11.26.2016 Four hours in Graz, Austria

Where do I begin, while I was in the planning process of this trip I was messing around like crazy with how I could see as many places as possible for cheap and ultimately stumbled upon the website buscroatia, because I was initially looking to see a town or two on the coast.

Ultimately, I realized that this bus company would not only take you to places in Croatia, but also towns in countries near by. After more searching I found the Graz, Austria was basically a 3 ish hour bus ride AND, the round trip ticket was in my opinion cheap. So I went for it kind of having this idea of what to expect but also at the same time having no clue.

The morning of the 26th I walked myself to the bus station to catch my bus that left between 8:30 and 9:30. Like I said, it was around a 3 ish hour ride, which I thought was very reasonable.

The bus first cut the corner through Slovenia, and then crossed the border again into Austria. Almost immediately after crossing the border, our bus made a little pit stop where we could use the bathroom and get a snack if needed. I noticed that in order to use the bathroom you needed to pay 50 cents, which I wasn’t about, so I just figured I’d hold it.

Well I guess I jinxed myself because I went upstairs to buy a little snack. While I was eating my soft pretzel I ate a little bit of mayo (mind you I am still really not used to dairy) and within five minutes I found myself sick to my stomach. In that moment I knew I was going to throw up and needed to get to a toilet basically as fast as possible. So here I am trying to not to make a scene speed walking down the stairs, to the restroom and trying to get the pocket change out as soon as possible. I’m still not really sure why this happened now, because I had been eating dairy in bigger quantities previously on the trip but oh well. Here I was, somewhere in Austria throwing up in a rest stop bathroom… sorry if that is too much information.

The rest of the trip I was absolutely fine but for some reason that mayo just wanted to do me dirty.

Alright so once we finally arrived I had a really good idea of where I was going, but I had the same problem with the fact that the screenshots of maps I had on my phone didn’t exactly have the street names on them.

Basically as I walked out of the bus station, I proceeded straight to where I had saw there was supposed to be a river, as well as the old city. This was a good frame of reference because I knew if I was walking in this direction for more than 15-20 minutes and didn’t hit water I would have to turn around.

After walking for probably 15 minutes I noticed the steeples of a church peeking through the tops of building, so I headed in that direction. Another tip for you, if you ever feel like you may be lost in a city just look for tall churches or landmarks and they will probably help bring you to the right direction. This literally could have worked in every single city I visited this trip and in fact was how I went about my walking tour or Riga, I just followed buildings that looked interesting… but you can read about that later.

Okay. So once I got to these steeples I saw a little bridge to cross the river and Voila! I had reached the old city.

Immediately, I noticed this staircase going up a huge hill/mountain, which appeared to have some sort of castle on top of it. As I got closer and closer I knew I wanted to go up, I just didn’t know exactly how to go about it. For example, was it free, did I need to pay, if I needed to pay where did I pay, what ACTUALLY was at the top, etc. I ended up noticing the entrance to the staircase and just decided to go for it.

This climb was definitely far more stairs than it appeared because I didn’t really realize the sort of winded left and right up the mountain. The good thing about this is now I had absolutely no shame in eating two pastries for breakfast that morning. As well, as you can probably image the view was outstanding the entire time.

As I was walking up I became very oriented with where I would later walk around, as well as which direction I had come from. I noticed all the brightly colored building topped with rusty orange colored roofs and the many steeples of huge churches. I noticed the somewhat hilly landscape, which was well accompanied with just the perfect amount of fog kissing the tops of the hills. There was something oddly mesmerizing yet so dizzying at the same time in regards to the way all the rust colored roofs lined up and created shapes that could only be seen from the air.

When you reach the top the first thing you will see is a little bell tower and then signs pointing out where the couple of restaurants were, as well as a couple other landmarks atop the hill. I took a little walk around appreciating the variety of views and the architecture of the different buildings up here. After a bit I headed down because I wanted to see the main square area, and also make sure I would have plenty of time to get back to the bus.

I walked back down the stairs and proceeded left, if your back is facing the steps you just came from. This is another instance where following the metro tracks, or just the people at this point, will take you to where you want to go, also it kind of helped that I could see the square from here. I took a lap around looking for a place to maybe grab a coffee, but also admired not only the architecture, but also the way building were decorated.

