Thursday, August 27, 2009

While in Mykonos


Windmill

I spent the past week on the island of Mykonos in Greece. I have been to most of the Greek islands and can full heartedly say that Mykonos is my favorite. The island is beautiful, full of life, and has so much to offer. Here are some tips of things to do that made my week in Mykonos one of my favorite weeks of my life.

Stay at Hotel Tagoo
I found this hotel on Trip Advisors top 10 hotels in Mykonos. It was number 1 so I thought it would be expensive but it turned out to be very affordable and a perfect hotel. It was clean, full of kind staff, and only minutes from the town center. I find it hard to locate such perfect hotels in Greece at such an affordable price but this one was simply perfect in every way.

Rent ATVs
Mykonos is an island that one needs to have some sort of transportation to get around. Beaches, clubs, and shopping are all on different parts of the island so renting an ATV makes everything easy to get to. You will find numerous ATV rental shops all over the island. Stop in and ask for prices at a few and then choose the place with the best price. We found 25 Euros a day to be one of the cheapest.

Spend as much time as you can at Psarou Beach
Psarou is one of the most glamorous beaches on the island. Movie stars from all over the world come to Psarou during their visit in Mykonos. The beach is made up of 3 different beach clubs. Namos in in the middle and the most expensive (up to 40 Euros per beach chair). Further down the beach you will find other chairs that are much cheaper. If you would like to spoil yourself one day I strongly suggest you get to Psarou in the morning, get a lounge bed, have lunch at Namos restaurant and stay until as late as you can. After the sun sets music plays all night long. It is truly my favorite place on earth.

Party at Paradise/Super Paradise/Space/Cavo Paradiso
Mykonos is most well known for its night life. At some point during your stay in Mykonos it is a must that you party at one of these places. Paradise and Super Paradise are for happy hour from 5-8pm daily while Space is a night club to go to after dinner from 2-5am. Cavo Paradiso is a beach club that people go to from 6-10am. If you can't stay up and do all of them in one day, you must at least visit them at some point. I have never seen any party go this crazy in my life.

These are just a few highlights from my trip. I suggest if you visit the island you do so for at least 3 nights. In order to get to know it and feel comfortable getting around you will need at least this much time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

6 Countries in 6 Weeks: Photographic Retrospective

As I prepare to head back to the United States tomorrow, I am thinking back over all of the incredible places that I have seen in the last six weeks. The slide show below are some of the highlights...

video
"When we travel, we travel not to see new places with new eyes; but that when we come home we see home with new eyes."

- G.K. Chesterton

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lake Como

Lake Como

Located on the boarder between Italy and Switzerland, Lake Como, is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Easily accessible from Milan via train, the lake makes for a good day-trip if you have some extra time. Take the train from Milan to Como Nord Lago Station, and you will arrive in the town of Como. Once there, make sure not to miss the funicular which takes you up above the city for some great views.


A relaxing place for a rest


View of the funicular tracks leading down to the water

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Athens Sightseeing



One of the best ways I have found to discover Athens is on a sightseeing bus. I recently went on a hop on hop off bus and got to see more of the city than ever before. The bus tour lasts around 90 minutes if you stay on the bus, but you are welcome to get off and get on any other of the company's buses throughout the day. The bus visits 15 sights and is only $30 if you purchase your tickets online and $34 on sight. The buses run every half hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.

Photo Courtesy of Athens Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours

Sights visited:
-Syntagma Square
-Melina Mercouri Statue
-Acropolis Museum
-Acropolis & Parthenon
-Temple of Zeus
-National Gardens
-Benaki Museum/Museum of Cycladic Art
-Panathanaic Stadium
-Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
-National Library
-National Archaeological Museum
-Omonoia Square
-Karaiskaki Square
-Thession Station
-Kotzia Square

You are welcome to visit all of the sights or pick those that interest you most.

