Hostel World

One of the first questions everyone asked me when I decided to take this trip, was “Where are you staying? In a hostel?!” Usually this was followed by “Have you seen Taken? Or Hostel?” For those of you not familiar with the names, they are both horror movies about European travel gone horribly wrong- not exactly reassuring inquiries.

Thankfully, no horror like experiences occurred (save one gross incident, but more on that later). But, to satisfy everyone’s curiosity, here are the basics.

We’re currently residing in our ninth hostel (count so far: 13 cities and 6 countries), so I’d say we’re semi-experts at this point. Most have been pretty good. It’s a simple life- bunk beds, stacked against the walls, shared bathroom, wi-fi, and a locker to store your stuff. That’s about it. Staying true to our cash strapped new grad budgets, we stay in the cheapest rooms available- that means 8-12 bed coed dorms. The biggest whopper is the twenty-six bed room we have in Prague. Feels like freshman year of college all over again. Some hostels are loud and crazy, hotel like establishments complete with a bar downstairs, and some are small mom and pop joints where they cook you breakfast in the morning. It really just depends.

Downsides- obviously lack of privacy, snoring boys, loud roommates, and bedbugs. Yes, I said it. Gotta have that one awful hostel experience right? We caught them at a hostel in Florence. Although we were both badly bitten (on the face, gross!!), after our initial freak-out, we decontaminated and moved on. (And out of that hostel, immediately!) Since then, we’ve been bedbug free, THANK goodness. And, we’re now Google experts on bedbugs, in case you ever have any questions.

But side note: that is not a reason to discount hostels- in our Googling research we’ve found it’s an epidemic the hospitality industry battles on a daily basis. They are everywhere, from New York subways to 5 star hotels- we just had unfortunate luck.

But enough negative. Bedbugs aside, the hostels were awesome. By far my favorite part of staying at the hostels were the people. In our short stay, we’ve met people from all over the world. Canada. Switzerland. Australia. New Zealand. Malaysia. Japan. China. Argentina. South Africa. Brazil. Staying in such close proximity and connected by a shared appreciation of travel, you meet and connect with people instantaneously. You share travel stories. Grab a beer. Do sightseeing together. Commiserate over European grievances (why do you have to pay to use the bathroom everywhere!?).

Hearing others travel stories, and the amazing places people have been is interesting, inspiring and just an all-around cool environment to be in. You learn so much about other countries, and their cultures. I absolutely love it. It has been one of my favorite parts about this experience.

Below are pics of our dorm rooms and a few of the many friends we’ve met along the way. Current location- in Prague, taking an overnight bus to Amsterdam in a few hours! Ill write another post soon on Prague- so incredible. Can’t believe we’re already heading to our last stop! :/

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Vienna, Austria

Vienna. My favorite city in my favorite country.

Vienna, or Wein (pronounced with a “V” sound in German), is absolutely beautiful. Over 50% of the city is devoted to parkland. Walking around there you forget you’re in an urban metropolis- not to mention its the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. Definitely puts Los Angeles to shame.

Gothic churches are a main focal point in Vienna. The central one is Stephensplatz, a huge Gothic masterpiece with high ceilinged arches and gargoyles leering down from every corner. Fun fact about gargoyles- they are meant to protect the church. They are different creatures made in the Devils image, since he was afraid of his own image. The only problem was no one knew what the Devil looked like, so no two gargoyles are alike. They tried to cover all their baseslightly eerie but so beautiful.

Im finding that on this extended trip the part of traveling I love most is the little things. Food markets filled with spices and novelties I’ve never even heard of.Cappuccinos and pastries on the sidewalk. Tripping along cobblestone streets with my neck craned upwards so I don’t miss a single bit of architecture. Not that I don’t appreciate the artistic masterpieces I’ve gotten to see, but it’s the little things rather than the famous museums and landmarks that I love.

My digression brings me to my favorite part of Vienna- the coffeehouses. Legend has it that Polish- Hapsburg soldiers found a number of sacks with strange beans. Initially, they thought it was camel feed and tried toburn it. Instead, the sacks were granted to Franciszek Kulcycki, who opened the first coffeehouse.

The coffee houses have become an institution in Vienna. Artists, politicians, and writers used to congregate there. And you don’t just order a coffee- at times it seemed more complicated than Starbucks. We needed Emma’s guidebook to decipher it all. My favorite is an Einsplanner, a large espresso with whipped cream.