Buildings were brightly colored, but some of them were also finished with intricate designs on them, which I found extremely beautiful, as well as interesting. It is interesting to see how place to place the architecture seems generally similar, yet each place has their own unique take in regards to color choice as well as subtle design differences.

I wound up at this cute little coffee shop called AUER where I treated myself to a cappuccino and small sandwich, which I had the luxury of eating outside facing the square, so I could people watch a bit.

After taking my time eating and enjoying watching the hustle and bustle of square, I started back for the bus station, because my biggest fear was missing my bus.

Well, typical Hannah fashion I was there was too early. The only really cool part was the bus station happened to have a little grocery store in it so I took a little walk around and ended up buying a juice. I am very proud to say that I successfully used a self-checkout that was not in English. I carried my juice and receipt out like one of those trophies you get after a soccer season as a child that you don’t realize until years later your parents paid for. Needless to say, imagine the five-year-old smiling ear to ear holding up this new trophy as their newest prized possession, that was me with a two euro juice.

I took a quick walk over to where the bus was supposed to pick me up from and got on shortly after. The one really nice thing about this bus station was that it was super easy to navigate, as well as be able to tell where you needed to go with only a little bit of the necessary self doubt.

I have to say it was a great day spent in Graz, Austria. I would 100% recommend coming here for a day or weekend trip!

Anyways, have a great day!

Xx Hannah

02.02.17 The Universal Language of the Cappuccino

So for those of you who don’t know, I went on a solo-backpacking trip through Europe over the course of 11 days over my Thanksgiving break. I had the absolute blessing of being able to travel to 8 countries, 7 of them new to me. Out of the man lessons I learned, one thing that stood out to me is 1. If there was a universal language the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in it. 2. Whenever I feel awkward and don’t know what to do with myself I find myself in the nearest coffee shop ordering a cappuccino.

Now, some of you might say, Hannah, aren’t you vegan? How did you drink cappuccinos? To that I would like to respond with when you are by yourself and menus are written in a Cyrillic or Greek alphabet you have to make the call to either try to figure out a way to explain no dairy or eggs, or you can just go for it. In this situation, I just went for it. I will say that throughout the whole time; however, I never found myself feeling like I really missed these dairy products I was consuming, which was reassuring to me.

 

Okay so now we begin my journey through Europe: one Cappuccino at a time.

 

Sofia, Bulgaria

Long story short, when I got to my hostel I was told that I needed to stay at the sister hostel just a short walk away. Fortunately this walk helped orient me in this new city and also showed me where the main shopping and eating street, ‘Vitosha’, is After getting to the hostel, and being shown my room, I had one of my first chances to take my backpack that I had been carrying around for literally past 24 hours off. I can’t lie, from here I fell asleep in my bed and didn’t wake up till about 4am the next day (thanks jetlag).

img_0111So the next morning I made it my mission to start my day off with a cappuccino from one of the cute cafes on Vitosha street, which I could enjoy sitting in one of the outside, covered patios. I never would have been able to predict how intimidating it is to walk into a café and order a coffee from places where the signs are completely foreign. Seriously. The first café I went into I got embarrassed when the lady told me I had to pay with cash, and left. So now, not only am I on a hunt for coffee, but also an atm. Long story short I found and atm and eventually built up to enter a café that wasn’t that crowded and also allowed me to sit outside.

So basically I walk into this café, take a deep breath, look the man behind the counter in the eyes and say cappuccino please. This is when I had my first inkling that ‘cappuccino’ was going to be a go to of mine. So I grab my drink and head outside to people watch in the covered patio situated outside on the main street.

As I am sipping my beverage watching the average person go about their day-to-day life I sort of remember that I haven’t had this much dairy in one sitting since august. There is a good chance that in oh lets say 15 minutes I will be up running from this café to find the closest bathroom. I guess that was my price to pay for going against my vegan ways for a couple of days. Long story short I was fine and was able to enjoy this delicious cappuccino before a long day of walking, site seeing, and getting a sample of Bulgarian culture.

Athens, Greece

My time in Athens was very short, quite literally 24 hours, but I believe I made it extremely worthwhile. In my taxi from the airport to my hostel, I was fortunate enough to have a driver that gave me a whole bunch of tips and things to try during my time here. He told me I had to the coffee shop chain ‘Coffee Island’ and try a local special called a Cappuccino Freddo. So that beverage became my coffee mission for Athens.img_7330

When you are walking on the street up to the Acropolis, there is a road called Makrigianni. Here you will find a whole bunch of restaurants and shops. The Coffee Island I went to was here, basically right across from the Acropolis metro stop.

