Scotland

Studying in Ireland, I knew I had to go to Scotland. It is so close! I had very little knowledge of the country other than bagpipes and scotch whiskey. We had heard great things about Edinburgh so we decided to spend our weekend there!

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Our first day started with an early morning flight. Once we arrived, we found our way to our hostel and began our search for food. After a delicious breakfast we began our hunt to find the Royal Mile, the main road in Edinburgh that ends with the Edinburgh Castle. On our way we saw the National Museum and decided to stop in. It is so cool to see such old artwork and admire how detailed the work is. Art museums are often a great way to get a quick glance at the history of a country, especially when there is a whole section on the buildings and people of the country like the one in Scotland.

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After our detour, we continued on to the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is one of the most amazing cities I have been to. It sits on a hill and there are so many historical and old buildings everywhere. We began walking up the Royal Mile and found ourselves right in front of the castle.

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My one complaint with Scotland is that it is on the pound and the pound is EXPENSIVE. Unfortunately, the castle was not cheap, but how could we not go into the Edinburgh Castle while in Edinburgh? We dropped the 16 pounds and began to wander the grounds. The views from the castle were panoramic and there were tons of small museums and educational areas. We also got to see them launch a cannon, which was really cool to see as well as incredibly loud.


After the castle we did the Whiskey Experience. The tour started with a ride that felt like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. The ride took us through the process of how whiskey is made in Scotland. After the tour we got to do a tasting of whiskey. I chose the fruitiest one I could find and hoped for the best. I can now safely say that straight whiskey is disgusting and not for me, but I got to keep the tasting glass so that was cool.

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We ended our day with a free ghost tour that took us around the city. Apparently Edinburgh is one of the most haunted cities in Europe. We walked through cemeteries and execution points and heard murder and ghost stories. After being sufficiently freaked out, we made our way back to our hostel.

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The next morning we woke up early to get to our tour to the Highlands. The Scottish Highlands came highly recommended so we decided to see what the hype was for ourselves. Although we got an incredibly foggy day, the Highlands did not disappoint.

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We were surrounded by incredible mountains and scenery. The 12 hour tour ended with a trip to Loch Ness. There was an option to do a boat tour, but being the poor college students we are, we decided to opt out of that and explore ourselves. We found a path and began to climb. Unfortunately, trees were in the way of a view of the lake, but we were still able to peek through to see the water. After our brief adventure, we headed back to the gift shop to warm up with a cup of tea.

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Our last day in Scotland took us to Arthur’s Seat. I had read about the hike prior to going to Scotland and a girl we met on the ghost tour told us there were amazing views. We met up with two guys who are also studying abroad in Galway who were visiting Scotland as well and headed to the hike.

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This was by far my favorite part of our trip. The hike was not exactly easy, but once we reached the top we got the most amazing views of the city. With my hair blowing everywhere, I couldn’t stop smiling because I was in such a beautiful place. We began our descent back to the Royal Mile and headed to the the Elephant Cafe.

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The Elephant Cafe is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter. I’m not going to pretend that I am a Harry Potter super fan (i have only seen the first, second and part of the fifth movie) but there was coffee and croissants and amazing views of the castle. I understood why J.K. Rowling chose this spot to write her novel.

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The cafe was pretty standard and lived up to the name (there were elephants everywhere) but there was little sign of Harry Potter until we walked into the bathroom. The walls were entirely covered with odes to Harry Potter and J.K. It was pretty amazing to see the dedication of so many Harry Potter fans.

After some more wandering around the Royal Mile, we headed to the bus to get to the airport. Our trip was short, but it was plenty of time to fall in love with such a beautiful country!

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Check out my video of our trip to Scotland:

Germany

When I made a list of places I wanted to go to while studying abroad, Germany was on the list. Partially because of the pretzels, but mostly because it is the one place I can clearly link my heritage too. My Oma (great grandma) and my great grandpa were both born in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. While I was never able to meet my great grandpa, I was fortunate enough to know my Oma. No one in my family has been back to Germany since my great grandparents left so I wanted to see where my family is from and experience the culture. Luckily I had the opportunity to do just that!

