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Alyssa Szeto Š2013 alyssaszeto.com All content written by Alyssa Szeto. None of this publication can be reproduced without permission of the author.


Table Of Contents 4

Background

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Netherlands

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Germany

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Italy

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France

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Beyond

Amsterdam Berlin Munich

Venice Florence Pisa Amalfi Coast Rome Paris


Background Why I Travel I have always been fascinated with different cultures since a young age. My parents have always given me great opportunities to travel and explore, because the best way to learn is by getting out there and doing something. I still have early memories of waking up at 3am and heading to the airport every year to go down to Florida, or taking a 24 hour flight to Japan to meet my dad who had been working overseas for a year. I believe the adventure starts long before you get on that plane, bus or boat. It begins with a quick conversation or a Google search, which leads to “I would love to go there one day”. Although some hate the planning or waiting phase before they depart, I love the anticipation; the build up. Talking about everything you’re going to do when you’re gone and all the stories that you will have when you come back, makes the waiting all worth it.

Leading up to the day before departure can be stressful, exciting and exhausting, tossing in bed the night before from the stress of having to wake up early the next day, in fear you might miss your flight. Half asleep when you arrive at the airport and pass out on the plane until the moment you land. Its funny the moment you land and arrive at your destination, you forget that you haven’t in a proper bed for hours, sometimes over 35 hours (from personal experience), and you have a new found energy. You’re ready to face anything that comes your way. You’re ready to explore and start the adventure you’ve planned for so long.

Where I Have Been Australia China Denmark France Germany Italy Japan Netherlands New Zealand Norway Spain Sweden Thailand United Kingdom United States

Sydney Harbor Bridge - Sydney

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Hanauma Hay - Honolulu

Sweden: My Exchange Prior to my European adventure, I had the great fortune and opportunity to be accepted to attend an exchange at Linköping University, in Linköping Sweden, to study at The School of Graphic Design and Communication. It was my first time traveling alone and going to Europe. Although it was nerve wracking and extremely stressful leading up to it, I am extremely grateful that I had to have this opportunity. I met some amazing people and made some amazing memories that I will never forget. Make the most of every opportunity and I promise you won’t regret it. Since I was already in Europe, I had to take the opportunity and see everything the beautiful continent, so rich in history, had to offer. Linköping Cathedral - Linköping

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Netherlands Amsterdam The first city on my list to stop at. I met up with my childhood friend, Mitchell, who flew in from Toronto, who would be my travel buddy for the next month. The thing I hate about when you first get to a new city is how touristy you look. You got your huge bags with you your camera around your neck and a giant map of the city. As we were trying to navigate through the narrow roads of Amsterdam, we definitely looked out of place. Eventually we found the street of our hostel. We were quite shocked just looking in some of the windows beside us, red lights where everywhere, not just in the “district”. We got to our room where we shared with 4 other people; 2 girls were from Australia. When I asked them where they were from, their accent was so thick all I heard was “Stravia” and I asked where that was…Everyone in the room gave me a weird look…the girl explained that it was on the other side of the world…it clicked in after that she said Australia…oops. I explained that I had been there before, but I still ended up getting funny looks.

I made it my mission to find the “I amsterdam” sign, because I wouldn’t be able to say that I was actually in Amsterdam without taking a picture with the sign. After long searching on the map, and a few minor arguments with my friend we finally found it!

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As we were watching people climb on top of the letters, I asked myself – I wonder how many people have fallen off the letters. But since it was drizzling a little bit, we decided to seek shelter. I wanted one last picture with the sign and decided I should climb on top too. Now we know at least one person has fallen off the letters…I was okay though!


The city is filled with many beautiful canals, which people use to get around the city in or live in. Buying a house boat in Amsterdam in a prime location can cost upwards of 100 euros. Which I thought was pretty expensive, considering you live on a boat...and don’t have much room to move around or land to call your own. But every house in there was a “townhouse” style and they had no front or back yard. But I could never live in a houseboat forever, due to the constant rocking of the water. Most of the time that we were there, the weather was pretty gloomy, so we had to find indoor attractions. We heard that “The World of Heineken” was a must see attraction. We couldn’t find it anywhere on the map, and after some arguing and giving up on finding it, we found it! (You think we’d get a better map) As with any brewery tour, there were a lot of samples, and they taught you how to drink it properly. With Heineken, you have to tilt your glass up and take big gulps and drink none of the head, because that is the “protection” layer.

We also got to visit the Anne Frank House (no pictures allowed inside). This is definitely a must see! It was definitely really interesting and pretty sad. We were able to walk through the original house and see all the secret hiding places of the families that lived there. The house was also filled with quotes from her diary, which made the house even more powerful.

