Bridges and (Un?)bearable Heat

After about a week of solid sweating, I was heading into a few of the hottest days so there wasn’t going to be any relief. I went through almost an entire 1.5L water bottle by the time I got to the bus in Verona and it was only getting warmer. My 11 am bus got there about 15 minutes late and it was already in the high 90s by then. Italy, you’re beautiful, but man it is hot in August!

I was very excited to be going to Florence next because I know so many people who went there, studied there, and basically just adored the city. It was going to be the hottest city so far but I still had high hopes. (Keep in mind I was thinking this on an air conditioned bus!)

It took a few hours to get there but once I did, I was actually a little relieved to be getting off the bus. I have never been someone who gets travel sick before, but now, every time I get on a bus that lasts more than an hour, I start not feeling well. The hot breeze was better than sitting on the bus at this point. I quickly bought yet another 1.5L water bottle (and silently cursed myself for not bringing a refillable water bottle) and made my way to the next hostel. Turns out this one had air conditioning, but for some reason, it wasn’t very cold. I still had to sleep with no sheets on at night, but it was at least shady on that side of the building. The street we were on had TONS of restaurants and it smelled amazing when I was getting there around dinner time, and since I was feeling a little better with the heat, I went in search of an air conditioned restaurant.

I will definitely be going back to Italy at some point in my life because I am pretty sure I hardly ate anything but gelato. The first night in Florence I got some spaghetti, but other than that, it was too hot. I sacrificed for the coffee there because if any of you know me, you know that I cannot live without it. It was just too hot to really eat anything warm so I went for a sweet, cold treat instead of a substantial meal most nights. Definitely a cheaper option in the short term, but considering how many times I actually got a gelato throughout the day, it probably was pretty even.

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I woke up fairly early on the full day I had in Florence mainly because of the heat, but I took advantage of it and went out for the day. There was a lot to see and the sooner I got out, the sooner I could get out of the heat. I had this idea in my head that Florence was this major city and it was pretty big so it would be difficult to walk (literally on my mind 24/7 with this stupid ankle) but it was actually really easy to walk around. The river wasn’t too far from my hostel and the way back presented me with some pretty awe-inspiring things to see.

The river was calm and serene, even though there was a line for about a mile to get into a museum running along it. The markets weren’t all open yet because of how early it was, but it was nice. Italy is such a busy place in the summer and being able to see it in a moment of calm was lucky. I walked along and saw the famous bridges of Florence all perfectly reflected in the smooth waters below.

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I could hear bells in the distance, but I couldn’t figure out how far the Duomo was and just how many churches there were in Florence. If you ever go to Italy, be prepared for a LOT of churches. I started my walk away from the river and found a bustling square with all kind of art around it. I had a look around and noticed some very familiar sights! I made my way to a side street (in search of gelato of course) and walked into the Duomo. This is such a habit of mine. I start looking for something to eat or drink and instead I find the most beautiful, historical places. I really need to pay more attention!

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The Duomo is gorgeous. It looks like it isn’t a real building and looks like a paper cutout. I sat there and wrote a postcard to a friend and just kept looking up at it. I couldn’t believe I was actually there and seeing the thing that my friends had all talked about. I sat there longer and enjoyed a cappuccino or two while the bells tolled and people from all over the world flocked to see it. It really is nice to just sit somewhere and appreciate something like that, even if it is 105 degrees outside.

Naturally, I went off in search of some more gelato and found a place that made the most beautiful gelato cone I had encountered thus far. I would have been fine with just a big scoop on a cone, but of course, this is Italy, so it’s artistic and beautiful food.

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By this time it was mid-afternoon and I was pretty warm and ready to take a shower and cool off back at the hostel. I stopped for a spritz drink (excellent recommendation!!) and settled in for the night. It’s funny how traveling through this heat makes you so tired. I probably could have fallen asleep at 7:00 pm but I made sure I stayed up late enough where I wouldn’t wake up at some ungodly hour of the morning.

But since Murphy’s law follows me, I woke up at 5:30 am and was ready to go since it was already so hot! I do think Florence was my favorite place in Italy, though, and I think that no matter what the weather is like, I will definitely be back.

