This past month has been absolutely crazy! Since my schedule here isn’t as busy as it is at Queen’s, I had the opportunity to do some adventuring around Europe. I visited France, Monaco, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and of course some of Norway. Okay so get yourselves ready for a super long post…
France and Monaco
After a bit of rain here in Bergen, my friends and I decided to book a trip to the sunny south of France for a few days. Boy oh boy, was this trip ever a lot of fun.
We stayed in Nice, and it was wonderful. We spent time walking through the streets, browsing the boutiques, meeting up with friends, and eating what was probably a year’s worth of pain au chocolat.
On our second day, we decided to take a day trip to Monaco, since it was not too far away by train. We explored several attractions including the palace, the cathedral, the gardens, the casino, and finished the day by having drinks by the harbour. The streets of Monaco were lovely, ranging from brightly coloured buildings to upscale boutiques. Since Monaco is one of the world’s smallest countries, we were able to fit in everything within a day.
I had the idea to rent small boat on our last full day to cruise across the French Riviera, which was possibly the greatest decision I made on our trip. Seeing the coast from another perspective was breathtaking, and what made it better was that it was an absolutely beautiful day. We spent the day relaxing, boating, and swimming.
So this next part is a bit of a funny story (I think at least). When we anchored in one little cove at Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, my friend Aidan and I decided to swim over to a lovely looking beach to walk around for a bit-this was most likely the worst decision which I made on the trip. After a couple minutes of swimming, I got stung by a jellyfish. Then I got stung by another one. After that we swam a lot faster to the beach. We walked around to see if anyone had a remedy or medication for me, but with no luck. So that only meant one thing, we had to swim back to the boat again. Through the jellyfish infested waters. So we motioned to our friend Julia, who was still in the boat, to bring the boat closer to the shore. She did not understand our motions, but instead interpreted them as us telling her to come to the shore with us. We tried to warn her, but somehow she managed to swim all the way to us without being stung. Then, we all had to swim back to the boat. This was not too fun. I got stung again, and so did Aidan. But thankfully the boat wasn’t anchored too far away. After that little adventure, I took a small break from swimming. After my arm felt a bit better, we went back to the first place we had anchored the boat (the safe place) and had a great time sun tanning and swimming again.
Overall, Nice was a nice contrast from Norway. I really appreciated the heat, and the relaxation from the trip.
Czech Republic and Germany
So not quite a week later, my friends Aidan, Julia and myself headed off for a trip which we had planned for months; Prague and Munich. Even though Prague was not a place which I had originally thought about travelling to on exchange, it was absolutely incredible, and I will definitely return to explore it more sometime in the future. On the first day exploring, I saw the astronomical clock, main square, a few churches, and ate some traditional Czech food. The city is filled with incredible architecture and I definitely appreciated how cheap everything was after paying Norwegian prices. The second day, we went over the Charles Bridge to explore the rest of the city. Some places we saw included the John Lennon Wall, the palace, some more cathedrals, and the shops. We also took a tram up to the top a hill to see a beautiful perspective of the city, and walk through the royal gardens. Even though we had to cram a big city into just under two days, we made the most of the time we had to really appreciate the beautiful city of Praha.
Early in the morning, we took a bus to Munich! It was nice to appreciate the German countryside and pass by several little villages. Once we arrived in Munich, my friends and I went to our Airbnb. Since our main purpose of visiting Munich was to attend the first day of Oktoberfest, finding accommodation was a bit expensive and hard to find. So we stayed in a trailer! This was an experience in itself, but lots of fun! Munich was an absolutely charming and beautiful city, and even though I didn’t have too much time to fully explore it, what I saw was beautiful. As I mentioned, we travelled to Munich to attend Oktoberfest, which is a huge beer festival held each year. We all bought traditional German outfits, called dirndls to wear for the celebration. The event was crazy busy, so we had to go a couple hours before the gates opened to wait in line. When the gates did open, everyone ran like crazy in order to get into a tent, where the festivities happened. The day was filled with lots of fun, music, dancing, drinking beer, and eating German food. Oktoberfest was such a cool experience, and I would recommend for everyone to attend it at least once in their lives.
The last international trip which I took was with my friend Julia to Rome. This was a wonderful trip for me. The first day, I was able to see my great uncle, aunt, and cousin, whom I had not seen for exactly 10 years. We had a wonderful reunion in Olgiata, and had lunch together in a little village called Anguillara on Lake Bracciano. Family is so important, and I have always been raised on the notion to keep your family close to you, so seeing them again was amazing.
