I went travelling in my first year of university: here’s what I learnt part 2

If you didn’t figure it out by the title this is the second in a two part series. Please make sure to read part 1 to this post beforehand if you want to read about the start of my adventures and my experiences in Paris and Amsterdam. Alternatively, if you’re only interested in hearing about Rome, Berlin and Zurich then you should be able to follow this post with not too many problems.

My most distinct memory of Rome was that it was hot. Also, the driving of everyone there made me fear for my life. At the airport I arrived at it was about an hours drive into the city from what I remember, which was actually quite nice as it meant I got to see a bit more of Italy than what I might have done. However, I just had to not pay too much attention to the other cars (in fairness to the coach driver from what I remember his driving wasn’t too bad). After arriving I spent about an hour in the heat (I am a very pale, freckled person so this didn’t go well) trying to find my hostel, despite it only being about 5 minutes from where I was dropped off. There definitely need to be a more distinct sign for the hostel to say the least – no one I asked seemed to know where it was either. At one point I fully just gave up and bought a giant bottle of water and sat with that thinking about what to do.

Part of me however kind of wish I hadn’t found it. It was a strange place to say the least. The different rooms (which, were gender split) were split only be a curtain. I don’t care about this in terms of gender but it meant that if one room was still talking the other was still disturbed. It was also boiling. I remember there being little to no air conditioning. Generally, the entire vibe of the hostel was just a little off and I was glad I was only staying there for one night until my mum arrived (as I was then moving into a hotel with her).

After picking up my mum from the airport (on my birthday) and settling into the simple, but much more safe feeling hotel; my mum and I decided to explore Rome a bit more. I had explored a little the night before but had left the majority of my sightseeing for when my mum arrived.

Despite, having gone on the tour bus the day before (I mentioned in my last post how I like to do this when possible to get the lay of a city); my mum made me go on it again as our way of getting around. The most memorable places we visited had to be the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain though I was disappointed that it was closed so we kind of had to throw a coin in from afar (therefore running my Lizzie McGuire movie moment). We also went to Vatican City because we wanted to see the Sistine Chapel but the tour guides there told us to visit there we had to visit the Museum and St Peters Basilica as well. I wouldn’t have minded this but that would cost 50 euros each, which we didn’t have budget for! We’d prioritised the Sistine Chapel because me and my mum had really wanted to see Michelangelo’s infamous artwork in person. In the end we didn’t end up seeing anything, which is probably one of my biggest regrets of the trip! I definitely plan to visit Rome in the future again to rectify this.

Food wise unfortunately the one time we had a proper sit down meal I wasn’t that impressed with the pizza (I think we made the mistake of going to a tourist trap!) but I loved all the fresh fruit that was available. I also had some amazing strawberry gelato near where we stayed and we also went to the magnum shop where you can make a customisable ice cream, which was super fun and delicious (and I think was one of my mum’s highlights).

Another thing to note as well in Rome is that when I was in a church there (I’m pretty sure it was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore); I was wearing a strappy top because of the heat and was asked to cover up with a shawl, which they provided. I’ll be honest the feeling was strange but I respected the wishes of the church as I was a visitor and complied. I just wanted to flag to people who present as female that may be asked to do this.

After Rome I said goodbye to my mum and headed to Berlin. I was lucky there that on my first day I met a friend who visited some of the attractions with me. Not only did we explore the artwork on the Berlin Wall, which was one of my favourite things to visit in Berlin because of the inventive ways artists used the wall for social commentary but also because of how something they transformed something that tore a city apart. We also visited several of the museums that explained more about the history of the wall. As I’d studied the wall partly during my A levels the history fanatic of me loved this part of the trip. Food wise I didn’t have a ton of luck from what I remember this day as the restaurant we visited didn’t really have a vegetarian option! However, I did have a beer, which was a mistake because we then went up the Berlin TV tower Fernsehturm, which if I remember correctly has one of (if not) the fastest elevator in Europe. I probably should have listened when my server asked if I was sure if I wanted a beer without any food!

I did have some pictures of this day and the tower but they sadly as far as I can see have been lost! I remember distinctively though wearing my Nishe navy dress, which I’d worn my first time at a nightclub at University (and was probably my fanciest dress at the time).

