Tag Archives: Euro Vacay

Euro Vacay Day 10-13: New Year’s Eve in Paris!

Okay, so I’ve been posting these throwback blogs I’ve been meaning to share pre-pandemic and I know that we’ve just welcomed the new year but let me still share with you my very short Paris adventure when I welcomed 2020! I know, who knew that it would be a very eventful year!

After returning from my visit at the AuschwitzBirkenau camp, I immediately took one hot shower at my hostel and booked for an Uber to take me to the Krakow Glowny where I will be heading back to Czech Republic for my flight to Paris. The FlixBus trip getting back to Prague took around six hours and from Prague Zličín, I had to take another Uber to take me to the Václav Havel Airport for my flight via Czech Airlines to France. 

A little bathroom selfie at the Charles de Gaulle Airport lol

I’ve arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport around nine in the morning of the 31st of December, so I really had all the time in the world to make it to my hostel before the celebration begins in the evening. I was expecting a lot of people to be at the airport, but surprisingly it just about the usual amount of people I see inside some of the busiest airports I’ve been to, considering it’s a holiday. It was very easy for me to navigate it, and you can also ask for assistance particularly about which train is heading to Paris!

Getting on the right train could be a bit tricky!

Ugh. Paris! I’ve been dreaming of visiting this place for so long and I was just very anxious and excited to explore the city since I’ll be spending four days in it!  Too short, I know but I’m pretty sure that there’ll be a next time.  I booked my accommodation at  the Perfect Hotel & Hostel located at Rue Rodier. Making sure that I won’t get lost, I opted to walk there from the Gare du Nord station. It wasn’t that far and I was able to easily navigate the Google Maps streets of that part of Paris. You see, I really do prefer walking when going overseas! Hah!

Outside the Gard Du Nord station

The hostel was very quaint and clean and the room isn’t so bad. After spending days with other people at night, I was already used sharing space. After lying down for a bit, I decided to walk around the neighborhood first while the sun is out. It is still very cold, mind you but the day is just beautiful!

Perfect Hotel & Hostel 4-male dormitory.

That night, I’ve introduced myself to one of  my room mates, a guy from Spain teaching English in Colombia who’s spending the holiday in Paris and asked him if he’d like to go out together. He and I decided to head near the Eiffel Tower site to celebrate New Year’s Eve but unfortunately, the traffic was terrible and it’d take us forever to get there so we decided to celebrate it at the Arc di Triomphe. It was a very exciting and unforgettable experience to say the least. I had a blast waiting along with everyone for the clock to chime in at 12midnight, the dawn of the year 2020.

My first time celebrating the new year’s eve without my family and in another country!

A little photo op at the famed Moulin Rouge on the way back to our hostel! It was so freaking cold!

On my next post… I’ll be posting my little walking tour in Paris. I didn’t get to see everything because it was cloudy, wet and cold but it’s still an experience that I’d treasure forever.

My Unforgettable Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Tour

I’ve never learned what the Holocaust meant in school. History lessons were very much compressed at my public elementary and high schools. My first exposure about the Nazi genocide against the Jews in Europe was the film Schindler’s List which I accidentally watched around 1997-1998. I’m not particular about the exact date but during that time, I was at the cusp of puberty. I was a very sensitive and emotional child and that film just touched something in me that stayed with me into adulthood.

I’ve tried learning more about it in high school, but the inept teaching and inadequate resources made me thirst for more until I went to uni where I finally got the scope of this terrible part of our history. I’ve read books, articles, news reels, film archives and tried to absorb as many information as possible. There were so many questions that I wanted to get answered but until this day, some of them remains unanswered, rather unanswerable. The whys and the hows are just too much and just unfathomable.

That is why this trip was extra special for me. To have the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, a couple of places amongst the thousands of Nazi concentration camps feels like a blessing somehow. It felt like it would answer some of the questions that I’ve had since I was a teenager and I feel that I’d be able to somehow connect with the victims of this horrifying human tragedy and most importantly, pay my respect by never forgetting about them.

For the record, I do not personally know a single Jewish individual but I do believe that as human beings, we have to acknowledge what transpired here and the rest of the concentrations camps around Europe because I believe that we owe it to the victims to keep their memories alive for all the time we have to be reminded what is at stake and what should be done to avoid such humongous tragedy in the human history ever happening again.

The tour started very early in the morning. It was freezing that day. I thought I was already accustomed to the cold but the weather that day made me lethargic for some reason.

 

Took this picture of the beautiful Krakow morning while waiting for the bus to pick me up.

Auschwitz is located in Oświęcim which is 66 kilometers west of Krakow or around 2 hours from Krakow.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” over Auschwitz gate is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holocaust. It means Work Makes You Free, a very disturbing reminder of the Nazi cruelty.
These are Zyklon B cans, which contained the gas used as a killing tool in the gas chambers.

