The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Street Kids

This morning I got up to an empty bedroom for the first time in weeks and felt that odd sense of freedom you get when travelling alone. Freedom to go where I want, do what I want, see what I want and of course the freedom to walk around starkers should I fancy it.

I took my time about getting ready, did an expert repack of my bag and perfected my previously shoddy henna skills. Not to shabby if I do say so myself!

For the first time in my life I was able to take a leisurely stroll to the station because I was SO EARLY and plonked myself down to wait for the bus. 

Within minutes I was bombarded by three street kids, all girls aged around 5, 6 and 11 years old. I'm ashamed to say I acted in the usual fashion, attempting to get rid of them as quickly as possible saying I had no money (which was genuinely true for once) however these three were rather persistent so after a little while I began chatting to them, in broken bits of English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and lots of mime.

They told me how they were sisters and slept around the back of the bus station. They had no parents and had to beg everyday for food. Most people ignored them, which was sad sometimes, but at least they were together. I showed them a picture of my sister and they told me how beautiful she is. I retorted that they haven't seen her as she'd just woken up and laughed in agreement, poking fun at each other. The conversation was not grave but amicable, with lots of smiles, giggles and asking me about my home, whilst trying on various bits of my jewellery.

Feeling touched by their presence, I gave them a present each of a ring and two bracelets of their choosing. Immediately after they ran away from me, fearful that I might retract my gift. Seeing my initial confusion, they cautiously returned before settling down to chat again. It saddened me a little that these beautiful young girls were wary to trust even someone who had been kind to them.

After a while they helped me find my bus and carry my bags (I confess I was a little worried about them running off, but I'd decided trust had got me this far, why not give it a chance?) The driver shunned the youngest as she went to check whether it was the right stop, but she simply shrugged and beckoned that I would have to do it.

Saying goodbye, I didn't really know what to do. We'd known each other only 30 minutes and yet I felt a strange connection to these girls. Leaving with just a 'see ya, have a nice life' seemed rather inadequate. Squeezing their shoulders and telling them how beautiful they are was barely an improvement, but with no parents to remind them I decided they deserved to hear it.

As I went to board the driver stopped me and demanded 2 bosnian-whatever-they're-called for my backpack. Having already paid for my ticket and spent the last of my pennies on paying for the hostel the night before, I was quite literally skint, but on telling the driver so he just shrugged and took my bag off the bus. I stood there, dumbstruck, at a loss of what to do. My new friends looked at me with understanding eyes, just as a kind norwegian gentleman jumped off the bus and paid for my bag as well as his own. I thanked him profusely, beaming at the girls who then proceeded to beg him for money - you can't teach an old dog and all that. I couldn't help but chuckle, climbing on the bus accompanied with a wave of airborne kisses and shouts of 'gruezi!'

Make of it what you will, but it's proved a rather thought provoking morning for me. I'm currently munching on a peach I acquired from that same kind stranger, who claims that England has given him so much during his travels there, he is simply paying a minute part of it back.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand; 99th Anniversary

(Sorry for the multiple uploads today, the Wifi has been a bit shoddy recently!)

Our exploration of Sarajevo began with a visit the Latin Bridge and the sight where Franz and Sofia Ferdinand were assassinated, which was on the 28th June 1914. 99 years ago to the day. We didn't even plan it intentionally! I found it really strange to stand in pretty much the exact spot Gavrillo Princip stood as he took aim for the shot which would shake up the entire future of Europe. I wonder if he had even an inkling of what he was about to start.

Views walking down from the hostel. A perk of being up so high. (Instagram @josiepanda)

(Instagram @mitchellckc)

The old town is gorgeous, reminiscent of Istanbul according to Steve and Josie. We walked in as a call to prayer echoed through the cobbled streets and I was able to witness my first Muslim prayer ritual. Is it bad to find the customs of a religion that is relatively alien to me fascinating? I don't mean to patronise or condescend, as I have no idea what I believe in, I just think it's interesting to see different forms and places of worship. Religious studies has always been a particular passion of mine.

For lunch we had some traditional Bosnian Ćevapčhičhi, which was delicious and after just 3€ worth I was fit to burst.

