Hello everyone! Oh my, I don’t even know where to begin. These past two and a half weeks have been so incredible, and there’s honestly not enough words to describe everything I’ve experienced. So, without making this post too long, here is a recap of my backpacking adventures!
After leaving Berlin, Alexa and I made our way to Poland. There, we had an emotionally exhausting but worthwhile time as we visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial. The weather was terrible: it was windy and hailing the entire time, but that made for a realistic experience of the atrocities that took place. We were led through the housing (if you can even call it that), the bathroom facilities, and the gas chambers. It is difficult to compose exactly what I felt walking through, but seeing the piles of shoes, luggage, and women’s hair barely scratched the surface of the suffering that the Jews and other minorities underwent. It was an experience I will never forget.
That evening we walked around the beautiful Old Town and grabbed a traditional dinner of pirogies (aka dumplings)! They are my new favorite food and I can’t wait to find a Polish restaurant at home—fingers crossed that there is one!
The next day, we went on a tour to the salt mines that have given much prosperity to Poland. It was a little scary to go 120 feet below the ground but amazing to see the conditions mine workers were subject to. The mine was also unique for its underground cathedral, which still functions today for Sunday services, weddings, and even concerts! Next, we went on a walking tour of the Jewish sector, and even passed Schindler’s factory, which the movie Schindler’s list was based on. The weather was pretty terrible the whole time we were in Poland but that didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring this amazing and historic place.
Our next stop was Prague in the Czech Republic! I truly enjoyed every city we visited, but if I’m being completely honest, I fell in love with this city. Our hostel was right in the center of the beautiful Old Town where the Easter markets were taking place. Our timing was perfect because we got to see how many of the locals spend their Easter holiday. However, we were far from being the only tourists there. I guess everyone else loves Prague as much as I did! The first day, we took a free walking tour of the Old Town and learned much about the history of the region.
Immediately after, we visited the Castle that overlooks the city. We were pretty exhausted but pushed through to embark on the famous Prague Pub Crawl that culminates with entry into the largest club in Europe (five stories)! Needless to say, it was a crazy night. Alexa and I met so many people and had such a fun time experiencing European night life. To commemorate it, we bought T-shirts that our tour company was selling. Typical tourists—I know! The next day, as you can imagine, was much less productive for the two of us. However, we still sucked it up and made it out to explore the city and enjoy the markets. It was Easter Sunday so we relaxed, enjoyed the sun, and took in the breathtaking city.
Next on our journey was Budapest, Hungary! I had been here once before with my family and remembered a little bit, but I was excited to re-explore the city. Here, we stayed at a party hostel, which, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a hostel where the staff organizes social events and excursions to clubs or pubs almost every night. I think for a weekend getaway this is a really nice atmosphere, but Alexa and I we’re starting to hit a wall. Our energy levels plummeted and being at the party hostel didn’t help. Of course, being the crazy girls we are, we still went out both nights and actually had great times! We met people from the US, Australia and Scotland and had fun visiting the famous ruin bars that Budapest is known for.
During the one day we had there, we took a walking tour of the city and got to see both the Buda and Pest sides of the city. We also walked to the castle and the famous bath houses but weren’t able to go in because we hadn’t packed our swim suits! We both agreed that we should have planned for more time in Budapest, but I think we did a great job of making the most of it.
While we were excited to head to Vienna, Austria next, our trip was a bit hampered due to us both becoming ill. I had a bad case of food poisoning and was pretty much confined to bed for a day in a half with chills and a fever. It was miserable, but I rested and drank a lot of fluids and by our last day I was feeling much better. Since we were feeling under the weather, we bought tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus the first day so that we could see the city without physically exhausting ourselves. It was probably the best decision because this way we got to see the Royal Palace, Museum grounds, and Mozart/Freud’s living quarters all without walking. We turned in early the first night in hopes of getting more done the second day.
It was great that we did because the next day we took an early morning walking tour and saw much of the city that we had missed the first day. The tour ended in the main shopping center and we grabbed a bite to eat while enjoying the warm weather. Afterwards we headed to the Stadt Park where the famous Strauss Memorial stands. It was especially exciting for me to see this statue as I have portrayed a character in it for two years in the world renowned show, Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. (Since I’m sure not all of you are familiar with the show, I encourage you to look it up… you won’t be disappointed!)
The park was absolutely beautiful and many people were picnicking and sitting out, just enjoying the sun, the nature and the artistic pieces throughout the park. To finish our day, we headed through the Naschmarkt which is a food market that has traditional Austrian food along with various ethnic choices. Although our stomachs weren’t up to trying some of the dishes, it was neat to see each stand with the workers as they bustled about trying to interest you in their food.
We finished off our trip in Nuremberg, Germany! This quaint Bavarian town was a perfect way to end our trip and we still got to see so much history. We only had one day there, so we packed everything in. We started out by visiting the Nuremberg Trials Museum and Court Room. This was definitely a highlight of our trip as neither of us were that familiar with the aftermath of Naziism in Germany and how the trials were carried out. It was especially cool to go inside the actual courtroom and feel the historical significance of the place. We followed that with a walking tour of the Old Town, which was rather disappointing. The Old Town was absolutely beautiful but our guide seemed to know very little about the area. Nevertheless, we took some great pictures and enjoyed the fresh air!
After lunch, we took the tram to the Nazi Documentation Center which was the site of many Nazi Party rallies. It was ominous to say the least. The moment you see the building, you can easily recognize the Nazi architecture with its towering, menacing presence. Once inside, we walked through the exhibition, which outlined much of WWII but emphasized the Nazi Party Rallies in all their extravagance. This museum absolutely took my breath away. Though we learned of the Nazi crimes in school, to see the political influence and support they had, was utterly terrifying. The exhibit had incredible footage of the rallies and the grounds as they were used then and today. For me, it was eye-opening and something I will remember for a long time. The exhibit ended by leading us into the main square where the rallies were held. Though it is used today as a space to store items and park cars, it was still possible to feel the devastating significance this arena held.
While we had sufficient time to explore and get to know each city, I still couldn’t help but feel like there was so much more to see in each place. From the time that my parents took me traveling as a kid, I’ve always had a love for new adventures in different cultures. Unfortunately for my wallet, this passion has increased tenfold since we embarked twenty days ago on this backpacking trip. The thing I think I’ve learned most from is not the museums and tours, but from the ability to navigate from place to place. In such small interactions, it was easiest to get a grasp of the people and it was truly a small triumph each time we made it to the right place on time. The memories I’ve made on this trip will last me a lifetime, and I hope to share what I’ve learned with my friends and family. Though I wish I could travel forever, it does feel nice to be headed home! I hope I will feel the same when it is time to return to California, though I have a feeling it’s going to be much, much harder that I expected. For now, I will continue enjoying my time and keeping you updated!
Thank you all for reading!