A Merchant And Two Gentlemen Walk Into A Bar…

I took an early morning ferry out to Venice from Pula. It was fine all the way there and I got to sleep most of the way too. It was already fairly warm when I left Pula, but when I got to Venice I felt like I was walking into a sauna. I wasn’t sure how long I could handle the heat. I then had to go through immigration and find the water bus. Instead of buses or a subway, they have boats in Venice that are jam packed with people at all times. I had to go to the other side of Venice to get to where my hostel was. I finally got there in the middle of the afternoon and was very ready for some gelato and lunch.

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I really should have called this my trip through every flavor of gelato. It was too hot to eat anything else! Venice is a city that I’ve always wanted to go to. I heard a few years ago it was sinking and the realization that it wouldn’t be there forever made me immediately need to go there. It was hot and the canals smell a little odd, but it is beautiful. There is so much to see in Venice and it’s also really easy to walk around. I was looking for a free tour but I made a decision to just wander by myself. That way I could get up early and take the water bus to the touristy area of Venice. It got hot pretty early, but it was at least bearable and not up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit yet.

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I walked around and saw some of the picture perfect areas. I wound up walking through some of the nicest shopping streets as well, finding my way to Ponte Rialto, then all the way back to the hostel. It probably took less time to walk there than it did to take the water bus.

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Something really interesting was that I never saw a car until I was leaving. Everyone uses boats. Even ambulances are speed boats. It was a weird concept to get used to but it makes sense. Everywhere is within a few feet of a canal. I really liked Venice, but when 2pm hit, it was too hot to be outside anymore. I got a gelato (again) and went back to the hostel and took a nap. The only problem was that there wasn’t air conditioning there. It was still really hot in the room so napping wasn’t going to happen. I decided to sit in the air conditioned bar with a glass of Prosecco and read.

I wandered out to get dinner eventually and decided I needed to try a real Italian pizza. I wasn’t a huge fan. BUT I found out later that each area of Italy is known for a type of Italian food and Naples is actually known for pizza. Lucky for me that was where I would eventually end up!!

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The next day I had a fairly early start trying to beat the heat and make it to the bus station. I was revisiting the stories of Shakespeare as I prepared to head to Verona. It wasn’t very far from Venice, actually. It was going to be even hotter in Verona, but it was going to be really cool to go to a place where one of the greatest writers places his plays. It was also pretty nice to be in the air conditioning in the bus before walking through the heat.

It was actually more like Arizona heat. It was warm, but the heat didn’t completely overpower you. It wasn’t too bad to walk over to the hostel. Unfortunately, this one didn’t have air conditioning either. It must not be very common in Italy yet. But I did have a roommate from Canada who was nice enough to show me around Verona a little bit. We didn’t do the touristy stuff as I was going to get up early and do that the next day when there were fewer tourists and it wasn’t as hot. Of course, we got gelato and wandered around before we found the next gelato shop.

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The next morning I woke up and immediately went to the main square. It was early enough for some of the street vendors to be out selling some things, but most were just opening their shops. Verona is a relatively quiet place. It wasn’t riddled with tourists like Rome, but it was refreshingly quiet. It was nice to wake up early and go walk around a new place without having to fight through tour groups.

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One of the most popular places was Juliet’s house. You really can write Juliet a letter like in the movie and there are people who write back! It is a fun little touristy thing to do so when in Rome, right?

All in all, I loved Verona. It was much calmer than Venice and had just as much history and beautiful places. Most importantly, they have gelato shops on every corner! Next up…FIRENZE!!

Buda – Pula

Well, I’m officially too far behind so I’m going to crank these out while I have some time.

The next stop was Budapest. I actually loved Budapest and I wished I could have stayed longer! I got there and was immediately hot since it was on the warmer side. I got there relatively late in the day too so I only went out for dinner that first night. Nothing too crazy. However, there was a swimming championship meet happening in Budapest when I was there and much to my delight, it was on every television.

I took a free tour the next day after a chill night in, which many of my nights seem to be nowadays. Free tours are always my favorite. This time, my tour guide was a very small lady and I would have lost her so many times in the crowds if it weren’t for the booming voice that didn’t match her stature. We started in a small square that wasn’t too far from my hostel. We then walked down to the river where you can see the Buda side of the city since we were on the Pest side.

