Friday, April 10, 2009

So much & not enough time to write!

Hola queridos,

So...where do I begin?! There's just so much going on each and evey day that if I don't write it all down I'll forget because I'm on my sixth day of vacation already and all the days are just flyin' by! Ahhh.

To top it off, I usually have to do a hit-and-run on the computer, ration my 15 minutes between checking & responding to emails, as well as messaging friends, and updating this blog! (On a side note, I currently do not have the capability to upload photos, but providing I have time in Spain, I will do so there).

Arriving to Krakow was so stressful! Mainly because our train didn't depart until an hour and a half before the scheduled flight departure and upon arrival we found long, long lines for both checking-in and the security check...yikes! I'm not going to lie, I was stressin'. Eventually, and shorter fingernails later, we made it through all the necessary checks. Of course our flight was then postponed for an hour due to lost luggage or something or other; got to love the hurry up and wait!

Once we landed in Krakow, however, all was good from there. Well, I should back up. Once we made it to the train station which only involved walking probably a total of a mile back and forth on the same stretch of road ... One intersting thing was though on the way I noticed a guy wearing a St. Norbert's Basketball t-shirt. I approached him and asked him where he got the shirt, luckily he spoke broken English & was able to reply that he got it, "in the States" and after further inquiry we discovered he got it in Chicago! Small world!! (We also met two guys from Wisconsin in the Madrid airport, one which is also studying at St. Norbert)

It's like a dream to be here in Krakow...I'm here for three days & it just gives me the feeling that I'm not going to want to leave. On the first day, we basically just meandered around the city. It's hard to describe Krakow but I will try.

The Market Square is a blast, it's full of first, plenty of items for Easter (decorative eggs, baskets, green grass things), delicious Polish food (I had their version of a cheesecurd...mmmMMMgood), clothing, music, plenty of jewelry (amber is big here), and more food. The Square is spacious, I've already spent some time just people watching because there are so many different nationalities here!

More later!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Venice Venice

Hola queridos,

Each day I love Italy more and more! It's so hard to leave : ( (I for sure want to come back!)

Today we another early wake-up call, 2:30 am to be exact! After talking with some of the other folks in the hostel, I learned that we could take a shuttle from the station to the airport (since public transpotation isn't functioning at that unnaturally early time in the morning) so as to avoid paying Taxi fees (finally!). So we arrived at 3:20 AM, as we were told to do, and we waited, and waited, and waited, and finally left at 4:30 AM!

Not only is waiting a pain, but we needed to be at the airport with enough time to check in, security, etc.! So we were rushing through as fast as we could, but we made it & were off to Venice, Italy!

Venice is ... beautiful, amazing, peaceful, unique, calming, precious.....
I could just sit (as we did) for hours and just watch the people and boats go by. For those of you who aren't familiar with Venice (as I was before I learned about it), Venice has streets that are really water canals. This then includes that people have boats instead of cars (there are streets and cars, I don't want to give the wrong impression). Venice is where they have the famous bridges and gondolas with their singers (it's true!).

It was also in Venice that I tried my first gelato (ice cream)...and my second ... and true, Italian pizza! Hmmm mmm good ;)

We then had to train from Venice to Bergamo (Milan). Once we arrived, we returned to the same hostel we were at days prior (although it felt as though a lot more time had transpired, and settled in.


This ... is ... Sparta (Rome, Italy)

Hola Queridos,

I went to ROME! : )

We had another early wake-up time, 3 am early!

The day started off a little rough again as my roomate's luggage was supposed to be left at the hostel (since we're returning there) yet the reception desk wasn't open at 3 am & the receptionist forgot to mention such a detail. So we had to rush and think of who/where/if she should leave it ... all while the Taxi was waiting outside to take us to the airport...meter running.

We got to the airport and fortunately ran into little problems. Once in Rome we waited for a bus and found our hostel surprisingly easy (granted, the bar wasn't set too high). We set out stuff down quickly and set off to see as much of Rome as we could in one day!

To start we headed to The Vatican City! If you're only interested to hear if I saw the Pope, I didn't, although he was in the city, somewhere!

