In January 2012, I left Canada to begin my first exchange in Drachten, Netherlands. During my one semester exchange, I was able to travel all through-out the Netherlands and explore the country. At the end of my exchange, the company I did my exchange through organized a three week bus tour through 11 different countries; Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This experience is what really inspired me to look into a degree that would allow me to learn about other countries and cultures, then I found the Bachelor of International Business.
While I was packing up everything to begin my year-long exchange in Vienna, Austria, I decided that I really wanted to see as many countries as possible in Eastern Europe. That list consisted of (in no particular order): Poland, Romania (who doesn’t want to see Dracula’s castle!), Ukraine, Croatia (home to some of the most beautiful most beautiful beaches in Europe), Estonia, Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Slovenia. I know that it’s a long list, but I’m optimistic and a year is a long time after all!
During the three week German course in September, I began to plan a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. Bratislava is an hour train ride away and it costs 16 Euros for the train ticket there and back. 16 other exchange students and I went on the day trip to Bratislava.
We really lucked out because one of the guys that was going on the trip happened to have a friend that works in Bratislava. The two of them organized a tour of the city for us to see the major tourist attractions. We saw the Slovakian National Theatre, the Presidential Palace, the famous Blue Church, the Bratislava Castle, and the Devìn Castle ruins.
Of course, we also had to try a typical Slovakian meal while visiting the capital city. I had Kofola (the Slovakian version of coke) to drink and Halušky (pronounced halushky), which translates to potato dumplings in English. Halušky is a sort of dumpling made from potato dough and typically topped with bryndza, a special sheep cheese, and fried bacon bits. It is an extremely filling dish, but extremely delicious and I would recommend it to everyone.
It was great to spend the day with so many new friends and get to explore a new city in a new country. I think that you can see everything in Bratislava in one day, so if you’re close enough to visit the city, do it!
I know that visiting Germany wasn’t on my list of countries to visit while in Austria, but who would pass up the opportunity to visit the original Oktoberfest when you’re only a four and a half hour car ride away?
At the moment, there are no trains going between Austria and Croatia or between Austria and Germany because of the amount of refugees entering Europe trying to get to Berlin, Germany. This didn’t leave a lot of options to get to Munich from Vienna. I looked into taking a Flixbus, but it would have cost over 80 Euros there and back, so I looked into Blablacar. Blablacar is a website where people who are driving from one city to another can post where they’re going, what kind of car they drive, a profile about themselves, and how much it would cost to catch a ride with them. Being that I wouldn’t be travelling alone from Vienna to Munich and that I’d heard good reviews about the website, we decided to give it a try. I travelled with Misty, a fellow BIBer currently studying in Vienna, and we planned to meet up with Gannon, another BIBer currently studying in Freiberg, Germany. It cost Misty and I 50 Euros each to go there and back and we had a very positive experience with both of our drivers!
On the first day, the three of us went to a traditional Munich restaurant and of course had typical Bavarian meals. We also visited Frauenkirche, but we accidentally walked in on the middle of a service! Oops!
The second day was a bit more interesting. Coincidentally, a guy who also studies at the University of Vienna and was in the same car as us to Vienna was there visiting friends and he invited us to join him at their table in a typical Bavarian beer tent at Oktoberfest! Oktoberfest is a huge festival with tons of rides, a crazy amount of beer tents, food stalls and people in Lederhosen and Dirndls. We tried the local beer, the local food and even an Ox sandwich. It was so much fun!
Tip: Make friends with the locals when travelling, they know all of the best places!
Day three. The three of us visited Nymphenberg Castle, a small castle located in Munich. It was nice to walk around, but we didn’t go inside. When we found ourselves walking around Munich without a solid plan, we went back to Oktoberfest! You can never get enough!
On our last day in Munich we decided to visit the famous Neuschwanstein castle, located in the small town of Schwangau. It’s the one that the Disney Cinderella castle was inspired by. It takes two hours by train from the Munich main train station. It’s an amazing castle to see with an amazing view. We didn’t get to go inside because it was such a rushed day. Misty and I needed to meet our ride at 6:00 p.m. back in Munich, but the short amount of time we did have there was amazing.
Tip: If you want to go inside the Neuschwanstein castle, you need to book tickets two days in advance.
I haven’t gone on the Cracow trip yet, but I am going on a tour on 24 and 25 of October with some friends. We will be visiting Auschwitz and trying some traditional Polish cuisine on the first day. On the second day we will be visiting the city centre, Cracow Barbican, St.Florian Street, Old Town, Cracow Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), and the Wawl Castle that was the home of the Polish Kingdom. We will also see St. Mary’s Basilica, Grodzka Street, the shore of the Vistula River and the former Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz. It will take between five and six hours to get to Cracow from Vienna.
Long Story Short
I’m doing my best to take advantage of the easy and fairly cheap modes of transportation and I recommend everyone else that goes abroad to do the same. I’m having a great time so far on my exchange and I can’t believe that I’ve already been in Vienna for over 7 weeks. Crazy!
Until the next post!
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