Santorini – The island of blue roofs, white wash house & cats

 

Have you ever had a dream? Maybe a dream to sky dive or see the Eiffel Tower. My dream since I have seen pictures of Greece, was to go to Santorini.

Well, I accomplished this dream. It’s crazy to actually fulfill a dream you have had for so long.

The surreal feeling you are overcome with is euphoric. To actually be there, seeing the blue roofs and white wash houses was mind blowing. It did not hit me until I saw my first sunset.

My first hour in Santorini was everything I expected. We had transport from the airport to our hostel and as soon as we got in the car greek music was playing and the sun was rising. It was picture perfect to say the least and even though I was raged with exhaustion, it was all taken away by the beauty that I was witnessing.

We drove the winding roads, listening to this greek music, with a greek driver singing along, and my first impression of Santorini was majestic.

It was a bit cold, but that did not keep me down. I was in Santorini and I could not stop smiling.

It really hit me that we were in Greece when we saw the first set of donkeys. Sounds pretty funny and you think it only happens in movies, but it really does happen in real life.

We finally got to our hostel and it was the best surprise to step out of the car and see the sunrise. It’s like everything you ever hope it to be. The sun is bigger than you will ever see and the colors radiate off the blue pristine water.

We could not check into our hostel until 9 and it was only 6:30, so in my mind we were pretty lucky. We had a few hours to sit on the beach (which was 100ft from our hostel) and we just napped on the beach while enjoying the sunrise.

The hostel we stayed at was on Perissa Beach (Black Sand Beach). It was this nice villa and Sophia and I had our own little room, terrace included.

The first day, it was kind of chilly and windy so we just stayed on the beach, napped and ate our first Greek gyro (Which is better than I thought it would be).

After a much needed nap, we went and found the most magical place on earth, Dorian’s Pub. Dorian’s pub was one of the highlights of the trip. Every hour of every day was happy hour. We had cocktails for 3 euro every night during our stay.

The next day, we rented an ATV and went exploring the island of Thira. We traveled to the red sand beach (Akrotiri). It’s crazy how on one island is a black, red and white sand beach. All the sand is volcanic rock so that is where it gets the variety of color from.

After exploring the red beach, we went to see the light house at the southwest end of the island. It was many of the most breathtaking sights we saw. You can see the whole island from the top.

You can see the reflection of the sun glowing off the blue water and you just sit in awe because beauty is surrounding you in every direction you look.

After we sat at the lighthouse for 3 hours, we decided it was time to go. Even though we wanted to go home, our ATV did not want us too.

The ATV did not start. So Sophia and I are by this lighthouse, maybe 40 mins away from our hostel, and we have no phone, no idea what to do. So we start pushing this ATV down the road. There has to be hotel or someone who can help us.

I am pretty sure it was an angel sent from God, but someone how a lady heard us trying to start our ATV and came running to our help. AND she had a phone.

We called the ATV people and they sent someone to come fix it. I have to say though, our ATV died in a pretty beautiful place. We got to watch the sunset as we waited.

When he fixed it, I wanted nothing more than to just go get a drink and sit on the beach and that’s what we did. That’s basically what we did every night.

Everyday I woke up to the sound of birds chirping, the Grecian sun on my face and cats, lots and lots of cats.

On our third day there, the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. A perfect day to lay by the beach and get some sun, something I have been deprived of in Holland.

We sat on the beach under our umbrella, in front of the Aegean Sea and it was dream like. The definition of paradise was that exact moment.

Later that night we went to the capital, Fira and then to the infamous sunset town, Oia. Every thing, every view, every where you looked you were surrounded by beauty. No matter which direction you turned in, your mind was completely shattered by the amount of gorgeous things surrounding you.

We walked around Fira for a little bit, shopping and just watching the sun slowly go down and then we went to Oia to watch the sunset.

Waiting on top of the ledge, anticipating the worlds most famous sunset, my mind just wandered. I couldn’t actually believe that I was here. I was in Santorini watching a sunset I thought I would only see in pictures.

When they tell you that it is the most beautiful sunset you will ever see, they (whoever they are) are 100% right.

The sky just enthralls you. Turning colors I never thought the sky could make. It almost look like it is on fire, but in the most beautiful way.

