I promised myself that this next academic year would be a year full of travel.
I mean, is there really any better time for it than now? It’s so easy (and pretty affordable!) to jump on a train or a bus and find yourself somewhere completely new in the space of a few hours. I’ve visited four new cities and revisited an old favourite and I’ve already started planning more for next year, so I thought I’d run you through the five-day/weekend trips I’ve taken so far!
The first trip I took was a fairly spontaneous hop across the border to Maribor in Slovenia. My Mom was flying home the next day so we wanted to do something exciting for the last full day we had together for a few months and visiting a new country sounded like the best idea!
The trip takes around an hour from Graz and while the outskirts of the city are much to look at, the city centre is really worth a visit! We just went for the day, so we left at around 9am and arrived at around 10am. It was August, so the weather was insanely good, absolutely perfect for strolling around town and taking in the sights. We were both pretty hungry, so our first point of call was to get “breakfast” in the town square. Once we were saited, we got going again.
We didn’t really “plan” anything about this trip, so we just wandered around until we saw things we wanted to stop and look at. Admittedly, a good part of our day was spent drinking fancy Slovenian wines on the river because of the glorious weather, but later on, we found a little aquarium/reptile zoo in a nearby park and so we spent some time there too.
On the whole, it was just a really nice, chilled-out day trip and I look forward to going back again!
The next trip I took was to Vienna, the capital city. This was actually the very first time I’d ever been to Vienna, despite having visited Austria many times previously. I went with a group of friends who I met during my intensive course in September. We specifically wanted to go that we could take part in what I think is one of the coolest things Austria has to offer, The Long Night of Museums.
Essentially, over a hundred museums in Vienna open their doors from 6pm to 1am, all for the price of one single museum entrance! Better still, your ticket acts as a public transport ticket for the city so you can easily get across Vienna to visit all the museums you can.
We left Graz on the first, catching the train and travelling two and a half hours across Austria, through some incredibly beautiful landscapes, to Vienna. Firstly, we checked into our hostel which one of my friends found and arranged for us and then we set out to find something to eat. We got very distracted as there was an incredible street market a few streets away from our hostel, but we finally made it to a quaint little traditional restaurant and enjoyed heaping plates full of schnitzel, fries, sauerkraut, and dumplings. After that, it was time to pick up our tickets! We were still fairly early for the museums, so we decided to wander the streets of Vienna to kill time. To our surprise, the Danube is neither blue nor is it particularly beautiful in the city, but we obviously had to make a pilgrimage of sorts to see it. It is such an Austrian icon after all!
Finally it was time to hit up the museums. Vienna was BUSTLING! There were so many people taking part in the museum visits so the mood in the city was such an experience in itself. We headed to the Belevede, one of the most famous museums, to see all the pieces they had, but specifically to see Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
After that, we decide to split into two groups so half of us could hit up the Museum of Contemporary Art and the others (including me) could head to the House of Austrian History. This is probably one of my favourite museums now, it’s an incredibly detailed walkthrough the history of Austria, right from the decline of the Republic up to Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision victory. It was incredibly interesting, but also incredibly gut-wrenching and moving at times. It covered the time of the 3rd Reich and documented attacks on Austria’s minority groups such as the Gastarbeiters and the Slovenians. It also richly documented what it means to be Austrian, what makes the land and its people unique. If anyone is taking or looking to take Austrian History at Reading, a visit to this museum is a great opportunity to boost your knowledge or to prepare for the module. It was fascinating to see artefacts about everything that I’d learnt in this module and the visit really solidified my understanding of the topics we discussed.
Finally, we decided to all meet up again to head to the Albertina museum, which was our last stop of the night. It’s a very eclectic museum, ranging from Basquiat to Picasso and Monet, so there was something for everyone there. By the time our visit finished, we were pretty tired so we decided to call it a night after that and we wandered back towards our hostel for an early night.
