Friday, July 16, 2010

The last bit

I’m home! And what a whirlwind last few weeks it was, really just relaxing and taking it all in. It was a nice way to finish seven quick months away.
I loved Croatia. I was travelling on my own for the first time this whole trip, something I had been planning to do a lot of, but it just never quite happened, because I’m not going to say no to company! I’m glad I did do it, for at least a little bit though, as it truly is a very different experience to travelling with friends. I love both, but travelling solo has an extra element of adventure. You can depend on no one but yourself, and the experience really is what you make it. I find it lends itself towards meeting more people, all sorts of people, and to having more random experiences!
I didn’t realise that Croatia has so many beautiful islands to visit! Luckily I had not booked anything ahead so I was able to arrange a night staying on Hvar, an island off Split, and I also visited a smaller island off Dubrovnik, just for the afternoon.
Hvar was the highlight of Croatia for me. Arriving on the ferry, it was a bit surreal, paradise! The clearest water, with little secluded beaches spotted all along the coast. I wondered off to a beach about a 20 minute walk from my hostel and the township of Hvar for the afternoon, where I found myself a nice little spot on the rocks to take in some vitamin D!
From Croatia, my final country was Spain, and first Barcelona. The city that will always be remembered for naked men walking up the main street in the middle of the day (legally!) and enjoying themselves on the beach! It is a bustling, vibrant city, and one that you need a lot of energy for! It was boiling hot when we were there, but we still managed to get around to all of the sights, though appreciated all of the outdoors escalators that the Spanish have to help you walk up hills!
My favourite place in Barca was the fresh food market, just near our hostel. We went there everyday for breakfast, and sometimes lunch or dinner too! They had masses of fresh summer fruit, as it comes off the plant, or cut up in fruit salads, or juiced into the freshest juices you can imagine, heaven!
From Barca, my final destination before the home journey was San Sebastian, on the north coast of Spain. We could not have chosen a more perfect spot. It was great! Our hostel was 2 blocks back from the surf beach, there was tapas and sangria galore, and we had a delightful time! The weather did not always behave, but we still managed to get some sun every day, and the water was always warm. On the last night, we went to a big Fourth of July party, and I ran into two separate people I knew from Melbourne from years ago, the world is so small, and it was a nice way to end the trip.
My entire trip went so quickly, seven months absolutely flew. I had a ball, and the experience has only upped my travel bug even more, and shown me the best way to travel, by living and breathing a culture, rather than just passing through. The last week away, I was really looking forward to coming home, and it is really nice to be here. I will be ready to go back soon though! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The city where it is legal to urinate in public (except for on people’s front doors or on important buildings), and where public sex is tolerated (preferably in parks, and as long as no one gets hurt). Cross the road when the little man is red though, and you are in trouble! The streets are full of graffiti, but it is better described as street art, as it really is art, and always has a message behind it. You can drink in public places, and people living in squats are battling with the big companies to keep their ‘homes’ and maintain the arty alternative culture of the city. Some are winning, and some lose. A cute little street art gallery in a back street has a Nike store on either side of it. It turns out that Nike owns the cute little street art gallery. It sort of changes your impression of these small individual places, but these people need to make a living as well, and this is a prime example of the battle in Berlin between commercialism and the more interesting side of the city.
Then there is its history, which is ever present and not very far back into the past. The Holocaust memorial takes up a whole street block, and is made up of thousands of cement blocks, each the same length and width, but different heights, from below your knee and up to four metres. Its meaning is open to interpretation, and that is the idea, you have to think. I saw thousands of people who had had their identity and individuality taken away. And then walking through the memorial, it gave a feeling of been lost with no escape.
Another memorial, I can’t remember what it is specifically for, but buried beneath it is the remains of a holocaust victim who died in a concentration camp, alongside the remains of a nazi soldier. Our guide told us that this is portraying that everyone was a victim. Above this, within the memorial, is the statue of a woman cradling her dying son. They are situated beneath a sky light in the building, representing that, while we can all gain shelter from the elements, they never could.
Berlin is an intriguing city that has so much to explore beneath the most obvious tourist attractions. I will definitely head back there one day to delve further. For now though, I must continue on my adventure!

PS. I have just landed in Croatia, and despite it been dark as we flew overhead, I could still make out the rings of sand surrounding all of the little islands just off the coast – oh yeah! 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I found Marabou in Germany!

