Tag Archives: vacation

Estonia’s Summer Gem: Pärnu

Pärnu is a lovely little town on the coast of Estonia. We visited Pärnu with a group of friends this summer because one of our friends threw a birthday party there. Though we had never been there before, as soon as we saw the town we fell in love with the quaint houses, lush parks, and the gorgeous beach.

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We took a boat from Helsinki to Tallinn and drove from there to Pärnu. Though the drive is only a few hours, we decided to make a little detour to Rummu Quarry, which is an old Soviet prison. Now tourists go there to swim and dive. And can you blame them? Look at the amazing turquoise water in these photo!

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There are curious sand formations surrounding the prison, and the water glistens all around. It was a little tricky finding a spot where you could enter the area but a GPS is you friend in this case. Also, we ran into so many others along the way that if you can’t figure out where to go, someone else will. The area is nowadays slightly off-limits because there is a guard but you can swing by and go take a quick look at the place at least. I wouldn’t recommend a longer outing though. Before the area was privatized it was used quite freely for beach outings and swimming.

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Pärnu is filled with huge parks, especially near the Old Town. There are also beautiful churches (that might wake you up on a Sunday morning). We even found some street art reminiscent of Berlin! The city is best explored on foot, I think, because it’s filled with gorgeous old, wooden houses and some interesting new architecture.

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It’s easy to find good food in Pärnu. And it’s usually quite affordable! Steffani pizza place is a must try – we were recommended the place by several people before our visit. There’s one in Old Town (apparently it is slightly better) but also one right by the beach if you fancy a lunch between swimming. If pizza isn’t your thing, then the roads that lead from the Old Town to the beach are lined with restaurants that you can choose from. My personal favorite was Villa Wesset, a hotel restaurant that had THE BEST FOOD AND DRINKS (I recommend the Asian style beef soup and the creamy chicken pasta).

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We found a nice Irish bar called Sweet Rosie with cheap, strong mojitos (winning combo!), when we were looking for a place to have a drink after a late dinner in the center of Old Town. There was a karaoke place, too, so if that’s your jam then head to Hommiku street (where we actually had a room at the Hommiku hostel). There are also lots of small beach bars, where you can get cheap ciders and beer to quench your thirst during the long hours of sunbathing. And for the night time, the Sunset Club by the beach is an easy option.

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After a wonderfully hot and sunny weekend at Pärnu, we headed back to Tallinn and the boat to Helsinki. We took Viking FSTR cruise both ways and used our own cars for the ride between Tallinn and Pärnu.

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Have you been to Pärnu (or Estonia in general)?

London: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I will try to keep this spoiler free for those who haven’t read/seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet.

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As I said in my previous post, I went to see Harry Potter and Cursed Child in London with a longtime friend of mine who is also a huge Potterhead. I had read the play as soon as it came out so I knew the plot while my friend didn’t. I was really curious to see how the technical stuff would work on stage – I didn’t wanna see any fake-looking magic! – but I was equally curious to find out whether I would care for the characters the same way as in the original books.

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SURPRISE – the magic was incredible! We were both left wondering how on earth they managed to perform some of the tricks. Nothing looked out of place or lame, everything was expertly choreographed and made to look as real as possible. There were even two impressive dance scenes that looked fantabulous from the balcony!

The characters were often funny – surprisingly it was Draco who had me giggling more than once. Ron was perhaps the most similar to his predecessor from the new cast. I kept comparing the “new” Hermione, Ron, and Harry to the originals and wondering if the older characters were enough like their younger selves and, while all did a good job of it, Ron was most like himself.

The plot holes and problems one might have with the script itself are far easier to ignore when watching the story unravel on stage. The focus is on the characters, the movement, the visuals…and some of the awkward lines end up feeling less so.

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After the play ended, we quickly ran to the other side of the theater to wait for the actors to pour out and got our programs signed by most of them. In the pictures above you can see Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius), who both were fabulous. Everyone was really lovely considering they had just finished a really long day!

