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05 June 2008

My Last and Greatest Trip

Just got back last night (late as usual) from Stansted. I had just had the most awesome time on my latest trip!

Vienna, Prague, Venice, and Rome.
4 cities, 10 days.

Everything was just amazing. It wall all just as great as I had expected, but at the same time nothing like I expected. It was an adventure, relaxing, stressful, breathtaking, surprising, with some inconveniences, some good (and not so good) food, but above all FUN!

Below is the basic outline of my trip.

Day 1 (May 26): Early (6am) flight to Bratislava, visited Bratislava for a few hours, train to Vienna, settled into my host's apartment, explored some of Wien's major sights, went out with my hosts for some drinks.
Day 2 (May 27): Went to Schönbrunn Palace (which is absolutely stunning, gardens are about the same level as Versailles), explored a bit of central Vienna, went up into the hills outside the city to get an amazing view, came back and got some rest.
Day 3 (May 28): Had some time for one last exploration of Vienna, then a 4-hour train ride to Prague, arrived in Prague (somewhat disoriented), eventually found my hostel, checked in, met with Elena, explored some of the Castle, had some hearty Czech goulash, walked over the gorgeous Charles Bridge at night, and went back to my room.
Day 4 (May 29): Met some people over breakfast at my hostel, "Czech"-ed out more of Prague, seeing Wenesclas square and stopping by the (small) Museum of Communism, saw the "pendulum" and the Jewish quarter, rested for a couple hours, then met with my new friends to enjoy Prague's drinks and nightlife.
Day 5 (May 30): One more day in Prague. More exploring of Prague's beautiful and well-preserved old town, then walked across the river and went to the top of the Petřínská rozhledna (a mini-Eiffel tower) with some of the best views in Prague, then headed back to the castle, walked around (in the heat!) and then ran into some people I met on the bus who are also from California (and we have a mutual friend!--what a small world), bought a souvenir, met up with some other roommates from my hostel to have some dinner (which was cheap and bountiful!), and explored a little bit more of Prague by night.
Day 6 (May 31): Had a flight from Prague to Treviso, arrived and took the 1-hour bus into Venice, instantly I was gawking at the beauty of Venice before realizing that it's very easy to get lost on its many small streets, but found my way to my hostel, then set off by foot, discovering Venice is not as small as you'd imagine, wandered for several hours, hitting several dead ends, before finally making it to the Piazza San Marco, then went back to my hostel for free dinner (yes!), made friends with everyone there, and we all went out for drinks.
Day 7 (June 1): In Venice all day. I was supposed to meet a friend from Berkeley to explore all day, but she was feeling sick :(. Anyway, had a lunch with some hostel-mates from Chicago and Melbourne, then set off on foot to continue exploring the city. Walked all the way to the opposite end of Venice and relaxed in a park for a bit before returning for another free dinner and drinks again with my lovely hostelmates.
Day 8 (June 2): Train from Venice to Rome. Met some (more) Canadians on the train, this time from the islands offshore from Vancouver, glimpsed at Florence as my train passed through, saw the Tuscan countryside go by, arrived in Rome in the rain, had a very hard time finding the tourist information desk, checked into my hostel feeling damp and sour, headed to the Colosseum area (looking first at St. Peter-in-chains church), saw the Colosseum and instantly and continuously had my jaw on the floor, went inside, continuously awestruck at its immensity and its age, ran into someone who was staying at my hostel in Venice (small world!), left and wandered through the streets of Rome trying to get to Piazza Venezia, instead stumbled across the Trevi Fountain, had a (cheap but not very delicious) panini, rested back at the hostel, returned to central Rome for a beautiful night walk.
Day 9 (June 3): Only full day in Rome. Went (in the rain) to the Vatican, saw St. Peter's Basilica (along with thousands of other tourists), walked (with the rain stopped) towards the Tiber and across it, visited the Pantheon, had a quick lunch and some of the best gelato in Rome, walked back to the Vatican to hike up to the top of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, walked all the way up and was brutally exhausted and sweating like 10 pigs, sat down for half an hour and met a fellow traveler who turns out to be also studying at Berkeley (seriously, what a small world!), took in the view, descended and got a ticket for the pope's general audience on Wednesay, went back to the Roman Forum before it closed, was amazed at its history, went back to the hostel and met some people (Canadians!) with whom I went out and explored more of Rome by night!
Day 10 (June 4): Last day. Rome! Woke up, had breakfast, headed directly for the Vatican to make the 10:30 general audience, arriving at 10:25 but finding a front-row space (I was like 6 feet away from the pope! It's simply amazing.), was surprised to find that I was right next to (what did I say about this being a small world?) the girl I met yesterday who also goes to Berkeley. Very cool, indeed. So afterwards, we went to lunch (recommended by Rick Steves!) and to the Vatican Museum (amazing, overwhelming really), saw the Sistine chapel then I headed back to the hostel to pick up my stuff and head straight for the airport for my 9:30 flight. Arrived back at Stansted at 10:45 London time, waited for a long time to get through passport control, until 11:30, headed out and was just in time for the 11:35 bus (yes!) back to Stratford and back home (well, home for the next 2 days).

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