We waited around two hours for the sunset and in a matter of 5 minutes it was gone. I have to day it was one of the best “waiting” moments of my life.

I don’t think I will ever witness anything more beautiful in my life and I feel so grateful I can say I have seen the world’s most famous sunset AND sunrise.

On our last day there, we just sat on the beach, walked around the little town of Perissa and just relaxed.

Knowing that I was coming back to Leiden one last time and I had to say goodbye to the home I have made these past for months was a little bittersweet.

For mine and Sophia’s last trip, Santorini was the last one, but definitely not least. Fulfilling this dream met every expectation I had seen in pictures and read online.

There are no words to describe how this last trip affected me. It may sound weird thinking that a place can change you, but once you experience it, you believe in it and I strongly believe in it.

For those of you who have those places on your bucket list, but can’t find the time, money or a way to do it, know that it is possible. I just did it.

I urge you to do the same. The feeling you get when you see something you have only dreamed of is better than anything you can ever imagine.

Yes, you may have to save a lot of money, but what I have learned my past few months here and from visiting Santorini is that traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.

Last Month in Leiden

Today I have officially been here four months and in a short 9 day I leave. Time is dwindling down. I find myself experiencing the lasts of many things.

Coming here I never would have thought my life would change as much as it did. It is hard to comprehend all the life changing things I have experienced. And lucky for me, I still have one more trip.

The past month I have done so much and time continues to go by so fast. It amazes me how fast time really goes by. It’s actually quite scary how fast it goes.

The past month has been crazy and I have done so much in such a short amount of time.

I went to a dutch Easter service. I saw the tulips at Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. I experienced my first Kings Day. That was an experience I will never forget.

King’s Day was the longest day ever. It was so fun because my roommates from St. Louis, who are studying in Vienna, Austria, came to visit for the weekend.

The weekend felt like a blur, and that wasn’t from the alcohol, I promise. It was so fun having them here.

We went to Amsterdam on King’s Night. We did the Heineken Experience and that was worth every penny. Especially the free beers.

That night we experienced Leiden during King’s weekend. They had live music on the canal and people everywhere.

The next day was even more amazing! We started pretty early. We had the whole day to go crazy, so we wanted to take advantage of every hour.  We walked around Leiden for a while listening to all the music and seeing all the orange around.

We then had a BBQ. It felt so much like home! Kind of similar to celebrating Fourth of July. We grilled and had a good time with everyone. Probably ate and drank way too much, but that was the fun of it.

After a nice nap, we had to continue the fun. It is safe to say I was dead. Laying in my bed at the end of the night, or beginning of the morning, had never felt so good.

It was so weird saying goodbye to my friends visiting. It felt like yesterday we were packing up our apartment in St. Louis and saying goodbye to come here and not we are saying goodbye until we go back to St. Louis.

The days leading up to now we have just been enjoying Leiden. Eating our favorite foods, going to our favorite places and just spending time with the family I have created here. I justify eating so much food with the fact I am leaving. And when I get home I will justify eating all the American food to be being home.

I never thought I would come here and meet the amazing people I have. I have made friends that I know will be in my life forever.

The fact I have to say goodbye to this place soon breaks my heart. This place is home now and everything has become so familiar. I think the biggest fear I have from leaving is I’ll never experience something so wonderful again.

It will be weird going back to my home and having to become familiar with everything again. Coming here, everything was so unfamiliar and now I feel comfortable.

I still have 9 more days left in Europe and everyday I am going to cherish and hold onto for as long as I can.

Little me in Paris!

What I realized quickly about France is how everything that is talked very highly of (Mona Lisa, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, The Louvre, Moulin Rouge) is all very overrated (EXCEPT for the Eiffel Tower. That is the definition of magical) .But the good thing is there is so much beauty in the unexpected things.

A way to describe Paris is the most beautiful disgusting city in the world.  It is dirty and has a certain smog that coats the city, but it is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen.

This sounds quite crazy if you have never been to Paris, but if you have, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Another thing I realized quickly about Paris is that I would walk until my feet fell off. I had never done so much walking in my life, but I saw so much in three days that it was all worth it.

We arrived to Paris Friday morning and began our adventures. Our first stop was to go to the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, it was hard to grasp the thought that it was real and that I was actually standing in Paris.

