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What I’ve learned from living abroad

Let me tell you, quite a lot. As I have been living in foreign countries for half a year now, I have been away from home for a while. My first city to live in was Bordeaux, France. During an exchange semester. Once there and away from my routine at home I soon started posing questions like:

What do I want to do in the future? A question a lot of us pose to ourselves right now, but most of us don’t know the answer. A giant question mark in our heads, a ton of possibilities in front of us. Too many, so we get lost, too many offers to choose from, too many things that interest us. A lot of them sound cool and exciting, a lot of them are yet to be experienced. The paradox of choice.

I guess, we often get lost in it. Getting away from home for a bit is a good way to clear your mind and to get some distance between you and the overwhelming amount of possibilities. A little bit of choice is necessary, but too much of it leaves us clueless. While you are staying away from home for a bit you have time to discover if what you thought you wanted to do really is what you want to do. That may sound weird, but I, for example, thought I had my career path completely mapped out. Everything planned, everything structured. Just to discover that it actually was what two-year-ago me wanted, but present me didn’t do so anymore. The distance between my routine at home and a completely new world in France really helped me to ask myself some crucial questions. It gave me time to rethink all my decisions and slowly getting to know what I wanted. Knowing what you want is the most important thing when it comes to your future. Then, you can always take it from there.

Staying abroad you will discover what is really important to you. You will learn to value your family and your friends way more as they are not there with you all the time. So you have to call them, you have to make an effort to stay in their lives. You have to ask them what is going on. And if the same amount you give into these relationships comes back you can consider yourself really lucky. That’s when you realize which relationships are the most important ones to you. I for example feel like I took my family for way too granted before. Now I don’t anymore. Family is so important, staying in touch with the people who have been with you since you were a little child, since the day you were born and who know you best is a very crucial thing. Those will be the people you can rely on, you can go to if you have a problem. The same thing is true for friends. If you have friends you can always call no matter how far away you are and who will listen to you – you got great friends you got to hold onto. People who genuinely care about you are the most valuable thing you can have living on your own and away from home.

You also learn to value new relationships, the new friends you make in the country you’re staying in. I got to know even more cultures than I did before and came across a lot of misassumptions we have about a lot of different places in this world. France and especially Bordeaux has a great cultural diversity and you can make friends from all over the globe. Making new friends always opens  new doors for you. With new friends your surroundings will be different from the ones back home, you will make a lot of new experiences, you will meet a lot of people that influence you – maybe without even noticing it. You’ll only realize it when your friends back home tell you how much you’ve changed.

You also learn not to take everything for granted. We are fortunate enough to get paid for doing an exchange semester, but, of course you won’t be floated with money. Living standards might be a bit different, you might find yourself in a tiny apartment where you’ll have to improvise a bit. You learn how to deal with different situations, how to make the best out of everything.

It’s amazing how fast you adapt to a new environment, how fast a place grows on you. After a while I already called Bordeaux my second home. If you feel settled, if you have a good environment and great people surrounding you, you can feel at home anywhere in the world.

As I am doing right now as well. I am currently living with my boyfriend in Barcelona – and couldn’t feel more at home than here. Being in the city for only a month I already feel like I belong to it. If you stay with the person you love you will feel comfortable and settled anywhere. Granted, Barcelona is a great city, but I am sure we would make a home out of any place in this world. That’s the beauty of love. It might sound cliché, but in the end it’s everything you need. You need it to be happy, to feel settled, to feel comfortable. No matter which kind of love – from your partner, your family, your friends – or ideally all three of them – if you have people who love you in your life you are way richer than you might think.

 

 

 

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Cashew – French Toast with Cinnamon Sauce

Ingredients (2 People)

  • 6 slices of toast (vegan)
  • 200g cashew nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Agave syrup
  • Soy milk
  • Vegan margarine for the pan
  • Bananas, Grapes, Raisins
  • Soy yoghurt

How to?

French Toast

Soak the cashews over night in a bowl of water.

Take them out of the water in the morning and blend them with approximately one cup of soy milk until the mixture is smooth.

Add agave syrup and cinnamon to taste.

If the mixture is still too thick, add a bit more soy milk to it.

Pour it out of the blender and dip the bread into it on both sides.

Repeat with all slices until there’s no cashew mixture left.

Then put the slices into a pan to toast them on each side until the slices turn brown.

Remove them from the pan and now you’re ready to assemble – you can top them with a variety of fruits you desire. In this recipe I used two bananas, a bunch of grapes and a few raisins.

Cinnamon Sauce

Take a cup of natural soy yoghurt (or more if you feel like having a lot of sauce).

Add cinnamon and agave syrup to taste and voilà – it’s as easy as that.

 

And now the most important step – enjoy!

 

 

 

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A lonely traveller?

Travelling alone. What did I learn from it? Quite a lot. If somebody asks me if they should dare to travel alone I’ll always say yes. My first solo trip was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and you’ll soon see why.

In September 2017 I decided to travel to South America all on my own. To Chile to be precise. I wanted to go farther away and South America was a good option to realize my plans. I also wanted to experience another culture, a completely different way of living. Something I wouldn’t be able to experience if I just went around in Europe.

So, the decision was made and I prepared myself for a 24 hours flight across the ocean. First, I landed in Atlanta, USA, where I had to wait 8 hours for my connecting flight to Santiago, the capital of Chile. I’ve never flown that far away from home before, it was my first time crossing the Atlantic Ocean. And I’m so glad I did it. If I had listened to my parents or my grandparents who told me it would be “too dangerous” and I should at least travel with someone else. I didn’t listen. In fact, it even secured my decision to go by myself more. It’s so crucial to listen to yourself sometimes.

Once I landed in Chile, everything was new, I had to adapt to other habits, to another language. And you have to be more careful then back at home as well. I, for example, got ripped off a lot of money when I took my first taxi from the airport to my hostel. That was my first lesson right away – don’t trust everybody right away, even if they seem super nice. I tend to always believe the best of people which didn’t change at all, but I learned to be more careful on my way. So, except for having a little less money than before, this event effect my stay.

During my travels I mainly stayed in hostels and the first one I went to was quite big, which might not be the best option if you want to meet new people. It turned out fine for me though. In the afternoon, I was just sitting down on the couch in the common area and there would always be someone to talk to. So, even if you are travelling on your own – you will never be alone – unless you want to. I certainly didn’t.

Most of the times I made friends with the workers of the hostel, as they were there permanently and had the best tips where to go and how to get around the city. They were always around to talk for a bit as well as some other guests. The common area was rarely empty. So, even if you are not the most talkative, outgoing person you’ll be fine on your own. In the beginning I wasn’t that outgoing as well – but I slowly learned it. At first, I waited for people to come to me – and it worked most of the time. If not, I was forced to sit down at another group and introduce myself to participate at the conversation. While just joining a group of strangers randomly might seem weird in everyday life, it’s completely normal once you’re travelling.

Another perk of travelling alone is that you have complete freedom of deciding what to do and what not to do. You can choose where you want to go, what you want to see and you can take your time doing so. That’s something I really enjoyed when I went to the Atacama Desert where I did a lot of tours that really interested me and on each tour I got to know some other travelers.

If meeting new people everyday gets to much you can always take a break. That’s what I did as well. I was meeting a lot of people every day for 3 weeks, then I went to the Easter island. An island in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by nothing but the sea which is calm and beautifully silent. Even though it is popular among tourists, the island itself is still quiet if you move away from the most popular tourist spots. There I just rented a bike and explored the island on my own for a while. That’s when I noticed that, no matter how much I like socializing, I eventually need some time on my own as well. Like really on my own. All alone. Just for a day or two, but still. It’s always good to take time for yourself when you feel like you need it. And after three weeks of being on the road constantly, I definitely did.

So, if you’re coming up with a travel plan, I would strongly recommend scheduling alone time as well. Interacting every day and every night can be fatiguing after a long period of time. If you take some time off afterwards, you’ll make the most amazing discoveries about yourself, because you will be able to focus on yourself a lot better. You’ll also have time to process everything that was going on during the weeks before – which should be a lot as travelling always leads you into some new adventures.

Be open for everything. That’s a crucial thing as well. Don’t plan too much in advance, plans always change. Maybe you meet a nice group and want to join them for a bit – travelling spontaneously is the most fun thing ever – you’ll never know where you will end up the next day.

So, if you love travelling, don’t be afraid to do it on your own! I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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What – that girl can talk?

Yes, she can. A bit of a strange title you might think? You’ll soon see why.

