Darah The Explorer

Web Name: Darah The Explorer

WebSite: http://darahthexplorer.com





And just like that, my career as an English teacher in Italy has come to an end. What an unbelievably amazing experience it has been.My original plan was to live in Italy for 9 months, and here I am a year and a half later thinking Why not stay some more? The reality is that I will never not want to live in Italy. The stunning architecture, picturesque streets and hidden alleyways, pastel colors, unmatched culture and history, delicious food, the people everything. (Okay, so maybe the people aren t always great, but they grew on me!)Anyways, you get the idea. I m obsessed with the place.One of the things I valued most while living in Italy was the accessibility. Europe is well-connected in a way that makes American travel addicts envious. I traveled within or out of the country nearly every weekend thanks to budget airlines and high-speed trains.And let s not forget The late night motorbike rides! Most Italian guys are more than willing to take an American girl for a thrilling ride through Roma on the back of their bike or vespa. What a blast. I m going to miss those a lot.Jokes aside, besides the incredible friends I made, what I m truly going to miss the most about Rome is the way it made me feel. In my last few days, I had an emotional conversation with one of my closest friends, Sophie: Sophie, I know that I m going to go back to America, get back into the routine of things, and look back on my time in Rome as a distant memory almost like a past life, or a dream that may or may not have ever happened. It breaks my heart to think about it. Living here has made me feel so alive, I m genuinely happy I m so damn happy all the time! I feel like I m the best version of myself when I m here, and that s what I m devastated to lose. After a few quiet moments, Sophie replied, Well then I m so grateful that I got to experience the best version of Alyssa. Oh Dio. All the tears. Main Square in KrakowPoland hadn t necessarily been on my must-see list, but when my friend Kat absolutely insisted that we go there from Germany, I didn t hesitate to tag it onto our trip. The deal was that Kat s best friend back in Chicago had a nanny from Poland named Waja. Waja really wanted Kat to visit her while she s living abroad, so I was simply tagging along for the ride. Luckily for me, it was a holiday weekend, so I didn t have work until Wednesday.Amazing potato pancakes with a side of hot tea vodka.We took an overnight bus from Berlin to Krakow on Sunday night. Kat and I originally had seats next to each other, but Kat moved to an empty aisle while the bus was still loading, and out of nowhere we each ended up sitting next to cute brothers from Australia. Funny how things work out like that.The next morning, we arrived at the train station in Krakow and hung out at a cafe while we waited for a bus to Auschwitz. A classic tour involves visiting both the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps for a total of 4-6 hours, but all we had time for was a couple of hours in Auschwitz (and to be honest, that was more than enough for us). The weather didn t help lighten the mood, as it was a gray and chilly day. The best word to describe the whole experience: chilling.We went back to Krakow and were met by Waja s grandson named Mariusz. He took us on a night tour around the city and we walked through the beautiful square where there was yet another Christmas market. We then met up with a few of his friends who are in a band. We went to a restaurant in the square where they were playing traditional Polish music. The boys were really sweet and began to serenade Kat and me with English songs. Mariusz then drove us out of the city and down south to Waja s village Kamienica. She welcomed us with a super jolly demeanor and a warm Polish dinner.Walking through Szczawnica with Mariusz (as captured by Kat)The next morning, Waja showed us around her village. Afterwards, Mariusz took Kat and me into the picturesque highlands as well as a nearby town called Szczawnica. We stopped at a cafe and had some of the best hot chocolate in the world. I had only had a comparable cup in France. It was the kind of hot chocolate that s super thick and will solidfy if you let it sit for a few minutes. It was as if the barista had melted a chocolate bar right into the cup sooo good. We had an early dinner with Waja and her family that night, then Mariusz drove us into Krakow to catch our flight back to Rome. It was an enjoyable and adventurous long weekend that I ll never forget. WeihnachtsZauber GendarmenmarktBefore coming to Europe, one of my goals for the winter season was to visit the Christmas markets in Germany. Luckily, I discovered that one of my friends in Rome felt the same. Since we live in a Catholic country, we get vacation time for several religious holidays throughout the year. One of these is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in which most workplaces are closed on December 8th and often the 7th as well. For me, this meant that I had no school on Monday and Tuesday, so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend with a trip to Germany and Poland. Neither of us had ever been to Germany before, so we decided to go straight to the capital.Entrance to the hostel in MoabitBerlin. Such a strange yet amazing city. I say strange because of its hipster vibe and the prevalence of drugs, and amazing because I kinda loved it. The Christmas markets were awesome, the people were interesting, and the transportation system was super confusing. I arrived on Friday and checked into a hostel in an ethnic neighborhood near the center. The super hilarious hostel employee and I chatted for a good hour before Idropped off my stuff and hit the streets to explore. Craving food from home, I grabbed a subpar falafel sandwich for dinner. The highlight was that I struck up conversation with a German guy whose sister lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he gave me recommendations for spots around the city. I dropped by a couple Christmas markets before turning in at the hostel for a late-night hangout/social in the lobby.My friend Kat arrived to join me on Saturday, and we relocated to another hostel closer to the center. We hit up the Christmas markets together, toured around the city a bit, then hung out with a crazy group German guys who scooped us up on the street. Yeah that was interesting.East Side GallerySunday was a day full of exploring: Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery etc. If we learned anything about the Germans, it s that they love to eat meat. Since Kat and I don t exactly feel the same, we chowed down on soup and steamed kale at the markets. Yes, I know what you re thinking, but they were both exotic and delicious.Pumpkin-sweet potato-mango soup and gluhweinAfter we had had our fill of glühwein and candied nuts in Germany, it was time to grab our bags and head to Poland. The adventures only got better Before I came to Rome, one of my mom s best friends/my hairdresser/my eyebrow stylist/my everything/etc. told me that if I didn t go to a certain city east of Rome, I would have let her down. So, when one of my friends asked if anyone wanted to go on a day trip to Tivoli, I jumped at the opportunity. A small group of us took the 1.5 hr journey to the hilltop city via the metro and a local bus. On the bus, I happened to strike up conversation with a young Swedish couple who also were of Middle Eastern background. They ended up following our group as we journeyed to the main sites together.The first spot we hit was Villa Gregoriana, which can be compared to a large metropark (a metropark with an ancient waterfall, that is). After living in the big city for the past couple of months, it was nice to adventure through some nature.The Cascata Grande (Great Waterfall)The second site we went to was Villa d Este, whose main features included lavish gardens, monumental fountains, and an elaborate residence, all from the Renaissance era.View from the top of Villa d EsteExtravagant fountains throughout the gardensIt was a great day filled with hiking and exploring, and a quick and easy day trip from Rome. Needless to say, my hairdresser is pleased

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