So this cappuccino is an iced drink. Instead of milk that blends in easily, the espresso is topped with a very thick, sweet cream. The cream is almost the consistency of a custard and tastes absolutely incredible. Definitely the kind of drink you would save for a dessert or if you are really in need of a sweet kick but 100% worth it.

I walked with my drink down to a bench next to Hadrian’s Arch and the temple of Zeus and enjoyed this refreshing yet decadent beverage whilst once again, people watching and reflecting on all this things I was able to do thus far on my trip.

Paris, France

The tale of the voyage of the cappuccino continues. It was here that I began the ‘lets order a cappuccino because I don’t know what else to do trend. It was started out in the Paris airport. As I walked through the baggage claim exit, I was expecting my passport to be stamped and it just so happened that no one did. So I quickly texted my dear mother and asked if I should be worried. As I waited for a response my café raider seemed to have turned on because I instantly saw a Relay café where I had my first cappuccino in Paris. This cappuccino was honestly nothing too special, but like I said before, stay tuned for a trend to follow. I guess you could say this beverage was also necessary because I was meeting a friend who was studying abroad in France that night and needed any little extra boost of caffeine I could get.

On to the next morning.

img_0390Before my trip I had joked with my family that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a Pain-aux-chococolat and a cappuccino. Being that today was Thanksgiving, that was my mission. That morning I was meeting my friend at the Notre Dame so I left a little bit early so I could stop in at a patisserie on my way to the metro station from my hostel. I conveniently passed the café ‘AM Martinho’ so I popped in for my desired Thanksgiving meal and the opportunity to test my French.

I was able to successfully avoid embarrassment and ordered my breakfast in French. Feeling like a champion, I walked out of the café and proceeded to the metro, sipping what tasted like victory, or a cappuccino. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

The next morning was bye-bye to France and hello Croatia for me. In typical Hannah fashion, I arrived to the airport very early. But as you can probably guess, that means one more cappuccino and two more pastries for Hannah. I should probably apologize to the French people for being the reason why they need to restock their espresso bars and pastry shelf but hey, it had to be done.

Zagreb, Croatia

I got to Zagreb around 4 and made it to my hostel around 6. I spent 2 nights in Croatia However, my time was mainly spent in the evenings because I took morning bus trips to both Ljubljana and Graz (stay tuned).img_0658

The next morning I was taking the bus to Graz Austria just for the morning and afternoon. My first cappuccino experience occurred at the Bus station where I happily arrived early to enjoy a delicious pastry and cappuccino at the café called Dubravica. In my opinion, what better way to pass time than indulging? Luckily I was doing more than enough walking everyday to make up for it. Heck, even if I wasn’t I would still have no regrets. No pastry or Cappuccino left behind.

As you can imagine, the next morning followed the same way. I left my hostel a little extra early and sampled a different pastry and yet another cappuccino.

Graz, Austria

img_7944img_7932What a beautiful little city. My morning started out with me finding my way from the Bus station to where the town square area was. I immediately saw to a hill/ mountain you could go to the top and found drawn to it like a magnet. After my climb it was time for a reward, which was my lunch. I walked around the square and considered many tasty options I chose to sit outside at the café/ restaurant AUER, situated right in the square surrounded my many shops with gorgeous architecture and detailing, as well plenty of people for to fancy my people watching obsession. With it I enjoyed a delicious little sandwich, which it is possible may have even been vegan.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

This was my favorite stop; however also the shortest stop my entire trip. This city was quite literally something from my dreams and honestly, I wasn’t going to go because the bus left at 7 am and I would return around 3:30. But like I said 100% worth it.

The walk from the bus station to the old city area was quick and easy. I roamed around for a little bit getting a lay of the land while also making quick decisions as to what I wanted to do with my short time here. After finding myself in constant awe from the beauty of the town during my walk around I found a café situated on a street where there was what appeared to be a little flea marketimg_8077.

Prior to entering the café I walked into a convenience sized grocery store where for literally about 2 Euros I walked out with two different pastries. Then I proceeded into the shop, ordered my cappuccino, and enjoyed it outside with my pastries, watching the locals interact in this charming town.

