Saturday, January 12, 2019

Europe Round 2 - Grad Trip

Back from my grad trip last week, and heading off this week. Felt a bit bit jet lagged since I slept during waking Sydney hours instead of sleeping at a normal time when I got back. Defs new experiences this time round (both highs and lows).

Won't ever have the opportunity to travel during Christmas/New Years ever again until I retire. Whilst other people have company shut downs, our bookings increase towards the end of the year. Thankful I was able to have the opportunity and finances to go, since after America preceptorship which I spent 5 figures (enough to buy a car), and this trip wasn't cheap either, especially with the low dollar. Can't believe managed to coordinate a trip with my Mum and then BW for the second half, also how my mum Managed to change 3 planes in between 3 countries to navigate back to Sydney without missing a plane (even if she almost missed it). Now I know my Mum can change planes by herself if she has to.

First time moving around between different countries in a short time period. Spent just under 4 weeks in Europe, and some cities just around 2 nights. Shoutout to BW for tagging along and following my hectic itinerary (although not as hectic as previous trips). Also first time not planning everything. Thanks to BW for helping plan the 2nd half of the trip, and figuring transport since I didn't have enough time to plan since had 3 days between exams and flying out.

As usual, there's no way I can blog about each day and all the food I consumed. I ate less than the previous trip where I had about 6 places a day. This time, there wasn't a real standout city/thing, I enjoyed them all differently. There was a lot more history and scenery to look at, rather than continuously eating. There was no free tap water at all. Even in Paris and other cities I travelled to Europe before, there was free tap water. Since I went to less museums and food places this time, there was less free toilets. Also, shopping centres don't really exist in the places I went to.  It was a lot harder to find free toilets this time round. There's generally less tourist around winter time, so some stuff tends to be closed. Also slight culture shock at the lack of English they use on signs and restaurants etc. Loved going to all these non English (well not main language) countries that I've never visited before.

Switzerland: Zurich, Lucerne

- Yes, everything is expensive, but not crazily expensive that I feel like I couldn't eat anything. Some things were similar to Sydney prices (well Syd isn't cheap to begin with)
- Crossing roads were a bit hazardous. There are cars, trams and buses but no crossing light. You just cross and the cars would then slow down for you
- Air so clean, like SF, they use electric buses
- Never have seen so many Audis, BMWs, Mercedes in my life before, even the police drive BMWs and taxis are Mercedes. Rich country storing a large chunk of the world's money with German made cars I guess
- Their tap water is nice, probs from the Alps
- Restaurant food consists of pretty much cheese fondue and raclette. You pretty much pay $40aud dipping bread into cheese. It was really nice and my first raclette experience (the waiter had to teach us how to use the equipment lol), but still exxy for cheese
- They have hardly any meat. There aren't any supermarkets, only small 'express' supermarkets. Didn't see a butcher, but saw a place which had half preserved meats and tiny bit of fresh meet. Iirc, beef was over $100/kg, for 'basic' beef
- First few days were pretty cloudy with some light rain, but on the day I planned to go the the Swiss Alps, we were blessed with cloudless skies and reeeeallly good weather
- Top of Europe train ticket/entry was $250aud, my jaw dropped when I first was doing research online. It was so worth the money once at the top! The view at the top was insanely beautiful. The train trip there was just as beautiful. For the whole 2 hour train ride, snow capped mountains are always in sight. The lakes look so peaceful as well. The scenery of the Alps is probably my favourite so far. The mountains are better than Queenstown, Yosemite and Mt Fuji. Don't get me wrong, those places are still amazing, but the Alps just win by a little bit. I love seeing God's creation both near and far
They also had diff Lindt flavour chocolates there in that shop, and also a cool ice sculpture park
- Day before went to Mt Pilatus where it was super cloudy, but still cool since it was snowing and the cable car ride up was super scenic, like a winter wonderland with so many big pine trees
- They have free and clear public toilets around

Italy

Florence
- Felt so dodgy walking around the streets, immediate change from streets of Switzerland. There were a lot a beggars whereas didn't see any in Switzerland...and people at night just seemed more dangerous
- Roads are super squishy and you walk really close to cars
- So many towers/domes to climb up and stairs everywhere, but the whole city is walkable by foot since there's no public transport within the main area, and views are really nice walking up
- Nice orangey buildings when you walk to the top, every building top is the same, and with the sunset over the city is so pretty

