Szia Budapest

I honestly never expected to go to Hungary in my life but when my friend suggested a weekend trip to Budapest I was more than willing to jump on board and now I couldn’t be more glad that I did! The weekend I spent in Budapest was one of the most amazing weekends I’ve had while studying abroad.

My friends, Steph, Jess, and Maryna, and I arrived in Budapest around noon. It was just a short train ride from the airport to our hostel, which was highly recommended by an Australian guy I met in the hostel I stayed in while visiting Barcelona. From first impressions alone we could tell the hostel was going to be a great place to stay! The front doors were large and wooden and the directions I had received noted that there was no sign outside because of historic nature of the building. We climbed up four flights of stairs to the hostel. We were warmly greeted by about half a dozen people hanging out, smoking cigarettes on sofas right by the door. One of the hostel employees, a tall skinny British boy with curly hair, a lip piercing, and plaid pajama pants, showed us to the dorm we would be staying in and offered us a cup of tea. He then promptly picked up a map and began circling the best sites in the city, passing along tons of great advice.

After grabbing lunch we headed out to see some sites. Budapest is a beautiful, historic city filled with tons of interesting architecture. We visited a St. Stephens Basilica that housed the mummified hand of the first Hungarian King and climbed over 300 steps where we took in the city. Even though the sun had already set it was still amazing to see all of the buildings lit up. I think it made the city look even more magical.

Then we walked across the Light Bridge that connects Pest to Buda where we took a gondola up the hill and explored a palace built by the Austrians in 1748 and the Fisherman’s Batilion.

While attempting to return to our hostel we wandered into the national archives of Budapest as well, which were hosting an open house. All we wanted were directions but people kept trying to show us things. Everyone was being so nice we felt bad leaving, but after checking out the building, which was incredibly beautiful as well, we left.

By the time we got back across the city it was nearly 7:45 and the hostel we were staying in was leaving for a Ruin Pub Crawl at 8:30. While walking back from the metro we ran into two of the employees at our hostel that recommended we grab burritos at a mexican chain nearby. Funnily enough my friend Molly, who I just saw in Dublin, had recommended the same place, and all three insisted I get a margarita! The food was pretty good, definitely a treat compared to bland British sandwiches, especially for Steph, who was missing California street food and her families mexican cooking.

After some “international cuisine” we Steph, Jess, Maryna and I moved on to a more “natitve” adventure. Our hostel hosted a pub crawl to three different Ruin pubs throughout the city. Ruin pubs are  bars set up in abandoned houses and courtyards, protected by historical conservation efforts that prevent their demolition and renovation. The bars were so unique, filled with mis matched furniture, art installations, music, and tons of people. It was a great opportunity to meet the other guests at the hostel we were staying at. Everyone was young, coming to travel Europe from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The hostel employees told us all how they came to Budapest for a few days and fell so in love with the city, the people they met, and the hostel itself that they decided to stay, luckily finding a job with the hostel itself. By the time we visited two Ruin Pubs, both surprisingly unique, we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep. All of us slept incredibly well, exhausted from a full day of site seeing, even considering we were sharing the room with 5 other (potentially intoxicated) travelers.

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The next morning we woke up early and headed off to one of Budapest’s most famous attractions – the baths. It was a nice walk to the Szechenyi baths, located next to the city park. We had the chance to walk down beautiful streets which we were told are often used in films to recreate 18th century Paris, and past Hero’s Square. The baths themselves were amazing, after a quick sprint from the locker rooms, through the cold air, we found ourselves completely relaxed in the pools. We spent the afternoon wandering around the spas, checking out different pools and saunas. One of the saunas was so hot it made my necklace burn on my skin.

Regretably we left the spa around 3 and wandered through the park, and towards the Christmas market. Unfortunatly only a handful of unimpressive stalls were set up but the four of us wandered into a traditional Hungarian restaurant where we had an amazing lunch complete with Goulash (beef stew), spaetzel (egg noodles), and muled wine. We then went on to see the parliament, which was a huge gothic building right on the river, before trecking back to our hostel completly beat.

