16 Days Interrailing: Zagreb and Ljubljana

We left Budapest in the around 3pm in the afternoon on a quick 6 hour direct train to Zagreb, Croatia…or so we thought. After settling into our seats, we started talking to our neighbors, two British guys, Richard and Harry, who were also spending their summer Interrailing. Shortly into the journey, a conductor came around to check our tickets. He didn’t speak any english, but was passing around a sheet of paper with the same message written on it in 4 languages–part of the train tracks up ahead were closed due to work on the tracks, so we would have to get off at one station and switch to a bus for a portion of the journey before getting on another train. Everyone on the train was in the same boat, so we followed everyone when it was time to switch to a bus and enjoyed a scenic route through the Hungarian countryside. We had no idea how long we were supposed to be on the bus for and we almost got off at the wrong station, but after 2.5 hours finally arrived at the correct station–right in the middle of a torrential downpour. Huddling with the rest of travelers under cover at a teeny tiny station in the middle of nowhere in Hungary, we waited for our next train. But, the rain had flooded the tracks so it was a good hour before a train could get there.

Once we boarded and found a seat on the new train, we were hungry, tired, and finally on our way to Zagreb. We arrived Zagreb around 11pm, 3 hours later than expected. Luckily one of the other passengers in our train car was Croatian and very kindly showed us where we could find food and an ATM. Our hostel staff was also wonderful–they stayed open late so that we were able to check in when we arrived around 11:30pm. Needless to say, we had a very eventful start to our 36 hours in Croatia.

The next day, we got up early and caught a bus to take us to Plitvice Lake National Park. Plitvice is the largest national park in Croatia and is only a 2 hour drive from Zagreb. We had a blast exploring the park and seeing the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls. Exploring the national park was a change of pace from the other stops on our trip. Words and pictures do not do the beauty of Plitvice justice. But, here are a few images to give you an idea of how amazing it is.

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After getting back from our day in the national park, we briefly visited Accordion Fest in downtown and enjoyed some traditional Croatian food for dinner.

The next day, we were leaving around noon to catch our next train to take us to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We got to the train station early and were waiting on the platform for our train to come. It showed up earlier than we expected but we got on and were putting our bags up when the train started moving and we realized that the train was not early, we were on the wrong train. Whoops. We got off that train at the next stop, just a few miles down the road. There were two couples who were also rushing to catch the same train and, luckily, we all were able to get taxis and make it to the original train station just in time for our train.

Our woes of the day did not end there. After arriving in Ljubljana and finding our hostel, we discovered that it was full of mold and spiders. So, we didn’t stay long and moved to a new hostel down the street that fortunately had available beds.

Once we got settled, we set off to make the most of our few hours in the city. We took the funicular to visit the castle, found delicious ice cream, and wandered around the city streets. While exploring the city, we ran into both of the couples we grabbed the taxis with that morning in Zagreb–what a small world! Our evening ended by listening to wonderful music outside a wine bar. It was the perfect way to end our not so perfect day :).

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16 Days Interrailing: Bratislava & Budapest

After arriving in Bratislava and finding our hostel, we set off to explore the city and to make the most of our 24 hours there. We started off right with a delicious traditional Slovakian meal before heading out to take a free walking tour of the city…that we ended up missing by a few minutes. We ended up walking around ourselves to see the old town part of the city and took a little train tour up to the Bratislava castle, where we were greeted with fantastic views.

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Afterwards we wandered around trying to get to the cathedral in the center of town, only to find that it was closing for the day. So, we decided to head back to our hostel to drop off some bags and figure out what we wanted to do that evening. Our wanderings took us right by the Grand Cru Wine Club. We were debating going inside when a Scotsman who was sitting outside started talking to us, convincing us that it was worth the stop. We were definitely not disappointed. The shop only serves local wines and owner, Martin, gave us great recommendation.

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Next, we went back to the hostel to drop off our things and befriended a Brazilian guy who was staying the room next to us. After a delicious pizza dinner, we headed back to Martin’s for another glass of wine, before calling it a night. The following morning, we grabbed breakfast and wandered around a bit more before it was time to catch our next train, destination Budapest.