Soph and I are sitting in a little train carriage on our way to Berlin now. We decided not to pay the fee to reserve a seat, and quickly learned that you have to be a bit pushy to claim an unreserved seat. Everyone had themselves spread out, trying to fool the non-German speaking tourists like us, but we figured it out and kicked a few feet and bags off chairs to claim ourselves some space!
The next stage of my trip is starting now, as we are going back into full on tourist mode. The last two weeks have been really nice, staying with friends and family the whole time, eating lots of home cooked meals and relying on the locals to know their way around. Now we are going back to cheap sidewalk food with no veggies, and lots of maps. I will be home in 19 days, and between now and then I have a few days in Berlin, and then a week in Croatia and a week in Spain. Oh life!
Staying in Munster with Katrin was really good. The weather was beautiful and on the day we arrived we went down to the canal and had our first swim of the year, and caught up on vitamin D all afternoon. We had a night out where we discovered how cheap German drinks are, in comparison to Sweden anyway, and we spent awhile in a pub where smoking is still allowed. I don’t miss those days! It was the only place still open though. We had a quick tour around the city the next day, but spent most of our time relaxing in the sun, enjoying another German ice cream and laying by the lake. We spent the night playing European monopoly with Katrin’s brother whilst eating Sophie’s pavlova! That sort of stuff way beats been a typical tourist. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I’m in Germany at the moment, enjoying lots of home cooked food and catching up with some Malmö friends. We visited Barbara first in Trier, where we were invited to dinner by her parents to a cool little wine bar, where they were having a Spanish night, guitar playing Spanish singer and all, it was great! Not what we expected on our first night in Germany though! From Trier we also popped over to Luxembourg a few times, once just to go to the petrol station, as it is much cheaper there, how novelty. The locals couldn’t seem to work out what we were doing when we pulled over on the bridge to take a photo of ourselves with one foot in each country; it is just so normal to them.
The thing that started this whole German trip is the world cup, and the Germany vs. Australia game on Sunday. So we dressed up in our flags and face paint and bravely headed into a packed pub to watch it on a big screen! I have never been booed in my life, and it was quite intimidating, but fun at the same time. We literally did not see a single other Aussie that night, or not one that was brave enough to admit it anyway! We stood and sung the national anthem, and cheered when we almost got goals, but nevertheless all of our efforts did not seem to help and we were thrashed. Oh well, it was a good night!
We then headed north, to Bochum, where Anja lives. Another really lovely area, but very different to Trier, which is more a group of little villages. Bochum is much more suburban, still with the cute German looking houses etc though. Here we tried our first German sundae. They are all over the place, menus full of every combination of extravagant ice cream sundae that you can imagine. I had a big bowl full of vanilla ice cream, with whipped cream, heaps of strawberries, and chocolate and strawberry sauce, yummo!
The sun is out in Germany, so it is nice to be in shorts and t-shirt. Yesterday we took a paddleboat out on a lake for an hour, very nice. Last night we went and watched another soccer game at a pub, this time Brazil vs. North Korea. I have to say that, with a bit of a more exciting game, along with Barbara’s never dyeing enthusiasm, I may just be becoming interested in soccer!
Today we are off to Munster to visit Katrin, and then on Friday to Berlin, our last stop in Germany. I am excited to hear that my parcels that I sent from Sweden have all arrived home, only 21 days to go!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Last days

Well, here I am in London, staying with some family and enjoying a quiet-ish few days playing dress ups etc before I head off travelling. Malmö already feels like ages ago, but I certainly miss it and all of the people there. I left in a bit of a mad rush, after cleaning and then passing the dreaded room inspection, rushing through the rain with a supermarket trolley full of boxes to the local shops to post 20 kg of stuff home, stuffing everything in to my bag and saying quick goodbyes before heading to the airport. I literally forgot to eat that day. I think it was for the best that it was a rushed departure though, as it didn’t really register that I was leaving until I was on the train out of Malmö eating my final Risifrutti, and there was no going back then!

The day’s prior were great fun, beginning with an extra placement day in a paediatric ward, which I loved. We then had the final Celsius party on Friday night, beginning with drinks on the fire escape and ending outside when it became clear that the weather was way to nice to be partying in a basement! Saturday was spent trying to get organized, with a quick shopping trip and final fika fitted in the middle somewhere. Saturday night a group of aussie’s headed to the local for our final hit of iron before embarking on the budget travelers diet, and the locals did not disappoint with a bit of singing for us! We rode down to the beach to watch the sunset, and then I headed out for one last time in Malmö. Of course, by the time we came out of the club around 4 am, the sun was shining and we contemplated whether or not we should actually go to bed! But we did, for a few hours anyway, and then spent Sunday frantically packing and cleaning, before enjoying some games outside such as a scavenger hunt for the likes of a pregnant woman, exotic stuffed animals, a man named Bert etc, and bobbing for apples. It was fun! The games led into a barbeque outside, and that led into more cleaning, which led into very little sleep and then more cleaning in the morning, and then my room inspection and we have come full circle!