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Germany Berlin We joined a walking tour of the city. We did one of the Sandeman free tours – where tour guides only work on tips, not because we are cheap, but I have had previous good experiences from the company since we are the tour guides “bosses�, they have more motivation to give us a good tour. There is definitely so much history in the city and it is all extremely interesting. The walking tour took us to all the main places; Brandenburg gate, Hitlers bunker, holocaust memorial, Berlin wall, and so many other things. Berlin is definitely a very unique city, especially regarding its architecture. Buildings are a whole city block large, which make them extremely intimidating. We heard some amazing stories from our tour guide about the conditions of east and west Berlin before the wall came down. Stories of how people would try to escape to the other side, stories of fathers that would try to save their children, or stories of how people died inches from the wall, were all very sad. Although most of the wall has been destroyed, there is a cobblestone brick road of throughout the city of where the wall once stood.

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One of my favourite sites we visited during the tour was the holocaust memorial. It takes up a whole city block and is extremely powerful. Walking through it, the blocks get taller and narrower in the center. If you were walking through with someone, you could turn around one second and they would be gone, and you would be alone. I thought it was a very powerful feeling; that you could so easily be separated from each other. The memorial is definitely up to your own interpretation, and no matter what you think while walking though it, it is definitely very powerful.

We also visited Sachsenhausen concentration camp. I would definitely recommend visiting here, or any other concentration camp. It is an indescribable feeling walking through the gate and looking into an open field (where rows and rows of barracks used to be) completely fenced in by a concrete wall and electric fence. Being able to see their living conditions (beds, toilets, washing stations, etc) was pretty powerful. It’s hard to even imagine what some of them had gone through while in the camp. It was hard to even just take in what happened there. I definitely recommend going.

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Germany Munich Munich has been one of my favourite cities so far. Although it is relatively small and does not have that many “sights” to see, I still fell in love with it. Not sure what it was, but I just felt like one big German family with everyone there. We took a flight from Berlin to Munich, which was around an hour (we spent more time in the airport than flying) and we were asleep before the flight even took off. The weekend we arrived in Munich, they were celebrating the day they became a city so there were beer tents and live music at every corner of the city. The weather was absolutely beautiful, sunny and around 30 degrees every single day. We also decided to do the city walking tour in Munich but the group was so overly large, we couldn’t hear anything the guide was saying, and it didn’t help that the streets were all so crowded.

One thing I definitely miss about Germany, and traveling in general, is eating all the delicious local foods. Living in Toronto I do get to try a lot of different foods, and some of them are made very well. But there’s nothing like eating the food from the country/city it originated. Especially with German meals, they’re all very big, heavy and very homey, which is nice to have when you’re away from home. When I was in Sweden, I had a roommate from Germany and he would make me delicious food from Germany and I would make him delicious food from Canada...which were only poutine and pancakes!

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On the last day in Munich, we decided to rent some bikes from our hostel. We had a long day ahead of us because we were catching an overnight train to Venice, and we had to check out of our hostel in the morning. Since we are in Germany, everyone is really tall, therefore the bikes we rented were very tall. Even my friend who is 6’2” could barely touch the ground while on the bike. After 10 minutes into riding the bike, we had to stop on the street. My bag got stuck on the back rack of my bike and I fell off and rolled onto the street. Luckily there weren’t any cars! If anyone is keeping count, I have fallen in both of the countries I have visited so far. After the accident, we decided it’d be best to stay off the streets, and went to the English Garden to spend most of our day with our bikes. The park is very big and beautiful. There are rivers that flow through various parts of the park and they all start at an inflow. Since the current of the water is so strong, there is a man made wave for surfers. This was right in the middle of the city. You’d be standing on a bridge facing the river, while cars zoomed by behind you. It was amazing. These people are extremely talented, we could have watched them for hours.

After a few more hours of bike riding, we safely made it back to the hostel without anymore accidents!

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Italy Venice Most of Italy was pretty rushed, I think we visited 5 cities within a week! We were only in Venice for about 6 hours. We took an over night train from Munich to Venice. It was a 6 “bed” cabin, we had 2 older German women and a younger German girl in our cabin. The bed was extremely high up, short and we barely had any room to move. None the less, at least we got to lie down, and not sit up the whole night. Not sure if I would do it again though. I expected Venice to be a lot nicer than it was. But I think it also had to do with it being extremely hot and it being garbage day for the short time we were there. Also at this point (from looking at the pictures) we had not had the opportunity to change clothes, have a shower or proper sleep, so we were pretty grumpy. They did have gondola rides everywhere, but they were a couple hundred euros, and on a backpackers budget, it was not possible to take one. But I feel like they would be pretty awkward anyways.

Florence Later that night we caught another train and made our way to Florence. The train was slightly delayed and caused a lot of confusion between my friend and I, and we ended up in the wrong place, about half an hour outside of Florence. Eventually we found it and got to explore the city for the night. Even though I was only there for about 5 hours, I thought it was a very beautiful city, especially in the sunset. In the future I’d consider going back. Unfortunately the museum that had the statue of David was closed that day, so we had to find a fake one to take a picture with.