The Museum collections include:

• about 40.000 m3 of shoes;

• about 3,800 suitcases, 2,100 of which bear the names of their owners;

• over 12 thousand kitchen utensils;

• 470 prostheses and orthoses;

• 397 striped camp garments;

• 246 tallisim;

• about 4,100 works of art (including about 2 thousand of which were made by prisoners). Source

Our group tour around Auschwitz took about 2 hours and we had a little break before heading to its adjacent camp, the Birkenau concentration camp.

Bought a copy of this guidebook and Viktor Frankl’s book about his time in various Nazi concentration camps.
Heading to Birkenau concentration camp.
I was able to go to the quarters and touch what remains of their bunk beds. It was heavy and sad.

It took me a while to share these pictures that I’ve taken when I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps last December 2019 because I didn’t think that it’s proper to post them at all. I posted the pictures of the exterior of the camps instead on my Instagram page instead but not these images because they just felt too personal then, but I realized that I wanted people to know, especially the young ones who have not heard or read about the Holocaust to be aware of this tragedy, to know its history and to see a glimpse of a dark past in human history that should never happen again and must never be forgotten. We should forever honor their memories for they’re a constant reminder for us to always treat each other with dignity, respect each other’s differences, learn not just to tolerate but to accept and view life as a gift. The victims – those who perished and alive up to these day gave their lives to be our social conscience and may we never forget that.

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Wiesel

Euro Vacay Day 8-9: Krakow In My Heart

I’ve arrived in Krakow at the crack of dawn and and I was still feeling a bit hazy from lack of sleep inside the bus. It took more or less nine hours from Vienna to Krakow, and I was just too giddy to sleep right away even though I was very tired from my day tour in Vienna. Who could sleep comfortably inside a bus though? Haha!

Arriving at the Krakow (Kraków) Dworzec Autobusowy MDA, I opted to use Uber to take me to the city center right where I made a booking for a couple of nights, after exchanging about 100 euros at the station for some Polish złoty. Just a little FYI –  although Poland is a European Union member, they still use their own currency.

As mentioned above, I’ve booked two nights at the Ametyst Hostel and let me tell you that it is absolutely my favorite hostel during my whole trip. For one, the guy at the reception allowed me to check-in right away, thank goodness because I still need a couple or more hour of sleep. I stayed at a six-mixed dorm room and everything was just perfect! I’ve got my own locker, the bed was warm and comfy and it doesn’t feel cramp at all and their bathrooms are always clean! And the most wonderful thing about it is that, it is just five minutes away from the main square! Like seriously, it’s smack dab in the heart of the city! I just know that I’d definitely go back to Krakow and will stay with them again!

I was assigned the top bunk near the window!

After getting some sleep for a few hours and feeling refreshed,  I embarked on my very first winter in Poland! Haha!

The weather was a bit overcast but thankfully, it did not rain. It was just too cold as usual!

Eros Bendato’ (Eros Bound) or The Head is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj (1944 – 2014). This sculpture in the western corner of the market square is a popular meeting place and is one of the most popular landmarks in the city.

The sculpture at night and up-close.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków, is one of the best known bronze monuments in Poland, and a favourite meeting place at the Main Market Square in the Old Town district of Kraków. source
The monument at night.

Mickiewicz is counted as one of Poland’s’s Three Bards (the others being Zygmunt Krasiński and Juliusz Słowacki) and the greatest poet in all Polish literature.

The St. Mary’s Basilica

After the Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most important church in Krakow. It’s construction was started in late 13th century on the foundations of a former Romanesque church. The new temple was consecrated around the year 1320. Over the centuries, the church underwent numerous reconstructions of both its exterior and interior.

The whole ambiance at the main square was heartwarming! It’s still the holidays after all.
The view from the Wawel Royal Castle.
Wawel Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków, located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, Poland.
Saints Peter and Paul Church.
Or course, I had to take a picture with one of Pope John Paul II’s statues in Krakow. This life-sized monument of the former local lad turned Pope turned Saint John Paul II stands across from Wawel Cathedral near the entrance of the Cathedral Museum, which just so happens to have been opened by the man himself (then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła) back in 1978. Source
A clearer image in the morning. Source
Inside the Wawel Royal Castle
This looks unreal IRL.
Christmas just ended and 2020 is fast-approaching. How I wanted to go back to this day when we’re all still unaware of Covid19.
Food! Food! Food!
My dinner! Ugh! This was actually more than it looks here!
Dessert!!!
Souvenirs options!
Candies! Candies! Candies!
I’ve almost forgot about this but it’s good!
The artistry!
Heading back to the hostel here!
This was a couple of blocks away from the hostel! Ugh! Looking at this made me miss Krakow more!

