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.

Exploring Windsor

Another weekend, another excursion! One of the things that I have been loving is taking trips to see various parts of England. London is absolutely amazing, but it’s often nice to take a break from the busy city. Although I only spent a short time there, the town of Windsor has definitely been one of my favorite “city escapes” thus far. Not only did it meet my expectations of a cute, traditional English town, but for a tourist destination it was quite peaceful (perhaps that’s a benefit of visiting in October).

For those of you who don’t know, Windsor is the home to Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite royal residence, Windsor Castle. She spends many weekends here and she happened to be in residence when my group and I toured the castle (we did not see her of course)! Of  course with any royal residence in the United Kingdom, the traditional “Changing of the Guards” occurs every morning at 11:00AM. It’s like a little parade every single day!

I absolutely loved exploring Windsor Castle. The grounds were so spacious and beautiful; just imagine growing up here!

The castle also has such incredible views! I absolutely loved seeing all of the fall foliage; it made me feel at home. Unfortunately, while in the center of London where I spend most of my time, I do not get to experience the beautiful autumn scenery like I do in New England. It was so comforting to see it again, even if just for a little while.

After exploring the castle, my flatmate and I ventured down a cute little alleyway in which we stumbled upon the Clarence Brasserie & Tea Room. We got sandwiches and the cutest pots of tea!

We then spent the rest of the day exploring the streets, shops, and parks and ultimately enjoying the beautiful autumn scenery.

Baking on a Budget (Peanut Butter Cookies and Nutella Brownies)

In an effort to meet new people during my stay here in London, I decided to join the King’s College London Baking Society. It’s a super dangerous group to be a part of due to the fact that one night, every other week, I indulge in more sweets than a human being should… but it’s delicious and fun! After all, it’s only every other week, so it’s fine, right?

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I absolutely love baking, an activity I have been doing more frequently over the past year or so (I think it began when I realized how much fun it is to pipe frosting onto cupcakes… yes I am easily amused…). Unfortunately, baking isn’t the easiest thing to do with a small kitchen, few baking supplies, and a budget. But in an effort to be a part of this club I have been researching and trying different recipes that require few supplies and few ingredients.

For the first baking society gathering of the semester I made:

Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 Cup Peanut Butter

1 Cup Sugar

1 Large Egg (beaten)

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper or lightly coat it with non-stick cooking spray
  3. Combine Peanut Butter and Sugar in a bowl
  4. Mix in the Beaten Egg
  5. Mix in the Baking Soda
  6. Roll the dough into small balls and place on the baking tray
  7. With a fork, press the dough balls flat
  8. Put in the oven for 10 minutes (It will take less time if you have a small oven, like I do.)
  9. Enjoy your delicious, golden-brown cookies and the peanut-buttery smell of your kitchen!

******** I apologize for not having a photo… you’ll just have to send me a photo when you make them!**********

For the second gathering I made:

Nutella Brownies

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Cup Nutella (One Standard-Sized Jar)

2 Large Eggs

1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Line a small baking pan (8×8 or 11×7) with baking paper or lightly coat pan with non-stick cooking spray
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth
  4. Pour into the baking pan and smooth out the mixture with the back of a spoon or spatula
  5. Put in the oven for 25 minutes (It will take less time if you have a small oven, like I do. Once you start to smell them it’s a good indication that they’re about done. If you poke it with a fork and it comes out clean, they are finished.)
  6. Let cool, then enjoy your delicious chocolate-hazelnut brownies!

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J’aime Paris!

Bonjour!

This past weekend I took a trip to Paris with my flat mates and I had an absolutely amazing time! I hope I can return to this beautiful city one day!

So in an attempt to try something new and exciting, I decided to create a video blog (vlog) of my weekend. It’s really not the best, but I didn’t want to waste the effort that I put into it by not uploading. This is my first attempt at creating a vlog, so I’m still in the learning process! Enjoy! Au revoir!

