A Travellerspoint blog

Dublin, Ireland

Music, Sights, Beer and oodles of fun

So I went to Dublin this weekend. Gotta love spontaneous international trips that are an option for university students that don’t live in a country that is a gazillion miles away from EVERYTHING!!! (Don’t worry Australia, I still love you.)

I will start by stating the obvious. Dublin is AWESOME! I had so much fun in this city. The people, the pubs, and the attractions were all so welcoming it was heartbreaking to leave. The weather was not so kind. It will likely be a lot more kind to others, even in Irish November. We managed to go on the weekend that the torrential rain flooded the city and parts of the countryside. This had little to no impact on how much we enjoyed our trip, and contributed to me witnessing one of my friends get saturating by a passing car while walking through the streets (much to our amusement). So really, it only added good, albeit slightly inconvenient, parts to the weekend.

We love love LOVED all of the pubs. I can’t really list all of them , but a few of my favourites were Gogartys because of the classic feel and the great live music, Hogans because of the cool people gathered there, and Sweeney’s because it had a really cool vibe and some GREAT live bands playing.

The beer is also, as many would have predicated, great quality. If you are a fan of Guinness it is pretty cheap (because it is imported all of 50 metres) and it is pretty darn good. A lot of the Irish beer is a little heavy for my personal taste, but I really liked Harp Lager so definitely give that a go. For the Cider lovers, you are in the home of Bulmer’s. For the Whiskey lovers, you are in the home of Jameson. Essentially; go to pubs and drink booze.

I also loved seeing the dancing. I love watching all kinds of dancing, and Irish dancing is something I had just never really had the chance to experience beyond the occasional clip in a movie. We went to see a show called Celtic nights which had 3 courses of some of the best food I have had in a while, with an opening band and Irish dancing. It was a really fun way to spend a night in Dublin.

Ireland, apart from having good music, dancing and beer, is also exceptionally beautiful. We went on a day trip to Kilkenny and Glendalough with a pretty popular company called ‘Paddywagon’. We had a really amazing driver named James who took us around some breathtaking sites. I am not gifted with a vocabulary that can put how beautiful Ireland is into words. In the cold drizzle it still made me feel giddy with happiness. Make sure you venture outside of the city for a while when you visit.

In saying that, the city is pretty darn beautiful itself. My good friend and I spend a day walking around the sites. The Liffey, or the river that runs through the centre of the city, is amazing at night. Trinity College was also a really good place to visit. It is stunning and has one of the coolest libraries that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Only fellow booklovers will understand me when I say that you should pay it a visit just for that old book smell.

I also had one of the most memorable nights of my life in a bar called ‘The George’. It is a gay bar that holds a karaoke competition that my friends bullied me into entering. Well I don’t mean to brag or anything (I really really do) but… I won! So my last night in Ireland was spent consuming a free bucket of beer, dancing to a great playlist and watching my friends get very friendly (imagine an exaggerated wink here) with the locals. Check this place out; it is a load of fun.

Well, I think I summed that up pretty well. I haven’t really even scratched the surface on Ireland yet, but Dublin is great. Go there at your next convenience. Oooo one more thing, get your photo taken in a little leprechaun suit. Best decision EVER! I make a great leprechaun.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 18:37 Archived in Ireland Tagged beer travel ireland dublin music australian europe guinness euro_trip australian_traveler Comments (0)

Berlin, Germany

Easily one of my favourite places in the whole world

sunny

Ok first something needs to be addressed. I am not travelling anymore. I am settled at my University in Hatfield, England. In fact I have been settled for so long that my room has had a chance to become messy and then clean again at LEAST seven times. Messy has most definitely won for the time being, and the room will likely stay that way until I feel like I am living in enough of my own filth to clean it. You may think I am exaggerating. I am really not… I am a disgusting human...

…. I am also getting side-tracked. I had most of these posts written but I got incredibly, supremely, stupendously LAZY and never edited/published them. So long story short, you are getting the rest of my trip very delayed. But they are going up, and I will continue to write now that I am all settled in as an Aussie girl in an English world. Ok now for one of my favourite cities in the world. I am talking top 5 favourite….