There was though some really nice food options in Berlin. Walking around the main tourist bits without looking up where to eat I did struggle a little to find meat free options that weren’t sweet. However, near where my hostel was a small Turkish takeaway that served me the best falafel wrap I’ve ever eaten. I’ve actually had Turkish food in Germany since then and seriously its so nice there! I also enjoyed devouring all the bread I could find, specifically the Bretzels. I did also keep eyeing this cheesecake in the local supermarket to me but never bought it because I’d have to ask at the counter and was scared about my pronunciation – this is something I really regret. You can only improve by trying and if you don’t try you might miss out on some great experiences. I also didn’t realise when I went how many vegan places there are in Berlin (though not sure if this was as much the case then though I did spot one vegan place that served ice cream).

Also, I had my hostel room to myself for pretty much the whole trip because no one else stayed there while I was there. Before, I forget I wanted to mention for those new to hostels, please make sure you read all their terms and conditions as some hotels charge a little more for the bedding/ towels (I took a towel with me on the trip but only took a small suitcase so couldn’t take anymore) so this may increase the price of your trip. Some places also charge a tourist tax (usually a few euros a day) – this only happened in Italy for me however. Some hostels as well like to hold onto a piece of ID for insurance or a security deposit so keep this in mind too!

Other highlights for me included visiting Charlottenburg palace, which was a little surreal compared to parts of Berlin I walked through. It was beautiful though and I loved walking around the grounds – I regretted not bringing my running gear as it would have been a lovely run. Also, this trip reminded me that a lot of public toilets in Europe charge (at least in the big cities) or have a toilet attendant where it is good practice to leave a small tip. So try to make sure you keep a bit of change with you as it can be a difficult otherwise when you’re out all day. In Amsterdam I was able to go to a toilet in a cafe for free when I was really desperate but please be aware!

After Berlin was onto Switzerland and Zurich (which, is on the side closer to Germany of Switzerland, however, the German spoken there is a strange mixture of German and French so if you understand a little of both you can piece it together). Zurich was one of my favourites to visit simply because I loved hiking up Uetilburg. This was despite not having the right shoes or clothes. I saw some people run up and it was steep enough that I thought they were insane.

Zurich

The air was just so fresh and the water from the water pumps, which I used to refill my water bottle, was amazing. I hiked to the top and also visited the restaurant at the top there and had so very expensive chips but I had to eat because I was starving from the walk and had only brought some snacks so it was worth it in the end. At the top you can climb up a tower where you can look at the view (there were love locks there too- see my previous blog post, ha, ha). It was bit windy so it was a little terrifying but breath taking.

I decided to walk past this point and down to the fields past the top. Despite, getting throughly lost and it starting to get late in the day I loved the experience. Probably because I managed to find my way back in the end by looking for the tower and literally walking towards it.

Zurich itself also has some beautiful sites and I’d definitely recommend walking around the city (it’s very small so very achievable). However, a lot of what I noticed was very expensive shops so this is definitely a place for if you have some money spare! I didn’t try fondue because fondue for one felt a little lonely (don’t be me if you go though eat your fondue for one!) but I did consume a lot of Lindt because it was relatively cheap and there was so much of it (Lindt is probably my favourite chocolate)!

Another thing I found strange was how giving change for large notes was expected there. I actually had asked the people at the hostel if they could change a note and they said not to worry about it as the people in the local shops would have no issue changing it.

I also visited Rhein Falls, which is a short train journey away on my last day and I wish I’d had the time to visit the other side of the waterfall. I had some great photographs from this, which are sadly lost and it was so beautiful. I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to stand on the plinth in the middle of the waterfall and had it past me (as I can’t swim) but I would have loved to have spent the day there).

So, that was my trip to Europe. It was short and sweet but made me feel like a world traveller and ignited my passion for travelling to new places. I would say overall what I learnt from the trip was simply just do it! Don’t be afraid to pronounce things. Don’t let silly reasons get in the way of you trying things. You may never visit somewhere again so make sure you have that experience. I managed to go see lots of things on my bucket list but there were still lots of places or things I regretted not doing. The only things I honestly regretted not buying wasn’t things but experiences!

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

-Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

 

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