Week 4: Afritz (and a night in Milan!)

The first three weeks of my trip were filled with long nights, rushed mornings and not a lot of sleep. I knew I would need to take some time every few weeks to relax and also make myself useful. That’s how I ended up on a farm in Afritz, Austria.

I found this farm through Workaway, a site that’s kind of like an expanded WWOOF. (What’s WWOOF, you ask? Well, thank goodness I wrote a blog post about it.) I arrived at the farm, which is located about 30 minutes from a southern Austrian city called Villach, and was immediately in awe of the surrounding mountains and view.

The family all spoke in German, and not everyone spoke English. Not going to lie, it was a bummer sitting at the table sometimes and not knowing what was going on, but I managed. Everyone was very patient and sweet throughout the week, a big “thank you” to Miriam and Tomas who did most of the translating. I mainly learned German words that would help me in my work (“clean”, “food”, “sweep”); my jobs were mainly housework and preparing lunch.

I worked from around 830-2ish every day with lunch around noon. Then the rest of the day was mine! In my downtime, I did yoga, read, napped, and hiked. Lots of hiking. The farm was below Wöllaner Nock, and on my last day I hiked to the top…pretty nice view, right?

It was a lovely week but I had to move on; Somersault Festival has been calling my name for months now. To get there, I took a train to Milan and stayed for a night before my flight to Bristol. I got in around 8 P.M. but my day was just beginning.

My plans in Milan were to wander at night, but not before I went to Bar Luce. A few months ago, Wes Anderson designed Bar Luce for the Fondazione Prada, saying it was the perfect place to write a movie in. Considering my recent Wes Anderson kick and constant need for inspiration, I needed to go. Unfortunately I got there too late to check out the Fondazione Prada, but Bar Luce was still open. Look at how wonderful this place is! (Didn’t hurt that the bartenders were all beautiful, too.)

After my glass of wine and dose of whimsy, I decided to wander around the Duomo and the center of Milan. There’s something romantic about seeing these places at night.

I also had my first Italian gelato! I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap Milan was, considering my expectations. And so lively for a Monday night! Milan is officially on my list of places-I-must-go-back-to.

Every time I come to a new place, even if for a night, I keep thinking of that Hozier song “Someone New“. I’ve been falling in love just a little bit every day with somewhere new…whether it’s a cocktail bar in Milan or the lake Miriam took me to in Afritz. I’ve finally booked my ticket home (see you all September 13th!) but in the meantime, I’m going to keep exploring and keep falling in love with every place I go. Next stops, Bristol, Devon, Dublin, Glasgow….

Bonus picture for this week is a shot of how comfortable cows are with cars.

5 Things You’ll be Glad You Packed in your Backpack 

(Photo via Rei.com)

I’m almost a month into my trip, with about two months left to go. I’m getting the hang of living out of my 55 liter Osprey; it doesn’t feel as heavy and it’s becoming easier to pack. I didn’t pack a lot of clothes, but here are 5 things I’m so glad I packed (and you’ll be glad you packed when you head off on your backpacking adventure!)

via wisegeek.com

1. Sleep mask – it took me, 2 hours? into my overnight flight to think, “Thank goodness I packed a sleep mask” (or rather, thank goodness my mom offered to let me use hers). Between festivals and exploring new cities, sleep isn’t always a first priority. So on every bus, in every hostel, and every moment in my Open’er tent after the sun rose, sleep — and therefore, my sleep mask — was crucial.

2. Empty pillowcase – Most hostels and Couchsurfers have pillows available, but it’s always good to have a second pillow/first pillow (if camping). I usually fill mine with old clothes (doesn’t smell like roses, but I’ve survived) and then use it as a laundry bag.

via forever21.com

3. Fanny pack – Besides looking INSANELY attractive in it — alright, I tried. But my fanny pack has been a lifesaver, especially for music festivals. Everything is easily accessible, really close to me, and since mine is pretty small, I can keep things fairly organized. No backpacks to hassle with/have searched, less of a pain, a fantastic fashion statement (I’m really trying here.)  Mine is from Forever 21 (same with the one above), and they’re pretty cheap!

