Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

It has been almost two months since I posted. I have been back in America for the last month and let me say that I procrastinated posting a new entry to the EXTEME. Yes, the study abroad program in Dublin has been officially over for me for quite some time (month and a half now). However, I need to at least put some closure on the whole experience. I would hate to be left hanging if one blog or another was not finished. I mean, who ever did read my blog would say, ” common Jude! Do not leave me hangin’ girl”.

And so, I left you all hangin’.

So, I digress and let me tell you, my trip to the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland was an experience of a life time. My roommate and I were waiting on the sidelines, during the end of April, to see if the Icelandic volcano would bless us the good fortune of ending the chaos (the plumes of smoke that canceled thousands of flights). Europe was being showered with ash and I was stuck waiting “patiently”. In the end, I was able to go and had a great time!

In Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague I could not have been more thankful for a free walking tour company. This company is known as SANDEMANs New Europe. Throughout major cities in Europe (also in Dublin), this tour company gives free walking tours daily. In each of the three cities, the English-speaking tour guides (two from the Unites States and one from England) gave entertaining and historical information through the few hours I walked with them. To sum it up, if I did not go on these tours, I would have missed out on much of the city.

My favorite city was Prague, Czech Republic. Not only was the art and architecture purely amazing, the night life was over the top! I signed myself up for my first ever pub crawl. Clock Tower Pub Crawl gave me the night life experience I was missing on this trip. We went to four different pubs/ clubs throughout the night and met English-speaking people from all over the world!

Now, my heritage goes back to Polish roots (also German, French Canadian, and Native American), so traveling through Poland was beyond comparable to other feelings I had for other countries. Traveling on the train to Krakow gave me this weird, however wonderful sense of being home, even though it was my Great Grandparents who had been in Poland last. Most of the houses I passed were run down small houses, but for some reason the place had a huge charm to it.

I was finally in Poland.

I was going for my family (my dad and aunt had this utmost desire for me to go) and I did it for myself.  What a beautiful country to have gone through so much with powerful overbearing countries residing next to her.

I also took a train exploration to Oświęcim (the town of Auschwitz satellite camps) and walked to the Auschwitz-I (the Stammlager or main camp) from the train station (20-30 min walk). Some visitors were crying at the site and I was deeply moved.

There were many things that I saw in the museum that trying rung me to the core (the room of shoes, clumps of hair, clothing, suitcases, all life possessions in general). The tiny baby clothes. I cannot begin to understand how they felt. The fear? Death? Loss of family? Torture? . . . .

Those feelings only brush the surface of it all. To only be there for a few hours does not even grasp it. Not even close.

The Auschwitz II-Birkenau (Vernichtungslager or extermination camp) was down the road from Auschwitz-I, however I did not have enough time to walk in. I was able to look from the outer walls and obviously looked just as morbid as Auschwitz I.

Overall, the trip to the four countries was a huge eye opener. I learned more about where my family came from and was able to get a historical on-site experience.

It was a glorious adventure!

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hey who ever is actually is still reading this! Greetings from Prague, Czech Republic! Holy cow this place is AMAZING! I was going to talk about the Dropkick Murpheys concert that I went to last week but never got to posting. It was a super sweet concert in Dublin! Anyways, I just jumped on the computer to say hello! I know I haven’t posted in a week or so, however you will be getting a BIG post after this week. I am doing a “blitzkreig” (use the term loosely) through a few countries over the next several days. Two days ago I was in Amsterdam; yesterday, in Berlin; today and tomorrow in Prague; and the following two days in Krakow which I will visit one of the Auschwitz concentration camps. This week definitely has a World War II feel to it. All of the cities have been affected by the war one way or another.

I’ll post next week. I wish I could stay in each city a few days longer than I planned, however, this is my free week “study week” (who studies during study week when you got the opportunity of a life time to travel? seriously), followed by finals week next week. Anyways, you see I am on a tight schedule.

Final statement: I AM COMING BACK TO THESE PLACES! Wow, words cannot describe the trip. Simply, too beautiful, too wonderful.

Peace Out!