My next day was filled with sightseeing in Rome. I saw all the typical places, the Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Vittorio Emmanuel monument, the Roman Forum, and the Colusseum. I ate in a café, and of course had pizza and gelato. It was my second time in Rome since several years ago, and similar to how I remembered it, it was an absolutely incredible and breathtaking city. My favourite moment from this day was eating gelato on the Spanish steps, just as the sun was starting to set. Saying this however I find it a shame how tourist centered all of the shops, restaurants, and street vendors were.
Another day, my friend and I participated in an Airbnb experience, pasta making with an Italian Nonna. We travelled to a little medieval village called Palombara Sabina where we were greeted by the host. She took us, and the rest of the group on a little tour of the village, which lead eventually to her Nonna’s apartment. We sat on the balcony before we started the pasta making to drink champagne and eat bruschetta. The rest of the afternoon was filled with hard work to make the pasta. First, we had to make the dough, roll it out, and let it sit. We made three different types of pasta: ravioli, cannelloni, and tagliattele. All were absolutely delicious, and we had a wonderful afternoon meeting new people, and eating delicious food.
The next day, we toured the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums. The detail of the artwork in it was absolutely incredible, it is crazy to imagine the amount of time and effort the painters must have put into it all. In the afternoon, we decided to participate in another Airbnb experience, this time at a vineyard in Frascati. Frascati is another village outside of Rome, popular for its wine making. We were able to see the vineyards, how the wine was created, and enjoyed a few hours of tasting the different wines which were produced there. This again was an incredible experience, and Frascati was absolutely breathtaking. On our last morning in Rome, we took a last walk through the streets and shops, and sat in the park at the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Overall, this was an amazing trip for me, and it was great to embrace my Italian heritage (even though I did not make it to Calabria this time around). By far, my favourite attractions were the Airbnb experiences, and I would definitely recommend trying some! They are such a great way to get an authentic feel for a place’s culture.
Even though every single one of my travels has been absolutely incredible and unique, they all made me appreciate my exchange city, Bergen, the most. Bergen has definitely become “home” for me over these past couple of months, and every time I fly back into it, I can’t help but smile at its beauty. It is definitely my favourite place which I have been to so far. Believe it or not, I HAVE actually spent a lot of time in Bergen between my travels, and gotten to know and explore the city even more. I’ve had the opportunity to do some hikes through some more of seven mountains surrounding Bergen including Fløyen, Ulriken, and Rundemanen. Each mountain I have hiked has been so unique, different, and breathtakingly beautiful. The beauty of the mountains has never failed to absolutely mesmerize, especially being from Ontario (where there are not too many mountains). On the top of Rundemanen, you could literally be in the middle of nowhere, it is so vast and barren. Fortunately, September had surprisingly beautiful weather (which is uncommon for Bergen), which made all these hikes enjoyable to do.
Something cool which happened in Bergen since I have been here was the UCI world road championships for cycling. This was amazing, as I was able to see people from all over the world gather in the place which I currently call home. It was awesome to see some of the races and events which took place over the few days.
One weekend, the International Committee at my school organized a cabin trip for some of the exchange students. The cabin was a bit of a drive outside of Bergen, and this time, I think we were basically in the middle of nowhere. This was such a cool experience, and it definitely felt like an authentic Norwegian experience to be camping in the mountains.
Most recently, I took a few days’ trip to a more northern city in Norway called Trondheim. This town is most distinguishable for its colourful wooden houses which border a small river. This city was absolutely quaint and charming, and a couple of days was perfect to fully explore the town. My friend Quinty and I attended a popular student music festival called UKA, where we saw Future perform, along with some smaller Norwegian music groups. It was an incredible experience to attend such a popular festival. During the other days which I was there for, I had the opportunity to browse the several shops and hike around Bymarka. Trondheim was what I would describe as a fairytale town with a hipster flare.
As autumn is now in full speed, Bergen is getting a bit rainier and chillier than it has been over the past couple of months. However, as the Norwegians say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”, so I have come to embrace this in order to fully enjoy myself here. The rain definitely hasn’t stopped me from enjoying myself, as I have loved sitting and having coffee in Bergen’s amazing cafes, having dinners and drinks with friends, and of course doing lots of learning! It is absolutely insane to think I will be here for less than two months longer now, but I intend to make the most of every single day which is handed to me.