Ciao Bella!

The girls and I have officially begun our two week trip through Italy and Greece!

Here is the itinerary:

  • March 26th – 29th Venice (✓)
  • March 29th – April 1st Florence
  • April 1st – April 7th Rome
  • April 7th – April 12th Santorini

Our first leg on out journey was my all-time dream destination VENICE! As soon as I was placed in Austria through ISEP, my study abroad program, I checked the distance Linz was to Venice. Then I tweeted about it..

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Since traveling by train is much cheaper then taking flights, we boarded the night train and rode 8 hours to Venice. With the student discount card, the trip to Venice only cost us €28! It was quite a commotion in the beginning of the trip because OBB makes you print off your ticket rather than just using the electronic ticket on our phones. We didn’t know that until we boarded the train and the men weren’t happy. This is where being an American tourist comes in handy…you just have to explain that it was your first time booking the ticket and you had no idea. They wanted to make us pay 132 euro again for the three of us to get there but because I acted dumb they let us stay on. I do not whatsoever condone acting dumb but when you’re in an emergency, being a blonde American college student really comes in handy.

After some persuasion, the cranky OBB men let us off the hook and we settled into our six room compartment. We shared the small living quarters with four other people, one American student, a large old man, and a German guy who reads classics very late in the night. After eight hours of sleeping in the shape of a pretzel (Kailyn) we arrived to Venice.

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It was raining when we stepped off the platform and needed to figure out the water bus schedules. So that was fun. But once we figured out how to purchase tickets and which route to take to get to the hostel, the water bus system was actually very convenient! You are able to buy a three day pass for 30 euro as opposed to a 7 euro ticket for a one-way trip. Considering there are only water roads, the one way ticket is not the most practical choice.

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I expected Venice to be great, but it ended up being more wonderful than I ever imagined. After the first day, the weather was perfect, blue skies and even more blue water. It is easy to get lost in Venice, but that was our goal when going there. Emily, Kailyn and I would take turns going left, right, or straight. That was the best way for us to discover the little shops and restaurants on the way.

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We did not spend much time in the tourist places on the island because the lines were ridiculously long. We were able to take pictures of the outside of Saint Marks Basilica, San Marco’s Square, and the Bridge of Sighs. We saved a lot of money and precious time skipping the museums and expensive restaurants. For breakfast and lunch, we went to super markets and picked up apples and bananas and really only ate when we were hungry. The only exception of this was gelato and coffee. I had a lot of both of those things while I was there.

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I have discovered that I am scared to barter with street vendors.. Emily bartered with a man on the street selling selfie sticks and got him to drop his price almost 50%. I felt terrible. I almost asked her to give it up and walk away but she got her way and the selfie stick was the best thing that happened to us that whole trip. God bless. We named the selfie stick Phil. Phil the Photographer.

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We spent the whole second day from 8 in the morning till 8:30 pm just in time for Kailyn to get a couple drinks from happy hour at the hostel. We woke up so early because we wanted to see the Cemetery Island and the Island of Murano as well as the rest of Venice. It was a long day!

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The cemetery island was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It is an island that’s sole purpose is a cemetery. (Hence the name) The island was beautiful with large trees, elaborate tombs, and seagulls everywhere. There are so many Venetians buried there that every 10 years bodies are exhumed to make room for more. It sounds kinda freaky but it was absolutely beautiful and a peaceful escape from the busy tourist traps in the city.

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The next stop after the cemetery was Murano, the island famous for their hand-blown glass. As soon as you step off the water bus, you will see souvenir shops with blown glass. The trick is to avoid the stands and go further into the city where the real glass is made. There were so many different glass blown objects there. They ranged from a simple wine glass to an assortment of glass cookies. (Perfect for dieting for Greece) Instead of stopping at an expensive restaurant for lunch on the island, we headed to the supermarket and got lunch meats and bread. The whole lunch cost us a 7 euro between the three of us. We took our sandwiches, sat on a boat dock, and watched water taxis go up and down the streets.

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After our picnic alongside the canal, we walked around just sight seeing and ran into a group of people just having a ball listening to a band play. We were taking videos of the band and they began to dance with us and twirl us around. It was a blast!! Emily initiated a selfie with just us girls and eventually everyone wanted to get in on it.