All in all, I’d definitely recommend the play to any hardcore Harry Potter fan (as long as you’re not too nitpicky about time travel plot lines). However, if you’re not a massive fan, the length of the play can make it quite an intense experience. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the performance though and think that, as long as you recognize that this is separate entity from the original series, you can get a lot of kicks out of it!

Have you seen/read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think?

Jetting Off to London to Start the Year

This post (and a few drafts that I have waiting) has been a long time coming and I blame my very persistent flu. However, I couldn’t NOT show you guys how amazing the short trip to London I did in the beginning of the year was!

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This trip had been planned by me and a childhood friend of mine for a long long LONG time. Almost two years. And the reason was: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! While we got tickets to see the Cursed Child play, the date was a long way away. But at least that meant we had something to look forward to. It’s been the longest time I’ve waited for something but it was completely worth it.

I’ve been to London many times (as has my friend), so we agreed on not even trying to do all the tourist attractions. Instead, we focused on eating good food, enjoying the winter-y atmosphere, and walking about town without a care. It was perfection! These were my last days before my new job (yes, I will blog about that at some point!!) started so I made the most of my freedom.

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Covent Garden (pictured above) was still covered in Christmas lights and even boasted a huge Christmas tree. The area is very picturesque but Christmas decorations just enhance that feeling. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Covent Garden around Christmas time! Also, be sure to check out the adorable Moomin shop there!

Our hostel YHA St. Pancras (student budget travel so no hotel) was right next to King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, which was perfect for several reasons: very easy access to the underground and, thus, to basically every other area in town; almost in the center of London; food places and cafes nearby; AND the Harry Potter store at Platform 9 3/4.

During the trip we also checked out the House of Minalima, which will be its own post soon. And the play will naturally get its own magnificent post as well<3 Have you been to London? Or seen the Harry Potter play? If you have I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

Visiting the Bone Church of Kutna Hora

Have you ever seen a chapel that’s filled with human bones? Everything is bone: the chandelier, the candle holders, everything… Well, that’s the Kutna Hora bone church for you! The little medieval town of Kutna Hora is located a short drive away from Prague. We did a lovely day trip there on our vacation in Prague, just before Christmas.

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The town is really nice and atmospheric. We managed to see the sunset there since the sun sets so early during the winter. There are some cute restaurants, though not many, around town. The main attractions are the bone chapel (offically called Sedlec Ossuary), St. Barbara’s Church, and the Italian court, which was a palace modeled after Italian architecture.

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The day trip was a great break from walking around in the same area of Prague and it allowed us to see some of the countryside as well. It was fairly cheap and we even got a discount by attending a free walking tour hosted by the same company the day before. You can also get a student discount from a lot of the tours, which is something to keep in mind!

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I only wish we would’ve had a bit more time there because we had to rush to eat quickly before heading back to Prague.

Have you been to an ossuary before? (I hadn’t but it was definitely interesting learning about its history!) Would you be creeped out? :P

Traveling to Prague during Christmas Season

Who doesn’t want to travel somewhere nice and warm during the winter? Wait…what did you say? Prague isn’t warm? Oh well, it didn’t bother us one bit. I went to Prague with the boyfriend just before Christmas for some well-deserved R&R and loved every minute of it. The Christmas markets, frosty air, and smell of crepes and mulled wine in the air. It was a perfect city vacation. Winter in Europe tends to mean dark dark dark all day long but it didn’t matter since there were brightly lit Christmas trees and decorations everywhere.

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Our hotel was about half an hour walking distance from the center of the Old Town in Prague 1 (Prague is divided into districts with numbers…how very Hunger Games!) and we walked every day to that part of the town along the river Vltava. I don’t think I’ve ever walked that much – in fact, we didn’t take the public transport anywhere and even the taxi only to the airport. We did use a bus service once but it was included into a day trip out of town so it doesn’t count…

Prague is so handy for seeing all the major sights by walking, especially because many of the sights are statues, bridges, and buildings that you can see by merely standing outside. Also, the architecture in general was absolutely amazing: pastel buildings and ornamental designs.

