…continued from An Adventurous Semester Break Part 2

A continuation of my mid-break trips included a lovely weekend in Krakow, Poland, followed by an adventure through Bolzano and Bologna in Italy, where I was fortunate enough to have my very own Italian tour guide!

I had 12 hours in between my trip to Romania and my trip to Krakow. I arrived back from Romania at 7pm and left for the bus to Nuremburg airport at 7am the following morning, so you can imagine how stressful it was trying to wash, dry and repack all of my necessities into one tiny backpack!

After a much-needed night in my own bed we set off on our next adventure. As a must mention for probably the third time now, if you are a student, and you come to Europe on exchange, definitely make use of the Flixbus, and if you’re looking for flights, try and find flights from airports around the big city you’re in, as you will save so much money that way!

We arrived in Nuremburg a few hours later, but we still had to wait four hours for our flight as that is the price you pay for finding cheap tickets from a far away airport…compromise is key! The girls I was travelling with were all from the UK, so still in the EU (for now at least), and they had no issue with their passport. I on the other hand had to go and show my passport to the check in desk and let them know that I was a Canadian flying on the plane today.

I understand that I have to do this, but I am not quite sure if every airline requires me to do this? As when I was flying to Romania, the attendant printed me out a new ticket fully indicating that I was a Canadian flying to Romania, but on this occasion flying to Poland, the man at the desk just looked at me and said “yes okay”, and that was the end of it. A bit confusing but I guess it must be dependent on the country you are flying to.

Amazingly, no one questioned my Canadian passport, and I just hopped on the plane and was on my way to Poland! A short flight later we were in the city and trying to decipher the language.

We didn’t get up to much the first night, as we arrived quite late. We did however manage to have a nice walk around the famous centre to see all the historic buildings and views!

Our Airbnb was very close to the centre, and we walked past this fountain on the first night just as the sun was setting. A beautiful sight!

Just before the sun set, I also managed to capture this picture of the old market square, which holds a lot of history!

The old market of Krakow

Coincidentally, there were many people in Krakow that we knew from Munich all at the same time. So that night we ended up having a big reunion at a very traditional pub right in the historic centre.

The entire night we continued to see groups pass by, being led by someone with a large yellow umbrella, so in my curious state I googled it, and came across a company that gives free tours around the city! So over the course of the weekend we managed to do quite a few of the free tours, and they were actually very interesting and knowledgeable! Highly suggest doing a free walking tour of the city, and the company, namely Free Walking Tours, has tours in many different historical cities in Europe.

The next day we were up early and on our way to the famous salt mines, where we had a great tour, and were able to lick the very salty walls!

We were allowed to lick the walls of the seemingly never-ending mines. Consumed my daily salt intake with this single lick of the wall!

It was quite a scary place to be actually! As we went down hundreds of stairs into a pitch-black tunnel being held up with seemingly rotten wooden beams! It is a must do if you are ever in Poland though, would fully recommend.

I was quite shocked about all the history there was in this city, as back in Canada we never really discussed Poland, unless Canada had a huge part in it. It was also interesting to see the extent of knowledge about world events from different country perspectives, especially as I have been living in Germany for a year! I learned a lot from the tours that I had, and also from the friends I was with as they learned much more about the wars than I did in school!

That afternoon it started to unexpectedly pour down with rain, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits and we decided to do a three-hour walking tour of the old town, again with the free walking tour service.

My friends and I enjoy finding places to visit off of the normal touristy locations, so we all decided to make the trip out to another sector of town, what used to be the communist sector during the second world war. It was very far to get to, but as the currency exchange made our currency very valuable, we decided to take an Uber to get us to where we wanted to be!

The Uber was an experience and a half, as the driver did not speak any English, and there seemed to be a problem with the destination as it was taking us out of the city! As non of us spoke Polish, we reverted to using technology to aid us in communication, and we ended up using google translate, where the driver spoke to us in polish, and the phone translated it and repeated what he said in English, and vice versa. It ended up working out perfectly, and the driver helped us find where we needed to go! It really was a great experience, and I couldn’t imagine the outcome of the exchange if we didn’t have help from modern technology, it really is life changing!

The communist sector was very interesting, as all the buildings are the same buildings as the time of the war, and it really was a picture of pure brutalism.