Since we’ve been in Vienna for a week, we got to so some cool day trips as well. We went to Durnstein one day, a medieval town in the Wachau Valley now devoted to winemaking. Besides being unbelievably, fairytale picturesque, there are some awesome castle ruins atop the town, where King Richard the Lionheart (Robin Hood anyone?) was imprisoned when he returned home from the Crusades. So. Cool. The pics below are Emily and I atop the castle ruins.

Finally, when Emma got here, (our best friend from college who met up with us for a week) we went to Salzburg for the day. Aka the place where the Sound of Music was filmed. To my excitement and Emily’s dismay (she hates musicals but was a trooper and came along! Sign of a good travel buddy). We saw all the famous sites where Julie Andrews skipped along, including the Pegasus Fountain, “Do Re Mi” steps, the lake, and even the gazebo. Salzburg is also home to a giant fortress, nunnery, and monastery- the town is considered a world heritage site. And Mozart was born there.

And we went to the Viennese opera! Geez almost forgot. Vienna, being Mozart’s city, has become a city built on music. We bought standing room tickets at the opera and were able to go see a performance!

We’re in Prague now, freezing our California toes off but loving every minute! Ill update you all on Prague soon. Much love! ❤

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Italia

I’ve been delinquent in my blogging, I know! It has been such a whirlwind lately, I’ve been lagging. No more, promise!
We arrived in Vienna yesterday, finally finishing our gorgeous tour of Italy. Florence. Cinque Terra. Venice. Rome. We are exhausted but sooo happy! The food has been amazing- we’ve tried every kind of seafood imaginable. Shrimp, cod, mackerel, shark, squid, squid ink, (didn’t even know that was possible), octopus, and mussels. YUM.
Rather than do all our stops in blog posts, ill recap Italy here: ( in the order we traveled)

Florence.Three words for you. Florence. Leather. Market. Soooo much fun. You can smell the leather before you even turn the corner- Florence is know for their leather goods. Packed along the tiny cobblestone streets are stalls crammed with leather jackets, handbags, wallets, luggage and a million other things. Lets just say we did some damage. All three of us had to buy an extra bag for souvenirs (oops!). But our bartering skills are now excellent, and we got some pretty good deals.
A highlight was watching the sunset from the top of Piazza Michelangelo, a huge plaza that looks our over Florence. Stunning.

Cinque Terra. MY FAVORITE. Did I emphasize that enough? Cinque Terra (pronounced chin-que terra), is actually considered a national park, and has 5 tiny fishing villages stacked in the ocean bluffs. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, straight out of a storybook. And such a workout too. Because everything is built upwards into the cliffs, it’s a hike anytime you want to go somewhere. The “walk” to our apartment left me huffing and puffing.
Every village is tiny, you could walk in in about 15 min. The best part is, you can hike in between the towns, through gorgeous terraced vineyards along the ocean.
As far as food is concerned, pesto sauce and focaccia bread were both invented in the region, so along with our daily fresh seafood, gelato, and wine consumption, we were blissfully happy. Of all the places, this is one I would go back to again in a heartbeat.

Venice. The city built on islands. One hundred seventeen islands to be exact. Venice is one of those cities that everyone has seen pictures of (or the imitation if you’ve been to the Venetian in Vegas). The canals, the gondolas, houses teetering so close to the water you wonder where the ground is- they are iconic sites. Seeing it in person was surreal- it seemed like a Disneyland ride. My favorite was taking a cruise down the Grand Canal at night. Of course, we got lost everywhere we went, but that’s half the fun of traveling, isn’t it? 🙂

Rome. We only spent a short amount of time here. Overall, it was my least favorite city to stay in (gross hostel) but favorite attractions and history I’ve gotten to see. The ruins are just so darn cool. The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Palatine Hill; it’s one thing to see a painting or artifacts in a museum, but it’s another thing entirely to actually see the structures still standing. To see where Caesar ruled, where the gladiators fought, was awesome. Fun fact- the marble that built the Trevi Fountain was actually taken from the Colosseum!

We arrived in Vienna yesterday. We’re slowing down for a couple days, and spending the week here. Ill keep you all updated!

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