Epilogue Part 4: Prague

We managed to find wifi and get an uber from the bus station to our airbnb, where we met our very friendly host and his friendly cat. It was actually a pretty nice airbnb, we had our own room and little balcony and they gave us a water kettle and tea. We had chosen Prague because we had been planning on ending in Reykjavik, and the cheapest flight was from Prague, so going into our full day in Prague, we didn’t have an exact plan. I have a trip planning app, so I looked up Prague on there and found some things that were in the same area and we went from there.

We started out at Prague Castle, which had lots of different parts to it, so we bought a ticket that allowed us to see most of it. The main attraction, it seemed, was St. Vitus Cathedral (see photo below), which had a long line to get inside for the whole day. It was a very beautiful cathedral, although it seems that there hasn’t been as much cleaning as on some of the other cathedrals I’ve seen, it has a lot of the blackness that results from pollution. The Castle wasn’t so much of a castle as a large collection of buildings that all related to the history and running of the castle, but it wasn’t what people typically think of as a castle, although it was still very cool and went a lot into the different ways that that site has been a part of history.IMG_7368.jpg

We then walked over to Petrin Tower, which looks like a small reconstruction of the Eiffel Tower. We took a small break to get some ice cream first, and then decided to take the elevator up rather than doing more walking on a very hot day. The view from the top was lovely (see photo below) and I think it partially comes from there being a pretty unifying architectural style throughout the city. The castle was also on the top of a hill, so for most of our day, we had some lovely views.IMG_7406.jpg

From the Tower, we walked over to the John Lennon wall, which is a wall covered in graffiti and art and is much smaller than I expected. It seemed to be more of a place where people take pictures for instagram, although there was one guy playing Beatles songs and another person adding art to the wall, but I found it generally underwhelming. We went to get dinner after that and ended up at an outdoor restaurant that was under a large tree. Before we got our food, our meal was interrupted by a pigeon falling out of the tree and onto Henry’s back and not getting off despite him shaking his shirt and trying to shrug it off, and eventually swatting it off where it flew over and hit me in the back before finally landing on the ground. This had been quite a commotion by that point and a waiter came over and offered us a different table if we wanted and shooed the bird out of the restaurant. It was a very surreal experience.

We had initially gone to that restaurant to get wifi, which they didn’t have, so we ended up walked into town to find some and accidentally crossing the Charles Bridge, which I didn’t realize until after is another attraction in Prague. After a bit of souvenir shopping, we did find wifi and got an uber back to our airbnb. Our travel experience also wasn’t too bad that time, although we did have to wait in the airport about 6 hours because of when we had to check out of our airbnb, but other than that, our flight to Reykjavik was fine.


Epilogue Part 3: Vienna

In Vienna, we started off on a weird foot because I got a message from our airbnb host who said that there was a double booking issue and he had an apartment for us, but it wasn’t the one we had looked at. It was a little stressful because we didn’t have data, so we could only talk to him when there was wifi. The apartment we ended up staying in, which was “unfinished,” didn’t have wifi, we could only connect to the public wifi on the street corner outside or if we leaned out the window of our room. We also didn’t have towels, but we learned that paper towels work pretty well, as do old shirts, when drying off after a shower.

Our apartment did have a great view, and we could see Schonbrunn Palace from our window, which was where we sent our full day in Vienna. Schonbrunn (see photo below) has apparently gotten more busy and so we didn’t actually get to go into the palace until about 4 hours after we got there. However, the pass we bought allowed us access to a bunch of the other places, like gardens and mazes and such, which were all very pretty and nice to walk around. Henry had also been there before, so it was interesting to hear how things were different when he was there and what he remembered and such. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in the Palace itself, so I don’t actually remember all of it, but they did have an audio guide that was really helpful and gave good information on everything. IMG_7309.jpg

That night we went up to the roof and watched the sunset, which was really pretty, and then the next day we got up to catch our next bus, only 4 hours this time, to Prague. But of course, it did not go as planned. We took an uber from our airbnb to where we were supposed to catch the bus, but once we got there, it was not at all a bus station. We arrived half an hour early, so we had a bit of time. Since we didn’t have data, we had to rush around to try and find wifi to figure out where we were supposed to be going. We did, and it was a 25 minute walk to the bus station, so we started hustling over in what was hopefully the correct direction, leaving approximately 25 minutes before our bus was supposed to arrive. Naturally, I got really stressed, almost felt like crying, but we did make our bus, with a good bit of sweating and anxiety. And our passports weren’t even checked (or Czeched) getting to Prague.

Epilogue Part 2: Venice

We got to the airport in Venice and our airbnb host offered to pick us up, which worked out well, and he picked us up wearing a Captain America shirt, which was very amusing. We found out later he was really into comic books, so it made sense, but it was fun at the time. The house was also really nice, we had our own bathroom and essentially the whole top floor part to ourselves. Our host was also incredibly friendly, he made us dinner our last night and we made dessert and we all played a couple card games together. He also offered to drive us to the bus station so we could actually get into Venice and helped us buy tickets to do so and all of that, and drove us to our bus station when we left, which I’ll get to in a bit. But if anyone needs a recommendation of an airbnb near Venice, I have one.