All the pictures I took look as if I had photoshopped the Eiffel Tower into the background. After going up into the Eiffel Tower, the feeling of being there became reality.  We could see the whole city of Paris from the top. We had to climb over 700 stairs to get there, but the views were completely worth it.

From the Eiffel Tower we walked over 2.5 miles to get to the meeting spot for our walking tour.  Yes, we walked over 2 miles to begin walking again. We walked along the Seine river and enjoyed Paris from the streets.

We saw so many landmarks from this walk. My favorite, the love locks bridge.

Maybe I love this notion because I’m a sucker for romantics, but it was just a cute experience. For those of you who do not know what the Love Locks bridge, or Pont des Arts bridge, is I will explain.

It became a phenomenon after Sex and the City. There was an ending scene where the two main characters seal there love by putting a lock on the bridge and throwing the key into the river to signify that their love with last forever. Well I was that person that fell for this cliche tourist attraction.

Walking on the bridge, you cannot see the handrails and guards anymore. Locks overtake the bridge. Of course I had to put a lock on there. It would not have a been a successful trip to Paris if I didn’t.

It would have been cute to do it with a significant other, but I think having the chance to do it with my friends, whom I have experienced so much with, was even better.

On our walking tour we saw Notre Dame, The Louvre, Champs-Elysees , Latin Quarter, Tuileries Gardens, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

After the longest day, I was so exhausted. We went back and checked-in to our hostel and ate some macaroons and pastries.

We then went to Sacre-Coeur and watched the sunset. Even though it was the longest day and I had got no sleep, it was still so magical and bittersweet to be there.

Bittersweet because I knew that this was the last of our trips with everyone (Although, Sophie and I will be going to Greece).

Sitting on the steps of Sacre-Coeur and watching the Parisian sunset with a bottle of wine is a memory that I will cherish forever.

As we walked back to our hostel, we caught our first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night.

My sister has always talked about how when you see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, it is one of the most magnificent experiences ever.

You think Paris cannot get any better and then you see the Eiffel Tower sparkle and all your expectations are exceeded. You kind of have to stop yourself from crying because it is that beautiful.

Watching it sparkle, I had one thought. All I wanted in the moment was to have my sister with me. Being in the city she loves and watching her favorite thing in the world happen, I got a little homesick. But the thing I had to remind myself is that I know one day we both will be back to Paris and I will experience these things all over again but with her.

The next morning we woke up early and went to Versailles. We saw the palace of Versailles, where King Louis XIV lived and ruled France. We toured the Gardens and the Palace grounds. It was one of the biggest Gardens I have seen. It was 800 hectares, which is equivalent to around 2000 acres. So on top of all the walking I did the day before, I walked a 2000 acre garden the next day and it only got worse from here.

After we returned from the Gardens, we decided to conquer the Louvre. We had already walked miles upon miles, why not go into the largest art museum? In the Louvre, we only saw the main things –  Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo, etc. We were only in there about an hour and that was enough for me. Afterwards I was DEAD. My feet felt like they would fall off at any moment and our day wasn’t even half way over.

Later that night we had a river cruise at night along the Seine. We ate a picnic dinner on Pont Nuef and then enjoyed our late night cruise. We took the cruise in time for sunset, and yet another thing I thought could not get more beautiful and it did.

The sunset was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. The sky was painted with the colors of reds and blues. It was as if I was in a real life Monet painting. The cruise was perfect, it ended right when the Eiffel tower began to sparkle.

We ended the night sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower and just gazing at it sparkling. Michael, Sophie and I were in mid conversation and as soon as it started to sparkle the conversation stopped.  No words could be sad and we just watched it sparkle for 5 minutes.

The next morning, I was exhausted. I slept a combination of maybe 8 hours the whole weekend, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

We started the day with Palm Sunday mass at Notre Dame. It was such an incredible experience. The church had over 500 people in it and the mass was over 2 and 1/2 hours long, but it was unbelievable.

During our last day, we just walked around and saw our last views of the city. Emily and her mom arrived to Paris that night, so we ended our trip with dinner. It was so nice to see her so happy that her mom was visiting. Even though she isn’t my mind, it still brought home to Europe.  She even brought us some American food that we had been craving.

We experienced so much in such a short period of time. All the walking, the tiredness, the crabbiness everything was worth it. It was safe to say, I had never been more excited to be on a bus before. It was sad though. Getting on that bus meant that Michael, Sophie and I would never experience another trip together. And it meant that my time here is almost over.