London has been a nice break between Malmö and travelling. Walking down the busy streets I am constantly finding myself on the right (as opposed to left) side of the road, but I am sure I will fix that habit quickly! It’s also funny how strange it now seems to me to be able to speak to everyone in English! When I first landed in Heathrow, I was wondering what terminal I was in. And it suddenly occurred to me how easy it would be to just ask somebody! How novelty! Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to shopkeepers and eavesdropping on conversations on the metro!

Now that I have left Malmö, travelling is sounding pretty exciting, so I am looking forward to heading off into the big wide world on Saturday. At the same time though, going home is sounding nice too now. I have been overseas for over 6 months now, and will be home in less than a month. It is getting close!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I love!

I have been busy travelling lately. My week in Poland was great! And then this past weekend, I have been road tripping it through the Swedish countryside up to Stockholm again, this time with a Swede, Dutch, German and Georgian. The road trip was awesome, and Sweden is such a BEAUTIFUL country.
And now, with less than 1 week left in my beloved Malmö, everything is starting to wind up. There are a lot of mixed feelings floating around Celsius. I still have a month of travel ahead of me, but I can’t say that I am really excited about that yet. I am just trying to live in the moment, really enjoy my action packed last week and not dwell too much on the fact that it is the last week! While the majority of us would love to stay longer, from next Monday, Malmö will no longer be the Malmö that we all know and love, with all of the exchange students gone and the corridors of Celsius pretty much empty.
So, while I am still here and living my Swedish exchange, the things that I have loved and will remember this experience for….
Fika, at every opportunity! My favourite place for fika is the ‘white’ café, and also of course Mormors down at Entre, the local shopping centre.
Family dinners, the last of which we had tonight. We had a very impressive spread, and for the first time, all 10 floor members were there, it was great! Everyone got a bit sentimental when the Aerosmith song from Armageddon came on the radio – arm waving and bad singing were present!
Swedish sauna – oh how I love thee! Though the first time was scary (no bathers allowed), it quickly became a favourite Swedish activity! It is totally liberating and refreshing. The actual sauna part is not my favourite, but afterwards, when you jump in the freezing ocean and then warm up by sun baking naked on the deck.
My bike, she has served me so well! I don’t know where her next home will be, as the new students do not arrive for a few months, but I wish she could come home with me! Bike riding everywhere is such a novelty, and I have loved it. Even riding with a backpack full of groceries, plus a bag on the back, and one or two hanging off each handlebar! It’s fun and I love the lifestyle. People are so tolerant of cyclists here, and there is no need to feel unsafe. It is easy, quick, and a bike can take you anywhere!
Frisks & Svettis – my Swedish gym. This is the best gym I have ever been to. It is huge, clean and has heaps of equipment and classes. Soph and I really got into kickboxing, and it was such a rush! Been less than 10 minutes away on the bike also added to the novelty, as well as the fun of trying to follow a class in Swedish!
I have loved loved LOVED learning Swedish. Attempting to learn anyway! Det är svart! It adds an extra dimension to every day, and I have not gotten sick of it at all. I think everyone speaking English to me when I get home is going to get boring! The last month or so I feel like it has all started to come together a bit, and I am understanding, and knowing how to say, a lot more. Give me another 6 months and I would be a pro! Continuing to practice my Swedish will be a good excuse to stay in contact with my Swedish friends. I hope to continue to learn Swedish, and then one day I will be able to work here.
Celsiusgarden. What a great place to live. Almost all of my friends in Sweden live here, and there really is hardly ever a need to leave! I have partied a lot in Sweden, but only actually been out to a club twice! Celsius is the place to be! It is here that we have our family dinners, spend hours hanging out in the common room, cook together, have pre drinks, and also parties! I have met so many awesome people, from all over the world. It is Celsius which has made Malmö so amazing.
The local, Fregattan. This is a pub just down the road that Sara, one of the Swedish nurses, introduced us to in the first week. It is a cute little place full of locals, and often features drunk old men playing the piano and singing! They do a great steak with mashed potato, so we also go there for our iron hit!
Marabou and Risifrutti, and Princess Cake! These are my favourite Swedish foods. Marabou is amazing chocolate, and totally addictive. A large stockpile is wizzing home to Australia as we speak. Rissifrutti is a rice pudding type thing that comes with a fruity jam to mix it with. It is delish and cannot be compared to any inferior rice product! And princess cake. Oh princess cake. Marzipan, sponge, jam, custard, cream. All goodness really. What more can be said! I think the kilos will drop off just by leaving the shores of Sweden!
Been on this side of the world has been pretty cool too. I have seen a lot of cool places, and will be seeing a lot more pretty soon. Everything is so close, and easy to get to. It feels like the world has opened up to me. I could have travelled more this semester, but I was loving it too much right here in Malmö! But there sure is a lot out there to see, and it is pretty cool living so close to it all.
The delight that a sunny day brings. Today is 1st June, the first of summer, and it is definitely still jeans and a jumper weather. But the odd sunny day that we have had has been amazing! The whole atmosphere changes, people are happy, out and about, and Malmö is beautiful. I don’t think I will be taking sunshine for granted for some time!
Beautiful, beautiful people that I have met, from all parts of the world and walks of life. I have friends from Germany, Spain, Sweden, France, Austria, Mexico, Georgia, The Netherlands, Turkey, Finland, South Africa, the list goes on! Plus many new Aussie friends as well. Exchange has thrown us all together into a really unique and exciting situation, and I don’t think it would have been possible to not make great friends. I have had the opportunity to visit some of my Swedish friends homes, I have travelled with all different combinations of nationalities, and in a few weeks time I will be visiting my German friends all over Germany. And then hopefully, we will be able to play host to lots of people when they come and visit in Aussie land.
I really have loved every single aspect of this semester overseas. Each challenge has just been another thing to conquer, and every day has been a fun filled adventure. The most monotonous and every day activities become interesting when you are working them out in a foreign country and language, and for me, the novelty has not worn off. Jag älskar Sverige!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some more of Sweden