I’m currently living in Barcelona and within two weeks of being here I found the most fun job I could have imagined. I’m currently working as a promotor in different hostels, gathering people together and leading them to a bar and later on to a club. Almost every night I meet a lot of different people from all over the world, engage in great conversations with them and make sure everybody is having a good time. While practicing my Spanish whenever I get the chance.

Why exactly is that so surprising?

So, here’s the thing. Growing up I always was a really shy and quiet kid and that didn’t change much when I entered high school. There I was the shiest little girl you could imagine. I would be so occupied what people would think about me before the conversation even started, I was afraid to say the wrong thing and offend people – so, needless to say, I wasn’t much of a talker.  I was always a really good listener and left the talking more or less to the others. People came to me whenever they needed someone to listen to their problems from a really early age on. And I listened carefully, that’s what I could do best. I only talked when my opinion was asked, I would never express my beliefs just for being heard. Of course, I had friends among whom I acted differently, but interacting with new people I was silent like a fish. You wouldn’t get much out of me.

I observed situations but stood out of them, I watched from the far, but secretly wished to be part of it. I was unhappy with my situation, but didn’t know how to change it. I wanted to participate, I wanted to be cool, but it didn’t seem to work out for me. People were nice to me though – it was rare that someone would be mean to me. However, I was just too silent and could never express my opinion – or if I dared to I talked so quietly nobody would listen.

Seems a little sad, doesn’t it? At that time it certainly was.

When I think about all the times in high school I just went to the toilet and hid there during the break I feel the urge to laugh. It just seems so far away to me now, nothing I would do anymore. I’d like to go back to my younger self and tell her everything’s going to be alright in the future. She did figure it out in the end.

What I am trying to say is there is hope for everyone. No matter how shy you might be, you can always overcome it. I, for example, just forced myself into situations I felt really uncomfortable in. I forced myself to join a group and participate in their conversation – well, at first it was more a standing there and letting people talk. The most important thing was that I even dared to get up and to stand next to them and didn’t stay glued in my chair in class. That wouldn’t lead me anywhere. So, slowly but surely it began to work. I started to talk a little more, I started to make some new friends, while in the past I was just sticking to the people I already knew.

Another thing that helped me along my journey of becoming more open and talkative was engaging in the right jobs. Jobs that forced me to talk to people, jobs where I simply couldn’t hide behind a computer and disappear into the screen. The first one being catering. Even though I didn’t have to talk to the customers that much, the waiting – business is really social and you interact with your colleagues a lot. Even though I didn’t like waiting that’s when I became more and more sociable.

My next job relied even more on having good people-skills: door-to-door promotion in Germany. There you really have to swallow up your shyness and just jump all in – otherwise you won’t last long. I wasn’t really shy anymore at this time, but talking to probably a hundred people or more a day helped me to overcome the tiny little bit that was still left in me. People would be unfriendly a lot of times, so I had to learn how to deal with rudeness and how not to take people’s moods personally – a thing I always did in the past. I always thought, someone who wasn’t nice to me didn’t like me or I just did something wrong to them. Now I finally realized everybody can have a bad day once in a while and I am for sure not accountable for people’s moods.

So, forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations, whether it might be in school, at a social event or in a job – that’s certainly a tactic that helps you to grow a lot personally. Soon you’ll look back and wonder about the scared little self you were a few years ago. Still, the journey will never be completed. You can always learn, you can always challenge yourself to try out new things.

The next few weeks I am going to share more about my progress and explain what helped me along my journey a bit further. Travelling alone, for example. Being all on your own, just relying on yourself. Therefore you really need to be confident enough and believe in yourself that you can make it – but that will be further explained in the next posts. So stay tuned! There’s still a lot more to come.

 

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Change is coming your way

This blog is going to change a bit. Just had to throw it out there right away. While I only focused on my travel experiences so far, I definitely want to include some more topics in this blog. Lately, I have been really interested in self- development and also worked on myself a lot. That’s what I want to share with you guys. Who knows, maybe you can relate.

I’m currently trying to work towards my dreams and to get as much out of life as I possibly can. The first thing being not selling your soul for money. I have never been a money-driven person and I’m so glad about that. Of course, I need money to survive and pay my bills, but I’m still not willing to be trapped in a job I despise just to gain a bit more. After all, money is just paper. Useful if used in the right way, but it can make your life miserable as well.

When I came to Barcelona two weeks ago I knew I had to find a job as soon as possible to have at least enough money to buy food. Already in my first week of living there I was invited to a job interview at Dyson. A quite known company who produces vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and so on. My interview went well, the position could have been mine a few days later. However, I decided to turn the offer down. I would have made quite a fair amount of money, 1500 per month – doesn’t sound bad for a start. However, when I actually saw what my job would consist of, I realized there was no way I would be happy doing this job for five months. Five months is a long time. A time I could invest otherwise, a time I could focus on myself. Working at Dyson I would have dealt with a lot of customer complaints, helping them to find a solution for their problems in offering them discounts on new products. Something that doesn’t sound fun at all. Dealing with people complaining the whole day, draining your energy, leaving you in a bad mood for the whole day. No. There was no way this job was made for me. So I declined and waited for another chance.

In the meantime I went around in the city to drop off some CVs at a lot of vegan food places as I would really love to work in a vegan restaurant for once. No answer so far though. Well, patience, maybe it will work out in the end.

I also dropped some CVs in hostels, hoping to get a job at a hostel reception. Working in hostels is always fun. You meet new people from all over the world every day and get to practice the languages you speak with them. Something I would really love and enjoy doing – and I am actually doing right now.

A few days after my first job interview I was already invited for another interview as a promotor in a hostel. There I had the funniest job interview you could imagine. The woman interviewing me actually had to work and cook pasta for 30 people while I was there, so I jumped in to help her out and already got a good impression about the job in the meantime. There I basically have to make sure everybody has a good time, inform people about the evening program in their hostel which is gathering some people together and leading them to a bar and a club afterwards. Making sure guests are interacting and everybody enjoys their time in the city.

Of course, not as well paid as the other one, but way more fun, way more entertaining and interesting. Fitting better into my time-planning as well as I have to work during the night and get to work on my projects during the day. So far, so good. That way, I’m sure I will enjoy Barcelona to the fullest and not being trapped in a 9 to 5 job I actually hate.

So, I what I can only stress again and again here is you have to realize is that your happiness is the most important thing. If you’re doing what you love and what you’re doing makes you happy, everything will turn out fine in the end.

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Goodbye Bordeaux – Hello Barcelona

Days passed, weeks seemed to fly by and now, after living in Bordeaux for almost five months, I had to say goodbye to this beautiful city once again. Sadly I couldn’t even fully enjoy my last days as I had to clean my apartment before leaving. As the owner demanded it had to be as clean as a whistle, my last days in Bordeaux were full of dusting, mopping and scrubbing the place as clean as I could.

Then it was time to say goodbye to my friends. On my last evening I organised a little get together were we sat down on the grass near university to chat. Nothing major, but a nice way to say goodbye and to see everybody again before leaving. We stayed until it was getting dark, then left to get something to eat. When time came to an end and I had to say goodbye to everybody, I was a bit sad indeed. I just hate dealing with farewells. This time it was surprisingly okay however – maybe because I already know I will see a lot of them again in a near future. Still, I got to know some truly amazing people I am going to miss a lot. I kind of wish I could give everybody of them a big hug once again.

I will surely miss the city of Bordeaux as well. If you move to a new country everything is new and exciting at first. However, once you are settled down, you get into your little routine and the group of friends you’re going to hang out with starts to form itself. Life gets into a flow, you get to know the city, you have your favourite places to go to every Friday night and you have your activities you enjoy engaging in.

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Off to Barcelona

Well, actually, I shouldn’t complain. Of course, goodbyes aren’t something enjoyable, but every goodbye offers you some new opportunities, new starts, new possibilities. Especially because I wasn’t leaving Bordeaux to go back home to Vienna – no. I was leaving Bordeaux for Barcelona. The best city in whole Europe. To live with my boyfriend for the summer – can it get any better than that?

What am I going to do there though? Well, that’s open for discussion right now. I don’t really know what I will end up doing, I just know that being here feels right. When I was flying here and my airplane was preparing to land I looked down seeing the city coming closer and closer. Recognizing the beach, the landmarks, the buildings. Seeing all these places I know so well by now I really felt like

– This is home.

Shouldn’t my home be Vienna though? Maybe. But it just doesn’t feel like it right now. I probably even know more about the city of Barcelona than I could tell a tourist about Vienna.