We wandered down to the memorial for the 1992-1995 war, which is a beautiful fountain in a park just next to the main high street. There was also a list of children who had died during the war, which really hit home when I noticed that many were born the same year as me, but were deprived of their privilege of life before they'd even turned three. Looking around at the young Bosnians in the street I realised that many of them must have lived through the war; some may even remember it. It's so strange to consider something like that happening in my life time but at the same time, it still very much a reality for many citizens across Middle East and Africa. Children die needlessly in war because adults act like children. We forget the important things and protect our pride and greed and honour and whatever other stupid, unnecessary, selfish tendencies we possess, rather than those innocents who are crying out for peace.

We decided to head to a shisha bar to wind down after a hardcore day of sightseeing. It was SO CHEAP I could barely believe my ears when the waiter told us the equivalent of £2.50 for one! I don't even smoke but even I was tempted at that price.

The evening was spent in true traveller/hippy fashion, dreadlocking more of my hair (I'm now up to 13 dreads!), attempting to use henna and failing because being an idiot I cut the nozzle too thick. We managed to improvise though...

I also knitted some more headbands whilst the others span around in a hammock and massaged each other. Literally Emily hippy paradise.

We got the train to Mostar this morning - early get ups are much easier when you're drunk on culture and jelly sweets. Let's see where the day takes us.

Journey to Sarajevo

Luckily we had a a private bus for the five of us plus our two dorm mates, Zach and Tom from Leeds. We all passed out for the first few hours, Steve trumping us all with his initiative and opting to stretch out on the floor, until we arrived at our first stop off, a 24 hour trout farm. We must have been a sight for sore eyes as we stumbled inside, bleary eyed still covered in last nights now panda-esk eye-liner and cigarette infused beer stench, drooling over the soft drink selection but completely penniless. So whilst the driver gorged on his breakfast and coffee, we all reluctantly sauntered back to the van feeling rather sorry for ourselves.

At the second stop I discovered a rather strange rash appearing on my arm that looked a little like this...

You see those red spots? Nothing too serious but I kept an eye on it all the same.

The drive was breathtaking for the most part. The views were absolutely awe-inspiring and had it not been for my extreme fatigue I would have really enjoyed the journey. However a combination of hangover, motion sickness and ridiculously windy roads, along with a drive who liked to break as hard as possible at the last humanly imaginable second made for a rather nauseating trip.

We crept up to Sarajevo from above, giving us a spectacular view of the city. I literally couldn't believe my eyes. The city was situated in a valley, it's expanse of white washed houses scattered up the hillsides reminded me of a cluster of stars sprinkled amongst a leafy green sky, which slowly became more concentrated towards the core and glittered in the sunlight. 

(You can't really tell, but despite the cloud cover it was actually quite sunny. This picture really doesn't do it justice)

Finding the hostel proved to be a bit of an adventure. As usual, the satnav managed to get lost and we ended up having the grand tour of Sarajevo's higher regions. However after asking around a dozen locals and dying for some fresh air, we finally arrived at our hostel. Near the top of a mountain. In the middle of no where. Locked and completely devoid of people.

Now considering that since we'd set off all we'd been dreaming about was the bed that was awaiting us, unsurprisingly we were starting to lose the will to live. Whilst Josie, Mitch and I were contemplating our certain death atop a Bosnian mountain, Caitlin and Steve decided to entertain themselves by climbing cherry trees and playing with stray dogs, with the most impressive amount of fake energy I have ever witnessed. I'll never understand those crazy cats.

Oliver, owner of the hostel, arrived around 45 minutes later, with rather dilated pupils and a toothy grin that was impossible to be mad at, even with his only half hearted apology about picking up some other backpackers from the station.

So we slept, ate and slept some more, in order to feel fresh for our day in Sarajevo. Oh and that rash I mentioned earlier? Well, it got a little worse...

It's currently itchy as hell but on the plus side I'm drugged up to my eyeballs on antihistamines making everything rather dreamlike and lovely. What would a trip be without some kind of accident or ailment at my expense eh? It'd be a shame to break tradition. ;) 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Serbian Madness

We got another night train to Belgrade, forgetting to factor in the border control which woke us up repeatedly around 2.30am. I say woke 'us' up, I personally didn't sleep a wink but the others were getting pretty annoyed by the third passport check.

The train arrived at the station so early in the morning I'd rather not think about it. We crawled into the hostel and straight to bed before taking in any of our surroundings. Night trains always seem like a good idea at the time but we ALWAYS forget about how difficult they are to sleep on and often you end up losing time by making up for the sleep you missed.