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Pisa We were up early the next morning to take a train over to Pisa. Mainly only to take a picture with the tower and get out of there. We had about 4 hours in the small little city. Once you got off the train, it was obvious that everyone was going to do the same thing, take silly pictures with the tower and get back on the train to their next destination. Once we got to the tower, we started taking pictures in the 30+ degree weather without shade. Taking the pictures was much harder than we anticipated! After taking, which felt like, 100 photos, and arguing about positioning, we called it quits. We got some decent ones. Some people were in and out of there in 10 minutes, and we were confused on how they got their perfect shot so easily! But for us it was probably a once in a lifetime picture, so we had to make it count! The rest of Pisa is pretty empty, if you look at the map at the train station, it’s pretty much one main road that goes straight to the other end of the city that leads you to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Amalfi Coast Getting to the Amalfi Coast was another challenge. I had planned the train to arrive well before the last bus that was listed online. When we arrived at Salerno to take the bus to the coast...it didn’t show up. So we had to make an unexpected stop in Salerno for the night and catch the bus the next day. That was an absolutely crazy bus ride through the mountains, on winding roads. The coast is very beautiful and we got very burnt!

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Italy Rome Honestly my absolute favourite city that we have visited so far. There is so much to see and everything is something. There is beautiful architecture everywhere and everything looks like what you would imagine roman buildings to look like. Again, the weather was amazing every day. The first full day we went to the Vatican. We visited St Peter’s Basilica first, and it was absolutely beautiful. There was very intricate detail in every single corner, it was amazing. Since the sun was shining, it was creating perfect rays through the windows, my photo was taken without any photo editing at all. It was a perfect day. After we visited the Vatican museums,

The Sistine Chapel. We were preparing ourselves for a massive line, but we waited no more than 20 minutes, probably less. When we got to the chapel, I was expecting something more glamourous, it was just a dimly lit large room that was crowded to max. The ceiling was beautiful, but not what I expected. We got a subway pass that day, expecting to cover more ground (and the vatican was kind of far out of the city)…the subway was shut down for the whole day, without increased bus service or an explaination as to why it was shut down. It was opened for 2 hours during rush hour and it was the busiest subway ride I have ever been on.

When we were there, I saw TV’s and signs being set up. The signs had pictures of the pope and I couldn’t read the rest of it. So I thought the pope was going to make an appararence that night. Turns out it was only a vigil for him. But it was still a once in a lifetime experience

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We visited the Coliseum, Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and other museums. We definitely learned that you should not plan on walking everywhere while in Rome. First, things are very far apart and second there are a lot of hills, so even if it looks close on a map...it’s probably up and down 7 steep roads. We had pizza in a “hole in the wall” kind of pizzaeria, and it was honestly the best pizza I have ever eaten. They sell you pizza by weight, which is good because you can order as much or as little as you want. I wish I ordered more because it was the best.

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France Paris After our 3 week long journey to 9 other cities (with some unexpected cities in between) we made it to our final city of the tour. We got to meet up with my sister and got to explore Paris together. The city is really big, you definitely can’t walk everywhere. We got to the Louvre right when it opened and found a secret shop selling tickets, so we got to skip all the lines, which was awesome (There’s always a back door to everything, find it and you won’t have to line up). We were probably one of the first 15 people to

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get into the museum, so we got to get up close and personal with Mona. Too bad she’s in a glass cage. The Eiffel Tower is definitely amazing, it’s like what you’d image it to be, just like the pictures. We climbed the stairs up (cause only 1 elevator was working and we didn’t want to wait) and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The view from the top is very nice, you definitely don’t think Paris is that big until you get the while aerial view of it.


One of my favourite places were the catacombs. Going down 130 steps, and into dark and wet halls lined with thousands of bones and skulls everywhere. It is definitely a surreal sight.

On our last night it was Canada day, we tried to hit up the Canadian bar, but it was packed‌not cause of Canada day, but the Euro cup final. We didn’t stay too long, but we did get to see the menu. They were selling Molson Canadian (when available) for 8 euros a bottle! Ridiculous.

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Beyond What’s Next? The travel bug is definitely a virus. Once you have it, you’ll have it forever. But this is definitely not something I would want to be cured of. There is still so much of the world that I have still yet to see, and hope I get to one day, so I can share the next adventure. I’d encourage anyone to go out there and find their adventure, challenge themselves and enjoy every moment of it. If you make the most of every opportunity you have, big or small, I guarantee you won’t regret it. I have no idea what’s next for me, but I am constantly dreaming and planing where I can go to next. Thanks for following my European Adventure.

Oslo Opera House - Oslo

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World’s Biggest Ikea - Stockholm

New Haven - Copenhagen

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Adventure Magazine  

My European Adventure