Touring Old Town Krakow

I have been in Krakow for a few days now and I have loved exploring the city. The architecture is beautiful, the food is delicious (but I already knew that about Polish food), and overall it is just a wonderful city. However, I wanted to learn more about the history of Krakow so I could better understand the historical sights. I decided to take a walking tour of Old Town yesterday and I am very glad that I did.

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*If you’re bored by the historical anecdotes, skip to the last paragraph.
The tour began in Main Market Square, in front of St. Aldabert’s Church. The church is a small building, it looks slightly out of place, but it is one of the oldest structures in the city (I forgot to take a picture). We then walked around the square, focusing on the Main Market, then St. Mary’s Basilica.

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Notice how the basilica has two uneven towers. Legend has it that two brothers built the towers, competing with one another to make the best tower. According to this legend one brother was killed, allowing the other to create the taller, more intricate one. That man later climbed to the top of the basilica, confessed to killing his brother, then jumped to his death. Across from the church lies the main market, from which the “murder weapon” (a knife) hangs from the entryway.

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The tour guide later brought us to the north end of Old Town. There we saw the remains of the original wall that was used to protect the city’s residents from invaders. I learned that the city intended to destroy the rest of the wall (preserving history was not considered important during the time period). However, a few people (scholars and others) who had the unpopular belief in historical preservation, decided to spread a lie in order to convince the residents to keep it. They told people that a large wind was coming, a wind that would spread a terrible disease. People thought that the wall would help keep the wind out and, therefore, save themselves from the disease (more conservative people wanted to keep the wall because they were afraid that the wind would blow women’s skirts up).

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We then ventured through Planty, the park that surrounds Old Town (was once protective swamps during the medieval era), until we reached Jagiellonian University where Pope John Paul II studied literature.

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The final destination on the tour was Wawel Castle. There lies the Cathedral in which Pope Jean Paul II preached before becoming the Pope. At the entrance of the Cathedral hangs “dragon bones,” which are symbolic of another city legend. The tale has inspired many fairytales in which knights compete for a beautiful princess by attempting to slay a dragon (not exactly a feminist story…but not the fault of the princess, of course).

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There’s real gold on there!

 

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The grounds of the castle also include the foundations of churches that were destroyed during the Partition of Poland. Once destroying the churches, the military used the grounds for training.

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Also, here is the beautiful courtyard. Personally, I would not mind living here, strolling confidently along the balconies and looking down upon the peasants (just kidding!).

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In addition to learning about the history of Krakow, I met some really nice people. My tour group consisted of people from the United States, England, Scotland, and Israel. I spent much of the tour getting to know a woman from Los Angeles (originally from Taiwan). Then at the end of the tour the two of us sat for a while, talking with the couple from Israel. We talked about where we’re from, our lives, and our travels. One of the best parts about traveling is meeting people that I would probably have never met otherwise. I will probably never see these people again, but I will treasure the moments we shared. This clearly sounds super cheesy, but one cannot simply forget connecting with a complete stranger. Despite our different backgrounds, ages, and nationalities, we bonded over our passion for travel, learning, and our newfound love of a city. The world is a large place so it is easy to forget how interconnected we are. By forgetting this, we often rank ourselves, prioritizing certain types of people over others. However, every time I travel to a new place and meet people from other countries, the world gets just a little bit smaller. This may not sound like a good thing, but it really is. It is a constant reminder that we are all human beings, inhabiting the same earth. We are more similar than we are different. This is important to keep in mind as we move forward. As an American, I feel as though the next few years are uncertain and that makes me feel uneasy. However, if we can remember how similar and interconnected we all are, our country and our world can be a more welcoming place for all.

20 Things I Learned in 20 Years

I have officially survived two decades in this world and in honor of this milestone I wanted to share with you all some things that I have learned:

