Lucerne, Bern, and a Cookie Factory

Switzerland had always been very high up on my bucket-list for years, so when my teammate invited us to come out for a weekend, you can imagine I was ecstatic about it. She was the best host ever, picking me up from the airport in Zürich and taking me to a husky lodge. Also picking up our other teammates the next day in Basel and taking us skiing, sledding and for a ride in a horse carriage. She drove us around everywhere and tried to fit in as much as possible.

So for our last day in Switzerland we took a boat from a town near Schwyz, where Titzy lives, to Lucerne.

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Upon arrival in Lucerne, we took some photos as we had a few minutes before catching our train to the cookie factory.

DSC_8214s DSC_8217s DSC_8219 DSC_8221 DSC_8222s DSC_8228sThe train we took to the factory might just be the most awesome train ever. It’s a normal commuter train, making stops in towns like any normal train does. Yet it also makes a stop in a town that is home of the Kambly cookie factory. And what does this mean?  Apparently it means everyone on the train gets a free cookie! This is my kind of train.

DSC_8244s DSC_8247sTitzy planned for us to get off the train and to go into the cookie factory. There were free samples of everything and let’s just say we all went a little crazy. You could also see someone making a few cookies in the shop, although you weren’t shown a tour of the factory or anything like that. It was just a small store within the factory. None of us foreigners had heard of this brand before but I think it’s safe to say that now we will be on the lookout for it. Everything I tasted, I loved and I surely gained a few pounds from this little stop..

DSC_8249s DSC_8252s DSC_8257s DSC_8266s DSC_8274sAfter our time at the cookie factory, it was back on the train. Our next destination was Bern, where Titzy and I would stay and look around and Sammy and Nina would take a train to Basel to fly back to Budapest. Bern was definitely my favorite city we visited in Switzerland. I thought my favorite would be Zürich but I was surprised I guess!

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The child eater statue. Pretty wacky, pretty awesome.

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It seems the colors of the buildings in Bern are in strict conformity. It felt like everything was in the same dusky shades of green, white, and beige but it gave off nevertheless a cozy atmosphere. By the way, did you know the city of Bern has their own bears? I didn’t know this and unfortunately it was winter so they were hibernating!

And that’s Switzerland! The country definitely proved that my expectations all these years were right. The food was great, the skiing amazing, and the cities cozy. I can’t wait to one day go back (after saving up big funds in the bank, it also proved that it’s super expensive). I would love to see the country in the summer 🙂

Barcelona: Montjuïc Castle

On my third day spent in Barcelona, I decided to go check out Montjuïc Castle.

I was on this whole trying not to use public transportation streak, but it ended this day because I took a bus up to the Montjuïc Castle since it was up on a hill. At first, I was planning on renting a scooter, because it seemed like a very Barcelona thing to do. Seems like everyone is driving one there. However, my plans were diminished because I found out that my US drivers license wouldn’t be accepted there without a Spanish translation for it. I am planning on getting my international drivers license when I get home so I didn’t see how it was worth it to get a Spanish translation for my US license just for one day.

I wish I had been able to get a scooter though, because I found out you still had to walk quite a ways up the hill to the castle from the bus. There was a funicular you could take, well technically the bus I took was a replacement for another funicular which operated via Barcelona’s public transportation. But the other big funicular that was running costed something like 14 Euros round trip and I didn’t think it was worth it.

Though walking means you get to see more things, right! Or at least that’s how I see it. Before getting on the bus I walked up La Rambla some and through a few neighborhoods to get to the right bus stop.

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On the drive up the hill, I was rewarded with some amazing sea views which kept getting better around every turn the bus made. The first place I wandered to from the bus stop was into some gardens. They were peaceful and showcased views of the whole city of Barcelona, which I realized most of the places up on the hill had similar outlooks. I liked these gardens so much that after walking around the museum in the castle, I came back and sat here overlooking the city eating a cupcake and drinking an aloe water. It was some much needed serenity from the touristy castle.

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The Montjuïc Castle itself wasn’t like most castles I have been to. That’s because this castle is actually an old military fortress from the 1600s. The French army with orders from Napoleon took over this fortress during the Napoleonic Wars. The castle holds more recent history as well such as being a symbol of submission after the Catalan defeat to Spain in 1714. As well as in the 1930s for it’s role in the civil war. People from both sides were imprisoned, tortured and shot here in the fortress. Not to mention that in-between those times the fortress was still used as a prison and torture center with it’s cannons bombing the city of Barcelona.

But it’s not to worry because now it is a military museum and is open to the tourists.

