Prague, Vienna, Budapest

Mia and I in the baths in Budapest.

After spending one day at Feria, Zoë, Mia, and I headed out for our final trip of the semester. We started in Prague, then made a quick stop in Vienna before finishing up in Budapest.

The John Lennon Wall in Prague.

The trip started off a little rocky when I hit the ATM in the airport to withdraw some Czech Crowns (the local currency). I accidentally withdrew 11,000 Crowns (approx. $500 USD) instead of 1,000 Crowns (approx. $50 USD) as I had intended. Oh well, I was able to exchange what I had left to dollars which will be useful as I am returning home in less than a week (!!!). After the ATM trouble, we went to a traditional Czech restaurant for dinner and ate some trdelníks which are the traditional Czech chimney cakes. The next day, a friend of Mia’s came into town to show us around. We hit all of the must-see sights in Prague and finished at a beer garden to taste some more famous Czech beer.

Me in front of part of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

The next day, we headed to Vienna for less than twenty-four hours. We saw the cathedral and the Belvedere Museum, which houses Gustav Klimt’s  indisputable masterpiece, The Kiss. That afternoon, I tried some traditional potato dumplings for lunch before we hit the contemporary art museum, which was a little too “contemporary” for my tastes. The next day, we explored the Schönbrunn Palace before heading to Budapest as our last stop. We also stopped for some famous Viennese pastries which definitely did not disappoint!

In Budapest, we visited the Szcheni Baths and did a boat cruse along the river. We grabbed dinner in a food truck court and then explored some “ruin bars” which are eclectic bars placed in recycled / run-down spaces. They had a very cool vibe!

Overall, we visited three beautiful cities and had a great time in the journey along the way. I can’t believe that I am currently studying for final exams and that I will be home in just three short days. This semester has flown by – I have no idea where it went!

Feria de Abril

Gabby, Mia, and I in front of the main entrance to the Feria.

Feria is a spring fair that occurs every year in April (except this year when it was in May- HA!). Most of the students in Sevilla get the entire week off of school for the celebration which occurs on the opposite side of the river.

It is a festival filled with horses, lights, drinking, flamenco dresses, and traditional Sevillana flair. The majority of the women wear flamenco dresses while the men wear suits. There are thousands of casetas (drinking tents), set up around the fair grounds. The majority of the casetas are private, meaning that you have to know the family who is paying for / running the caseta to get in. However, once you get into the caseta, there is endless rebujito (sherry and sprite), which is the traditional drink of Feria.

As I only got to see the Feria for one day before heading out on another week-long trip, I did not invest in a flamenco dress. I guess it gives me an excuse to come back for the full week in the future!

Morocco

Desert >>> Dessert

I spent the past five days traveling throughout Morocco with a group of study abroad students from all over the world. I was initially skeptical about traveling with tour agency, but the trip proved to be nothing short of amazing.

As the trip was called the “Sahara Desert Adventure,” we had to eventually make it to the Sahara. This required some long days of travel. On the first day, we left Sevilla around 5AM and took a ferry to Morocco. After we arrived in Africa, we drove pretty much all day until we arrived in Fes. The trip was incredibly long and we were all exhausted. I was just hoping that the time spent on the bus would eventually be worth it! Things started to pick up a bit on the second day with a tour of Fes. We walked through the Medina (the city center) of Fes, as well as the Zoco (the marketplace). The city was like something I’ve never seen before. There were donkeys carting carrying trash throughout the city, goat heads waiting to be purchased in the market, and a million stray cats. There were a million street vendors all selling mainly the same food, fabric, and leather goods.

The leather tannery. If only you could experience the smell!

We got to visit a leather tannery in the city center which was interesting. When we neared the area, there was an awful smell. When we entered the building, however, a man gave us each a piece of fresh mint to hold to our noses to distract from the smell. As you can see in the picture, there are various different types of animal skins being dyed various colors. In the tubs of dye is a mix of water, limestone, and pigeon droppings (!!!) to help soften the skin and remove the hair. I guess that seeing this process is supposed to make you want to purchase the leather goods that they are selling, but I can’t say that it had that effect on me.

Zoë and I at the carpet / tapestry co-op.

After the tour of Fes, we had another few hours (more like seven) of travel before we arrived in Rissani. We arrived around midnight and ate dinner before heading straight to bed. Day three was when things really got interesting. First thing in the morning, we toured the city of Rissani and saw the market, a Mausoleum, a handmade pottery factory, and a fabric factory / store that produced handmade Moroccan rugs, tapestries, etc. I bought a lovely little black tapestry that I am excited to put on my wall. In Morocco, bargaining with the shop keepers is the thing to do. He originally quoted me at 55 EU and I got him down to 20 EU. SIDE NOTE: Truthfully, this was all I had in my wallet after my debit card nearly got eaten by an ATM. Thankfully I was able to get the card back after nearly causing a scene inside the bank, but I was still unable to withdraw any money. That was an adventure.

After the tour of Rissani, we had a 4×4 tour of the desert. We whipped through the dunes in an old Mitsubishi and made several stops along the way. The first was at the home of a Berber nomad. She served us Moroccan mint tea (this quickly became one of my favorite drinks) and told us about her life in the desert. We also stopped at an archeological site which, at one point, was the bottom of the ocean. That is just insane to think about. You could see all the little fossilized critters in the sheets of rock – insane.

After the 4×4 tour, we mounted our camels and headed straight into the Sahara. We were told that we would ride two hours before arriving at our campsite (Berber tents). After about fifteen minutes, we were all in pain. Turns out that riding a camel isn’t the most comfortable experience out there! To make things even more interesting, a giant sand / wind / thunderstorm rolled in. The dark clouds were looming above, rain was coming down, sand was crashing against my face, and I was on a camel… in the Sahara Desert!! It was a memorable experience, to say the least! Eventually, we arrived at our campsite where we had dinner, a bonfire, and were joined by nomad musicians. The storm clouds cleared up and we were able to have great views of the stars.

The next morning, we woke up (in the Sahara desert!!), and rode our camels back to where we began. Luckily, there were no storms this time. Once we made it back, we had the chance to shower before beginning the long drive back to Fes. We stopped at the Ziz Valley, which is an oasis. That was cool to see.

On the final day, we stopped in Asilah for some free time. We grabbed a traditional Moroccan lunch, did some shopping, and got to see the ocean. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of our final day because, as you might imagine, it was a long day of traveling. By my calculations, we had spent thirty-five hours on our bus by the end of the trip. Somehow, every minute of it was worth it. This was one of the most incredible experiences and I am thankful to have it in my heart forever.