More information is found here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Milan


Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea (PAC)

The PAC is a Contemporary Art Museum in Milan. It is currently showing Passports: A Journey with Art. The exhibit displays the best in British art from the last 75 years. The most highly acclaimed works of photography, painting, installations, and sculpture, are shown. The selected 40 works were selected from an original grouping of over 800 by the British Council of Art.
Artists include: Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Bill Woodrow, Bridget Riley, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Anish Kapoor.

Rear view of the PAC from the gardens

The Chant of Blue. Anish Kapoor. 1983

More info on the exhibition is available on the British Council's site.

Entrance for students is 3euro, and 5euro for general admission.


Galleria d'Arte Moderna
Gallery of Modern Art


Located in the same place as the PAC, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna is a huge collection spanning four floors, and including works from artists such as Pablo Picasso, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Entrance to the museum and garden is free. When you go in, you will receive a small catalog of the collection identifying all of the pieces, as not all of them are marked on the wall.

How to get to both the PAC and the Galleria d'Arte Moderna:
Subway 1 Palestro Station, or Subway 3 Turati Station
14, Via Palestro, 20121 Milan

Duomo di Milano
The Duomo, or cathedral of Milan is the central point in the city.
It is open to the public everyday from 8:30am to 6:45pm - free of charge.
Subway 1 - Duomo Station

Duomo di Milano
Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco

Opening Hours:
Everyday 7am-6pm in winter -- 7am-7pm in summer
The castel itself is free of charge, however if you'd like to visit the museum within the castle, it will cost 3euro. There are some times during the week when the museum is available free of charge, more info here.
Subway 1 - Castello Station

Parco Sempione
The Parco Sempione is the large green space stretching between the Castello, and the Peace Arch. During the summer it hosts theatre performances and activities for children, as well as creates a great place to rest in the shade with a cool drink.

Parco Sempione - looking towards the Peace Arch



La Triennale de Milano

Triennale Design Museum

The Triennale is a museum of Italian design from the most prominant designers. Divided into sections by items that were experimental, produced only in a small number, small series, large series, high artisanship, personalized items, video, and technological research - the collection ranges from a shoe designed for Judy Garland, to an attempt to hybrid a car and a motorcyle.

Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday
10.30-20.30
Thursday 10.30-23.00
Last admission one hour before closing time
Monday closed

Subway 1 - Milano Cadorna Station


The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci

Italy's most famous painting The Last Supper is by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is in constant state of renovation, housed in Santa Maria della Grazie refectory. Due to the high demand to see the painting, reservations should be made up to two months in advance. Tickets can be reserved here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Croatia


We Flew into Zagreb, but with only a few days, and dying for some sea-side-sun, we opted to head straight for the coast. We took a bus from Zagreb's airport to it's bus station, and then another from the bus station to Split.

An interior portion of Diocletian's Palace

My favorite thing about Split is Diocletian's Palace (a UNESCO world Heritage site), which in ruins, now houses a labyrinth of restaurants, shops, and market vendor's stalls. During the day wander through the market, and when it is lit up at night, it is a great place to grab a drink. There is a surreal juxtaposition of the old palace walls, with its neighboring pedestrian 'see and be seen' street, with polished marble sidewalks, and massive futuristic light posts, palm trees, and a sleu of over priced sidewalk coffee bars, all complete with overstuffed white cushions on wicker sofas and chairs.

Split's pedestrian street. photo courtesy of the Chicago Athenaeum

From Split, we took a quick ferry ride to the island of Hvar, arguably the most beautiful island in Croatia. The rocky 'beaches' are overflowing with sunbathers - bikini tops optional - and the many beach bars playing loud music from 10am until around 2am attract people all day. Hula Hula Beach Bar is a good starting point, as it's relatively close to town, the farther you walk along the coast, the smaller a more low-key the bars become.

Sunning and swimming on Hvar

I really wish that we had more time in Croatia. On my next visit I'll definitely book a mini-cruise along the coast which seems to be the best way to utilize time. The boats dock at various cities from Zadar to Dubrovnik for swimming and exploration. BusAbout and STA both offer student focused versions of this cruise.