Belgrade was surprising, though I'm not sure what I expected it to look or feel like.  They are without a doubt the friendliest people we've met so far (closely followed by The Polish). One Serb we met in Bratislava explained how it's due to the desire to change outsider's perspectives of the country, after so many years of war and human rights abuses. And I can truly attest to what a lovely nation it has become, everyone wants to help you out and I even felt safe walking the streets at night, a notion I don't even get in some areas of London.

Ice cream AND free wifi?! A travellers dream. I'm sold.

On our first night we decided to try some tradition local cuisine at a restaurant called the 3 Hats, as recommended to us by Srdjan, owner of Madness Hostel (highly recommended!) and absolute legend. The food was once again, really tasty. I love Eastern European food! We also had to try Rakija shots which are traditional in Serbia to drink before and after each course. These on the other hand, were disgusting. I am not a shot or spirits person at all.

Our American friend being serenaded by the restaurant's live band.

Fake smiles at the prospect of Rakija.

We managed to rally a group together in an attempt to try out the local nightlife but unfortunately Tuesday night isn't the night in Belgrade so Steve, Josie and I along with the guys whose cabin I shared on the train and two lovely Swiss girls chilled at a local bar and then called it an early one after failing to find a club. Oh and I also mentioned the 'Liquid Cocaine' shot we tried in my last post... Possibly the worst thing I've ever put inside my body. It was a mixture of all my least favourite beverages plus you have to snort a bit of the liquid too... First time I've ever snorted anything and my last, thankyouverymuch.

Day two consisted of CAITLIN'S RETURN (!!) and sleeping a lot once again (the others are starting to hit the travel wall after going hard for so long and I'm still a little poorly) but Josie and Mitch powered through and whilst on the walking tour discovered the oldest restaurant in The Balkans called '?'. I tried some special Schnitzel with cheese which the waitor refused to give me ketchup with... He was right though, it was so tasty by itself! 

Absolutely stuffed and nuturing rather large food babies we strolled around the markets in the park and took a little train around the castle for an incredible view over the city. 

Being real Serbs. Mitch legitimately considered buying this hat.

That night I was so tired I decided to have a chill one with my train buddies Will, Chris and James whilst the others went on a bar crawl, with a few beers, playing cards and eating watermelon out of a frying pan... (There was some logic behind this, though I can't rightly remember it...)

However I somehow managed to only reach my bed around 4am, making the 6.30 get up for our bus to Bosnia rather painful. Though at least I had it a little easier than Steve who hadn't actually slept, bless him.

I realise this post is made up entirely of sleep, food and drinking, it's been a lazy couple of days! However I'm determined to get my tourist hat back on today and do some proper exploring. Come at me Sarajevo!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Budapest Round 2

I call it round 2, as this was actually my second trip to Budapest within the last year, however I was lagging on the blogging front last time and unfortunately didn't actually write about it. So this is a convenient way to fill in what I missed out (as we did a lot of the same things as last time) and add in the extras.

On the first day I was rather exhausted, so whilst the others headed out to explore I stayed in at our hostel (Home Plus Hostel, defo recommended!) writing postcards and blogging. As I said I'd been before so I wasn't too bothered about missing a bit out. That evening we headed out to a Hungarian/Italian restaurant near the basilica, which had tasty food but the slowest service in the universe and was drastically overpriced. I'd recommend heading a little further out of the main area if you'd prefer cheap and cheerful, especially if you don't want to wait two hours just for the main course.

We spent the whole of Sunday at the baths. The others had gone out to a club called Traffic the previous night, so it made for a good hangover cure/chill out day. At only 4300 HUF (a bit less that £15) it's a great day out, with saunas and loads of different heated and chilled pools. It's the second time I've been and I'd definitely go again! I did however forget to top up my sun cream and severely burned my back... Well done Em.

(Instagram @smutimer)

Picture from last July with the lovely Lauren :)

En route back we took a detour through Heroes Square which looked beautiful in the sunshine. 

On our final day we discovered an all you can eat and drink Hungarian buffet... So naturally we spent almost the entire afternoon eating and drinking ourselves silly. I think we had five bottles of champagne between the four of us. I tried so many different dishes: venison (which was divine), duck, veal, shark (not nuts on that one) and ate so much cake I felt like a little kid who scoffed their party goody bag a little two quickly. Had someone presented me with a wacky warehouse I'd have been raring to go. I think it was called Trófea and it got TripAdvisors top place to eat last year, so it's definitely worth a look in if you fancy treating yourself.

