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Monday, August 6, 2018

Backpacking Through Europe Travel Diary Part 2

Kate Bartlett, Backpacking through europe as a teen

Hey friends!! I am so so excited to share with you my first ever travel diary! This summer I went on a month long trip to Europe; for the first half I traveled with my parents but for the second half I traveled with just my sister. I wanted to share all my experiences and recommendations, here is Part 2, if you want to check out part 1 click here, I hope you enjoy!!!

Day 8:Varenna
We woke up bright and early and had some quick breakfast at our hotel before packing up and heading to the train station to catch our train to Varenna (Lake Como)! When we finally arrived at the tiny train station we walked about a mile uphill to meet the guy we were renting a flat from for the next couple of days. While the views were beautiful on our walk, carrying a backpack with all your belongings for a month on your back can start to get old pretty quick :P Staying in an actual apartment was definitely a step up from being cramped in a tiny room with 3 other people and sharing a bathroom with 30 other strangers! After picking up some sandwiches from the only cafe in town, we decided to catch a ferry over to a nearby town, Bellagio, for the day. The ride across Lake Como was absolutely stunning and Bellagio was just as beautiful (This is the town that George Clooney has a house in !!!). We walked along the water and up through the town, obviously stopping to get gelato along the way. Then we decided to hike down to the tip of the peninsula, what they call the “crotch” and chill for a little bit. I have to say, the views of the Lake from the crotch are pretty much unmatched. Around 5pm we hopped back on the ferry to Varenna and met another family from Orlando during the ride (I swear it’s such a small world!!). We grabbed some dinner at a restaurant right on the water and I had the yummiest bruschetta; then we explored the town a little and found a gorgeous hidden beach. We relaxed by the water and admired the view of the lake and the hot Canadian boys swimming next to us !!!

Day 9:Varenna
After a breakfast of pastries from once again, the only cafe in town, we decided to hike up to the castle on top of the hill since it was a rainy/cloudy day. It didn’t look like too far of a walk up but it ended up being over 80 flights of stairs which wore us out!! The view from the castle was incredible and the castle itself was super cool too. It had all these weird statues that were draped in plaster sheets (creepy right?) and a bunch of different kinds of owls scattered throughout (yes, live owls). After exploring the castle for a little, it started to rain so we took shelter at the tiny little cafe on top of the mountain and had the best cappuccinos of the entire trip!! My mom and I decided to hike back down the mountain but my dad and Sara continued to hike to the waterfall ( they turned around after about 45 though when they realized it was a three hour hike !!). On their way back from the hotel they noticed a tiny sign saying that a train strike was happening the next day and the only train back to Milan was at 6:30 am. We were planning on leaving at 4pm the next day so this changed our plans a little and we decided to rent a boat to head out on the water for a little while since we had to leave early the next morning. Unfortunately the weather was getting bad but we were able to stay on the lake for about an hour before we headed in. We used to have a boat and my dad loves the water so this was super fun for all of us!! After freshening up at the condo we headed back down to the waterfront and grabbed some dinner then walked around the old town some more. On the way to dinner I noticed a vegan gelato shop that I had to try (I'm not vegan but I try and eat as vegan as possible when I can) and OMG it was amazingggggg. I had the dark chocolate flavor and it was more rich and creamy than any non vegan ice cream I have ever had, highly recommend ( it's the only gelato shop in Varenna so you can't miss it! ) !!!

Day 10:Varenna/Milan
Our earliest morning yet started at 5 am when we downed some instant coffee and started the walk to the train station while watching the sunrise. It was a good thing we arrived to the train station when we did because the train left 10 minutes early!! When we arrived in Milan we were sooo tired and needed some food, so we stopped at a cafe and I ordered a cappuccino and some yogurt with granola. Since we hadn't planned on being in Milan this day,we rented a tiny locker and somehow managed to stuff my entire family's luggage inside ( perks of backpacking )! Then we took a walk around the city stopping at the Benvenuto church, the canal (not much to see during the day, it heats up at night), and eventually found out way back to our favorite: Wagamama!!! I got my usual, yasai ramen and green tea, which was delicious!! We then shopped around a little and were so worn out we found a park to chill in; Sara and I ended up falling asleep for like 2 hours in the grass. By this time it was time to head to the train station where we picked up some dinner at the grocery store. Then we boarded our overnight train to Salzburg, Austria and hit the sack!!