Budapest was the city that we had the most time in, giving us time to rest and relax partway through our world wind trip. And rest and relax we did. The first afternoon there, we got a map and headed to the river…and ended up sitting and talking outside the Parlement building for 1.5 hours. Unknowingly to us, they take the flag outside the Parlement down everyday at 6:30pm, which was an interesting event to watch.

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The next day, we thought that we should see a bit more of the city than what’s right by the riverside, so we visited the castle on the island, the Vajdahunyad Castle, that looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. Next up was a free walking tour of the city which helped us learn more about the history of Budapest and how the cities Buda and Pest merged to create the city we know today. A delicious ice cream, dinner, a spilled beer, and a taste of pálinka later, we called our day a success and turned in for the night.

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Our last full day in the city started with a trip to Starbucks and another walking tour, this time one of the Jewish quarter.  A trip to Budapest cannot be complete without visiting the traditional Turkish baths, so we spent an afternoon in the city relaxing in the one of the largest bath houses in the city. We finished off our full day with an evening river cruise along the Danube River, which gave us an new perspective of the city.

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With a few hours to kill in the morning before our “direct” train to Zagreb, we grabbed coffee at The Little Melbourne coffee shop. Our hostel recommended this coffee shop and I have to say, the recommendation was spot on. It was the best coffee I’ve ever had. Coffee was followed by a visit to the Roman Catholic church and another amazing view of the city from the church towers. After stopping for a quick bit to eat, it was time to say goodbye to Budapest and the European Union and make our way to Croatia.

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16 Days Interrailing: Zurich & Vienna

After 2 fun days in Paris, we headed to Zurich to spend 9 hours in Switzerland. It was a very short stop – we got in around lunchtime and were leaving on a night train that evening – but we managed to pack a lot into our time there. We had a great time at exploring the city, eating Swiss chocolate, and taking a boat cruise around Lake Zurich. We were lucky that we had great weather in Zurich – it was nice and sunny and didn’t snow. 

   
 Our first, and only night train of the trip was definitely an interesting experience. The sleeper cars were fully booked so we had normal train seats for the night. So, it wasn’t the best sleep we’ve ever had, but did the trick and we pulled into Vienna the next morning. 

Our hostel in Vienna was a bit outside of the city, but came with an amazing view. After dropping our bags off at the hostel, we set out to see the city. First stop: St. Stephen’s cathedral. After finding 3 euro pizza for lunch, we went to see Mozart’s house. Since all of us are band kids, we had a blast! It was amazing to learn more about his life while walking around his old apartment where he wrote the Marriage of Figaro. 

  
  
Since Vienna was a music capital of the world, it was the home to many great composers. In addition to Mozart, we visited Beethoven’s and Haydn’s homes as well. Beethoven’s house was a bit of a bust because the museum only has 2 small rooms and historians aren’t positive that he ever lived in that particular apartment… But, on our way to see the Danube River from the museum, we stumbled upon a bust of Beethoven and I got to take a selfie with him. However, I throughly enjoyed the Haydn apartment – it’s definitely worth taking the time to go see. 

  
Our second day in Vienna, we were wandering around the city and went into a small church. It was a lucky stop because inside was a hidden treasures – one of the most intricate and beautiful organs that I’ve ever seen. We also stopped by the Sigmund Freud museum and learned more about how he influenced the field of Psychology. 

  
Right by St. Stephen’s cathedral, there are a bunch of people selling tickets to classical music concerts around the city. Our last afternoon there, they got us and we bought tickets to a Mozart and Strauss concert. The concert exceeded my expectations. It took place in a beautiful concert hall in the Imperial Palace in downtown Vienna. The music was wonderful and we all had an amazing time. It was the perfect way to end our time in Vienna. 

  
Up next: Bratislava and Budapest. 

16 Days Interrailing: Itinerary

Before heading back to the states at the end of this month, I am setting off on my last, and most ambitious, European adventure so far this weekend. It’s an Interrail trip, covering 8 countries in 16 days. I have two friends from the states who are making the journey across the Atlantic to travel with me. Our post-graduation Europe trip looks like this:

  • Days 1 & 2: Paris, France
  • Day 3: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Days 4 & 5: Vienna, Austria
  • Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Days 7-9: Budapest, Hungary
  • Days 10 & 11: Zagreb, Croatia
  • Day 12: Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Day 13 & 14: Venice, Italy
  • Day 15: Milan, Italy
  • Day 16: Travel day –> Milan, Italy back to Reims, France

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I am so excited for this trip and cannot wait for all of the adventures that happen along the way!