Getting There:
The two easiest ways to get to Croatia are to fly, or take the ferry. There are train routes, but they are lengthly and usually more expensive. A number of low-cost airlines such as fly directly to Croatia's major cities. Wizz Air flys to Croatia's capital, Zagreb - and SkyEurope goes to the coastal cities of Zagrab, Split, and Dubrovnik.
The ferry line Jadrolinija runs ferries both within the Croatian islands, and to the Italian cities of Bari and Ancona.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Athens


Greetings from Athens, Greece. I came here after the program and will stay until September 10th with a few trips in between. Over the past few years since the 2004 Olympics, Athens has improved greatly and has become very easy for tourists to get around.
My favorite aspect of the city is visiting the many archaeological sites. This year the new Acropolis Museum opened. The museum holds nearly 4000 artifacts that were found on the site of the Acropolis. It is an unbelievable museum and sits close by to the Acropolis itself. It is a must see for any tourist or Greek.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8am-8pm with the last admission at 7:30pm and the best part is that the museum's admission is only 1 Euro!
If you are ever in Greece, this is the first museum I suggest anyone visits - After climbing the Acropolis to see the 5th century BC Parthenon that is.

Acropolis Museum Website

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Amsterdam Top 10



1. Rent Bikes!
MacBike has various locations and is great - we rented a bike for 24hours and explored every side of the city. (Make sure you have a good set of locks for it though, as our guide told us that it is funny for locals to throw unattended bikes into the canals, and that thousands of bikes are removed from the waterways every year.)

2. . I AMSTERDAM
This sign provides a perfect starting point for the trip with some great photo-ops. The IAMsterdam Card is also a good idea if you plan on seeing a lot in a short amount of time - it offers free admission to a number of museums as well as discounts in other places across the city.
3. Visit the Van Gogh Museum
Right next to the I AMsterdam sign, this museum has over 200 Paintings by Van Gogh, and are arranged in chronological order to view the images in a new perspective.
4. Visit the Rijks Museum
This museum has works from all over, but it's "greatest hits" are worth seeing. The garden is nice too.
5. Take the Free Walking Tour
New Europe offers free walking tours in many cities throughout Europe. The guides work on a tip-only basis, and so they're always energetic, knowledgeable, and a lot of fun. (They also take a group photo and post it on their site - ours hasn't been posted yet)

6. Visit the Anne Frank House
Visitors can see the space where the 8 Jews, including the famous diarist Anne Frank, hid during WWII. If you want to avoid standing in super long lines, pre-order tickets online - and that way you skip lines and enter through a separate door to the side.

7. Red Light District
You have to see it to believe it. Try going during the day and then at night to see how dramatic the difference is.

8. VondelPark
If the weather is nice, this is perfect for a picnic or a few beers. A great place to ride your bike through too!

9. Shop!
There are neighborhoods dividing Amsterdam. Each on has a slightly different feel from the one before it. In the city center, there are a number of great stores with a heavy design student influence. Hema is great, similar to Target at home, you can get anything you'd need while there - but having been designed by local students, everything looks cool!
Grab some Wok to Walk while you're in this area too - not at all typical regional food, but great customized noodle/rice dishes create a great quick and cheap meal.


10. Leave by ferry!
With an easy train connection from Amsterdam Centraal to Hoek Van Holland - a great way to leave Amsterdam is via boat. The ferry on the StenaLine is massive, choose between public seating in the restaurant areas or book a private cabin - the boat is complete with a casino, an arcade, a movie theatre, and many dining choices -- the 7 hour ride from Amsterdam to London's nearby port of Harwich, flys by.

some images courtesy of Wiki Travel

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Damien Hirst at Galerie Rudolfinum






British artist Damien Hirsch is well known world wide for his mixed media installations and paintings. He is currently showing a small exhibit at Prague's Galerie Rudolfinum from May 21 - August 30. The show is entitled Life, Death and Love.