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We were always so exhausted after a day of walking that we had no energy to leave the hostel once we got back. We spent our nights hanging out in the room and talking. It seems lame but we had a perfect view of the Grand Canal from our room and we shared the room with Koreans, an Australian, a couple Spaniards (different from Catalonians), and a nice girl from Sao Paulo. It was very nice getting to know them and I really wish I had added them on Facebook because I know they snagged a couple pictures of us.

Venice was the perfect way to kick off our spring break adventure. People kept telling me that two days was too much in Venice and that it is overrated. I couldn’t disagree more. I would have spent the whole spring break there if I hadn’t had exciting plans for the rest of the 15 days. Next on the list is Florence!!

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What are school after too month vacay?!?!

Yes everyone, after an extended Christmas break, I do in fact go to class. The week after I first arrived here in February, I was in an intensive German class. We met every day for three hours and learned very basic German. In March actual classes began! I am enrolled in International Business, Cultural Marketing, German as a Foreign Language, Current Issues in International Management, Culture and Language Policies in the EU, and Work Psychology!

Classes are much different here than in the USA. Most classes are only scheduled once a week. Some, for example work psychology, meet once every other week. Some do not last the entire semester and instead will meet once every week and then end in late May. My semester will last through June 30th.

On the first day of classes, if for some reason you can’t make it to the first day, you will be automatically kicked out of the class. Attendance in class is mandatory. In the US it is normal to skip class if you snoozed your alarm too many times. At JKU, it is a big big deal.

I did not have to spend hundreds of dollars on books this semester like in the United States. Here, you have to buy a “reader” which is just a huge stack of loose leaf paper which is just copied pages of books. I felt like I hit the jackpot because the readers only cost 15 euro. Thats a steal compared to the 250 dollars I paid for my Spanish textbook back at Truman.

The most different thing about classes here though is that at the end of class once the professor has adjourned, everyone KNOCKS on the desk. I really like it because it shows the professor that you appreciate them. But the first time people did that in my classes I was just taken aback! Like what in the world is happening.

All in all, I very much enjoy my classes so far. I either know everyone in my classes or I have quite a few friends in every one. My professors are so enthusiastic about the subject they are teaching! When you have kind and enthusiastic professors who care about you, it isn’t hard to want to try hard for them. Sounds nerdy but I really like them all so far!

PROOF that I go to class and don’t just drink beer:

On a side note…

JULIA IS FLYING ALL THE WAY FROM FINLAND TO SPEND THE WEEKEND WITH ME!!!!!! I can’t wait to see the Finnish Freak in action. And snuggle.

Very excited to be making more memories with this gem. Goes to show you that when you really love someone, distance doesn’t matter. As soon as you are together again, it is like nothing has changed.

Prague and the Czech Republic

“The ancient splendor and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fade”

– Richard Wagner

Time is moving so fast abroad. I can’t keep up! A couple of weeks ago, my fellow exchange students and I went to Prague together. It was one of the best weekends so far while in Europe. Prague is a sight to see. Everything is so cheap, the people are very nice, and the sights are breathtaking.

We left very early on a Friday morning at 7:45. We packed the whole group on a bus and the Americans posted up in the back of the bus like the cool kids. Which was honestly the best thing we could have done because we are the loudest and most obnoxious group of people in the whole exchange. At least we were not in the middle of everyone laughing and goofing around.

Our first stop of the trip was at the Budweis Brewery in the Czech Republic. Our tour guide was a very nice elderly man who know the ins and outs of beer. We learned about the complex process of making the perfect beer and the steps from beginning to end. In the middle of the tour, they treated us with a beer tasting where we got a small cup of beer to sip on. However, it was late morning and I didn’t have it in me to drink beer. I heard it was delicious though!

From there we drove a little while further and arrived in Prague in the early afternoon. It sure was an experience being on a large bus navigating through the winding streets of the city. One of Prague that sticks out in my memory are the vivid colors of the city. Exploring the streets of Prague you see buildings of different colors, quaint little restaurants, and souvenir shops on every corner.

