Easter Break Extravaganza

Are you ready to hear all about my spring break trip? I sure hope so!

In Austria, we get a two-week long Easter break. While many Austrian students stay home and work for these two weeks… the international students take adventures of a lifetime! My two-week adventure did not disappoint, but it certainly wore me out. Between the 8th and the 23rd of April, I traveled a total of 2,694 kilometers (1,674 miles) through four countries and six beautiful and unique cities.

Our first stop was Venice. I traveled there with Lauren and our friend Janine (Sie kommt aus New Jersey.) It was a 7-hour bus ride from Graz to Venice, and then a long walk to our hostel, which was on the mainland. Luckily, our hostel ran a bus service to the island several times throughout the day, so after a night of rest we hopped on the first bus to the island the next day. We were only going to spend two nights and one day in Venice, so we had to absorb as much as we could into a very short time span. Thankfully, Venice is a very walkable city, so I feel like we got everything done that we needed to do. We visited the Doges’ Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Torre dell’Orologio in St. Mark’s Square (which we stumbled upon by accident), the Rialto bridge, and several other gems of Venice. We ate gelato and cannolis and pasta. My favorite part of the day, however, was the Gondola ride. We went through the Grand Canal, as well as the smaller canals where the locals live, and our gondolier even serenaded us with his angelic voice.

Another exciting thing about Venice? It is very easy to get lost. There are so many bridges and alleyways, the whole place is just a huge maze. Thankfully it’s so small, that you can’t ever be lost for too long. Besides, getting lost in Venice is hardly an unfortunate occurrence. Of all the places I went over the break, Venice may have been the most magical.

Our friend Peyton joined us that evening in Venice, after a fairly traumatic incident in which we thought we would never see her again. It’s a long and dramatic story, so I won’t try to relate it here, but if anyone who ever reads this wants to hear the story, feel free to ask, and I would be happy to tell the tale.

Our next stop was Florence. The bus ride took about three hours, and by the time we got to our hostel on a hill that happened to be about 6 miles away from the center of the city, it was too late to go back.

The hostel in Florence was probably the coolest hostel I will ever stay in. It wasn’t party central, like some people would think an awesome hostel would be. The internet didn’t really work. It was at the top of a really steep hill, about half a mile away from the nearest bus stop, so you had to walk all the way. You had to pay 8 euro every night to eat pasta for dinner, but there usually wasn’t enough pasta to fill you up completely. And, to be quite honest, it gave me bed bugs, which I haven’t even told my mom. So, definitely not your typical “cool” hostel. But this place. This hostel? Was awesome. Because it wasn’t really intended to be a hostel…

IT WAS AN OLD MONASTERY.

IN THE MIDDLE OF TUSCANY.

WORDS CANNOT DO IT JUSTICE, so I’ll have to post pictures, but suffice it to say, it was really, really cool. Also, there was a cat who lived there named Gianna, and she took Janine and I on a proper adventure through some beautiful olive orchards to what I truly believe could be the best view of the city of Florence. I will never forget that cat and I will never forget that evening.

Back to the point of the blog, however: Florence is the place to go in Italy, and probably the whole of Europe, if you want to see art. You have to shell out a lot of money to skip the hours-long lines, but if could definitely be worth it to some people. We didn’t have that much money to spend nor time to stand around in lines, so we didn’t go to that many museums. In fact, the only museum we went to was the Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of David. I loved Florence, and I loved the Duomo and everything else that we got to see, but I feel like I just didn’t have time to see everything. One day, I’ll go back.

Peyton and Janine went back to Graz when we were done in Florence, and we met Lauren’s cousin Matt, who has been studying in Hamburg, Germany this year, in Rome.

If there is one place that I need to go back to, it is Rome. How did I develop such an intense relationship with the old city in such a brief period of time? No one could know, but Rome holds my heart all the same.

We visited countless historic sites: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, the Pantheon, the Roman forum, the Vatican, the Vatican Museums (including the amazing Sistine Chapel!) and so much more. I even thought that the underground train system in Rome was a sight to behold.

The one thing I will say about Rome, is that during the high season there are far too many tourists. I know that is very hypocritical, because I myself was a tourist, but it’s still a valid point. I know Rome will never be completely free of tourists, but the next time I go, it will be in the winter, so I can have a little more privacy while I take in the life of the city.

Our next stop was Zürich, Switzerland. Zürich is the economic capital of Switzerland… and is very, very expensive. Thankfully, we only stayed there for about 24 hours, but in that time, I still spent an ungodly amount of euros on one serving of fondue. I also bought a swiss army knife, which I am quite proud of. Immediately upon arriving to the city, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our hostel, so we decided to take a two-hour long “vintage” trolley city tour. The coach bus was no “vintage trolley,” but we still got to see everything in the city that we wanted to see.

Next on the Itinerary was Innsbruck. Now, let me preface what I’m about to say with a short summary of the weather that we had been used to in Italy: perfection. The weather in Italy was perfect. It was sunny and at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time we were there.

That all changed on the way to snowy, cold Innsbruck. But what else should we have expected? ? Innsbruck is a perfect little Austrian town settled in a valley of mountains much larger than those that surround my quaint, but still just as lovely, Graz. Every angle of the Altstadt of Innsbruck was picturesque. The snow-capped mountains in the background everywhere you look makes it feel like a beautiful dreamland. Even though I didn’t have the proper clothing to handle the snow and cold in Innsbruck, I loved our time there dearly. Matt had to make his way back home to Hamburg when we left Innsbruck, but we still had one last stop.

Munich, Germany. Is it sad that I’ve already been here almost 3 months and this was my first time in Germany? Hey, at least I finally made it!

I am really glad that Munich was our last stop, because it is a really great city, and I would love to go again. I’m not sure if I was just really digging the culture of Munich or the culture of Germany, but either way, like I said, I was diggin’ it.

The Englischer Garten of Munich is an ENORMOUS and wonderful park that runs about 2 or 3 miles through the city of Munich. There are lovely wooded walking paths, horse riding trails, ponds, a river, and huge open fields. There is also a Biergarten, where we may or may not have forgotten to return our glasses and pfands. We saw the Glockenspiel and Marienplatz in the Altstadt, as well as the Hofbräuhaus, where we gorged ourselves on German beer and food.

We also a day paying our respects to victims of WWII at the memorial and site of the Dachau concentration camp. We felt it was an important site to visit, and wanted to reflect on something profound before we headed home for the end of our long adventure.

So, that was it. It was the most eventful 16-day period of my life.

Along the way, I gained much more than a few trinkets. I feel like I lived an entire lifetime in those 16 days. Acquainting oneself with new people, places, cultures and beliefs is something that cannot be overpriced or undersold. The knowledge gained from travel is immeasurable.

And with that brief note, I am off to sleep, to adventure another day.

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