Though it is showing in a smaller gallery space, the pieces vary in such a range it is a striking presentation.

For more information, and images of the show visit the Galerie Rudolfinum website.

Galerie Rudolfinum
Alšovo nábřeží 12
110 01 Praha 1

Tel.: +420 227 059 205
Fax: +420 222 319 293

Hours:
Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday: from 10 am to 6 pm
Thursday: from 10 am to 8 pm

Capri

Capri coastline
Faraglioni Rocks, Capri

This past weekend Jesse and I took a trip to Italy where we spent 4 days on the Amalfi Coast.  It was a beautiful get away and we are so thrilled we had the chance to get there.  During the program there are many planned weekend trips through UNO.  We decided to go on a search for cheap airfare and sure enough found it to Southern Italy.  We flew into Naples and spent 3 nights at a deluxe hostel in Sorrento.
My favorite part of the weekend was going to Capri Island.  I have never seen anything like it.  We took an easy 20 minute ferry ride from the port of Sorrento to get there.  Jesse and I explored the island (mostly by foot), swam and sunbathed under the towering Faraglioni rocks, and had a great meal.  Capri is wonderful but quite expensive.  I suggest you do what we did and stay in Sorrento and go on a day trip to the island.
Italy was a great little holiday.  We finally saw some of the sea after being locked in the middle of Europe in Prague.
So next time you are studying abroad make sure you search for cheap airfare and enjoy Europe!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pompeii






Pompeii was a Roman city located near Naples in Italy. It was completely destroyed during the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which covered the city in nearly 60 ft. of ash and pumice. Though the eruption caused total destruction of the city - it also preserved every aspect of the city - from the detailed frescoes on the buildings, to the furnishings and even jewelry of the city's inhabitants.

The city was rediscovered during excavations by the Spanish Military in 1748. Though only about 50% of the city has been fully excavated, it can take upward of 6 hours to see everything. When visiting the site, I suggest getting the audio tour and its accompanying map as it is relatively easy to get lost in the vastness of the space.

Reaching Pompeii is easy to do via the Circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento train line (the Pompei Scavi stop), which takes around 30-40 minutes from either Naples or Sorrento.

Visiting Pompeii:
Hours:
November - March, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m.)
April - October, every day from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.)
Closed: 1st January, 1st May, 25th December

Tickets are valid for the full day and cost € 11.00

If you plan on visiting some of the other sites in the Bay of Naples, such as the Mt. Vesuvius National Park, and Herculaneum etc. It is definitely a good idea to get an ArteCard which will provide discounted entry fees.

I loved reading Pompeii: A Novel by Robert Harris. It is a fantastic blend of historical and fictional characters, set during the time of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Cheap European Airlines

One of the best parts of studying abroad is the weekend trips that are so easy to take.  Within a couple hours you can be in any European city - it is incredible.  Whether you plan ahead or want to book something last minute there are several discounted airlines that travel all around Europe and the U.K.  Playing around with each airline can really find you some great deals.  Try searching one way tickets with different airlines rather than roundtrip.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Travel Service (Largest Czech private airline)
E-Dreams (Online travel agency which helps find awesome deals)




Take advantage of being in Europe and the ease of traveling!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Széchenyi Baths: Budapest




Located in the northern part of the City Park - this bath complex contains one dozen thermal baths, three swimming pools, steam rooms and 'cabins' for rent. Each pool is a different temperature, ranging from cold, to medium, and then hot.
A pass for the day costs 3000 ft. and allows access to all areas.
Make sure to bring your own towel, or be prepared to pay extra to rent or buy one there. A lounge chair will also cost you: 500ft. for 3 hours, or 1000ft. for the whole day.

If you get tired of the baths, there is also a zoo, a park, and a funfair right outside.

Széchenyi Baths
Address: H-1146 Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 11.
Telephone: (36-1) 363-3210
Fax: (36-1) 363-3210/123