exchange six - frands & krakow round deux

It seems like I'm somehow always three weeks behind on posting. I also wrote this entire post on Krakow without realizing I hadn't written about the weekend BEFORE that yet so it's going to be a bit disproportionate detail-wise but HERE WE GO.

The weekend after Berlin Katie and Karly came to visit us in PRAHAAA! It was so fun being able to be quasi-tour guides in "our" city, and we had saved a lot of the cliche touristy stuff for this visit so we were actually doing a lot of the stops for the first time ourselves too! We finally made it to the castle, the cathedral, and petrin hill where we tried hot wine (weird) and climbed the mini Eiffel tower there for a 360 view of the city.

We also took advantage of an unusually warm and sunny day to go PADDLE BOATING, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. While we floated the sun was starting to set which made the already beautiful fall leaves look even more golden, and we were greeted by the occasional swan while we enjoyed some bevvies on the river. Like come on, does that not sound amazing? It was.

The next weekend was our Halloween trip to Krakow (finally)! It was a bit surreal to completely redo our previously attempted trip at the exact same station and the exact same time, just three weeks later but at least we did it right this time! We got on our train at 5:48AM and were on our way. After some surprisingly good train food, a transfer to a bus, and a couple hours later, we arrived in Krakow. We were greeted by surprisingly warm weather compared to what we had been experiencing in Prague (we had some below zero nights during those weeks), found a cab, and headed to our AirBnb.

After settling in we were almost immediately off to go explore. We were able to see most of the main tourist attraction-esque buildings within an hour or so because it turns out Krakow is pretty small, but we thoroughly enjoyed the stroll after a long day of travelling and hit up a couple church/ cathedrals, the castle courtyards, and the old town square. We all commented on how similar Krakow is to Prague, albeit quite a bit smaller (and I thought cleaner - there was virtually NO graffiti to be found). It was really adorable though, and because of the time change the sun was already quite low in the sky by the time we got there, but it provided some pretty amazing sunset lighting for our pictures, and really, that's one can ask for in life.

That night we headed to a sushi place that was recommended by our friends, it was yum but still didn't compare to home and we're all still madly craving that west coast SUUUSH. Like we've all mentioned on multiple occasions our intention of eating nothing but sushi for a week straight when we're back. Watch out Vancouver.

That night we headed back to our friends' apartment with everyone else who was in town for the weekend and had some drinks and caught up. We headed back home fairly early to make sure we didn't miss our 8am wake up for our tour of Auschwitz the next day.

The next morning we were up bright and early to try and find some breakfast before heading on our 7 hour tour. As we walked outside we were met with the eeriest mist covering the entire city. It gave everything a very appropriately spooky Halloween feel while also making it VERY COLD. We also didn't realize that literally nothing is open at 8am in Krakow and ended up having to go into a random hotel for a weird breakfast of like.. melted cheese on toast and an egg on top. 

We made our way by bus to the Auschwitz 1 Camp. I won't get too much into it, but our tour of Auschwitz 1 and 2 (Birkenau) was chilling, to say the least. I highly recommend going, it really is an important educational experience and very different than just reading about it in a textbook.

That night we went for a big dinner at a traditional Polish place with all 12? 13? of us then walked around the town a bit in the jewish quarter. We went to a quaint little shot/ breakfast bar, had a couple drinks there (we got a shot called the chupa chup - like the candy I guess?). After that, we trekked back through the mist to the guys' place where we donned our "costumes", and I do use that word lightly. I think about 70% of us were cats, then there was a couple devils, and a couple lumberjacks. Costuming while abroad is not exactly easy, okay?!

And that was pretty much our trip! We headed back to Prague the next day, spent the next weekend here studying (boo midterms), and this weekend Rach and I are jetting off to IRELAND!!! Till then, pce n luv kitties!

Unrelated but important-to-me end note: This blog is officially two years old! Happy birthday lil baby!

exchange five - the early bird misses the train

So we officially had our first big travellers' screw up. 

