Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve posted! Sorry about that….After arriving in Barcelona to study Spanish for 4 months I got immersed with my day-to-day life and decided to stop posting on here. But I’M BACK! I’m also going to try a different posting style to see if I like it better.
I stayed in Red Emperor Bar&Hostel, which was right outside the walled in Old City. It was a perfect location and was easy to get to from the bus I took from the Tallinn Airport. The rooms itself were fairly basic but had everything you needed. The only issue I really had was that the lockers provided in the rooms were too small to fit my bag so I had to remove my valuables from my bag instead of just being able to put all my stuff securely away. I tend to find that people don’t go through your stuff though so I wasn’t too worried about people stealing my clothes. The hostel had coed bathrooms but this wasn’t an issue for me. The hostel also had a kitchen so I prepared most of my meals there. There was a bar attached to the hostel which had some activities most nights. I only went for one of the activities which was a trivia night. I was lucky to find a pair of girls (British + German) who let me join their team. We didn’t win but the British girl, Katharine, and I hit it off so we planned to meet for dinner one of the other nights I was there. She also gave me some recommendations for places to go which was great! Overall the hostel was fairly empty, meaning it wasn’t very social which is tough on solo travelers. But I don’t think this is the hostels fault, it was more a by-product of it being January in Estonia. Not exactly prime time for travel in Estonia!
As I said I mostly cooked my meals in the hostel to save money, but I did go to a pancake restaurant at the recommendation of Katharine. Kompressor was within the Old City and is definitely worth a visit. It was delicious! The pancakes were sort of thick crepes and there must have been 30 different types. I ended up with bacon, egg, and cheese–my favorite combo. Definitely recommend a stop here during a visit to Tallinn.
Another restaurant that was good was Must Puudel. I had a burger that was awesome and Katharine had the steak, which she raved about.
On the way to Must Puudel, Katharine had actually wanted to go to Popular but it was too full. The place looked super cute and trendy so this would be another spot to try.
The first full day I was there I went on a free walking tour, which left from the tourism office within the Old City. It was about 2 hours long and took us through the history of Tallinn/Estonia, which is quite long as I found out! We walked all around the city and saw some great views and some very old buildings. During the tour I met an Aussie and we decided to get some hot chocolate after the tour because we both froze our butts off during the tour. Highly recommend approximately 16 layers of clothing if going on a walking tour during January in Estonia!
The next day I headed out on my own and just walked around the Old City, popping into shops and exploring some of the old walls and buildings. It’s so different from walking around cities in the US!
I really liked Tallinn and would love to come back during the summer when it’s easier to spend time outside. I’m sure it would be beautiful. Also the hostel would probably be more social and fun during the summer. Definitely recommend a visit to Tallinn if you get the chance. Also Estonia is super cheap, which was great on my budget before heading to the EXPENSIVE Finland!
I stayed at Hostel Diana Park, which was fairly centrally located. I took the ferry from Tallinn and was able to walk about 20 minutes from the port to the hostel. Easy when all you have is a backpack. When I arrived before check-in time, they were nice enough to let me into my room early because I was super tired. I took a quick nap and then a British guy showed up in the room so I ended up talking to him for a while. He was about to take a train from St. Petersburg all the way to China! That is practically halfway across the world! Then he heads to Australia, South America and eventually the States! It’s going to be a bout a 2 year trip he said. Pretty cool. The room was fairly basic and the bathrooms were TINY, but again not really an issue for me. There was a kitchen so I was able to save money by buying groceries and cooking for myself because Finland is SO expensive. Again, however, because it’s winter in Finland, there weren’t many guests and there wasn’t much social interaction at the hostel. I did run into the Aussie I had lunch with in Tallinn and he was actually staying in my room!! Coincidences like this happen a lot when traveling for a while I find.
Because it was so expensive to eat out in Finland I ended up cooking most of my meals, however, I did go to breakfast at Café Engel. It was good but nothing spectacular. Also, it was about 16$ for some eggs, toast, and an OJ so that ended my attempts at eating out.