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This weekend was pretty much a last minute decision. The only plan we had was to head to Cork first and then go from there. The girls and I took a bus from Dublin to Cork in what we thought was only going to be a three hour ride. Wrong. Five hours later that involved many stops in between to pick others up on the way to Cork, we arrived with no plans of what we were going to do. The plus side of the bus ride was seeing all the cute little towns on the way, which were pretty brief visits of sight seeing, via bus. Anyways after getting off the bus, the first thing on our minds was…FOOD. So after a satisfying trip to subway (which was plopped down perfectly right next to the station), we decided to head to Blarney where we could kiss the blarney stone. The ride was only five miles from Cork, so we thought that we should see that first and then come back to see the night life of Cork.

The town of Blarney was cute and the Blarney Castle was even more. After paying eight euro, we were able to explore the grounds where the Castle resides as well as climb up to the top of the Castle. Going through the castle was interesting enough. Most floors were pretty much gone so I could see from the cellar barn all the way up to the living room three floors up. On the very top of the Castle was our destination though because the Blarney stone was practically waiting for us. Kissing the Blarney Stone was said to give any kisser the “gift of gab”. The gift of gab was said to give the kisser “the skill at flattery” (thank you wikipedia).

I’m already flattering…

After puckering the stone up, the girls and I walked around the grounds a little bit (and playing on the kids playground) before heading back into Cork where we planned to stay the night instead of leaving. We were thinking of leaving Cork for Galway that evening but since we did not explore Cork city yet and since there were no night buses running, we rented a hostel room instead. I was surprised at how cool the city was. Since Cork won the most cultural city of the year, a few years back, they decided to remodel a few of the main streets. They were cool to walk through with the pretty brick layered streets and fancy shops. The next morning after getting a cup of mocha at this really sweet coffee shop, we walked to the English Market. With my Ireland guide book, I found out that the market had over 140 stalls of different foods. I only bought a fruit scone though (reminds me of a biscuit with berries added). Later on, we decided to talk the 3 hour bus (ended up being 5 hour bus ride again) to Galway. It was a beautiful ride through the country side again.

Once in Galway, we dropped our bags off at only of the girls friends flat who was also studying abroad (in Galway though). After that, we all walked around the city (which was super cute and small). The last place to see was the fast paced river, which led into the bay. There was a big patch of grass that young people alike were out chilling by which made us decide to skip the pubs and bring our drinks out to the river instead. We all say random music of the 90’s and resided under the star lit sky.

The night was a blast…especially seeing a flock of over 40 swans grouped together next to the river. Woo hoo!

To top off the weekend, we took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. To get there, we took a few stops first. Dunguaire Castle was one them. A beautiful castle that resides over a body of water. Our tour guide stated that there are a portion of Guinness commercials filmed at Dunguaire Castle. I can see why Guinness would use this site. It’s BEAUTIFUL! It’s magical. But after taking our quick five minute bus break to take pictures, we had to keep moving. Next stop was Ireland’s “Burren”. The burren is a site of limestone rock that fully covers mountains and valleys in the area. The farms inside the burren provide the best nutrients for the animals and plants, provided by the nutrients of the limestone. The grass sure looked loads greener in those parts. Over 11,000 species of plants reside in the burren as well which equals to about 70 percent of Ireland’s plant species reside in this limestone covered area.

Leaving the Burren, we stopped for lunch before heading off to one of the most prettiest, most beautiful places I have ever seen.
The Cliffs of Moher. To top off our weekend, we were allowed an hour and a half stop at the cliffs. We were able to hike around for that period to different parts of the cliffs. However, there was a sign at one point that said, “Please Do Not Go Beyond This Point”. Beyond this point was private property. However, a friend of ours told us to skip pass the sign and follow the people who went past it.
So, we went beyond “this point”. Was it destiny to go beyond? I think so.

Going beyond the point proved to be the most worthwhile part of the trip. I was able to get so many more beautiful views on the other side of the sign. I could see two caves down below. One of which was used in the six movie of the Harry Potter series. The “Horcrux” Cave. However, the only part of the cave at the cliffs used was the outer part. I can see how it looks foreboding with 710 feet high cliffs.