… Drumroll please (and ignore the fact that the name of the city is in the title of the blog)… BERLIN!!!

I feel like Germany is one of the most underrated countries in Europe. Unless you are going in late September- early October where tourists galore gather in Munich for endless litres of beer and chanting, no one seems excited about it. Well, you should be! This country is amazing, as is its capital. It’s true that the city took a beating during the war, so it’s missing a lot of the historical buildings that a lot of cities in Europe have. However, what it lacks in pretty old buildings, it makes up for tenfold in history and atmosphere. Not to mention, you can find PLENTY of amazing architecture if you are willing to venture a little further into Germany.

First tip: go on a walking tour. Even if it isn’t your thing. Even if you would rather sit in a German beer house eat schnitzel and drink till you can’t stand up straight (which coincidentally is tip number 2), GO ON A WALKING TOUR. You can walk around the city yourself or tag along on any of the dozen companies that are extremely cheap and really great quality. The history in this city just can’t be missed. People think they know all about Germany’s involvement in the world wars, but forget that German has a masssssive history before and after the mid-20th century. Germany has let the Berlin retain all of its scars and its beauty marks so that everyone can appreciate the city for what it is. Germany is one of the only countries in the world that I feel has faced their history head on. You can ask them anything, and they take pride in how far Germany has come recovering from some really dark days.

Now for the aforementioned tip two: go to a beer house. I went to Hofbräu Berlin and had an amazing time. If beer isn’t normally your thing, order a radler (half beer and half lemonade). The beer is great, the food is great, and you just feel like you are really experiencing Germany. I will admit that from experience the beer hall wasn’t quite as good as those in Munich, so you should definitely check out both. Back to the food, go for some pork knuckle, a schnitzel, or even what I tried which was pickled pork. It came in a jar and the lovely waitress told me that people either love it or hate it. Lucky I was feeling like taking a risk that day because it is one of my favourite meals that I have had in Europe to date (and I have eaten A LOT of food at this stage of my travels).

Third tip: check out the museums. Berlin is a city full of them. They actually have an island (not surprisingly called ‘Museum Island’) where all of the museums sit. This is tip number three because I know that being smothered in history is not for everyone. So if you don’t like museums, and you’re pretty sure that won’t change... fair enough. If you, like me, love a healthy dose of museum time on your travels, this city has some of the best quality museums that I have ever come across. Keeping in mind that Berlin has more than 170 museums; here are my top three (in order of preference). First, the Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon is full of artefacts from all over Europe that have been discovered by German archaeologists, and is really worth a look. Second, the Topography of Terrors. This is a series of photographs and documents that were collected during the period of the holocaust. It is a free museum, and the gallery gives an amazing insight into the mentality of the Nazi army, and the impact of the holocaust on all of the countries across Europe that had civilians taken to camps. Third is the German Historical Museum or ‘Deutsches Historisches Museum’. This museum gives a really well-rounded view of German History in its entirety, which I think is really important, as a lot of museums neglect the history of Germany before and after the world wars.

Tip four: GO TO THE EASTSIDE GALLERY!! If you don’t know what that is, it is the largest portion of the Berlin wall left standing after communist East Berlin reunited with capitalist West Berlin who had been separated by the 155km wall for 30 years. See!!?? How can anyone say Berlin history isn’t interesting? If that little snippet didn’t make you want to know more about the Berlin wall YOU’RE CRAZY! Anyway, after the wall came down artists from across the world came to the city to paint a portion of the wall. This became known as the eastside gallery. Walking along it is pretty surreal. It has some amazing pieces of art that you will probably recognize once you see them, and it is definitely worth spending some time here.

Ok as usual, the length of this entry is getting excessive, so I am gonna give some quick tips before I sum up. Go to the zoo, it is one of the best in Europe and will make you feel like a small child again in the best possible way. Go to the ‘Ritter Sport’ store where you can pick the ingredients for your own chocolate bar. Go to checkpoint Charlie because you will regret it if you don’t but be prepared to be disappointed when you do (you will understand when you see it). Oh, and check out the nightlife! I had a great time out and about in Berlin. The music is great and the alcohol is pretty cheap. Tourists can’t ask for much more than that.

