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Venice

German Adventures - Venice

sunny 30 °C
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This weekend I took a break from studying, and went with 4 of my other Erasmus friends to Venice for a few days. We managed to book it all two weeks ago, and for only £100, flew from Bremen to Venice and had a really nice apartment right in the centre of the city.

Venice

Venice

After a 2 hour delay (thanks to Italian military exercises) we needed to take a 45 minute coach from the Ryanair "Venice" Airport to the city itself, and after arriving in the afternoon we did a little sightseeing in the evening, which was more pleasant (cooler temperatures and less tourists), whilst the next day we walked around the city again, seeing the Rialto bridge and San Marco Square.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge


St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square

We were there for only two days, but that was enough for us, as it is only a small city. The city itself is really very pretty, and with no roads at all, just canals and paths, it is an interesting experience that I would definitely recommend you all to do - just don't go in the middle of summer. It was 30˚C and incredibly humid - far too much for us Northern Europeans in the group (The Turk and Hungarian meanwhile compared it to a cold summer's day).

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

This week I have a presentation and an exam to take, and then on Friday I will fly home for the weekend!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged history city friends erasmus Comments (0)

Chernobyl

Eastern European Kinda Fun - Chernobyl

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Leaving in the morning - being careful, as the clocks had just changed, a 2 hour bus ride took us to the exclusion zone, where we were met by our tour guide, who took us all round the area. Starting off in Chernobyl city we saw a memorial to the first firemen who tried to put out the fire in the reactor. Further up the road we were taken to a nursery school that was left in such a mess...a sight that would be repeated many times.

Kindergarten

Kindergarten

After this, we were taken to some of the cooling lakes that were used by, and gave us our first sight of the reactor. At first we were rather worried about levels of radiation harming us, but the reading from here on our Geiger counter was 1.37, which was very low - 0.3 is background global levels, whilst anything up to 4.0 is safe. We were also told that out tour guide lived in Chernobyl city - and she looked fine! Whilst in Chernobyl city, I recognised a man from Crawley, who had been staying in our hostel the night before - he was staying in the hotel in Chernobyl city that night and spending two days in the area - rather him than me!

Entering Pripyat

Entering Pripyat

After this, we went to Pripyat - the town that is now abandoned, which housed workers at the plant and their family. Most of the time the levels of radiation were lower than 1.0 except a few spots - once when driving through the Red Forest to get to the village it reached 5.3 for a few seconds, and in the centre of Pripyat, a man hole cover in the central square reached levels of 33.6, however just next to this, the ground was only 2.0. We were told that this was due to the fact that this area was where the helicopters flying over the plant after the accident had landed and refuelled. As we left this area, we spotted another man hole cover, and whilst the girl in front of us walked over it, me and Halina decided it was best to walk around!

Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool

Because our group was rather fast, we were allowed to see almost everything in the town, including the Hotel, the Palace of Culture, the Sports Hall, the Swimming Pool, a school and nursery, the 'cemetery' for machines that were used in the clean up, the prison and some apartments that were home to the residents. After this, we were taken for lunch close to the reactor...however once we arrived we were told there was no food, as they had not been expecting us....for some reason I had gone right off my appetite anyway! Whilst they cooked our lunch, we were taken to the closest point to the reactor we were allowed, beside the memorial to the 25th anniversary.

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

This was just 275 metres from the reactor itself, but an interesting experience. Radiation levels were 1.75 around here anyway. After this we went to the memorial to the liquidators, where the Ukrainian president goes every year in remembrance. After seeing almost everything it was time to go back for food - hoping it was not organic and locally produced, it was announced the food had been brought in from Kyiv earlier that day, and it did taste quite nice. After the lunch, we were taken home, before visiting the memorial to the relocation of the villages in Ukraine and Belarus, and visiting the gift shop, where I purchased a souvenir T-shirt and pen. All in all I had a really great day, and despite the small threat of radiation, I am very glad I went.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Ukraine Tagged history nuclear chernobyl radiation macabre poland&ukraine Comments (1)

Kyiv

Eastern European Kinda Fun - Kyiv

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Maidan

Maidan

The next evening we took the overnight train to Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, and before checking into our hostel overlooking Independence Square, walked around the city seeing most of the sights - the Golden Gate, the Red University and golden topped Orthodox churches, as well as looking over the river Dnieper and visiting one of the many islands.

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery

Transport in the city was again incredibly cheap, with a single ticket on the metro costing 2 Hryvnia (about 15p), although the tunnels down to the platforms were incredibly deep - some being more than 100m lower. It took so long to use the single escalator to the bottom, than when you first got off it felt weird to be no longer moving - some people even sat down and ate dinner on them!

Whilst in Kyiv, a lady asked us if we knew where the Chernobyl museum was located - to which Halina replied "No I do not", telling me after 'who needs Chernobyl museum when you can go to the real thing?!'. The following day was infact the excursion to Chernobyl we had booked.

