Amsterdam

I have lots of photos from Amsterdam, because I like to pretend that I am some sort of photography whizz with my three-year-old cheapie camera. Recently I’ve moved away from trying to take photos of All The Touristy Things – in the end, it’s just boring and frustrating crowding round something only to end up with a photo of other people taking photos – and just catching fun little things wherever I see them. I have attempted some sort of new fangled photo album thing here rather than putting them all into the post – please let me know if it has worked (and/or if you like the photos).

I have no exciting stories to tell. We did a lot of wandering around – Amsterdam is truly a lovely place just to walk around doing nothing much – and a lot of eating and drinking. We spent most of the time just moving from café to bar to restaurant to coffee shop to café to bar and so on and so forth. We saw a few museums but not many as a) the ones I wanted to see the most were having some kind of renovations and b) museums are really freaking expensive when you’re trying to work on some sort of budget.

We had a wonderful time on our very first holiday together. Of course now I just want to go away again, but isn’t that always the case?

Bratislava, in pictures

Bryndove halusky: Slovak dumplings with sheep cheese and bacon

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Slovak garlic soup with cheese, in a bread bowl

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I haven’t gone as picture crazy as usual, probably due to the fact that I’m living here rather than just sightseeing and doing touristy things. This is all set to change this weekend though as I plan to do some serious exploring of the city centre – perhaps while nursing a Starobrno induced hangover – and having a mosey around the area where I live, which is actually a suburb. (I don’t feel it wise to broadcast my exact whereabouts on here!) There is a wine festival on Sunday which is beyond exciting to me. Language training is good, though not particularly intensive as a lot of people here speak English, and all the work placements are in English. Still, I don’t want to be the ignorant Brit abroad refusing to speak a word of Slovak for the next few months, so I’m trying to make the effort to speak as much Slovak as possible, even if all I can manage is “Nerozumiem Slovenský!” accompanied by a rabbit-in-the-headlights expression. Slovak pronunciation has proved to be as much of a stumbling block as I had expected – I find it near enough impossible to make some of sounds required to pronounce certain words correctly.

All in all I’m having a lovely time. I hope everyone is enjoying the guest posts! Please email me if you’d like to write one for me: whatemilydidnext@gmail.com

Dovidenia!

On My Way

When this post appears, I will be on a train to the airport. I will then spend almost seven hours at the airport (fml) before arriving in Bratislava at 10pm (local time).

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If only my suitcases looked that classy. If anyone should happen to see me struggling my way around Birmingham airport with two heavy cases, either help me or pretend you didn’t see me. Those are your only options.

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Aaaaaargh how exciting.

I have two guest posts lined up in the coming week. Other than that expect radio silence for a while. If you still want to guest post for me just email it to me and I’ll get it up when I can.

I Hate Packing

No, really, I hate packing.

I find the experience almost traumatic. It makes no difference where I’m going, or how long I’m going for. It’s all just as awful and annoying.

Now here I am, packing for 3 months away. (Yeah yeah yeah, you went to Outer Mongolia for 2 years and only packed one small bag- I do not care.) How do I do this? What if I don’t take enough? What if I take too much? What if I get there and realise that I have 7 posh dresses but no underpants? A variety of pashminas and no shoes?

I don’t think this is something I can put off until the night before, like I do for short trips. Even then, packing the night before is disastrous because I turn up at my boyfriend’s house for 2 days, during which time we plan to do little more than lounge on the couch and eat pizza, with five pairs of jeans and eight dresses.

This website has been helpful, if a little bizarre- I’m not entirely sure if I need knee high stockings and a hair ribbon, but thanks anyway.

So the spare room – which has now become my packing room – currently looks like this.

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Utter chaos. I am not very good at this ‘minimalist packing’ business.

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Do I need eleven shirts and blouses of varying prints, patterns and colours? What does 20kg worth of clothes actually look like? Oh my god, what about all that stuff I have to take that isn’t clothes?

