Budapest, Hungary; Friends Visit; and <2.5 Weeks Until Home…

Today I finished my latest post for Verge Magazine and I’m really excited for it to be put up. It is honestly the post I’ve felt most passionate about while writing and I really hope I can inspire some others with what I have written. I discuss my thoughts on studying about and how I’m feeling about leaving- you’ll have to wait and see for more specific details!

I am currently writing a paper for my Drugs & Economics course about Canadian drug policy and its influencers over the last century.There’s a lot of information but often times that can be more difficult than not enough because there’s so much reading and narrowing down of information. I have two weeks left of classes and then I go back to Canada. It’s INSANE how fast the time has flown. I have two presentations to do on Monday, one final exam on Wednesday, two papers due before I leave and then a week of finals the week after next. Oi. The work here is not hard but it’s a nuisance how much of it there has been. I know I’m here to study but I honestly thought school would be more of a joke than it has been lol. I’m find myself thinking there’s that school’s interfering too much with my travelling aha. But that is life and I have managed just fine =).

The past two weekends were actually fantastic! Last weekend I had two friends visit me; Stefan who studies with me back home but is currently studying in Wales and Sherall who I grew up with but is teaching English in France. We had one of the greatest weekends I think I’ve had while in Prague since the semester began. Me, Stefan, and my other friends from uni here all went to see Swedish House Mafia last Thursday. That concert was soo awesome! Sososo awesome!

Me and my friends at Swedish House Mafia's final tour in Prague

Me and my friends at Swedish House Mafia’s final tour in Prague

Our amazing view of the Swedish House Mafia concert. Confetti, balloons, and amazing sound

Our amazing view of the Swedish House Mafia concert. Confetti, balloons, and amazing sound

Other than the concert we were straight up tourists the whole weekend. I showed them all of Prague’s amazing gems like the Prague castle, the Lennon wall, Charles Bridge, Petřín Hill, the metronome and so on! I even got to see a few things I had yet to since I’ve been here. We checked out some local pubs like the Prague Beer Museum, and spent one evening at Cross Club. It was really great to show them how awesome Prague is and to see some old friends!

Me in front of the Towers of Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Me in front of the Towers of Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

The week before Stefan and Sherall visited I found my way to Budapest, Hungary. I absolutely LOVED Budapest. I know Prague a lot better and it holds a special place in my heart but Budapest just had something about it. I loved the ruin pubs! We went to Szimpla for some beers on the Friday we were there and I also tasted hot wine for the first time. It was fantastic from there! Budapest has a crazy quirky feel to it that I thought was so cool. I found some really neat jewellery and clothes there and loved the atmosphere. We had some delicious food, checked out the Szechenyi thermal baths, went on the free walking tour and basically just saw everything we could fit into the weekend. It has been really hard to travel this time of year because the amount of daylight is slim to none. It’s basically fully dark come 4:30pm so you have to wake up early to get the most of your days.

Perusing Prague- What Have I Been Up To?

Hello friends! So sorry for the lack of blog posts since I have been away. These past two months have been super busy with starting school, an intensive course which included a paper and a final, four midterms, four different country trips, and the random homework in between!

I have finally slowed down a little (but only just a little) and have found a few minutes to FINALLY write a post about what I have been up to all this time. The first week I was here I did a lot of adventuring around town. I made friends my first day in town which is pretty inevitable when you live in residence with hundreds of other international students. I saw the major tourist attractions around town (except for the Prague Castle which I still have yet to see but am saving that for when my two friends come and visit in two weeks. One of which I went to high school with and the other I study with back in Newfoundland and he’s studying abroad in Wales) and got a feel for the city.

Wallenstein Garden, Prague Czech Republic

Me in Wallenstein Garden, Prague Czech Republic

September 24th I started my classes. The system is different here in Europe so instead of my usual 5 classes, 15 credit hours I’m taking 8 classes (plus one intensive class) worth a total of 31 ECTS (European credit transfer system). 6 ECTS=1 class=3 credit hours back home. The intensive class I took was during the second week of school and it was 3 days 9:00-4:30 and that was it. We had a “final” during the last class and had to submit a 5 page paper. The class was called Japanese Management Style and was actually really interesting! It was basically a huge discussion about cultural and gender differences and as a lot of us were exchange students who gave a lot of different input. But enough about the boring stuff which you probably don’t care about…

TRIPS. So far I have been to four different countries excluding the Czech Republic- Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands. I also had a day in Karlstejn in the Czech Republic where we had a full day of hiking.

