Walking Through the Weekend: Interlaken, Switzerland

MY GOAL HAS BEEN MET!!! #20under20 is now complete and I couldn’t have asked for a better country to reach it!!! I spent the weekend in Interlaken, but I also went to Bern and Murren. I had an amazing tim, surrounded by such beautiful nature. Interlaken is in the best location, in the middle of two lakes, and just a short train ride from many cities in Switzerland.

A couple things I did in Switzerland include:

  1. Swiss chocolate making
  2. A day trip to Bern, roaming the streets
  3. Paragliding (so fun)
  4. A gondola ride to Murren, playing in the snow
  5. Walked along the lake to find incredibly blue water

I fell in love with Switzerland. The snow at the top of the mountains is so fun and I wish I went when there was more snowfall so that I could go snowboarding or something. I really want to come back in summer as well to do all the fun summer activities.

Tips for the Trip: Bring an empty water bottle because they have water fountains all over that have fresh water!

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Walking Through the Weekend: Oslo, Norway

The 19th country on my way to #20under20 was Norway, and what a beautiful country it is. If you ever need to fly to Norway, I highly recommend Norwegian Airlines. They have great customer service, free wifi, and monitors that offer some light hearted entertainment. The whole purpose of my trip there was to visit my friend Bella who moved there earlier this year.

The first night was very chill and we stayed in a quaint Airbnb, just big enough for four people. We hung out at a coffee shop down the street from our place and ogled over the stores on our way. The next day it started snowing. Now, I’ve been to the snow before, but I’ve never seen actual snowfall so I was smiling from ear to ear looking like a fool.

I really didn’t do much this weekend besides have a girls weekend with my friend. This included: junk food, watching the Great Gatsby, and staying up until 3am talking about life. The next morning she made us breakfast, eggs and coffee, while we watched endless episodes of America’s Next Top Model while the snow floated down outside. After that, I got a personal tour of the city and her university. I learned about the Oslo lifestyle, the government, and the cool places in the city.

I really enjoyed seeing my friend and being shown around rather than trying to find things on my own. The city itself is really clean and the people are friendly. The snow made it so much more magical and it only makes me want to travel all over the country.

Tips for the Trip: Everything is very expensive, and everywhere takes credit card so try to use it if you can. Oh! and all the stores close pretty early, around 6pm so do all your shopping early!

Walking Through the Weekend: Rome, Italy

 

It was hot, then it was rainy, and it was all fantastic. Italy was the 18th country on my journey to #20under20. I had been wanting to go to Italy probably more than any other country during my study abroad. I actually almost chose it as my study abroad location. Rome is full of some of the richest history in the world and I felt like everything I ever learned in school or music related back to this very city. Not only did I experience the most flavorful foods for every meal, I was able to enjoy it with my family who came to visit me while abroad.

My mom, dad, younger brother, and I checked into the hotel and were ready to start the week off right by getting an Italian dinner. Before I get to the things to do in these countries, I first would like to share some special moments. Being a tourist in Rome, you get hustled around every street, and people try to hustle you by speaking in what they think is your native language. We were spoken to in English, Spanish, and Italian and I died of laughter as my father struggled to respond to the people in the language he thought best. He knows English and Spanish but a look of panic would  come across his face as he worked out in his mind which language to respond in. Luckily, that was the extent of our troubles, I mean besides getting lost in the streets and having all of our phones die. That was also rough.

Now for the good stuff: the things to do in Rome

  1. Colosseum
  2. The Roman Forum/Palatine Hill
  3. Guided bus tour (they’re actually super helpful)
  4. The Pantheon
  5. Trevi Fountain
  6. The Mouth of Truth
  7. Spanish Steps
  8. The Vatican (all of it)
  9. St. Peter’s Basilica
  10. THE FOOD (it’s hard to go wrong)

All of these places are really amazing and take a while to see because Rome is quite big. Honestly with the food, there are hundreds of restaurants and they are very good so don’t be too worried about a bad meal. I also recommend watching the following movies before going.

  1. Roman Holiday
  2. When in Rome
  3. The Lizzie Mcguire Movie

These movies inspired my desired destinations and it’s super fun to find the scenes in person. I loved traveling Rome with my family and I will have memories that last a lifetime!

Tips for the Trip: Use the metro because it’s cheaper and easier than using a taxi or Uber. Rome traffic is crazy and it’s so much better to use public transportation, but it will be extremely crowded so be aware!