There is no real point to this post other than to complain, and procrastinate from bloody packing. Are you an expert packer? Will you help me?

The Perfect Travelling Outfit

When people talk about being comfortable during a flight, I’m sure that they’re talking about long haul flights. Or at least any flight over 5 hours. Me, I find flying such a generally uncomfortable experience – especially on the budget airlines that cheapskates like myself tend to patronise – that I’m currently trying to figure out what to wear for optimum comfort on a flight that lasts all of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Having been on far fewer plane journeys than perhaps an average 21 year old has, I still find the idea of air travel quite thrilling and novel, but even the idea that I’ll actually be flying, like through the air (this is my general thought process aboard a plane) doesn’t stop me from feeling highly uncomfortable. I’m 5’11”, for crying out loud, and it’s unlikely that Ryanair will ever provide me with enough leg room. (And yes, I have in fact realised what a con Ryanair is and half-heartedly vowed to avoid using them, but they were the only flights I could get direct to Bratislava.) Everything I’ve worn to travel in so far has proved to be annoying and uncomfortable in one way or another: jeans that are too tight, leggings that have shoddy elastic in the waistband, a dress which rode up revealing my backside to the entire cabin when I stood up to get something from my bag.

Basically I need to look smart – if I could travel in my pyjamas, I most certainly would – but also want to be able to sit happily and comfortably on trains and planes, breathe, possibly eat, and attempt to relax.

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This isn’t the exact same outfit I’ll be wearing but that’s the general concept. (What do you mean, a Kindle isn’t part of an outfit? Be quiet.) I think the best way round the ‘jeans are uncomfortable, leggings are uncomfortable, short dresses flash my arse’ conundrum would be to wear a maxi dress. Flat shoes are a definite, as I’m likely to stand in queues at the airport, and if I wear my winter boots then I won’t have to worry about fitting them in my suitcase. I wear big pashmina scarves quite often anyway, but I think they’re essential on planes as they will double as a blanket in case I want to have a little sleep – and I must admit I’ve simply wrapped it round my face before when the sight of screaming children running wild has got a bit too much for me. Last but not least, I will be sure to wear glasses and not contact lenses, as my eyes get very dry and itchy. I got new glasses and they’re a bit like the ones in the picture – geeky plastic frames and everything.

What’s your go-to plane outfit?

My Good News

This is ‘the big reveal’… I try not to be that annoying person who blogs about their life but then acts all secretive and only ever tells half a story. If I wanted to keep something to myself, I just wouldn’t blog about it at all. However, I didn’t want to blab about this until I knew for certain. Today I had a Skype interview, which went well, and then promptly got an email.

My good news is that in September, I will be going to Bratislava, Slovakia for three months to live and work. I will be an intern for a major Slovak NGO. I’m yet to be given a job title other than ‘intern’, but I’ve been told that my duties will include: research, proofreading and editing, administration, event planning, accompanying guests, writing press releases and articles, among other things.

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I was offered this opportunity through European Training Services/The Leonardo Da Vinci Programme, who are a fantastic organisation (as are GetOn, their Slovak partners, and Pontis Foundation, the organisation I will be working for) so if anybody reading this would like any information on them let me know!

The short version of this post is: ‘yay for me!’ I promise to post some actual content very soon. For now, though, I’m going to eat some celebratory tacos and then go to work in order to earn extra pennies for Slovak beer and weekend trips to Vienna and Budapest.

Zbohom!

Three days in Prague

First things first: if you’re in no way interested in looking at a million pictures of Prague, YOU SHALL NOT PASS. If this is the case, there’s nothing in this post for you.

If you want to see a million pictures of Prague, today is your lucky day!