A Day in Brighton

Brighton, located in the south of England, is a beautiful beach town that attracts visitors from all over the country. It’s also a popular location for Londoners who are looking for a day out to shop, grab lunch, and walk around but want a break from the city. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the town with my study abroad group and I absolutely loved it!

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The very first thing we did in Brighton was take a tour of The Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence (it’s now owned by the town) initially constructed for King George IV. It was fascinating to see and learn about its history, but the entire design  of the building is quite confusing. The outside was inspired by Indian architecture and the inside was inspired by Chinese design…but some rooms were quite plain… I didn’t quite understand the overall vision.

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Next we went to the Brighton Pier, a fun environment with food, games, rides, and a great view of the coastline. There, I had fish and chips for the first time since arriving in England and I’m so glad that I waited until I was in Brighton to eat one of Great Britain’s most popular dishes. The fish was so fresh and delicious (they catch it daily)!

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After spending time on the pier, my friends and I walked along the pebble beach, enjoying the beautiful day.

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Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to poke around in all of the adorable little shops (the downfall of a program trip is that we have to head back home rather early), but I had a nice day and I hope I get the chance to return!

Dover Castle

Exploring Dover Castle was such a wonderful experience! It was an incredibly beautiful sight to see with a magnificent view of the English Channel at the southernmost point in England. Not knowing much about Dover Castle before visiting, I learned so much about its medieval, royal, and military history. Not only did I explore the centuries old grounds and living quarters, but I was also able to explore the wartime tunnels. The tour highlighted the usage of the tunnels during WWII when they were still  a secret with very high security (we learned that Winston Churchill was once denied entry because he was issued the incorrect pass). The entire tour was extremely fascinating. I would love to revisit Dover Castle one day, as it has been one of my favorite experiences thus far.

Here is a slideshow that I put together of the pictures that I took while at Dover Castle. I could not choose which ones I wanted to display in this post, so I decided to display all of them along with some delightful music for your enjoyment.

Lights, Camera, Action (“The Martian” European Premiere)!

London is a beautiful mix of New York City and Los Angeles (significantly older of course). The magic of this city partially resides in the fact that all of the UK entertainment industries are booming in one place, ultimately granting me and all of its inhabitants incredible opportunities such as attending movie premieres in the midst of fashion week. It’s so exciting to see so many big events from varying industries happening at the same time in the same place!

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The Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square

Yesterday evening I took advantage of living in this city by attending the red carpet event for the European premiere of “The Martian” starring Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wig, and many other talented actors. Of course they were accompanied by the director of the film, Ridley Scott.

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My friend and I managed to get an incredible spot in the front row at the end of the red carpet. We were just a few feet away as we watched several cars pull up, and one by one, each star made their appearance. More excitingly, we were able to watch each star (right in front of us) as they were interviewed by Jim Chapman, one of the hosts for the evening.

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Matt Damon’s Interview
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Kate Mara’s Interview

The entire atmosphere was exciting and glamorous. I was truly amazed to see how genuinely happy the actors were to be there and I was overjoyed to see their efforts to make as many fans happy as possible. For me, the most magical moment of the evening was when Matt Damon was signing a page in my journal. He looked up, right into my eyes, and said, “Hi,” with a huge smile on his face. I will never forget that moment! I also got an autograph from Jessica Chastain who is not only beautiful, but extremely kind.

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Kristen Wig was geting flustered because she was trying to meet as many fans as possible but she kept getting called over to do interviews and take take pictures for the media.
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Jessica Chastain (I lover her gown!)

I’m looking forward to experiencing more amazing events like this during my stay here in a big city, especially the Mockingjay Part 2 premiere on November 5th!

P.S. When Jim Chapman initially arrived before the event officially began, I recognized him immediately and smiled and waved. He noticed me and happily returned a very sweet smile and wave. I’m a fan of his (he is a Youtube personality that I watch regularly), so that was also another nice moment of the evening that I will never forget.

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