The 6 Best Things About My Time Abroad in Vienna

Now its time to look at the positives which made my time in Vienna such a memorable and worthwhile experience.

After my list a few days ago, you may have been mistaken into thinking that I absolutely hated living and studying in Vienna, but that’s not true. As with any place, Vienna had it’s positives and negatives, and I simply enjoy writing about the negatives a bit more. But now it’s time to list some of Vienna’s more glowing aspects and explain why Vienna was a actually a great experience.

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The Belvedere Palace, believe it or not this palace is actually plonked straight in the middle of Vienna
  1. Vienna

I had never lived in city before, in fact for most of my life I’ve lived in a tiny village located someplace in the south of England. Hell, even the university that I chose was located in town that most people have never even heard of. So the idea of suddenly moving to city, no less in a foreign country, was simultaneously frightening and exciting at the same time. Fortunately, as a first city, Vienna is absolutely fantastic. Architecturally, it is surely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the tram rides around the city centre are a perfect way to show off this ingrained majesty that the city seems to possess. Every building looks gorgeous and grand, from the imposing, romanesque parliament, to the towering minarets-like columns of the Karlskirche; even the McDonalds is suitably grandiose. Coupled with that are many luxurious gardens and staggering museums, in fact there’s so much to do in the city alone that its impossible for a student like me to do it all in 9 months. There’s still places I wished I could have gone and seen such as the Imperial Crypt. Additionally thats another thing Vienna does really well, cemeteries, so if there’s anyone reading who likes a good tomb, then you should definitely check out Vienna.

Of course, being a city, Vienna comes with all the perks one should expect, extravagant nightlife, restaurants galore, vineyards, funfares, cinemas, zoos, a river that freezes over in winter and that people go ice-skating on, a million shops for everything; typical city stuff. However, while Vienna is pleasant at most times of the year, though it can be pretty unbearable at the height of summer, I must say that Christmas is when the city is at it’s most spectacular. Not only is every part of Vienna decked out in extravagant Christmas lights, but there are also dozens of Christmas markets all over the place and one gets to experience unique celebrations such as Krampusnacht. You’ll have to bare the cold, but it’s undoubtedly worth it.

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ESN day outs include wine crawls around the vineyards of Vienna

2. The ESN

Now, I didn’t actually do much with the ESN, which is the Erasmus Student Network, but I wish I had. The point is for international students to come together and get to know each other, I just had trouble summoning the courage to go out and actually meet and greet these people. However, the few events that I did go to were fantastic and the group does a great job at organising events in and around Vienna. It does everything from tours of the city, trips to other countries, game nights and a weekly bar crawl. For any new comer to Vienna University I’d definitely advise checking out the ESN and see what their doing, you might even do something you’d never expected to do in Vienna.

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The 71, my trusty tram

3. Public Transport

I not a public transport person. Even living in my tiny village, I never used the bus once. I  love my car and driving myself around, and the worse thing about going to Vienna was leaving my car behind. As sad as it was though, you really don’t need a car in Vienna. With a semester ticket at hand, the whole of Vienna’s extensive public transport network just opens up to you. Bus, trams, trains, the underground; there are stations all over Vienna, insuring you can get within close distance to any particular location within the city limits. Not only that, but the Vienna serves as a hub for trains going throughout most of central and eastern Europe, so if you even fancied going to Hungary, or Slovakia, or the Czech Republic for a day, you can do just that and hop on a train in Vienna; and for a very reasonable price I must add.

One of my biggest mistakes is not really utilising this aspect of Vienna, because of, well anxiety. It was only during my last few weeks that I actually decided to just hop on a train to Bratislava for a weekend and the whole thing was a simple as taking the tram to the university. In Vienna the public transport is definitely something one should exploit as much as possible.

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Erasbus took me all over Central Europe, including Hallstatt

4. Tour Buses

Though I didn’t use the trains to travel to as many places as I should have, I did take great advantage of organised student-centred tour companies running buses out of Vienna. Erasbus was a great company that took me to all kinds of places, from Hallstatt, to Croatia, to Poland and more. I really glad to have used them as they provide students were good hotels, lunch food, while also allowing you the freedom to go off and explore these new places in your own time, they don’t just hold you hostage on a guided tour (like some companies). I honestly don’t think I would have survived Vienna (due to death by a lack of scenery changes) if I hadn’t found them, so I’m incredibly thankful.

In addition, I went on a Sound of Music tour bus through Salzburg which was a lot of fun. (though i’ve still not seen the film) but still it took me and my mum to a loot of jaw-dropping places, including the stunning Mondsee.

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Me at my start date, how young and naive I was about what awaited me

5. Lecturers and Freedom

Yeah, the lecturers were really good in all cases. Enough said really. I mean, they all had an acute understanding of their subject area, but they were also super approachable and precise with their markings and feedback. Some treated us all to beers after class, or brought us donuts, and I even bumped into one, completely randomly, in a steak house in Krakow (I was worried for a moment that I hadn’t handed in some homework). Simply a great number of hard-working individuals. (I’ve already passed, so I’m not trying to curry good grades or anything)

While there were expectations set upon you, the lecturers were more than willing to help you meet those expectations and that leads me onto another positive, the freedom. Allow me to explain. In Bangor, or really anywhere in the UK, when you’re given an essay you have a set list of essay questions to select from, however in Vienna, they simply tell you to make your own up. For a history students, that is something usually reserved to just dissertations, but in Vienna they let you do it for any essay or presentation. Sometimes it was difficult, for sure, but for the most part I really enjoyed just going off and working on my own thing; it mean’t that I was always doing work that I was most interested in. I didn’t have to worry about there being a list of things I couldn’t or could do, or things that I was expected to include in my essay. In all, it was a very liberating experience and one that I think, personally, is far superior to the method here in the UK.

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Another beautiful Austrian day

6. The Weather

Yeah, Vienna weather beats Welsh weather, hands down. Not to say that the competition isn’t close, Vienna is both hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than North Wales, and in one instance I got so hot that I abandoned my apartment for a air conditioned hotel for just a weekend. There was even one case where it started to suddenly snowstorm in the middle of spring. But, ultimately, Viennese weather is just so much more, stable, than in Wales. In Vienna if is sunny for a day, it’s sunny for a week or two, if it rains, it’ll rain for just a day. In Wales, I had four months where it rained almost every single day without stop and if the sun is out on one day, then you best make the most of it cause it could then rain for the rest of the month. In Vienna there’s no crazy flooding and there’s no tree destroying wind; it’s so much more simple. So yes, Austrian weather is so much better than Welsh weather (sorry, Wales).

