Travel

Europe

Last summer, I went on a trip to Europe with three of my dearest friends. It was by far the biggest trip I’ve ever taken, and it was the craziest, most wonderful, exciting experience I’ve ever had!

We started our trip in the beautiful city of Budapest. At first, I was a little wary of the idea; I wanted to do the more traditional cities like Paris or London. Luckily I was outnumbered in the vote, because Budapest ended up being my hands down favorite city I’ve ever experienced! From the beautiful Hungarian landscapes, to the gorgeous river separating old Buda from old Pest, to the amazing castles and architecture! The public parks had stages for outdoor concerts and plays, public bath houses, zoos, and even a castle with a moat! (I’m always a sucker for a good moat!) The four of us stayed in a gorgeous little apartment in a very affluent part of town, right in the middle of everything. We were able to walk anywhere and everywhere we needed to go, and they had the most adorable little cobblestone streets! It was absolute perfection.

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My first time in a real castle!

From Budapest, we hopped on a train to Vienna, Austria! Austria has always been on my bucket list, due to the fact that The Sound of Music is one of my favorite things, and I have always dreamt of “running about Salzburg in nothing but some old drapes”, while “having a marvelous time”. Vienna was not what I had expected however; I imagined rolling hills and snowy mountains, but I found it to be rather industrial. However, the Royal Palace of the Hapsburg family was to die for! If you ever get the chance it is a must see! The interior is decorated in a gorgeous baroque style, my personal favorite because it is gold And frilly And fancy And lacy And pretty And ever so elegant and romantic! Not only did Vienna have a gorgeous Royal Palace, but it was also filled with amazing churches. I was absolutely in awe of the churches here. Inside most of them, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The designs inside were breathtaking and awe inspiring like nothing I had ever seen before.

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St. Stephens Cathedral
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The Hapsburg Palace

Our last stop on our grand European tour was Prague. Prague will always hold a very dear place in my heart, despite all of the sex museums. While I was in Prague, I got to visit Terezin Concentration Camp. The quaint town in the Czech Republic that was turned into a Nazi run concentration camp in World War II. It was eerily quiet and oddly calm. Knowing what happened here to so many men, women, and children, it was unnervingly peaceful. I prayed for the people who lost their lives here, and I cried for the children who never got the chance to be children. I’m glad I got to experience this because it is important for us to experience history in a way that resonates with us. It should resonate with us in a way that leaves us feeling a desire to help prevent horrendous things from happening in this world and to encourage us to provide hope and promise for the good days and better times.

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Prague astronomical clock dating back to 1410!

The flight home was bittersweet. I was headed home to friends and family that I missed terribly when I was away, but I also had a longing to stay with the friends I had made in Europe that I had grown to love over that month and a half. I will most definitely be back again one day.

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Finally back home at GEG!
Travel

Greece

Just over one year ago, I decided to volunteer abroad in Greece with one of my best friends. Before this trip I had little to no volunteer experience aside from the occasional youth group community service projects I was involved in, so this was a huge step for me and i really wasn’t sure what to expect or if i could even do what was being asked of me. We chose to volunteer with the Syrian Refugee Crisis because a mutual friend of ours was already heavily involved with the project and asked us if we wanted to help out as well. It turned out to be better than I had ever imagined, i made so many new lovely kind friends, and saw and experienced so many dazzling, brilliant, wonderful things I will never forget. I made dozens of beautiful memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Since we booked separately, my friend and I each had to travel alone to Europe, though i cannot speak for her, I can say without a doubt that this was slightly nerve wracking for me! I had traveled a fair amount on my own flying domestically, but never out of the country. I was too excited to be worried for too long, and far too distracted by the hustle and bustle, multitude of languages, and all the different things to see just inside the airport!

When I finally arrived in Greece, I got to experience my first ever taxi ride! Ultimately we did end up lost and had to ask for directions and my cab driver didn’t speak much English and I spoke no Greek, but I made it to our airbnb for the night, ready for a shower and a good nights sleep after almost two whole days of travel!13335819_1148950645156046_5141478305744674545_n

 

When we finally made it to Piraeus, we were ready to take on any jobs they were willing to give us! They started us out with basic tasks like handing out shampoo, food and other supplies. The people in our camp quickly became our friends, we helped them with their English as they shared stories and experiences with us and we shared many hugs and kind words with them as well. They are some of the kindest and strongest people I have ever met in my life! I began making friends with the children, and was then pulled to help out with the children. We taught them as much English as they taught us Arabic! It was amazing seeing them grow and develop in such harsh circumstances! They drew us pictures, taught us new games, and sang songs with us. We finally were able to get them a soccer ball and they made up teams and we all played or cheered on the teams. I had finally found my niche I woke up every day and couldn’t wait to go back and see all of my new friends! Even though they were going through hardships I couldn’t even imagine, they never ceased to bring a smile to my face when I walked in every morning.

While we were volunteering, we did have a few days off for some sight seeing! I have never seen so many ancient ruins in my life and as someone who finds history fascinating, i loved every one of them! Greece is a country so full of rich history it would have been impossible to have visited every thing in one trip. We went to as many museums and land marks as possible in the limited time we had. I saw so many amazing things that I had read about in history classes but had never dreamed i’d be able to see in real life.

parthenon

When our last day in Greece finally came, I was heart broken. I was going to be leaving the people I had grown to love over the past month and come to think of as dear friends. The children drew me pictures that I have kept and cherish and always will, the adults gave me hugs and wished me luck. Greece was an amazing experience I will forever be truly grateful for.

 

 

All photos taken by Allie