I walked around Helsinki for about 2 hours on my first full day and saw the Uspenki Cathedral which was quite beautiful. Also the Helsinki Cathedral, which is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral, was stunning on the cloudy day I saw it.
The highlight of my trip to Helsinki was actually not Helsinki itself. It was a town about 45 minutes away, which I went for a day trip on my last day there. The name of the town is Porvoo. It is one of the quaintest towns I have ever seen with all of its buildings painted in different colors. I REALLY enjoyed my time there.
I didn’t love Helsinki, in fact I was supposed to stay longer but with the short days and lack of sun, I was starting to feel depressed so I decided to head to Barcelona a few days earlier than scheduled! I really regret not going to the northern part of Finland instead of Helsinki so that at least I would have been able to see the Northern Lights and maybe a reindeer or two, but it just means I have to come back! However, I really liked going to Porvoo, although it only requires a day so it wouldn’t make sense to stay overnight there. Also it was super cold in Finland, so again bring layers upon layers.
Now off to Spain because I can’t seem to stay away for too long 🙂
Wow oh wow did I love Copenhagen. It is my new favorite city! From the time I arrived to the time I sadly left, I had an amazing time. I arrived at my hostel around 8am (thanks to an early 6am flight from Bergen!) and couldn’t check in until 2pm so I slept on a large sofa bed that the hostel had in its lounge area. When I woke up there were about 10 others doing the same thing (it was a huge sofa bed) so at least I wasn’t the only weirdo doing this. After checking in to my room, which was great, I walked to the rose gardens and park surrounding the Rosenborg Castle. Everyone was lounging around, soaking up the sun’s rays.
Around 5:30pm I headed back to the hostel to get a seat for the free dinner the hostel puts on. However, they only serve people seated in specific tables so you have to arrive early to make sure you reserve a seat! I really enjoyed this activity because it made it easy to meet people. I ended up meeting two girls from California who were headed off to college in the fall, one at Colorado College and one to Cal Poly. What a coincidence this was because the only person I know that goes to CC was meeting me the next day in Copenhagen. My new friend was thrilled at the prospect of meeting someone who goes to CC. We ended up bonding over the fact that the guys we sat with were rude and arrogant. After dinner we switched tables to meet some nicer people. Luckily I did. An Aussie (Brendan) and Kiwi (Ryan) sat down with us and we hit it off right away. I ended up talking with them the rest of the night before heading off to bed to catch up on much needed to sleep. I knew I would see them tomorrow as we both had decided to do the free walking tour.
Before the walking tour at 11am, I went to Stella Cafe and had a delicious omelette. After fueling up, I met up with Brendan and Ryan for the tour. As soon as the tour started we met another Aussie, Joanna, who ended up walking with us the rest of the tour. The tour was a great way to see all the main sites in Copenhagen, and because Copenhagen is fairly small, we really were able to see a lot of what I wanted to see. Half way through the tour, we had a 20 minute break to get some coffee and food. Brenden and Ryan went for the bacon wrapped sausages, while Joanna went to get coffee. I wanted a Danish pastry called kanelsnegle (basically a Danish cinnamon roll). IT WAS SO GOOD.
After the tour we headed back to the hostel to rest our feet and get a beer. At this point Adam Granath met up with me and the group. Also Brendan had a friend from Australia that lives in Copenhagen now so he met us as well. We were now a group of 6. Brendan’s local friend took us to a fabulous food market called Copenhagen Street Food. It’s right on the water and eating outside is a must. I had a yummy burger and some delicious ice cream.
After eating, we went to a couple of different bars where we learned a traditional Danish drinking game, which is played at bars. It is sorta similar to BS, but uses dice. It’s called Mia and it’s super fun. After the first bar, we went to The Living Room, which was a totally cool, hipster bar with tons of comfy couches. We met up with more locals and headed to one of their apartments for more drinks before heading out to another bar. Really fun evening.