~

And thats it, I realise this list is perhaps shorter than my worst things list, thats not a slight against the city that housed me for 9 months, it’s just because I always find it easier to write about the things that expressly piss me off. I do hope that you have enjoyed these lists and I hope to write some more about my adventures abroad very soon.

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

The 6 Worst Things About My Time Abroad in Vienna

Time for an in-depth look at my experiences while studying in Vienna and I thought it apt to first get all the bad stuff out of the way; so here’s my list of the worst things about studying in Vienna

Ok, I know what your all thinking. How can I possibly be writing about my worst experience in Vienna? Surely it was brilliant all the time.

No, no it wasn’t

And actually I think it’s important for people to know about the bad things just as much as the good. Otherwise you’ll never achieve the full picture.

For example, when I was first told about the possibility of studying abroad, I was painted a beautiful picture by the organisers and honestly what they presented was not what I experienced. So people need to know that somethings don’t go the way you envisioned and sometimes you encounter problems or issues that you would never have previously considered. Of course, I’m sure there are other people  who have absolutely loved their time abroad, this is just my personal experiences.

Now, before the country of Austria officially bars me for making this post, I will also be compiling a list of the best things about my time abroad, though I simply find writing about the bad things first easier, simply because those annoyances tend to stay in ones mind for a longer period.

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Rathaus, a complete circus
  1. Bureaucracy

Europe, and German speaking nations particularly, tend to be stereotyped as being mad about bureaucracy, a dirty word in other parts of the world. Now, I’m not saying there’s any truth to this stereotype; after all I was studying abroad for almost a year so there was undoubtably going to be some paperwork. But…

there

was

so

much

PAPERWORK…..

Mountains and mountains of it! I could die happily if I never have to hear the words Anmeldebescheinigung, Magistratisches or Meldzettel again. And with the piles of paperwork comes the endless queues and departments that one must manoeuvre around to obtain said paperwork. One time I spent 1 hour and 53 mins queuing at the Magistrates only for the actual process of retrieving the form I needed to take a grand total of 45 seconds. I’ll never see that time again. I felt robbed at the end of it. Robbed of life.

In fact there was so much paperwork that it was impossible to keep track of it all; which is something that appears to be quite unforgivable by Austrian standards, as I soon discovered. When I went to apply for an Anmeldebescheinigung I went through two different people, queued for a total of around two hours, only to find from the last person that I had brought the wrong Mendzettel form. Usually, back in Bangor at least, this would result in a explanation as to how to best fix the issue, but nope; instead the female magistrate opened a triad of pent up frustration upon me and accused me of staying in the country illegally. At this point, I literally thought this was how my study abroad would end; with me being accused of being an illegal migrant and thrown onto a plane back to the UK. But, no sooner had she done this, that she’d typed some words onto her computer and then told me (in a much calmer and collective tone) that everything was now sorted and I was free to go. In true British style I gave her only the frostiest of thank you’s.

So no, I did not enjoy the bureaucracy.

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I might as well try translating these hieroglyphics

2. Language

Ok, this isn’t just me being an ignorant, ‘Oh I speak English so everyone else must learn to speak English’. Truthfully, I was looking forward to learning German and I have always though it to be a necessity that one should learn an additional language. Living in Austria, I assumed this would be the prime opportunity for me to finally learn a foreign language.

Well its been a year later and I still don’t know any German.

So what happened? Well honestly it was due to poor timing and cost. See, unlike Bangor, Vienna charges students for language lessons, ranging from 200 to 400 euros. Honestly, it was an expense I couldn’t afford, plus when I did try to actually book a session, the only periods they had available clashed with my other seminars and if you missed just three language lessons, you would be thrown off the course altogether. Now, that itself is not a problem as Vienna has a large concentration of English speakers, and most Austrians under 60 can speak English exceedingly well. However, my own inability to communicate in the native language made me fearful of talking to anyone, just in case they didn’t understand me or I didn’t understand them (I struggle enough with just Welsh accents, let alone Austrian ones). There were a few bright spots of course; for instances I knew when people were asking if I could reach things on high shelves, but, well, thats because I’m pretty used to be asked to do that.

I just wish the language lessons had been more accessible and cheaper for international students.

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A typical Vienna street could become a frightening obstacle

3. My Own Anxiety

Well this is a big one. I’ve always been pretty shy as a person, but it wasn’t until I was thrusted into a landscape so unfamiliar as Vienna, that I realised that I was more than just shy, I actually suffered from anxiety, and in some cases it could be quite extreme. Admittedly, it was pretty terrifying, suddenly finding myself alone in a massive city which I knew next to nothing about and was unable to speak the native language. It’s enough to make anyone panic. I, though, was a prisoner of myself. My paranoia and fears grew so much so that I would avoid going outside in fear that someone would try to talk to me. I intentionally avoided contact with my roommates as I felt incredibly awkward around them. And worse, I refused to look at emails (the only way anyone had of communicating with me) because I was too scared of what they may say if I should open them up. Of course once I was walking about the city, or had mustered the courage to read my emails, or talk to people, I was absolutely fine. But every morning it was as if my fears would start anew and I’d once again be boxed in by my anxiety. As a result there are many things that I would have liked to do in Vienna but was unable to, simply because I could bare the thought of risking it.

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Having got a picture to link this one, so here’s a nice street

4. Accommodation

I didn’t get to stay in the best place. It was alright to be honest, perfectly liveable; but there were some little things (ok, MAJOR things) that made living in Vienna a trial. Firstly, there was no oven or freezer in my apartment; meaning goodbye oven-cooked food and no long storing of food. This meant I had to go out twice every week to shop simply because I could never keep fresh meat of vegetables for very long. This was expensive, far more expensive than I would of liked, for sure. Because of this, and because I couldn’t understand the writing on any packaging, I was restricted in the sort of meals that I could cook (Pasta, chilli, curry, omelette; rinse and repeat) and that got so mindnumpingly….tedious after awhile, even as a tried to experiment with my meals. Secondly, my flat was located in Simmering, which is located right on the edge of the city, meaning it was 35 min train journey into the city every morning or whenever I wanted to get to anywhere. That certainly added to my anxiety as I’m pretty use to walking to my university. It also mean’t I got pretty lazy. No one is unfit in Bangor, not from after all the hill climbing you have to do just to get to lessons. But in Vienna it was just get on the train, get off the train and as it was the underground I didn’t even get to appreciate the beauty of the city as it whizzed by.

Thirdly,  the constant construction taking place, seemingly right up against my bedroom wall. The working day starts early in Vienna, so I’d be awoken, often before seven, by a pneumatic drill burrowing away, causing my room, not only to be filled with the loudest buzzing you’ve ever heard, but also it caused my room to literally shake. It was so loud and so intense it hurt my ears. Of course, I didn’t complain because…well…anxiety.