For better or worse we were convinced to go out to an open mic night hosted by the Hostel. Even though we were completely exhausted, and had a 4am flight to catch, we didn’t want to miss out on one last opportunity to hang out with the people staying in the same hostel as us. The open mic night was amazing, we had such a good time meeting lots of people staying at our hostel and a brother hostel in another part of Budapest. I was thrilled with a group of Australians began singing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song when I told them I was from Philadelphia, and joined in myself, screaming the Will Smith lyrics. A handful of other hostel guests stood up on stage and gave amazing performances as well, showing true musical talent!

By the time we headed back to the hostel we only had an hour before our cab came to take us to the airport, but going out was well worth it. Even as I suffered through 6 hours of class on Monday I didn’t regret a single thing all weekend. Budapest was one of the most beautiful, fun, interesting places and I’d give up all the sleep in the world to have the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and try new things.

Dia Duit Dublin

Apparently “Dia Duit” is how you say hello in Irish. This weekend I spent an amazing 48 hours in Dublin. Although I didn’t learn how to speak gaelic – I actually looked up “hello” on google translator – I did get to see two of my best friends on their birthdays and enjoy a pint of Guineas (ok, a half pint).

My friend Paige is studying in Dublin so Sarah and I flew in to visit her. Perfect timing considering they both turned 21 that weekend. I flew in Saturday morning and spent the next two days wandering around the city with my friends, enjoying tons of pub food – as well as a crepe and hot chocolate with a whole oreo cookie inside!

Dublin is a beautiful, small, friendly city. It was great to leave London for a little while and just enjoy the time with two of my best friends. I also had the chance to see my friend Molly – my room mate and coworker from this past Summer. This semester is such an amazing opportunity and I truly have the chance to travel the world right now, but sometimes I think that even better than exploring Europe, is seeing a familiar face.

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Hola España

Sorry for the absence! Last week I finished up some of my classes and there is absolutely nothing worth bloging about in regards to papers and final exams.

The one upside of finals were that they signified mid-semester break. After finishing up all of my assignments I jetted off to Spain for the long weekend. Wednesday I arrived in Madrid with my friends Zach and Bree. We spent the afternoon wandering through the small streets, exploring the city, and enjoying the weather. The next day I split off from my friends to visit the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid’s modern art museum. The most famous painting in their collection Guernica, Picasso’s tribute to the pain and suffering that occurred during the Spanish civil war. It was amazing being able to see such a historic and emotional painting in person.

After a few hours wandering around the museum I boarded a high speed train for Seville where my best friend Sarah is studying. It was awesome getting the chance to see where she is studying. Seville was such a small city compared to London and Madrid, and it was nice being able to explore a different city, if only for a night. I also got the chance to meet some of Sarah’s friends over a pitcher of sangria.

The next morning Sarah and I woke up early and boarded a plane for Barcelona. We arrived early and spent the day visiting different sites in the city. We took a tour of Casa Batlló, walked through the gothic quarter, and headed down to the beach for dinner where Sarah and I both ordered the most delicious seafood paella. That night we headed out to a club with other travelers from our hostel. The place we stayed organized nightly trips to different hotspots in Barcelona. I can’t think of anything more glamorous than dancing the night away at a club located right on the beach in Barcelona.

Saturday we walked to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s most famous creation. People have accurately described La Sagrada Familia as a demented sand castle. We also visited an apartment building designed by Gaudi. That evening we headed back to the gothic quarter for a fantastic tapas dinner. After a few drinks at a local bar Sarah and I returned to our hostel, anticipating an early night in. When we arrived a group of guys from Bristol we had met the previous night heading out to the club were hanging around in the kitchen chatting with some Australian travelers. Sarah and I initially thought we were going to tuck in early that night, but we ended up staying up until 4am chatting, joking around, and sharing games with our new friends.