Stumbling out the restaurant Steve decided to give his flip flops a 'funeral' by chucking them off the side of the bridge so in solidarity as good friends we all decided to wander barefoot to the park in the middle of the river. Oh champagne logic. Unfortunately the musical fountain that I visited last time was under construction...

...and we were a little bit too betrunken to rent bikes... despite the weather starting to turn we decided to lie in the rain listening to Disclosure and Taylor Swift drinking a bottle of wine we'd opened on a rock because we're just that classy.

I was supposed to be getting a train to Brasov in Romania that evening but the taxi that was supposed to pick me up cancelled at the last minute because it was spitting a bit (no exaggeration, I was so mad) so I missed my train and eventually decided to join the others going to Belgrade rather than risk being stranded. I met three English lads in the station who were lovely enough to let me share their cabin since I was too late to bunk in with the others. Although it wasn't a particularly comfortable journey or fruitful in terms of sleep, I actually quite enjoyed myself since we stayed up chatting for most of the night. It's so nice when you click with strangers :) 

The only things we missed out on this time was the trip up to the castle which gives you a fantastic view of the city...

...and the ruin bars which have an incredible vibe. But I've enjoyed this visit just as much, Budapest is definitely my favourite European city. Luckily for me, one of my besties is moving to Budapest for his year abroad, so that means this visit wasn't my last!

Now we're in Belgrade, dying from liquid cocaine induced hangovers (it's a shot, not a drug, don't worry Mum) but that's for another post! Also my head might explode if I have to concentrate on writing anymore...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Bull's Testicles and Sun Burn

By the time we'd arrived in Vienna I'd survived two night trains in a row, had a grand total of ten hours sleep over three nights and visited eight cities in six days. Safe to say I was pretty exhausted.

As Mitch and I have already visited the city before we spent the morning at the castle with Steve and Josie, before parting ways to head to Bratislava around lunch time. We didn't really achieve much until tea time when we gorged on traditional Slovakian garlic soup (served in a bread bowl!) and the tastiest beef goulash with dumplings. I was so full I could hardly walk and we only spent like 7€ each!

Steve and Josie arrived on the last train that night, so the next morning we all went out to a lake on the recommendation of two lovely Canadian girls from our hostel. It was such a BE-A-UTIFUL day, we just lounged around in the sun and swam for six hours. Which unfortunately left Josie with a rather interesting tan...

At lunchtime we were feeling adventurous so we decided to try something new... Bull's testicle goulash. Now I expected (and kinda hoped) not to enjoy it, but it actually turned out to be really tasty! I kid you not. I actually preferred it to my bolognese. It looked different to how we expected too, which probably lessened the trauma a little.

That evening we attempted to try out the Bratislavan night life but failed somewhat miserably. We ended up drinking a little too much cheap Slovakian vodka at the hostel with a couple if Swedes we'd met and despite wandering the city streets for an hour or so didn't manage to find anywhere suitable so just retired early. Well, around 2.30am.

We're now in Budapest and about to head out to the baths for the day, I literally cannot wait! :)

Friday, 21 June 2013


Although I know this is going to be a difficult and not particularly pleasant post to either read or write, I don't feel it's an experience I can just brush over or write off with a brief comment in another post. It may sound a little cliché but there really is nothing that can prepare you for this trip, especially for those of us who have learned in detail about the atrocities that took place from a young age and those whose continent's history was directly affected by what happened. History lessons and background reading can only give you a glimpse into the atmosphere of the place. And visiting, I can only assume, still barely scratches the surface of what it must have been like.

We started with the main camp, Auschwitz. Simply by walking into the camp I could feel a chill wash over my entire body; I was extremely aware of the hairs on the back of my neck and the curvature of each individual vertebrae of my spine. Perhaps it was caused by my personal anticipation but the eery chill of death seemed almost tangible to me. We were given headphones to wear so that the tour was almost completely silent, except for the soft murmur of the tour guides speaking into their microphones.