Fourthly…flatmates. Now, I’ve already mentioned I tried to avoid these guys, which is unusual for me. In my first year at Bangor I made fast friends with my flatmates and we even all moved in together during our second year. But in Vienna, nope. Of course everyone was from different countries and that was interesting but in the end none of us really connected. They all had their quirks but one was worse than any others. He suffered from serious depression and was often incapable of cleaning stuff or even put things back in their place. I walked into the toilet once to find it unflushed, toilet roll all over the floor and both the soap and the hand towel were just piled into the soaking sink. It would get worse when he started to chuck around my own stuff, like towels, (which I often found in the sink) or my bathroom mat, which would just be discarded unceremoniously on the floor, day after day. He barely ever washed up anything (not even the stuff he stole from me) and he shed A LOT of hair, I mean our floor was tiled but you’d swear you were walking on a fur carpet. And of course, he never swept up his hair, and I ended up having to often sweep the floors and unblock the shower drain. I got woken up in the night and morning by him constantly pacing up and down outside my bedroom door.

I was going insane half the time, but I don’t really blame him. I’ve talked about my anxiety feeling like a prison, but depression is so much worse than that. Worse is that little things can always send you into a bad spiral so I certainly didn’t want to worsen his depression. It was delicate balancing act. I’d never just tell him to do something, rather I’d ask him and then engage him in further conversation, ask how he’s doing, about films and music and stuff. Just to make sure he didn’t go back to his room feeling like he’d messed up badly. I mean, yeah he was messy, but he wasn’t by any means unfriendly or a bad guy. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I’d find the bathroom clean, or my towels hanging where I left them and I thanked him for that. It wasn’t often, but it was enough.

Oh, also the one of the struts under my bed was broken, right where my tailbone rested, which meant my bed was never comfortable, and nothing was ever done about it. That was pretty annoying.

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Religious holidays….so many holidays

5. Closing Times

Shops shut at weird times in Vienna. I’m not talking about little small business shops either, I’m talking about supermarkets. Usually, supermarkets in Britain stay open until 10 at night. In fact, 9pm in Bangor is prime time for students who have forgotten to buy food for dinner. But in Vienna these stores typically close at about seven, which makes things incredibly annoying, especially when lectures stretch into the evenings. Also supermarkets don’t open on Sundays, what with Austria still being a Catholic nation and all. Same with Bank Holidays, and good luck if theres a Sunday followed by a Bank Holiday Monday, because then the shops won’t open for two days straight and with me unable to store big amounts of food in my tiny fridge and having to cook meals every night, this meant I’d have to really plan out my meals, in order to insure I had enough to cover those days. Worse is that Bank holidays seemed to occur once every three weeks; I’d never even known about some of these holidays like Corpus Christie, or Epiphany Day before.

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Vienna University, imperial and imposing

6. Big City University

After  almost a year of living in a big city, I’ve decided…I don’t really ever want to live in a big city again. The city of Vienna is great, but Bangor Uni  is so much more…well personal. Of course, Bangor has significantly less students than Vienna University, but that’s part of the problem. At Vienna, I felt like I was just a faceless student, coming and going, studying and arriving for lectures etc. Whereas in Bangor theres always a stronger sense of community because you recognise people and other people recognise you. Vienna isn’t helped by that fact that it lacks any kind of social clubs or societies, whereas Bangor is packed with them, allowing all kinds of students to meet and greet one another. There its easier to build up friendships whereas Vienna’s size can just overwhelm you.

Additionally, some sections of the university are run quite differently to Bangor. You can’t browse in the library, rather you have to know what book you want and then ask for it, and it’s not open 24/7 like Bangor’s main arts library is. Secondly, instead of have subjects broken down into both lectures and seminars, in Vienna subjects were either seminar based, or lecture based, never both. This meant in some lessons there was never any discussion over what you’d learned and in other lessons all you did was discuss what other people had learned because there 30 people in each class and you could never include every single person over a single period. Frankly I think Bangor has a much better balance in this regard.

Finally, and my most pressing difficulty with Vienna though was simply the workload. I’d known things were going to be harder, especially since Vienna is so much more renown than Bangor. But I never really expected it to be as hard as it was. for my first semester I was doing  3 essays every week, plus reading books (not articles, books; 100 page books) and it was nearly impossible to keep up with everything. Some subjects needed 10,000 word submissions, which is the size of a dissertation at Bangor, while normal Bangor essays were at most about 3000 words. It was a slap of cold water to be sure, but somehow I stayed afloat despite the constant breakdowns. In time I learned you can’t just stubbornly approach your workload, rather you have to be smart and figure out what subjects are worth your time and what aren’t.

~

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Its important to be calm, just like the flowing waters of the Danube.

Now this may all sound pretty bad, but let me make this clear, I don’t, and will never, regret my time in Vienna. There were bad points for sure; some times I just wanted to run back to the airport and fly home to cry on my own bed, but I didn’t, I stuck with it, and now it’s over and frankly I think I’m a better student because of it. I certainly did I lot of inward looking, analysing my pressure points, what makes me happy, the extent of my anxiety and ultimately the sort of work I enjoy doing. I left Vienna knowing more about where I want go with my history studies, than from any of my other years at Bangor.

It was a flawed experience, but an experience worth having.

~

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

Zagreb, Croatia

I tick off a new country; this time traveling to the city of Zagreb for a fly-by visit

I had been in Vienna for only a week after the February holiday before I was off again, this time to Croatia and Slovenia for a weekend break. One of my regrets during my first semester was not taking advantage of Vienna’s excellent travel links to central and eastern Europe, a part of the world I’d never really been to before. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, so during February I booked myself onto a couple of international bus tours with Erasbus, the same company that did my trip to Hallstatt. First up was a weekend to Zagreb and Ljubljana, places that not only I hadn’t been too, but no one in my family had been to either, (my dad is very seasoned traveller) so I was very excited to go.

Unfortunately, I was perhaps a bit too excited. It was 5:00 start which meant I had to leave my flat by 4:15 to reach the meeting point for the bus, which was all the way on the other side of the city. I was so concerned about getting to the bus on time that I couldn’t sleep at all. So cue 4 o’clock, I’m wondering around the early morning streets of Vienna, in a zombie-like state.

The subsequent bus journey is a vague recollection for me, half of it being my dozing face pressed against the window, and other being me watching the sun rising over Austria’s autobahns through bleary eyes as we sped south towards Graz. After 3 hours into our journey I stated to perk up, by which time we had entered northern Slovenia and were heading towards the Croatian border.