  1. Waking up in the morning is a lot easier when you’re excited about your breakfast.
  2. No matter how nice you are, not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay.
  3. Being single means you save a lot of money around Christmas and Valentine’s day.
  4. There is no need to be ashamed of or embarrassed by your taste in music.
  5. Spell-check is a wonderful invention.
  6. You can learn how to do anything by watching a Youtube video.
  7. Sometimes you grow apart from people and that’s normal…humans are dynamic.
  8. Never ride a razor scooter while wearing flip flops.
  9. Don’t compare your life to the the lives of others, because everyone has their own path to take.
  10. Watch at least two episodes of a sit-com after watching a horror film.
  11. ALWAYS remove your makeup before going to bed.
  12. You are never too old for chocolate milk or Disney movies.
  13. Procrastination is only good for making your future self hate your past self.
  14. Books are good for the mind and the soul.
  15. Napping is a beautiful thing, but it can also mess up the rest of your day… so nap strategically.
  16. Take advantage of any opportunity to experience a new place (whether it’s a town or country). The world is beautiful place and there is so much to see and learn.
  17. Accept other people for who they are.
  18. There is something really enjoyable and satisfying about piping frosting onto cupcakes.
  19. Mistakes create good learning experiences.
  20. Birthdays are the best, because they are like personal holidays celebrating YOU.

I’m young and I know that I have A LOT more to learn… but I can’t wait to see what those things are in the next twenty years!

I hope you have an absolutely wonderful day! 🙂

5 (More) Things that I noticed about London

This is part two of my “Things that I noticed about London.” If you did not read part one please click here .

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The contrast of old and new architecture is beautiful.

London is an extremely old city, and it is not uncommon to see well preserved buildings that are 300, 600, 900 years old (significantly older than the United States)! The city continues to develop, creating modern skyscrapers that are so creatively designed (such as the ‘Shard’ which reaches a shattered point at the top, imitating shards of glass). Walking around the city one won’t find themselves in a strictly new section or a strictly old section. Both new and old architecture can be seen mixed throughout the city. One of my most humbling experiences was when I was standing at the Tower of London (nearly a thousand years old) looking across the river at incredible skyscrapers).

There isn’t any organization to the way the streets are laid out.

Back to the fact that London is an extremely old city, the streets are all intertwined; laid out in various directions. Due to the fact that the streets were incorporated over hundreds of years, the English did not lay them out in a strategic grid pattern like those in New York City. Although this can make traveling a bit confusing for tourists and newcomers, it also adds a bit of charm and incorporates a sense of adventure.

Delicious pastry is sold everywhere.

I’m not sure if the English have always had delicious pastry or if it’s because the Chunnel has provided a lot of French influence, but one can easily satisfy their sweet tooth in London. If you’re in London and you suddenly have a craving for something sweet, considering stopping by an outdoor market, a cafe, a quick stop restaurant (such as Pret A Manger), or even a grocery store (they all have a section with a variety of freshly baked goods; from baguettes to doughnuts and everything in between).

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One must remain rather quiet on public transportation.

This does not mean you have to be silent, but locals expect their ride on public transportation to remain peaceful. If you’re having a conversation with your friend, keep your voices low unless you want to receive dirty looks from those around you. Once I even witnessed a man telling a younger man to be quiet while on the bus.

Walking 30 minutes to and from school or work is quite common.

During my semester abroad, I chose to walk to class everyday rather than spend money on the tube. I quickly realized how common it was to walk long distances to get around the city, and I grew accustomed to it quite easily. People in London are quite fit, as walking easier than driving and cheaper than taking the tube. I often saw business people walking with small suitcases and students carrying large bag packs in order to hold everything they would need for the day. Of course at 8:30 AM on a Monday morning I would have to convince myself to step outside and endure the walk, but once I looked up I was reminded how lucky I was to be there and enjoyed the view all the way to class.

 

 

 

 

5 Things that I noticed about London

During my stay in London I kept a journal that I sporadically wrote in… At one point (within the first month) I had made a list of random things that I had noticed about London and here are just a few. Stay tuned for part two…

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Nobody knows which side of the ‘foot path’ (sidewalk) we are supposed to walk on.  

           In most cities there is a universal understanding that one walks on the right side, but in a city where the cars drive on the left side everyone gets a little bit confused. Do we follow suit with the cars and walk on the left? Add in a few thousand tourists from all over the world and we just have a bunch of people nearly bumping into each other on every street corner.

Everything is on platforms.

I felt like I always had to take a step up wherever I went. The bus seats are on platforms, many toilets are on platforms (why is that necessary?), and from one room to the next in shops and restaurants there is often a single step upward.

The computer key boards are different.

The keyboards aren’t drastically different, just an exchange and reordering of some symbols. Although, it was enough to slow me down quite a bit the first time I tried to do homework on the computer in my university’s library.

Restaurants and grocery stores with a wall of prepared foods are extremely common.