In Germany I was in Munich and Dachau but unfortunately did not see any of Munich (which really does disappoint me because although I enjoyed my time I really would’ve liked to see the city). We spent our time at the last weekend of Oktoberfest.

My fine looking crew in the Hofbräuhaus at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich

My fine looking crew in the Hofbräuhaus at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich

We had all intentions of doing the free walking tour of Munich but with the rain and poor weather we decided  to check out the Dachau concentration camp. It was pretty epic and you were feeling emotions for something you can’t quite comprehend. I will soon have a post on Verge Magazine about my experience in this concentration camp. Stay tuned for that as well as a post about Vienna and the pros and cons of off season travel.

A memorial in the Dachau concentration camp, Dachau, Germany

A memorial in the Dachau concentration camp, Dachau, Germany

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, Holland, The Netherlands

The weekend after I went with a few students here to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was a really neat city, kind of a surreal place in the world since it’s so different than where I live (Canada). It was a lot of fun though and we met a group of Aussies who we spent the weekend with. We saw the infamous red light district, the Anne Frank house, went on the Heineken Experience tour, checked out the Van Gogh museum and did a lot of walking around and sightseeing.

Typical Amsterdam...

Typical Amsterdam…

Karlštejn Castle, Karlštejn, Czech Republic

Karlštejn Castle, Karlštejn, Czech Republic

After these two big weekends I decided to stay in Prague for two weeks and do some things locally. I did a lot of exploring to parts of Prague I had yet to see in the city and had a day of hiking in Karlštejn.

Baby statues by David Černý outside of the Kampa Museum in Prague, Czech Republic

Baby statues by David Černý outside of the Kampa Museum in Prague, Czech Republic

One of my favorite things I have seen in Prague so far are the metal baby statues at the Kampa Museum which were created by David Černý.

I had read about these statues before I came here and were on the list of top things to see in Prague. There are three of them located just outside the museum. They’re one of those not-so-touristy things all the tourists should see (in my opinion, anyway!)

After a bit of a break I had two big weekends again. The first one I found myself in Vienna, Austria. I will have a post published on Verge Magazine in the next few weeks about that trip so stay tuned! I discuss the pros and cons of off season travel. Vienna was really gorgeous and I loved the palaces and architecture. Also, the food was nothing to turn your nose up too, yum yum!

The weekend after that I finally made my way to Cinque Terre <3. You can see my blog post about that trip; it deserved its own post because it was just so gorgeous and awesome- a definite must see!

And this brings us to now. The past three weeks I wrote some midterms and travelled and needed another break. This weekend I decided to stay in Prague and I’m thankful I did because I developed a cold on Friday. I took it pretty easy this weekend doing a bit of school work and hanging out with my flatmate, Reem (our roommates are gone to Amsterdam this weekend so we had a quiet flat to ourselves). Last night we made a homemade facial, had some wine and chatted, it was a nice evening.

Next weekend is a trip to Budapest and that’s the last trip I currently have planned. I really want to head to Krakow and to Berlin but I’m not sure yet if I will travel in December or not. My first final will be December 12th and the following week I will write the rest. Between now and then I have those finals, a project, two papers, and four presentations- plus some scattered things for my web 2.0 class. Oivey.

Stay tuned for another update. I apologize again for my lack of updates, but at least now you’re aware of what all I have been up to the past two months!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Just last weekend I was finally able to view one of the most colorful places in the world; Cinque Terre, Italy. As a side note, I think it’s pretty rad that the place I currently live (not when I’m on exchange) also makes the list; St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Another awesome thing to note is that Cinque Terre made the list of the Europe’s Top 10 Scenic Rail Journeys by Lonely Planet– I totally agree!

Me in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy the first night of our trip

Boats at night in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy

Boats at night in Levanto, Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre was absolutely breath taking, regardless of my journey taking place in the off season. I admired pictures of this region for quite some time and that was at the very top of my list to visit during my semester abroad. I am so thankful I was actually able to go, but that journey was honestly just a tease.