Walking through the gates under the intentionally ironic words 'ARBEIT MACHT FREI' (WORK MAKES YOU FREE) I tried to imagine how the place may have looked in the 1940s, though to little avail. Although the atmosphere was sombre, there is a stark contrast between the silence of respect and the silence of fear. The crunch of the gravel underfoot wasn't march like but pensive - every step was as careful as each person's silent contemplation. The looming bunkers had no character, no personality. They stood in rows, mirroring the uniformity of the prisoners who were contained inside them, staring at the passersby, a constant reminder of the insignificance of an individual under the looming presence of a powerful and oppressive regime.

At first I was too overwhelmed to even think, but after a while, as the initial shock subsided a little, I was able to fully digest what I was witnessing. My first reaction was anger, though surprisingly not at those who had carried out the crimes. It was at myself, for not being able to shed a tear at what I was seeing. I stared desperately at a case containing clothes fit for babies no older than three to six months old, but I seemed to feel nothing. Hundreds of suitcases piled high, one inscribed with 'Petr, KIND' (Peter, child) along with a birthday that made him no more than four years old when he was undoubtedly murdered. Nothing. A cabinet containing uncountable numbers of walking sticks, false legs and wheelchairs. Still nothing. What was wrong with me?

I walked outside and sat down in the glaring sunlight to try and figure out what was going on. 'It's almost too shocking to be sad. You just don't want to believe it's real.', Mitch breathed as he sat beside me. In that instant I realised what was going on in my mind. I wasn't numb to what I was seeing. Of course I was sad, angry, bitter, frustrated but all of this was buried under the utter bewilderment which I was experiencing. The society and people which I have come to know is so far removed from what happened during the Holocaust it was completely impossible for me to understand how those people must have felt. I also found myself contemplating the mental state of those who seemed to believe that they had the right to murder and torture and destroy so many lives. That was the only way I could begin to comprehend the logic behind their actions, they must have been utterly convinced of their right to harm, their superiority over these 'lesser beings'. Even that is difficult for me to fathom. How can one human believe he/she is better than another? That is something I will never be able to understand.

A corridor inside one of the bunkers was plastered from floor to ceiling with photographs of the prisoners, with a brief description of their name, identification number, previous career, date of admission into the camp and the date they died. However what caught my attention were their eyes. Some full of fear, some forced courage but all had lost sparkle with only an empty void of sadness which pierced a hole straight through me. And whether it be terror or determination that accompanied that sadness seemed to have little impact on survival. Most died within a few months, whilst some lived much longer. Which caused me to question whether I would fight for survival or whether the fight would be too much for me? Giving up isn't exactly in my nature but then my nature wasn't developed through extreme torture and degradation. I'm glad I'm lucky enough that I will never discover the answer.

Once inside the gas chambers, I found it difficult to do anything except stand and stare. Looking at the glittering display of candles, flowers and prayer cards at the back of the room, I realised I couldn't possibly put faith in a God that allowed this to happen. Real or not, it would seem that Him and I disagree drastically on certain issues. I placed my hand over one of the handmarks on the wall which had been clawed at in anguish, during an innocents last moments of life. I wanted to be there for them so badly, jump in a time machine, shoot Hilter in the face and hold them, saying that everything was going to turn out fine. But I can't. I can only think about now and work towards the future. Never will I watch suffering and turn a blind eye; terrible things are still happening all over the world from which captives need to be set free and I can only hope that I'll do my best to improve these situations. I promised this to the scarred wall, whilst gently tracing the indentations with the tips of my fingers and finally dragged myself back outside.

The second camp, Birkenau, displayed how the Nazis were able to murder such huge numbers of people. The sheer expanse of the place was mind-blowing. Bunker after bunker lined up in the baking sun, but even the beautiful weather seemed overshadowed by the darkness seeping up from the very ground on which we were walking. The stench of murder, pain and desperation was almost too much for me. I was so full of questions with no one to answer them for me. 

My visit taught me two valuable and conflicting lessons. Humanity can be both dangerous and inspiring. Despite the disgusting and atrocious actions which took place at Auschwitz, the beauty of humanity was never completely destroyed. We heard stories of twelve men who gave their lives so that three could escape and a priest called Maximillian who voluntarily took another's place and was starved for two weeks before receiving a lethal injection as a result of his compassion. And the man who's place he took? He lived until 1996. So in a weird way, I learned that despite branding, torture, humiliation, sarvation and a whole host of other degrading and debilitating treatments, some hope still survived. And once again, I can't even begin to comprehend how this was possible, I only know that it is an incredible and inspiring thing.