This is super convenient for business people on the go and students on a budget. Rather than sitting down at a restaurant for lunch, one can just stop in to one of these shops and purchase an inexpensive pre-made sandwich or soup.

Food is cheaper if you order it as take-away.

In many of the quick stop restaurants like Pret A Manger, I often chose take away and ate my food elsewhere rather than sitting in because it was cheaper. I believe there is an eating-in tax that causes the price difference but I’m not entirely sure. Besides, I would much rather eat outside in the Somerset House courtyard on a beautiful sunny day than eat in.

I’m Home!

Hello everyone,

I am sad to say that my semester abroad is officially over… it was such a wonderful experience in which I learned a lot. I have definitely ‘caught the travel bug’ and I look forward to exploring more parts of this amazing world in the future! Although I’m sad that my stay in London is over, I am happy to be spending the holidays at home with my family and friends. I look forward to catching up with everyone over the next few weeks!

Happy holidays everyone!

Enjoy this short video blog of my journey home:

 

Tracing the Footsteps of J.K. Rowling (Edinburgh)

Edinburgh is a wonderful city, full of history and charm. I had the pleasure of spending a few days there, exploring new town and old town, admiring its landmarks, and appreciating its history. Edinburgh is also the home to Joanne Rowling and has been since the launch of her career. As a lover of the Harry Potter series (a self-proclaimed “Potterhead”), I spent much of my final day in the city tracing the beginning of J.K. Rowling’s creative journey.

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This is not Harry Potter related, but this incredible view of Edinburgh Castle was the first thing I saw when I stepped out of my hostel every morning and I just had to share it with you.

I started my Harry Potter morning by visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery). This is where J.K. Rowling found name inspiration for many of the characters that she created. I walked around this centuries-old graveyard in search of recognizable names from the series and I found a few!

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William “McGonagall” – Minerva “McGonagall”
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Thomas Riddle – Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort)

Overlooking Greyfriars Kirkyard is George Heriot’s School, a private school   in which the students are sorted into four houses. The building also has four towers as part of its architectural design. I have read that J.K. Rowling used this school as inspiration for Hogwarts. The school is surrounded by a wall, making it difficult for an outsider to take a good picture from the ground. Fortunately for me, I had a great view of the school from the room I was staying in (I’m glad cameras can zoom).

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After enjoying other parts of the city, I returned back the charming part of  old town where J.K. Rowling had once spent a lot of her time. There I ate at “The Elephant House.” This is the very coffee house in which she primarily wrote the first two books of the beloved Harry Potter series. At the time she was a single mother with very little money and found that it was cheaper to purchase a cup of coffee and spend her days in the coffee house than it was to pay for heating in her flat. The coffee house is very cutely decorated with pictures of elephants, tapestry with elephant designs, and probably hundreds of elephant figurines. The food was quite delicious too. I had a panini with a side salad followed by a pot of peppermint tea (my favorite at the moment) and a piece of raspberry cake.

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The slice of cake was too big but I ate it all anyway because since I came to England on a budget I have developed the motto, “I paid for it so I’m eating it.”

Even though I didn’t casually bump into J.K. Rowling during my visit (she doesn’t live anywhere near the city center anymore anyway), I had such an amazing time in Edinburgh. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to visit such a friendly, charming, and historical city.

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A foggy view of Edinburgh for Calton Hill. I went during sunset but since the sun never came out that day it never actually set (the sky only got darker). Even so, it was still a breathtaking view.
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Another foggy view from the other side of the hill. On the far left it The Palace of Holyroodhouse, one of the royal residences (I took a tour of it the day before).

The Most Magical Day: Harry Potter Studio Tour

Yesterday I finally got to take a tour of the Harry Potter Studio in England and it was such an incredibly magical experience!

I just had to share this amazing experience with you all in video form! I know I am going love looking back on this for years to come!

Here are just a couple final thoughts that I failed to mention in the video blog:

1) I loved how all of the of the sets were decorated to depict the wizarding world during Christmas time! I feel so lucky to have had the chance to tour in December!
2) Seeing the sets was such a cool experience. I spent most of the time trying to imagine what it was like during filming, something that both fascinates and excites me. I wish I could have been part of the movie making magic!

I know it’s longer than my other videos, but I promise it is way more fun! Enjoy!

A Different Type of Thanksgiving

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and great food!