We were supposed to go to Krakow for the second weekend of October but long story short, our transportation ended up getting messed up. There we were at 5:45am, standing in the train station with our fully packed bags and nothing to do but tram back to our dorms and go to back to sleep. It very strange waking up a couple hours later and realizing what had happened earlier that morning - honestly felt like a bad dream. Maybe it was.

NEVERTHELESS, we ended up getting our trip rebooked free of charge (after many complaint emails and calls). Now we'll be going to Krakow for Halloween weekend instead, which will be just as fun because a bunch of our friends from back home are planning on being there that weekend as well. YEY. We spent the weekend doing some sight seeing around Prague instead - visiting an art exhibit that featured Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol and crossing a couple more restaurants off of our want-to-do lists.

That Monday (after the would-have-been Krakow weekend), we decided to attempt a thanksgiving dinner at the apartment Bo's friends from back home were staying in. Apparently easier said than done.  It's next to impossible to find "American" Thanksgiving items here. Gravy? Cranberry sauce? Stuffing mix? Good luck. We couldn't find a turkey so we settled for a chicken and much to my dismay, pumpkin pie was also MIA. If you don't know this (and I don't know why you would) pumpkin pie is probably my favorite food. I don't love it in an "omg pumpkin spicezz!!!!" kind of way. I love it deep in my heart of hearts. I'm still not over it.

I don't have any pictures of the dinner because our presentation was.... a bit lackluster to say the least. All of us crowded around a tiny table with our pink pony napkins and mismatched plates was adorable and charming, but it didn't quite compare to our parents' thanksgiving dinners back home. That being said, I was more than grateful to be able to spend the night with good friends and, I mean, it didn't really matter what it tasted like to me because I was still so congested from my month long cold that I couldn't taste a thing. (Apparently the gravy I improvised was pretty good, so that's something!)

After dinner we headed to a highly recommended bar called Hemingway which is known for it's amazing cocktails. But it was full. So we went around the corner to it's sister bar called "Cash Only" (we still don't know if it actually only takes cash or if it's just a clever name) for some drinks before saying goodbye to the Vancouver boys and heading home to try and sleep off my sick a bit more.

Fast forward two days and Rach and I were packing our bags again for another weekend trip - this time to Berlin! We left Thursday morning for the 5 hour bus ride so we could make it in time for the Odesza concert that night. We met up with Katie and Lars and quietly had some drinks in our hostel (so as not to disturb the very tame roommates we were bunked with) before heading out to catch the show. We lucked out, ended up getting front row, an amazing view, and some decent pictures and videos (sorry about the excessive snapstory-ing that night..). 
The next day our friend Holly got in fairly early, we got ready and headed out to do some sight seeing and shopping. We went to the East Side Gallery (a portion of the Berlin Wall that has been painted with various murals as a memorial for freedom) got some fun pics, yum sandwiches, and then headed back for a much needed nap. Later we headed out to get sushi for the first time since being in Europe. It was pretty good, and the restaurant was quite cool but nothing compares to that west coast SUUUSH. Can't wait to grab some sweet sweet unagi once I'm back home. This is making me so hungry.

Now, I don't know if you've heard of the night life in Berlin, but it's infamous for being stupidly hard to get into places if you're not German, not grunge-y, not wearing all black, or basically just not cool enough. Google "how to get into Berghain" if you want to laugh at how ridiculous it is. With this in mind, we set our sights on some more realistic destinations and headed out that night to a club called Watergate. It was an amazing location - right on the edge of a river that you could look out over from inside, but other that that and the flashing, multicolored, strip of light that ran across the ceiling of the upper floor, it wasn't too much different than something you might find back home. Regardless, we danced the night away because Europeans have the most insane stamina when it comes to going out and we were trying to be cool kids.

