Hard to believe it’s been since February since I last posted. This term has just flown by. Classes end the 2nd week of May with exams at the end of May. Currenlty I’m trying to figure out a topic for my dissertation I will be writing over the summer. I’ve never had to write anything on this scale before and it is a bit daunting, but I know I will get it figured out soon enough. My advisor offers a lot of support when it comes to a topic/reference material, etc., which is extremely helpful. Wish me luck.
Over Easter break I took a 3 week trip with one of my friends visitng from the States. It was fantastic, but a bit rushed! We first spent a couple of days in the Isle of Skye- which was beautiful. Here we met some amazing people who took us to the Fairy pools. We also went to the Bigtop celtic music festival where I was able to see one of my favorite bands- The Civil Wars. After Isle of Skye we then made our way to Amsterdam where we spent three days exploring the city- canals, red light district, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank house, the zoo and more. My only regret was that we didn’t take a bus outside of the city to see the large tulip fields. I will have to go back there soon if possible to see this! Amsterdam is a very bike friendly city. There are thousands of bikes and several times I feared I would be run over by one. You have to watch out more for the bikes than you do cars or trams! From Amsterdam we then flew to Prague and stayed for two days. Of course visiting the castle and the towers, and the easter markets. I also discovered the Mucha Museum (he is my all time favorite artist) and was very excited to go and see different works of his. We also went to the State Opera and watched Aida! They provided English subtitles which was really nice! From Prague we took an overnight train to Krakow, Poland. The overnight train was a fun idea, but we quickly found there was just no way to sleep on the train. Even with our own cabin it was a night of tossing and turning. In Krakow there was another Easter Market we attended and one more thing I wish I would have done, but didn’t have time. I wanted to see the salt mines! I suppose that will have to go back on the list. There is one thing I was able to do in Poland, which was to visit Auschwitz. I think everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives. This was such a recent event and a terrible place, but we all need to remember what took place there. The Auschwitz Museum is comprised of the first camp and there are exhibitions set up inside some of the buildings that show either pots and pans, suitcases, clothing and in one even human hair from those killed in the gas chambers. That was a pretty shocking sight. The 2nd camp is Birkenau and is the recognizble one. I knew it was large,but I had no idea exactly how big it was until I saw it. It was a lot to take in.
After Poland we then flew to Romania and took a train to Brasov. From Brasov we then took a train to Sibiu which was a nice day trip, but a bit different that anywhere I had gone before. We had to walk across train tracks in Sibiu to get to the station which showed they don’t have the same facilities as in other countries. The main square of Sibiu was nice though and had been restored. Brasov’s main square was really nice too and it would have been great to explore the old ruins around these cities, but there just wasn’t time. My favorite part though was visiting Bran Castle which was a quick bus ride from Brasov! After Brasov we took the train back to Bucharest and explored the city there for a day before moving on to Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey was one of my favorite places on the trip. The shopping and food is great fun! A word of advice for the ladies though- dress appropriately in Istanbul, it is a muslim country and if you wear anything too lowcut, see-through, short, etc., you will recieve attention and you will not like it. Our first day there my friend accidently wore a shirt that was slightly see through and we were getting calls to us, horns honking, and a few men even followed us. This was a bit scary, but they were harmless. Just make sure you pay attention to your surroundings and be smart! Overall though the people in Istanbul were friendly and helpful. The service in restuarants were different than anywhere else I had been before and there are places that will take great care of you-even going so far as to vaccuum the crumbs off your table. While in turkey I suggest getting a turkish bath and massage. We went to Cemberlitas Hamami and it was quite a unique experience. You (ladies) are given bikini bottoms and a wrap and are led to a bath which is a large room with a granite slab in the center that is warm and you told to lay down with about 20 other people and relax until you start sweating. Once you have started to sweat an attendent comes to scrub/wash you. This feels wonderful, but also slightly uncomfortable as you are mostly naked and so are they. The scrub exfoliates your skin, but the best part comes after that. They place bubbles on your and wash you which feels wonderful. Then you are taken over to a basin where they pour hot water over you to wash the soap off. It is a strange feeling having someone wash you, but I HIGHLY suggest you experience this. I opted to get an oil massage and facial afterwards which was very relaxing, but becareful. It is extremely difficult to walk after getting the oil and sometimes there are not people around to help you, but that was my experience at the place it went. Overall I think it was a fantastic and relaxing experience. Istanbul was extremely interesting and the Grand Bazaar was HUGE! There are thousands of stores and I doubt I saw even half of them, but most of the time we just got lost in the sea of shops. We also went to Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, but unfortunately there are several prayer times in the afternoon where you are unable to enter and the entrance lines for the first to were extremely long so be prepared to wait. Another thing to keep in mind is bring ear plugs. I mean this with great respect, but the mosques air their prayers over loud speakers and two of those prayers are before 7am so unless you don’t want to be woken up at 5 am every morning you may want to bring a pair.
After Istanbul we flew back to Aberdeen where my friend and I parted ways as she flew back to the US and I began to prepare for the 2nd half of my term. I’m still going through photos and gifts and trying to remember everything that we had done. Thankfully I took a journal with me and wrote everyday about the places we saw and anything else remarkable. I suggest everyone who takes a trip to take a journal, even if you write just a few things it will help you later on remember details you may later on forget.
I’m already planning my next trip! 5 days in Munich next month. I have a friend staying in London who is going to join me in Munich where we plan on doing a few day trips, such as to Salzburg, Nuremburg and Neuwachstein castle. I can’t wait! I am so glad that I took this chance on coming here to the UK to recieve my Master’s. I’m recieving more than a higher education, but also experiencing more of the world!
Until next time!