Now it should be noted then when preparing for these trips I was surprised to find how many European nations still retain their own currency. Both Croatia, Czech Republic and Poland are, in fact, all outside of the Eurozone. That’s what I didn’t know. What I did know is that Croatia still possess a border. Though it joined the EU in 2013, Croatia has yet to join the Schengen Area, though it is legally obligated to do so (at some point). For those of you unaware, the Schengen Area allows free movement between EU states, with only the UK and Ireland being EU nations that are exempt from joining the Schengen Area. Croatia will eventually join, but probably not for awhile, and if my experience is anything to go by, I think there will be a lot of feet-dragging before that.

The queue at the border was horrendous, easily adding another 45 mins to our journey. When our bus finally pulled up to the border post, we all had to get out and show our passports. Easy enough, though the guards weren’t happy with one student’s passport and we had to wait another half an hour before piling back onto our bus. We all heaved a sigh of relief; we could finally get on our way.

Nope.

A few metres ahead of us was a second guard post and we, once again, had to get out and present passports. Before I knew it, I was being ushered aside by a guard and ferried into a room. Thinking this was part of the checks, I went along. However, when I turned my head, I could see other members of my tour being let through, no problem. I begun to panic, was there something wrong with my passport?

Eventually, others from my tour were similarly pulled away and joined me in this little waiting room. When there was about eight of us, we were told, by the one guard who could speak English, to sit down. Three other border guards entered the room, their faces were all portraits of seriousness and in their arms they cradled a Heckler & Koch UMP, the go to weapon for US Border Protection. I looked around at the others who had joined me and something became very apparent; we were all male.

The head guard, speaking in broken English, then proceeded to inform us that Croatians were very proud of their illustrious border and then he cut to the chase. Apparently there had been instances of drug smuggling within tour buses and we few had appeared suspicious to the border guards. It seemed my overeagerness to have my passport checked and my sleep-deprived expression had been my undoing. We then needed to provide a long list of our personal details (where we came from, what uni were we at, what did we study, phone number, when did we last consume alcohol etc…)  After that we were told that we were to undergo further tests, to see if we had taken any illegal drug’s recently. How that was suppose to be relevant to a case of drug smuggling I’m not sure…..especially if there was nothing on our persons or bus.

We were then told these tests would take another hour or so. Fortunately, one of the tour group who was with us was our Tour Organiser who then explained to the room of armed men that we had in fact been expected in Zagreb two hours ago and that we had booked a tour of the city with the Croatian Tourist Board.

The guards briefly consulted in Croatian for a couple of seconds and then turned back to us potential drug smugglers.

‘Ok, you can all go.’

And that was it.

To be honest we were in such a hurry to get away that I didn’t even have time to tell one of the border guards how much he looked like Alec Baldwin. I’m just throwing that in, because it was truly eerie how much this random Croatian guard looked like esteemed actor Alec Baldwin). But, semi-automatic guns tend to kill the chances for conversation, so instead, we left the border guards, and the fifth Baldwin brother, in the dust as we sped away to Zagreb.

We arrived almost 3 hours late and had missed an opportunity for lunch due to the problems at the border. So I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to lay down. But I couldn’t because we now only had a couple of hours to explore the city. When we explained why we were late to the tour guide, she happily exclaimed how proud Croatians were of their strong border. We thought better than to mention just how fast we’d been let go by the border guards. With a spring in her step, she promptly spun round and let us on a winding tour around the innards of Zagreb.

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The stained glass ceiling of the Oktogon, Zagreb’s oldest shopping centre
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Ban Jelacic Square

Zagreb is an unexpectedly large city, (for Eastern Europe) with 2 million people piled into this expansive Croatian metropolis. Like many Eastern European cities, the place feels abuzz with work as the Croatians hurtle towards the modernisation that Western Europe spent decades constructing. Old fuses with new, sometimes not particularly seamlessly, but there’s no time to worry about that. However, once in the old city, all that disappears as you become wedged within the tight, near claustrophobic, streets, filled to the bring with tourists, hawkers and diners. Away from these crowded places though, the city can feel surprisingly empty, especially within it’s plazas and parks.

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Looking out over the Oktogon
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Zagreb, the old and new
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The old town

Zagreb has had a long history, with the Romans constructing the first settlement. For a long time after Zagreb was two towns, Gradec and Kaptol, each one built on an opposing hill. The rivalry between these two towns was infamous, with either side regularly conducting raids, kidnapping and looting from the other. However, the threat of foreign invasion eventually brought the two together and this was further solidified when the gap between the two towns was built over, forming the city of Zagreb.

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Zagreb Cathedral, whose gothic spires dominate the city’s skyline.
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St Mark’s Church, located in the Government Plaza

After exploring of the old town and our guided tour had ended, I took the opportunity to dive off into the closet restaurant. I hadn’t eaten since four that morning, which I explained to the waiter, who was rightfully horrified at me ordering both pasta and chips. So, after thoroughly gorging myself, I picked myself up and headed out for a little exploring of my own. Leaving the cramped old town, I stumbled into the museum quarter, just as the evening was turning into night. Sadly, all of the museums were closed by this time; curse you border guards. Here though, the city was at least quiet and still, with only a few people wandering around. It wouldn’t be long before I headed back to the hostel and promptly collapse on the bed, but for just this moment is was soothing to find some peace after the chaos that had encapsulated this long day.

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Nikola Subic Zrinski Square

 

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Zagreb’s Art Pravilion

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I end my wandering at the Croatian National Theatre

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

The White Cliffs of Sussex

I take a trip to one of South England’s most stunning destinations; one which is fading fast, in geographical terms at least.

Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters Country Park is perhaps the most popular destination in all of Sussex. Encompassed by the South Down’s National Park, the white monoliths that are the Seven Sister’s rear up to greet the sea. Thousands of years ago, these cliffs were not cliffs at all, but were rather hills, just like the rolling hills of the South Downs behind them. However, their chalky composition and generations of erosion have worn the cliffs into the shape they are today, giving the impression that these once hills have been sliced in half by a knife. Today, these cliffs continue to erode at a phenomenal rate, with the chalk, formed by dead sea creatures millions of years past, offering little resistance against the fury of the sea. Not far from here, William the Conqueror landed during his invasion of England in 1066, back then the coastline looked very different. Villages, once safe and high above the water level, now lie beneath the swirling waters of the English Channel. In more recent times, since the coastguard cottages, (which now constitute one England’s most picturesque scenes, with the Seven Sisters in the background) were built, in 1822, the coastline has retreated by more than 30 metres (about 100 feet).

Still, despite the raw powers of nature at display, this geographically fascinating area is still most inviting and beautiful to behold. The exposed chalk cliffs reveal countless fossils and Cuckmere Haven behind serves as a rich habitat for countless birds and other creatures. The image of the Seven Sisters is renown throughout the world as the quintessential picture of England, in the same vein as Big Ben or the Queen’s Guard. But enjoy it while you can, because it won’t last forever.

