This is a doozy of a post covering 2 months of backpacking around Europe so strap in because this might take a while! Promise it’s worth it!

So my last post was about 2 months ago… hahaha gosh so much has happened since then! I got myself as organised as you can be for your first solo backpacking trip around Europe (I say first as many more are to come I promise) and got on my plane! I was in transit for 22 hours from 6pm 16.6.16 till 2pm 17.6.16. It was a long haul with a stopover in Dubai then arrival in Rome.

Lets try to compress the next 2 months into one blog post shall we?? Also I wanted to post pictures but the blog will not let me. Something about a silly storage limit so you’ll have to google all the sites I mention.

 

Italy – Rome: 17-22/6
Rome was, and still to this day, is my favourite destination so far! As a ancient history nerd I was nerding out at the wonders that I beheld!! The Colosseum (I paid for a special tour and it was so worth it!! Amazing!) , Capitoline Museum (so much history!), St Angelo’s castle, The Vatican including St Peter’s Basilica (which blew my mind), The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, the (under construction grrrr) Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona… Just everthing!!

There was so much to see and it was like the attractions popped up out of nowhere! You were walking down a little cobbled alleyway with your nutella gelato in hand and WOAH there’s the Trevi Fountain.

 

Greece – Athens/Mykonos/Santorini/Ios: 22/6-6/7
Flew across to Athens for 2 days of exploring before my 13 Greek Island Hopping Contiki started! I was so excited but upon arrival it was not at all what I expected… It was run down (obviously due to its financial crisis) with half finished construction sites everywhere, graffiti all over the place, shifty looking individuals, no one spoke English, I couldn’t read the letters of the alphabet let alone the words on the signs. I was alone and slightly freaking out. I arrived too early to have other contiki travellers with me for the first day or so. In being completely alone in a scary country I broke down.

Travelling alone is not always easy. But you can do. You simply need to collect yourself. I found writing plans and updating my travel journal as calming so that’s what I did. My fellow contiki crew arrived and the adventure began. 2 nights in Athens, 3 in Mykonos, 3 in Santorini, 3 in Ios and 1 more in Athens.

Athens was basic with a few streets of cheap and tacky souvenirs and the Acropolis. Of course you HAVE to climb the acropolis so that’s what we did. Bit expensive (15 Eur0) but it’s really all Athens has so you have to expect it. Spent the next day at the beach. Its crap but you do have to pay for shade and lounges… without them you would burn to death. Not kidding one girl got 3rd degree burns from tanning all day.

Mykonos was all party as you would expect. Dance clubs, more clubs, hit the water, tan on the sand and the dance and drink some more along with your 80 strong contiki crew.

Santorini was much more laid back with poolside bars, exploring to be done, amazing streetscapes, little (expensive) shops and nice restaurants. But this is Contiki so we found the pubs and clubs and again we drank and danced the night away! What was odd was that Santorini had a crazy hidden night life. It was even more party than Mykonos which I didn’t think was possible. There is only 1 club open before midnight. Called Fun Pub. It’s alright… but seriously everything opens after midnight and you finish partying as the sun rises most nights. Gosh it was crazy.

Ios. Woah. We stayed at Far Out beach resort. There was so much to do. As many outdoor beach activities to hold your interest that you could want during the day, jetskiing, boat cruises, paddle boarding, tubing, etc. Then the party starts at 4 in the afternoon at the beach front heading into town at maybe 1o and continuing till the morning. Each club has a shot challenge that provides you with a complementary shirt if you drink 8 shots… Some people got a shirt at each of the clubs we visited (10 in total) so that’s just to let you know how much party was being had.

By the end of the Contiki everyone is wreaked. Sleeping whenever and wherever they can, covered in new tattoo’s, recovering from lack of proper food and no water only alcohol. One guy had the inital stages of  jaundice because he had so much. It was crazy. Made some amazing friendships from all over australia as well as South Africa, Canada and UK but time to say goodbye and move on.

 

Czech Republic – Prague: 6-11/7 / Chesky Krumlov: 11-13/7
Flew from Athens to Prague with 3 of my Contiki boys. We continued to explore it’s wonders together for the 4 days we had together; castles, rivers, Charles bridge, the main square, the astronomical clock, John Lennons wall that he’s never visited, Cathedrals and churches, etc. We had a great time and Prague is relatively cheap to explore and the beer is awesome! Had a great time there.