I don’t think I enjoyed Venice quite as much as some of the other ASE students who have visited, mainly because I found it incredibly difficult to get around. Venice is definitely a maze, with not well labeled streets, and the tourist maps tend to have large icons of the tourist attractions, making it difficult to figure out how to get there. I also have a very poor sense of direction, which really didn’t help with that. All that being said, it definitely is very pretty and you can easily stumble upon some lovely buildings and things to see.

Once we found out where it was, we spent most of our time in St. Mark’s Square, which has a ton of things. The main is St. Mark’s Basilica, but we weren’t able to go in because I was wearing shorts and you can’t have exposed knees or shoulders in order to go in. So instead, we bought a pass to go to four museums in the Square, part of which allowed us to go through the Bridge of Sighs (see photo below), of which there is a similar bridge in Oxford. We also went to the Doge’s Palace, which was cool, and all of the museums had a lot of history woven into them, and since I don’t know much about the Italian history, I appreciated that, and they were on a variety different topics, not exclusively wars etc.IMG_7263.jpg

In the Square, Henry also got conned into buying me roses. A guy came up to me, handing me a rose, which I tried to not take, but it was basically forced on me, and then he started asking us questions and as we answered, he handed me two more roses and then asked a few more questions and then asked for money. We also went to the Rialto Bridge, which is another tourist spot, and more men tried to give us roses, but we learned our lesson and very clearly said no. The Rialto is also where a lot of people take their pictures of the Grand Canal and there are a lot of little shops and food vendors and things along the way.

Our second day in Venice we stayed in our airbnb, which actually worked out well because I was able to sort out all of the check-in and baggage for our future flights, and Henry was able to get some work done. And hey, the Italian countryside is not the worst place to just spend a day in bed on a computer. As I mentioned, our airbnb host drove us to the bus station and dropped us off, we were taking a [9 hour] bus from Venice to Vienna. When we got there, our bus wasn’t listed, so we asked someone working there, and got a difficult and condescending answer about where to go, which was a bus stop down the street. As it turned out, there were three bus stops down the street, so we spent a bunch of time waiting between them for our bus, and after thinking one bus was ours when it wasn’t, we did eventually get on the right one. It turned out to be 10 hours because there was traffic in Slovenia, and we also watched a guy get taken off the bus at the Slovenian border because he didn’t have the proper documents. So it was yet another imperfect travel experience, but we did make it to Vienna.

Epilogue Part 1: More England (Wells)

It’s taken me quite a bit of time, but after feeling settled back into my routine and stuff, I’m finally getting around to making a post for each of the places I traveled once the program with ASE finished.

My boyfriend, Henry, arrived on the day that we had to move out of our houses and we went to our airbnb in Bristol. I’ve been to Bristol a couple times, but never to the part we were staying in, which didn’t seem to be the best neighborhood. We also never actually met our airbnb hosts, which was a little odd, but our room worked out fine.

The next day, which was the last full day I had in England, we went back to Bath in the morning to go on a tour with an ASE staff member who also is one of the Mayor’s Tour Guides. I learned a lot about Bath that I didn’t already know, and went over a couple of things that I did, but overall, it was fun, and I was glad to get the opportunity to have one last little ASE connection before leaving. After lunch in Bath, we took a bus to Wells, called the smallest town in England. Henry wanted to go to Wells because it was used as the primary filming location for the movie Hot Fuzz. It did seem pretty small, but it was very cute, and we had started watching the movie the night before, and finished it that night, so it was cool to be able to recognize places and say we’d been there. The main attraction in Wells, similar to many English towns, is the cathedral (see photo below). What is currently standing was started around 1180, so it’s all very old, and you could kind of see the places where they haven’t been able to clean and such. They also had a map of when different part of the cathedral were built, which was cool. IMG_7236.jpg

We began our journey to the airport the next day, which turned out to be more difficult than initially thought. I had bought us both train tickets from the station in Bristol to Gatwick Airport, where we were flying out of, and there were a few connections along the way. When we got to the station in Bristol, the train we were supposed to take had been delayed, but there was another that went to the place we were going that left about 3 minutes later, so we got on that one. On that train, we stopped on the tracks and sat there for a good few minutes, all the while Henry and I were watching the time to make our connecting train tick down, and by the time we arrived at the station, we had the pleasure of watching the train we were supposed to take pull away from the station, with no evident trains going where we were going for the next few hours (we got on a train that left 4 hours before our flight, supposed to get to the airport 2 hours before our flight).

At this point, I started getting really stressed and anxious because I didn’t want to have wasted money on our flight and we had no where to stay and now no certain way to get to the airport. This started a frantic search of looking at various other options of trains, buses, and ubers to try and get us to the airport. About half an hour later, we were able to get on a train that stopped where we were supposed to have our next connection and while on that train, I was able to figure out a different series of connections that would get us to the airport before our flight. This was one of the multiple times that I was very thankful to have Henry with me because I have a bit of a tendency to get very stressed when things don’t go according to plan, but he is very present and brings things into perspective for me, which is incredibly helpful. After a series of trains, we finally made it to the airport, and because of how a lot of UK airports run, our gate wasn’t even up (they usually put it up when they want you to start boarding, so 20-40 minutes before the flight) and we were able to get dinner before our flight. This began a series of unlucky incidents when we were traveling, but regardless, we were on our way to Venice.