On our final day in Barcelona Sarah and I went to Guell Park, a park desined by Gaudi. The architecture was again amazing. His use of curves and mosaic is so beautiful, there’s very little in the world like it. Then we strolled through the city for a few more hours before heading back to the airport to return home.

I had such an amazing weekend! It was such a treat getting to spend so much time in such a beautiful country, with one of my favorite people in the world!

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Such a Blast

My dad and his fiancé Lisa visited me in London this weekend! It was so great seeing some familiar faces as I’m surrounded by all of this newness. The three of us had a jammed packed two days, all of us trying to make the most out of their visit. In just 48 hours we managed to stroll through Portobello Market, ride the London Eye, catch the west end show The 39 Steps, enjoy some fine dining, visit the Tower of London, peruse the luxuries at Harrods, stuff ourselves full at high tea, shop a little bit at TopShop, and enjoy a pint at an English pub. I don’t think we could have had a more complete weekend in London! It’s such a gift having my family come visit me all the way in England, but getting to do so much as well, I felt completely spoiled.

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Sweet & Sour

One of the great things about being in London is the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. For my History class we take lots of field trips to museums and historical places. This Friday we walked in the steps of the suffragettes and saw where they fought for the vote. It was amazing thinking about how hard these women fought to gain a voice. When women were supposed to be quiet and polite many women chose to stand up during political speeches, to march down the streets, to make sure they were heard. Because of their actions these women were often arrested and thrown in prison. In prison they were treated like common criminals, rather than the political prisoners they were. In protest of this treatment they would go on hunger strikes. The gaurds would then force feed the women – a traumatizing practice! When these measures didn’t work they turned militant, starting a guerilla campaign. The suffragettes went on to break the windows of parliament and other political buildings and set fires to churches. It’s so amazing how much these individual women risked and how much they went through to ensure that politicians would listen to women!

My public relations class went on a field trip this Thursday as well. We went to Cadbury World, a tourist destination devoted to Cadbury chocolate. The purpose of the field trip was to experience the various marketing tools Cadbury uses to represent their company. Cadbury World itself was kind of fun. There are cheesy displays and videos telling the story of how the company was founded and how chocolate was made. There was a model factory and even a ride where you rode in a little car along a track in Cadbury’s response to the “It’s a Small World” ride in Disney. The whole experience was really campy. It was fun seeing all the cheesy displays and there was plent Bournville y of chocolate to eat. While I learned a lot about Cadbury chocolate and their brand I didn’t feel like it was the most education trip I’ve been on. I didn’t feel like this trip enhanced what I learned in the classroom. The most frustrating part was  how long it took to get there. It took two different lines on the tube and two trains to get to, in Birmingham, where Cadbury World is located. I left my flat at 8:00am and didn’t arrive home until after 7:00. I feel like we could have had a more enriching field trip within London. My flatmates didn’t mind the chocolate I had brought home for them though!

Here are some pictures from my trip to Cadbury World

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Happy New Year

Being so far away from home makes it feel even more important to celebrate the holidays. Today marks the beginning of the holiest time of year for the Jewish people, the High Holy Days. Today was the first night of the High Holidays and also the Jewish New Year. I did’t want the New Year to pass me by so I asked a friend from one of my classes what he was doing for Rosh Hashanah. He had found a service at a nearby university and invited me to come along with him and a few other students from our program. I didn’t know what to expect but I was glad that I’d be able to stay connected to my family and my faith while here in London.