The next day we got up and prepared ourselves for some MAJOR sight seeing. Little did we know, we ended up being able to see most of the main attractions like the Brandenburg gate, The Memorial for the Murdered Jews (heavy name, I know), Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror etc. etc., within the first half of the day and spent the second half wandering somewhat aimlessly around different neighbourhoods looking for places that were recommended to us by friends and/or tripadvisor. That being said, I did learn a lot about the history of Berlin and feel like a generally better informed individual after our wandering.

We did a bit more shopping later that afternoon, had another nap (necessary), went for ramen (yum), and then headed out again to a club called Salon zur Wilden Renate that was a more similar experience to the bars that we had been to a couple weeks before in Budapest. It was quite a strange place, it seemed to be built in an old apartment building and had various rooms decorated in a vintage kind of circus-esque way. We ended up staying out later than we had expected, missed the last tram and had to cab home.

The next day we had to be up early to check out. We packed up, stowed our bags in the hostel luggage room and were so exhausted that we only managed to walk around for a bit before seeking out some comfy cafe chairs to wait out the time before we had to leave to catch our bus home. 

AND THERE WE HAVE IT. I'm finally more or less caught up to present day (save for last weekend) and I definitely didn't write this while in class! Productivity! Till next time, pce n luv ~

*edit: just kidding it took me two weeks to post this so I'm in no way caught up anymore* 

exchange four - budape(sh)t

Oops, I seem to have gotten a bit behind on posting again and my god it is HARD to keep track of everything we've been doing when I don't write it all down. Okay let me see what I can do here...

So the last time I wrote was after our weekend in Munich, after which we came back to Prague, had two days of class because one day was cancelled, and then packed our bags again and headed off to Budapest. 

Budapest (apparently pronounced with a "sh" rather than a "ss") more than exceeded my expectations. Possibly because I had no expectations. I had literally no idea what to expect beyond a trip to the famous baths and the minute we got there I was very much pleasantly surprised. We made a bit of a silly decision to drive instead of bus there. Our thought initially was that it was going to save us hours of travel time, and it could have been faster had we not been forced to drive around Slovakia instead of through it. And had Google Maps not severely underestimated the traffic that we were going to face.

Ah well, live and learn. We got to Budapest after a long day of driving and checked into our hostel which was... unique to say the least. We promptly were ushered out to explore the "ruin bars", which are all the rage for good reason. These bars are built in the ruins of buildings abandoned after the war and we still struggle to find a description of them to do them justice. The best we could come up with was that walking into one of these bars is like walking into an alice in wonderland dream/ garage sale/ grunge-y thrift store.

There were rooms filled with stuffed animals and old couches, rooms filled will old televisions and computers all playing strange silent movies, and at one point we sat in an old car having drinks. There is a bar called Instant that was built in an old apartment building and (allegedly) has 26 rooms. One main room has a giant hedge for a wall with a strange statue of an owl/ woman/ centaur flying out of it towards a giant archway of of rabbits that stretches across the other side of the room. Like. Does this not sound like some sort of weird dream? Walking into these without knowing a thing about them was quite the experience and we spent the nights exploring and having a grand old time.

We decided to forgo the "bath party" that many of our friends were going to the next night and instead spent our time exploring as much as we could which led us to have to most fun and spontaneous night I think we've had yet. Among other things, we went into a late night vintage clothing store/ bar, popped into at least half a dozen little bars and hostels along our way, joined in on some traditional hungarian (?) dancing, wandered into a tiny circus(??), pet a tiny horse, held a not so tiny boa, you know - just your average night out. Twas quite the adventure.

While we didn't get to do quite as much sight seeing as I would have liked due to some injuries and coordination difficulties, we lucked out with beautiful weather, wandered around a bit during the days and did end up going to the thermal baths.

The buildings were extravagant and the pools were absolutely packed with people, most of which I assume were tourists. I'm glad we went, because apparently these baths are Budapest's "thing" and you have to yolo and do these "things" while travelling, but with my general aversion to public pools I'm not sure why I thought I would enjoy a giant public hot tub any more. Lil bit gross-ish imo, but there was a whirlpool that was pretty fun to get tumbled around in while attempting to avoid slamming into people on your way by.