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I’ll also need to find a job in Barcelona – I have no idea what I will end up doing, but let’s see what will come up for me. Well, first of all I will have to deal with a lot of Spanish bureaucracy to be able to work in the country. Everybody from abroad needs to get an NIE, a number of identity for foreigners. Without it you can’t do anything except enjoying your vacations. And while I am planning to enjoy my stay as much as I can – I have to work to gain a living there as well.

Pub crawl life

The thing I will end up doing a lot here are pub crawl for sure – a concept where a guide leads a group of people to different bars offering them good deals with cheap drinks or free shots ending at a club. As my boyfriend leads these pub crawls a few times a week I’ll be accompanying him as a second guide. A fun job, if you end up having a nice group.

The first one I attended was a bit of a mess though. It took place first day I was Barcelona. My boyfriend was supposed to pick me up but as my flight was delayed he couldn’t stay at the airport any longer to wait for me and had to hurry go to work in time. I ended up taking my suitcases to his apartment wanting to join him at the pub crawl later. But, of course, this day I had to be out of luck. Google maps stopped working so I asked a friend of his who also lived in the apartment to help me – a Brazilian who only spoke Portuguese and a few words of Spanish. However we managed to understand each other somehow, throwing English, Spanish and Portuguese all together, pointing and gesticulating. He sent me some screenshots of my way to the bar I was supposed to go join the pub crawl and off I went. I wasn’t sure if I would even end up finding the bar, without Google maps I was so lost I couldn’t believe it. It’s a bit scary how much we are depending on our phones these days. I guessed my way to the metro and afterwards I had literally no clue where I had to go. After wandering around for a while I finally noticed a place I that looked familiar. However, it was still a long way to reach the bar which was in the Gothic quarter. This part of the city is composed of a lot of narrow dark streets that all look the same and I was sure I wasn’t going to find my boyfriend there. So I messaged him a bit desperately, knowing he had to work and sure what to do next. Luckily the bar wasn’t that far away anymore, so he came running to pick me up. When we finally met I was so happy he found me after so many problems at the start.

The pub crawl there was nice, even though I was a bit too tired and done from my journey to fully enjoy it or to engage in any greater conversation. A group of 27 people, so definitely a lot. In other circumstances it would have been a bit more fun. That way I was just waiting for my bed at home.

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The big group of 27 the day I arrived

However, the other crawl I went on we were having a blast. The group were 5 German guys who spent their previous night at the beach as they couldn’t find a hostel. Now they were ready to keep on partying. During the night I ended up texting a tinder date of one of the guys, because he wasn’t sure he had the English skills to talk to her. I’d like to know if I was successful… Anyways, the guys were telling us funny stories of what they had already done in Barcelona – they definitely enjoyed the city partying a lot. The group of 5 was getting smaller and smaller. One we lost because he was way too drunk to follow us anymore, so we put him into a cab to drive home. The next one went away to meet his tinder date. At 2 am. Well – I’d like to know how that went as well. However, the other 3 stayed with us until the end. Before entering the club where the crawl was supposed to end we wanted to take a group picture with them.

– Ok guys, we have to take a group picture now! As there’s only three of you left, you have to be especially creative to make it look cool, my boyfriend told them

–  Oh look, there’s a stature we could climb up!

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Two Germans conquering a statue

And so they did. The statue was standing right in the middle of a pond, but it was possible to get to it anyways. Two of the Germans climbed up. I was a little bit afraid to fall into the water and stayed down – smart idea. A few seconds later we could already hear a police car pulling over. The Spanish officers weren’t that amused seeing some drunk tourists climbing their statues and demanded them to come down immediately. Asking them for their IDs they took their passports and went back into their car. They were sitting there for a while – I guess they just wanted to keep us waiting for a bit, turning up the suspense. There was not much they could do anyways. In the end, the two Germans who climbed the statue ended up getting a warning – a warning, not even a real fine. No punishment at all – lucky us. However, the next time some drunk tourists want to climb a statue we’ll probably make sure that there’s no police around to avoid getting in trouble again.

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Different faces of Paris

As my Erasmus semester was slowly coming to an end I decided to spend my last weekend in Paris to see the French capital I already heard so much about for myself.

My trip started quite early in the morning. As my bus departed at 4:30 am I decided I wouldn’t sleep at all that night. I was just going to stay awake. So that’s what I did. Marching to the bus at night it was cold and dark, I was shivering the whole time and couldn’t wait to hop onto the bus. There I fell asleep instantly. It wasn’t the most comfortable ride ever, but I was glad to get some sleep at least. Around midday we already reached Paris.

First day in the city

In terms of accommodation I opted for couch surfing – which is an app where a stranger literally offers you his couch – and couldn’t have made a better choice. I met my hosts, a couple, at the Bibliotheque François Mitterrand, the national library. Their apartment was in the 13th arrondissement which is a rather new and modern district a lot of Parisians don’t even consider to be a “real” district of Paris. This district has a new and modern scent to it, which is already visible looking at the national library. This building consists of  four high glass towers – it is huge, but still a strange building for a national library.

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Two of the glass towers of the national library

When my host picked me up we got along great right from the start. He and his girlfriend were so nice and welcoming I instantly felt at home. Both were originally from Bordeaux but moved to Paris a few years ago. As I am doing my Erasmus exchange semester in Bordeaux as well we soon started to exchange our experiences about this city.

A quick sightseeing tour

Right after I arrived we went on and intense sightseeing tour through Paris. We met up with another friend of them (also from Bordeaux) then they showed me the most important sights within the area. We rushed through it a bit, but I’m glad we did it that quickly because like that I already got a great overview of the city in only a few hours.

We went along the Seine, the river flowing through Paris, and they showed me the many bridges over the river. They also pointed out the Pont des Arts where you could see a lot of lovelocks around the bridges rail not so long ago. With these lovelocks couples could leave a sign for their endless love. The locks, however, have already been taken down as they were too heavy and became an unsupportable weight for the bridge. After learning about the bridges history we went on to Notre Dame and we even could go inside for free! This famous church is beautiful and has a huge colourful glass window with an amazing mosaic you can only see from inside.

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After Notre Dame we proceeded to the Louvre, the biggest museum in Paris and the 3rd biggest museum in the world. Especially the pyramid shaped glass entry is known all over the world – and also a place where you can find lots of tourists taking pictures. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go inside as you have to sacrifice one day at least to see everything there is to see – and I didn’t have that much time. Leaving the Louvre behind we walked through the Jardin de la Tuileries until we reached the Roue de Paris, a big fairy’s wheel which was already lighting up as it was getting darker. Not only because I was already late, but because a lot of clouds appeared in the sky, letting no light through anymore. Here our sightseeing tour came to an end. While he was guiding me through Paris, my host looked up all the important information about the buildings on Wikipedia to tell me about the sight we were visiting. He really was the perfect guide.

 

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As it had already been a long day, we decided to go for a beer. We went to a nice little bar where we could sit outside to watch some people getting crazy about a fountain near us. They were stripping down their clothes until the had nothing on but their underwear to climb up the fountain to take a picture. Well, what people wouldn’t do if it wasn’t for Instagram. When we finished our beers, it was already time to go home, a nice day of a lot of walking came to an end. When I hit the pillow on my host’s couch I fell asleep almost immediately.

Second day in Paris

The next day it was my hosts girlfriends birthday so I went to discover the city by myself. It was a Sunday, not a lot of people were out in the streets. Walking down the streets I wondered if Paris was always empty like this as I imagined more tourists to be around. But it was calm, it was quiet. Good for me, I thought, then there shouldn’t be so many people out doing some sightseeing. I should be mistaken.

Eiffel tower

The first thing I had to see was, of course, the Eiffel tower. You can also go up the tower to enjoy a view over Paris, but I decided not to as there were a lot of people waiting already. However, I got a lot of pictures from the outside. The Eiffel tower was constructed due to the World’s Fair in 1889 by Gustav Eiffel. A truly impressive sight – but also the most visited one, of course.

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Standing almost right under the Eiffel Tower

L’Arc de Triomphe

50 meters high and constructed for the people who died during the French Revolution and the wars of Napoleon. To get to the arch you have to go through a tunnel under the street as I it is surrounded by a very busy roundabout you can’t cross without putting your life in serious danger. But once you are there you can even go up on top of the arch! It is completely for free if you’re under 26 years old. So, as it was for free I went up there. On top I had an amazing view over the whole city of Paris – I could spot the Eiffel tower as well and many other outstanding buildings. I looked around for a while, just absorbing the city’s beauty. On top of the arch there is a little museum as well where you can learn a lot more about the arche’s history.