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We then walked back to go around the Pest side. What I liked about this tour was that they told us the in’s and out’s of Budapest from what to order at a restaurant to what currency exchange offices to avoid. It was a lot of information and a LOT of walking. My ankle was screaming in pain by the end of it. We ended our tour on the Buda side after going up way too many steps.

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Budapest was really cool. I think the whole vibe of the city was much more chill than other places I had been. It was also pretty cheap which was a huge plus for the budget traveler! I will definitely be going back to Budapest, but the only problem is..which side do I stay on??

The next morning I woke up already running late. I had an hour to cheap out and get to the bus station from my hostel. I was attempting to run, but I couldn’t with my ankle, as fast as I could to get to my 8am bus so I could get to Croatia on time. I was praying the entire subway ride, shedding a few tears, and getting increasingly more panicked the closer it got to 8am. Spoiler: I made it with 8 whole minutes to spare. Thank god too because I wouldn’t have made it to Pula without that first bus.

I had a half an hour transfer time in Zagreb and finally got on the bus to Pula. It was hot in Croatia so I was sweating a ton, but then was freezing on the bus. I eventually left my towel I was using as a blanket on said bus. Great. I got to Pula at about 6pm on a Sunday but was lucky enough to find a pizza place that was open still. Pizza in Croatia is shockingly amazing. Who knew it was so good there?

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I only went to the beach in Pula, but oh my god did I love it! I will definitely be going back to Croatia. I think it is also extremely important to go on a vacation like this though. I’ve been traveling so much and going non-stop that it was nice to take a day and just relax by the sea where the water is clearer than anywhere I’ve ever seen.

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Wienerschnitzel For All!

My bus ride to Vienna wasn’t too bad. Maybe I was getting used to this? Probably not, but I’ll keep telling myself that! It was still a bit on the cloudy and rainy side in Vienna, but I still wasn’t mad. I knew that I had a hot couple of weeks coming up in Croatia and Italy so I threw my leggings on and trekked down to Austria.

Like I mentioned in my Prague post, I booked myself a hotel for one night instead of spending a night in Bratislava. I think that I bit off more than I could chew with all that. I needed a good night’s sleep and a good shower; both things that you take for granted until it’s hard to come by. Hostels are a great way to see Europe on a budget, don’t get me wrong, but they come with some sacrifices. You can splurge and get a private room for yourself, or you can go for a dorm which is usually better to meet people. Dorms can be really loud though and you can sometimes come across some, for lack of a more precise word, unique people. My sleep hasn’t been very good since I’m usually awake until the early hours of the night with the people in my room who refuse to turn lights off, or the noise coming from the street or the bar downstairs, and sometimes even the heat. Then I wake up when the first person is rushing around trying to pack their stuff up to get to their flight or bus or train. I was craving a solid 8 hours of sleep. After weighing the different options, I cancelled my bus to Bratislava and the hostel there and opted for a relatively cheap hotel two blocks from my hostel in Vienna. That way, I could leave the next day at checkout and easily walk to where I had to go. It was so nice to have a good shower and a room all to myself. There was a fan in the room that I didn’t have to share with anyone else and I could sleep in a bed bigger than a twin. My first day in Vienna was not that thrilling because I spent the day relaxing and enjoying some decent wifi and binged on Netflix laying in bed.

I woke up the next day feeling refreshed since I slept for probably a total of 12 hours in the time I spent at the hotel. I wandered over to my hostel where I could (finally) do some laundry to prepare for the next chunk of my journey. I had stayed at this chain of hostels before and I honestly love them. The Wombats hostels are so nice and have a really great sense of community. I’ve had a really hard time getting to know and even talking to fellow travelers but these hostels have been the ones where I meet people. My first night in the hostel, they had a comedy night in their bar so I went down on my own to have a couple Austrian beers and hopefully meet some people. I ended up chatting with an Australian guy who was also traveling on his own and later a girl I recognized from my dorm room. Both had mentioned they were going to take the free walking tour in the morning which I was also planning on taking so it was already looking up.

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The next morning, I was ready for the walking tour, but once again it wasn’t too warm. I was really grateful I did laundry and had a clean pair of leggings I could wear because I’m pretty sure I would have frozen if I wore shorts. Our tour guide was hilarious. He made lots of puns and “dad jokes” which is exactly my brand of humor. He was fantastic and he knew so much about Vienna. Humor and history…should be my elevator pitch if someone if trying to get to know me!