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Strauss’s Grave

Taking on another photo challenge, hope you enjoy.

Vienna has long history as a city of music, having served as the home and place of inspiration for many esteemed composers over the years. Johann Strauss is no exception.  Having made his name as the ‘Waltz King’, Strauss comprised over 500 pieces of dance music over a period of 73 years. His most famous work, The Blue Danube, remains recognisable the world over and today is something of Vienna’s national anthem, with the sheet being played throughout much of the city, especially within the palaces and museums.

Strauss died in 1899 and rests today, alongside his wife,  in Vienna’s Central Cemetery, one of the world’s largest cemeteries. Even here, Strauss’s legacy continues to inspire budding classical artists as he lies interned next to other famous composers such as Schubert and Beethoven, in an area collectively referred to as Composer’s Corner, a place of pilgrimage  for those who come to Vienna hoping to experience the same inspiration that elevated these men.

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Don’t forget to check out my Instagram and my Twitter page for more.

Criccieth Castle, Gwynedd

On a brief return to Snowdonia, I check out the town of Criccieth and it’s famous Welsh Castle.

February serves as the break between the Winter and Summer semester in Vienna, which means a whole month holiday. So, at the first opportunity,  I promptly fled Austria and returned to the UK in order to enjoy a month of delicious home cooked food.

However this break wasn’t simply so I could go on a 30 day food gorging session, I also wanted to visit my friends up in Bangor, and that meant returning to Snowdonia!

After spending so long in Vienna, I had really come to appreciate my little home university and, as I drove up through Snowdonia, I could feel my heart skip as those familiar mountains once again came into view.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten all about the weather. Afraid to say, that for the most part, I was stuck inside my friend’s house, watching TV and staring at the pouring rain outside, which was fine because what made me truly happy was being among my old friends again.

However the weather did lessen one afternoon and, determine not to waste it, I sped off to explore someplace new with my friend Lizzy.

Our journey took us to the town of Criccieth, situated in an area which I call the Armpit of Wales (I’m not being mean, its just because it’s situated below the Llyn Peninsula which stretches out like an arm). Above the town and sea rises Criccieth Castle, which was what we’d come to see.

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Criccieth Castle
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The Gatehouse
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The castle layout, in Edward II’s era, this courtyard would have been filled with timber halls

With no cost required, we headed up to admire the towering monolith of stone. Criccieth is unusual among North Welsh castles as, while Edward I’s castles are the most recognised and extensive castles, Criccieth is actually an entirely Welsh fortress, having been built by Llywelyn Fawr at the beginning of the 13th century. But while most native Welsh castles are typically small and consist of a single keep, see Dolbadarn, Circcieth is an impressive structure, consisting of a massive gatehouse protected by two twin D-shaped towers. There is no keep within and instead rooms were situated within the gatehouse and towers. It is likely the design was copied from English castles such as that at Beeston.

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Remains of the Montgomery Tower
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Criccieth Castle lies wedge between the Irish Sea and the town of Criccieth
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Gloomy water to reflect the gloomy clouds
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Days like today, Criccieth can appear a dower place, perhaps suitable considering the castle’s original use as a prison

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The design was so impressive, that when the castle finally fell to the English in 1283, during the fall of Gwynedd, it was not destroyed but rather was upgraded with additional towers and the gatehouse was enlarged so that it could accommodate stone-throwers on its battlements. This makes the gatehouse perhaps the best example of Welsh-consturcted defences and testament to the fact that Gwynedd was once it’s own affluent kingdom. Today, while most of the castle remains in ruins (as a result of Glyndwr Rebellion in the 15th century), the gatehouse still stands intact, where it serves to loom up before visitors.

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I did go a bit panorama crazy
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Criccieth
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The modern town was formed around two hilly outcrops, which hug the sea, one of which served as the base for the castle

Following our exploration of the castle, where Lizzy showed me how to make panoramas on my iPhone , we headed down to Criccieth’s stony beach in time to witness a beautiful cloudy sunset.

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Criccieth seafront
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Fortunately, the low cloud did nothing to dampen the sun
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See…

After that lovely afternoon and an even lovelier evening meal with my friends, it was soon time to say goodbye to my friends and start the long journey back to Sussex. One of the hardest things about going to Vienna was getting to miss the final third year with my friends, who had stayed with me throughout my first two years at Bangor. As a consequence, I will be returning to Bangor alone this year, but I’m happy that I was, at the very least, able to spend this brief time with them, and I will always be grateful for the time that I get to spend with them. There won’t be any more countless late evenings, huddled in our house, watching junk TV, or visiting waterfalls and beaches while crammed in my car. Those days have past, but maybe we’ll be able to visit each other again and make some more fun memories together.

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Lizzy’s sunset

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram for more photos of my adventures.

Christmas in Vienna

Christmas in Vienna can be much more frightening than you imagine.

What better time to talk about that special kind of month we so fondly refer to as Christmas, than in the middle of a bright and glorious summer. There is no better time, I tell you. Especially when you’ve neglected your blog for almost a year and cannot afford the luxury of relevant posting.

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Christmas is a big thing in Vienna, as it is in most of the Western World. A beautiful time of year when the city’s elaborate, classical buildings are decked out in finery and twinkling lights. Christmas markets cram every available space and huge Christmas trees tower over the people below. Its a sharp contrast to the countryside which lies bare and grey, it’s life sucked away by the biting cold.

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Winter in Austria can be pretty dreary

It’s certainly very pretty and I highly recommend a weekend Christmas trip to the city. If I had had less work, I would probably have enjoyed a more heightened experience, but instead I had to make do with what little time I could afford to spend, and attended only a few Christmasy events, though I did enjoy the walk to and from my train under the soft glow of golden Christmas lights.

The Christmas market at Vienna’s Rathaus was closest to me. (that is city hall: funny that rat means advice in German, though I’m sure the satire of calling a government building a Rat House is not entirely lost on German speakers.) Naturally, thats where I went.

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Merry Christmas, I think?
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Vienna’s Christmas market, one of many
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The Rathaus

Of course this represents only the more commercial side of Christmas. Austria itself has its own unusual traditions. December itself is regarded as a holiday month, rather than just the Christmas break and the month is packed full of saints and feasts days. However, while these are common in Catholic Europe, Austria does have its own, unique and utterly horrifying celebration.