Well…. I think I am done here. Oh there is more. There is sooooo much more! But you know what? Go check it out yourself! I’ll meet you there.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 18:12 Archived in Germany Tagged beer germany berlin europe amazing travelling aussie_abroad Comments (0)

Mauthausen - Concentration Camp

Mauthausen is an area in Austria that housed a concentration camp. It has been maintained as a museum following the events of the holocaust. I did not spend much time here, but I felt that it deserved its own post.

This camp housed primarily political prisoners, homosexuals, and Jews. Those that were unfit to work or became injured were killed by gassing or the injection of lethal substances including petrol. Those who were fit to work were forced to carry stones from a quarry up a narrow staircase of over 150 steps to the camp. The stones weighed more than the prisoners who were barely fed and dressed in thin, dirty uniforms in the freezing cold. Often prisoners slipped and fell down the stairs, also knocking down anyone walking behind them. If a prisoner slipped and the fall didn’t kill them, they were shot.

I walked up these stairs. I was well fed and carrying nothing. When I reached about half-way, and began to feel the signs of physical exertion, I was consumed with sadness. By three-quarters of the way the muscles in my legs were started to feel sore. At the top of the stairs I was ready to get back on the bus, have a rest and leave. It is then that I stopped and thought of the hundreds before me that had no bus waiting. No water. No snacks. No real hope of survival.

I have spoken a lot about the war on this blog. If you have an opportunity to visit one of these camps, I recommend that you do so. I can think of no better way to respect those who lost their lives in concentration camps than to see them, learn about them, and learn from them.

Never be a person that refuses to acknowledge the mistakes of those before us. Never forget the importance of each individual that climbed those stairs.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 22:06 Archived in Austria Tagged europe mauthausen concentration_camp Comments (0)

Vienna, Austria

Classically beautiful

Firstly, and most importantly: my head hurts. A lot…

…. Kids. Alcohol is bad.

I refused however, REFUSED, to let this stop me from enjoying Vienna. Self-inflicted illness is just not a good enough excuse to miss this city. I love Vienna. It is the first place on this tour that I have been before, and it is as beautiful as I remember.

Vienna is one of those cities where as you drive around, you gain an appreciation for how even the simplest of buildings are beyond anything that you could ever be capable of creating. The city is westernised but has maintained the charm that comes with its age, which makes it really special. I recommend visiting the Schönbrunn Palace and the surrounding gardens. It is simply stunning.

Austria’s recent history is a different from its surrounding countries. Unlike countries who were attacked and occupied during the first and second World Wars (particularly the second), their alliance with Germany meant that they essentially signed over control of their country to Hitler before his more horrific atrocities began. I can’t imagine how devastating it must have been to place trust in a government system who then uses your land and resources to assist in the damage that World War 2 caused to the rest of Europe and the Jewish people. Austria has spent a lot of time and effort re-establishing their own unique and independent identity, to the point that in their Declaration of Independence which stands carved in stone in the middle of Vienna, they state that their mistakes during the Second World War will never be repeated.

Outside of their history, I spent my time in Vienna enjoying their food, their coffee and their classical music. I attended a classic music concert where I heard a number of well-known pieces mostly consisting of Strauss and Mozart, with dancers sometimes accompanying the musicians. I love that this country has maintained a love for classical music. Even if classical is not a style that you usually enjoy, I recommend seeing one of these shows. It is talent that simply doesn’t exist in modern music, and embodies so much of the history of the country.

Vienna is beautiful. Whilst I didn’t get a chance to go back this trip, I would also recommend going to Prada (not the handbag store… unless you want to go to that Prada. Then go for it). It is a theme park with the biggest Ferris wheel in the world, and a great night club.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 15:23 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna austria europe eastern_europe classical_music Comments (0)

Budapest, Hungary

All kinds of Awesome

So here is a city that I legitimately had no idea what to expect from. Budapest.

No one I know has been to Hungary. I have heard of the country before of course, but apart from having a name that is convenient to make puns out of and performing well at the Olympics, my knowledge of Hungary was worryingly low. So… for the people reading this who share my past position, here it is: Hungary’s capital city is amazingly awesomely wonderful.