Or so we thought… We ended up finding a bar near our hostel and may have accidentally stayed out until around 5am. Whoops… It wasn’t the best idea but we were having so much fun so it is what it is. The next day was an early, and very gruelling start. We got up around 10am to head to the Palace. We actually never ended up going inside, instead choosing to wander the extensive grounds and admire the view of the city and palace from the Gloriette. After that, we walked back across Vienna to the Opera and found the café we had booked for a Viennese classic, Sachertorte and coffee. By the time we’d finished there, it was time to head to the train station for our train back to Graz. We were all super tired because we walked around Vienna for hours over the course of our two days there, so we grabbed some snacks for the journey and settled in for the ride back home.
About midway through the term, I decided to treat myself with a trip to Copenhagen for myself and my mom. It started again with a three-hour train ride to Vienna Airport from Graz, arriving about two hours before my flight. Vienna is quite a small airport for such a big city so it didn’t take me long to get through security and find a place to park myself while I waited. My mom flew in from Manchester and was just getting to the airport when it was finally time for me to board. The flight time was actually really quick and before long I had made it to back to Denmark after spending a month living there during the summer. My mom arrived about an hour after I did, so I waited for her at the arrivals door so I could greet her like you always see in those cheesy movies. It had been barely two months since I last saw her but she was sobbing like a baby, which was funny but also very touching.
We hopped on the Metro to get to Kongens Nytorv, which isn’t particularly close to our hostel, but it was dry and after a long day of travel for both of us, we were glad for the walk. We’d never stayed in this particular hostel before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but we were really blown away by it. It really was like a hotel. We dropped out bags in our room and then decided we were hungry, so we headed to the Meatpacking District. we didn’t eat here because we remembered that our favourite stirfry restaurant in Copenhagen would still be open, so we just had a drink and then walked up. The restaurant, Momo Wok Box, is just around the corner from Radhusplads and for Copenhagen standards, it’s pretty cheap and so tasty, so we literally always head here when we’re in town. On the way back from the hostel, we grabbed some beers from 7Eleven and enjoyed them on the walk home.
The next day, we got up early and headed out for breakfast. And by breakfast I mean we went back to Kongens Nytorv to check out the Christmas market again. My mom wanted to see the Changing of the Guards at Amalienborg, which I was totally up for because I’d never seen it in person either. But what we saw blew our minds! Now, I was vaguely aware that the Danish queen, Margrethe II, was supposed to have her Jubilee celebrations in January that year, but due to COVID it was moved until later on. What I didn’t realise was that it was THAT weekend that it was moved to! So we turned up to see the guard change and were a little confused about how big the crowd was and how many flags we saw. Once we made ourselves part of the hoard, I could hear whispers of “Dronnigen” floating around and it suddenly clicked. The Queen was there! We were going to see the Queen leave the palace in her coach! One thing about “Daisy,” as she’s affectionally known by the Danes, is that she’s insanely cool. As she passed by, you could see she was truly thrilled to share her special day with the citizens of Copenhagen. Having been born and raised in the UK, royalty always felt like a very stern and “proper” institution, so see her grinning like the Cheshire Cat as she passed by was magical.
After that, we decided to head on a riverboat tour, something which I’d already done this year when I visited Copenhagen from Aarhus, but I enjoyed it so much that I figured I should really let my mom enjoy it too! We got a combo ticket that worked for the sightseeing bus too and after a lap or two around the city we honoured my mom’s only solid wish for the trip and found what feels like the only Catholic Church in Copenhagen and headed to Mass. We enjoyed it even though my knowledge of Danish does not stretch to godly matters and my mom understands the word “skål” and nothing else. It may seem odd but being Irish, visiting churches feels like a must do whenever we travel.
Our last stop that night was Wagamama, a very familiar name for those of us in the UK. There’s only two locations that I know of outside of the UK, one in Copenhagen and one in Vienna, funnily enough. It may sound a bit like going to McDonald’s or something really dumb that you can easily find at home, but Wagas is one of my favourite restaurants ever and it had been way too long since I enjoyed gyoza and ramen.
After we’d finished, we were dead tired, so we headed back to the hostel to have some drinks at the bar before we trundled off to bed. Our flights the next day were hellishly early, so at 7am we checked out and made our way to Kastrup. My flight was first, so we both headed to my gate and said a slightly tearful goodbye. A few hours later I was back in Vienna and before too long I was back in Graz and heading to off bed.
Stay tuned for part two…