Mother Motherland

Mother Motherland

After we got back from Chernobyl, the following morning was my final day before my flight in the evening. Halina however had to leave in the morning to get her day long coach back to Warsaw, and so I was left on my own. I went to visit the Soviet Motherland statue on the hill overlooking the river facing Moscow. This was apparently built after the war, and was absolutely huge! After this I went to visit the Olympskiy Stadium, which will host the final of Euro 2012. Having now seen everything in the city I decided that with the low prices - £1 for a box of 20 cigarettes, and £2.50 for a bottle of Vodka, it was worth purchasing some Vodka to take back home with me. It was now a question of getting to the airport.

Having figured the central station was the best way of finding the way, I went there, only to find not a single bus went there, and there was NO information anywhere about onward travel...only trains coming in. The information desks also spoke no English whatsoever, leaving me with no idea how to get to the airport. Having spent most of my money, I now had to get a taxi for god-knows-how-much and hoping they would at least understand me trying to say "Airport Zhuliany" (the girl on the Information desk thought I was saying Slovakia!?!?) Luckily they did understand me, and they accepted my Euros I had taken as a backup. However after 30 minutes of walking up and down the road, it was a stressful event. I have no idea how this place can host Euro 2012 and handle all those Europeans who don't speak the language... But finally I did make it to the airport on time and flew home after a very exciting experience!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Ukraine Tagged churches history city poland&ukraine Comments (0)

Poland

Eastern European Kinda Fun - Warsaw & Krakow

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The coach to Warsaw (which was going onwards to Minsk) took 12½ hours and crossed the Czech-Polish border through the Krkonoše mountain range (where despite being 20˚C and in the sun, snow and frozen lakes were still easily seen), and then across the Polish countryside and through the cities of Łódź and Wrocław before finally reaching the Polish capital. Whilst at the border, our passports were checked (despite both countries being in Schengen) and a Belarussian without an EU visa was found, searched and deported.

Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw Old Town

At the coach station in Warsaw, I was met by Halina, another friend from The Party House last semester, and I was taken back to her house where I was staying for the next few days. Whilst Prague had felt very Central European and rather modern, Warsaw on the other hand felt like it was very much behind the Iron Curtain.

Stadion Narodowy

Stadion Narodowy

The next day we walked around much of the city, seeing the football stadium which is due to hold the opening match of Euro 2012, the Old Town, the Parliament and the city park, finishing off by eating dinner in the Złote Tarasy shopping centre, which felt rather like being inside the Eden Project.

Palace of Science & Culture

Palace of Science & Culture

On the second day we went to see the Palace of Culture & Science - a Soviet style building that overlooks the entire city. And then took a bus to see Wilanów Palace - second home to many Polish kings, followed by a walk in the evening down the river to see all the lit up bridges.

Wilanow Palace

Wilanow Palace

Having seen everything already, we decided to go to Krakow before taking the coach to Ukraine, and so took the train and spent the next day walking around the Old Town and the castle, which houses Pope John Paul II's former Cathedral.

Krakow Old Town

Krakow Old Town

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Poland Tagged culture history palace city poland&ukraine Comments (0)

Czech Republic

Eastern European Kinda Fun - Prague

all seasons in one day 18 °C
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On 13th March I flew out to Prague, and met my friend Marketa, whom I had lived with last semester, at the airport. The next day we went into the city and saw almost everything in a single day, to which Marketa exlaimed "Prague in a day - Unbelievable".

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

We went and saw Vyšehrad (a pretty park in the south of the city), Wenceslas Square, the Old Town (where the clock models were being replaced), the famous Charles Bridge, followed by a walk to the top of Prague Castle (the biggest castle in the world, where the national cathedral is located, along with the home of the Czech President). We then walked over to "Stalin square", the Czech Parliament and the riverside. After the sightseeing we went to Tesco to buy some snacks for the next few days. It was rather nice to be able to buy a lot of the same stuff I can at home whilst away, and was made comical when Marketa exclaimed "Wait! Use my clubcard!"

On the second day, Marketa had class, so I walked round and saw the few bits we had not seen the first day, such as the Jewish Ghetto. In the evening I met with Marketa's friend Milan, whom I also knew from Bremen and with his friends, we visited a pub where you poured your own Beer!

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov

By Friday it had warmed up considerably (T-shirts and ice cream weather!), and we went to the lovely town of Český Krumlov in the south of the country, not far from the Austrian border. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has a lovely castle looking over the town in the Bohemian Forest. The town was so much different to Prague, and gave me a really good insight into the Czech Republic as a whole, rather than just Prague. Taking the train back to Prague via České Budějovice (home of Budweiser) I packed the rest of my things for the long coach journey the following day to Warsaw.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged history scenery city Comments (0)

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