After walking around the castle and going back to the gardens to chill, I took the bus back into the city center to the apartment I was staying in and hung out there for a bit. Then I went out and ate a waffle on the docks of Port Vell. Only to be scared off by some birds. Hint: don’t accidentally drop a piece of your waffle on the dock. The birds will attack each other trying to get it and then look at you for more. Have I mentioned I have a strong dislike towards birds? I feel like they always have evil instincts like to poop on your head or to attack you.

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I’m really excited to share the last two days of my trip to Barcelona here soon, they were very eventful because two of my teammates came to join me. I’m really proud of some of the pictures I took as well, plus they feature some amazing Güell architecture and beaches! Barcelona has really taught me to appreciate fine architecture if I didn’t already!

That’s all for now! Until next time..

A Day in Stockholm

When I went to Sweden at the end of February/beginning of March, I didn’t think I would get the chance to be in Stockholm at all. Originally, my plans for flying home were to stay the night in Luleå, take an early flight from there to Stockholm where I would have a short layover, then fly home to Budapest. Once in Budapest I was planning on switching my winter clothes out for spring attire and then catch another flight that night to Barcelona.

Unfortunately, Norwegian had been on strike the whole week before my flight, and the strike didn’t end until a few days after my intended return date. I still stayed one night in Luleå like intended, but the next day I flew to Stockholm and stayed there for a night as well. Then, I had almost a full day in Stockholm and the same night I flew to Barcelona. It ended up working out well so in the end I can’t be upset about it. Plus I got to spend a beautiful day in Stockholm! Who can complain about that!

SAB_0355sSince I was staying in Stockholm at the expense of Norwegian, I booked a hotel called Frey’s Hotel Lilla Rådmannen. Which I randomly found on a hotel booking website and booked it because it was the cheapest. Considering that hotels are so expensive, especially if you stay by yourself, I don’t normally stay in them that often. It was quite refreshing to do so however.

I loved this hotel, the staff was warm and welcoming and the room itself was cozy and felt like home. The designs in the rooms looked very original and unlike any hotel I have every stayed in before. Say goodbye to the norm that every room has to be cookie cutter and bleak. Another positive thing about Lilla Rådmannen is the location. It’s in a quiet neighborhood, close to the metro, and even close enough to walk to T-centralen (an easy 15 minute walk).

If you’re planning a summer trip to Stockholm, Frey’s Hotels has a 25% discount if you book for a minimum of  two nights between June 26th and August 16th. Which is nice because Scandinavian prices can be kind of outrageous!

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Anyways, back to my actual day in Stockholm. In the morning, I walked to T-centralen via Sveavägen, which was a lovely little walk on a busier street and pretty much a straight shot from the hotel. I had to go to Monki to buy something I had been eyeing online for awhile. If you don’t know Monki, it is a super chic Swedish clothing brand and also happens to be my favorite. Of course, one cannot just go into Monki without finding a million cute things to buy, so I left the store with a big shopping bag to somehow later stuff into my already full suitcase.

I didn’t want to use the public transport because it can be quite pricy for purchasing just a few trips and I didn’t have my SL card with to load the tickets onto so that would’ve just been an extra cost. I decided to walk everywhere that day and I have to say I covered quite a bit of Stockholm! I walked up Drottninggatan (the main shopping street) to return back to the hotel after my little shopping spree to put away my new things and then meet up with one of my host sisters Erica!

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I didn’t think I would have the chance to see Erica since she was living in Stockholm now but because of this airline strike I got to hang out with her. We ate lunch at Babel Deli (Kungstensgatan 33). They serve a variety of middle eastern and oriental food. And now my mouth cannot stop watering thinking about the fried feta cheese ball I ate. Best. thing. ever.

After grabbing lunch, we walked to Brandy Melville and did some more shopping. Then, a Swedish must, we took a fika at Vete-Katten (Kungsgatan 55). The place was pretty crowded when we arrived but we ended up finding a tiny table upstairs where we drank our coffee. When the cups were empty, we said hej då and parted ways. It was fun to catch up with Erica after almost a year!

I still had some time before I needed to catch a taxi to the airport. I didn’t have quite enough time or energy to walk to my favorite spot in Stockholm on Djurgården, but I walked to Gamla Stan/Old Town instead. It’s such a peaceful area with it’s cobblestone streets and little shops. I took a different way back to the hotel, up past the Central train station and in a little bit more industrial part of town.

From the hotel I took a cab to the Arlanda airport. While waiting for my flight I ate one last piece of Princess cake and drank a Trocadero.