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The Arc and the roundabout outside – don’t cross here

Jo and Nana Cakes

After my visit it was already time to have lunch – and as I was in Paris I had to check out as many vegan options as I possibly could. The city is full of vegan friendly restaurants I simply couldn’t resist to try out. I found the vegan patisserie Jo and Nana Cakes online and went there right away – definitely recommendable. Standing behind the vitrine I couldn’t chose what to eat because everything just looked so freakin good. In the end, however, I settled for a delicious peanutbutter cake. As I was the only customer and alone with the vendor we soon started talking. I told him that I was currently doing an exchange semester in Bordeaux and I was just here for a few days. He mentioned he was originally from Mexico but came to France 20 years ago. We kept talking for a while and I was really surprised that I wasn’t experiencing the stereotypical Parisian I have been warned of. I guess you all know the clichée – not friendly at all and stressed. Well, it’s true if you look around in the metro and in the streets, but there are exceptions. Then another guy entered and soon engaged in our discussion as well. Both of them gave me tips about where to go in Paris and which vegan places to check out. After a while of talking I already had to leave because I still wanted to see a lot of the city – but I left with the nice feeling of being welcome here.

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Taking a break at Jo and Nana’s with some delicious cake and coffee

Hôtel des invalides

This huge complex with a dome in front was constructed during the era of Louis XIV. It was built for the disabled veterans of the war. Not only to give them a home but also to prevent them from living in the streets and ending up  posing a danger to others. Today a part has been transformed into a museum where you can learn a lot about weapons and wars. The cathedral in front is the place where Napolean is burried. You can spot its huge golden cupola from hundreds of meters away. Behind Napoleans crypta there has been constructed another dome – the soldiers dome honoring the soldiers who fought for the kingdom of France. In the large courtyard you can still see a lot of remains from wartime – old canons lining up one after another, armor plates and much more. You really feel like placed back in time seeing all these arms and reading the engravings in the walls honoring the soldiers.

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Conference with Jean Laval

The original purpose why I even came to Paris was this particular conference – a talk about how to become the best version of yourself and how to reach your goals. Might not sound that original, but I assure you, it was definitely worth going. Shortly before I entered the building I saw a girl checking her phone and looking around a bit lost like me.

– She must be looking for the same thing as me, I thought.

– Hey, you’re searching for the conference of Jean Laval too? She asked right after that thought popped into my mind.

– Yes – you too?

We got along instantly, chatting the whole time and getting to know each other. The conference itself was truly amazing. For everybody who is interested in self-development (and speaks French) I would strongly recommend you check out Jean Laval on YouTube. Hearing him is motivational and a real inspiration at the same time. As he only talks about his own experiences and what really works for him, he also knows a lot about everyathing he’s talking about. You know these people who seem like they’ve life all figured out? How have a lot of energy and no desire to slow down? Yes, exactly, these people are extraordinary. Even more is listening to them for two hours straight. When the conference was over a lot of people came forward and gave him a hug. We all knew that he loves hugs from his YouTube videos and so the girl I met before and I went forward to hug and thank him as well.

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Hugged by this beautiful human being

A new friend on the way

Afterwards she and I decided to go out to eat. We went for Korean food which I’ve never tried before and kept talking about our experience at the conference we just had. It was incredible how well we connected right from the start – especially because we met in this particular way. After dinner we went for ice cream and she invited me to eat it at her place as she just lived next doors. We stayed there for a while talking how we really want to attend the next conference in September – and how much more focused on our goals we will be then. I can only hope we both will make it – for me it’s a good reason to come back to Paris as well!

Third day in Paris

The next day, Monday, should already be my last day in Paris! So the first thing I wanted to check out was a vegan breakfast place called Cloud Cakes where they offered coffee and Croissants – something I could never eat before so I was really excited to try it for the first time in years. It was delicious, another very recommandable place in Paris.

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A little coffee at Clouds Cake

Sacre Coeur

At first I wanted to go to the Sacre Coeur. On my way I passed through a district at the metro station Barbés Rochechouart. In this particular district I didn’t feel that save in Paris for the first time. I felt people looking at me, I was a bit afraid to pull out my phone, as the guys from yesterday told me that it’s quite common there that someone will just grab your phone and run off with it. As I would be completely lost without mine, I did better to keep it in my jacket. Crossing this part of town quickly I took the bus to the Sacre Coeur and was amazed instantly. This church with its white walls and cupolas was built on the hill of Montmatre. Its unique architecture has made it a place thousands of tourists want to visit – even in the rain. When I went there it was raining heavily, but that didn’t stop anyone from visiting it.

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Montmatre itself, the town of the Sacre Coeur, is a fascinating little town. It is the only Place in Paris where everybody knows each other as it is situated on top of a hill and a bit apart from the rest of Paris. People of Montmatre also like to refer to themselves as “I am from Montmatre”, rather then “I am from Paris”. The city itself is really cute – and touristy as well. The streets are crammed with tiny little boutiques, shops and tourist traps. A lot of street vendor where walking around just waiting for a good-hearted tourist to fall for their strategies. I tried not to get caught, but eventually ended up paying for an armband, as the guy had simply just started braiding it directly on my arm and I couldn’t escape. However, as braiding these bands was probably their only job, they somehow had to earn money as well. So I gave him 2 euros for his work and proceeded my way.

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Champs Elysée

About the Champs Elysée I was a bit disappointed. I thought it might be possible to go inside and see the building from closer as it is possible in the Austrian parliament. But no – you have to stay outside. You could just look through a tiny fence, that was it. Not much to see there. Just a lot of policemen was standing outside – as they generally are iall over Paris. Among the most important buildings you will always see armed soldiers or police officers. That was something I’m so not used to. In Bordeaux, you don’t really see military in the streets and Austria is not that fond of its military either. The funny thing is I didn’t feel much safer – I just start thinking about why it is even necessary – and once you do that then you start to worry.

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Camps Elysée – you can’t really see a lot there even if you are standing in front of it

Pantheon

The Pantheon was not less guarded by the military. It is a huge building, high pillars marking the entrance. It was constructed by due to Louis XV who dedicated it to Geneviève, the patron of Paris. The crypt of the Pantheon is the last resting place for a lot of great men and women of the nation, for example Victor Hugo, Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau. You can even walk into some of the graves. There you’ll see coffins made out of stone, the many men and women of the nation laying in front of you. A lot of engravings on the walls honoring the dead, a cold coming from all the graves. Steps and voices echoing down there while you slowly make your way throgh the graves

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Last evening in Paris

After visiting the Pantheon it was time to meet up with a friend I got to know in Vienna through chouchsurfing, but who was originally from Paris. It’s really nice when you have friends everywhere, so you can just call them up and hang out for a while – to see how they change and keep track of how they are doing. We exchanged some news over a beer before I already had to go home to my hosts as I had promised to cook for them the night before. Couch surfing is all about the cultural exchange so I really wanted to offer them something from my side as well – I mean, they did let me sleep at their place for free  three nights long. So I made them dinner with couscous and sweet potatoes and in the meantime I learned a bit more about the French comedy. First we were just watching the news, then we soon switched to Gad Elmaleh, a comedian widely known in France. We had a great time watching him, my hosts explaining me his jokes about France when I didn’t get it right away. A great comedian I will definitely keep on watching. How do people say – if you understand the humor of a language you really have mastered it – and this was the best way to practice.

Time to go back

The next day I already had to leave. Again, my trip was over way to soon. However, as I had changed my tickets a lot of times before leaving I was convinced my bus was departing at 11am – it was not. It was leaving at 7:30 I woke up at 8 – already too late. So I had to buy some new tickets for the train this time. All in all I spent my last day in Paris at the Gare de Montpellier. But well, as all the trains in France are striking right now maybe that’s a good place to learn about the French as well.

Last thoughts

What I really liked about Paris was that it has so many different faces, so many different factettes. On the one hand, people in the metro are mostly grumpy and trapped in their little own misery world, on the other hand I found so many nice people it is heart-warming. It is a big city with millions of habitants, but at the same time there is Montmatre where everybody knows each other. It has a long history, but also some really new districts. All in all I think of Paris as a very diverse city where there’s simply room for everything and everyone.

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Let’s end here – with a nice overview of Paris

 

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Climbing bridges in Budapest

And off we go

Back in 2016 me and my best friend Jenny travelled on our own for the first time. It was our first time ever leaving Austria to explore our neighbor countries. We were thinking about where we wanted to go for a while, then we finally settled for Budapest. Close to Vienna, easy to reach, cheap. So the decision was made.