I can’t explain enough how the word bittersweet describes this feeling. For those of you who have studied abroad you know what I am talking about. But for those of you who have not, I really cannot describe what it feels like besides bittersweet.

Even though this was our last trip all together and the most emotional trip, it was one of the best trips to end our time here.

When in Prague!

Prague, Czech Republic was one of those cities that you don’t expect it to be as charming as it is. Not many people think of going to the Czech Republic and be completely blown away by it’s beauty and charm.  I was one of those people.

It was one of the most beautiful towns I have seen. There was a grayness that floated over the city. It was one of my favorite parts actually.  All the architecture, the streets, even the food took me by surprise.

This small city was absolutely breathtaking.

The first day we arrived in Prague, to our luck, there was an Easter festival going on. Vendors lined the Old Town Square (Main part of Prague) and sold things such as food, Easter gifts, other novelties, and of course, Czech beer.

Our first thing we tried was a Trdlo (pronounced exactly how it looks) and it was a mistake because it was one of the best things that I have tried.

It was a sweet bread roasted with almonds and sugar.  I not only had one, but I had three.

Traveling to all these different cities, I find all these nice gifts for people, but what I wish I could bring home is the food.

I know my whole family would enjoy all the food that I am trying, but unfortunately they will have to let my well thought out gifts suffice.

After eating so much I could explode, we explored the city. We walked everywhere!

We saw the Jewish Quarter, the Old Town Square, St. Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle.  We learned about the history of Prague (which is old and new).

After all the walking, we went and found our hostel.  This being one of out last trips, you would think I would do enough research on a town to know where to get a hostel at, but I guess not.

The hostel that we were staying in was close to the Prague castle and up one of the biggest hills in Prague. Go Olivia for choosing this one.

We had walked around the whole city with our backpacks on all day and now we had to finish it by dragging ourselves up this giant hill.

We made it though.

After resting for a bit, we decided it was time to indulge in some of the Czech night life.

Our first stop was a pub called “The Pub” and it was one of the most unique bars I have been too.

At your table you had your own beer tap.  It was a beer lovers heaven.

After we had a few beers, we went to a lounge called “Bed Lounge” (Not even kidding about these names).

In the lounge they just had beds and your bartender brought you the drinks.  It was one of my favorite places I have been! Such a fun experience.

The next day, our last day sadly, we explored the Prague Castle. The views from the top are indescribable. You can see the whole city surrounding you.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Easter market. Trying all the food and drinks we could before we had to leave. It was a short trip, but the memories and experiences were nothing less than great.

It was especially sad to leave Prague because it was Sophia’s, Emily’s and mine’s last trip together. It is hard to comprehend leaving Europe.  It really is the definition of bittersweet.

The Land of Brits and Royals

Ever since I was little, I have had this infatuation with London. Maybe it is the charming british accents or my mild obsession with the royal family, but there is just something about London that I have always loved. And I finally made my dreams come true and spent the weekend in London.

First planning the trip I was not near as excited as I was when I got there. I was actually surprised with my reaction. I was like a little girl on Christmas morning and I had just opened the present I had been wanting. As I walked the streets of London, I realized in that moment that my dreams of one day going to London have come true.

Although the trip did not start out as smooth as I would have liked, it was still the most amazing place I have visited thus far.

The hectic day of traveling started out very calm actually (You think we would have realized that something had to go wrong). We had to catch our bus in another town at 8:15pm, so we had planned to leave at 7pm and be there ahead of schedule.

It was around 5pm when we were doing last minute packing and planning when Sophia decided to look at her bus ticket. From the moment she asked if the date was March 21 when the date was really the 20th, I knew anything that came after that would not be good.

We quickly realized that Sophia’s ticket said she was leaving on the 21st and I was leaving that day the 20th. You can imagine the sense of panic I had. In that moment, while Sophia was freaking out, I just calmly came to terms that we were leaving on different days.

Instead of panicking, we decided that we would just go to the bus station early and try to change her ticket. It was around 5:30 now and we were running out of time.

Not having a dutch phone plan, we could not call the emergency number, so we just had to hope once we got to the bus station we could sort things out.

