So to get the most out of my spring break abroad I tried to go to as many places as possible and with our 10 days of vacation my friend Allie and I decided on these wonderful cities. While it was a lot of traveling and we were definitely more tired at the end than we were when we started, it was worth it!
Prague, Czech Republic
We arrived in Prague late Thursday night. Getting out of the metro we saw the National Museum before heading to our hostel. Since this was one of the cities were were visiting with the rest of our group we all stayed together and to our surprise our 6 person hostel room turned into 3 private hotel rooms with kitchens! The next morning we started out early and walked to the Charles bridge. We saw the John Lennon wall and then went to the old town square where they had a market set up with sweets and local cuisine for Easter. After we went to the Jewish quarter and saw the Spanish synagogue. Since studying abroad I have seen many amazing churches and cathedrals but the inside of the Spanish synagogue was truly spectacular. Pictures don't even begin to capture the stunning design and detail and the history behind the synagogue different from what we have been used to. Our next stop was the Prague castle. After making it to the top we saw an amazing panoramic view before going in. Inside the walls of the castle was Saint Vitus cathedral whose inmense size and detailed vibrating stained glass works were stunning. Saturday morning we finished our time in Prague with some breakfast and a stroll on the Charles bridge before heading over to the train station!
We arrived in Salzburg Saturday night and after settling in at our hostel we went to find an authentic Austrian restaurant for dinner. Easter Sunday we wandered around the city for a while before going to the Salzburg Dom for mass. It was stunningly beautiful on the inside with beautiful paintings on the ceilings and a full orchestra and choir filling this immense space with music. After we met up with our Sound of Music tour. We started off with some of the places in Salzburg where the film was shot including the lake behind the Von Trapp's house and the gazebo before heading on the bus into the Austrian Alps where the opening scene was shot. The snow capped mountains and lakes were absolutely picturesque. We ended up in the small town of Mondsee, where the wedding scene of the Sound of Music took place. After wandering around in this cute little town and trying some apple strudel we got back on the bus to Salzburg just as it was starting to snow. That night, as most places in Salzburg aren't open Sundays let alone Easter Sunday, we ate dinner in our hostel and skyped our families before watching the Sound of Music, which they play their every night at 8pm. It was really strange being away from my family on Easter but it was really nice getting a chance to talk with them all. The next day we went to the Mirabell Gardens where we found these cute little statues and the gates where the end of "Do Re Me" was filmed. After we went up to the old city wall where we got a great view of the city, though we probably got hit with the snow the worst.
For our full day in Vienna we wandered around the historic city center, seeing many beautiful grand buildings. We stopped to try Mozart chocolate balls and wandered around the Naschmarkt for lunch. We went to the Schbrunn summer palace which was a bit outside of the center of Vienna. This palace was enormous and surrounding it were gardens and fountains which seemed to go on forever. Today part of the grounds are even used as a zoo. Even just wandering around some of the palace grounds took a lot out of us. We freshened up a bit at our hotel before heading to the opera. The Vienna opera house sells standing tickets for under 5€ before every performance but to get good standing spots we got there two hours early. We watched Richard Strauss' Elektra based on the Greek tragedy and while our legs were tired it was definitely worth it to see this amazing opera.
The next day after our flight we got to Pireaus, Athens' port city, where our hotel was for that night. After walking around a little we went back to the central part of Athens for dinner. I have been wanting to go to Athens for so long and this little taste of the city made me very excited to actually see the city on Saturday.
Thursday, while our ferry ride was a bit bumpy and very long, we made it to Santorini. The rain had just stopped and after 8 hours on a boat we were happy to be on land. That night we wandered around Fira and while it was windier and colder than we expected, the views were simply stunning! Friday we took a bus to Oia on the northern part of the island, not realizing until we got there that while it was a beautiful day, the strong winds cancelled all the ferries leaving the island, including ours for that night. Luckily, thanks to a great little café, The Hungry Donkey, we were able to use their wifi and figure everything out so we could still enjoy our time in Santorini. The lookout point in Oia was exactly how I pictured Santorini with the white buildings, churches with blue rooves pressed up against the side of the cliff. After we walked down a ton of stairs for about 20 minutes until we got to the water where we explored a little bit around the docks and had a picnic lunch on the rocks. Then it was back up those crazy stairs though this time we had a dog friend to keep us company. Out of all the places I have been, Santorini definitely had the most stray dogs. Once back at the top we walked to the fortress before going back to Fira. Late that night I took a flight from possibly the worlds smallest airport and made it back to Athens.
Athens, Greece (again)
Saturday I had entirely dedicated to seeing Athens. Starting with the Acropolis, I saw all the main ruins including the Theater of Dionysus, the Parthenon, the Roman Agora, Hadrians library, the Ancient Agora, Hadriens Arch and the temple of Zeus and many other places. This was the perfect day and the perfect weather for walking around and I definitely took advantage of it. Part of what made all these ruins so amazing was the environment in which they were set. While some were surrounded by normal city streets, others were on hills, or in parks and many were surrounded by wild flowers. After I met up with Sam and Juliet, other girls in my program who arrived in Athens a few days before. We caught up a little bit, sharing spring break stories on the roof of their hostel which had an extraordinary view of the acropolis in the background. After we all went to dinner in the Plaka and watched some of the fireworks which they were setting off for Greek Orthodox Easter. I couldn't imagine a better day.
Rome & Siena, Italy
After leaving very early on Sunday we got to the airport in Athens. 3 trains, a plane, and a bus later, we made it back to Siena, very tired but very happy to be back!
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<p>Jessica Heymach is a junior at Lehigh University with a double major in International Relations and Sociology and Anthropology. She cannot be happier to be studying abroad in Siena, Italy this spring. Jessica is from Long Island, New York and loves adventures, whether it is hiking in the Adirondacks or scuba diving in Maui. She has a passion for photography and art. Traveling has always been her dream, and she cannot wait to explore and experience as many cultures as possible.</p>