The next day I slept in (as I like to do) and went for a long run which included a stop at Kastellet, which is one of the best preserved start fortresses in Europe. It was built in 1662!
After my run I rushed through a quick tower because my cousin Delaney was set to arrive around 2pm!!! She brought along two friends, Julia and Annika. I was so excited to see some familiar faces. Delaney and Annika go to school together at Colorado College, and Julia (from Germany) spent a semester abroad at their school. After getting settled in the hostel room we set off to explore the city. Because I had been there for a few days I became a bit of a tour guide and took them to my favorite spot: Nyhavn, a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. I can’t get enough of the colored houses all over Scandinavia.
After walking around a bit our stomach started grumbling so we decided to try a restaurant that had been recommended to them: Cock’s and Cows. Delicious food, but with Copenhagen already being so expensive, it definitely wasn’t a place we could afford to go to twice.
After a satisfying late lunch/early dinner, we meandered back to the hostel to hang at the hostel bar. The four of us grabbed a beer and enjoyed talking with all sorts of new people. We also met up with the girl that is going to be a freshmen at CC so the four of the them could catch up on all things CC. Around 11, they all decided to go out, but I decided to stay and continue playing card games with Joanna and two swedes we had met (I am not super into the club scene). About an hour later, Brendan and Ryan showed up and dragged the four of us out to some bars. We were the only ones in the first bar we went to and they finally kicked us out around 2am because the bar was closing down for the night. We then found another bar that was tropical themed and proceeded to also close out that bar, but not before dancing to some fun music. We ended up back at the hostel around 4am (which is WAYYY past my bedtime), but I was glad I went out.
The next morning, Delaney, Julia, and Annika went on the walking tour that I had gone on, while I caught up on some sleep and then hung out with Brendan and Ryan at the hostel. Eventually they had to leave for the airport so we said our goodbyes, but hopefully I’ll see them again at some point! Once the girls were done with the walking tour we met up at the Copenhagen Street Food market for some late lunch/early dinner. After we walked to the rose gardens to hang on the lawn.
Our bus to Hamburg was a night bus, meaning we were going to board at 11:30pm and arrive at 6am the next day. After a quick drink at the hostel bar, we grabbed our stuff and headed to the bus station.
Once on the bus we settled in to try to get some sleep before arriving in Hamburg. We quickly realized however that it was going to be tough because every 1.5 hours they woke us up by going over the loud speaker to announce a stop. Also, once we arrived at the German border, German officials came on the bus to check passports. Interestingly, they spent about 20 seconds on my American passport, but about 10 minutes on a guy who looked Middle Eastern. I guess in the past couple months they have started to check passports even between Schengen countries. Nonetheless, we were off again towards Hamburg. Once we arrived, we grabbed a local train to Julia’s hometown of Bad Oldesloe.
We were lucky enough to visit when there was a local parade happening so we got to see some local festivities before heading back to Julia’s house for a lovely breakfast made by here mother. We ate outside in their adorable gazebo.
After a much needed one hour power nap we headed back in to Hamburg. The first item on the agenda was a stop at a Hamburg court house where Julia’s awesome father works as a judge. The building was super cool and we got to sit in on the case he was presiding over. Even though it was in German and we couldn’t understand a word of it, it was still fascinating. After he was nice enough to give us a tour of the courthouse and then treated us to some yummy ice cream.
After saying goodbye we explored different areas of Hamburg and saw shopping districts, canals, and a beautiful government building.
We ended the day on a ferry around the river which gave us a unique view of the city.
We decided to make dinner for Julia’s parents when we got back so after grocery shopping we got to work! We prepared a summery spinach salad, quinoa, and sausages. T’was a great success. It was so fun to talk with Julia’s parents and learn a bit about their lives in Germany.
