"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eastern European Excursion

I've just uploaded a photo album of the trip I took with my parents around Eastern Europe. To see the whole album, click here or the whole link it here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.630124389063.2067929.55201901&type=1&l=4c76176a95

Our excursion took us all around Eastern Europe. First, I met my parents in one of UNESCO's World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites - L'viv: "The European Capital You've Never Heard Of" ~CNN. I have spent a lot of time in L'viv, so it was fun showing them around and for them to get an understanding of where I spent some of my free time! We took a Free English Walking Tour of L'viv which was fantastic. (Side Note: We took 'Free English Walking Tours' in every city and they were all so awesome. If you're traveling abroad and in a major city, do this! Usually it's university students doing it for credit/tips and they can tell you so much more than a guidebook!!!)

After L'viv, we went to my village - Kolky. See the previous post for details about that! After Ukraine, we had a quick stop/overnight layover in Vienna and we were off to Bulgaria, to the coastal city of Varna. Some would say that Varna is the Russian version of Cabo...I think we agreed to some extent. Our hotel had a beach, so that was nice to get a way from the crowds, and we relaxed by the pool a few days, too. We took the Walking Tour in the city and got to see some of the culture beyond the "beach atmosphere".

From Varna, we hopped a quick flight to my favorite stop, Budapest, and now one of my favorite cities in the world. Between Buenos Aires, and Istanbul (Turkey blog post coming soon!), Budapest is right up there. Something about the culture was really special and also, the city had it's own unique warmth and feel. It's energetic and cosmopolitan, without giving up many old-time charms. Our Walking Tour there was my favorite, too because we learned and saw so much. It's a place I'd love to spend more time in for sure - going to the famous baths known for their healing waters, exploring the city on a bike, and taking time to learn about it's sort of tragic, but optimistic history. 

After an overnight train, we arrived to Krakow another gem in Eastern Europe. Known for it's many Catholic Churches and its palpable sense history, Krakow was a place to remember. Upon arriving, we booked a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau, which I'm really glad we did. It was a heavy day, and the rain was drizzling, but we got to see history first hand, and that experience was something I'll certainly never forget. The next day we explored the city with a Tour and unfortunately had to catch trains going separate ways - me back to Ukraine, and my parents to Warsaw for their final days of holiday.

Exploring Europe was so much fun with my parents because, really, they are awesome. We went every which way in every city and they were always up for it - sometimes it took a wine incentive at the finish line, but I'm always up for that! I wish my brother could have been there because the 4 of us always have a great time together, but he's a responsible adult who has 'work' and has 'responsibilities'...understandable, I guess.

As promised, I still have two more posts this weekend - Turkey Trip 2012 and some exciting news, so stay tuned!

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