At 7:00 a few of us headed over to the services, which were being held by Chabad at Imperial College’s student union. While I don’t know much about Chabad I know it is an international organization that provides religious services for Jews all around the world. I was surprised when we were greeted by a hassidic rabbi and his very pregnant wife. Me and my friends were the first ones there and the rabbi’s wife introduced herself to us and invited us to light some candles with her to bring in the new year. Eventually more people arrived, just in time to start the service. The service was held in a large, wood paneled room  with two sections of seating divided down the middle by a makeshift partition constructed out of tables and chairs. Men and women sat separately on either side of the wall. This was out of the norm for me, having grown up in a reform Jewish community where men and women sit together. As we took our seats the rabbi informed us that in order to ensure people sat in the front rows during the service he had set up the chair backwards. He then asked everyone to turn their chair around so that the back rows of chairs become the new front. The rabbi then leaped into the service, breezing through the Hebrew, finishing the service in under an hour. This astonished me and my friends who were used to longwinded services. I guess they’re saving that for tomorrow.

After the service the rabbi and his wife provided a meal for everyone in attendance. By the time we all sat down to eat about 40 people had joined in! The rabbi and his wife provided a full meal, complete with the traditional foods like apples and honey to ensure a sweet new year, a round challah, and pomegranate. There was also salad, hummus, lox, chicken, rice, sweet potato pie, and cran-apple crumble. During the dinner I sat next to some other BU students but I also got the chance to meet American college students studying in London with other programs and a young French woman working in London for the year. It was especially interesting talking to the French woman about the different Jewish customs she grew up with, as apposed to us American Jews.

In the middle of dinner the rabbi asked everyone in attendance to stand up, introduce themselves, and share their New Years resolution. This year my new years resolutions definitely include being open, learning, and taking advantage of my opportunities. I’m so happy to be spending the New Year here in London and I can’t wait to see what the year 5772 holds!

It’s a Small World

While I fully expected to make new friends studying in London I didn’t anticipate the opportunities I’d have to connect with old friends. In October I will be going to Spain for 5 days and spending most of that time with one of my best friends Sarah. Sarah and I have known each other since fifth grade when we sat next to each other in Mrs. Deans class and wrote silly notes to each other to pass the time. She’s one of my favorite people to spend time with wether it’s a special occasion like Christmas or just a hot summer day in Ocean City. Next month I will be spending one day in Madrid with two of my friends from school before heading to Seville, where Sarah is studying, and then the two of us are heading to Barcelona for the weekend. Sarah is one of my favorite people and I’m so excited to travel with her!

In November I’m heading to Dublin for a very special occasion. Both Sarah and my friend Paige are turning 21. All three of us are meeting in Dublin, where Paige is studying, to celebrate this milestone. If the three of us had been at school in the States I’m not sure I would have gotten to see either of them for this special birthday, but because we’re all in Europe it seems important to make the point to get together! These two girls have been such amazing friends to me throughout middle school and high school and I’m so glad that I’ll be with them for their birthdays, in Dublin of all places! Let the beer and whiskey flow! kidding

The three of us all found ourselves in different colleges and now we’re all in different parts of Europe but we’re still close friends, which I think is so important!

Here’s a slideshow of Sarah, Paige, and me:

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also, I know this isn’t really about London, but I’m sure my next post will be more relevant

Brighton

I went to Brighton on Sunday. It’s a small city about an hour outside London right on the coast. Brighton was popular among King George IV,who built an extravagant Indian style vacation home there. I had the chance to check out  the Royal Pavilion, George IV’s home. The insides are renovated and filled with incredibly ornate furniture, wallpaper, carpets, and chandeliers.

Currently Brighton is a hip, young, liberal town filled with tons of shops and cafes. There are so many kinds of people from hipsters to hippies to punks to mods living in Brighton. You can see all of them walking around the North Laine, an area filled with lots of trendy boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants, and some galleries. I bought a new purse from one of the shops. The shop was stocked with leather bags and smelled like horse saddles. It reminded me of when I took equestrian lessons in fifth grade. The owner told me the bag was made in Morocco and the leather was tanned through a natural process that didn’t include the typical chemicals.

In the late afternoon me and my friends wandered down to the shore before we had to head back to London. Brighton has a fantastic pier with carnival rides, an arcade, and tons of junk food. It was fun to see all of the families walk around and enjoy the activities and there was a great view of the ocean.

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