Stockholm is such a vibrant city and was lucky to be able to spend a beautiful, warm, and sunny day there. Nothing impresses me quite like Sweden. I don’t think I’ve found a thing I don’t like. Each time I visit I fall more and more in love with the country. Maybe I am just partial to Sweden because I did my exchange year there but I think everyone should travel there and see for themselves what a wonderful country it is 😀

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Time for a little bit of a throwback post. Eh who am I kidding all of my posts seem like throwbacks. But hey, they get up here eventually 😉

Back when I was in Sweden for about two weeks, my friends had sportlov which was awesome how it worked out. Since I went there to work during an event for 3 days taking pictures, I didn’t get to decide when to go, but I got lucky my friends didn’t have school so I had the opportunity to hang out with all of them!

Barely two weeks wasn’t enough time to see everyone and do everything I wanted, unfortunately. However, I’m still so happy that I even got a chance to go back to my second home. I feel so relaxed and literally just at home there. It was like nothing changed.

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Another point I got lucky on was the weather! It was mostly sunny and “warm” during my stay. The ski conditions were also really great so on that aspect I was grateful as well.

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One of the days in Gällivare, a bunch of my friends and I went out on snowmobiles. We made a day of it, first going up to Dundret and having fika, then driving thru the woods and pulling off to grill some sausage and marshmallows. We even spotted reindeer which I was ecstatic about. Have I ever mentioned how I LOVE reindeer? They’re adorable! And the dried reindeer we were eating by the fire also tasted really good.. I’m in a bit of a dilemma because I think they’re the cutest but they’re also my favorite food… hmph.

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Well, words just can’t describe my love for Sweden. The snow, the people, the fika. I just feel my happiest when I’m there I guess. I can’t wait to go back to Sweden and more specifically Gällivare again soon. Hopefully, I can make it a tradition to go back every year or something like that. Or maybe I should just move there 😉 It would save me some money on the flights!

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Jag älskar dig Sverige! Vi ses igen snart.

MARCH

Some favorites from March.

Gällivare, Luleå, Stockholm, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Wrocław, Krakow, Warsaw, Budapest, Ciuc, Csíksomlyó, Târgu Mures.

skotertursGällivare, Sweden

SAB_0376s SAB_0367s SAB_0404sStockholm, Sweden

SAB_0726s SAB_0859s SAB_1116s SAB_1259sBarcelona, Spain

SAB_1404s SAB_1405s SAB_1407sBudapest, Hungary

SAB_1564s SAB_1507s SAB_1661s SAB_1824sPrague, Czech Republic

SAB_1872s SAB_1887s SAB_1918sWrocław, Poland

SAB_2033sKraków, Poland

SAB_2084s SAB_2171s SAB_2217sWarsaw, Poland

 SAB_2394s SAB_2465s SAB_2555sCsíksomlyó, Romania

That was my month of March in photos! So many memories made in new and old places. It’s been so fun traveling around Europe but now I am stationary in Budapest for a bit! It’s crazy how this year has flow by and it’s almost time to leave it again (I have a return flight to go home to Chicago on May 31st). Luckily, the weather in Budapest currently is nice and sunny so it will be quite easy to enjoy my last two months here 🙂

Barceloneta Beach & Ciutadella Park

Ah, finally, I am back in Budapest for a bit. I feel like I have so much to do, so by nature what do I do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Just hanging out with friends and watching series.

What feels like an eternity ago was my trip to Barcelona, yet it was only 2 weeks ago. Crazy how tiring traveling can be.. walking around cities for hours on end can really wear you out. Not that I’m complaining 😉 but it’s nice to sleep in my “own” bed. Even though right now here in Budapest I am couch surfing and it’s not my own bed, but hey it still feels like home!

Anyways day 2 in Barcelona: I spent most of the day on the beach and a few hours later walking around Parc de la Ciutadella.

I woke up that day excited and ready to go have a relaxing day at the beach. My weather app had said that today would be the warmest and sunniest of all my days in Barcelona. I walked down the steps of the apartment building and to the street only to find white washed out skies and a few sprinkles of rain. Not quite the beach day I had hoped for. Nevertheless, I didn’t let it put a hinder to my plans, so I continued to walk towards the beach.

Photos from El Gotic, the neighborhood I was staying in (click to enlarge).

I read online somewhere that the neighborhood of the beach, Barceloneta, was supposed to be nice to walk through so of course I did that. I was also on a streak of not using the metro. You get to see more if you walk anyways!

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As you can probably tell, both of the neighborhoods are very different. El Gotic with it’s tall brown buildings and narrow cobblestone streets differ a lot from Barceloneta’s wider, more colorful streets. Not to forget there’s a sliver of blue ocean in the distance between the buildings.