I am in the middle of two lovely weeks off from uni. Really we are practically finished. There are only 2 classes, 2 assignments and an evaluation between me and the final semester of nursing! But at the moment I am totally free.
The freedom started with the 90’s and 00’s party in the Celsius basement. Another great night, mainly thanks to the number of times that the likes of Spice Girls, Aqua and Backstreet Boys were played! Love that music.
Most of us managed to get a few hours of sleep between the party and our 8 am train to Stockholm, though I admit that I saw much less of the scenery than I intended to! What I did see was very nice though.
Anyway, Stockholm…
We slept on a boat. We ate at this great pizza/pasta place which is cheap AND gourmet. And apparently there is one in Brisbane. Valpiano, watch out for it. Also ate lots of fika. How I love fika. Apple cake with vanilla sauce (ie custard) is my current favourite fika food. The Vasa museum was awesome. A humongous and fancy war ship that sailed only about a kilometer before it sank. We also loved the City Hall, where the Nobel Prize ball is held. The steps there are a perfect height and width! Gamla Stan, the old town, was cute. And as usual, get past the tourist strip and its level of amazing-ness multiplied by about a million. We saw the palace guards. Who ARE allowed to talk, and can do their march whenever they feel like it, but evidently will not do it on request! Stockholm has beautiful parks for wondering in the sun. And the waterways. Stockholm is made up of lots of little islands, so it is all about the water. And with the water comes the Archipelago. Amazing. We only visited one little island, but how cute it was. Apart from the scary birds protecting their nesting partners! We also shopped. Did quite a bit of shopping! We went out one night too, but spent most of the night discussing whether or not we were in fact in a gay bay. Turns out we weren’t. Anyway, Stockholm was great, and a large proportion of our travelling group now intends to move there!
From Stockholm, just two of us went on to Gothenburg, another Swedish city just 4 hours north of Malmö.
The hostel was awesome, my best yet I think. Another very cute and very Swedish city. We hid from the rain in a very fun museum, Universeum, where there is a real life rain forest in which monkeys run around freely, and where you can do all sorts of cool things, like make bubbles! We spent an overcast day at Liseberg, a big theme park. The rollercoasters where awesome, but the unexpected highlight was the ultra scary haunted house! We also quite enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s, and a couple of cocktails at the Ice Hotel! When the sun came out on our last day, we wondered an animal park, with a random seal pool in the middle of it, and then explored Haga, the Gothenburg old town.
I am now home (well, in Malmö) for two nights before Lainie and I head off to Poland tomorrow for a week. I have just booked my ticket from Malmö to London at the end of the semester today. We really do not have much time left here!