We flew to Milan the night of Thursday November 8th and stayed there for the evening. We only had enough time to sleep and head out to Lavento where we stayed the next day. It was a 3 hour train ride and was the first village just outside Cinque Terre.

Upon arrival we heard about the crazy labyrinth that lay within the forests. Unfortunately that didn’t fit into our itinerary but I will most DEFINITELY come back to this! Instead we just adventured around the town and walked the old railway tunnel that lead to Bonassola.

Me in front of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Me in front of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

The next night we stayed in Monarolla and went from town to town inside Cinque Terre. We had all intentions of hiking the mountain trek trails but once we went to purchase our Cinque Terre pass we were informed they were closed for the season. This somewhat made out decisions easier as the weather for the day was supposed to be very rainy and we didn’t have all that much time in the area. Instead we just train hopped between the villages and explored among them. We ended up missing out on Corniglia due to limited daylight. At this point it was getting dark around 5pm and we just didn’t have the time.

We also found out once we arrived that the Via dell’Amore was closed due to a landslide in late February. There is currently an investigation being conducted as four people were injured in the slide. Overall it sounds as though there were a lot of disappointments but the place was so magical that I enjoyed every minute of it despite the closures  Because of this tease of a trip I have decided I will for sure make a trip back during the peak season and found out what I would like to see when I come back. I realized I didn’t know all that much about the area and will do a lot more research next time and plan a longer stay. This is definitely a region people should check out, especially if you’re a hiker and love the outdoors!

Jam Packed Weekend of Fun in Newfoundland

This was a solid weekend! I really wish I had taken some pictures though, how dumb of me not to!

I started off the weekend with the Newfoundland Folk Festival Friday night with my friend John. John is up visiting for the week and I haven’t seen him in a year so it was great to spend the evening with him. I went down around 7:30pm and we spent most of the night in the beer tent but made sure we went out for the Dardanelles for a scuff (Newfie word for a dance). This is an old song of theirs and some of the band members have since changed but the amount of new stuff on YouTube is limited!

After the folk festival we went down to Smoke’s Poutinerie which only opened here a few weeks ago. I got the veggie nacho poutine. It has jalapenos, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. It sounds disgusting but I swear it was delicious. After that we went for a pint at the Duke of Duckworth and then headed home.

The next day I was invited to go out on my friend’s boat! We were going to go water skiing but just ended up tubing. I dislocated my shoulder 1.5 months ago and I was nervous to try the water skiing anyway so I was content with just the tubing. It was a fantassstic day for the boat though. Minimal wind, clear blue skies, and was super warm and sunny. We stopped at Dick’s Fish and Chips on Bell Island for a feed and a beer and then headed back to shore. Afterwards we went to a fire on the beach and hung out with some friends. It was a great time!

Today I have just been catching up on Mad Men and taking it easy. Made a pretty deadly stir fry for supper though. Now for more Mad Men!

Homemade Chicken Veggie Stir Fry

Homemade Chicken Veggie Stir Fry

The Excitement’s Setting In

I’m slowing handing off my commitments and now that my mind is getting clearer I have been able to focus more on my travels and am starting to get more excited. August is going to be a great month.

One of my best friends I haven’t seen in a year will be arriving tomorrow evening. When he gets in we will be going out for some beers at the Duke of Duckworth, his favourite bar. It’s Regatta Day on Wednesday, a civic holiday in St. John’s. The Regatta is North America’s oldest sporting event; a fixed-seat rowing competition. If the weather is suitable we have the day off; if not we go to work and the next suitable day is the holiday. Thankfully right now things are looking good. I would much prefer to have some beers with my buddy and not have to go in to work.

As I mentioned in my last post my sister is arriving August 15th. My brother was supposed to go out to Gros Morne with us but he couldn’t get the time off work. We’re looking for one or two other people to tag along with us. We are looking at kayaking and a small hike on the Saturday and then we’re possibly attempting the James Callahan Trail on the Sunday. The trail is a 16km hike up the mountain which we’re all somewhat nervous about being inexperienced hikers. This is the view we want to see though, it’s THE view of Gros Morne.

Another one of my friends gets back soon from being on the boats all summer, my best friend gets back August 25th after a summer in Gagetown with the reserves, and then I head home to Nova Scotia for a two week visit.

Next week my work term report is due and then I finish up my work term the following week. I think August is going to flew by.

Until next time.