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We saw all the classic sights, such as the Charles Bridge, Powder tower, Prague castle, the Lennon Wall, the astronomical clock, and Dancing House. The Charles Bridge is one of the most known sights and it’s lined with magnificent statues. The bridge goes across the river, the Old Town being on the other side and Prague castle and the Lesser Town (one of the oldest districts in Prague) on the other. The Lesser Town also boasts the colorful Lennon Wall (pictured below), near the bridge entrance.

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Many of Prague’s sights are in or around the Old Town Square, including the astronomical clock and the Powder tower (used to store gun powder back in the olden days). During Christmas time the square is taken over by a massive, festive Christmas market where you can eat all day from different booths and save a ton of money. Or that’s what we did at least. The food was incredibly cheap (in general, Prague is cheap) and it was great getting to taste different local treats at the market while browsing for souvenirs. I also heartily recommend the Kafka bookshop for literature lovers (situated on one side of the square)!

It was incredible just getting out of town and on holiday, but Prague was definitely worth the praise we’d heard from a lot of our friends. It’s very affordable, gorgeous, and people are really friendly. What’s not to like?

We did one trip out of Prague during our stay: we visited a little medieval town called Kutna Horá, which boasts one of the most famous bone chapels in the world as well as a lovely cathedral. You can check it out in my next post!

Have you been to Prague?

Recap of My Summer 2016

I had a great summer though I was really busy both working and studying. Despite my hectic schedule I did manage to see friends, go to the beach, go camping, and more!

Here is a little video recap of my summer:

What did you do over the summer?

Istanbul on a Budget Part 2

So here’s the part two of my travels in Turkey!

In this post I wanted to share some of my favorite things to do for free or things that are at the very least cheap. As I said in the previous post, I do a lot of budget travel and this trip was no exception.

Free Things to Do in Istanbul

  • Exploring the harbor area (and the different sites there)
  • Visiting the mosques, e.g. the famous Blue Mosque
  • Spending a day in a park, e.g. in the area near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia or in the Gulhane Park (former Royal Gardens of Topkapi Palace)
  • The Museum of Painting and Sculpture has free admission on the days its open and the Modern art museum also has free admission on one day of the week (Thursdays)

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And Some Cheap Things to Do

  • Taking a cruise on the Bosphorus (the short 1,5 hour cruises that are also used by locals are quite affordable)
  • Haggling your way to a good deal on souvenirs at the bazaars (prices are cheap to begin with but you can really strike a bargain there)
  • Eat food from food stands instead of restaurants right in the center (because they will have higher prices)

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If you go to Istanbul, enjoy the scenery – the city is gorgeous – and pet the friendly cats, enjoy some apple tea and walk along the river. I guarantee you’ll love it! Also, as a bonus, I really recommend visiting the Topkapi palace which is a bit pricier but well worth the money! You could spend an entire day roaming the grounds of the huge, gorgeous palace. And there’s a restaurant and great view of the ocean. What more could you ask for?

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Istanbul on a Budget Part 1

Recently I visited Istanbul and I wanted to share some pictures from the trip. This was a long time coming – I took my sweet time sorting out the holiday photos! Later on I’ll also share posts about our even more recent Barcelona trip.

I’m a huge fan of budget traveling – as a student I can’t afford to use huge sums for travel so I’m very careful while picking my fights, destinations, and accommodation. Originally we were supposed to go to Prague but three days there would’ve cost us as much as five days in Istanbul. So we chose Istanbul. It had been on our minds a little bit before: I had been there several years ago and absolutely loved it and the boyfriend seemed to like the idea too.

We got a cheap room from Hotel Evsen, which had a lovely staff and was located only 500 m from all the major tourist attractions in an area called Sultanahmet. So it was the perfect location for us (saved a lot of money too because we never had to take any transportation – we just walked everywhere). The weather was a nice +23 C which was not too hot for walking around town but not so cold that you’d need more than a tank top. The atmosphere is so lovely in Istanbul and my favorite times were after the sun had gone down and they lit up all the sights and restaurants with gorgeous lights.

