the moment where my name was called. I don't actually remember the walk, but I was assured by my friends and family that the announcer read off both of my degrees and I definitely did not trip. Thank goodness!
After graduation, my life still moved at the speed of light. I had to pack up all of my stuff from my dorm room and put it in storage for the summer, since I will be moving back to Maryland in June. I also had to say goodbye to all of my lovely friends for an undetermined amount of time, which was as hard as you can believe it to be. I then made the six to seven hour drive home by car, which left me exhausted.
I got more sleep during my first few nights at home than I had for all of the week before graduation... and this seemed to be the general experience for graduating seniors.
Now that I am home, I am preparing to enjoy a shortened summer break, though one that will be full of adventures and excitement. (I will be posting on my upcoming trip soon!)
After I return from my trip, it will be a quick transition and move back South, to my college town, where I will be moving in to my first real apartment and starting summer work for my university, as well as beginning some prerequisite courses for my MBA... I will definitely be posting all about these exciting transitions later on!
For now, I will focus on unpacking my school supplies and immediately packing up again for my trip.
Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How it feels to be done with college:

TGIF- Thank God it's Finals? 
Friday was my last day of undergraduate classes ever, and the only thing that I feel right now is sweet relief. 
I just turned in my last paper (the one that I both started and finished on Thursday night) for my last Spanish class and I finally feel like I can breathe. This year, my last year as an undergrad, was challenging and sometimes scary, but I have overcome all the things that have stood in my way, and it just feels so good to be finished.
Finals week is a bit of a joke for me, since I only have two exams, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. Next weekend is Senior Formal and I graduate on Sunday, Mother's Day.
The majority of this coming weekend and week will consist of spending time with friends, trying to squeeze in every last bit of fun and memory making that we can. We will take lots of photos, make lots of jokes, and probably cry.
I should also probably study at least a little bit.
Although I will be continuing my studies at my same university, since I will be getting my MBA here for the next two years, I know that a lot of things are going to change after graduation.

  • My roommates and I have lived together since freshman year... we were randomly placed with each other and somehow we have managed to love each other throughout our time here. Although we have gotten to know each other almost too well, I will miss saying goodnight to them and talking to them in the dark as we fall asleep.  
  • I'm going to start wearing business clothes almost every day... this means that I need to spend more money to develop my work wardrobe and that is literally the last thing that I want to spend a ton of money on. 
  • One of my favorite things about College is living in such close proximity to all of my friends. It is hard to get bored when everyone lives in the same building complex as you do. Next year, although most of my friends are staying in the area, we will actually have to make plans to see each other, instead of just walking across the quad and knocking on each other's doors. 
  • I'm going to have to start paying monthly rent... and I'm really not looking forward to writing those checks every month for my new landlord. 
Graduation is the pure definition of "bittersweet." I will try my hardest to make this next week the best that it can be.