With the 710 feet worth of nothing to stop someones fall other than the water below, we were at the very edge of the cliff the whole time walking by it. I checked on the internet later and it shows that at least one person falls from the cliffs every year, whether through the wind blowing someone down, you take the wrong step and fall (which apparently happened to a man trying to take a picture of a group of people and stepped backwords wrongly and fell), or commit suicide.

Let’s move past the morbidity shall we?

Anyways, we could not have gotten a better day for the cliffs. Light breeze, 65 degree weather, and sunny. There were even kiyakers below, paddling their way around the cliffs.

That was the end of a beautiful and perfect weekend. I want to kiyak around the cliffs some day. That would be amazing!

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Last Sunday, I laced up my hiking boots, lassoed my camera case around my neck, and hopped on a bus that would eventually lead my friends and I through a tour of the Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough. Just south of Dublin, I have perfect access to some of Ireland’s true beauty. It was the first time in Ireland that I was outside of Dublin. It was exciting. But, I refused to jump on the bus until I had my caffeine fix…and I bought my first ever scone! Berry Style. Anyways, our tour guide, Ed, drove us down the coastline before we eventually would enter the mountains. Ed stopped a few times along the way, first to a boat harbor that was surprisingly exciting. You know why? Because Ed notified us that we might be able to see some seals that live around the harbor. Sure enough, I saw a seal pop his head out of the water. We all moved towards the seal, like a fly entranced by an electric light. However, our lives were not cut short by its pull, but we watched the fishermen feed the seals. Two adult seals ended up tumbling into the depths of the water trying to snatch the fish away. They had the cutest bugged out eyes. Adorable. We were able to stop another time before the mountains, this time viewing the beach from the road above that included a beautiful sunny day. This stop on the coastline was after seeing Van Morrison’s house and sure enough, Bono from U2’s house (which was actually being renovated). On the gates of Bono’s property were lyrics posted from various songs that the band created. Moving into the mountains, we were able to have one of the most amazing lunches in Ireland so far. Some beef stew (second best to mom’s home cooking). We finished up lunch and eventually drove through the Wicklow Mountain’s. With the unusual snowfall that Ireland received, the van had to avoid one route that would have brought us to sites that were filmed for movies such as “PS I love You” and “Braveheart”. However, we were able to view sites that were in the film “Reign of Fire” starring Matthew Mcconaughey. From what Ed said, when the film was not rolling, locals could watch Matt attempting a rendition of Irish dance at the local pub. Locals claimed he did very well! Now during the trip we saw two waterfalls as well. One was in Glendalough Valley, which was a short walk away from a Monastery that resides next to two lakes. The monastery, founded around the 6th century, was visited centuries later by Oscar Wilde’s father, a eye doctor, who was able to fix the roof of a tower in the Monastery. Any of you reading this into history like that? How about seeing a mountain goat on the trails near the monastery? What a cute goat. From a far. And the sheep…bahhhh. A Sunday in the Mountains was refreshing. And Cold! But, it was a great time. Ed was a good tour guide and gave some useful insight throughout the day. And I would love to visit the mountains in the future. But for now, I will just look out my apartment window at them, since luckily, the mountains are that close to the city that I can see them.

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Now going by that title, is your imagination at work? When you spend ten days in Italy for an Arts and Humanities course, do not think just of endless hours spent in museum after museum, observing masterpiece after another. However, learning about the many artists, such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Bernini, and DaVinci, who created the works out of their imagination was brilliant, but there was much more to the trip. Cause in the end, artwork was not the only excitement that happened. When the professor went on his own way, we were free to explore for ourselves. This provided ample time to entertain ourselves which balanced out the ruthless hours of museum visits.