So would I recommend a visit to Auschwitz? I could say it's not for the faint hearted though I managed it. I'll let you decide for yourselves, as each reaction and interpretation is so individual, it is impossible for me to determine. I'm glad I went though.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

33 hours from Cologne to Krakow... Say WHAT?!

Since I had SO MUCH TIME to plan this blog post/time to kill on my a million and one train journeys (well six but close enough) I've prepared you a special treat... I started vlogging! Yes, you read that read it right. Now goodness knows why I am sharing video footage of myself in this state with the internet world, but unfortunately for all involved I think this is the best way for you to witness my progressive exhaustion and delirium. So I am sorry that you have to look at me in various questionable states, though hopefully you'll get a pretty good picture of my most epic journey so far.

My camera work is impeccable. I intended to cut my mouth off for most of that video, I'm just that quirky. On another note I've been let down a considerable amount by German trains/conductors, for the first time ever. I didn't think Germans had the ability to be late. It's safe to say that they're not used to it. Whilst us Brits are experts at lateness and therefore know how to deal with it, it would appear Germans simply panic, causing them to not let anyone know whats going on and constantly inaccurately guestimating new times of arrival, resulting in my case in a lot of frustrated adults, who were then further aggravated by the group of restless teens on a school trip... Well done Deutsch Bahn. Though like I said, this is the first time they've let me down, so hopefully it was just a one off!

Something I forgot to include is my impression of Poznan... well, let's just say I wouldn't recommend it, though I did only get to wander for about an hour. Still, there are much nicer places to visit.

On my eventual arrival to Krakow - seventeen hours later than I originally intended, because of course, that train was late too - I met up with Josie, Mitch and Steve, who were moments away from calling my mother for fear I'd been kidnapped. During the day we visited Auschwitz, which was well... intense, emotional, shocking, disturbing, overwhelming... I'm going to write a separate post on my own reactions to the visit soon, I just feel that particular one deserves a special amount of time and attention to get it spot on. We also had a little meander around the centre for a few hours in the evening, which I really enjoyed. The atmosphere was lovely and it really is a beautiful place. I'd love to visit again the future and spend a bit more time there.

After my SECOND NIGHT IN A ROW on a sleeper train, we arrived in Vienna around 6.30 and started to explore early. It was nice to visit the castle for a second time and we even got to go in the labyrinth!! Mazes are like one of my favourite things ever in the world ever. However after walking around until lunch time Mitch and I were simply too worn out, especially with the scorching 36*C heat and around just ten hours sleep over the past three days. So now we're chilling for the afternoon in Bratislava whilst Josie and Steve continue to explore Vienna. It's a pretty nice city on first impressions and super cheap which is always a plus. Also, our hostel which is called Patio is so nice, slightly more than we'd usually spend but the showers and rooms are lovely and there is free wifi, computers and a bar/club with a garden. Special thanks to Lisle from Lousiana for the recommendation in Krakow :)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I spoke too soon...

Never again will I make the mistake of saying 'I know what I'm doing'. Because after watching last nights train leave the platform where I'd been stood for an hour, I've only just arrived in Berlin after a 3 hour delay, meaning I won't arrive in Krakow until 7.13am tomorrow morning... 16 hours later than I originally planned. Good going Em.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Siegburg, Cologne and Bonn

Since Friday I've been staying with my friend Mani, who I met in Cusco, in a city called Siegburg which lies between Cologne and Bonn and having an absolute whale of a time. Not only has it been great to see Mani again and be back on the road, I'm also loving the feeling of knowing exactly what I'm doing (sort of). Although my first big adventure was exciting in that I was constantly learning and having to figure out how to do this thing called 'backpacking', it's nice not to worry about the little things that bothered me last time.

Despite having had only two hours sleep in the airport lounge the night before, as soon as Mani came to pick my up from the airport we headed out into Siegburg. I'm just so hardcore. After wandering around the centre and climbing up to the Convent at the top of the hill to see the pretty view (still being hardcore obv.) and sleeping in the afternoon, we headed out to a lake in a nearby town called Hennef, where we had beers and cake and bubbles and music to celebrate Mani's friend's birthday in the sunshine :)

On Saturday we visited Cologne. En route to the Cathedral we wandered across this really cool bridge which was COVERED in love -locks (I think that's what they're called...) There's literally thousands and apparently they're getting so heavy specialist people are starting to worry about damage to the bridge. I love it though!