4. Charging phone case – Or rather, I’m just glad I chose a charging phone case. I have the Mophie case for iPhone 6, and having the extra battery handy is a great way to prevent a crappy situation. Six hours on a megabus with a broken outlet? No problem. Festivals? No need to charge for 2-3 days (if you’re on airplane mode).

via ancestral-nutrition.com

5. Dr. Bronner’s – Pour it into an airplane-size bottle or two and you’re set. I’ve used mine as soap, shampoo, shaving soap, and in the future I’ll probably take advantage of it as a toothpaste and laundry detergent. If you have to take one thing, take this. When I make my big move in October, I’ll probably pack what’s left of this huge bottle to use up (if my family hasn’t used it all!)

What items have been lifesavers on your trips? Let me know in the comments below!

Week 3: Prague and Vienna!

Before my trip, Monday nights were reserved for The Bachelorette (Team Jared), but now I hope I can consistently post updates. Here are the highlights from Prague and Vienna!
Prague: Originally I had blocked out these 3 days for Budapest, but getting to Prague was cheaper and I was going to do it with friends. So why not? Mackenzie, Erin and I somehow got ourselves together after a night in Kraków to get on a minibus and then a train to Prague. Despite being 25 minutes late to the bus, it got to the train station an hour and a half early (thank you, maniac Polish driver). We made it to their flat via a beautiful train and soon enough, I had a beer in hand. Shout out to Chapeau Rouge, it was a great welcome to Prague.

Exploring: I’m a professional wanderer, so I spent my first full day in Prague doing just that. While reading the wrong directions for the Prague Castle, I stumbled upon a very lovely vegan restaurant so obviously, that’s where I had lunch. It gave me the energy to check out all the views around the Prague Castle, including one from the very top of said castle. It cost a few bucks and it required a claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase, but it was totally worth it.

More exploring!
: Next were checking out the obligatory John Lennon wall, St. Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. Tucked away in the square was a museum with Dali and Warhol exhibits, so obviously I had to give a little look.


Segway Day:
Back in Kraków, Mackenzie and I discussed how necessary it was for us to take a Segway tour. My last day in Prague was the day. I could “czech” (I mean, I’m laughing) it off the bucket list. Bundled with the Segway tour was a ticket to a wax museum; I’m absolutely terrified of wax museums after some teacher had the wonderful idea of taking 4th graders to a Civil War wax museum, so obviously I had to go. I made it out fine and since Mackenzie lived in Prague, we told the Segway tour guide to skip the tour and let us ride around for 30 minutes. It. Was. Awesome.

Vienna!: It was super sad to depart from my friends, but Erin and I are going to meet up in Barcelona in a few weeks and I know I’ll run into Mackenzie soon. If my trip has taught me anything, it’s how small the freaking world is.
Vienna provided me the chance to fly solo — for a bit. I found a pay-what-you-wish, all-you-can-eat, vegan, Pakistani buffet, and then wandered into a film festival where they played La Boheme. As I enjoyed the free Wi-Fi and thought, “yup, this is indeed the opera that RENT is based off of”, I discovered that one of my fraternity brothers Vanessa AND Open’er pal Sam were both in Vienna. Naturally, we all met up and wandered into an Australian bar and a karaoke place. Pakistani dinner, Italian movie, Australian bar, American music (Sam performed “Me and Mrs. Jones”, Vanessa performed “Bad Touch”). Sounds about right?

Actual Austrian Attractions: The next morning, I was back to wandering. Nearby the hotel I stayed at was Statdpark, which was absolutely beautiful, and what I thought was one of the Wein Museums but actually a contemporary art museum displaying (from what I gathered) senior showcases from an art school in Vienna. Interesting stuff, and more my style anyway.


At that point, I met up with another CS host and got a list of Austrian tourist magnets (had to go to one or two, right?) I checked out the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, doing the Imperial Tour and becoming way more fascinated with Austrian royalty than I thought I would be. I checked out Prater, a free and very old amusement park (unfortunately the rides were around 4 euro. In my mind, paying 4 euro to ride a log flume alone would be admitting some form of defeat. I bought an ice cream cone and people-watched instead.) I also visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, because I have Catholic parents/guilt, it was Sunday, and ever since Chamber Choir in high school….in new cities, I have to check out the cathedrals. Night ended with an interesting talk with my host about Europe, Greece, and American stereotypes. Yet another shout out to Couchsurfing, you learn so much from the people in this community.