As I said earlier, the weather wasn’t the hot sunny day I had been promised. Yet when I arrived to the beach it wasn’t completely awful. This also meant a clear quiet beach to rest on. When I laid down, the sun came out. So glad I decided to go to the beach after all. A few hours later on, the sun was hotter and the beach filled up with people.

Funny that I went from snow up to my waist in Sweden to laying in a bikini on a beach in Barcelona.

For me, theres something about the sound of the water splashing against the pebbles on the shore and the sunshine gives me inspiration to write. So I sat there with my journal, which is just my book of scrap where I occasionally write down little tidbits of things or travels I want to book. Pages and pages filled with potential flights and itineraries.

After I was content with my few pages of writing and just getting some things out, I laid there on the beach just enjoying the sun and Barcelona. I would’ve possibly considered jumping in the water- a few people took a dip- however I didn’t have a real swimsuit so I passed on the idea. I could also imagine that it was quite cold, after all it was only the middle of March.

5 hours later, I decided it was time to get up and walk around again. This time my destination was Parc de la Ciutadella. It was also conveniently right next to where I was staying, so I also was able to start making my way back.

Parc de la Ciutadella

This park was beautiful. I could tell it was the ultimate hangout for people of all ages. Couples laying in the grass, kids playing soccer, people taking their dogs for walks. I loved the energy there, everyone just seemed so happy. Maybe it was just the sunshine!

The park was also huge. The zoo is located here, as well as museums, a small lake, greenhouses, statues and fountains. Also Barcelona has their own Arch of Triumph- called Arc de Triomf and it’s located near this park.

For dinner, I had tapas, which were amazing! I love Spanish food.

Next post: Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona. Coming soon 🙂

Adiós!

Barcelona- El Barri Gòtic

I spent my first day in Barcelona roaming the narrow streets and alleyways of the neighborhood El Barra Gotic. It’s located right in the center of town and I specifically booked my Airbnb accommodation here so I could easy reach the city by foot. Which when I actually arrived to Barcelona and looked at a map, I realized the city is huge, but nonetheless I was still in an area where many things were in walking distance.

SAB_0423sThe street my airbnb was on 

At first, I thought that there would be no way I would be able to find the flat I was staying in again after I left it. It was hidden away in a little nook of a street about 2 blocks from a bigger main street. Surprisingly to me however, I was able to find my way back to it pretty easily. A few hours and kilometers later, I felt comfortable navigating around the area.

I saw the Cathedral of Barcelona. Bought strawberries in the Mercat de Santa Caterina aka the main market, which now seems to be like a tradition I do whenever I come to a warm climated country. Sat in the sun for a bit by Port Vella. Browsed around some stores on the shopping street of Portal de l’àngel.

After walking around all day, I started to become a little bit bored just because of the lack of company. I love traveling and sometimes that means doing it by yourself. It doesn’t always work out that your friends want to go the same places as you, don’t have the time or don’t have the money. Thus you can either not do it or do it alone! And the latter is always the best option no matter how it plays out. Lucky for me, the owner of the airbnb I stayed at had a cat. The cat loved that I was giving it so much attention so it decided to keep me company 😉

I knew that when I would look back on this trip, I would remember it positively and cherish all of the places I saw, things I did, foods I ate. In the moment though, it was a little solitary. I just wanted someone to share the time with and talk to. It is refreshing to know that I can do it on my own nevertheless. That I don’t need someone to be with me so I can travel but to travel with someone to enjoy their company.

It wasn’t too much of a worry though, as two of my friends came to join me a few days later in Barcelona on that Friday night. So at least I had some company in Barcelona for a few days!

More on Barcelona in a bit! Some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken in awhile were on the beach in Barcelona, so can’t wait to share them 🙂

We also visited a bunch of beautiful buildings done by Gaudi during our visit to Barcelona. The architecture in this city was unlike anything I’ve seen before! Absolutely stunning.

Now I’m in Kraków, Poland taking a little break from exploring and trying to get warm again. I have so many photos to go through it’s crazy, like 5,000 from the past few weeks of traveling. Oops 😀

Will update soon!

Barcelona

After a few hectic days, I finally have a nugget of free time to update my beloved little blog a bit.

I got stuck in Sweden for two days because the Norwegian pilots were on a strike. Which seemed longer since I took a train from Gällivare to Luleå Sunday night. My original flight for Monday morning was cancelled, but I rebooked it for the flight earlier then that one. Just to find out, once I arrived to my hotel and got a little bit settled in, Norwegian texts saying my flight is cancelled again.