We hopped onto the bus early in the morning and a few hours later we were warmly welcomed by pouring rain in Budapest. Our first mission there was to find our AirBnB apartment. We had gotten a map of the city earlier and were walking around trying to find our way. Eventually we asked a guy on the way – in English. He, however, just spoke Hungarian, but nevertheless made a real effort to help us. A few minutes of pointing and gesticulating in different directions in Hungarian later we had a vague idea where we were going.

Close to our AirBnB, however, we realized we were a bit too early and couldn’t check in yet. So, as we somehow had to pass the time we decided to do what we do best – search for food! We started checking out supermarkets around the area, then eventually found one and bought a ton of stuff to eat. Quick reminder – it was still raining, and we were carrying our suitcases with us! Walking in the rain with all our groceries through Budapest – and the streets there being not that flat, rather a bit bumpy with a lot of holes. Dragging our suitcases through water and mud we finally arrived at the apartment and got in with no problem. We stayed in a tiny little room with a bunkbed – just enough for two people and two suitcases, not more. You literally couldn’t fit in a third person. It was only then when I realized that my shoes were dripping wet and I had to do something to get them dry as I only had this one pair. So I simply took Jennys hair-dryer, sat down on the floor and blew air into them – and they dried within minutes. Quite a life hack I would say.

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First impression of Budapest when we arrived – rain rain and even more rain

Budapest in the rain

After drying my shoes, we decided we needed to distress from that adventurous journey for a bit and wanted to go for a massage – which is ridiculously cheap in Budapest. In Vienna, I would have never treated myself for one as it is too expensive, but here… If I remember correctly we paid around 10 euros for half an hour. On top of that, it was actually my first massage ever. When we walked into the studio we entered a relaxed, calm atmosphere. Quiet music was playing and the lights were dimmed. All furniture there was made out of dark wood, a few decorative statues were standing around. Before we started our massage we had to change our clothes into wider ones a white shirt and pants. Every masseuse there had their own kind of “chamber”. They were lined up

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The rainy streets of Budapest – with my pink umbrella

one after the other, but separated by curtains. In there I got stretched and torn apart like never before – at least that’s was what it felt like. Still, I knew the pain was necessaire to have a positive effect later. Leaving the studio our bodies were already hurting–and we would be feeling the effects of the massage until we were about to leave.

However, we were still fit enough to discover the city for a bit. I was walking around with my pink umbrella while Jenny was taking tons of pictures. The umbrella being a big contrast in the greyness of the rain. We didn’t go far, just far enough to get an idea of what the city looked like. On our way we remarked a lot of bronze statues, yellow trams, a lot of cool bridges – and the parliament we didn’t even realize was a that important building at the time. We were just looking at it like “Oh yes, that looks cool, must be something important.”After a while of walking, we decided we would be back the next day. For now, we were tired and just wanted to go home.

City parc and Garden castle Vajdahunyad

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The Hero square – a real tourist attraction

Luckily, we woke up with perfect weather the next day. We left soon and walked around a bit clueless, we just wanted to get some good pictures of the city as we are both really into photography. So, that’s what we did. Our first stop was the heros square  with a lot of tourists already taking pictures of it.

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Castle Vajdahunyad with its lake

We were more interested in the city parc behind the square anyways – a very old parc created in the 19th century – the world’s first public parc ever. Jenny, being a big fan of colorful flower pictures, was in paradise there. As everything was blossoming, we had to stop a lot on our way to take some flower pictures. Finally in the parc, we were amazed by its beauty. The majestic castle Vajdahunyad was appearing in front of us, marking the entrance of the parc. A little lake to the side, boats in the water, everything around blossoming. We walked through the garden for a while, admiring the old buildings and the beautiful, big garden. We were walking by a lot of bronze statues –as we’ve seen so many of them the day before already, Budapest slowly but surely became the city of statues for me.

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Another statue in the city of statues

The market hall

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The beautiful building of the market hall

 

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And another one to show you the amazing inside as well

The market hall. A thing about Budapest the I really loved – and not only because you can take the most amazing pictures in there. We went in and were struck from the first moment on. I just love markets – there’s always so much to see that you need a lot of time to absorb everything. We made sure to do that. The market offered everything – from of fruits and vegetables to souvenirs of Budapest and traditional clothes. It really is no wonder it has become a tourist attraction as well. We even would be back there twice.

 

After spending a few hours in the market hall, we left and went strolling around the streets, taking some pictures to remember how the city looked like. In the evening we decided we wanted to go for shisha as we felt like having a relaxed night out and weren’t really in the mood to dance. So shisha it was! We found the place easily and sat down to smoke on the streets. Meanwhile we could watch Budapest slowly lighting up during the night – especially the chain bridge appearing in a beautiful, blue glow.

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The chain bridge lighting up during the night

Fisherman’s bastion

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One of the towers of this unique building

The next day we went up to the Fisherman’s bastion – a castle on top of a hill in Buda, where the old fisher’s market in Budapest could once be found.”In Buda?” you might ask. Yes, the city is divided in two parts – Buda and Pest, which are separated by the Danube. As we were staying in Pest, we had to walk all the way over the bridge to get to the castle. However, it was worth the way. You could even go up the hill by taking a cable car, but we decided to walk all the way up. Passing by beautiful gardens and portals we finally reached the top. There you had an amazing view over the city.

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Watching the city from above

The Fisherman’s bastion is a big attraction in Budapest and you’lln soon see why. With it’s many unique white towers it is a demanded place to have your wedding pictures taken. We even spotted a couple shooting there – and took some pictures of them as well. Jenny and I also did our little personal photoshoot – including me flirting with a pillar – yeah that’s another story.

 

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We stayed there for a while and waited until the evening, then walked down to a garden where we had an amazing view over the Danube and could watch the sunset as well. Seeing glowing Budapest in the yellowish light of the setting sun is definitely something you have to see.

Meet Amanda

Then it was time to go home. In our AirBnB, we weren’t the only ones to stay there – but we never really interacted with anyone as we just met briefly and exchanged some “hi!”,”by!”s. However, when we noticed a lady from Australia staying there all by herself, that was something different. Jenny and I felt like we should invite her to join us for a drink or something.

– Want to ask her to do something with us? Must be so lonely being all by yourself the whole time.

– Sure, let’s ask her! But you’ll ask.

– No you!

– Ok, together.

We were literally so shy, no one wanted to ask her all on her own. Oh well, when I look back I’m certainly happy to see that changed now. We were convinced she must be lonely travelling by herself. Of course, she was not and I know better now, but at the time the thought of travelling alone never even came to my mind. Anyways, she was happy to join us, introduced herself as Amanda and we all went out for a drink in a tiny, but nice bar where we talked the whole evening. She was travelling on her own for a while now, wanting to see as much of the world as she could. Currently she was exploring a lot of different cities in Europe. Considerably older than us (me being 17 at the time, she was 38) and the first solo-traveler I’ve ever met. I wonder what she would think if she knew I’ve become one now, too. We just had a chance to go out once – but that wouldn’t remain the last time we ever saw her. Because Amada was coming to Vienna after we left as well! She had planned to visit the city in advance and we were more than happy to show her around. That way we experienced Vienna form a touristic point of view and learned what tourists love about Vienna – which is completely different from what we enjoy about our city.

Parliament and guards

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The parliament – a view from a bit farther

The next day we passed by the parliament were a military demonstration was taking place. We had no clue what we were experiencing, but we stayed there to watch what was going on. Guards were marching up and down in front of the parliament. A crowd of people was already

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Me making new friends with a guard in front of the parliament

watching and we joined them to see the guards marching and taking their places in front of the parliament. Then they stood still so we could take pictures with them. I don’t know if that really was the purpose of it, but I needed to get a picture with this guard anyways – you don’t get this experience everyday, right?

Bridges and Yoga Events

In the evening, we reached the chains bridge – the most beautiful of all the bridges over Budapest – and the very first one connecting Buda and Pest as well, as it was already built in the 19th century. When we got there, a yoga event was taking place directly on the bridge. People were rolling out their yoga mats, wearing sports clothes and preparing for the class. The bridge was blocked, so cars couldn’t get through, just pedestrians. Sadly we didn’t have a yoga mat nor sports clothes, but we still stayed to watch the class. Therefore we climbed up the bridge – yes, you could really climb on top of it. This event really fascinated me as in Vienna you would never be able to just casually climb up a bridge and sit there for hours. We stayed on the bridge until the sun was going down, just watching the city and the yoga class. Next time, I promised myself, we would be arriving well equipped and were going to participate as well.

