WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS AN INSANE AMOUNT OF PICTURES
I must say, my last adventure while abroad could not have been more perfect. It all began when I arrived in Italy on my birthday and got to sit by the Mediterranean Sea while watching the sunset on the Italian Riviera. It was easily the best birthday of my life. We had traveled from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. We had gone from plane to train to another train to bus and then had to walk. It was a crazy adventure, but it was so worth it.
We arrived in Cinque Terre, Italy and explored for a bit. We decided to go on a short costal walk to see the village we were staying in (Manarola). It was the most beautiful village. The houses were all cubic shapes and a million different bright and pale colors set right in the cove on the water (Many pictures below). It ended up being a beautiful, warm, perfect day. After the sunset we went to a restaurant for dinner and got some amazing seafood.
The next day, we began our trek of hiking the five villages. We began by hiking Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso and also passed through a random small village that was set up high in the hills. The views were indescribable. I completely fell in love with Cinque Terre and each village we went to. Each one was so different. We spent 8 hours that day hiking all the way to the end. We had a pit stop for an awesome sandwich and then ate a bunch at our last stop as well. We also saw a kitty shelter in the woods! Someone had made little kitty houses and set out food and tables for all of these random cats in the woods. There were so many of them!
Another encounter we had was with an old man who had picked some lemons off of the trees (thousands of lemon trees everywhere!). He let me have three lemons for 1 euro and I peeled it and ate it like an orange as I walked. It was very sour, but very delicious. Just talking about them makes my mouth water all over again! One of the villages on our hike had a secret beach that you had to walk through a short cave to get to. Another of the villages had a castle tower that you could climb to get a breathtaking view.
Once we reached the last town, it was very populated. It had a lot more tourism than any other of the villages. There were so many places to eat, shopping, a huge beach! It was endless. The second day we went to the other side of Manarola to Riomaggiore and continued hiking on random trails for five hours! Hiking was the best way to see the most of Cinque Terre. I would go back and do it again in a heart beat. It is easily one of my favorite places on earth.
After Cinque Terre we ventured to Milan! Milan is a huge shopping city with a ton going on. We explored in the rain and decided to go to Como Lake to hike for the second day. We hiked for about ten hours, getting lost in the woods and finding some beautiful views. We also came across some donkeys! Once getting up high above the city, we could see how big it really was. We were very pleasantly surprised with the views and the amount of fun we had on the hike. We ended that day by getting some food right next to Como Lake and enjoying the last bit of sun. We went back to Milan and began exploring some more.
The next day we went to a museum and found some really cool canals on the opposite side of town. What I’ve discovered is that with all of this traveling has come a crazy amount of walking. I am going to miss walking everywhere when I go back home! You get to see some cool unexpected things on each walk, things you wouldn’t see if driving or taking public transportation.
From Milan I went to Germany. This is where I traveled alone. I went to visit a friend I had known from back home. We hadn’t spoken in years because we had only known each other from travel volleyball but that didn’t seem to matter. We had a great time. I had a bit of trouble getting to Germany. After five train tickets, a hostel for two hours and a lot of waiting, I made it! It was kind of a scary experience, but I’m glad it happened so I could prove to myself that I could travel alone and everything would work out okay in the end.
Once I made it to Germany, I met up with my friend and was introduced to so many people! I met some of the greatest people. I saw a lot of Cologne and climbed the cathedral the first day. We also got some really good food in the city that night and met up with other friends to see the city at night. The second day we played beach volleyball for two hours!
By this time, I had been enjoying myself and all of the people so much that I changed my plane ticket and stayed for 5 extra days! It was worth it. We went to a festival in Bonn. There was music, food, rides, games, and great people. We stayed up for 24 hours straight and shared many laughs. The next day, we were walking through the city and found bubbles! I turned into a little kid the second I saw them. Who knew bubbles could make your day?! We headed to what we thought was a chocolate factory. Turns out, it was a chocolate museum and we did not get any free chocolate:( I guess we shouldn’t have been so hopeful for a Willy Wonka experience. The next day we ate on my friend’s campus and hung out for the day. But at night, we went to sit on the Ryan River to watch the sunset over the love lock bridge. It ended up being the perfect, relaxing night that ended with döners. Döners are now my new favorite food. It is just meat shaved off of a kebob and put into a pita bread with any ingredients you want. It is delicious as long as you don’t think about what type of meat it is.
I had such a great experience in each of these countries. I felt as though I could live in Italy for the rest of my life and had a lot of fun in Germany. I will definitely go back to each country and explore different places. I could not have asked for a better last adventure for this already amazing study abroad experience. Having the opportunity to travel has changed my life forever.