A Travellerspoint blog

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Next stop the gorgeous Ljubljana! Another city that I walked into blind. My eyes are open now, this is on my list of amazing places (I am not convinced that many places I have blogged about haven’t made that list, but don’t let that throw you off!). This was my Christmas stop, and what a wonderful place to spend Christmas in!

There is just something about this city. The layout is really quite confusing. There are little canals in places that feel unnecessary but look pretty so you go just with it, and then two minutes into your adventure you feel like you’re lost in the best possible way. You aren’t lost in the scary ‘oh no I’m alone in Europe way’ but rather the ‘if the worst case scenario is having to stay here forever I am completely fine with that’ sort of way.

First stop: go to the castle. The walk may make you grumpy if you are at my level of fitness walking up a hill in four layers of clothing, but it is worth it. Europe can make you a bit desensitised to castles and monuments, so finding one that stands out is always special.

Second stop: try the food and explore the Christmas markets (again, only if you are in Europe in December. If not, I really do recommend a December trip).

Third Stop: Wonder around the city. It has a great atmosphere, soak it all up. It is also really small which makes it convenient to explore.

Fourth stop: Ice skating. It really is an amazing rink that they set up during their winter season. It was a little odd that they played the uncensored version of the new Lily Allen album on repeat… but hey, who am I to judge? …

… I have news guys….. I still despise ice skating. I am devastated. It just seems like such a wonderfully cliché thing to enjoy in Europe in the winter! Alas no. It is terrifying and I am going to break my neck one of these days. But I got a good photo on a pretty cool rink that looooooks like I am having fun, and that is all that matters right?

Try to spend more time in this city than I did. One night really truly didn’t feel like enough. But I loved every second anyway!

I’m off : ) Till next time!

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 23:28 Archived in Slovenia Tagged aussie europe amazing slovenia ljubljana eastern_europe aussie_abroad Comments (1)

Budapest, Hungary

My favourite city on mainland Europe

Back to Budapest!!!! Twice in one year. That is how amazing this place is!

I have actually officially upgraded this city. It is my favourite city on mainland Europe. The only reason it doesn’t win Europe as a whole is because of London. For me comparing the two is like someone asking you who your favourite relative is. Of course it is your mum! But out of the relatives that you actually choose to invite over more often, it is your cousin Budapest. Your cousin that is attractive, and smart, and amazing. They are in fact so awesome that you don’t even feel inferior around them. THAT is Budapest!

Downside, I was there on Christmas Eve. That is a wonderful time to be in Eastern Europe, don’t get me wrong! But you see they seem to love their families a lot more in Europe than I am used to in Australia, and…. Well…. Everything is shut. The museums, the supermarkets, the lot.

The Christmas markets and a lot of the outdoor activities stayed open for a limited amount of time, so I got some great shopping done. After that, I spent the rest of my time exploring the parts of the city that can’t close. The river, the castle, the palace, the statues along the river, hero square, and parliament. This city will steal my heart every time, I just know it! Also check out the ruin bars. They are quirky, eclectic little places made up of abandoned furniture from after the Second World War, and are probably the coolest bars that I have ever been to.

I did something quite unexpected and surprisingly amazing during my visit. Some of my friends from the tour that I was on were religious, so they decided to go to the midnight Christmas mass at St. Stephen's Basilica. I am not a religious person myself, but I have grown up with a lot of respect for religion, and it is a beauuuutiful church, so I decided to go along. The Catholic service was in Hungarian and was actually run by the Hungarian Cardinal. It was surprisingly moving to be with everyone at Christmas. I am really glad I have that memory; it was a really special night.

I have another post about Budapest on this blog that has some more sights in it, so check that post out as well. This post is me shamelessly gushing about how much I am in love. My final comment is this, Budapest has the second best markets that I have come across in Europe (narrowly beaten by Bosnia and Herzegovina). They are cheap and unique so get some shopping done.

I think I am off for now. Till next time!

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 01:38 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest christmas australian hungary amazing aussie_abroad australian_traveler australian_abroad favourite_city favorite_city christmas_time Comments (0)

Krakow, Poland

a magical city like Prague, but a little more relaxed and rustic. (ie; perfect.)

Hello friends, strangers and acquaintances. I have been on the move again! Thrilling stuff. So much more of Europe to see, not nearly enough time or money to see it all… but I am doing my very best! I decided I didn’t want to be alone this Christmas, so I booked another tour, met another bunch of great people, and made another collection of amazing memories.