Walking Through the Weekend: Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Netherlands is the 17th country I’ve visited on my quest to #20under20. I stayed in a hostel in the Red Light District (so scandalous!) in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. I completely fell in love with this city because of its well-natured people, beautiful parks, and endless fun. Instead of giving you a play-by-play, I’ve decided just to have a list of everything I saw and the things I recommend you see too!

  1. Find any place to eat a Dutch pancake. They are giant and delicious.
  2. Tour the Amsterdam Canals, they’re hard to miss.
  3. Dam Square, there was a very fun carnival with amazing food.
  4. Anne Frank House
  5. I Amsterdam Sign
  6. Vincent Van Gogh Museum
  7. Blushing, a really cute and healthy cafe filled with great food.
  8. Vondelpark, absolutely beautiful
  9. Dutch apple pie; if you look for it, you’ll find it
  10. And of course, The Red Light District

I had a great weekend with two of my friends that go to my university. I recommend visiting all of these places in Amsterdam as well as trying the food. If you are a bike rider, it is one of the most bike-friendly cities I have ever been to. Don’t be afraid to get lost in this city, it’s not too big and everywhere is beautiful so you won’t be disappointed.

Tips for the Trip: Do not take an Uber on Sunday mornings because they charge a surge price which can triple the original cost of your ride. Sometimes a taxi is cheaper!

Walking Through the Weekend: Krakow, Poland

Poland marks the 16th country on my journey to #20under20. Poland has such a rich culture and history that makes it a fantastic destination for the whole family. It was cold and slightly windy with spots of rain throughout the weekend, but it was all worth it for the amazing tours we took around the city.

Poland has been through a lot historically and it was so enriching learning about their battles throughout the centuries. It has strong connections with WWII and a lot of places to visit with regards to that. The first day we were there, my study abroad program organized the trip to show us these places. We went to the Jewish Ghettos, visited scenes from the movie Schindler’s List, and most importantly, the booming city that has grown from its past. The area is flourishing with street art and some that pay homage to the people who were forced into the Ghettos during the war. After the tour, we headed back to the Main Square and explored the downtown. I naturally headed to Zara and blew through my money. We walked around a corner and stumbled upon a beautiful market that had all hand made goods, including delicious chocolate covered fruits. I had the apple covered in milk chocolate and I can honestly say it was life changing.

At night, Krakow truly comes to life. Everyone is still out and about, going to dinner or out for a drink. I had some great dinners while in Poland. Polish food is pretty good and so is their American food. I had the best burger I’ve ever eaten while I was there. They are the home of the pierogi and a diet that consists heavily of potatoes in various forms. The potatoes were definitely my favorite.

The next day we visited Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Burkenau and the experience was truly indescribable. Out of respect, I will not be writing about my experience there. I will say that there is a memorial built in the Death Camp, and it is a warning to all of humanity, written in twenty different languages, that the events of this time are not just in our past and have the possibility of happening again.

Krakow was truly an incredible place, full of life and history. I would love to go back to Poland and explore some of the other great cities over there. It is absolutely a trip I will never forget and that I will hold close to my heart forever. I will pass on the lessons I’ve learned there to the world in hopes that we can create a better today and a brighter tomorrow.

Tips for the Trip: If you are ever in Poland, I recommend visiting the Death Camps and pay respects to the men, women, and children who suffered senselessly during that time. It is a powerful experience that all of humanity should have.

Walking Through the Weekend: London, UK

After an already fabulous weekend in Ireland, we finished it off in London. I was more than excited to spend a day in one of my favorite cities. It was a different experience traveling to the city again as an adult and without my parents. One of the main differences I noticed was how big the city actually is. When I went with my parents, my dad drove us or guided us along the tube. Now, my friends and I had to navigate the Underground and use our own money to pay for the Uber (sheds tear).

On this brisk day, we headed over to King’s Cross Station to catch the train to Hogwarts, making my dreams come true. I waited in line for roughly 30 min and it was totally worth it. After you pass through the wall you end up on the platform which of course is the gift shop. I bought myself some stickers, a postcard, and my house tie #ravenclaw. We headed over to Oxford Street to do some retail therapy in order to recover from a magnificent experience. I was introduced to a gem of a store called Primark. They have the cutest clothes and even better prices. At around 2pm we had a reservation for High Tea at Browns. I, naturally, ordered food instead of tea which turned out to be a bad decision since I chipped my back tooth and now have to go to the dentist in Prague. I will let you know how that goes when the time comes. Tea, on the other hand, was fancy for those who participated in it. After my mini catastrophe, we headed over to Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, the iconic telephone booths, and Buckingham Palace. On the way to our last destination, it started pouring rain so we decided to get some dinner at a Chinese restaurant (good decision).