The Vatican was really interesting...we opted to pay for a guided tour which meant we were able to skip the lines, go through security, and then have a guided tour. Although it was a bit more costly than just doing it solo, skipping the typical 3 hour long wait (if not longer) was worth it. I was able to see St. Peter's Basicilica as well as The Sistine Chapel! What an experience!! Both of these places were just breathtaking, as it's still hard to believe that I was actually there!

We then headed for lunch from the grocery store...I fear I'm going to be really sick of sandwich meat by the end of this adventure...

Next we headed to the other 'main' mark, the Coloseum. Wow! Pretty impressive it was!! I kept thinking 300 ... we are Sparta .. from the movie 300.

Afterwards my friend decided to take a nap and I, in Rome, wandered around... taking all the pictures that I could! It was so interesting to see so much of Rome, still intact!

I have a very positive impression of the Italian people...they're very welcoming to foreigners and always trying to assist you either if you ask or sometimes, just looking lost, they would offer to help!

The other "exicting" news from Rome, which didn't really affect us at all, was the fact that an earthquake hit the day before our arrival. Although some street signs were down, I didn't personally notice too much distruction. So phew! I appreciate the concern though.. it means a lot to know people were thinking about me!!


It wasn't the greatest start...

Hola queridos,

So the beginning of my spring break wasn't going as smoothly as I hoped it would. Basically, I didn't have time to print off all of my confirmation emails/reservations/itineraries because the Internet Cafe I was at ran out of ink, then when we went to buy our bus tickets to Madrid, mine went through but within two seconds, the bus was sold out and my friend still needed her ticket! Never mind you that the bus was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes! Alas, we got her a ticket at the counter and I learned that the whole time I've been traveling here I could've been saving 2 Euro on each ticket with the student discount!

Once we finally arrived into Madrid we spent a good 2 hours walking around in circles trying to find our hostel! Ahhhh. Once we finally found it & checked it, the time was nearing midnight & we had to get up at 4 am!

Our flight, being scheduled to leave at 7:20 am, meant public transpotation wasn't up & running two hours before like we needed to which then meant that we had to pay for a taxi...ouch! Taxis are expensive...but we got there, checked in, and once we were in the air, it was smooth sailing...until we landed in Bergamo, Italy (right outside of Milan).

Once we arrived to Bergamo, we found a bus shuttle to the city center & got off where it told us we should in order to catch Bus #1. Well, about an hour later and after seeing the same 3 bus lines drive by we thought 'this probably isn't the right stop.' Turns out we needed to go around the corner to a different stop...blah blah blah. So...we're finally on the right bus, realizing that no one around us is speaking English, I know no Italian, & yet various Italian people were very patiently trying to help us find the hostel even though we don't understand a word they're saying! It was very impressive for me.

We find the hostel & instead of being greeted by a "Welcome" at the reception desk we find a sign saying: Closed 10-2pm. We arrived at 11am. Logically, you would say that we could've just walked around but my travel partner had a huge luggage and therefore was not about to lug it around the city, so we sat, more or less...made small chat with a cruise-sailor-man from Italy & I roamed a little as the location of the hostel was in a gorgeous spot!

Yah... pretty interesting, huh? At this point I was really having to force myself to think that backpacking through Europe for the next weeks was going to be worth it : )


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Backpacking through Europe

Hola queridos,

So for the next 15 days or so I will be backpacking through Europe. Yup, just me, my backpack, and a couple of travel buddies!

On the itinerary?
1- Madrid
3- Days in Italy (Milan, Rome, Venice)
6- Poland (Various cities/regions)
1- Czech Republic (Prague)
2- Austria (various cities)
2- Switzerland (various cities)

According to the couple of hostels I have booked , Internet is included which means I antipate updating this blog at that time. No guarantees but I will try my best!

Hope all is well back home!

Las Medulas

Hola Queridos,

With my Univeristy, I had the opportunity to visit old (& authentic, if I might add) Roman gold mines, about a 3 hour bus ride from my city. It was such an interesting experience to finally be in rural country, away from all the hustle & bustle of the city life. There really was nothing around us except this little village! Here are so pictures from the caves I got to walk in and around...

(from inside the cave)

Then we got to climb to the top of this mountain, I know if was for sure a mile up, if not more, to the top! Not going to lie, I was tired climbing it and it brought back memories of doing hill repeats at the N.E.W. Zoo and how I would never tell coach about this place as it was no easy feat to the top. However, it was so worth it! Check out these pictures..they're real!