Lisbon, Portugal

Exactly 2 months from today, I will be getting on a plane to head back to the US. Just another remind of how crazy fast time is going by. Let the countdown begin!

After finishing my classes earlier this week, I have been holed in my room and the library working on my thesis. T-15 days until it’s due. Saturday, I headed to the library for a productive day of thesis work, to find out that it wasn’t actually open… In France, it’s typical to take a vacation around this time, but the Saturday closure wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Someone mentioned that the library wasn’t going to be open again until May 3rd and I started to panic. No library or access to new books for a week, right before my thesis deadline was not a challenge I wanted to deal with. Luckily, the week-long library closure was just a miscommunication and the library should be open this week, which is a relief. If all goes well, my thesis will be written by the end of the week. Fingers crossed!

Moving on from all of the thesis talk, I do have something more fun to talk about (as you could probably guess from the title)–my recent trip to Portugal!  In mid-April, I had a week off school and my parents were kind enough to fly over to Europe to come see me. It was great to see them and we had a great time exploring Lisbon! We even had time to  take a day trip to nearby towns, Sinatra and Cascais. In Cascais I was able to stick my feet into the eastern side of the Atlantic ocean, which was absolutely freezing. But, I can now say that I’ve been in both sides of the Atlantic ocean, so it was definitely worth it.

None of us had ever been to Portugal before and so this trip was a real treat! It was a great escape from reality and one last mini-vacation before diving into my thesis and the end of classes. Pictures below! 🙂

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12 Days in Europe: Berlin

After a short train ride from Hamburg, we arrived at the final stop of our trip, Berlin. Our first day there, we took another free walking tour of the city. It was a great tour that helped us get oriented in the city and see some of the major sites, including the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Bradenburg Gate.

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The second day was a Monday, so all of the museums in the city were closed. Instead of seeing more of the city, we decided to take a tour of the nearby concentration camp, Saxenhausen. It was a good, but hard day. I’m glad that I was able to visit a camp in person and learn more about what happened during the holocaust.

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And then, all too soon, our time in Germany came to close. We ended the trip in Reims. I showed Ben the cathedral, my school, and we went champagne tasting at Taittinger. It was the a great, and relaxing, end to our trip. 🙂

Did you miss any of the posts about our trip? Catch up here!

Itinerary: https://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/12-days-in-europe-itinerary/ 

Parishttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/12-days-in-europe-paris/ 

Brusselshttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/12-days-in-europe-brussels/ 

Amsterdamhttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/15/12-days-in-europe-amsterdam/ 

Hamburghttps://dabblingintraveling.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/12-days-in-europe-hamburg/ 

12 Days in Europe: Hamburg

The final leg of my trip with Ben was 4 days in Germany, starting with 2 days in Hamburg. When we arrived in Hamburg after an early flight from Amsterdam, we were exhausted. After checking into our hotel, grabbing lunch, and getting coffee, we hopped on a bus tour of the city. It was a great way to see the city while sitting down and staying out of the drizzling rain that had started up. The bus tour ended in the early afternoon and we promptly headed back to our hotel for a nap and a lazy afternoon.

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Hamburg was Ben’s first real taste of the language barrier. In Paris and Brussels, I could speak French, and in English is widely spoken in Amsterdam. But once we got to Hamburg, our combined knowledge of 10 German words didn’t help us out that much. However, English is the international travel language, so we didn’t have much trouble, but I did end up accidentally ordering an appetizer at dinner.

After having a day of rest, we set out to see as much of Hamburg as we could in the time we had left. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, but we made the best of the situation. First, we headed to St. Michaels church and climbed to the top to get an amazing view of the city. Next, we headed to the Miniature World Exhibit. It is home to the world’s largest model railway and is absolutely amazing. We spent a good 3 hours there but you could easily spend an entire day there looking at the exhibit. The attention to detail and the massive scale of the exhibit is astounding. If you ever find yourself in Hamburg, I definitely recommend visiting!

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We wandered around the city some more in the afternoon, grabbed dinner, and had another early night to make sure that we were well rested for our last few days of travel. Next stop: Berlin.