By Nikki Ott, Guest Blogger & one of our Workaway Guests
Florence, Krakow, Paris
Looking at my life as a whole, I appear to be a well versed traveler, with 14 countries under my belt in only 21 years. I’ve seen the David in Florence, a street fight in Barcelona, the Christmas markets in Berlin. However, a year ago at this time I’d been on a plane twice, and been out of the country only once. A year ago at this time I was rolling up t-shirts and sweaters in preparation for a year abroad. I never thought I’d be able to take in 36 cities, 2 street cats, and an innumerable amount of pasta dishes in that time, but I somehow I found my way through it. The most memorable of destinations during my year abroad weren’t memorable for any quantified reason, though. The three places that stuck with me were only so special for the memories I made there, and they were many. So without further ado, I present Florence, Krakow and Paris.
Florence in April is everything you could possibly dream for. Enough gelato to cool yourself from the first beats of the Italian summer, and beauty around every corner.
Florence was special mostly because it was the city where I met my brother on our week-long tour of Europe, after not having seen him for nearly 9 months. We took Florence at a leisurely pace, visiting museums and eating the best gelato by day and drinking wine overlooking the Ponte Vecchio by night.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of Florence. Around every corner you saw another statue (we saw 5 Davids in total) or an assortment of colorful stucco walls that make Florence the picturesque city it is today.
Krakow was its own sort of understatedly mesmerizing. I think a major part of my love for Krakow and Poland in general was the price. We did some figuring while we were there and were delighted to find out you could easily live in Poland for less than $200 a month. That being said, you would be living in a bare bones youth hostel and eating bagels for every meal.
But the real reason I fell in love with this city was because of how genuine it felt. No one we met spoke more than a handful of words in English, the Christmas market was full of porcelain ornaments and hand knitted socks, and the street art was remarkably original.
It may be a cliche, but with complete honesty my favorite place I’ve ever been is undoubtedly Paris, France. The city has a way of charming each and every person that steps foot on its cobblestone streets, whether it be through its never ending mazes of museums or the light-as-air pasties sold at three shops on every street. For me, Paris’ charm rested in the people I met there.
I wandered here with my best friend and travel companion Maggie, and we splurged on $1.50 cupcake (Yes, it was splurging compared to the rest of our wonderfully inexpensive trip).
I went to Paris twice in my year abroad, each time for one week. Youth hostels had been my go-to housing plan since I started traveling last August, and didn’t disappoint this time around. On the first night of my February trip to Paris I met a raucous group of British twenty-somethings on their first trip to the city of lights. This being my first true solo journey, I tagged along with them for my first weekend there, first on an all night pub crawl which ended at a nightclub in the building directly next to the Moulin Rouge, then on a monuments tour along the Seine the next morning.
Then of course, the rest of my week in Paris was spent (again, cliche) falling in love. It just so happened that on a Monday night, after a day spent wandering the streets of Paris solo on a quest to become more independent, I met the guy I would slowly fall for between three countries and two continents. That night consisted of beer pong and climbing the Eiffel Tower, two things that should never coincide but just happened to be the perfect mix that night.
My second round of Paris was the last week I spent in France before flying home. Naturally, I used my last few days to soak up as much French culture as I could get, baguettes, wine, and museums included.