This city is among one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The architecture in the city is heavily influenced by a huge variety of countries such as the Turks and Greeks. The different styles of buildings have left the city with a really good feel about it. I also didn’t know before I got there that ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ where two separate cities until the late 19th century, separated by a river through the middle. Both cities have a very different atmosphere and feel, so I recommend splitting your time between sides.

Historically, Hungary has had a really tough run. They were occupied by quite a few empires before finally catching a break and forming a dual Austrian/Hungarian empire that was pretty prosperous. Then everything went south when this empire then ceased to exist after countries rebelled against it, which essentially started World War 1. Then of course, like almost every other country in Europe, Hungary got slammed during World War 2. Thankfully despite all that, they have an amazing capital that embodies all of their wonderfully weird history, and have even managed to maintain a sense of humour.

Ooooo fun fact!! (I think it is cool, so I’m gonna share it with you) The name ‘Hungary’ was given to the nation because people thought they were associated with the ‘Huns’ due to a similar nomadic lifestyle. Whilst the original Hungarians did come from Asia, they had absolutely nothing to do with the Huns, so the name of their country is based on a misunderstanding. Also, because of the Asian heritage and eclectic blend of cultural influences, Hungarian is a realllllly difficult language. I normally attempt at least a few words in countries I visit, but I accepted complete and utter defeat. It is impossible. I am not completely convinced even the locals understand each other.

Ok so now my activities:

I did a walking tour where you get the fastest route to a lot of the landmarks with the added bonus of some history along the way. We saw the outside of their amazing parliament building which is modelled off parliament in London, the palace, the president’s house, and some of the great architecture.

After the tour we had the truly wonderful plan of walking from one end of the city to the other. I am only being a little bit sarcastic, it was a wonderful plan. However if you do something similar, make better shoe decisions than I did. My feet may never forgive me. We walked past the ‘House of Terror’ which was the location of some horrific experiments and cruelty committed by the Nazi’s during World War 2, and on to Hero square where there is an assortment of statues, memorials and monuments that will not disappoint.

We came across a local fair where they were selling traditional food, dressing up in old fashioned clothes and playing games. These weren’t the fair games that I was used to, but stilts and mazes made out of wood. They were free to play, and the only prize was the pride of the winner. The fair was next to hero square and was really special and genuine. I am so glad we stumbled across it.

In the Jewish quarter of the town, a lot of buildings were left abandoned during World War 2 when the Jews were forced to flee their homes. Less than a quarter of this Jewish population survived so many of the residences were never returned to. Some Hungarian youths then had an interesting idea. Instead of leaving the homes in their neglected state, they took the left over furniture and vacant properties and turned them into bars. My tour group stopped by the most famous of this bars ‘Szimpla Kertmozi’. This was such a strange and awesome little place. Old appliances and vehicles had been turned into seating, and there were things like bikes and furniture hanging from the roof. Most importantly, they filled my wine up to the brim. I had to actually take a sip before I could pick it up to avoid spilling it. Best place EVER! Definitely check it out.

Also in Budapest, the food is GREAT! I had some goulash which is a meat soup that they are pretty famous for, as well as some chicken stuffed with cottage cheese and lots of cake. I could not get enough of the food, one of my favourite food stops so far. Just a heads up though, accept in advance that you will probably smell like garlic for at least a week after your visit. They are quite fond of it.

Ok now for one of my favourite travel stories ever (and I feel like I have travelled a fair bit at this stage, so that is something). Budapest as a result of Turkish influence has thermal baths located throughout the city. I went to the largest baths ‘Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ for a pool party. It was soooooo much fun. How many times do you get to go to a pool party in thermal baths in Eastern Europe in your life? The parties happen every week or every couple of weeks (depending on the time of year). It is warm and fun and there is plenty of music and booze. Such a great night.

Ok then, I think I have covered everything. Vienna is next…… my life is awesome.

Till next time.

Posted by MsKirstieLeigh 15:08 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest travel hungary europe baths awesome eastern_europe Comments (0)

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