We quickly left out apartment (Hoping we didn’t forget anything) and went to the train station to buy tickets to get to the bus stop. As soon as we got our tickets, we saw an info desk and thought that it wouldn’t hurt to ask if they could help us.

The lady was one of the nicest people I have come encounter with in my experiences with public transportation. We explained o her our situation and how we were running out of time. She then picked up her cell phone and called the emergency number for us. Thank goodness someone answered.

We then were informed that we could change the ticket, but we had to go to their head quarters which is outside of Amsterdam. At this point it is 6:30 and we have to decide quickly what we are going to do.

We then change our tickets and decide to go tot eh head quarters in order for her to be able to leave tonight.

The thing was is that the head quarters closed in an hour and it took just around an hour to get there. We had no time to spare, so we just ran. (After we thanked the kind lady who helped us a million and one times).

You can imagine the anxiety I was having on the 30 min train ride. I said so many Our Fathers and just hoped that someone how we could make this work.

We FINALLY made it to the bus station and for some reason God was looking over and there was one extra seat on the bus and that was now Sophia’s.

I can’t even explain the sigh of relief I had when we both were on this bus, ready to endure a 12 hour bus ride together.

It is safe to say that when we made it to London, I was just happy that we both were there in one piece.

After all the mess of trying to get there, the excitement finally kicked in that I was finally in London.

This trip was especially special because Sophia’s friend from home was meeting us in London. They had not seen each other since Christmas and it was nice because even though I have only been with her three times, it was the closest feeling to home I have felt in a long time. AND she brought us mac and cheese to savor for our last two months in Europe. It’s pretty sad when artificial cheese makes you feel like you’re at home.

During our first day there, we saw everything we possibly could. We did a free walking tour and ended at a tradition English Pub.

On our walking tour we saw Trafalger Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, the bunker of Winston Churchill during WWII, We are Clearance House, King Henry VIII Palace, the Prime Minster’s house. We basically saw everything in 2 and 1/2 hours.

We then indulged in some classic fish and chips. Which was a great way to semi end our first day there.

After fish and chips, we made it to the top of the London Eye to watch the sunset against the background of London. It was the most picturesque end to a perfect day in London.

The next day, we started out by going and seeing the changing of the guards. This does not sound that interesting, but it was one of the most intriguing things I have seen. The guards make their way to Buckingham Palace.

Changing of the Guards

Unfortunately, the queen was not on her throne at Buckingham Palace, so there was no royal meet and greet.

After that we went and adventured around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Both incredible parks to walk through and just gaze at. The whole entire time I was there I was just looking for Kate Middleton and Price William, but sadly not spotting of the royal family.

We then made our to the most touristy spot in all of London, platform 9 and 3/4. As a Harry Potter lover there was no shame in standing in line for 30 mins just to get my picture taken with the trolley. I chose Griffindor of course.

After that we had plans to do a pub crawl that night and experience the London night life. I won’t give too many details, but the night life in London definitely did not disappoint. We danced the night and into Sunday morning away!

On Sunday, we had a Sunday Roast (British version of brunch) and had a relaxing trek to see the London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It was so cool to see and the whole time I was just imagining the olympic rings being there and that was enough for me!

We then went to Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden to do some shopping. And yes, it is hard to believe with my past being a shopaholic, but this was the first time that I have bought anything for myself besides food and I loved it. Even though the prices in London killed me, it was still worth it.

We ended the night with just relaxing. It is something that I have to keep reminding myself to do on trips because I feel I never see enough so I exhaust myself. But it was nice to finally be relaxing.

During our last day in London, we did some pretty touristy stuff. We took a bus to see Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios. It’s actually pretty comical to go there and to see how many people actually just go there to get there picture walking across the street (which is actually a really busy street).

After Abbey Road, we walked our way towards Regent’s Park and on the way we stopped at the Sherlock Holmes museum. Which was pretty awesome, I must admit.

After walking in the park, we decided that we had to end our time in London at the same place that we started it. We went back to the pub where we ate the first day and had a nice farewell to London lunch.

You can’t even imagine the sadness I felt leaving this city. During my time here I have seen so many different cities and so many different things and I have to say that London has been my most favorite city I have ever visited. There is just something about it that makes my heart skip a beat. It might be the quintessential atmosphere or the fact that I could have ran into Harry Styles (Yes, One Direction) at any moment, but I just fell in love with it.