Picture the scene, if you may. There I am, collecting groceries for my twice-weekly shop (theres no oven or freezer in my flat), outside the store, a crowd of children excitedly wait to meet St Nicholas in his grotto, so as to ask him for various wonderful gifts. The shopping centre itself is decked out in beautiful festive decorations and busy shoppers deftly avoid the crowd of happy children and waiting parents. When suddenly, that peace is shattered by a monstrous roar. Emerging from nowhere comes a demon. Covered in thick, corse hair, much like a goat, it roars and snarls at the children. It’s eyes glow a horrible green and its face is a twisted contortion of bestial rage. It towers over the shoppers and long, curled horns stretch out from it’s skull. It moves from child to child, threateningly displaying a switch made of birch while bells clanker around it’s waist. Some children scream and cry, while others laugh or smile, all the while clinging to the safety of their parents, who look on with mild amusement. I for one was shocked and had to hold on tight to my shopping bags. A second monster emerges, even bigger than the last. This one carries swinging chains and a massive staff in one hand. It then holds up a wooden horn and blows into it. The unholy cacophony fills the shopping centre.

It is December 5th. Krampusnacht. The Night of the Krampuses.

What in holy Christmas name is a Krampus, I hear you ask. Well unwary reader, Krampus is an goat/demon…um…monster, that punishes bad children at Christmas time, in contrast to Saint Nick, who rewards good ones. You see, Austrians couldn’t have such a kindly man like Saint Nick hurt a small child, so they came up with the 7ft monstrosity that is Krampus, who gladly beats, drowns and eats children, or simply takes them off to hell himself. Of course most of the Austrian children are use to it, and gather affectionally behind the Krampuses, following them on their journey around the city.  However for foreigners like me, I couldn’t help but think them all mad. However, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the extraordinary efforts put into each and every costume. Each one looked amazingly realistic, and some even possessed LED lights in their eyes, to give them a devilish glow.

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This! This was considered a traditional Austrian Christmas card in the early 1900s. Cause nothing says Merry Christmas like a goat demon kidnapping a child.

Krampus isn’t solely Austrian, as he’s more of an alpine figure, who may have pre-Christian roots. But Austria really goes all out for Krampusnacht, which takes place the day before St Nick’s Day.  Krampuses, big and small, stalk the streets during the day, frightening children where ever they go.

Then, at night, they all gather for the Krampusfest.

And of course I went along to see it.

The festival took place within Schloss Neugebaude, an old castle that was only a short bus journey from my flat. The evening itself is a festive affair, with stalls thick with food and beer. However, soon the crowds gathered at the front of the gates to the castle. Fighting for space among the throngs of people, I watched as St Nick stepped out of the gates, angelic music accompanying him. Affectionally, he threw sweets into the crowd of children, though he purposefully avoided me, I’m sure of it. But, St Nick then left and the music changed to a thumping techno. At last, the festival could begin.

Krampuses poured out of the castle gates, like bats from a cave, whooping and hollering as their eyes gleamed maliciously. They came wielding torches of fire, which they proceeded to toss and turn with frightening skill. While some then growled and threatened the audience, I saw another consume a strange liquid. As I watched, he held his torch to his lips and blew. The torch then whooshed out in a great explosion of fire and the crowd cheered. Safe behind a protective fence, we all watched as the Krampuses preformed their fiery act to the beat of the techno. Near the end, one brought out a cauldron of fire, and as each Krampus threw in a different power, flames of green, violet and red seemed to burst forth from the pot.

All to soon though it was over, and the cold Austrian winter returned. It was about the most Austrian thing I’d ever seen. Its a shame though that I only took one video of the event, though to be fair, there was so many people pushing for space that it was hard to see anything at all. Definitely one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Vienna, and I’ll make sure to wish my friends, when December 5th comes calling, a very happy Krampusnacht.

DOn’t forget to check out my Instagram and my Twitter page for more.

The Moel Eilio Hills, Snowdonia

In celebration of National Park Week, I return to my beloved Snowdonia in this post, with walk along the Moel Eilio Hills

Well it’s National Park Week in the UK and since it’s far to wet and dull (as it is in Summer), I’ve decided to share an adventure from my first year studying in Bangor; and also because this is my first Snowdonia post in over a year, so one is pretty overdue. After all I do seem to recall naming this blog Student in Snowdonia.

The Moel Eilio Hills are some of the smallest mountain peaks in Snowdonia and form the northern end of the Snowdon Range, encompassing three seperate peaks; Moel Eilio, Foel Gron and Moel Cynghorion (thats Kin-Hor-Yon). The town of Llanberis sits at their foot, along with the castle of Dolbadarn, meaning the mountain peaks are extremely accessible and are perfect for family outings or for those walkers looking for a slightly easier day out.

Back in May 2015, my exams were over and I was counting down the days before I had to return to Sussex. I was due the next day to go for a walk up Snowdon, but I decided to first get some practice in and limber up my legs somewhat.

My walk began at the Llanberis Village Car park, which borders the shore of Llyn Padarn, one of Wales’s largest lakes and a wonderful beauty spot, the perfect site to end a walk at. From the carpark I had to navigate around the town, and, I confess, I initially got rather lost, though I eventually found my own way. Typically walkers will take Ceunant Street which leads to the Youth Hostel (which by the way is perfect for those looking to explore the wonders of Snowdonia cheaply), however I ended up going the Fron Goch Road, up past the Plan Garnedd Care Centre and beyond. This route initally consists of a greater degree of elevation that the Ceunant Path, but that means you only get higher, quicker.

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My starting point
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My first sight of the Moel Eilio Hills
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The massive Dinorwic Quarry marks the mountainside of Elidir Fawr
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Snowdon’s peak lies encased in white cloud
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Moel Eilio comes into view

I then continued on this path for some time, ignoring all turns off until finally, about one mile later, I came to a dry stone wall that cut across the lane. Just on the other side of this wall was a grass path that led up to the summit of Moel Eilio, my first conquest of the day. The path can be pretty easy to miss at first, but it grows more apparent the further up the mountain you go. Amazingly, despite the early assent, I had found the walk to be pretty easy so far, and I was soon bounding along the path. As I gained even greater heights, the view began to open up before me, while the summit of Moel Eilio reared up like a bulge on the landscape. At the finally 100 metres or so, the acute gradient suddenly increases, making it a bit of a slog to reach the summit.