AAALright, I think I'm going to have to stop this post here because it's getting pretty long already and I still have like... two more weeks to write about before I'm caught up. So with THAT, I bid you adieu (or na shledanou, as the Praguers would say). Until next time. Which will hopefully be soon. BAII!

exchange three - oktoberfest!

After sitting down and planning out the entirety of the rest of our travels during the next 3.5 months, I figured I'd better be diligent about posting or I'm sure I'll blink and be wondering where the time went.

Since I last posted we had our first week (who am I kidding... it was three days) of school. We scheduled our classes so we only have class Tuesday to Thursday each week so we can travel on the weekends. Tbh, it's a pretty strange thing to have more days of weekend than responsibility each week.. once (if?) we actually need to get serious about studying I imagine it's going to be pretty difficult to keep my mind on the books.

ANYWAYS, since I last posted we did our first trip out of the country to Munich for OKTOBERFEST! We took a five hour bus ride there Friday (the busses here are really nice, more like airplanes on wheels than city busses) and arrived to our hostel around 5pm. We stayed at a place called "The Tent" with about 70 other BCom students. It was amazing and surreal to meet up with all of our friends on the other side of the world and even more surreal to see them for the first time in months dressed up in full on dirndls and lederhosen. We all looked like weird adult Hansel & Gretels. That night we went out for a delicious German dinner of spaetzle and meat and ridiculously large beers (radlers for MEEE).

The next day we all got up at an absurd hour (seriously, like 7:45) donned our trachten, and headed to the grounds by 8:30 for some OKTOBERFESTIN'. I hit a wee bump in the road when I thought I lost my phone, missed the first tram and basically lost all hope of finding our friends for the rest of the day (none of us had data or cell plans for germany so our only hope of staying together was physically being within eye sight at all times). 

After we arrived to the grounds we bobbed and weaved our way through the grounds, SOMEHOW found ONE of our friends on his way back from the bathroom, he lead us to the rest of the group, and we found them literally minutes before the bouncers opened the doors and the crowds stampeded in. The chances of this. Are so slim. I still can't get over our traveler's luck. Anyways, we bombed our way up the stairs and into the tent to THIS

I can't believe we all got in and got tables, even for a couple hours (we were kicked out once the reserved table groups arrived). It was the most amazing part of the whole day, the energy in the tent was electric and I soon forgot it was 9am and I was running on around 4 hours of sleep (a fairly regular occurrence these days). I don't think you can tell from the pictures, but these tents were SUBSTANTIAL. There were thousands of people in it, all cheering and chanting and drinking all whilst still looking like hilarious adult Hansel & Gretels.

After we got kicked out we made our way to an outdoor drinking patio, claimed some tables, and spent most of the day with our large beers (they really hurt to lift after a while) catching up with our friends and having a grand old time all around. We occasionally would pop out to grab a snack (usually some form of wurst) or ride a ride until we were all sufficiently pooped. By this time it was around 3 or 4pm. 8 hours of Oktoberfest will do that to ya.

At this point we collectively headed back to the hostel, napped, recuperated a bit, then went out for dinner and more or less called it a night at that point. The next day we were up early again and all headed back to start our journeys back to our respective countries of study.

All in all, the weekend went by in a blink but it was so packed full of friends and good times that I don't think I'll be forgetting it any time soon (unlike some people I saw there, who I don't think will be remembering it in the first place). I feel so lucky to be able to cross things like this off my bucket list so early in my life and can't WAIT to see what the next couple months have in store!

Our travel plans so far are roughly as follows: budapest this weekend, then krakow, berlin, istanbul, ireland, brussels and amsterdam, cesky krumlov (a little fairytale town in the czech republic), salzburg and vienna, and then... maybe studying for finals. 

I still have to decide where to go for my birthday and christmas - if anyone has any suggestions of amazing places to go in europe during winter PLEASE let me know!! 
Until next time, prost, na zdravĂ­, and CHEERS, U GUYS.

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