Where did we leave off? France? Yeah, France. Since then, I headed East and down into the more under-appreciated portion of Europe (in my opinion).
My first stop was Munich. I’ll just throw this out there: I met a ton of cool people and stayed at a very hip, strange hostel, but I spent four days in Munich and wouldn’t be upset if I never returned.
Maybe it’s just a general case of burnout, but I felt like there just wasn’t much to do there. Anyway, like I said, I met a lot of cool people and that made it fun, so here goes!
I arrived at a hostel called “The Tent,” which is literally a tent. A huge tent with 50 bunk beds in it. More ambitious backpackers could sleep on pads on the floor of a neighboring tent and those who were better prepared than me and had their own camping gear could just pitch a tent in the grass in the back of the property.
Given all that and the massive fire pit, it was like being back at summer camp or something. Just…in the middle of Germany. The first day I wandered through the botanical gardens near my hostel and stumbled across some kind of local music festival. I saw a band of older German men playing in a greenhouse and then a man and his son (I think?) jamming on guitars. The gardens themselves were some of the most impressive I’ve seen on this trip and backed up right next to a couple famous museums.
On day two, I met Joanna from Seattle, Chris from Wisconsin (now living in Seattle) and Pajtim (“Pie-Tim”) from Kosovo and we all went out dancing downtown. Joanna and Chris invited me to a CouchSurfing meetup at a nearby lake, so we met a bunch of college-aged people from all over Europe (and one from Asia!) and did a beautiful hike above the lake, swam for a while and got food and beer.
On the last day in Munich, Chris and I visited the 1972 Olympic Stadium in Munich, and wandered the grounds. It was a great way to end my time in Germany! Joanna, Chris and I eventually parted ways and moved on to our respective next destinations.
I took a bus to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and was immediately smitten with it despite my late-night arrival and trouble finding my hostel. I stayed in a college dorm that is turned into a hostel for summertime, which backs up right to the famous castle in Ljubljana. I was lucky enough to have my whole room to myself the first night, which was much needed after a long travel day.
I met another Wisconsinite, Erica, at the hostel the next day and we hit it off immediately and decided to take a day trip to Lake Bled. We hopped a bus to Bled and spent most of the day exploring the beautiful lake and surrounding town, before heading back for a night of party shenanigans in Ljubljana.
On the second and final day in Ljubljana (not nearly enough time…and not nearly enough pictures taken!), Erica and I explored an “artistic” district of the city and checked out a really strange museum. We jumped on a free walking tour and got to really experience the beauty of Slovenia. Just check out a few photos to get a glimpse of a country I’d definitely recommend everyone visiting someday (maybe Google “Bled” or “Ljubljana” because these pictures are not doing either place justice…):
I hauled my luggage through the rain early the next morning and barely made my bus to Zagreb, Croatia. I only spent a few days North of Dubrovnik for my two weeks in Croatia, but am glad I got to see a little bit of the rest of the country. Zagreb had some cool areas and an interesting museum (The Museum of Broken Relationships – sad but captivating), but it could easily be done in a day.
Then I went down to Plitvice Lakes National Park for a couple days (I stayed two nights in a hostel in Korenica, a neighboring town, and took the bus to the park) and spent the better part of a morning walking the cascading lakes. Besides the relentless throngs of people stopping every three feet for pictures, the lakes lived up to what I’d expected in terms of pure beauty. I really wanted to visit it on Semester at Sea, but it was too much of a trek from Dubrovnik.
At my hostel in Korenica, I met two Canadian sisters who were doing a half-summer Europe trip. We had some fun playing drinking games and then hopped a bus together to Split before parting. I just spent a night and a day exploring Split (again, you only need a day – maybe two) and really enjoyed certain areas like the old city and the main promenade. But once you see those, you’re pretty much done with the city. I did get to see an awesome underground ruin of Diocletian’s Palace, though.
After quick trips through the three aforementioned sections of Croatia, I traveled all the way to the bottom of the country and began a couple weeks in Dubrovnik. I’d stopped there on Semester at Sea and fallen madly in love with the beautiful old town, beaches, cliff jumping, nightlife, and everything else under the sun. I purposely chose Dubrovnik as a place to just relax, catch up on some work, and finally stay in one spot for more than a few days.
As mentioned, I literally spent the first week just on beaches, doing a couple hikes, catching up on work and sleep and getting to know a few cool Aussie friends in my hostel. I discovered the Cave Bar, which made a pretty average drink named “Jeremy,” and spent plenty of time just swimming around the beaches and harbor in the perfect, warm, clear water.
My friend Jessica came out to visit from San Francisco at this point, and we spent a few more days and nights partying in Old Town, kayaking, cliff jumping and hitting the beach. One of the better highlights of that second portion of Dubrovnik for me was Jessica’s first night, which also happened to be her birthday – we went down to Old Town, had dinner and drinks and then wandered out to the beach where we stumbled across a group of Herzegovinan guys playing guitar, drinking and swimming for their friend’s birthday.
The night’s now-joint birthday party turned into a nearly all-night singing, drinking, dancing, swimming affair and set the tone for the next week or so with Jessica in town. As sad as I was to leave the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Jess and I took ourselves on a long trek (like, bus ride to train ride to bus ride for hours on end…) back up through Split and Zagreb and on to Budapest.
But more on Budapest, Prague and Krakow to come later…