I think I went back to the hostel past 11, I still need to wake up early the following day for the Auschwitz-Birkenau tour I availed via Klook!

Krakow will always have a special place in my heart. Ugh. Writing this part of the trip made me emotional for some reason. I hope to come back here real soon.

Euro Vacay Day 7: My POV of Vienna, Before Sunrise Style

Let me tell you that for the most part of this trip, I’ve availed the service of FlixBus to take me from point A to point B and vice versa. Now, here’s a little peek of my day trip in Vienna before heading to Krakow, Poland.

Like Prague, Vienna isn’t on my original itinerary but since it’s just “nearby,” I thought that I might as well get a look of this beautiful and historical city which also happens to be the main location of one of my most favorite films of all time – Before Sunrise.

This was technically the first snow I’ve seen during this whole trip and I was inside the bus heading to Vienna – as per my iPhone – we were in Ruda during this time.

I had to leave my luggage at the Vienna West Station and only took a string bag, some granola bars and bought my one day transpo ticket to explore Vienna for the whole day. (Which I was not able to to use extensively by the way!)

Noticed this first inside the mall at the train station.
I’ve walker my way to the Zollamssteg Bridge – this is where Before Sunrise protagonists Jesse and Celine meet the guys promoting their play. It is alongside a railway station (given the shot of the rail lines which pass diagonally beneath the bridge). And since I was the only person there that day, I took the chance to do a bit of a photoshoot lol with the help of my ever reliable tripod. 😅
The art tho.
I mean, I don’t really need to go inside a museum here.
Next stop: The Wiener Riesenrad, a giant ferris wheel at the western end of Prater Park. This is where Jesse and Celine had their first kiss.
I had to just walk all over the city because I feel that I’d be lost somehow if I use the tram. It was so worth it though because I get to feel the vibe of the city much more.
In front of the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and is one of the most significant landmarks in Austria.
Albertina Palais Museum.
This is where Jesse recites part of WH Auden’s As I Walked Out One Evening – “O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time” to Celine at the balcony of the museum.
Ugh. I was so kilig remembering the scene of this location!
It’s getting late by this point and I’m getting kind of tired and had to wait in line for me to get in so I opted to just get this little selfie right here. This is where that iconic telephone game happened! I wanted to do that if only I have someone with me then. Haha!
My last stop was at this 15th century Gothic church of Maria am Gestade, Salvatorgasse 12. (Mary on the Strand Church)
I don’t pray a lot but I actually prayed here. There’s just something about this church, being alone at the time that I was able to really connect.
It wasn’t a complete Before Sunrise tour but I figured that I may have to come visit next time because a day tour here isn’t enough to really savor what the city has to offer.
So for the record, this was the shortest stay in any country that I’ve been to. I cannot wait to visit again!

 

Euro Vacay Day 4-6: Praha In My Mind.

After spending Christmas in Berlin, I headed straight to Prague and took the bus via Flixbus from Berlin Central Bus Station to Prague (ÚAN Florenc Bus Station) which is about four and half hours only. It was still midday when I made it to the capital city of the beautiful country of the Czech Republic. I always tell anyone that Prague is my most favorite part of my trip in Europe. It’s so unforgettable for me too because just when I was about to board the train on my way to my hostel, I suddenly got a very upset stomach. It felt like a full-blown diarrhea to be honest, and I was almost beside myself during that several minutes train ride, and when I got to the station, I couldn’t seem to find a water closet! I felt like my sweat was dripping all over my body despite of the cold and had goosebumps all over my body – lol, ya know that feeling? Ugh. It was horrible. I was even contemplating of paying a hundred euros to any establishment that would allow me to use their WC hahaha! ‘Kept on checking Google maps and I’ve realized that it would take me 20 more minutes of walking to get to the hostel ( I never considered a tram ride because I’m not confident that there won’t be any accident.) It was really horrifying, but looking back – it’s actually something that made my trip even more exciting! Lol.

So I was able to make it to my beautiful hostel, the Czech Inn. I absolutely loved this hostel! It’s very cozy, cheap and the staff are amazing! And after calming myself upon my hurried check-in, I’ve realized that it was only a minute walk to Krymska Station ( a tram station) which could practically take you anywhere in Prague.) They also offer a buffet breakfast for 6 euro, (not sure if they do for lunch and dinner too, though) and I’d say it’s pretty much worth it. I wouldn’t mind staying with them again next time.