Even met up with my parents as they traveled their own Eurotrip in Prague for my mums 50th Birthday which was amazing! Spent the next few days in Chesky Krumlov. Highly recommend visiting this place! The cutest, quaintest little european town. Exactly what you envisage when you imagine a medieval town. A castle overlooking the town which is the second largest castle estate in Europe, ghost story’s around every corner, a winding river through the middle. It’s simply amazing!

 

Austria – Vienna: 13-15/7 / Salzburg: 16-17/7
Explored the Beauty that was Vienna with it’s large museum district, it’s beautiful palace (Schonbrun Palace), main square, cathedral, etc. But to me it was too much a real place. I know that sounds confusing but even though it had beautiful architecture and history it’s like I didn’t know what to see because it wasn’t geared to tourism. It was more or less a regular functioning city… Not my fav but still nice.

Salzburg was extremely geared towards tourists. It’s where the sound of Music was filmed and nothing has seemingly happened there since. The towns whole MO is to preach about the sound of music and preach it for all it’s worth. So of course the Sound of Music tour had to be taken to see the house, the gardens, the abbey, the glass house etc. It’s a very pretty city and it was nice. But if you don’t like the Sound of Music then I would not recommend.

 

Germany – Fussen: 18-19/7 / Munich: 19-22/7 / Stuttgart: 22-24/7
THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH! Does that tagline ring any bells? Well in Fussen is the inspiration for the Disney Castle, representative for the happiest place on Earth! At this point I’m still travelling with my parents and we explored this castle together! It was amazing. Making all my childhood fantasies come true as it was just as beautiful on the inside as it was from the outside! During our stay in Fussen we also climbed across the longest Tibetan Style footbridge in the world, climbed a mountain and explore 800 year old castle ruins! The best outdoor travelling experience I’ve had so far. The view from the castle ruins was breathtaking and I could have just sit there all day and been entirely content! AMAZING!

My parents and I also went to the top of Mount Tegel. This is where my mother and father worked for a summer season 25 years ago. My dad also proposed to my mother on the hanggliding platform which was entirely romantic and much more than I thought he would of done for a proposal. He got her up on her 22nd birthday, they hiked up the mountain before sunrise (much to my mothers distress) and he proposed as the sun rose. They they hang glided down where mum proceded to vomit mid flight. She’s classy like that.

But unfortunately my time travelling with my parents had to come to an end eventually and we parted ways in Munich. They continued on to Milan or something warm while I stayed put in Munich to continue my solo adventure. I cried a bit. The thought of not seeing your parents for another 7 months is a hard thought to deal with so early in the morning and gosh was I a wreak but onwards and upwards. I found where I was staying each enough, explored the city over the next few days through museums, main squares, beer halls, free tours, etc.

Yet my time in Munich was not perfect by any means. Not only was I having parental withdrawals and questioning my ability to continue to be able to travel on my own – to put it in my own words “I’m not an adult. I can’t do this” – I was also there during terror attacks. Without data, a working phone, the ability to connect to wifi and no understanding of the German language I was at the mercy of the ebb and flow of all the other people (tourists and locals) trying to deal with the situation. I remember their being constant sirens, everyone moving in different directions, no public transport working, videos of gunmen shooting in the main square on TV’s of shops I passed. Having little to no idea how to deal with the situation and not having the only tool that can help you – access to the internet – whilst walking the streets of a foreign location it’s very scary. But we were OK, we made it out. I got back to the hostel and got on the next bus out of Munich though. The attack left a bit of a sore taste in my mouth but that’s not going to stop me from heading back in October for Oktoberfest! Got my dress already. So excited

Stuttgart. Amazing. I did nothing. I looked around town a bit as I had stumbled on Stuttgarts cultural festival. There was ballet in the park and live music everywhere. Made some lovely friends and spend the second day at the baths. Stuttgart has natural mineral baths and it just happened to be a fine sunny day on the 23rd. I spent the entire day relaxing in the spa, sauna and mineral pools which is just what you need after a bit of a stressful time in Munich.

 

France – Paris: 24-29/7
You wouldn’t think it but Paris is an extremely spread out city. In aiming to see everything it takes your whole day and you missed everything. My first day I set out to see Notre Damn, the Love Lock Bridge, the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, Champs Elysees, Arch de Triumph, Eiffel tower and 2 palaces turned musuems. Let me tell you I saw all these places. I achieved what I set out to do but you could easily spend a whole day inside the Louvre or pass a few hours at the Eiffel tower. I sped through them all.