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Yoga on a brigde

Coming to an end

The last day we decided to go to a thermal bath. These baths are generally famous in Budapest, so we surely had to try it out. However, we ended up not going to a traditional thermal bath, but to the aqua world – which isn’t historical at all, more about water slides. So many different kinds of waterslides we couldn’t even test out all of them – but it was a lot of fun trying it. Relaxing there for a bit we knew we had to leave soon – a fun trip that was coming to an end. But as Budapest is close to our home we can always come back easily – who knows, maybe one day we will.

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Let’s go for a 59km walk…

Let’s go for a 59 kilometres walk – and be prepared for what comes at the end!

From Vienna to Bratislava. By foot. Within one day. When my friend Julia came up with the plan of mastering this distance in just 24 hours I was immediately on board. This idea sounded crazy enough to make it happen. 59km by foot – oh boy, that was going to be an adventure.

The early bird catches the worm – that’s what we thought when we started our walk at 7am. at the Danube in Vienna. Without any further hesitation we started marching through the woods and soon reached Großenzersdorf, where we allowed ourselves to take the first break to eat as we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. However, we wouldn’t pause for long. Soon we started over again as we only had conquered a few kilometres so far. It was still early in the morning when we reached the Lobau, which is a beautiful nature reserve right at the Danube. Having my camera always with me I quickly snapped some pictures to keep some memories of this adventure. The sun had already risen and the water was glittering in the light of the early morning.

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The Lobau in the early morning

It was getting warmer as we kept walking, but luckily the next part of our way led us through the woods, so we didn’t have to burn in the sun. We came across a dam where we wanted to take a shortcut to leave out a few kilometres as we were eager to get to Bratislava in time. Our feet already started to hurt a bit, the first signs of blisters appeared – even though we were wearing sports shoes! Marching for such a long time had left its marks. We continued our walk anyways, trying to ignore our feet as best as we could as we could already see the end of the dam.

–              Look, we almost did it! The shortcut was definitely worth the way!

Or that’s what we thought. Our “shortcut”, however, turned out to end at a river just a bit too big to cross. We either had the choice to get down in the water and try to reach the other side – risking to end up completely wet as we couldn’t see how deep the water was – or to walk all the way back. We were thinking for a while, trying to find a way over there to avoid the extra way. But we had no choice – in the end we accepted the fact we just walked a lot of kilometres for nothing. Complaining about google maps which didn’t  show us the river in the way we kept on walking as fast as we could. Our “shortcut” had made us lose a lot of time.

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The place of our picknick – in the middle of nowhere

It was already midday and we still had a long way to go so we decided it was time for a break, sat down on the side of a forest road and had a little picknick. While eating, a tractor passed our way – with the guys in there turning their heads in disbelieve of us two girls sitting in the middle of nowhere, enjoying their lunch like it was the most normal place to do so ever. The food literally made us so happy, you won’t believe it.

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The dam of horror – looking all idyllic and peaceful here

Afterwards, we couldn’t keep up with our fast pace before the break, so we slowed down considerably, but kept on walking nevertheless. Sometimes other people crossed our path, but most of the times we were alone. Then we reached another dam – the dam of horror as we have feared in secret. 9 kilometres long and all out in the sun. No shadows to hide – we knew that dam would take up all our energy. We should be right. Damm that dam! Taking pauses more often now we even started to sacrifice our motivation dates we had brought with us to eat in worst case. Now it was about time. Our backpacks were getting heavier and heavier, our feet covered in blisters hurt like crazy and the sun was burning mercilessly from the sky. We slowed down even more, hobbling along the way like two old ladies who couldn’t walk properly anymore. Well, after all of that we certainly couldn’t. 45 kilometres we already had mastered, but it was still a long way to go. 14 kilometres left. It would have been impossible to reach Bratislava within time as it was already getting late. We were debating about what to do. On the one hand we really wanted to master our challenge, on the other hand we knew we couldn’t reach Bratislava today anymore. So we finally decided to take a bus from a village 2 kilometres farther – the best idea we ever had. It was already 8pm. and we were at 47 of 59 kilometres.

When we finally reached the village, Heinburg, we took the next bus that came along. We were so happy to sit for a while, we didn’t even want to get up anymore. From the bus stop we got to Bratislava easily. It was already 9pm and we still had to find the couch surfer we were staying with. This was the last distance we had to walk by foot. Walking through Bratislava during the night we couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the city as we were too focused on our hurting feet and just wanted to sleep as soon as possible. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find our couch surfer. Finally there, we were warmly welcomed with a hug – we really needed to be hugged after this energy-sapping march.

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Seeing the sunset in Hainburg

A minimalistic lifestyle

The apartment of our couch surfer was way different from what we expected – he was living a completely different lifestyle. That he was vegan – like us – we knew beforehand, but he was also living a very minimalistic life, including trying to save as much water as possible. That he did by flushing the toilet with the water he used for showering – and while we lived there we did so as well, of course. Every time we showered we had to close the cork of the bathtub to collect the water. After being done we had to take as much water as we could out of the bathtub with a barrel and then used it whenever doing some bigger business on the toilet.

Our host was a dumpster diver as well – which essentially means he took some of the food big supermarkets throw away every day out of the trash for himself to eat. Dumpster diving is not very common in Bratislava, so it’s not even illegal there he told us – in many other countries, however, it is. Too much food ends up in the trash every day even though it’s perfectly fine – like everything he had in his pantry! So we could thrive on a lot of delicious food, that was completely free as well! Fruit and vegetables, but also perfectly fine bread and pastries. The pastries weren’t vegan, but as this was rescued food which would just have ended up in the trash anyways, we all felt fine to eat it.

To this day I am fascinated by this man, doing that much effort to keep his impact on our planet as little as possible. This lifestyle might not be for everyone, but there are certain habits everybody could adopt as well.

Discovering Bratislava

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In the city centre of Bratislava

The next day, it was finally time to discover the city. Julia had messaged with another guy on couch surfing as well, who couldn’t host us but was willing to meet up. So we went around the city a bit, then met up at the main place. First, we had trouble to find him, but eventually we got there. He was already waiting for us with a few friends that came along and we ended up as a really big group. Miguel, so his name, who wasn’t even from Bratislava himself, but from Spain, brought along his friend, a French a guy who brought another French guy. Then he invited another girl from Austria to join the tour who came along with two Portuguese guys. Got lost there? I don’t blame you. In short, a Spanish guy showed a very international and mixed group around in Bratislava.

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The majestically castle of Bratislava

 

First, we went up to the castle to enjoy the view from above. You can watch over the whole city, spotting the bridge of Bratislava with a restaurant on top that seems like an UFO hovering over the Danube. We also walked through the beautiful garden of the castle, where everything already started to blossom. The conversation was always flowing the group got along nicely. Miguel not being born there did a good job keeping us entertained (maybe not as much as he did as a tour guide be we forgave him). After walking around for a little bit, everybody was getting hungry. Julia and I still had to go home as we promised our host to be there. So the group split, but we would be reunited not much later.

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The view from the castle – even more beautiful during the night when everything lights up

In the evening we went out to grab a beer – and it shouldn’t just stay at one. The conversation ranged from selling organs to all crazy kind of ideas and we were having the best time. Exchanging a bit of cultural differences, I even tried to speak French to the French guys – but didn’t really succeed though. Granted, that was before I lived in France for 5 months – now a conversation would run smoothly. Anyways, we were having fun, in English or in French or even Spanish – it didn’t really matter.

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The haven in Bratislava — much creepier during the night when no one’s around

After a few bars we wanted to go to a party taking place on a boat, so we went to the haven. It was already late, dark, and no one was there except us – a drunk, loud, multicultural group of eight. As we were walking down alongside the water the guys started to make jokes about killing us here and selling our organs, because no one would notice anyways – yes, our conversation escalated quickly. When we reached the boat not much was going on there were just a few people on the boat and no one really was into the music playing.

So we left and went to another famous club in the city centre. That one was fun – good music and we stayed to dance for quite a while. In the end the group was slowly but surely getting smaller, people were already leaving. One of the Portuguese guys got so drunk he couldn’t even walk home so we ended up getting him to a taxi to get him to his hostel – we were sure he wouldn’t have found his way without us. It was already early in the morning, Julia and I could even witness the sunrise, the old town of Bratislava appearing in a beautiful morning glow. Then we had to sleep a bit and soon it was time to leave for going back home again!