This is my hostel, Czech Inn – I cannot wait to go stay with them the next time I visit Prague!
I was the first one that day! This is an okay set-up for me. I’m a budget traveler and loved meeting people and their bed are just so comfy!
St. Vitus Cathedral

I never planned anything on my trip here in this beautiful city. I mean, I’ve read a few things about it on the net and since it’s only a few hours from Berlin, I might as well visit it right? Little did I know that I would fall in love with the fairy tale vibe of the city with its cobblestone streets, palaces, cathedral and its beautiful people! Walking through the Charles Bridge, seeing the grandeur of the Prague Castle, the St. Vitus Cathedral, the John Lennon Wall, the Jewish Museum, and watching a lively concert in the Old Town Square. I was so glad that I never passed the chance to visit this city. Strolling around it felt like being given a gift during that holiday. It was definitely a very worthy stop and a must-see city when you go visit Europe.

I just loved my ever reliable tripod!
Charles Bridge from afar.
The Jewish Museum – Ceremonial Hall
Charles Bridge
The view from Charles Bridge
At the Lesser Town
Checking out the John Lennon Wall. I should’ve brought a sharpie!
Stopping by this beautiful scenery on my way back to my hostel!
The Old Town!
Christmas is still in the air!
Ugh. The food!
Had a bit of these for dinner.
I even bought a jacket a the Palladium because they were on sale!

 

With Ondrej Glogar who’s busking showing his skills with a Didgeridoo! What an amazing talent! See video below:

Taking a last look at this wonderful city!
Wearing the jacket I bought on sale at the Palladium! Haha!
Going to the bus station for FlixBus to take me to a quick stop to Vienna in the morning!

Euro Vacay Day 1-4: Berlin, Berlin…

I was very excited to finally set foot in Europe and with Berlin being one of my must-visit cities before I die. Haha! I’m really beyond thrilled! The immigration officials weren’t as stern as I expected them to be, due to the horror stories I’ve read and heard from some people. They just asked the purpose of my trip, the countries I’ll be visiting and it took less than a minute I think and I finally got my entry in Germany!

After planning this trip for almost a year, you would think that I was able to cover all of the bases already but no – my Qatar Airways flight landed in Berlin Tegel Airport around 10 – or past 10 in the evening. Lo and behold, most if not all of the stores are already closed! And stupid me was expecting there will be stores open 24 hours where I could buy a SIM card! I even bought a new phone for this trip! LOL. So my only option was to asked the airport staff on how to go about getting to my hostel for my four days in the city! There were buses that will take you anywhere in the cities, and tram too. I mean, this is Germany after all, but I was still totally clueless since I’ve not internet to Google where I am – so I just checked my accommodations booking and prayed to the gods that I got off the right station. Apparently I did not. Haha. I was literally lost and walking aimlessly. And there are only a few people out and about. Remember, this was winter time and I think it’s already past eleven in the evening. 

Thank goodness though, because I bumped into Norah – a local from Berlin who helped me find my hostel. She’s truly a godsend because I was just getting really cold by the time I bumped into her.  I told her the whole thing of me not able to get a new SIM card at the airport and I just showed her my booking and she took me to my hostel right then and there. 

I had my Berlin accommodation at the St. Christopher Inn Berlin-Mitte. They were very gracious and the hostel was actually kind of nice for a solo traveler like myself. One of the guy manning the reception asked me where I was from and I told her that I’m from the Philippines and he smiled and said that his mom is Filipina! Instant connection! LOL.  I absolutely loved the location of the hostel! It’s perfect because it ‘s all walking distance to all the tourist traps!!! I swear, I never had to use any transportation system within my 4 days in Berlin.  

The following day was not as eventful as I’d like it to be because I was still getting used to the cold! I just went our first to familiarize myself – saw the Berlin Cathedral where I went in for a mass on Day 3,  Altes Museum, Humboldt University, Alexanderplatz etc… It was just me being very fascinated and I still cannot believe that I made it here! For some people, this may just be nothing but from someone like me who grew up in the country – this is definitely a whole new world! A feat by itself!

Here are some of the pictures I took on my first foray in Berlin.

 

This was December 25th of last year! It was my first time spending Christmas outside of the country and alone for that matter. It’s kind of sad if you think about it because I’m usually with my family during this season but I was having the time of my life all’s good!

I joined a free tour of the Reichstag glass dome on top of the rebuilt Reichstag building! It was exhilarating!

Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. It feels so heavy visiting this memorial. I will be writing more about this in conjunction to my visit at Auschwitz-Birkenau the following days.

The Reichstag Building

The Berlin Cathedral

I actually got inside the night before but was not able to take pictures inside because one – it was disrespectful and second – it was not allowed I think but I still see some folks trying to sneak a picture or two…

The Urania World Clock is a large turret-style world clock located in the public square of Alexanderplatz in Mitte, Berlin.

Yep, it really isn’t Christmas without this big ‘old Christmas tree!

Of course, I ordered Currywurst!

8 euro ain’t so bad.

The beautiful Postdamer Platz

Humboldt University

The Lustgarten

The view on my way back to my hostel

At the Westkreuz Station early in the morning on my way to Prague!