I spend the next few days spending more time at the places I wanted to see more thoroughly that also didn’t cost an arm and a leg because Paris was expensive. I went inside the catacombs which was cool, walked the parks, looked out over Paris from the Sacre Coeur church and I took the half day trip out to Versailles! Woah that palace is AMAZING. Paris was awesome and I would definitely head back there; something I never thought I would say because I didn’t think I would like France at all. But it was so good!

 

Belgium – Bruges: 30/7-3/8
So lovely. Another example of what you would expect of a town that is lost in time. Old word stores, cobbled streets, one main church, a main square and everything is just so cute. You could easily spend a day there and see everything but I had time spare after my early exodus from Munich. I had made some friends from Geelong and Melbourne so we travelled around Paris and now Bruges together. We took in the sights, did a free tour and stuffed ourselves with Belgian Beer, Chocolate, Waffles and Fries. All delicacies of Belgium. All delicious. Would recommend this town.

I know you can see the dates passing and you can see I never spent too long in one place and this can get extremely tiresome and stressful with all the movement and the fact that you are carrying all your worldy possessions on your back. Sometimes you need to stop moving and take out a little me time. One of my days in Bruges my friends had continued on to Amsterdam and I was to meet them there in 2 days. So I spent one day in bed. I only got up to get myself food, maybe run to the bathroom but that was it. I watched movies on Netflix and read my book all day. It was kinda raining so I didn’t really waste a day. But a day needed to be wasted in honor of my sanity and it was THE BEST DAY!

 

The Netherlands – Amsterdam: 4-7/8
Amsterdam is beautiful! It’s a lush town with flowers and canals everywhere. The canals give the town the nicest feel and it also has some interesting history to provide. For example! (and this is a new favourite fact of mine) The Catholic Priests of Amsterdam were it’s first Pimps. They would pimp out their mistresses (which the church somehow let them have!) getting a cut of that money and then the double crossed the sailors that were utilizing their mistresses by getting them to pay for their sins before shipping out so they didn’t go to hell! What cheeky blighters!! Gosh!

That leads well into Amsterdam’s Underbelly. They have the Red Light District where Prostitutes are on display all night and they also have a thriving “coffee shop” scene aka Marijuana which isn’t technically legal but hey what’s good at attaining tourist business is alright in Amsterdam. Hahaha I had a great time in Amsterdam but unfortunately all my new travel companions had to move onto to different adventures that didn’t align with my own so I went on to explore on my own.

I didn’t know it but I actually arrived in Amsterdam during Europride. So it was one of the most flamboyant weekends I’ve ever had. We had the Europride parades through the canals, streets parties clogging every intersection and the most amazing markets/stalls selling the craziest range of homosexual objects! A great time!

 

Germany – Vehlage: 8-13/8 / Berlin 13-15/8 / Dresden 15-17/8
I jump on the train for Amsterdam heading into Minden within Germany because for the next 5 days I get to spend time with my grandparents who are also over here from Australia on their own trip. The homesickness was peaking so being with them was an extremely exciting prospect. We met on the platform with my grandmother running towards me yelling and waving a German flag. Hahah a great reunion after a month abroad. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

We travelled from the station to Vehlage which is the small town in which my grandfather grew up. It was beautiful. All green countryside, dotted with little villages or hamlets. Vehlage didn’t even have a town center or square. Just a little general store and school house. It was crazy. I spent the next few days there with my own bedroom and home cooked meals too! It was like heaven on earth staying with my grandmothers friend Inge and her husband Harold. We explore the surrounding area on bike, tripped out to monuments and archelogical sites, even had an extended family dinner I was invited to! It was one of the best parts of my trip so far if it weren’t so damn cold! Their German summer was topping out at 13 degrees and I was dying. But got that fire going and I was fine.

I left my grandparents after some awesome 5 days on the way to Berlin. Now Berlin was great! So rich with history. And after spending the time with my grandparents learning of their past and how the Berlin Wall and World world had effected them my time in Berlin became so much more meaningful. My grandfather and father had both actually used Check Point Charlie to enter east Germany to visit relatives on the wrong side. I always thought of those things happening so long ago that they wouldn’t effect me or anyone I knew but this had effected my immediate family! Blew my mind.

