Olympic experience in London a perfect end to European adventure
Recent FGCU graduate concludes her summer-long backpacking trip
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 17:08
Our last event was the Men’s Soccer finals Mexico v. Brazil. Wembly Stadium was amazing and the fans were insane. The match was very one-sided but still a great game to see. Really, it was the medal ceremony afterwards that was really cool. I had never seen an Olympic Medal Ceremony in person, and it was amazing. Seeing all three teams come out and each player given their medal and seeing the flags go up and the Mexican national anthem play throughout the stadium was just incredible.
Stone Hedge was our last stop before we headed for the airport, and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. It is just so amazing how long those stones have been there and such a mystery as to how they got there. I loved seeing it.
Having the London 2012 Olympics be the thing that wrapped up our trip was perfect. This was such an amazing experience for us and to end it with a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Olympics was just perfect. I’m so happy I got to do this trip, and for anyone even remotely thinking of doing something like this, do it. Don’t think about doing it or say you are going to do it. Do it. You will not regret it.
So as this is my last post for this blog (depressing thought), I figure I’ll leave you with some advice I have picked up from this trip.
First, though I want to dispel a few myths I heard before I left on this trip. One, women do shave. Two, people only drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK and Ireland, the rest of the EU drives on the same side as the US. Three, hostels are only cheap if you are traveling alone or with a party of 6. We got B&B’s for the same price as 2- and 4-person rooms at hostels.
Okay, now on to the advice:
-When ordering water, make sure to say you want it without gas. Otherwise, you will get bubble water.
-When you exchange money, ALWAYS ask for smaller bills if possible.
-Trains everywhere run ON TIME. So if it says the train leaves at 7:00, you better be there at 6:45, because if you get there at 7:00 you may not get a seat, and if you get there at 7:01 you’ve missed the train.
-Every country has its own way for opening doors on trains, so pay attention to how it’s done.
-Buy Ryan Air tickets at least a week in advance or earlier for the best prices.
-Breakfast is not the same as in the US. Most of the time, it is toast with different spreads or lunchmeat and in London it is common to have baked beans for breakfast.
-The French do not like to speak English, but most people in every other country can speak at least a little.
-Do Couchsurfing! It was one of the best parts of my trip and is a great way to meet amazing people and see great cities.
-Learn at least a few words in the native tongue. Even just knowing ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
Chips= French Fries (USA)
Tube or Underground= subway (USA)
Queue= waiting line (USA)
Fish & Chips= fried fish fillet and French fries (USA)
Thanks for reading!
July 23, 2012
So, to continue where I left off in my last post, we really didn't see much else in Berlin due to weather. It was overcast everyday with rain on and off throughout the day. We tried to go to a rock climbing place for a day of fun, but after four fruitless hours of walking around trying to find the place, we finally gave up and went back to our hotel to rest before watching the big Germany vs. Italy game.
Everyone was in really high spirits for the game. Everywhere we looked, people were dressed in the German colors, sporting face paint or wearing some hilarious get-up. We tried to dress up, but our clothing choices are rather limited and neither of us could complete the gold, red and black combination. It was such a frustrating heartbreak watching Germany lose. Ugh, so it would be Italy vs. Spain for the finals (Spain won it all).
Poland was our next big destination, but we had only planned to stay for a mere three days. However, that turned out to be more than enough time for both of us. We could not wait to be out of Poland. It wasn't because of the people or places we went, but the transportation.
Oi vey, it took FOREVER to get anywhere by train there! For example, our train from Berlin to Krakow took us eight hours (and we nearly missed our one connection in Poland), but to go back from Krakow to Berlin took us 16 hours! Not to mention earlier in the day when we had to take a very slow two-hour train to Osweicim to see Auschwitz and back. I probably could have walked faster. None of the trains have air conditioning or good air circulation. Plus, two of the women we shared our compartment with on the train back to Berlin were very rude, making our experience even worse.
Aside from the horrid transportation, I liked what I saw of Poland and the exchange rate was amazing, especially after the €uro (€1=$1.25 and 25cents American=1 zloty (Polish dollar)). We really only saw a little of Krakow (unfortunately) and Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was a powerful place to be. A kid we met there from the U.S. explained the experience best for me. He said seeing Auschwitz was similar to shooting a gun for the first time. You know what a gun is, what it does, how it works and what it is used for, but until you actually fire one, you really don't know. That was how I felt at Auschwitz. I knew what the camp was, about the atrocities that happened there and how many of those atrocities occurred, but I really didn't understand until I was standing in front of that entrance gate, in the gas chamber, behind the barbed wire fence. It was a very powerful experience that I am grateful to have had.
So, overall with Poland, I think I need to return again for a longer stay before I can come back with a verdict as to whether I like the place or not.