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Though we only technically had one full day in Prague, I’m going to count it as three days because we had plenty of time to explore on the day we arrived and the day we left. I feel as though we fit enough in without stressing ourselves out, as a holiday is about relaxation as well as activity. I could have happily spent a few more days, or a week, or perhaps the rest of my life there, continuing to roam the streets happily, stopping off occasionally for a beer, or to eat some delicious food. The food was exactly what you would want after walking around in the cold. On the first night we ate at the Trilobite Restaurant, a very trendy but equally unpretentious place in a subterranean but warm and cosy setting. The waitresses were incredibly friendly, and also very patient and helpful while Becci and I struggled with the difficult decisions of what to eat or drink. I settled for a Pilsner, and roast duck with red cabbage and 2 kinds of dumplings. I was not prepared for how much I was going to love these dumplings. They were nothing like anything I’ve really eaten before, and I’m now faced with the following options: a) move to the Czech Republic and eat them every day, b) accept that they were a holiday fling and that if I love them, I have to let them go or c) try my best to make them myself. The answer is probably c. I looked at some recipes and it seems that you make a mixture of chopped bread and eggs, then put it in a pan of boiling water?! Only time will tell.

Prague is architecturally stunning. So many of the buildings were incredibly grand and ornate, as well as being very colourful. We went on a one hour bus trip, which took us through the city, and then on a river cruise (with coffee and cake included, oh yeah!). The views across the river were absolutely gorgeous. As you can probably tell by the pictures, I spent a lot of time gazing up into the sky. As a country girl I’m quite used to looking up and seeing nothing but sky, so I always find it quite cool that in a big city you can look up to the heavens and the sky will be framed with the tops of buildings.

Prague Castle was really, truly beautiful, but was also the busiest place in the history of the world, ever. (True story… maybe.) In my head I always feel as though I am not a tourist, so I stand and look at huge crowds and think, ‘Pshh, tourists’, before reminding myself that I’m doing exactly the same thing. Despite being enough of a grown-up to acknowledge this, I was not going to stand in what looked like an hour-long queue to get into each building. Just looking at the queues made me want to literally cry. I still wandered around the grounds, took some pictures, bought some tourist tat, and thoroughly enjoyed myself nonetheless.

Before getting a taxi to the airport on Friday, we hung out at a Staropramen Potrefená husa bar, and tried a Staropramen cool lemon which was absolutely amazing. Another thing that I will be gutted if I can’t find in England. I love a good lager, and so I loved the beer drinking tradition in Prague. I’m not usually one for drinking in the daytime, but for some reason sitting down with a beer outside a bar at 11.15 just seemed so normal and acceptable. I ended up with a load of coins left in my purse and was so confused by the currency I ended up leaving it all in tips, and I honestly have no idea whether I left a brilliant tip or an awful tip.

Now I’m going to be dramatic and you’re probably going to think I’m over exaggerating, but I’m really not. In the taxi on the way to the airport we very narrowly missed being in a huge catastrophic car crash. I’m not even joking. When I describe it, it sounds like nothing, so I guess the only people who will understand how terrifying it really was are Becci and the taxi driver. Basically the taxi driver turned left out of a junction and must have completely misread the oncoming traffic, and essentially avoided colliding with a tram by what felt like a millisecond. When he swerved to get out of the way of the tram, the back end of the car spun out of control and nearly spun into the railings, where it might have gone through them and off the bridge. Neither of these outcomes happened, obviously, hence why I’m here writing this, but we were less than a second from either fate. All sarcasm and drama aside, although technically nothing happened, it feels incredibly weird to know that there could be another version of events in which the taxi driver faltered for one more second and hit the tram, or span off the bridge and into the river. After he straightened up and carried on driving I spotted two cars on the other side of the road who had obviously had a bit of a fender bender. My first thought was ‘oh dear, that looks bad’ and my second thought was ‘if we’d hit that tram we would have looked a million times worse’. This little experience did not in any way ruin my holiday, but it did leave me feeling a little shaken up and nervous. Thankfully the flight was stress-free, except for some crying children. On a lighter note, on the way to the airport we drove through (I think) Prague 6, and saw some amazing houses that did not actually look real. It looked like a model village or a doll’s house.

Enough of my moaning now. How have you all been?