The hostel experience was exactly that QUITE an EXPERIENCE. There were four rooms in our large room. In our room of girls we had eight ladies, the boys had ten beds in their room, and there were similar numbers in the other two rooms. So around 30 people all sharing two bathrooms and two showers. Through the bathroom situation was interesting, it was really fun all being together and hanging out every night.

I think you really get to know people the best when you travel with them. Traveling brings the passions in people to the surface. You get to see your friends eyes light up when they see a beautiful photo opportunity. They pull you into all the little family run shops that intrigue them. Traveling is a great way to learn about other people and also yourself. You learn that you are actually totally okay with being away from home. You are realizing that no matter where you are in the world, there are always going to be people in all corners of the planet who care about you.

When I first decided to study abroad for a semester, people questioned me saying “Kate, a semester is going to be a long time. Are you sure you can do that?” I’ll admit, when I first boarded that plane leaving Saint Louis I was so nervous/excited I felt sick. But as soon as I got to Austria and met these people, I felt so at ease. This post has taken a turn from a summary of my trip to Prague to a sentimental post about traveling. But I can’t express it enough how much this trip has done for me ALREADY. I have only been here for a month and a half.

Okay, I am not going to end this post all sappy. So I will end it with something funny I learned today in German class.

The word for “Father” in German is Vater. Which is literally pronounced like “Farter” but with a british accent. What is life if you don’t laugh about a fart joke every once in a while right?

So many places, so little time to blog about them

I haven’t been very good lately at keeping the blog up to date with the exciting things that are happening. Since I blogged last I have been to Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich. The past month has been a whirlwind!

Vienna:

A group of friends and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Vienna together for a weekend. We hopped on a train and arrived an hour later. I was nervous when we first booked the hostel because I have never stayed in one before. However, when we arrived there our room turned out being more fancy than some hotel rooms I have stayed in. So, that was definitely not my first “hostel experience.”

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The next day (Valentines Day), we all woke up and made our way into the center of the city to find a bit of breakfast. On our way there we stumbled upon a street market where they were selling various local goods and giving away free donuts (!) for valentines day. People were selling everything you could ever need like homemade wines, cheeses, and local vegetables. But I was content walking around with my free donut and a cup of coffee.

After breakfast, we wandered around Vienna in search for the cathedral to meet up with friends. The problem is, every church in Vienna is massive and beautiful. We had to have stumbled upon five churches that day thinking they were the cathedral. We didn’t find the actual cathedral until later that night. The thing is though, when you are traveling in a new city, you might have a end destination in sight but the thrill and adventure of traveling comes from getting lost and enjoying the journey.

Wandering around, we found the main shopping strip of the city. On one end of the street was the typical college girl stores like H&M and Forever 21 and on the other side was Prada, Dior, Swarovski, etc. There was also, much to my delight, a fancy Starbucks. (Living up to the stereotype of 20 year old college girl)

Our little group kept walking and walking and eventually stepped into the beautiful square. The National Library was on the right. The History Museum was ahead of us and large gardens and statues were directly to our left. We had the pleasure to listen to a man playing the harp right in the middle of the square and I was especially excited to meet dozens of dogs (and their owners).

We were still searching for the Cathedral to meet up with our friends so we just followed our gut and walked toward a nearby steeple. However, the church we found was just a church no matter how magnificent it was. We kept going and walked into a festival with ice skating and food stands serving waffles, crepes, schnitzel, and any other delicious thing you could think of. There is a ride there that takes you high into the sky for a 365 degree view of Vienna for the small price of 7 euro. The views from up there were amazing.

We finally found our friends at a local pub enjoying some tall beers and all together from there we walked toward the city center again where the shopping was. They finally took us to the famous and elusive St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It is even larger than any cathedral I have ever seen. Like holy wow.

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The next day, we hopped on the tram and visited the royal palace. The grounds are expansive and palace is straight out of a fairytale. I can’t wait to go back in the summer so I can see the grounds and gardens in full bloom. The palace is now home to famous art from all over the world. Upstairs was more contemporary art and on the ground level is the paintings from the medieval times when the castle was first built. The whole area was breathtaking. After we explored the castle, we were all exhausted from a weekend of walking and sight seeing. We took the train back home and slept like babies.