Besides having a great day in the city that I love, I also met some of the most incredible people. We stayed with one of our friends in her flat, and not only was she an amazing host, but her roommates and their friends were equally as great. The flat was very diverse with people from all over the world. One guy I met spoke six languages fluently (that we know of) which absolutely blew my mind. Another left home barely speaking any English with plans to continue to travel to countries in Asia. I met girls from Italy who came to hang out and made dinner for everyone even though they barely knew the people they were cooking for. Not only that, I also met girls from my own university who are studying abroad there. They were so generous and spent the day showing us around and really making me feel welcome around them.

The London experience is something everyone should have. It is easily one of my favorite destinations that holds a special place in my heart. I have plans to return for many reasons, the main one being to finish all the Harry Potter attractions like the studio tour. The diversity that runs through the city is breathtaking and eye opening, making me realize that there is so much more out there than what I’ve experienced. More specifically, I realize that, as a personal goal, I need to learn another language. I have one memory that really enforced the fact: I was playing a card game with a guy from Russia, a guy from France, and a girl from Spain. The guy from France didn’t really speak English and was trying to explain the rules of the game, the girl from Spain didn’t really speak anything other than Spanish, and I didn’t really speak anything other than English. The guy from Russia (6 language guy) would listen to the explanation in French, and translate it to English and then to Spanish. It made me realize that just like me, other people don’t know other languages other than their own and it makes communication a lot easier when you know more than one. London is great and so are its people.

Tips for the Trip: Definitely look up your destination ahead of time because it takes a long time to get anywhere in London, and it is worth it to purchase a day pass that includes the Underground and the bus system.

Xoxo,

Jordan

Walking Through the Weekend: Killarney, Ireland

Ireland takes the spot as number 15 on my quest to reach 20 countries before I turn 20 (#20under20). The Irish town welcomed me and my roommates with open arms into their country. The people were incredibly sweet and friendly, always greeting us on the street or striking up a conversation in the store.

The first day we arrived was very relaxing. The drive from the airport confirmed everything I had thought about Ireland: a lot of green land and sheep. When we got into town, we walked around and stopped in a quaint gift shop. The sky was gray, the grass was green, and the air had a slight bite to it. Fortunately for me, that’s pretty much my favorite weather so I was more than happy to go exploring. We walked down the street to a small restaurant that specialized in Irish cuisine. It turns out that I am a big fan of Shepard’s Pie. ¬†After dinner we took a much a needed nap in our very clean hostel and recharged our batteries both literally and figuratively. Ready for round two, we headed out and ran into an amazing couple from Canada. They gave us some useful life tips, and after an hour or so, we were ready for bed again.

The following day, the group divided and conquered different parts of County Kerry. Half the group wanted to ride bikes around the National Park and the other half (just me) wasn’t about to have a repeat of Dresden. One of my roommates and I booked a bus trip around the Ring of Kerry, which takes us to the coast and to iconic spots around County Kerry. It was a beautiful, sunny day with strong wind that definitely messed up my hair in almost every picture I took. I was able to watch a sheep herder direct his sheep with the help of his two dogs, hold a puppy, pet a billie goat, eat some homemade ice-cream, and see some of the most amazing views of the ocean. I definitely recommend doing the Ring of Kerry because it’s very relaxing and organized, plus the bus driver is hilarious.

The last day my roommate and I took a romantic carriage ride around Killarney National Park. The park was stunning with the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. It was filled with woodland creatures, mainly deer, that roamed freely throughout the park.We stopped at ruins of a castle where we could feed swans and ducks. The carriage driver was so kind and considerate during the journey, making sure we took great pictures and kept warm. On the way back into town he let us drive the carriage for a bit and it turns out the slightest tug on the reins can turn or stop the horse. We finished the day with some shopping around town. We packed our stuff and headed to the airport for London.

I really loved Ireland and I’m sad I was only there for a few days. I will be going back to explore the rest of the country. The people are so welcoming that it’s hard to say bye to them. If you love good food and a slow-paced, leisurely lifestyle then Killarney, Ireland is definitely for you (@mydad).

Tips for the Trip: Bring an umbrella or a hooded jacket because it randomly rains like eight times during the day, so it is always better to be prepared for it.

Xoxo,

Jordan

Walking Through the Weekend: Split, Croatia

This last weekend was the second destination on my study abroad adventure, which also happened to be the 14th country I visited (6 more to go) (#20Under20). I went to Croatia, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had little knowledge or desire to visit until I actually went. Despite the fact that it was the longest bus ride of my life, as soon as I walked on to the marble ground I knew it was all worth it. The sun was shining bright and hot. To my right, there was a booming coastal town, and to my left there was the bluest water (comparable to that of Hawaii’s).