I explored the wall and all through the town. Then undertook a free tour that included the main square, the Holocaust memorial, and other remaining parts of the wall whilst also providing info on all the history surrounding the events and monuments at the same time. It was a spectacular stop on my adventure. That afternoon I even went on the find this festival that happens every weekend out a bit from the city center. It had amazing market stalls and food stalls but it’s main attraction was it Karaoke. That’s right Karaoke. There was maybe 600 to 1000 people in the amphitheater surrounding these performers and I sat there for 3 hours with them! The most amazing thing sitting with a bunch of strangers watching unprofessional singers dominate popular songs as we sang along and the sun set before us! It will be permanently etched in my memory

Dresden came next. Now this town was the tit’s. It had everything you could ever want. A sprawling area of resturants, clubs, boutique shops that was all brought together by specified graffiti zones that were full of the most amazing masterpieces that blew your mind with their intricacies and hidden meanings. Then you continued onto the older part of town that held markets, open air cinemas and regular stores. It was as you crossed the river that you hit the old town. It held amazing old buildings all now turned into museums, churches, parliamentary buildings, a castle, mosaic creations. I just walked around all day with my head pointed upwards trying to take in all I was seeing. Dresden was the tits.

The next day I borrowed a hostel bike and rode for maybe 10 minutes out of town and there was sprawling countryside with the river winding next to the bike path. Vineyards to your right and 3 castles in a row to your left. I stopped on the river to eat my lunch and simply appreciate where I was. I LOVED Dresden! If I were to move to Europe I would probably choose to move there.

 

But now my backpacking adventure was coming to an end. From Dresden I continued my curcuit of Europe back down to Prague. From here I would catch my plane to get to Stockholm in Sweden. I spent just one more night in continental Europe before ascending to the heavens in the belly of a winged metal giant. I came back to earth in Stockholm.

Sweden – Stockholm: 18-21/8
I arrived at the Hostel at 2pm in the early afternoon after waking at 5 am to get there. I took a train, a bus, a plane, a bus and another train. Oh wait and another bus. I checked in as the heavens opened and the rain crushed any chance of going to explore Stockholm so I treated myself to the first personally created home cooked meal I had made for myself while in Europe: Spaghetti Bolegnaise. Not my finest but still a hearty meal. I watch a movie and fell asleep after a very big day of travelling.

Little did I know upon making my plans that I had arrived in Sweden during their cultural celebration festival. Stockholm was packed with markets and stalls, music and stages, performers and actrobats. It was a great time. I explore the old town and it’s secrets by day and then hit up to festival scene at night. Best part was it was all free! Woo.

 

Then on the 21st it was time to head to Vasteras (which is an hour out of Stockholm by train) to start my exchange at Malardalen University! #wishmeluck

Two weeks in PARADISE

Hola!

I’m in Spain and it’s already the 25th of August where has the month gone already?

I just got back from my two week Contiki tour Island hopping around the incredible Greek Islands. A blog is somewhere to write your thoughts/experiences in words so others can try and understand but i am honestly lost for words. GREECE WAS INCREDIBLE! I spent three nights in Athens, Santorini, Mykonos and IOS and now I’m back, i already miss it all. The food, the views, the people, the parties. My Contiki group was rather large with 78 people, however this meant there were plenty of people to meet and greet throughout the entire trip. I was roomed with a great girl from England who i will travel with later on in the year. Majority of the group was made up of Australians and Canadians with a couple of Americans and UK folk to sum us all up.

Coming back to Madrid has already had a warm homely vibe, a couple more girls have started moving in making it feel more like a residence. The ladies that cook and clean for us are so lovely, with only one being able to speak a little english (helping me a lot). Not a lot of people speak english in Madrid, which is making it a little difficult to get around but placing more pressure on me to learn Spanish. Each day, more and more words are sticking, however it is such a slow process. The language is always going to be a challenge each day but thats why I’m here, to learn Spanish!

On Monday i will start Uni, the first three days are orientation days and then classes will commence. I’m starting to feel a little strange about it, unsure if it is nerves, fear or excitement or maybe all three? I have already meet my uni buddy, Ana. She is an absolute angel! She has shown me around the central of Madrid, come with me to get my phone set up and helped me with my student train ticket.

I have started posting endless photos on Facebook and recently set up instagram – “jsargee” feel free to follow me.

Talk soon,

 

Jess xx