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My view begins to exapand
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The summit of Moel Eilio within reach

However, once I did reach the summit, I was incredible pleased with myself, happy to have found the walk so easy. At 762m (2,382ft), Moel Eilio was the highest of today’s summits, meaning the worse of climbing was now out of the way. The name Moel Eilio means Eilio’s Hill in Welsh, who this Eilio was, we don’t know, but I can’t help but wonder if the name is actually a corruption of Tysilio, an ancient Welsh Saint who built an island hermitage in the 7th century just outside of today’s Menai Bridge, (I did some photography there in my second year which you can see here). I could clearly see the island from my vantage at the summit, though the clouds were now rolling in and a distinctive chill was in the air. A shame considering I started the walk under a hot sun and clear, blue skies. However, my view was still extensive. Since it is the most northerly summit of the Snowdon range, there is actually no higher point, directly northwards, until the coast of Scotland and the Galloways Forest Park, which both lie far across the Irish Sea. I could see all the way along the North Welsh coast, including down to the hills of Llyn,  Bangor Town itself, and all the way along Anglesey’s coastline. I could even make out the Edward I’s grand castle at Caernarfon, sheltered by the Abermenai Straits. Unfortunately, I did not yet have my super zoom lens, so you guys will just have to trust me on all that.

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The view down the Dinas Dinlle coast to Yr Elfi and the hills of Llyn.
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View of Arfon and South West Anglesey, almost indistinguishable from each other. Puffin Island lies vaguely to the extreme right of the picture

 

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Moel Eilio’s summit (726m, 2382ft)
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View of the western end of the Menai Straits, with Caernarfon to the right.

Unfortunately, the creeping cold told me it was time to move on. Heading south, I followed the ridge-line, skirting around the mountain lake of Llyn Dwythwch, where old Welsh folk stories tell of children being abducted from the lakeshore by mean-spirited fairies. The hills are fairly indistinguishable from one another, and one is in serious danger of passing over the next peak, Foel Gron, without even realising it. The only thing marking it out as a peak is a small cluster of stones that aren’t even worthy of the name cairn. No sooner had I reached this point, that the cloud lifted to reveal a new view, down into the Rhyd Ddu Valley and, with that, the mountains of the Nantlle Ridge and Moel Hebog reared into sight; and coupled with that was the sun shining down on Llyn Cwellyn. It was, without a doubt, one of my favourite views of Snowdonia.

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The Rhyd Ddu Valley
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Looking out over the Moel Eilio Hills with a sheer blanket of cloud overhead.
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Llyn Dwythwch
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The clouds clear and the sun emerges over the hills
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Foel Gron (629m, 2064ft)
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The Glyderau Mountains, with the top of Tryfan just barely visible in a dip to the right of the picture.

Moving on from Foel Gron, I started to descend rapidly. Eventually, I found myself at a mountain pass which divides the final peak, Moel Cynghorion, from the rest of the range. Now, at this point, I had no idea of Moel Cynghorion’s real location. I had assumed that I had simply passed over it, when coming off of Foel Gron, without realising it. I had no idea this peak was separate from the rest. As far as I was concerned, the only thing that lay in front of me was the beginnings of the Snowdon Massif. Luckily, I was feeling super fit and eager, so I decided to go up and see if I could snap some photos of the great mountain. Naturally, this mean’t another uphill climb, though it was no where near as long as the climb up Moel Eilio, taking only some 15 mins to reach the top.

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A rare view of the north west side of Snowdon that not may people see, with Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas at the bottom

There, I happened upon another small cluster of rocks which signalled the summit of Moel Cynghorion, though I wouldn’t realise that until I got home, I just thought it was a subsidiary of Snowdon. Much like the rest of these grassy hills/mountains, there is little to distinguish Moel Cynghorion from it’s fellow summits, besides the inviting view. However, its most interesting feature is certainly its name. Cynghorion means council, so the Hill of the Councils definitely ranks as one of the more fascinating mountain names in Wales. Whether this has always been its name or not is not certain, but one story accredits the name to when a group of Welsh chieftains surrendered atop the peak to Edward I’s army during his conquest of Wales. It’s perfectly possible, North Snowdonia served as the last bastion of defence during the conquest and it was only a short way away, in Bera Mawr, that Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the last prince of Wales was captured. Perhaps these so called ‘chieftains’ were locals desperately trying to spare their communities from the wrath of the invading English. Perhaps it was a rather apt place, seeing as it sat in the shadow of Snowdon, the largest of all mountains in Wales and England, and considering Edward’s enemy, Llwelyn ap Gruffydd, had styled himself as the Prince of Wales and Lord of Snowdonia.

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Moel Cynghorion (674m, 2211ft)

I must admit, Snowdon did look mighty tempting, though maybe my fitness fuelled mind was deceiving me. The Llanberis path does follow this route, so it’s perfectly possible to reach the summit from where I stood and there was still plenty of light in the day (the walk had only taken some two and a half hours by this point), but I decided it could wait for tomorrow. Turning my back on the mountain, I descended back to the mountain pass, which provided me with a delightfully long and gradual path, and followed it eastwards, back to the Youth Hostel and the Ceunant Path.

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The mountain pass back to Llanberis
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The hills grow higher
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Llanberis comes into view

In all, though the Moel Eilio peaks are rather undramatic, especially compared to Snowdon which constantly overshadows them, they do offer lovely vantages of the coast and two different valleys. An easy walk for easy people mostly, though if you do want a challenge, one can easily combine them with a larger walk to include Snowdon itself. Though you’d then better prepare for a very long day. Subsequently, Llyn Padarn provides the perfect place to cool down and relax your limbs after a day of hiking in the hills.

To those in the UK, I hope you have enjoyed National Park Week, or at least you have enjoyed some fond memories of sunnier times at said National Parks. I most certainly have.

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One last look at Snowdon

Check out my Instagram page here, or if you interested in finding out more about Llanberis and things to do there, then check these two sites, here and here

Hallstatt, Austria

After a tough few months in Austria, I take myself on a trip to a small Austrian village, tucked away in the Alps.

Well by this time, it was mid December in Vienna and I was, sad to say, at the end of my tether. Work had worn me down to the point where I felt my time was entirely devoted to meeting deadlines, and when I did have free time the last thing I wanted to do was write.

Vienna was cold, bitterly cold, though there was no snow, but it is very pretty at Christmas time. I’ll have to write about that too.

Still, it was a few days before I was due to fly home for the first time, and lessons had ended for the Christmas break, so decided to take myself off on a trip to Hallstatt, an Austrian village nestled within the Alps.

Just to give you an idea of how busy I had been, it had been over three months since I’d arrived in Vienna and this was the first time I’d left the city limits. It was a horrifying thought considering back in Bangor I’d be driving in and all around Snowdonia typically.

I went with a bus tour known as Erasbus, which caters to Erasmus students, so the entire tour was done in English. We left Vienna at five in the morning, amidst grey skies and heavy fog. The journey itself matched my mindset at the time, bland and grey. But then, just as we reached Upper Austria, the cloud broke apart and mountains reared up. Mountains!! My first sight of them since coming to Austria and the Alps did not disappoint. These monoliths of stone and granite rose up over crystal clear lakes, while low, white clouds coiled around their midriff like a belt.