My Thanksgiving this year was a little bit different from any Thanksgiving I have had in the past… Usually the holiday would start with me dragging myself out of bed (later than I had originally planned to) and slowly getting ready for the day. I would then run out the door (later than I had originally planned to), slightly annoyed by the fact that I was interrupted several times with, “Are you almost ready?” while I was trying to apply liquid eyeliner. Seriously though, liquid eyeliner requires extreme concentration. Anyway, my family and I would join my extended family at my grandparent’s house. There, my siblings and I would be forced to take the annual Christmas card picture, those of us in high school and college would try our best to avoid extensive conversations about school, and we would all indulge in an amazing feast that my wonderful grandmother so lovingly prepared (with generous help from the other talented chefs in the family of course). With our stomachs full and our hearts happy, my family and I would then journey to another home to catch up with my mom’s side of the family. As I’ve grown older less of these evening have been spent  playing ‘cops and robbers’ with my cousins, but the one thing that never changes is the amount of delicious dessert I eat. There’s always multiple pie options! Us women of the family would then close out the night by rummaging through newspapers comparing Black Friday deals.

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For Thanksgiving this year everything was a little bit different. I woke up at a fairly reasonable time and spent the day slowly getting ready while watching Youtube videos. I’m used to having a Thanksgiving lunch instead of a Thanksgiving dinner so I had more time than I knew what to do with. At 3:00 I met the rest of the students in my study abroad group for a boat ride down the River Thames. We got off the boat when we reached Greenwich, a sort of sub-town in London. The town is the center of time, as it is the location that all time is measured from. But more importantly is this very location that the climax of the second Thor film takes place! Jonny Depp filmed a scene here as well for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides! We walked around for a little while, admiring the beautiful Royal Naval College, before heading to the restaurant for dinner.

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The whole restaurant was really sweetly decorated, slightly Christmasy because the British don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (obviously). But I really appreciated the British touches, because at every place-setting there was a Christmas cracker! It reminded me of Christmas at home with my cousins! (For those of you who don’t know, a Christmas cracker is a long tube that pops when you pull it. Inside, one would usually find a paper crown, a piece of paper with a joke written on it, and some sort of small toy or gift.) Although, these ones were quite glittery and I’m pretty sure that I still have glitter on my coat even though this happened days ago. Oh well, I like glitter!

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Even though this Thanksgiving was quite different, I was still able to be surrounded by people while eating a delicious turkey dinner. I even topped off the night with a slice of pumpkin pie in true Thanksgiving fashion. I am very appreciative that my program coordinators organized a nice Thanksgiving evening, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have celebrated (I don’t even think my small oven could cook a turkey).

Ultimately, I am just so grateful for this opportunity to study abroad in this incredible city. I have been giving the chance to see more of the world and I have quickly developed a true love for experiencing new places. Of course I miss my family and friends, all of whom I would have seen if I had gone home for Thanksgiving, but I think missing the holiday will only make Christmas more special. But for now, I will continue to enjoy the rest of my time here in London, because I know I am going to miss this city so much. I just wish I could bring my family and friends here instead… I think that could be a good compromise…

P.S. I’m sorry that this is an INCREDIBLY long-winded blog post…but sometimes I just start writing and I can’t stop… (This, however, is never the case with term papers…the struggle)

Update

Hi everyone!

I would like to apologize for not posting anything new over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been seeing and doing a lot of great things, but for the past couple of weekends I chose to fully immerse myself in my experiences instead of living behind the camera. I do love to take pictures and I do enjoy sharing my experiences with you all, but I think it’s sometimes best to take a little break from the continuous documentation of my activities.

I would also like to thank the Hurley’s, from the bottom of my heart, for kindly welcoming me into their home last weekend, and my parents for visiting me this past weekend. I had such a great time experiencing England with all of you! I hope you all enjoyed yourselves as well!

Here are some pictures that I took on my phone over the past couple of weeks:

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Glastonbury
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Exeter
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An emotional day for me… the last installment of the Hunger Games series….(I was also a spectator at the red carpet for the UK premiere a couple of weeks before)
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Opposing weather conditions (view from the Waterloo Bridge)
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Southbank Christmas Market
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The Imperial War Museum (my favorite museum in London thus far)
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Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park… The best festival I have ever been to! (I really wish I could come back to experience this every December)

There are some more pictures on my Instagram: edenjayne31

(You can also see the most recent Instagram posts on the sidebar of this blog)