Picture of the skyline of Graz

This is a copy of my study abroad blog, moved here as a backup. The original post can be viewed here.


May 26, 2015

This is the tale of how Austin traveled to Italy and met a bunch of Canadians.

Right, the blog. That’s a thing I haven’t done lately. I’m sure all of you are very curious as to what I’ve been up to for the past month. Let me summarize most of it for you in one short sentence: Not much. I’ve been going to school, hanging out, pretty much the same experience as most college students.

But that doesn’t make an interesting post, no sir. To that end, I went to Venice this past weekend! I’ve been meaning to travel there for a while now, since Venice is actually located relatively close to Graz. I nearly went last weekend, as I was invited by another exchange student to go, but things ended up falling through, so I decided to go by myself!

Since the bus service that I had used to go to Germany didn’t go into Venice, I decided to try using the Austrian train service instead to take a train into Venice. I got everything booked, but when I arrived at the train station on Friday, I found out that what I thought were train tickets were actually bus tickets. I sort of suspected this, as I noticed that my end destination was at the Venetian bus station instead of the train stop, but it all worked out in the end. From what I could tell, there is a special bus route set up just to go from Graz to Venice, which is pretty neat. In any case, I caught my buses and made it to Italy without any problem.

Now, the thing about booking a place to stay in Italy without much time to spare is that you aren’t necessarily going to get the best rooms. I nearly had to book a room at a place which had reviews like “None of the faucets worked” and “The roof leaked on us all night”, until I discovered a place that was a bit more… unusual than the other rooms. In the end, I stayed in a place like this:

A series of canvas tents in a row

That’s right, I stayed in a tent! I lived in a tent for 3 months one summer, so I was no rookie to the tent-living experience. I will say these tents were a little bit nicer than the ones I lived in before, they had doors that could lock and sheets on the beds! I checked into my place, and went to scope out my tent, where I met my two new tentmates for the weekend. I would tell you about them, but I have no idea what there names were or where they were from (there’s a reason for this). All I know is that one of them kept fiddling around with my sheets and my cot, which was beginning to annoy me, so I decided to ditch them and go try the hostel’s restaurant out.

The restaurant itself was located near the reception of the hostel, and it was clear that it didn’t have nearly enough seating. There was a bunch of empty room in the place, so they could’ve added more tables, but instead this staff working was running around trying to find places for people to sit. After a few minutes of watching him bumble around trying to clear tables, I asked two girls who I heard speaking English if I could join them, and they let me sit at their table. Turns out that these two girls were from Canada, and had been traveling around Europe for the past month while on break. We hit it off, and they asked if I wanted to be their third tentmate so that they wouldn’t end up with some complete stranger and I didn’t have to be with Handsy McGee. I accepted, and we worked it out with the staff, so I moved in with them for the weekend. We also met two other Canadians that evening, so I spent my first evening in Venice hanging out with them and making plans for the next day.

Since our hostel wasn’t actually on the island of Venice, we had to catch the provided buses to get ourselves over to the island itself. So we got up early the next morning, and the 5 of us made our way to Venice to see the sights. As is typical, the weather was pretty bad that first day, so it wasn’t as enjoyable as it could’ve been, but I still had a good time. Since I was now traveling with 4 girls, I spent quite a bit of the day following them into various stores. For those who haven’t been there, Venice is mostly stores and shopping, just like how Berlin was filled with dozens of museums. What isn’t touristy stores is some really scenic canals and architecture, which I tried my best to get good photographs of. I also indulged myself in several of the Venetian sweet shops, which I can attest were very good. That first day wasn’t horribly eventful, we just took in the sights and made our way around Venice, before having dinner in the city and heading back to the mainland.

For our second day, we didn’t get into the city until around 1 PM due to the schedule of the hostel shuttle service. Since the weather was much better the second day, we spent less time indoors and more roaming around the streets. We decided to get a gondola ride through the canal, which was very cool, and the driver even sang a bit in Italian, as is stereotypical. Other highlights of the day were running into a spontaneous Italian street choir who was preforming outside of where we were eating dinner, and trying more Italian desserts.

All in all, I quite liked Italy, although I’m unsure if I’ll be able to make a return trip before I head home in July. I enjoyed hanging out with a bunch of Canadians all weekend, even if they were disappointed that I “didn’t have a typical American accent” (and I was disappointed they didn’t have Canadian accents). The four of them decided to continue traveling together and are currently making their way around central Italy, while I had to return to Austria to return to school. This post does seem a little vague, but that’s mostly because it’s better to see what Venice was like rather than read about me walking down a street. To that end, more pictures below!

So, what other trips do I have planned? Not too much I’m afraid. I’m almost to my final month in Europe, and that means that I’m going to have less free time than before (I say that, but I’m pretty sure there’s another holiday coming up next week). However, I do have two more trips in mind. One of my friends just started a brief month-long exchange trip in Prague, so I’d like to either visit him, or have him come down to Graz sometime. I do also have a small amount of time after semester ends and I have to return home, which I’m thinking about going to Budapest during. That’s still a long ways away though, and I should focus on this presentation for Thursday that I’ve been putting off. Until then!

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