Prague

Legend has it that Princess Libuse, daughter of Czech’s early forefather, had a vision foreseeing the founding of Prague. “I see a large city whose fame will touch the stars.” She commanded workers to break ground on the city immediately. Praha was founded with that lofty goal in mind, and has been growing ever since.

Prague is FILLED with legends and ghost stories- they are as much a part of history as the actual facts. We went on a walking tour around Prague our first day there. Our guide Somarre, was awesome. Best tour of the trip. A freelance writer, politics major, and history buff, she told us stories of Prague’s legendary ghosts, funny anecdotes, and detailed description of the historical and political events that have occurred. We all immediately fell in love with Prague.

The history smacks you in the face when you walk through the city, especially if you know where to look for it. Certain signs on what you think is an average doorway indicate that alchemists once worked there. A plaque on the university that is seemingly for decoration commemorates a young boy who burned himself in protests during the fall of the Communist regime. Everything, it seems, has an alternate meaning or historical significance.

I haven’t really mentioned much of the nightlife, and Praha has a great one, so I’ll give you a few of the highlights. First some fun facts. Beer is cheaper than water here. It’s fantastic. Absinthe, a disgustingly potent alcohol, is hugely popular. Entire bars are devoted to it. The presentation is unique however- the shots are lit on fire, doused, then you down it. Quite disgusting, actually, but fun to order!

The ancient buildings alone can heighten the bar experience. My favorite, Usodu, is disguised as a small, quaint wine tavern. The bartender motions you to the back, down a tiny cramped staircase. Underground, you find a labyrinth of bars, with multiple cavernous rooms, and linked so confusingly together it’s a challenge to find the way back out. So much fun.

Staying in a city for so long (8 days), allows you to get a more in-depth look than the two night, all-inclusive Contiki style tour. It also allows us time to take day trips. One of those trips was to Terezin, a concentration camp.

Today, it appears to be an average small town adjacent to an old army fortress. That army fortress is Terezin. Terezin was a labor and transition camp- it was not an extermination camp and does not have the terrifying Auschwitz gas chambers. However, Terezin was known for some of the cruelest, most inhumane conditions of the concentration camps.

I’ll be honest- it was awful. You’ve heard the atrocities that were committed, and most likely seen some pretty graphic pictures. But to see it in person was horrible. Most of the time, I wanted to cry. I still do even writing this. Yet I am glad we went- I’ll never forget anything I saw there. That is the point to studying history- to commemorate, remember, and to learn from mistakes of intolerance and cruelty.

The history, the legends, nightlife, the beautiful fall weather- I loved Prague. it actually snowed while we were there! As a California girl, my version of cold weather gear is adding a sweatshirt with my flip flops. The changing leaves and falling snow offer just enough novelty so we don’t mind the cold too much.

Our last day in Prague, we made a wish on Charles Bridge. Legend dictates that if you make a wish while touching the statue, it will come true. You only get one wish though, so it has to be a good one! 😉

We’ve arrived in Amsterdam- I can’t believe it’s our last stop! Ill let you all know how it goes, much love!

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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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Surprise! We’re in Barcelona!

We’ve officially been traveling for a week! It has been so much fun, and by now were almost metro pros.
Oh and we’re in Barcelona, Spain! Surprise! We had 4 nights until we met Emily’s mom in Florence, so after brainstorming over a glass of wine, we booked a flight and here we are!
It is so beautiful- the architecture is incredible- where Paris is very elegant, Barcelona is whimsical and much more colorful- I absolutely love it. (See pics below)
After arriving last night in the pouring rain, it was finally sunny. We wandered down Las Ramblas, a famous street filled with shops and restaurants, and stopped for lunch down by the port. We got seafood paella (a rice dish with shrimp, scallops, and mussels), and a pitcher of sangria. It. Was. Amazing.
The pace of life here is so different. For example, we went out last night around 8 to grab a bite after we arrived. We walked by several restaurants only to find that nothing was open until 9 pm! Everything is much more leisurely, and open later. At 7 people are enjoying a drink. Dinner starts around 9ish, some bars don’t open till midnight, and some nightclubs don’t even open until 2am! Have to admit I kind of like the slow pace…and I could get used to daily siestas. 😉
Anyways it’s now 8 over here so I’m off to get ready for dinner! I’ve put some pictures below from our trip, including some from France. One from the light show at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (magical), one at the Musee D’orsay, and me and Em in Barcelona! And Las Ramblas.

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The Books That Got Me Here

“A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”  –Henry David Thoreau

I’m a bookworm, first and foremost. I keep this love to myself mostly. My friends (bless their hearts) have no interest in any of the classic literature that I so dearly love. James Joyce. Jane Austen. Shakespeare. J.K. Rowling (see how I threw you a curveball there?). You could say my nerd level is pretty high.

I truly committed to making this trip happen the summer after I graduated from college. I always wanted to travel, but just wasn’t sure how to make it work. I worked at Nordstrom, then took a temp job (disastrous), and finally in an unexpected blessing, got a job as a Social Media Producer at an amazing company who graciously is giving me a six week leave to go travel (incredible, right? More on that later).

As I was going through all this,there were three books that got me through it, each in different times. They were both inspiring and practical in their advice, kicking my butt into action when I doubted that I would be able to pull this trip off.

Delaying the Real World, Colleen Kinder
In my opinion, the best title ever. 😉 The author is a Yale graduate who has spent the last few years living in Cuba, traveling through Latin America, and volunteering with the elderly. The book is filled with tips, ideas, resources and programs you can use to create your own post-graduate adventure. I read this my junior year of college; it implanted the travel bug in me.

The Lost Girls, Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett & Amanda Pressner
Three best friends take a year off in their thirties, leaving boyfriends, careers and family to traverse the entire globe. The best part? It’s a true story. This one inspired me, and strengthened my resolve and desire to travel. I passed the book onto Emily, who is reading it now.

Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring, Tom Masters
The fun part! I received this as a Christmas gift from my parents (who also bought me my backpack), and has been instrumental as I plan my trip. It breaks down Europe by country and then city and has everything imaginable from hostels to eateries and train information. Truly essential, it is the one book I will take with me on my trip.

These are the books that got me from an idea to a concrete trip, straight from an English nerd to you. Hope they help! Thanks for tuning in.

Delaying the Real World -Colleen Kinder  Lonely Planet Europe On a Shoestring    The Lost Girls

Happy Travels,
Erin