We explored in lands known as Vatican City, Rome, Florence, and Milan. Now, here comes the first question. Have you ever heard of the man named Bennie? No? Well that’s only his nickname. You should be more familiarized with Benedict or Your Holiness. Along with a few thousand people, I along with the rest of the Dublin crew was in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. On Wednesdays for free admission (if you can get tickets), you can have the Pope come speak to the audience. He first started off with a long sermon in Italian, and then addressed each language, depending on who’s in the audience, in a welcoming speech. Most people in attendance were from either college groups or tour groups. Any group could add their name to a list of what would eventually lead being called off. When called off, that group would quickly be able to stand off and address themselves to the Pope. Some groups jumped up to wave, but others sang chants in their own languages … or just screamed like crazy lunatics. That sure gave an impression to the Pope. In the end, the Pope would bless each group with a hand stretched out towards them. I was hoping our group would be called off and I felt the adrenaline was pumping. Even though there are seven our group, we wanted to cheer the loudest and do “the wave”.

Apparently our professor was late in handing in our name.

So, I ended up being disappointed when we did not hear our name. However, the Pope blessed the audience as a whole. For that, I am thankful. I have been blessed. Woot!

The rest of our time in Rome consisted of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing to the top of its dome (designed by Michelangelo), visiting the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and many (and I mean numerous amounts) museums. Let’s just say that everything is truly amazing to see. I could not explain all the sites in enough words. I am too enthused by what I saw.

And this girl was exhausted to no end.

But, I did spend my 21th birthday in Rome too!!! Now this birthday girl had one great time. That consisted of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (the basilica and pope was on a different day). Also, visiting the Castel Sant’Angelo and having some gelato (called gelati there) next to the outer walls of the Vatican city. The day was warm, beautiful, and excellent. To end the birthday off, we had another round of gelato, but we had it next to the Trevi fountain at night! The only thing I could ask for were to have my twin brother with me. But, please save me some cake brother.

Can you freeze cake to May?

…Excuse the passing thought. My family said they were going to save the celebration until May.

Now going from Rome to Florence, we had trouble with gypsies at the train station. Gypsies are everywhere in Rome and try to con you for money. Four gypsies pretended to be workers at the station by escorting us to our seats and helping us with our luggage. Through another passenger who noticed the people were not really workers for the train, he began yelling at them and said in Italian that they were going to notify the police (I knew this because he was saying Polizia). Nothing was taken from me, however another passenger possibly had something stolen from her. But, were not sure. Our professor Piotr (sounds like Peter) was pretty upset about the situation. He has never had this happen to him on any of his Italy trips. I was pretty upset too. When you find out that you were being “one upped” by someone else who was a gypsy…psssh, damn you gypsy.
The second city scheduled for our class, Florence, was amazing. This is the location of where the Cathedral di Santi Maria del Fiore rests, worlds 4th largest Cathedral. It is one of my favorite Cathedrals because as I walk down a street, you hit a corner and it just appears. To try and explain this better, the cathedral is so jam-packed to other buildings, I was not able to see it until I was literally right next to it. I turned around the corner and look up in awe! When exploring the insides of the structure the inside was very plain-looking, however, when you climb to the top of its dome, you get a fantastic view of the city. All roofs throughout the city have a reddish-orange color to them.
During our time in Florence, we saw Michelangelo’s David (the original is actually inside a museum), went to the National Museum that holds many famous works of art that is so cool to actually see in person, saw frescos and sculptures like Donatello’s David. Also, I was able to walk through the outside markets and haggled down the price of a soccer/ football jersey that was the official jersey of the Florence team.

When we were not with the professor, we walked around Florence at night. We met some random American’s studying abroad as well, but they were from schools in Italy. The Cathedral at night was pretty spooky, but at the same, an awesome piece of architecture. The guys and I decided that it would be pretty frightening to climb the Dome of the Cathedral at night, since at that time we were talking about ghost stories. But, ghosts were not the only thing lurking on the streets at night.

The hobo’s (people living on the streets) were taking hostage in the city as well. Two people of our group offered a hobo some pizza. But for some reason, outright refused. Fine, no food for you.

The last day in Italy consisted of going to Milan. World’s modeling and fashion capital from what I have heard. It was crazy fantastic. We spent only half a day there, but we were able to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and I did not realize how large the painting is. We also visited the world’s third largest cathedral. Now, that was a site to see. There was a lot of pretty window shopping as well. I am not too into shopping, but the city has done a wonderful job in fashion.

What an awesome ten days!
Italy over and out!

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