First stop was the wonderful city of Krakow in Poland. I didn’t really know what to expect from this city, I hadn’t heard a lot about it. Personally I think that is a magical way to travel. The trouble with places like Paris and London is you are always trying to find things people have told you about, or make your experience match up to this idea of what it should be like based on a recount that a good friend gave you. If you don’t know what the place is about, you can just follow your instincts and gravitate towards what feels fun.

So let’s start with food and drink shall we. Honey mead- big tick! I think it is only available in winter but if you are in Poland in winter definitely get your hands on some of this stuff; it is amazing. Although if you are not a beer drinker, it is essentially warm beer with herbs and honey in it, so maybe give it a pass. Glögg wine is also fantastic (or mulled wine… I am still not quitttte European enough to understand what the difference is). The food I had was pretty centred around the Christmas markets, just explore and you will find lots of things covered in chocolate, lots of meat, lots of potato and lots of yummy goodness. This brings me to my next point…..

……….CHRISTMAS MARKETS!!!!!! So these are clearly not exclusive to Krakow, but I love love LOVE Europe at Christmas time; so being back in those markets melted my heart a fair bit. These were some pretty good quality markets too. They kind of blend in with the markets that already exist quite famously all year round in Krakow known as the ‘linen markets’ in the main square. They don’t actually sell linen, but they used to and they have kept the same set up, so it is all really neat.

The sights are amazing. Take a trip up to the Wawel Royal Castle. It is really beautiful and worth a visit. The city kind of reminds me of Prague but with a more rustic vibe. I really enjoyed it. More importantly, take a chance to wander around the city. It is very walkable and has a lot a trendy spots hidden throughout.

I also visited Auschwitz Concentration Camp on the way out of the city. I have already dedicated a post on this blog to a concentration camp, and I feel that the sentiments said in that post are equally applicable here. Also, Auschwitz was set up quite differently from Mauthausen camp. It is much less deliberately confronting and much more like a museum. The guides give you every single fact exactly as it was. You see all of the rooms, the ruins, and the abandoned possessions, and then take away from it whatever stayed in your head the most. I think it is an incredibly important place to visit, and feel that it is designed so that you have a unique reaction to what you find inside.

Ok so that is Krakow… man it is good to be on the road again!... Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 16:32 Archived in Poland Tagged poland christmas europe krakow cold exchange eastern_europe australian_abroad Comments (0)

Edinburgh, Scotland

Some great new memories in a magical city.

I went to Edinburgh this weekend. A slightly less spontaneous trip than the Dublin weekend as it was organised by a University related group with over 900 attendees, but still a lot of fun.

I thought I knew what to expect from this city. I was expecting lots of pubs, lots of bagpipes, lots of kilts, and lots of old buildings similar to what I have seen elsewhere in the British Isles. There was a little bit of all of that, then there was a lot of HOLY COW THIS CITY IS LIKE NOTHING I HAVE EVER SEEN BEFORE.

The old town of Edinburgh essentially runs between the Royal Palace of Holyrood at one end and Edinburgh Castle at the other. This road, or the ‘royal mile’ has two valleys on either side of it (yes, these are a bitch to walk up if anyone was wondering). The city also used to have a wall isolating parts of these towns due to fears that the English would attack the city. Parts of this wall can still be seen today. All of this equates to what appears to be a medieval style town centre that has slowly been added to or amended, but never really destroyed. A modern western hub exists in this medieval piece of heaven, and I absolutely love it!

I really recommend the walking tours in this city. I went on four because I am a lazy history nerd- which essentially means that I love learning about the city but would rather someone do the research for me and just share the relevant bits. I learned all about the castle, the royal mile, the plague, the terrible hygiene, the life for the rich and the life for the poor in the ancient city. I also learnt that like many European and commonwealth countries, Scotland had to experience the assholes that were the English back in the day. They really mellowed by the time Australia asked for independence. For this I am both relieved and grateful on behalf of my ancestors. Two specific tours I recommend are the Real Mary King’s Close and the City of Edinburgh Underground Ghost tour. Both of these were really interesting and done really well.

Readers, I may have let you down. I didn’t spend much time exploring the night life. I’m sorry! I was just so tired! I swear I am turning into an old lady. I did go into some of the pubs during the daytime, which was great. The Frankenstein bar is the one place I went at night that I really enjoyed. It has three levels, some good music and some interesting drinks including their own unique beer and cocktails.

Food wise I had two meat pies which isn’t too out of the norm for an Aussie, but for other tourists you 100% need to give them a go, they’ll change your life. I also tried Haggis. Apparently haggis is all sorts of gross sheep organs kinda mixed together. Downside; the thought of it really puts you off. Upside: it is really realllllly good. I am officially a fan!