 

 

A very short, but very fun trip came to an end. Actually, we had planned to walk all the way back to Vienna as well – but as our feet were still not over the torture we had put them through 2 days before we decided to go by bus – a very smart idea. On our way to the bus station I took some last pictures and we wished the city goodbye. Crossing the Danube, I got a last photo of the castle of Bratislava as a souvenir. It was time to go home. Pomaly ale isto – slowly but surely, as I learned in Slovakian the night before.

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We could also admire the light-up castle of Bratislava during the night

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The grumpy cat culture of Vienna

Back in town again

Gone for four months, now the long-lost daughter was finally coming home – for a bit. Yes, I was back in my hometown once again, meeting my closest friends and spending time with my family. Needless to say, I had an amazing time. Seeing your loved ones again after such a long time is truly amazing. You have a completely different notion of time and value the hours you spend with them even more – because you know it will come to an end soon. The days flew by, I felt like leaving the airport just to return a few hours later. However, it felt a bit weird to be back as well. Being away for so long you yourself change and you can’t imagine everything at home to stay the same – but that’s exactly the way it was. No major change, nothing dramatic. Just good old Vienna, good old life, good old days.

What I did notice though is, that the cliché of the laid-back (you might as well say a bit lazy), grumpy, not much smiling Viennese is kind of true. People love to complain here. It’s called “suddern” which basically means complaining about everything. Literally. Everything. Ah, good old Viennese culture.   Taking the metro, I was welcomed with warm grumpy faces without even a hint of a smile. Just imagine the face of grumpy cat. A few hundred times. A huge contrast to super polite and friendly Bordeaux. Entering the metro looking into people’s faces I felt like

“Oh, yes Vienna, you got me back again”

Of course, I love my home town. It’s just funny how different people are in every single corner of this world.

Being back again I, of course, had to visit all my favorite places of the city. Get ready for the inside of the best places to be during summer.

Land am Strome

“Land der Berge, Land am Strome… “ – „land of mountains, land at the riverside…” – that’s the first sentence of our national anthem already emphasizing the importance of the Danube, the biggest river flowing through Vienna. This river was also one of the few little spots I really missed being in France. In Bordeaux, you do have the Garonne, but it’s simply not comparable. The Danube is way bigger and greener. There you can sit down in the grass at the waterside drinking a beer with your friends while enjoying the sunset. Watching the sky turning from yellow to orange to red. A red glowing ball slowly disappearing behind the hills of Vienna.

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The Donauinsel facing the hills of Vienna

In the middle of the Danube an island was constructed which now has been transformed into a leisure time paradise. 21 kilometers long, green and full of possibilities. People there skating, riding their bikes or jogging. For those who are a bit less into sports there is plenty of space to just enjoy a picknick, play some music, dance, relax, sleep, enjoy the sun – the list goes on and on. If its warm enough you can even go for a swim. Granted, there’s not so much to see, but it’s just a beautiful place to enjoy your day – or night as well if you gather with a few friends.

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Pay the Donauinsel a visit during the night when the city lights up

Donaukanal

The Donaukanal (Danube canal) is another beautiful place in Vienna. The most southern part of the Danube which has been divided in the 19th century. Alongside the canal you can find a lot of important business buildings of Vienna up on the streets. In contrast to busy city life, a new urban space has been developed down at the canal, right next to the water. Going there, the heart of a true sportsman will beat faster seeing all the workout places, football cages and skateboard ramps. Riding your bike or jogging there is also common. As a pedestrian you even you to be careful no to get run over sometimes. The workout areas are situated in the middle of the canal.

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People riding their bikes, walking their dogs and just enjoying time in nature

At the beginning, close to Schwedenplatz, which is a famous place to go out and have a drink, you can see the drinking culture from the bars above reflecting on the canal. As soon as it gets warm a lot of people come together to sit next to the water and enjoy a beer together. Bars and a few restaurants lining up right at the side, just waiting for some thirsty students to finish their cheap beer from home and craving for more. If you want to join – just keep in mind you won’t be the only one especially on a really nice day. People are lining up there one after the other, so you might even need to walk all the way back to find a place to sit. However, it’s a free spot to drink and relax at water in the middle of the city – what more do you need?

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People are lining up on the walls to drink

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Don’t you just wanna join them and sit down at the water as well?

Graffiti and street art

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The “Wienerwand” : If you see this sign – the spraying may begin

Colorful, diverse and bright. The walls of the Donaukanal. You’ll soon spot the “Wiener Wand” (Viennese wall) sign which marks the places where spraying graffiti is legal. As the city wanted to move away from criminalizing street art and graffiti, they introduced a lot of places all around Vienna where street artists can express themselves freely and present their work in a legal way. And everybody else is free to join the spraying, of course. Walking around there you can already see the walls which have been sprayed over and over so many times they are covered in a dozen layers of paint. This project helped to transform the canal in a beautiful place of art. It’s also the perfect place to take some pictures as the canal is offering you the most colorful background you can imagine.

 

 

Down there you’ll also find a famous club of Vienna – the Flex – which is covered in Graffiti as well. A Viennese underground place for concerts or other numerous illegal activities – not the most recommendable club from my side but it’s definitely unique – and already part of Viennese culture for almost 30 years now. So as a hardcore – culture fan it maybe is worth a try.

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The famous Flex with its graffiti walls

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Another wall outside of the club

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Back to Bases of wartime

Unexpected visitor

Last week I received a message of Magdalena, a friend of mine who is currently on Erasmus as well.

– Hey you know what? I’m coming to Bordeaux tomorrow!

– Wow that spontaneously – that’s the Erasmus spirit!

So, of course, I made sure to have some time on my hands. As she arrived so did the rain, Bordeaux was cloudy, wet and grey. Experiencing the typical Bordeaux-weather right from the start we ended up in a café talking for hours as we couldn’t wait to exchange some Erasmus experience. Doing her semester abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, right now she left me with the urge of wanting to pay a visit to Utrecht as well.

Anyways, back to Bordeaux. Being the perfect visitor, Magdalena liked everything about Bordeaux. The southern flair of the old town with its light houses, the city being so bright when the sun was shining. It makes you feel closer to the sea already.

– The food is so much better here than in Utrecht!

One point for France. Another one for cultural diversity, a lot of interesting museums and people speaking French all the time. Well, there are two sides to the last point, but I couldn’t agree more. If you want to improve and practise your French, you’ll get an opportunity for sure as a lot of people seem to expect you to speak it. At night we strolled along the Garonne admiring the beautiful red and green lights of the lanterns lining up at the walking path next to the river. We ended up at the place de la bourse which is even more impressing during the night with its lights reflecting in the mirror d’eau.

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Back at the Place de la Bourse with the buildings reflecting in the water of the mirror d’eau

Back to wartime

We also made sure to check out some places on the other side of the river, leading us to some remains of wartime. The submarine base. A bit outside of Bordeaux, not really known among tourists (which is great, you most likely will be there alone) but not one bit less interesting. The base was built by the Germans during the second world war between 1941 and 1943 after the French surrendered in 1940. Situated right at the haven it offered room for 15 submarines. As it was a delivery point providing the exhausted soldiers with food and supplies it played a significant role during wartime. The building itself is a giant concrete block, 19-meter-high, 245 metres in length and 162 in width, made from 600 000m3 of cement. Its and walls so massive and strong they even resisted several bombs during wartime. Before it was conquered at the end of the war it was heavily attacked but only barely damaged. The colossus resisted all efforts to take it down. Today, I offers you a different picture. It’s quiet, just a few pigeons flying converting the tiny windows of the bunker into their nests. Who would have thought the base would be a home for pigeons one day?

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The massive walls of the base from behind

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A pigeon flying to her new home

In the 2000nds, the base has been transformed into a room of art. Artists can present their expositions there or can even include the bunker in one of their artworks transforming it into a piece of art itself. After abandoning the building and letting it be for several year, not knowing what to further do with it, it was restored and opened in the year 2000 for its first exhibition. Some artists used the walls of the base to present theirs films which were reflecting in the water at the haven. We visited the base a bit too early so it was closed, just a big poster hanging outside announcing the current exposition. Next to it we also found a poem on the wall of the base:

Like the night

The night has forgotten me
However, I am always here
Between the run down walls
Of a remorseless industry

 

 

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The poem on the wall of the base – in french

A boat carrying childhood memories

At the haven we spotted a little boat directly in the middle with something that seemed like dirty bags or trash all over it. When we took a closer look discovered is wasn’t trash, but teddy bears all over it. Dirty and grey they were popping out of the boats window and ceiling. We wondered if this might be a piece of art as well – and turned out it is. Constructed in 2013 it is a project of B-a-r-b-b-art which encouraged the visitors of the base to leave their children plush toys behind to put them on the ship wreck. Slowly Noah’s ark made of toys was built. It’s depicting farewell, laying in the haven for 5 years now.