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Our journey started early in the morning on a bus to the Dublin airport. Our bus driver informed us that there may be delays on the way to Dublin and that we may be behind schedule. We did not book our bus to get us there too much before our flight so this made me a little nervous. As we got closer to Dublin we were in major traffic. I watched the time on the clock and as it got closer to when our gate was supposed to close, I got more nervous. After getting to the airport almost 40 minutes after we were supposed to, we ran to security only to be slowed down by a family who apparently had never gone through security before. As soon as we got through we sprinted to our gate. Margaret didn’t even have her shoes on. We got there just in time and luckily that was our only almost transportation disaster.

Our flight landed in Bremen (where my great grandpa was from) and we had a few hours to explore before our bus left for Berlin.

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This was our first of many bus rides around Germany. After five hours on the bus we were finally at our destination! I was excited for Berlin not only because I had heard great things about it, but also because it is where my Oma is from.

After taking longer than it should have to find our hostel, we were exhausted from our day from travel. We drank our free welcome beer and headed to bed. The next morning we went on a free walking tour. We had done this in London and it was a great, cheap way to get acquainted with the city. We started at the Brandenburg Gate and worked our way around East Berlin.

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Our first stop was at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This was a breathtaking memorial. We learned about the history of Berlin starting with World War II and then moved on to learning about the Berlin Wall. We ended our tour at Checkpoint Charlie and learned about Berlin rebuilding after the wall came down.

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After the tour was over we decided to find the East Side Gallery, the longest part of the wall that is still standing and was given to artists to decorate. It was amazing to see how something that had separated a people could be turned into something so beautiful. This was one of my favorite experiences in Berlin.

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After a few more sights and some food, we headed back to our hostel to get our stuff and head to the bus station for our overnight bus to Munich.

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We arrived in Munich early in the morning and made our way to our hostel. We dropped our stuff off and made our way to the train station to go to the Dachau Concentration Camp. We knew that we could not go to Germany without learning more about the history of World War II. It was eye opening and heart breaking to get a glimpse into what people had to go through in these camps. As we got ready to leave it began to snow.

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After a quick nap and shower (turns out sleeping on a bus doesn’t give you the best nights sleep) we headed to the Hofbrauhaus. How could we go to Germany without going to a beer hall!

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When we walked in we were overwhelmed by how hectic it was. We had no idea what to do and after walking around for a little bit we eventually had to ask . We were informed we could just sit anywhere so we began our hunt for a seat. This was not an easy task as it was a Saturday night. As we stood looking lost, an Italian man called out to and told us we could sit with them. They made some room and we sat down. Soon we had a liter of beer in front of us and basically no food in our stomach. Knowing this would not go well, we spotted a girl selling giant pretzels. We bought two and that made up our dinner.

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The atmosphere in the Hofbrauhaus was amazing. Everyone was happy (thanks to the beer) and making new friends. Our new friends were three guys from Italy, a guy from England and a girl from Korea who was studying in France. As we got to the end of our liters, everyone at our table encouraged us to chug the last few sips. After finishing our drink the waiter came over and told us we were not allowed to do that there and we took this as our cue to leave.

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The next morning we explored downtown Munich a little more. We climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Cathedral and got one of the best views I have ever seen. We then headed to the bus station to head to Heidelberg.

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We had basically no plans when we got to Heidelberg. The castle was right above our hostel so we thought that would be a good place to start. We hiked up to the top and explored the grounds. Once again we got a beautiful view.

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After the castle we were hungry and decided to find a place for brunch. After a leisurely lunch we decided to check out the bridge.

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As we were standing on the bridge we saw a path going up the hillside and people hiking up it. We decided to go and find this path. We eventually found it and started the climb. We were definitely not dressed for a hike and this was definitely not a walk in the park. We eventually made it to the top and got another breathtaking view of Heidelberg.

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As the sun started to set we decided it was time for dinner. After getting a few recommendations we ended up at a restaurant called Vetter. I ordered spätzle and Margaret got a Sausage plate. When our food arrived we were surprised as to what was on Margarets plate some of the strangest sausage we had ever seen. Luckily there was enough familiar sausage to fill her up and we headed back to our hostel.

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We were talking to two guys who were staying in the room with us and told them about the sausage. They laughed and told us they were at that restaurant and saw a girl looking horrified at her sausage.

We left the next morning to take a bus up to Cologne to head home. We were going to explore Cologne a little bit before our flight but when we got there it was hailing and we were tired so we decided just to go to the airport.

The only thing we saw in Cologne
The only thing we saw in Cologne

It was a whirlwind trip to Germany and we packed a lot into our short stay!

Check out my video about our trip: