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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Prague ... and Dublin

January 21, 2007 in Dublin

All in all I think I enjoyed Prague the most so far of any of the places I have been. The city is amazing, I have never seen a place like it before. It's definitely on the list of places I have to go back to. I also made a TON of new friends that I will probably never see again but at least we are all friends on facebook haha. I went to an ice hockey game when I was there too with some of them haha. It was kinda long though, but it was still fun to go see it in Prague. I also went to the castle with one of my roommates and we saw everything there before we went to the game. On my last day there I walked around town by myself because the Aussies left, and just looked at all the buildings and how beautiful the city was. I was actually quite sad to leave all of them but at the last minute I found out that a group of French people I made friends with and two Irish blokes were on the same flight as me! So we sat by each other and then parted at the airport and I made my way to my hostel.

I got to my hostel easily enough, luckily I had a few euros to get a bus ticket because NONE of the atms worked at the airport! I walked allll over the airport and tried every single one haha. So I checked in my hostel but they are jerks and wouldn't let me go to my room because all the rooms are closed from 11am - 230pm... just so they can clean them. I don't see why I can't even get in my room to set my bag down... but nope they said no. Also yesterday I left my umbrella in the room and they wouldn't let me get that either. This hostel suuuuucks. They also charge you a euro per day to use a locker and kick you out of the hang out area at 11 and the showers suck. I guess that is why this place was the cheapest one haha. At least tomorrow is my last night and I wont have to deal with them all much longer. The people here are lame too, none of them want to make friends like in Prague and Krakow. So I walked around and saw things by myself because I couldn't find anyone else to go with. The first night I stayed in and rested because I was tired from the traveling. Then the next day I went to The Hugh Lane Gallery and saw all the artwork there, what mainly grabbed my eye were the impressionist paintings.

After that I headed to the river and walked along it to Phoenix Park and walked around there for a while. And by the time I left it was getting dark and cold and rainy so I headed back to the hostel. Then next morning I woke up extra early (730) so I could check out the free breakfast knowing in advance it would probably suck because this place is like that in general. So I got up at 730 (before the sun was up) like they said it started then... but thats when the guy starts putting everything out, not when breakfast starts. So I had to hang around for 20 minutes while he set out creepy bread, butter, and jam... thats it. My last hostel had bread, butter, jam, nutella, peanut butter, some spread I didn't know what it was, hard boiled eggs, 4 kinds of cereal, 2 kinds of juices, milk, coffee, croissants and other things I can't remember... and that place was a lot cheaper that here... oh well, I guess this is why Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. lol So I went back to sleep until the sun came up and then I went out and got a 10 euro haircut from a Polish woman and it actually looks pretty good. And then I headed to The National Galleries... but it was closed, just my luck. After that I head to The National Museum that was open and saw all the artwork there ranging in dates from 1300s to the 1900s which was really nice. And after that I headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral to see if I could get in before it closed... but I didn't haha. So I just saw the outside of it which was still nice. And then I started the LOOOOOOOOOONG trek back to the hostel in the dark where I am now. And tomorrow... I haven't decided what to do yet haha, and then Wednesday I'm off to Madrid again!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Train to PRAGUE

January 17, 2008 in PRAGUE

So I got to the train about an hour early just to be safe and it was there so I got on and the conductor showed me to my room which was a looooot nicer than I thought it would be. It was a small room with 2 beds and and a sink and luckily there was a plug so I watched "Cidade de Deus" before I went to sleep. But as I soon found out, it wasn't so easy to sleep on a train so I didn't sleep much and the train arrived at 645 am in Prague. I wandered around the station in search of an ATM and I finally found one but it gave me a 2000 crown bill and I had to go find change now so I could buy a 17 crown bus ticket haha. After that I got the bus and headed to the hostel. I got there at like 730 and luckily they let me check in cuz I just went right back to bed. Then I went on a walking tour with 2 of my australian roommates and saw the whole city which is really nice and now one of my favorites. Then I had a quick nap and hung out in the bar in the basement of the hostel with everyone here and made a hundred new friends. I met people from Argentina, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, England and probably a bunch of others I don't know. I also got to practice Portuguese, Spanish, and French with them all haha. I'm about to head out and explore the city, so thats about it for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time to leave Poland

Tuesday January 15, 2008

Its 730 pm and my train for Prague leaves in about 3 hours. I'm a bit worried because I hear the station is kinda complicated and there might not be very many English speakers on hand to ask questions. But next time I write I'll let you know how it went haha.

Yesterday I got up early and headed towards the old Jewish section of town called Kazimierz after a king a long time ago that said all the Jews can come live in Poland. First I went to an old synagogue that is no longer in use, because there aren't very many Jews left, that was transferred into a museum about Jews in Poland before WWII. After that I headed to a museum that had 3 exhibits (Galicia Jewish Museum click here), one about resistance movements by Jews during WWII in Krakow and the other 2 were about what has basically happened to things such as synagogues and Jewish cemeteries and towns since WWII. So basically it was as depressing as the concentration camps where. I never thought about it before but there are synagogues and other places that mainly Jews used all over Europe that were basically abandoned after WWII because there was no one left to use them. Theses exhibits focused on Poland and showed a lot of pictures of synagogues that have for the most part been abandoned all over Poland. It also showed areas where there were Jewish cemeteries but most had little or no markings because the Nazi's took all the gravestones and used them to pave roads and sidewalks. There was also a monument I couldn't find that my friend was talking about that would have been pretty nice to see, she said it was a bunch of empty chairs facing the same directions. Oh well, there is always next time. I had also tried to go to Wawel Hill where they have a castle and a cathedral but it was closed so I went today instead. So I was about about the city for about 6 or 7 hours and by that time I was getting realllllly cold so I came back for a rest and then went out with my new friends that I made here.

Today I slept in and then went to Wawel Hill where they have a castle where the kings of Poland lived and also a cathedral where they have bodies and remains of kings of Poland and other important people and where all the kings coronations were held. I spent a few hours there and then walked around the city until I got too cold and had to go back to the hostel to warm up and rest before my train to Prague.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monaco, Oslo, and Auschwitz

from top to bottom

random contemporary art in Oslo
street shot of Oslo
shot of Oslo from a hill
Auschwitz gas chamber
Auschwitz entrance gate that says "work makes you free"
sign in Aix-en-provence commemorating the Americans liberating the city in WWII

Sunday January 13, 2008 from Krakow, Poland

So I'm in POLAND right now but I'll get to that in a minute. Me and Phil ended up going to Monaco for a day trip for fun which was country 11 for me over-all and number 7 on this trip. We took the bus to Nice which was kinda too expensive and then we hopped on a bus for Monaco. We got there and walked around for a while but it was really quiet and all that there was were a lot of really nice, expensive cars and buildings and rich people and a lot of really expensive shops. So me and Phil decided to go back to France and spend some time in Nice because its more interesting and cheaper (but still expensive). BUT we couldn't figure out how the buses worked to get back so we ended up finding a train to Nice for 3.4 euros so we just took that and as soon as we bought the ticket we found our bus hahaha. But the train didn't leave for a while so by the time we got back to Nice we had to basically just hop back on our bus to Aix. Overall my stay in France was nice, I had a nice relaxing time before my next big leg of traveling started.

On Thursday me and Phil packed up and headed on the bus to Marseilles to catch our realllly cheap flight to Oslo, Norway. We got to the airport in Oslo and the bought really expensive tickets to get to the city because the airport is actually much father away, like 120 km. Once we finally got to the city it was about 10 pm and really cold and rainy and wet. So me and Phil had to walk around for a long time and look for our hostel and then we finally found it without taking a really expensive taxi. We got there just in time because they close the front desk at 1130 and checked in and headed up to our rooms. To our surprise there was someone yelling in the room so I knocked and opened the door and there was just a some girl in there alone and she seemed really surprised that we were there so she went down to the desk to complain because she thought only girls would be in that room. (i guess she is an actress and she was practicing her lines by yelling them haha)But she ended up being wrong and came back and was just really jerky for the time we were there. Me and Phil on the first day went to the museum for the Norwegian Resistance during WWII and some art museums. I got to see a version of "Scream" which I happen to like a lot and a lot of other paintings and some crazy things at the contemporary art museum. We had lunch at burger king to save some money cuz I thought it would be cheap, but no... it was about 20 dollars. Norway is expensive! Don't go unless you really want to or have to! A bottle of coke cost over 4 dollars, a bottle of water is about 4 dollars. It costs over 4 dollars per ride on the metro or the bus, a super cheap meal if you can find one starts at maybe 16 to 20 dollars and go much much higher. So we basically didn't do anything Friday night because it would cost so much to go out, so we watched some movies on my computer. On Saturday we got up and went to the national museum and saw another version of Scream and a lot of other paintings and then we headed to the bus station to catch the bus to the airport so I could go to Poland and Phil could get back to France.

I left Phil at the airport and went through passport control and got a stamp for leaving Norway yay and then went and got on my Wizzair flight to Katowice airport. The flight got in a bit early and I found my shuttle bus to Krakow and we left about 45 minutes later and got to Krakow at about 945 at night. I knew where I was on the map and I knew where I was going and everything... but I still just couldn't seem to find my way to the hostel, I walked around for a while but I finally gave up and took a taxi (9 zloty or about $3.50) to the street it is on, which was really close. I got to my hostel then and checked in and everything and I really like it. They have a few big rooms, maybe 6 or something I don't even know, and then 4 bathrooms with showers, a kitchen, a common room and free wifi and its open 24 hours which is also a plus. So far everyone here is really nice but not to talkative with me. Most of the people here are Australians and maybe a couple of Americans. I just took a shower and stayed in last night because I was exhausted from traveling and I had to get up early to go visit Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.

I got up early and had free breakfast then headed to the tourbus on the hour bus ride to the camps. We had an English speaking tourguide and the whole thing took about 4 hours. It was realllly depressing, kinda like I felt after I visited Hiroshima in Japan. They showed HUGE rooms full of things like glasses and brushes adn clothes they just took from the Jews before they killed them. They also showed things like hair they shaved off of women to make socks and the gas and torture chambers and everything. I took a lot of pictures but not of any of the stuff in the buildings because they didn't allow it. We also went to Birkenau which was Auschwitz II where they murdered most of the people, but it was mostly destroyed from the war whereas Auschwitz was kept up. We were kinda rushed through by the tour guide lady, I would have like to mull around a lot longer and just look at everything, maybe sometime in the future I can come back and visit it again.

Also... luckily while I was in the midst of writing this I got an e-mail from my Taiwan program CIEE saying that IU selected me for $1000 dollar scholarship and sent it off to CIEE. This is really surprising because I have no clue what it is from or what it is for, but it will sure help out A LOT with all the random expenses, especially the airfare. So thanks to whoever gave me or helped me get this scholarship!! I really appreciate it! Tomorrow I am getting up a bit early to head out and visit all the places I have in my book and then I'll be back to write about them tomorrow maybe and hopefully add some pictures :o)


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Frace, Final Trip Plans, and PICTURES from Taiwan to Morocco finally

January 8, 2008, Aix-en-provence, France

So I have been in France now for a few days with Phil. It's just a tiny little city in the south of France with small winding stone streets and little shops with all the apartments on the above the shops. Phil's apt is like this, its kinda small but its got a lot of character I guess haha. It has 2 bedrooms and a bathroom and a kitchen/living room and there are 3 people living here. Its really nice here but its already more expensive than Madrid I'm noticing and from what I hear you get really sick of it being so small after a while. Also, tomorrow we MAY try and do a spontaneous trip to Monaco which would also be fun, and then we leave Thursday evening for Oslo, Norway :o) And after that I'm off on my own for a week and a half.