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We walked quite a ways through Vienna but it turns out, the city itself isn’t that big. I thought we were really far away from the Danube, but it was only about ten to fifteen minutes walking from the Danube to Naschmarkt. My new Australian friend and I went to walk down by the Danube since that is where all the street art was and we were not disappointed. After a brief stop for some Bratwurst, we walked along the banks admiring all the art. Vienna itself doesn’t have a ton of street art and it has been contained along the banks of the river. It’s very colorful and even has some other types of art as well. We walked and talked for a while before turning back and heading back toward Naschmarkt.

After a tiny siesta and a delicious dinner of Wienerschnitzel and Austrian beer, we met up with our other new friend from London and hung out at the bar at the hostel. Cheap drink prices are definitely a way to keep people. I can honestly say that one of the best times I had was in Vienna because I finally got to meet people and not feel like I was completely alone. Vienna itself is gorgeous, but I think what made it great for me was finally not feeling completely alone.

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Czech It Out!

Prague had some pretty crappy weather, but honestly, I wasn’t too bothered by it because I had been overheating in the other cities and I knew it was going to be warm from then on. The rain and cooler temperatures were very welcome in my book. I was able to stay at a hostel that was very close to Prague Square. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because you are so close to everything like shops, restaurants, and any touristy activities too. Curse because the party never ends in Prague so sleeping can be a challenge. A good set of ear plugs will do the trick, though.

I got to the hostel right around dinner time and I was starving after my bus ride from Munich that was late, plus taking the subway in Prague with a whole new currency and language I didn’t remotely understand. All the stress made me extremely hungry, but luckily there was a restaurant right next to the hostel that I could smell from my window, and man it smelled good.

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I got myself a Czech beer and a burger with fries, but before you say anything, hear me out. I get it, a burger with fries is a totally American dish, but I’ve been touring around trying food that is native to each country and place I’ve been and too be honest, a lot of it is very rich. I was hungry but I didn’t want to be uncomfortably full. I saved the goulash for another time and got the burger with no regrets. And hey, it was fantastic.

I spent a couple hours drinking the beer and people watching before finally going upstairs. Traveling itself takes a lot out of you even if you don’t really have to do any of the work. I am constantly exhausted after a day of traveling no matter how long or short it is. Plus, the earlier I go to bed, the earlier I wake up the next day to explore the city.

However, the rain didn’t let up until about 1pm so I stayed in until it slowed down a little bit. Once it cleared up a little bit, I went out toe the Square to look for a free tour of the city. Of course, there were plenty of them so I picked the closest one and went for it. My tour guide was from Slovakia and did an impeccable reenactment of the Astronomical Clock’s hourly “show”.

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About half way through the tour, it started raining again. Most people in my group used rain coats but more people on the street were using umbrellas and since my tour guide was very short, we started losing her in the crowds. Every time we eventually found her but there was a small group of us who always ended up at the back of the group and nearly got lost every single time. The tour did have a lost of very useful information and she also told us about some of the best cuisine.

 

Dinner that night consisted of her recommendations of goulash, Czech beer and a chimney cake with ice cream. I was uncomfortably full but it was totally worth it since everything was so good! This night at the hostel, however, wasn’t that great. My bus wasn’t super early the next day, but early enough where I felt like 11:30pm was a decent time to go to bed. The rest of my room didn’t agree apparently. Most of the people were nice and respectful about how late it was and that there were people sleeping. But another group came in at 3am and turned on all the lights and decided they would take showers before passing out and discussed it rather loudly. If you ever stay in a hostel, even a party hostel, DO NOT DO THIS! You will become the most hated person easily. I simply told them to turn the lights out and be quiet because it was 3am. Someone else in my room decided to throw some choice words at them and his pillow. Clearly I was the most sober one.

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Prague was cool. I could have spent a little while longer there but I feel like I got to see a lot of the city in the short time I had there. The traveling is exhausting so when I get to a new city I have to talk myself into going places instead of having a easy relaxing day. But, as I was coming up on half way through my trip and I hadn’t had my own room since Scotland, I decided to skip my one night stay in Bratislava and stay in Vienna an extra night at a hotel. Sometimes, it’s necessary to splurge a little bit just so you can get a full nights sleep and a good shower.