And as much as my mom and dad will hate to hear this, it was the first city I have seen that I can picture myself living in.

It was pure perfection and that weekend I lived a dream, but like every dream I had to wake up and go back to reality.

The land of Wurst and Bretzals in Berlin, Germany

After leaving Italy, it was hard to believe we still and a another city to see, Berlin.  I know what you must be thinking. What two polar opposite places to see in one trip, but I will tell you the trip was the greatest history lesson I have ever had.

Even though Berlin, Germany is not full of ancient history like Rome, it is filled with recent history and history that has shaped my generation.

Berlin has been through war and destroyed and it still is a beautiful city.  The Germans take pride in their city and do not let their pastdefined how the city is now.  

During our first few hours in the city, it was definitely shocking to say the least. When we were going to our hostel to sleep for the night, we walked out of the metro station to find lovely ladies “standing” on the corner of our street. You can imagine the first impression of Berlin I received.

We come to realize that the hostel that we had booked was right in the middle of the Red Light District of Berlin (Yay for us).  At first I was a little weary about this, but I basically live in Amsterdam, so it was nothing I have not seen before.

My favorite thing about Berlin was that Michael was joining us on our trip! It had been us girls the whole trip and it was nice to have our other travel partner back with us (And he brought us flowers, so we couldn’t complain having him there).

That day we did a walking tour of Berlin.  We saw all the major sights of the city.  We started at the Brandenburg gate and from there we saw first, the hotel that Michael Jackson held his baby off a balcony (Great first thing to see, I know), then we saw the memorial to the murdered Jews, Hitler’s bunker in World War II, the remains of the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie and ended in the museum quarter of Berlin.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Traveling is one the most fun and exhilarating things to do, but it is also one of the most exhausting things and I had been traveling for a week and I was pretty exhausted.

That night we went and had dinner, curry wurst and pretzels and went to bed early.  The next morning, we went and visited the concentration camp, Sachsenhausen.

This was one of the most eye opening experiences I have ever had.  Sachsenhausen was the first concentration camp of World War II and many people do not know iteven exist.  When you think of the Holocaust and the concentration camps, your mind ultimately goes to Auschwitz.  

This camp was not as near as brutal in killing people, but it was famous for torturing them.  The most curious thing about this camp though was that it was in the middle of a neighbor hood.

At the beginning of the tour, our guide said that it was up to our imaginations to decide whether or not the people living in the neighbor hood had any idea of what was happening right in their back yard. For me, it was hard to even wrap my head around this thought.

Being in the camp, it was one of the most uncanny experiences I have had.  They told us that we were allowed to take pictures, but for me at least, I felt this place didn’t deserve to be photographed. So many people were killed and tortured at the very place that I was standing, I couldn’t even think about taking pictures.

Although much of the camp is rebuilt because they had to burn all the remnants of the camp due to the spread of disease, there were still many original parts.

We were in the camp for over 2 hours and by then end I don’t think I could handle any more emotionally.

I have grown up learning about the Holocaust and World War II my whole life in school and to actually be there first hand, seeing the places in my text book and on movies I have watched, it was a whirlwind of emotions.

It is one of those things where you can learn all about it, but actually being there, you get a whole different perspective.  A very eye opening and heart aching perspective.

Even though it was one of the more tragic things I have seen,it was still a worthy thing to see.  

Our last day in Berlin was a realizing one.  By this time we had been traveling 9 days and I thought I was exhausted before, but I was even more beat then.

Spending Spring Break in both Italy and Germany was extraordinary, but I was ready to go home.

The feeling of being away from your home for a while and returning is indescribable.

This was the trip of a lifetime and I will never forget all the things this trip taught me. It was one of the most marveling, wonderful, fulfilling trip I have been on.

Rome, Italy The Eternal City

Italy was a combination of many different things.  A good combination. It’s the country of food, romance, history, wine, and so much more and we indulged in all of it. It was a trip that was so relaxing, but so fulfilling all at the same time and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. And it was also strange because we had been planning this trip for months and the fact that it was already here and we were finally going was so exciting and crazy to comprehend!