Rome
- I hate Italian police. Started Rome off with one expensive bus fine. So I bought these tourist passes which include unlimited public transport for 3 days and 2 museums. These passes tap on to work, and we tapped on the bus. Then transport officers came and took our passports and issued a fine immediately. They said we didn't tap on and didn't activate our cards. Well, if the bus tapping machine wasn't broken then it's not our fault. But when you're in another country there's no point arguing since they took your passport and can jail you up or worse, can not leave the country and under Italian authority. On the buses there was an ad of a person being handcuffed and even though the ad was in Italian, you can tell it was about people who don't pay for public transport get jailed. Later we Googled this and it's quite common for them to target tourists on public transport. Also makes sense why the night before when we arrived we saw some police looking at tourists passports in the metro. We went on other buses with broken tap on machines so then exited early and decided to walk just in case of another fine. Locals use the old school dip tickets (remember those on our buses before Opal came in)
- Apart from that, I loved Roman architecture. So many ruins and so cool to see stuff BC
- Pasta and pizza everywhere was so good. Fav was That's Amoré, we went back twice
- So much gelato everyday. Last 2 days went to 3 gelato places, oops. Never too cold for ice cream
- Also cool to just walk into another country to Vatican City. However, it's just sad knowing the history of how they managed to hoard so much stuff by getting people to 'pay the Pope' in hope of good fortune...
- Paid toilets here are the worst, so didn't go lol
- Was 'museumed out' after Italy, especially cause all the sculptures looked the same

Germany: Berlin
- Arrived on Christmas Eve, and since from here on in I didn't do any research until I got to the city, we didn't realise everything closes from 2pm, event the Christmas markets. Luckily Burger King was open, although it accepted cash only (crazy how the Germans invented so many things, but Germany was the country we encountered the most 'cash only' places)
- BW most definitely gave me a good history lesson about the Cold War. Crazy how this stuff didn't happen that long ago
- Christmas in Berlin was amazing, with the Christmas markets and the whole vibe. Although it didn't snow (#globalwarming) it was really the memories and the company which just made the whole Christmas day extra special and memorable
- Shops were also closed on Boxing Day even though all the sales signs were already set up on the 24th, but they reopen on the 27th so didn't manage to get any sales.
- Slowest airport security meant we missed our flight. They schedule like 20 budget airplanes to depart within an hour, so airport security couldn't handle all the people. Plus, only one person checked X-ray, so they had to stop the machine every time they dug through people's bags. I even got frisked 3 times even though I was wearing a t-shirt with pocketless tights. It was soooo inefficient. 10 other people also missed our flight, and other people on other planes also missed their flight. The office also had heaps of luggage from flights on previous days, it's common to miss a flight in a budget airline esp in Europe. That's why I don't fly budget airline for international flights...
- Thank goodness Europe is also connected by land and we managed to secure bus tickets on the same day to our next destination, since I had a tour booked the next day so had to arrive before then

Poland: Krakow
- Luckily there's not much to do in this tiny town, so even though we lost a day it wasn't a massive difference since we walked through the town at night and on the 3rd day there
- Main reason coming here was for Auschwitz. It's just so crazy what happened to millions of people. Went to the concentration camps and saw the gas chambers and living conditions. All the lies they told to people they were coming here for a new life and had to undress and 'shower' before entering the camp, and all the innocent people believed them, but in reality they were showered with gas. There was a room filled with 35 000 ladies hair and one of the rooms you couldn't take a photo of, but it's just so crazy at the atrocities that happened
- There was also a salt mine as part of the tour, which was pretty cool how they carved sculptures, made an underground chapel and also a recreation of 'The Last Supper'
- Felt so rich here since everything was so cheap. Even the fanciest restaurant with 16th century recipes in a 17th century building (funny how Aus wasn't even founded then), was about $80au for 2 people. Also first time trying deer which as expected, is a bit gamey and a little tough even though cooked rare-medium

Austria: Vienna
- I literally wanted to come to Vienna for the Original Sacher Torte. I'm not a big fan of chocolate cakes, and it was nice but not mind blowing. Still intentionally over ordered since I wanted to try everything. The decor there is amazing
- So many cakes/desserts, also schnitzels which melt in your mouth rather than the typical bread crumb stuff you get in places in Sydney
- Vienna is new enough to have a good metro system, big lifts yet old and grand enough with all the architecture, history and heaps of fancy palaces
- Things were about a little bit more expensive then Syd prices
- NYE here was so cool. The whole city gets blocked off from cars and then the streets become 'dance streets'. There are stages with different genres of music like classical/couple waltz, EDM, pop music etc Never danced with so many strangers on the streets before. The fireworks were alright, but I like how they paired it with Austrian classics like Danube Waltz

So much more to say but this post was a lot longer than intended...thankful for the opportunity and people God placed in my life to make this grad trip happen. Travelled so much in the past year that I now how Silver FF status lol. Just took a trip to NZ, America and Europe...defs won't be able to maintain that status, unless I do 2 mini trips every where to different sides of the world...should start preparing for next trip.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this post, it's got so many awesome little notes about the places you visited - like insider information!

    I'm so glad you went on such an amazing adventure and that you gave spontaneity a go!

    ReplyDelete