So the day we arrived, we went on an island cruise that took us from Split to a beach town called Supetar. The cruise itself was very nice and we were well taken care of. The beaches were rocky, but the water was wonderful because it was clear and warm enough to swim. I recommend visiting Croatia in the summertime between June to mid September because there’s an inflatable obstacle course on the water in Supetar. You do have to pay to use it, but it’s totally worth it for those who like to mess around.The town itself is very small and easy to explore.

The city of Split is also pretty small, but it is definitely a great place. There are lots of shops weaved in with the ruins that give it the historic look. The ground is paved with marble or some other slick tile which makes it look really nice but can cause problems when it rains. I, of course, experienced such difficulties. It rained while we were there and since it’s a beach town, I wore flip flops. Flip flops don’t have friction, so you mix that with wet, slick ground which equals a disaster for me. I had to slowly walk from place to place which wasn’t fun at all so I had to take off my shoes to keep up with everyone, which I do not recommend.

The next day was the highlight of the trip. We went rafting on the Cetina river and it was breathtaking. Each raft has a guide called a Skipper and they are usually locals. The rafting takes about three hours so you get to know your Skipper pretty well. The water is fairly calm with a couple of exciting rapids. Along the way, there is a stop where you can drink fresh water from the river and later there is a small cliff that you can jump off of, not to mention the amazing views you see the entire way. Also, there is a drone recording the entire thing which is fantastic if you don’t have a GoPro or water proof case on your phone (like me)!

The last day we went to the Krka Falls. The walk to get to the falls was unreal with emerald green trees, turquoise waters, and a wooden walkway. The falls themselves were an amazing sight. The water gushed over the rocks while people were swimming in and out of the falls. Overall, it was a great trip. There’s great food and a lot of activities. I really would like to see more of Croatia so I will for sure be coming back.

Tips for the Trip: Bring sandals or water shoes that have grip at the bottom! All the water ways have an incredible amount of rocks and you will for sure slip in flip flops.

Xoxo,

Jordan

Walking Through the Weekend: Dresden, Germany

In the Courtyard of Elements

In the Courtyard of Elements


Borrowed these bikes from the Hostel in the back

Borrowed these bikes from the Hostel in the back

Dresden was the first stop on my study abroad itinerary. My roommates and I booked a train ride for early Saturday morning. We left the apartment at 5:30 and made it onto the train. I loved the train because it was really comfy and reminded me of the Hogwarts Express with it’s little compartments. I definitely recommend taking trains if you can! It was comfortable and a great way to see the countryside. We stayed in a hostel for the night and it was absolutely fantastic. There was free wifi, fresh bed sheets, clean towels, and free bike rentals! They definitely cater to the traveler with low prices and a great place to just chill out after a long day of traveling.

While in Dresden, we walked and biked all over the city. Our hostel was located in a very artsy neighborhood with murals around every corner. Across the street is a cool courtyard that contains a wall that makes music when it rains (pictured above). I didn’t get to hear the rain symphony, but it was still a great work of art that’s worth seeing. After exploring the block, we went to a place called Katy’s Garage that had the BEST french fries with mayonnaise. I’m not usually one to eat mayonnaise but there’s something about European mayo that convinces me that it’s too good to turn away.

The next day we borrowed bikes from the hostel. Biking is definitely a great way to see both parts of the city on either side of the river. If you’re on the shorter side (like me and three other roommates) it can be super difficult to find a bike that fits you. Every time we had to stop and wait for the crosswalk was a disaster because our feet couldn’t reach the ground, so we had to physically get off our bikes. It slowed the group down a little especially when we would bump into each other (lol) or fall off (ouch). Despite these small mishaps, it was actually really fun. There are a lot of monuments and gardens to see and a bike is the best way to get to it all in one day.

Overall, Dresden is a must-see. If you like Santa Cruz, CA or Venice Beach, CA you’ll for sure like this city. They have similar vibes from the people, to the style, to the art. It is a very liberal city with a relaxed atmosphere.

Tips for the Trip: Bring cash! Not a lot of places here take credit card, so make sure you have Euros!

Xoxo,

Jordan

20 Under 20

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My first international travel experience was when I was a baby. Since then, I’ve been to thirteen countries. As I begin my study abroad experience in Prague, Czech Republic, my goal of reaching twenty countries before I turn twenty can become a reality. Visiting friends in their home countries, planned excursions, vacations, and weekend trips will help me reach my goal. Since I will be turning twenty at the end of the semester, there is a push for me to achieve #20under20!