While I was at the bus station, I got a little bit hungry again because I took another hike up a mountain to see a castle. At the bus station, my choice of food was McDonalds, however I wasn’t really upset because I quite enjoy trying seeing how it differs from in America. You can probably predict the next sentence, so yes, I did order a cappuccino with my meal. The funny part about this one is that I had planned to eat my meal on the bus back to Zagreb.

Unfortunately the spot where I was supposed to catch my bus from wasn’t necessarily clear so here I am carrying my backpack, purse, a salad, a bag with a pastry, and a coffee back and forth along the length of the bus terminal looking for a bus that said to Zagreb. After a couple laps up and back I eventually got on my bus but I could only imagine how silly I looked thinking what would happen if I missed my bus while holding on to this McDonald’s for dear life, while also making sure I don’t lose my bus ticket.

Once on the bus though, I was able to take a deep breath again and sip this McDonald’s coffee in a state of bliss.

Warsaw, Poland

I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw around 8pm and honestly I was exhausted so I basically went straight to bed. The next morning I wanted to find breakfast at a local coffee shop. I took a walk through the old town area and told myself I had to pick place before I arrived back at my hostel. I passed several Costa Coffees and Café Neros, however, I really wanted to go to a place that wasn’t a chain.

img_8188I found myself in a small café called café trackt ordering a tasty almond flavored pastry in addition to my cappuccino. It was much colder here so I enjoyed my breakfast in the warmth of the café. After this, I took another walk through the old town, venturing a little further this time and got myself lunch. After this I walked and checked in to the hostel I would be staying at for this night.

img_0990At this point, I was at this awkward time where it wasn’t really appropriate to eat dinner yet I had done enough walking so I decided gee, I better try one of the chains. Into the next café nero I went and honestly I may as well have just gone to dinner. I ordered a medium cappuccino and this huge slice of apple pie with a meringue on top. I can not begin to explain how good it was but I also laugh at myself because I was avoiding eating dinner early yet here I am ordering a slice of decadent pie probably bigger that my face. But like I said this was a voyage of the cappuccino/ no pastry left behind mission. It had to happen.

The next morning I successfully took the polish metro to the airport and rewarded myself with not just a cappuccino but a mocha cappuccino. Yes, a Mocha cappuccino. I would like to say I was stepping out of my comfort zone but really this was one of those machines where you simply press the button of what you want and your beverage is dispensed because I was in a convenience store. Poland you were so good to me.

Riga, Latvia

Alright so my final stop, you can only imagine what happens here. This was my last chance to leave no pasty and no cappuccino behind. How American of me. Indulge, Indulge, Indulge.

The first cappuccino I drank here is kind of a funny story but also not at all. I was following my screen-shot on my phone of the directions from the hostel website and ultimately ended up walking the completely wrong direction for about 5 minutes. My intuition started to kick in and I ended up turning around. However, about 2 blocs before I got back to where I started my phone had died. I’m not going to lie I began to worry a little bit. So what do I do?

Fortunately the bus stop I was supposed to get off at was a mall, which happened to have a costa coffee at. I had a feeling that they would most likely have an outlet and I would be able to recharge my phone. So in I went, found a seat near an outlet and let my phone begin charging as I specifically ordered a large cappuccino. Yes, I ordered a large. I figured my the time I finished it I would not only know where I was going, but also be more calm. Fortunately I figured it out and was able to not only enjoy the rest of my day in Riga, but also fall in love with the city.

img_1104The next morning would be last morning waking up in Europe. I new I needed to wake up an extra hour early so I could get one last coffee shop visit in. Into another Costa Coffee I went and got myself a caramel macchiato a slice of cake and a muffin. If you were wandering if the barista looked at me like I was crazy, you thought correctly. But, no shame in my game. This ended up being the best piece of cake I have consumed in my entire 20 years of existence plain and simple, no questions asked. I was also able to save the muffin I ordered for the airplane, which ended up being perfect!

Is it ironic to say that my over-caffeinated, over sugared self left that café feeling bittersweet? My cappuccino voyage had come to an end and let me tell you, absolutely no pastry was left behind. So if you’re ever feeling lost or like no one understands you, simply walk into a coffee shop and say cappuccino, you’ll be quite surprised.

If you want to read more, hopefully I will have the rest of the blogs about the places I visited up within the next week!

Have a glorious day!

Hannah xx