Arriving to Rome was one of the more glamorous arrivals we have had. We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hostel. It was quite the adventurous car ride.  The driver probably drove way over the speed limit, he got entirely way too close to the cars in front of us, and he slammed on the brakes a few too many times for comfort. But in the end we arrived safely, so it wasn’t that bad after all.

Once we did this I was not worried at all. I was so relaxed at the fact I did not have to navigate at all and someone else was doing it for us, but the relaxation did not last long.  When we arrived to our hostel, we arrived to a place with no signs, actually they had nothing.  So during our first hour in Rome we almost die from driving there and now our hostel does not exist. After searching for 20 minutes on every floor and no one too be seen, someone finally walks through the door. The man barely knew any English, so communicating was not easy, but we found the hostel, so that’s all that mattered.

When we finished checking in, the manager at the desk tells us that our bathroom in our room does not work so one of his friends from another hostel is coming to pick us up and we are staying there.  You can imagine the look on my face and the fear that was racing through my mind.  I have been in Rome now for an hour and a half and too much has already happened that made my anxiety level rise.

But as before, it ended up working out for us.  The manager’s “friend” came and walked us too our new hostel.  We ended having a magical view of a plaza, a room to ourselves and a nice room for that matter.  So all the times that I had freaked out during our first view hours there were unnecessary.

After all the worry at the beginning meant nothing after we explored Rome a little.  When we finished getting settled in we walked to the Colosseum. It was such a peculiar feeling being in a city, seeing the sights that I learned so much about in school.

I see these famous sights in movies and in books, but none of it does justice to actually being there.  The feeling of eating my first Italian gelato on the stairs of the Colosseum, watching the sunset was magical. The many magical moments of the trip.

We then had our first Italian dinner of many and it did not disappoint at all. For my first meal I had seafood risotto. It was inevitable that my whole entire trip in Italy would be about the amount of carbohydrates I can consume. I definitely ate way more pizza and gelato than I should have.

The next day we made our way through out the sights of Rome. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Stairs, the most expensive shopping street in the world, and so much more.  The Trevi Fountain was by far my most favorite place that I have been since being in Europe. The sight of it was incredible.  Of course, I had to make a wish and throw a coin in. Stupid me though through the coin in without making a wish, so I had to do it twice.

Wishing at the Trevi Fountain

The best part about being at the Trevi fountain was just sitting there, in the sun, and watching all the people.  It’s a warm feeling to witness so many people seeing this great monument for the first time and marveling in all of it charm.

Our first day in Rome was indescribable. We saw so much and we walked SO MUCH. I thought my feet would have fallen off if I walked any more. And we ended it with our first Italian pizza and of course, another gelato.

One thing that is a flaw of Rome is the rude people, but you kind of just grow to love it because the Italian people are the type of people that you can’t help but love.

The next morning we set off early on our tour of Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Isles of Capri and Anacapri.

Our first stop was Naples. It was the greatest place, but it was definitely good to see. We were there for around 30 mins and that was probably enough for me. The city is dirty and the people are on a whole different level than the people in Rome.

After Naples, we headed to Pompeii. Pompeii was the ancient city that was destroyed and covered in ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It is such an eerie feeling to walk through these sights that are excavated and see all the ruins.

You see the houses of the people. The streets that they walked on and the town that they lived in.  They even have excavated people from the ruins that were covered in ash and mud. Being in the ruins was one of the craziest things I have seen.  I was standing the a sight that was covered in volcanic ash, learning all about the history, and looking Mount Vesuvius in the background.

When we left Pompeii, we went headed to our hotel on the island of Sorrento to stay for the night. As we were driving to Sorrento, we had some of the most beautiful views.  The sunset was painted with blues and purples and we arrived just in time to watch the sunset from a balcony over looking Naples Bay with Mount Vesuvius in the foreground.  It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen.

Views of the coast of Italy

That night, we had a complementary four course meal for dinner. One of the best dinners I have ate in a long time and was worth it too.  During our two day tour, we had more three and four course meals that I have ever ate in my life and I loved every minute of it.

The next morning, we went to the Isles of Capri and Anacapri. During this whole vacation I had one thing that I wanted to do.  All I wanted to do was see the Blue Grotto.  The Blue Grotto is a natural cave that was discovered by the Romans, but became a popular destination in the 1830’s. The cave is popular for its natural light phenomenon. When in the cave, the light from the sun reflects on the white sand and it makes the water have a neon blue effect.  The downside is that the way you get in the cave is all determined on by the tide.  The day before our tour guide was saying the tours were not allowed in the grotto because the weather would not permit it.