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General Tips You Should Know about Istanbul

When you order food in a restaurant, it’s quite typical that you will have to order sides with it if you want french fries, salad, etc. When you order a portion of fish, you’ll only get the fish (not as filling as one would hope).

If you plan on visiting any mosques, you can save time by already wearing something to cover your shoulders, head (for women), and legs. A scarf is handy because you can wrap it on your head and shoulders and then you don’t have to put on a temporary scarf that they hand out at the visitors queue (ones that are reused by all tourists).

Remember sun screen! Just because it’s not too hot (thanks to river Bosphorus which brings in the cooling wind), the sun is still bright! Take care of your skin at all times.

Be careful with your belongings: in a busy city like Istanbul it’s common to have pickpockets. So don’t carry all your money, for example, with you. And keep your valuables in the hotel safe. Also, there are lots of taxi scams in Istanbul so make sure that you know the route (so the driver doesn’t take a longer route in order to get more money), make sure the meter is on, and pay attention to the change you get.

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Things to Do in Istanbul

A lot of places give you free apple tea (make sure to have some, it’s my favorite tea in the world!) and baklava (pictured above) after your meal – take your time enjoying it. There’s nothing better than a relaxing moment with good food in a city like Istanbul. I’d recommend a cruise on the Bosphorus (don’t take any of the cruises offered by a travel agency or some such because they take double the money – just go to the harbor and buy a ticket with the locals to a cheaper ferry), a visit to Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. Be sure to also check out the Grand Bazar and the Egyptian Bazar (also known  as the Spice Market) where you can haggle a great bargain!

 

Stay tuned for the part two of our Istanbul trip later this week!

London: Long Weekend Vacation

I was lucky enough to get a trip to London just a little while ago when my mom wanted to celebrate her birthday there. It was my third time there and I still love the city as much as ever!

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We had already seen most of the traditional sights so we decided to have a pretty chill vacation. We did, however, visit the Westminster Abbey for the first time so that we got to see the inside of the church. Tip: you can go for an evening service, which lasts for an hour, and you won’t have to pay the admittance fee (which I feel is quite pricey).

We went to Bella Italia for my mom’s birthday dinner and we had the chicken stew, which was absolutely delicious! I can’t even express how good that meal was!

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We also just walked around a lot – mainly around Oxford Street where our hotel was and along the river Thames. The weather was extremely sunny and mild so it was nice just to walk around and check out sights like the London Eye and Big Ben.

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British Museum was a must-see on our list: I had been there before but you could spend a week in the museum and there would still be more to see. Tip: GO THERE – IT’S FREE! Enough said.

One of the splurges we made was the visit to Kensington Palace, which is right now having a fashion exhibition, which personally I found the most fascinating. The outfits were breathtaking.

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We also checked out The Who Shop (a Doctor Who store and museum) as well as the Harry Potter shop at Kings Cross, but I’ll tell you more about those in my London haul post :)

Ireland pt 3: Dublin

During my last day in Ireland I went to Dublin (since my flight left from there) and walked around the city for hours.

In Dublin, Ireland

There would’ve been so much to see but, unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time. The city is so full of gorgeous architecture and so much history but I had to pick carefully. I did want to see Dublin Castle though, so that’s where I headed first. The castle was magnificent and I was really appreciative of their cheap student tickets! The castle has a lot of information on the history of Ireland and Dublin, which I at least was very fascinated by :)

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I also wanted to see the Christ Church Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning. Very reminiscent of Hogwarts… I definitely recommend visiting it if you go to Dublin Castle, since the two are only about 5 minute walk apart from each other.

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The rest of my time I mostly walked around, trying to soak in all that there was to see. It was pouring rain but I didn’t mind much. It was great too see something outside of Galway and next time I’ll definitely make sure I’ll have more time to explore other cities as well.

Here ends my tour of Ireland – hope you checked out also parts 1 and 2.