Due to bad planning, we were not able to visit the concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau, but I will definitely be returning to Poland to see them, as I believe that everyone should go and pay their respects to those who were killed during the war.

The next and unfortunately our last day we decided to explore more around the main town, including walking up the tower of the city hall building to get a nice viewpoint of the main square.

Krakow is known to be one of the most polluted cities in Europe, and you can see the layer of smog just above the town.

Impressive views but the pollution in the city shocked me, as there were so many green spaces! I would have never noticed the pollution if I hadn’t climbed the tower.

We ended our time in Krakow by have another walking tour that took us to the castle that the Nazis occupied during the second world war.

It was a very interesting tour ending right at the foot of the castle. We were able to go into the church area and see the view of the water from there!

That night we flew back to Nuremburg, and I wasn’t asked for my passport once! I still find that so crazy.

I really enjoyed this trip, as it was a huge history lesson for me. I have always enjoyed learning about history, and it was amazing to learn another angle of the world wars other than the one every Canadian learns about at home! Quite refreshing really!

Navigating the language here was a bit harder than in Romania, especially when we were in the non-touristy places, but it was nevertheless a great experience trying to decipher.

I was glad to be home however, as it was basically a full 9 days of travelling and flights, and I was very tired!

I had a few weeks back in Munich before my Italian friend asked if I wanted to join him to go to his hometown in Italy, to which I excitedly replied yes! We ended up getting a few more people together and were headed off to visit Bolzano and then Bologna.

We ended up taking a bus to Bolzano, where we spent a total of an afternoon exploring before taking a train to Bologna. I was surprised to find that in Bolzano the majority of the people spoke German, and I was able to use my German skills to communicate there! There is a lot of Austrian influence in Bolzano, as it is situated right on the border of Italy and Austria!

A view from one of the many bridges in Bolzano. Situated right in a valley by the alps, it was definitely a sight to see!

The train from Bolzano to Bologna was an interesting one, as we had to platform hop three times before being on the correct train! A bit stressful if you ask me but my Italian friend said it was quite normal!

We arrived in the city and walked to where we were staying, picking up gelato from a famous gelateria along the way. We were fortunate enough to be staying with one of my friends’ Italian friend, cost free. At first glance of the city, I found it really charming and traditional, nothing like other Italian cities I had visited before like Rome or Florence. It seemed to have its own character, and I was excited to find out more!

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city and meeting all of my friends very Italian friends. It amazed me how much his friends smoked however, as back home in Canada smoking is not very popular! His friends ended up being great tour guides, and we ended up in this very traditional Italian restaurant where they spent hours trying to teach my friends and I basic Italian sayings!

The next day we went into a lot of different churches, some were even unfinished!

This church design was based off the Vatican in Rome. It was stopped, however, as it was actually going to be bigger than the Vatican and the pope didn’t want that to happen! So, it remains unfinished to this day.

We also decided to climb up to this viewpoint, directly on the border of Bologna! It was an hour walk up this steady slope mixed with a few stairs, was not an easy climb! But we managed to get a nice view of the city and some much-needed exercise after all the pasta and gelato we had consumed that day.

The view of Bologna from halfway to the top of the hill.

The four of us were exhausted as we were walking up, but still had great spirits and were all smiles!

We ended the trip by spending a lovely afternoon in one of the parks, where we had a nice Italian picnic and sat among all the locals enjoying the sun!

Myself with a handmade flower crown made by my Italian friend! It was a nice and relaxing way to end the trip.

It was nice being in a country with someone who knew the language and not to mention the town for a change. It made enjoying it rather easy, as we didn’t have to plan everything as we had our very own tour guide with us!

I think it was also a much easier way to experience the culture, as most of the time we spent with all of the Italian students, and we were able to fully experience what life is like in Italy, through actual Italian ways of living!

Even though I didn’t do nearly as much travelling as some other BIB exchange students I know, I still fully enjoyed the travelling that I did, as each trip was different to the other. It was a full-on cultural awakening for me, as I have been to a wide variety of places! Definitely a semester break to remember for me!

Jasmine is a third-year Bachelor of International Business (BIB) student studying abroad in Germany.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 in , ,
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