Sadly, Delaney and I were both leaving for our next cities early the next morning so we said our goodbyes and went to bed. Julia rode the train into Hamburg with us in the morning and I had to say bye to both of them as I headed to the bus terminal, while the two of them continued on to the airport as Delaney was going to Barcelona!
Now off to Berlin!!
After leaving the heavenly island off of Stockholm, we headed to Oslo. We stayed at Saga Poshtel, which was a “posh” version of a hostel, so it was certainly nice, but made it feel more like a hotel. As such, the atmosphere was definitely less social and friendly. The first night I went on a 6 mile run up the river in Oslo and then headed to bed early after a long travel day. The next day Megan and I did some solo exploring before reconvening for a bike tour through Olso. I spent time at the The Viking Ship Museum, which has three different viking ships built around 820 ad (!!).
The biking tour was fun, but Megan and I agreed that our favorite bike tour is still Amsterdam.
I met a lovely couple from San Diego on the bike tour, and decided to meet up later with them. Megan wanted to try a new vegetarian restaurant so she ventured out on her own. After eating dinner at Illegal Burger, I met up with the couple at a bar. When I arrived they said they were starving so I went to an Indian restaurant with them so they could eat. I had a ton of fun with them. After, we decided to head to Andy’s Pub, which was a fun piano bar that they had been to before. The guy playing piano belted out American classic after American classic, so it was cool to be able to sing along. We finally left the bar at 1am.
The next morning I met two Austrian guys in my hostel room and decided to join them in visiting the National Museum of Contemporary Art. It was definitely a cool assortment of exhibitions, some I liked more than others. After a fun morning walking around with them, they unfortunately had to catch their flight home. It started to rain so I decided to hang out in my new favorite juice bar and book some upcoming hostels. At one point, the rain was coming down harder than I had ever seen.
The rain finally let up just in time for me to head back to the hostel to meet up with Mehrdad for our final overlap. We strolled around Oslo and found a cute pizzeria that didn’t break the bank, which is RARE in Norway!
After dinner we headed towards the main walking promenade and found a bar with live music and decided to stop for a drink. One single drink because one beer was about the same price as the pizza we had had earlier (Around 12$!!). But despite the crazy prices, we had a really nice time listening to the guitar player.
The next day Mehrdad and I took a ferry out to Hovedøya, which is an island right off of Oslo. We walked around and saw a couple of ruins. There were a lot of families playing in the water and picnicking. Unfortunately, the sky decided to open up as we were halfway around the island. We were trapped under some trees, which, luckily, prevented a surprising amount of rainfall from hitting us. The rain let up a bit and we made a sprint for the other side of the island where the ferry would pick us up. After getting back we walked to the Oslo Opera House. It is a stunning building and you can walk on it. I mean literally on top of it, which gives you an awesome view of the city.
Sadly, it was time to hop on the train to Bergen, which meant a final goodbye to Mehrdad. Luckily, he lives in Berkeley so I am sure I will see him back in the Bay!
The train to Bergen passed through some incredible countryside. Despite a long train ride, it was quite enjoyable.
Bergen was an adorable city in the western part of Norway. Despite it being cloudy almost every day, it was really fun to spend time there. We arrived at 10:30pm so we walked straight to our hostel and passed out. The first day Megan went on a serious hike, which required hiking boots, which meant I couldn’t join. But I walked around Bryggen, which is a World Heritage site. It’s the old wharf which was quite important from the 14th century to the 16th century. Now it houses different museums and shops.
After walking around that area, I found an adorable cafe for lunch. I had a delicious sandwich, while I read my book. Next, I took off on a Fjord tour on a boat! It’s always fun to see things from a different perspective, such as seeing the land from the water! It was a 4.5 hour tour and stopped by a water fall where they collected some fresh water for us to try. Trust me, it was delicious. We also stopped in front of another waterfall! It was definitely a a highlight of my time in Bergen. I also met a couple that had just graduated from Stanford, one of whom was from Colorado so we had a lot to talk about!