Day 11: Salzburg
This day started with another early morning wake up call at 5am; we packed up our tiny little train car room, at some breakfast of bread and jam, and were off by 6:15 am. We walked to our hotel, dropped our bags, and chilled in their living room for a little while ( ok it was like an hour and I fell asleep no big surprise). Coffee was needed so we walked to the cutest vegan cafe called Heart of Joy to grab some cappuccinos to go then walked over to where our bike tour started. Not gonna lie, when I head my mom booked us on a 'Sound of Music Bicycle tour' I was VERY skeptical. But it turned out to be so much fun and an amazing way to see the city in a short amount of time while stopping by all the sights from the movie ( including the gazebo from 16 going on 17!!!!) They even played the soundtrack while we biked through the field ( cheesy I know but come on, you know it sounds fun). The bike tour ended at about 1:30 and we were starving so we headed back to the vegan restaurant, Heart of Joy, for some lunch. I got the falafel wrap and it was INCREDIBLE ( seriously you must go if you are in Salzburg). We then headed to the hotel to check in, shower ( the night train had no shower so we were grosssss), and take a nap. Once we had rested up we headed out to walk around town and made sure to stop at the famous gardens, then we grabbed some dinner at a mexican restaurant. We got guacamole, my mom and  I shared tacos, and Sara and I split some kind of fruity mocktail. It was delish!! 

Day 12: Salzburg
We finally had a day to sleep in….to the very late hour of 8am (lol)!!!! The breakfast at the hotel were were staying at has the BEST breakfast so we feasted. After checking out and storing our bags, we headed out into the city with no real plan but to walk around and sightsee. First we stopped by the gorgeous Mirabell Palace gardens, and since it was a sunday morning, a full Austrian band was out playing and the whole town had come out to watch. The bands main source of income was the woman pouring schnapps out of her bag; people would come by and she would pour them a shot, then proceed to take back the shot glass (without cleaning it) and pour the next person their shot. It was definitely bizarre but also hilarious! Then we walked over the Love Lock bridge (which was a great reminder of how single I am) to the old town where we explored the area outside of the main church and got a chocolate pretzel (yummmmm). After poking around in some shops and exploring the town a little more, we stopped at a seafood cafe where I (ironically) got a vegan wrap. After this, we headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and moved into the hotel across the street (everything in Salzburg was booked up due to a music festival) and chilled for a little while. When it was time for dinner, we ate at this delicious asian fusion restaurant called MyIndigo, which is actually a chain; I would totally recommend trying it out if you are ever in Austria!!! After dinner we decided to walk into the old town and take an elevator up to see a panoramic view of the city, which was gorgeous!! Then we hiked down and headed back to the hotel to crash. 

Day 13: Salzburg/Munich
Since our hotel this night didn’t have breakfast, we walked across the street to a cute cafe called Cup & Chino. I had the most delicious muesli yogurt bowl and a cappuccino (big surprise here) then checked out of our hotel and walked to the train station. The guy selling the tickets at the counter tried to sell us train tickets for like $200 and we were like “uhhhh….pretty sure they’re like $10 each”, which just goes to show you to do your research on how much tickets should cost otherwise you might end up spending wayyyy too much!! After about 2 ½ hours on the train, we arrived in Munich and walked to the hotel to drop off our bags. When we ventured down to the metro we were shocked to find out that there was like an entire mall down there… like a NICE mall (there was one at every metro stop)!! As soon as we emerged from the metro at the Marienplatz, it was HECTIC, but super cool to see the giant coo-coo clock. From there, my mom led us on a Rick Steves (the OG) walking tour around the city. After a few hours of exploring we were hungryyy so we started looking for something to eat. Unfortunately, my family are not big fans of German food and all food  in the vicinity was…… german. Eventually we ended up walking allllll the way back to the hotel and eating at this sketchy Indian restaurant that was actually delicious!

Day 14: Munich
Our parents last day!!! We slept in and went down to breakfast at about 9am. Afterwards, we walked to the bus station and took a bus to Dachau, a concentration camp memorial. It was definitely a somber morning but a good thing to have experienced. If you are ever in Munich, I would highly recommend making the trek out to Dachau, it was truly heartbreaking to see how horrible the concentration camps really were but a true learning experience. After we finished up at the memorial at about 2pm, we took a train back into the city and grabbed some quick salads for lunch. We decided to walk around the square a little more and do some window shopping. Eventually we ended up at this super cool park in the middle of the city that is even bigger than central park! This part had everything, including a whole gang of middle-aged men sunbathing completely naked. The coolest part was that people actually surf on the currents of the little river that runs through the park, it was insane and looked super hard but we enjoyed watching! Suddenly out of nowhere it started pouring rain so we quickly took shelter at a bus stop with about 50 other people. At this point, we were starving so we ended up eating dinner at a yummy Thai restaurant.

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