Hmmm, what else did I do? Oooo lots of tourist shopping which was great. I fell in love with Highland cows so I bought a little stuffed one to take home with me. Her name is molly and she is my new best friend. I visited the café that the first Harry Potter book was written in. It is called the Elephant Café and is just off the royal mile. I am really happy for the owners of this place. They have allowed the writing of the book to give them some publicity, but maintained a really cool vibe and don’t overcharge you for food or drinks. Great little café, check it out.

I have only two complaints and one piece of advice. The first complaint is that my hostel had no heater and no hot water. The second complaint is that Scotland in November is getting a littttttle chilly (which made the first complaint seem a lot worse that it would have been ordinarily). I will admit that both of these things really just made me feel like a well-oiled traveller so it isn’t such a big deal. The piece of advice is to never try to understand a drunk Scottish person in a loud bar. I am adding it to my list of things that is completely impossible, right underneath my inability to lick my own elbow. In every other setting the Scottish accent is unique and awesome, but in pubs I couldn’t barely understand a word of it. Lots of smiling and nodding occurred,

Well I think that is it. If you pay Edinburgh a visit, don’t take for granted the opportunity to just walk around the city and take it all in. It truly is a magical place. I hope you appreciate my refraining from going on a much larger history rant that what occurred above. You really should experience it for yourself.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 15:20 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scotland edinburgh united_kingdom fun aussie amazing edinburgh_castle euro_trip kilts aussie_abroad australian_traveler exchange_trip Comments (0)

Month One and A Bit

campus life and all that fun stuff

I was planning on updating this blog quite regularly, but I think I have already established in previous posts just how lazy I can be. So here is an update on how uni life has been going as an Aussie student in England since October.

Freshers week, or the week where all of the new students hang out at the club on campus and drink and dance excessively was surprisingly fun. Most of the friendships that I have formed since I have been here started in that week (or what was actually two weeks for me, because international students come a week earlier than the locals). One friend in particular, my favourite Swede, became a lifelong friend when the door of the bus malfunctioned due the amount of people on board and we almost fell out while it was moving. I don’t think you can experience that without becoming lifelong friends, can you? I have never spent so many hours drinking and dancing as I did during fresher’s week. That is coming from someone who just spent over a month travelling Europe! But liver damage aside, it really was a lot of fun.

My flat is small and cosy and frequently filthy because I am a gross human. The shower is cream coloured and very circular. The shower is kind of like a huge cylinder that amuses me because it reminds me a lot of the transporters in star trek. I still haven’t got passed the desire to shout out ‘beam me up, scotty!’ while bathing.

Things like laundry and groceries I am still getting used to. It is really easy to forget when living at home that pretty much everything costs money. Here I do not have that luxury. Trying to budget my eating habits and make sure I only do two loads of laundry per week to save money is something that is just annoying enough that the optimistic people of the world will call it ‘character building’. I think I am getting the hang of everything now though. I feel like this is home now, which is nice.

Classes are decent. I love two, and hate the other two with a passion that is very non-motivating. It is pretty hard to not get swept up in how social and fun it is to be on a university campus for long enough to actually study… but I am working on it.

Hands down, the best part about being here has been the people. I have been on trip to Cambridge twice, to London about 6 or 7 times and just to places around town more times than I can count with my new friends. We are a pretty diverse bunch. My closest friends here are a mix of Cypriots, Italians, a Mexican, Americans, Swedes, Norwegians, and of course me. We throw some locals into the mix if they are feeling brave. Memories of seeing the play ‘1984’ in Cambridge, watching the Guy Fawkes fireworks, seeing the Book of Mormon (twice), and just laughing and hanging out on the average day will stay with me forever.

The second best part has been the extra-curricular stuff that becomes a lot easier to immerse yourself in when you are living on campus. I was that person at the university fair. You know, that one that signs up for absolutely everything? On the downside; I committed to town choir for a grand total of one week before getting sick of the old people grumbling at me for checking the time on my phone too often (it goes for 3 hours!!!!), and have thus far never made it to a single drama club session. On the upside; I find Model United Nations and mooting really fun. Through model UN I have even gone on an excursion to Isle of Wight with the other members, and get to go to a conference in Reading next week, which should be really fun.

I managed to get through this whole post without complaining about the weather! Well November is almost over, so you should get plenty of that next post.

Till Next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 13:24 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged england university aussie australian campus aussie_abroad exchange_trip campus_life Comments (0)

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