I finished the day with a ride up the funicular! It offered incredible views of Bergen. Highly recommend doing this if you visit Bergen!
Unfortunately, Megan’s flight took off early in the morning so we had to say goodbye the night before. She heads to London for a day and then takes off for home!
My final day in Bergen had me exploring other parts of the city center and finding a fun cafe for lunch. I managed to read a full book before heading back to the hostel for a siesta. That night I caught up with my parents and had cereal for dinner because my wallet needed a break from Norwegian prices(!).
Off to Denmark next! Wish me luck because I’ll be getting up at 3:30am to catch a 6am flight 😦
This trip is flying by!!! Megan and I arrived in Stockholm, after our adventure in Latvia, just in time to watch France take on Germany in the semi-finals of Euro-cup. After dropping our stuff in our hostel, we settled in next door at a restaurant that shares a courtyard with the hostel. They had set up a large screen that was showing the game outside. I ordered a traditional Swedish dish: Meatballs! T’was delicious and it reminded me of the meatballs served at IKEA, which makes sense as IKEA is a Swedish brand (wow it’s all coming together!!). During the game two local Swedish guys sat down next to us and Megan and I ended up talking with them most of the game. It was fascinating to hear about Swedish life and how different it is compared to the US. When I asked them if they could list any downsides to living in Sweden, they paused and had to think for a minute. They finally came up with the weather, and fair point, as it is dark for 8 months of the year. But if weather is the only downside to living in your country then I would say you’re doing pretty well.
The next morning Megan and I joined a bike tour around Stockholm. We figured that because we would only have one day in Stockholm this would be the easiest way to see a lot of Stockholm. While the tour itself didn’t knock our socks off, we did get to see a lot of Stockholm and we biked to the highest point within the city, which offered great views.
After the tour we grabbed lunch and walked through Old Town. Stockholm was beautiful, but didn’t feel all that different from a clean, put-together American city.
After finishing the afternoon in Stockholm, we got on a bus to our Airbnb in Idalen, which is on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. It was AMAZING! We stayed in a cottage in the backyard of the home of the sweetest couple ever. After they welcomed us, Megan and I took off on a run to get some exercise and to see some of the beaches! Stunning is the only word to describe it:
The next day we set off on our bikes to rent a kayak for the afternoon. Although it was fun, we ended up paddling for our lives as soon as it started to thunderstorm all around us (!!).
After safely making it to shore, we rode our bikes back to the Airbnb in the rain. We dried off in the cottage and decided to have a lazy rest of the day. We made some dinner and then watched a movie.
Luckily the next day was a bit sunnier! Megan and I went for a beautiful hike in one of the many nature preserves. We walked to a lake and back, which ended up being about 5 miles.
After a yummy avocado + apple spinach salad for lunch, we headed down to the local beach for some relaxing and some reading. This wrapped up our incredible adventure off the beaten path in the Stockholm archipelago. Both Megan and I marveled at how easy it was to find a place to stay out in the middle of a random island because of Airbnb. Definitely a positive experience!
Now off to Norway!
Wow, oh, wow! Amsterdam was fabulous! It also marked the last of my solo travels. Megan, who I became friends with at Tufts this past year, joined me in Amsterdam after she attended a 6-week long study abroad program in Talloires, which is put on through the Tufts European Center. We met at the at soccer tryouts last fall (for the Tufts club team) when everyone at tryouts was going around saying their name, where they were from, and what position they play. It came my turn and I said “Meg, from Palo Alto (because no one knows Los Altos!!), and defense. After five others had gone, I was surprised to hear a new face say the exact same thing. I mean literally the exact same answer. Her name was Meg. She grew up in Palo Alto. She plays defense. It was hilarious. She later told me that she thought it was a prank and that all the seniors had figured out where different freshmen were from and pretended to have their name and be from their hometown. But obviously that wasn’t the case. Ever since bonding over our shared traits, we have been friends. We have been to concerts, done half marathons, and are now traveling Europe together!