And then we got to Hallstatt…

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It was pretty stunning to say the least.

Hallstatt, a village of some 900 people, is quintessentially Austrian. When people think of   Austria, I can guarantee that Hallstatt is what comes to mind. Wooden chalets, mountain views, snow dusted roofs, winding streets, clocktowers….

In fact Hallstatt’s image and it’s effective status as the tourist face of Austria, is so well known that an entire replica of it has been built in China, many of whom now flock to see the original.

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The Hattstatter See, with the Alps behind

We commenced our trip with a tour of the area which included learning about the local history. The Hallstatt area has been inhabited since 1500 BC, and plays host to the world’s very first salt mines. Salt has long provided the village with great wealth, and today the the remains of Hallstatt’s salt mines constitute a UNSECO World Heritage site. In later centuries the area served as the favourite holiday destination of several Hapsburg monarchs.

Due to the massive amounts of Neolithic graves discovered in the area Hallstatt also lends it’s name to the Hallstatt Culture, which had been the predominate Celtic culture of central and western Europe between 800-500BC.

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Exploring the very narrow streets
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Lots of colours

Today though, it primarily serves as a tourist destination and it doesn’t take a genius to see why. By this time, the village was fully prepped for Christmas, with strings of lights crossing the rooftops and a large Christmas tree inhabiting the main square. Our tour concluded at the old Protestant church. There, we were treated to a rather fascinating experience.

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Christmas is in town
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Looking out over the Protestant Church
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The church’s entrance is marked with this fresco

You see, isolated among the mountains, the people of Hallstatt have developed their own cultural fashions. The most infamous of these being that, upon death, a Hallstatt local’s body was typically decapitated and their skull was left to bleach within the church. The deceased’s name and date of death was then painted onto the skull. In the olden days, these skulls were then put on display in the church, though now they are sealed away in the nearby catacomb, and this process is now optional rather than obligatory. However, for those special tour groups, who’ve paid a fee I’m sure, you can visit the catacomb.

It was quite an eerie sight to enter a room packed high with actual human skulls. It is even stranger to think that the people of Hallstatt once had these displayed in the church, they were practically put on show. And if you think this is a dead practice, they I’m afraid your wrong. The earliest skull that I could see was from the 1400s while the most recent was as late as 1996.

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Following our tour we had a few hours to walk around on our own. Fortunately Hallstatt is only a small village so a few hours is all you need to see everything the village has to offer. Acquiring some gingerbread, I headed up to some local waterfalls. Trekking up the mountain path it was doubly horrified to find how strenuous a task it was. This was, in all honestly, the first proper bit of exercise that I had done since arriving in Austria, and for someone who once enjoyed regularly hiking through the hills of Snowdonia without any trouble, this was rather disturbing. Still I made it and I was able to happily reap the beautiful sights while enjoying some delicious Austrian gingerbread, which is more like ginger cake really.

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A monastery lies across the lake
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Activate super zoom lens!

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Hallstatt’s falls

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All too soon though, the day grew dark and I had to walk back to the quay where the bus was due to pick as all up, though I did snap some lovely pics as the sun set and colours seeped into the mountainside.

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Evening descends

In the end, Hallstatt was just what I needed to put me in the holiday mood and I was relieved to have actually traveled outside of Vienna this term. At this point I had been feeling incredibly low, as Vienna had not been what I’d expected or what it had been advertised when I signed up for this International Experience Year. But Hallstatt reminded me that there was still good times to be had and that there were many amazing sights just a few hours outside of Vienna. The city didn’t have to be my prison.

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For more pictures, check out my Instagram page

And if you want to know more about Hallstatt or are interested in visiting, check out this site for more information. 

Spending My 21st in Vienna

A lonely birthday in Vienna is cured by the sudden appearance of family and a fantastic day out.

Right, lets talk about Vienna. I reckon the best place to start is just where I left off which was at the beginning of November; my birthday as it happens.

Honestly, I was not looking forward to spending my birthday in Vienna. Beforehand I’d played it off; joking about going to the opera, or a big fancy restaurant. But when the week finally arrived, I was pretty much at a lost of what to do.

The workload at Vienna had kept me very busy, too busy to properly socialise, and as time dragged on I felt more and more incapable of just going out and meeting people. Back in Bangor, me and my housemates always have fun at birthdays. We’d go out and have a dinner together or we’d stay home and eat birthday cake. We were always buying each other silly presents. One time I got a cuddly beaver, wrapped up in yellow blanket, and left at the foot of my bedroom door like some fluffy orphan. It was days like that that I loved and it hurt that I couldn’t share this birthday with them.

In Vienna I felt, all of a sudden, very alone, and I didn’t know what to do.

Luckily, my parents arrived, determined to not leave me alone on my birthday of all days.

So we had a nice meal in a fancy restaurant and enjoyed a trip to one of Vienna’s many museums. Honestly I didn’t really care what we did, I was happy to simply travel around Vienna, enjoying the sights with my mum and dad.

The Kuntsthistorisches Museum, that is the Museum of Art History, is (like almost every place in Vienna) especially grand and elegant, complete with massive staircases and fresco covered ceilings.

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The Kuntshistorisches

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IMG_0328The exhibits too were extravagant and displayed artefacts from all across the world; from ancient Greece and Rome, to either further back with a whole exhibition dedicated to Egyptian history.

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The Egyptian exhibit

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Hieroglyphs, still with traces of paint still on them

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Where a pharaoh once lay.

There were more traditional art galleries of course, displaying pieces from all kinds of famous artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael and Rembrandt. But I must confess it was the ancient art that really captivated me. Especially the eerie hall of busts, which consisted of a room filled marble heads, complete with blank eyes and fixed, unmoving mouths.

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The traditional gallery is located on the third floor
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Shiny objects!!!

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The hall of busts

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There’s some stony eyes…

For 15 euros a ticket, the museum is rather expensive, though with me being a student, I always get a discounted price, so yay for me. Regardless the museum is well worth the price and you could easily spend the whole day in there without running out places to explore.

At the end of the day, I was feeling much happier and was glad to be in company of my family, which stemmed the homesickness for a time, though I still had essays and deadlines sitting at the back of my mind.

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Sleek exhibits.
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Decorative tombs
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Believe it or not, this golden ship is self operating, wind it up and watch the crew load the cannons and the ship set sail!

Highlight of my birthday however must be my evening trip up the Donau Tower, which stands on the eastern bank of Vienna, in the newer part of the city. At 252 metres, it is the highest structure in Austria and, well, I think the view speaks for itself.

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Vienna’s Business District
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The new city
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Looking out over Vienna to the hills of Leopoldsberg

For more picture’s check out my Instagram!