We then climbed the Cathedral which was FLIPPING high, something stupid like 523 steps. But it was totally worth it, the view was really something! The inside was kinda cool too, you could see the huge bell and all the graffiti on the walls which has been there for years. Usually I'd be apposed to drawing on the walls of a church but I think it gave it character in a weird way. You could see the thousands of names of those who'd visited the church in the past and I personally love to think about where those people are now... does Ole still love Christina? How did Dave's 'eurotrip with the lads' end? I suppose I just like to let my mind wander.

That night we went to see Die Ärtze with two of Mani's friends. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I seriously recommend you check this band out.

I reeeeeeeeally hope this wasn't a real tattoo...

We decided to have a lazy Sunday, which consisted entirely of eating McDonalds, drinking beer, swimming and drinking more beer. Oh and a party in the kitchen where Mani and I learned to catch popcorn in our mouths and I tried and failed a juggling apples.

Today was my first day as a lone ranger as Mani had to go to work. I spent my time getting lost in the centre of Bonn - I'm telling you that city is like a maze, I kept on going round and round in circles. I bought some wool to make a headscarf with to give myself something to do on the train (its like 12 hours long tonight, which admittedly, I would have been ecstatic with in South America, I've just gotta get back into the swing of things!)

I leave Mani's at like 9 o'clock tonight for the station and then it's off to Poland, which is a new country for me which is all very exciting. I'm also meeting up with Mitch, Josie and Steve once I reach Krakow, which suggests to me that tomorrow could be a rather messy catch-up night.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Eurotrip 2013 begins

This is it. I've finally left Moonraker and said goodbye to the last of my exchange friends. I'm currently sitting in the train station waiting for my train to Gatwick airport, where I will board my flight in just over five hours. I've been reunited with my pack, which I already loath and love all over again, and the tingly sensation is already invading my fingers and toes, knowing that I'm setting off on yet another adventure.

I don't know what to expect. I certainly couldn't have predicted the events of my last jaunt. All I know is that as I left, a good friend hugged me and said, 'Come back with a smile on your face and sparkles in your eyes' and that's exactly what I intend to do. I've been devoid of my sparkles for far too long.

My first stop is Cologne, Germany, where I'm staying with my friend Mani who I met in Peru last year (as I've mentioned before, keeping in touch is a strong point of mine!) I literally cannot wait to see him and explore the city as I've never been there before. It's going to be interesting hanging out in a setting where I'm the guest, rather than where we're both travellers. I've also realised I'm wearing exactly the same clothes as the last time he saw me, as my travel wardrobe is fairly limited... I'm sure he'll appreciate the familiarity!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Summer To-Do List

Every summer for a while now I've written myself a to-do list to try an encourage myself to be at least a little productive and not just simply waste the months away. I am yet to even come close to completing one of these lists, so this year I've decided to post it on here and I'll have to write a short update every so often on the end of a blog post to keep you guys up to date. This way I can review my (lack of) progress might actually get something done... It's worth a try at least!

First of all, I've picked a few things from my bucket list I'd like to tick off:

46. Learn how to say that really long welsh town name (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch)
50. Have a big 21st
104. Do the cinnamon challenge

'That was the single worst thing I've ever had to do'. Why do I challenge myself to do these stupid things?? Though for your entertainment and proof that I actually tried it I might film myself doing it. I can already feel the regret creeping in...

Then a few I'd like to work towards:

42. Learn to speak fluently in at leats five languages

I'm obviously going to keep up my German and Spanish but I'm also going to work on one of Arabic, Danish or French, as I already have a little understanding of these. Which do you think I should go for? Also any learning tips would be greatly appreciated.

83. Watch 100 Greatest Films of all time - Watch at least 10 of these. I got my two lists (which can be found on my Bucket List page) from a friend who is the biggest film buff I've ever encountered, so I doubt there exists anything more accurate!

84. Read 100 Greatest Books of all time - Read at least 5 of these. I'm not sure which list is exactly the official one, but after reading a few this is the one I most agreed with. If you know of a better one, let me know. Though since it's rather opinion based thing, I can't guarantee I'll agree.

Then there's practical things like sorting out my files in preparation for next term, moving into my NEW FLAT in Bermondsey, buying books and sorting out things for German Society! I'm also willing to consider any other challenges you may be able to think of for me whilst on my travels... Comment/tweet to let me know! Let's see how I manage eh?!