passport-life:

Warsaw | Poland

This photo makes me nostalgic for Warsaw. Out of the three cities that I visited in Poland in October, Warsaw was my favorite. Warsaw had history spilling out of every corner. 

Krakow was beautiful because it was basically untouched by the Nazis (and Russians) during WWII so it’s all original and old AF. But Warsaw was completely decimated during the war. The photo you see above is the Old Town Square. After the Polish attempted their first uprising, the German’s, who’d left the Old Town alone for the most part because it was treasured (obviously, look at it), gave a big middle finger to the Polish people and destroyed it.

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This is what the Old Town looked like after the Germans destroyed it. 

After the war, the Russians and the Poles rebuilt the Old Town. The Russians wanted to show the world what fine work they could do and that communism was great. On the other hand, 500 feet away stood the Royal Palace which took twice as long to rebuild because a palace didn’t exactly align with Communist principles. But the brilliant rebuilding and duplication of the Old Town is why it’s an Unesco World Heritage Site now

Warsaw has so much more history than just the Old Town Square and that’s why I loved it so much. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing about them soon. 

Den little Havrue (aka The Little Mermaid): Copenhagen, Denmark

On my second day in Copenhagen, I took the metro up north to see The Little Mermaid, supposedly the most photographed sight in the world. It’s amazing to think that a story by Hans Christian Andersen and a movie by Disney could lead to such a thing.  I only took a few pictures because how many photos can you really take of a statue? But I’m really happy I saw it. To be honest, it was one of my Must Sees on my list of things to do in Copenhagen because The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie.

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Pro-tip for mermaid fans: There is another statue of The Little Mermaid outside of The Black Diamond (aka The Royal Library) that I was excited to find:

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Needless to say, this Little Mermaid fan was happy. 

Whatever You Do: Keep Your Student ID Handy (Even After Graduating)

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My original ID expired a couple of years ago but for some reason my alma mater sent me a brand new one that’s valid through 2017 (thanks, guys!). Despite the fact that I am 19 in my photo and it looks nothing like me, no one ever says anything. Most people who see a lot of theatre know this already, but definitely always keep your college/grad school/whatever school student ID handy. I never understand it when people don’t have it on them. 

Especially when you’re a tourist and doing lots of touristy things abroad.

I mean, really. I must’ve saved at least $100 by using my student ID to get into various castles/museums/etc during my trip. 

Just hold onto your ID. Keep it in your wallet. That’s really it. 

How To: Sleep in a Hostel

You know what I perfected while I was abroad and sleeping hostels? Just exactly how to do that. 

Now you may be a heavy sleeper and have no trouble falling asleep after you’ve been awake since 8am and have walked 11 miles that day sightseeing, but I’m not. I’m a light sleeper and it blows. 

So, I had to adapt.

Sometimes you get roommates who snore. Sometimes you get roommates who check in really late at night (like the German guy who came into CBP at around 2am and I gave him my best sleepy “bitch please” face before rolling over and attempting to go back to sleep). And if you have a room with more than 2 people in it, people are usually coming in and out, so there’s light.

Whatever. You’re paying like $50/night for these rooms, so you have to suck it up. Here’s how I coped:

Eye mask: I wear an mask on a nightly basis anyway and I think I was about to not bring it abroad but I’m so, so glad I did. I needed that thing. People used nightshift eye masks like bandanas and stuff, but I was glad I basically had a blackout eye mask.

Melatonin gummies: These things are the best. Who doesn’t love gummy bears? Have 2 or 3 of these (or 4) and pass out. 

Ear plugs: Yeah, get these. You might have roommates who snore.

Ear buds + iPod with white noise: After my ear buds proved to be pretty ineffective, I went straight for my earbuds with an on-repeat rain track playing. It was sort of annoying to keep having to maneuver the iPod when I turned over but if it was between that or listening to my roommates snore, I’d choose the former. 

I think these things are pretty key when you’re sleeping in a room with strangers. Some wine might be pretty effective too, but I’d definitely recommend at least an eye mask to start with. Happy hosteling! 

Scandinavian Hostels

I’d been a fan girl of hosteling since I went to Amsterdam for the first time in 2007 with my friend Emily while we were studying abroad. We stayed at the Flying Pig hostel in the Red Light District and although Amsterdam is amazing on it’s own, the hostel added that much more to the experience. I was able to convince my cousin back in 2011 to stay in a hostel when we went to Seattle for the weekend too. Again, it was great.

So when I was aiming to do things as cheaply as possible in Scandinavia, I headed straight to the hostels section of my Scandinavia Lonely Planet book and started to look. I made two bad decisions two good decisions. Here’s what they were so can make them and avoid them:

Woodah Hostel and Yoga (Copenhagen): Located in the hip and trendy Vesterbro district, I thought the concept of this hostel sounded awesome. Yoga classes at a hostel?! But it turned out to just be one yoga class at 8am if at least 3 people signed up, which they never did, because it was at 8am, probably. The breakfast served everyone morning was fresh and delicious (fresh baked muffins, yogurt with granola and preserves, meats and cheeses). The downside to this hostel was that it was small. There were two toilets, three showers (though they did provide hair dryers, which was nice), and very limited security. You had to enter a code on the door to get into the sleeping quarters but that was pretty much it. And reception went home at 10pm so you needed to get a key if you were getting in after that. The beds were also really uncomfortable. I’d give this hostel 2 out of 5 stars.

Anker Hostel (Oslo): This was located about a five minute walk up a main-ish rode from the Centralstation. The walk was crowded for the most part. The rooms were pretty basic – though every room had it’s own bathroom, which was a big plus – though the showers were super odd, at least to me, but I got used to them. I was happy that reception was always there – probably because this hostel was way bigger – and the room doors actually closed and had locks – score! The breakfast wasn’t included, so I didn’t eat it and therefore can’t give my opinion on it. The people at reception were friendly and awesome. The only downside was that there were no lockers in the rooms. There were lockers in a locked room in the lobby but you had to pay extra for them. So I kept all of my valuables with me and always made sure to put the bag with my laundry on top of all my clean shit. I’d give this hotel 3 out of 5 stars.

City Backpackers Hostel (Stockholm): After coming from two let down hostels, this was a pretty big relief. It had an awesome lobby, lots of computers, security codes on the doors that changed daily, lots of common areas to congregate, a big kitchen, private showers and bathrooms (though not located inside the rooms), and they gave free pasta to whoever wanted it to cook in aforementioned kitchen (after walking 12+ miles for two days straight, I decided making pasta and not having to walk again sounded great). The rooms were small and basic, but they had lockers and security codes and beds so it was great. Breakfast was extra so I didn’t partake but coffee and tea was always free. I met lots of cool people here and I had a great time. 4.5 or 5 out of 5 stars.

Rivoli Hotel Jardin (Helsinki): During my first night at the Anker Hostel, I’d decided I’d had it with hostels, so I switched what seemed to be a superrrrr basic hostel in Helsinki to a hotel that I found a great price on through the Ireland Hotel.com. It was located a block from the Esplanade (basically a long green grassy area with super fancy shops and restaurants along it) and about 5 blocks from the Centralstation. The breakfast was included and it was great. They offered free tea and coffee and cookies all the time. I was so happy I booked this as my last stop. The soaps in the bathroom were lingonberry – I took many. 5 out of 5 stars.

I think I may have outgrown hostels unless I book a private room – but for that price, usually, you can get a hotel room, so it doesn’t make that much of a difference. So big thumbs up to City Backpackers Hostel in Stockholm. Leave the rest behind. 

(Photos, clockwise: Woodah, City Backpackers, Rivoli Hotel Jardin, and CPB)