 After Vienna is Villach, where I’m currently spending my first night. Thanks to Workaway (and my friend Stacie who told me about Workaway), I’m spending the week gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and meditating in the hills of Austria. Outside of my window I can see Italy and Slovenia. I’ll post on my way back, when I’m en route to Somersault (!!!!) This week’s bonus picture is me in the most touristy outfit I could find. Unfortunately, if I had worn this out of the house, I would have had to Segway alone (fair enough).

Week 2 (and a half?): Poland, part 1!

I originally had no intentions of going to Poland – nothing against it, but I was looking toward more popular tourist cities like London, Barcelona, etc. Then the lineup for Open’er Festival came out and all of a sudden, I roadtripped down the west side of Poland. Here are some highlights from each city:

Gdansk: First stop was Gdansk. I knew nothing about this city, but it was a good meeting point before the festival. Turns out, it was the perfect place to start checking out all of the beautiful town squares that Poland has. The only real sightseeing I did was checking out the Old Town (and getting my first order of Polish pierogi), but it was beautiful.

I was totally fine with hanging out at the hostel, The Mamas and Papas hostel. It’s run by Mama, who was a savior when it came to navigating the city, and Papa, a Deadhead who has pretty much convinced me to go to Polish Woodstock during this trip. I spent two nights in, talking with the other travelers in the hostel and meeting Sam and Erin, who would accompany me and my friend Mackenzie to Open’er. (Erin is Mackenzie’s flatmate in Prague, Mackenzie and I have mutual friends from Temple, we met Sam on Reddit.) Good group for sure.

Open’er Festival: At the request of my crew, I’ll refrain from drooling profusely over Chet Faker (ok but he covered Moondance and No Diggity and was absolutely beautiful and fanta….), so I can talk about all the other artists at this festival in Gdynia. The Libertines, Alabama Shakes, Hozier, Major Lazer, The Prodigy, Tom Odell, Swans, Disclosure…..the lineup was killer and the vibes were good. Everyone was super friendly (special shoutout to our Latvian friends) and no one was too wild. Overall, one of the top festivals I’ve been to.

We also went to the seaside one day! Music didn’t start until 4 PM, and the insane heat got us up pretty early so we had time to kill. (The music also lasted until 4 AM….saw a lot of sunrises in Poland.)

Poznan: Sam lives in Poznan, so we hitched a ride down there and stayed for a night to have even more pierogi and grab drinks in the Town Square. We stumbled upon a Jack Daniel’s bar and got red white and blue jars by accident….USA! Poznan is a hip little city and if I could go to their juice bar every day I would. Shout out to Juice Drinkers.

Kraków: After grabbing a ride from the most fun BlaBlaCar driver ever, (it’s a ridesharing app) we made it to Kraków. If I could spend a summer in any city, so far it’d have to be Kraków. It’s beautiful, it’s a nice size (not huge, but with tons of things to do), the bars are great and it seems like there’s a ton of music festivals. We stayed with David, who is quite a character but really interesting to talk to. Nights were spent exploring the city, and the one full day we were there Mackenzie and I went on a big tourist tour.

Auschwitz and the Salt Mines: These were the two main attractions I wanted to see near Kraków. Auschwitz was powerful. I tried to ignore the idiots who thought it was appropriate to use Selfie Sticks and pose in front of the gate — honestly, I understand wanting to document the experience but I’ll remember the day without instagramming it. The massive amount of human hair shaved off after the selection, the ruins of the gas chambers, the massive size of Birkenau, the constant feelings of nausea from the tour…they’ll stick.

Anyway, the salt mines. Those were breathtaking. I didn’t get too many pictures of the massive chapel carved out of salt (by 3 people, mind you), but I did grab a few. Don’t be alarmed, since bacteria apparently can’t grow on salt (or something like that), the walls were totally lickable. Tasted pretty good. (Wish we had brought tequila and lime, but then again, Mackenzie and I got lost in the salt mines regardless and ended up with a Polish tour group.)

Currently, I’m on a train to Prague with Mackenzie and Erin. Big shout out to these girls for hanging out with me the past week, through all the shows, all the pierogi, all the awful pronunciation of Poznan (by me). Shout out to Sam for driving and bringing that umbrella and jumping around during Disclosure and seeing Swans with me. Latvians are really awesome, Columbians have a strange sense of humor, and Julia from Kraków was the best bar hopping tour guide/fairy. Even though I’m technically on this trip alone, I haven’t spent more than a day by myself since the first two days in London. I’ll post more updates after Prague, Vienna, and Villach! Here’s a bonus photo of a fantastic billboard in Poland.