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Luleå was covered in ice

The next day I thought I was going to be stuck in Luleå again, so of course a hotel had to be booked. This meant I had some time to go shopping at Monki, which I’ve been browsing their website for awhile so I’m glad I finally got some new Swedish clothes! I ordered Max for dinner and took it back to the hotel to eat. Of course, my mom texts me up telling me that she switched my flight from Tuesday to that (Monday) night instead so I could catch my flight to Barcelona on Tuesday night. Nice that I didn’t even have a working phone to call Norwegian on, made my mom call their American phone line.

Because the other problem was my original plan was to go from Luleå–>Stockholm, Stockholm–>Budapest, Budapest–>Barcelona all on Monday. But I had no way of getting to Stockholm. So we had to cancel some flights and rebook them so I could go directly from Stockholm to Barcelona. This meant leaving my hotel in Luleå the day I checked into it and going to Stockholm for the night instead.

Which ended up working out fine.. I spent a beautiful day in Stockholm. I was able to meet up with one of my host sisters from my first host family, Erica. We ate lunch, drank coffee, and went shopping. It was good to catch up! After my time with her I walked to Gamla Stan/Old Town because it’s one of my favorite areas there. Must’ve walked quite a few kilos that day! Who needs public transportation anyways.

That Tuesday night, I flew to Barcelona, only a day later then I planned. Everything works out in the long run, I suppose!

 

Wednesday, I spent the day roaming around the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona which was the area I am staying in. There is so much to see in Barcelona which is crazy it only has 1.6 million people, that’s less then Budapest. It feels so much bigger though and there are a lot more things to do and see.

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Barcelona Cathedral

 

Yesterday, the weather app on my phone said it was going to be the nicest day of the week. Totally had to take advantage of this by going to the beach! Didn’t have my swimsuit however, since I thought originally I would get to go home to Budapest and switch out my winter clothes for clean spring ones, but oh well shit happens. I wore underwear and a sports bra, which I don’t really care, many people were actually doing it! Sat on the beach for a good 4.5 hours. Then walked around Parc de la Ciutadella and hung out there for awhile more!

Today, I went up to the Montjuïc Castle. I was planning on renting a Vespa, which would’ve been really cool to do since I’ve actually never driven one before. However, the company wrote back to me the day of saying that an American drivers license isn’t valid in Spain, so that was that. When I’m back in American I need to remember to go and get my international one! I walked to where the funicular was supposed to be, but that was not working so they had a replacement bus to the top.

I walked around there for awhile exploring and then took the bus back down and sat by the port.

I made a new friend at the apartment I’m staying in as well. Not going to lie I must’ve sat there petting the kitten for a few hours. It just didn’t want to leave my lap! Cutest thing ever, I miss having animals around!

And lastly, I can’t post a blog without posting a few pictures of food as well 😉

 

That’s it for now! Once I have a little more free time will get some real posts up with all the pictures from my Nikon 🙂

Tillbaka i Sverige

Hej hej

As you probably know I’m back in the beautiful land of snow, reindeer, and fika.

I’m so excited to be here in the town where I spent 11 months on exchange last year. It has been so amazing to see friends I haven’t seen in what seems like forever! And also be able to have a little bit of a white winter as well.

It honestly feels like I’ve never left this place. Besides the fact that at the club last Saturday everyone I knew came up to me screeching and hugging! I think it might have been the most fun I’ve ever had going out, just because I knew so many people who were there!

The main reason I came back to Gällivare was to take photos at Lilla VM. Lilla VM is like the little world championships for all of the northern kids teams in Sweden. The sports that were played there throughout the weekend were ice hockey, basketball, handball, soccer, shooting, bowling and skiing. I worked the event for 3 full days.

When they asked if I wanted to come back to Gällivare to be a part of the event again I was so excited! I never thought that they would be so generous as to invite me back. Also Celine, the other exchange student here last year from Germany, got to come back as well!

I decided, of course, that I wanted to stay in Gällivare a little longer so I could hangout with my friends some and go skiing! Additionally, it gives me the possibility to fika. A lot. Oh how I’ve missed fika! Kladdkaka, semlor, kanelbullar ❤ Not to mention reindeer (suovas) on everything. Pizza, quesadillas, sandwiches.. mums.

Monday, Elin and I spent the day taking it easy since we had worked long hours photographing during the weekend. We were also feeling slightly sick so it was a recharging day.

We took a little walk up to the store later that day and bought some beer and chips and had a sauna night! Very cozy and detoxifying. We did face masks after and now we are feeling better!

And that’s pretty much everything up to now! I have a busy week ahead planned full of fikas, parties, skiing, and a little snowmobiling adventure too! Can’t wait! And then escaping to Barcelona after that for a little bit of sun.

I have much to catch up with on blogging so stay tuned!