I was holding out so much hope to see the grotto.  When we arrive to the Island, out tour guide went to check if the grotto was open. And for some reason, thank the lord, it was open. It was one of the most magical things I have ever seen in my whole life. It felt like for the short minutes that we were in the grotto, that it was all fake.  I could not fathom the thought that I was in Italy, in this tiny row boat, seeing the Blue Grotto, something one a handful of people get to see.  I felt like the luckiest person alive and still do.

Inside the Blue Grotto

As soon as we left the grotto, the weather started to get bad and in less than 30 minutes they closed the grotto. It was a sign from God I felt.  We were one of the first and last boats to go to the grotto and I could not have been happier.

During the rest of the day we explored the islands. We saw views from the very top of the island, to views from the bottom.  After the day was over, we headed back to Rome for the night.

The next day, after much needed rest, we went to The Vatican.  We went through the Vatican museum, where the Sistine Chapel is.  Although I was slightly shocked by the Sistine Chapel. I had this idea in my mind of how it would be and it was nothing like it. Even though it is breathtakingly beautiful and such an incredible sight to see, it is simply in a room, smaller than I though, and isn’t a chapel.

After the museum, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica.  This was an adventure.  Being broke college kids, we had two choices. We could either pay €7 and take an elevator to the top and only have to climb around 200 stairs to see the views or we could pay €5 and climb 551 stairs to the top. Our logical was if we climbed the stairs, we could save €2 and get a work out and be able to buy gelato or a bottle of wine.  You can see where our priorities lie.  But the climbing all those stairs was worth it when we reached the top. From the top you can see all of Rome. You can see all the beauty of the city from one place.

The thing that we did not think about was the fact that once we climbed up the stairs, we would then have to climb down them.  You can sense my enthusiasm. It was fine though, I just rewarded myself with gelato afterwards.

We then took a free walking tour of Rome and it was one of the most knowledgable and historical walking tours I have been on.  I learned more in the 2 hours that I was on the tour, than any class room I have been in.

The guide of our tour explained Rome like a cake.  There are different layers of Rome and every layer explains a time in history.  From the beginning of the 1 century BC to modernism, Rome has every history and time period wrapped up in one city.  We saw so many different sites.

We learned about the Spanish Steps, the creations of the Trevi Fountain (which produces almost €4 Billion each year. And all of the money is donated to charity), the Roman Forums, the Colosseum.  We saw everything it felt it.

After the tour was over, I was so intrigued and I felt so intelligent with all the history Rome has to offer. I felt as if I could teach a whole history class and not run out of things to talk about.

The next day, our last day in Rome, we did a tour of the Colosseum and then the Roman Forums.  Both of these places hold more accent history than I thought I could ever learn.

The Roman Forums has started to be excavated in the 15th century and continues to from there on.  In the Roman Forums, we saw Julius Caesars’s home, his square and even the sight of where he was cremated.  We also saw the prison where St. Paul and St. Peter were held before they were crucified.

During my time in the forums, I could not comprehend that I was standing on ancient soil.  The same ground that triumphant Julius Caesar walked on. I was basically living in the history textbook for a few hours and I loved it.

The Roman Forums explained how Rome is a city built on top of a hidden city.  The city cannot dig into the ground with out finding new ruins to be excavated.  It’s a thought that is crazy to wrap your mind around.

Our next and last stop before we left was the Colosseum. It’s cool to actually go into the Colosseum and see pictures of the original structure and how it looks now.  The original structure was made out of marble and when Rome was rebuilding itself many years ago builders took the prized marble of the Colosseum and used it elsewhere leaving the Colosseum as it is today.

My time in Rome, la cita eterna (the eternal city), and Italy itself, was nothing less than spectacular.  It was the most historically appetizing, full of alluring views and definitely most fulfilling trip I have been on and it wasn’t even over yet. After we left Rome, we headed to Berlin, Germany. Another city full of history and dazzling charm.

It still amazes me, even after almost three months of being here that I am seeing so much of the world.  It still feels like I am living in a dream and one day (2 months to be exact) someone is going to pinch me and it will all be over.