Me and Aliyah also finally finalized our trip plans for the last leg of my trip, here they are;

January 31 fly from Madrid to Berlin and stay in Berlin for 2 nights
January 2 fly from Berlin to Athens and stay in Athens for 3 nights
January 4 or 5 HOPEFULLY have no problems getting a train to Istanbul and stay there for a few nights
January 8 fly to London and stay in London for 2 nights
January 10 fly to Madrid
January 11 fly home to Chicago via Dublin

also I finally got my pictures all uploaded, just click on the link to go to them

Taiwan 1
Taiwan 2
Taiwan 3
Manila 1
Manila 2
Thanksgiving Chinese Style
Shanghai, China
Post China/European Adventures 1 (Russia?, Madrid, Barcelona, Marrakesh)

I'll have a chance to post all my France, Poland, Czech Republic, and Dublin pictures after January 23 when I go back to Madrid for a week to get my Taiwan VISA... hopefully no problems there...
leave a comment!!!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I havent written on here for a while... but a lot has happned!

January 1, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain

I meant to write on this once more before I left China but I slept through my alarm again and didn't wake up with enough time to write on it. But I wanted to talk about my last few days and my finals and what I did. My sociology final went terribly... I might have done really bad on it but I think everyone did so it shouldn't be bad then because if everyone does bad then they will curve it. But the test was imposssssible to do. My chinese final wasnt bad, I think I'll end up with an A or an A- in the class. I packed everything and cut my stuff down to one suitcase and left China early in the morning for Moscow, Russia. I am going to miss China a lot (especially the prices!!) Also even though my roommates got on my nerves at times I'll miss them too. I learned a lot more Chinese than I thought I did though so thats also nice.

I flew to Moscow no problem and got through to my next flight to Madrid which was also no problem except that it was delayed an hour or so. They Russians kinda scared my though, even the stewardesses were mean. But I got to Madrid a bit late and Aliyah and James met me at the airport without Phil becuase he missed his flight haha. We all went to the hostel and had a few days in Madrid to hang out and walk around and we also made Christmas Eve dinner which was also rrealllllllyyy good.

Then we flew to Morocco on Christmas day also with no problems. I LOOOVE Morocco. Since so many europeans go there it has basically been turned into a turist city though so there were high prices and lots of people trying to rip us off. We stayed in a really nice 2 bedroom apt a bit away from the city, but we just hopped on the bus to get into the city. I didn't get to practice Arabic as much as I wanted to though becuase most of them didn't understand me and they all speak French and a little bit of English so I just stuck with the French which kinda made me go crazy after a while because of all the langauges. When I got to Spain it was soooo hard to switch my mind out of Chinese and into Spanish but then once I started getting used to the Spanish I had to switch to French, and then once I started getting used to the French I had to switch back to Spanish haha. We went to the famous square Djemma al-fna in Morocco where they have snake charmers and monkies and clown things and lots and lots of food and teas and juices and nuts and fruits and tradtional moroccon things. We also got to ride camels while we were there which was also one of the main goals of our trip. I tried to write on my blog while I was there but it was blocked or something and I couldn't get to it. It was sad leaving Marrakesh but I know some day I will go back there because there is still so much left to see.

On December 30 we flew to Girona, Spain and then caught a bus to Barcelona and wandered aruond the city until we found our hostel which is on the one of the main streets of Barcelona, so its a really nice location. Barcelona so far is a lot better than Madrid, but they don't speak Spanish much here so sometimes I don't know if I should try and speak Spanish or use English, but a lot of people I have met here so far speak English pretty well.

So tonight is our last night in Barcelona and we are off to Madrid again tomorrow for a few days. Ill try to go ahead and update this sometimes before I head off to France with Phil but if not I'll be sure to do it while I am in France. Also I have not head back from Egypt people so I don't know what is going on with that yet. Leave a comment!!