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Take a closer look and you can spot the teddybears – grey and dirty being on the boat for 5 years now

Walking around we could even spot some other pieces of art – street art. In this industrial corner of Bordeaux you can find graffiti all over storage halls and other older buildings. Covered in paint their colourful images were reflected on the water, as they are laying right next to the haven as well.

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The colourful walls of the storage halls reflecting in the water

Making some new friends

Leaving the submarine base behind we came across the colourful tent of a circus. A lot of straps and trapezes outside in the garden, but no one there to be seen practising. Then we followed some old rails on the ground leading us the way directly outside of the bases area. A few cars and industrial buildings outside, but not a lot of people, we were the only ones walking around. A bit farther away we could spot something black and moving.

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The old rails leading our way

– What is that? A dog?

– It doesn’t really look like one – but what the heck?

As we came closer we could see it more clearly. A goat! Chained up at the rails, walking around in circles as far as the chains let her. In front of the goat, we even found a dog as well. Looking at me with its dark brown eyes I couldn’t resists and instantly rushed there to play with him for a while. Chained up at the rails like the goat as well, I’m sure he enjoyed my company as much as I did his. Magdalena kept her distance a bit but snapped some pictures of me and my new friend. After a while though I had to stop as we needed to get going. Really sad to leave him behind I proceeded trying to make friends with the goat as well – which appeared to be a bit harder as she was really scared and running away from me every time I came a bit closer. So I let her be but took some pictures of her as a compensation for her lack of love.

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Who could resists these big brown eyes telling me “Come play with me!”

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Getting a picture of the shy goat as well

Then went on to walk around the area, not much to see, just a typical industrial area of a city. Just following the rails we came along the second bridge of the Garonne, trying to get some good pictures of it as we were quite close already. It wasn’t the best place to take photos so went on walking around seeing what was yet to come. Farther away we discovered a street with a lot of waste on the sides, wondering what this waste had to do on the side of the road in an otherwise really clean city like Bordeaux. Still, it was a little adventure – abandoned places like these are the best to go to as all of them have a fascinating history – or if you don’t know you it you can free your fantasy make up a story about it on your own.

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We really found way to much trash laying around here

After our little trip Magdalena soon had to leave for the airport already – a short and spontaneous visit came to an end way to fast. Now I already promised myself to visit her in Utrecht as well. I also need to get some insight of Erasmus life in the Netherlands!

 

 

 

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New people, new languages, new places

Meeting people – how to

As I’ve already been travelling in South America by myself for a bit, going out to meet people on my own is nothing special for me anymore. However, I still get asked a lot about it.

– With whom are you here?

– Well, I just came alone.

– Whaaat? But why? Isn’t that a bit lonely?

Honestly, it’s the complete opposite. I enjoy meeting new people and if I hadn’t gone to places all by myself I would have never met a lot of amazing people I’m now so grateful for being part of my daily life. Even if you’re a bit shy and don’t feel comfortable doing it – leaving your comfort zone will always be worth it. There are so many cool places you can go to to find out for yourself – so be prepared for some you can find in Bordeaux.

Erasmus exchange – Saint Emilion

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The view over Saint Emilion – typical french countryside 

 

As I am in Bordeaux with the Erasmus exchange program, the first place I made new friends was university. Especially participating in the orientation week is a great opportunity to get to know your future study buddies. There we went on a lot of trips and even on some adventures outside of Bordeaux. The first one being Saint Emilion. This small village is situated an one-hour bus ride outside of Bordeaux. For me, it really it fulfilled the expected vision of french countryside. Beautiful and quiet, wine yards as far as you could see, chateaux that were hundreds of years old. Saint Emilion is a beautiful destination for a daytrip indeed. We walked around the village as a student group leaded by a guide who told as a bit about its history accompanying us until the wine tasting in the end.

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Chateaux, old buildings and wine yards – that’s what stuck to my mind

There we met the bizarre but funny owner of the winery. He started talking about how he was running this winery with his wife and never forgot to add:

– She’s my wife – my nightmare.

We had a good laugh about that – as he used it as a catch phrase the whole time. Being the owner of a big winery wasn’t enough for him – he also was an amateur-magician, never too hesitant to surprise his visitors with some magic tricks. Holding up a cord on both ends in his hand he picked a random student, gave him a metal ring and let him drop the ring into the cord from a certain distance. What was presumably a completely normal cord always caught the ring and we were left to wonder: how the hell did he do that? After letting the students take turn in trying the trick, the magician finally revealed his secret: turned out a thing as simple as a magnet hidden on the cord could leave bachelor university students guessing in desperation for half an hour.

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The winery we visited appearing in the golden light of the evening sun

Biarritz

We also went on a trip to this lovely city at the sea. After the three hours bus ride I had to get up for at 6am in the morning, it started to rain heavily. Well, we were welcomed with typical Bordeaux-weather right from the start. Finally in Biarritz we couldn’t appreciate the full beauty of the city as it was raining and storming that much we even had to hide in a cave for a bit. However, in the end we did get to experience it – just in the rain, but at least that was a little adventure. Situated at the ocean, this city is a beautiful place with a lot of old buildings and fancy, expensive restaurants. To me, it seemed like a place where my grandparents would love to spend their summer. After walking around in the rain alongside the ocean for a bit we decided to take a break from the storm in one of the cafés – which was hella expensive though. Still, it was a cute little place and I enjoyed the trip no matter what. I even promised myself to go back there in summer to enjoy the city to the fullest with nice weather and sunshine – so far I haven’t kept my promise yet – but I will.

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At the ocean in Biarritz – I will be back I promise!

Dancing class

Going out for a drink and partying nearly the whole week is completely normal here in Bordeaux – especially if you’re on Erasmus. I, however, decided to do my liver a favour and shifted my priorities from drinking to dancing. And not any kind of dance. Latin American dance, Bachata and Kizomba. A bit funny though I discovered these dances in France and not in south America – but well, there’s a first time for everything. Granted, I knew a little bit of Bachata before as I danced it once in Chile – but just once doesn’t even count. Kizomba is an African dance, connected to the earth.

As I was just used to classical dance in Vienna, the Latin American hip moves were definitely a challenge for me (and I’m still not sure if I have mastered it quite yet). Being used to dances like the waltz I basically needed to forget everything I knew about dancing before. Doing classical dance you need to ware your distance, you’re stiff, you’re elegant – ideally you feel like Princess Sissi back in time. Dancing Bachata of Kizomba you need to move your body, your hips and more. These dances are way more fun, and I also felt like being way more into the music than if I would dance the waltz. As you can see, I discovered a completely new world for me here.

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Dancing brings people together – as the worldmap on the wall in front of my dancing school  suggest as well, featuring a lot of names

So, I couldn’t be happier I decided to attend my first class. Over time I found out about other classes, then about some bars you could go to and dance. Slowly but surely, I engaged in the dancing scene. I just love how dancing brings people together, especially when there’s bars you can go to and practise as well. At one, Cubanito, you don’t even have to pay entrance, which is perfect if you’re living on a tight budget but want to do cool stuff as well. Another great place is La Tencha. Situated at the Garonne, also close to the city centre where you just pay 2 euros for dancing a few hours – which is also acceptable.

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A snap of the wall decoration in the Cubanito – starting to become my second home

Language exchange places

These are one of the best places to get to know new people. Most people there come along on their own as well and enjoy meeting someone new. You can practise your language skills (in my case, French) while getting to know each other. Even if you haven’t quite mastered a language yet and are struggling to express yourself, people there will be patient with you. If you participate in a big meeting, you can even choose from a variety of languages like English, French, Spanish, Italian and much more. So, if you’re a real polyglot, you can even focus on a new language every week and have discussions in a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. The meetings mostly take place in cafés you can easily find on Facebook. Just search for “language exchange” and I assure you a lot of events will pop up within seconds. The first one I went to was le café des arts in Bordeaux. It’s situated in the city centre, close to the main museum, musée d’Aquitaine. However, there are a lot of other ones as well. For example, monthly exchange meetings in a winery and much more. I would definitely recommend going there – I mean who doesn’t enjoy great conversations over a beer – or wine, if you want to stick to French lifestyle.