Amsterdam is the first city of six cities we will be doing together- and it was a great one to start with, although it did start a bit rocky as Megan took the wrong train from the airport and ended up in the countryside in a town called Hilversum before she was able to get off and board the right train back to Amsterdam. She did eventually make it to the hostel and we had some delicious Asian fusion for a late dinner.
Our first full day in Amsterdam was sunny and warm! A nice reprieve from the cloudiness and rain I experienced in the U.K. We started our day with a walking tour around the city and walked past the narrowest house in Amsterdam! The reason houses in Amsterdam are so tall, but narrow is that back in the day taxes were determined by how wide your house was! So if you wanted to show off your wealth, you would build a particularly wide house. If you were stingy (like my dad 😉 ), then you built as narrow a house as you could!
We then had lunch at Il Panorama. We sat outside on a canal and had amazing focaccia with grilled vegetables as a starter! Next we were off to the I AMSTERDAM sign. Don’t worry, we took a lot of pictures 🙂
After some wandering around, we arrived at Foodhallen for some dinner. Foodhallen is a food hall with upscale eateries inside. It seemed to be where a lot of working professionals went after work. To finish off the day, we had some delicious Belgium waffles!
The next day was primarily spent on a bike tour of the countryside! We got on our bikes and rode like locals… or like a group of herded tourists in matching ponchos. Although we hit some rain, we still had so much fun. We stopped at a windmill and a farm that makes cheese and carves clogs. He was one of three traditional clog makers left in The Netherlands.
After the bike tour we took a few hours to rest before heading out on a tour of the Red Light District. It was fascinating to learn the history of the area, along with how it has evolved into a legitimate and legal business. We heard about the tax, health, and safety implications of being a sex worker. Women have to apply for their business license at the county hall, just like every other person applying for a business license. Altogether, it was cool to understand how the business actually works.
The next day we took a train to a town called Utrecht. We had heard from a few locals that it was a cute town so we decided to check it out. It was definitely worth it if you have a few days while in Amsterdam. It’s only about 20 min. away by train so it’s easy to visit for the morning and lunch, which is exactly what we did! We walked around the town, which isn’t too large, and then found a nice Italian restaurant next to one of their canals to eat lunch. Overall, a really fun town to visit for a couple of hours.
To finish off the day, we went to dinner with two Canadians and a brother and sister from Alabama where we watched Portugal play Wales in the semi-finals of Euro Cup. We both enjoyed hanging with the four of them, although it got a bit awkward when the Canadians brought up Trump… Luckily, the topic switched quite quickly. Unfortunately, Wales lost 2-0 and Portugal advanced to the final. After the game, we all headed back to the hostel and Megan and I packed up our stuff as we were leaving at 7am the next morning.
Amsterdam was definitely one of my favorite stops so far (along with Galway and Edinburgh). Meg and I dubbed it “one of the most Instagrammable cities” we had each been too. The canals made for a beautiful backdrop around every single corner. Some examples:
Also, neither of us smoke weed so we decided to focus on other things Amsterdam had to offer, but we did see the first Coffee Shop and some other fun weed related things!
After Amsterdam, our next stop was Stockholm… but the cheapest way to get there was to have a layover in Riga, Latvia. We embraced this by leaving the airport and spending the afternoon exploring this Baltic country (about 5 hours).
First stop was Centraltrigus, a food market that occupies 72.3 thousand square metres of space and has over 3000 trade stands. We walked around and snacked on some fresh raspberries for about 1.50$. SO CHEAP!!
After walking around the market and the rest of town, we found a delicious lunch place called Street Fries Kitchen. It was sooo good! Megan had lentil and avocado salad and I had a ham, cheese, and egg crepe. Definitely one of our favorite meals so far!
Lastly, we meandered back to the bus stop by walking in a park along the canal.
We took the bus back to the airport and despite Megan setting off the metal detector for the 3rd time (!!!), we made it through to the plane!
Now off to Sweden 🙂