Let me take you to an opera in Vienna State Opera House

On my 23rd birthday, one of my dreams came true. Watching DER REISCHÜTZ, a world-class opera in Vienna State Opera which is one of the leading opera houses in the world, was the best way to start my new year of life. Good things are never easy to achieve. I had a bit of drama before I finally sat down in the box. This experience taught me that life will get things sorted for you. Or, you will eventually find a way to sort things out.

There was a confirmation email sent to me after paying for the tickets. And yes, we all should always read everything we receive thoroughly. That email was not a ticket but a guideline of how to print the ticket through their official website. It was all in German which was such a pain when I realized this problem half an hour before I needed to set off to the opera. I asked for help from the hostel reception. They couldn’t figure it out as well so I went to the opera house to see if there’s any hope. Now I can tell you, no need to be worried. The opera house prints all the remaining tickets out few hours before the opera begins. Just simply show them the email and you’re good but it does require some time in a queue.

In terms of the ticket, I have some tips for you from my own experience. First, do not get the seats from second and third rows in a box. If you think the tickets are too expensive but really want to experience it, go get the standing tickets on the day.

Around two months before the trip, I booked the opera ticket online. It was a hard time when I was trying to pick a seat. Ticket prices were quite expensive and there were not many vacancies left. Since I had a wonderful experience in a box in Prague, I didn’t think twice and booked the two vacancies in the second row of a box. However, when I found my seat, I realized that most of the stage was blocked by people in the first row. I thought it was unfortunate, then I realized there was a lady seating behind me. That very kind lady told me that she has seen the opera before and it’s okay for me to stand up. The high chair that I was seating on should be designed for the audience to stand up. It has a little standing stage so you don’t need to keep climbing up and down. Nevertheless, if I don’t mind to stand during the show, I could get the standing tickets which cost less than 10 euros each.

Unlike the other opera I’ve seen, apart from the amazing music, there were many incredible stage effects. My favourite one was a character hanged from the top and sang a really good song upside down. There were also mini fireworks, treadmills in the middle of the stage, fire etc. I really like the two girls duets, but unfortunately, I don’t understand what it was about as they’re all in German.

Since I didn’t really have time to discover this place before the show, during the break time, I quickly walked around this beautiful opera house. Forgive me if I keep repeating myself, Vienna State Opera is like a palace. The Renaissance style architecture, gold paint, statues, grand stairs, finely decorated ceilings, and fancily dressed audience have made the night luxury. Since the 19th century, this place has been bringing people numerous world-class performances and unforgettable memories. Wherever I walked, there were many people with a glass of champagne taking pictures to record their elegant, dreamy musical night.

To sum up, my experience with this opera was absolutely amazing. I love the environment of the opera house. And I really enjoyed the music and all the dramatic effects on the stage. The only downside was that I couldn’t really understand the story of the show since it’s all German and I didn’t want to keep my eyes on the subtitle screen. If I have a chance to visit Vienna again, I’ll definitely go back but probably watch a ballet or orchestra. If you like opera and ballet too, comment and tell me where should I go next!

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An hour coach away from Vienna: Bratislava

Just an hour coach journey, I’ve arrived Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. This city is right next to the border of Austria. It is quite rare to find two capital cities that are so close to each other. After crossing the borderline, the language, the food, the price, the vibe… are all different from Vienna. This central European city seemed more affordable but the fact is: it’s not. Once I sat down and order a coffee, I realised the pricing was on par with Vienna. Maybe this reflects the 6th highest GDP in Europe?

Bratislava is a common stop for people who travel around Austria and Hungary since they are so close to each other. It’s perfect to stay for a day or two because there are not many attractions. However, you need enough time to try the delicious Slovak cuisine. Two days, six meals should be alright.

Aupark

Bratislava can get very hot in the summer. I was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans but still dripping after fifteen minutes walk from the coach station to the hostel. Hence, I decided to visit the nearby shopping mall, Aupark, for some shorts. In the end, I didn’t get anything from the mall but I had a good time there. It has a good selection of brands. Most of them are affordable.

This mall is just a walking distance from the old town. Cross the Most SNP, where the UFO is. You can get the perfect scene of the castle with the sunset in the evening. When I crossed the bridge, I also saw a long cruise parking at the pier. It turned and almost stuck in the harbour because its length was nearly as long as the width of the harbour.

Old Town

Most of the tourist spots are in the old town. There are also many restaurants and they are mostly overpriced. I’m still not used to the cars drive on the right-hand side. This historic neighbourhood is pedestrian only. So I could walk freely and didn’t need to worry where the cars were coming from.

Bratislava Castle

Since the 9th century, this huge rectangular castle has been standing on the hill in Bratislava.  Although it was rebuilt in the mid 19 century, I was still amazed by how people built such beautiful architecture and how they stacked those stones up.

To get to the castle, first thing first, climb the stairs. It’s not too easy as the stairs are pebbled but it doesn’t seem too hard. A stunning skyline of Bratislava can be found all the way up the hill. Looking at the city below my feet made me feel like a queen for a minute.

UFO

The UFO is a part of the Most SNP. It’s the tallest tower in Bratislava and the lowest tower among the tallest towers in the world. Although I didn’t have a chance to go up the tower and see the city from above, I heard quite a few good things about its camera-ready open-air observation deck and the bar.

Slovak National Theatre

Between the hostel and the old town, I had to walk past this Slovak National Theatre. It’s a beautiful historical building, especially during sunny days. However, my eyes were attracted by the mist cooling system and didn’t pay much attention to it. I saw people selling ballet tickets. I would love to go in and experience the art, but sadly, I couldn’t afford it at that time.

Church of St. Elisabeth

My favourite attraction is this Church of St. Elisabeth. It is also called the Blue Church. Compliment with the clear blue sky, this Blue Church looks extraordinarily blue. This 20th-century building is located in the old town area. Unlike other normal historical European churches, it has a unique design, not only on the outside but also the interior. Unfortunately, the church was closed on the day I visited. I could only peek inside through the windows.

After these two days in Bratislava, I would say it’s a good stop while traveling from Vienna to Budapest. I’ve finished my itinerary very quickly as most of the attractions in Bratislava are close together. Spending two full days there was more than enough. I don’t think I would go to Bratislava anytime soon but I’ll definitely visit other places in Slovakia.

Vienna – money vampire

My impression of Vienna is a place full of art and music. Plus, I learned piano when I was little, this place is all about Mozart. After these 3 days of exploring this city, I think it is also a place full of surprises. Every corner you turn, there are architectural beauties around every corner. I found so many beautiful things that are not included in my plan.

As a central European country, Vienna is extremely expensive (maybe it’s just me). Since the weather was too warm, I didn’t spend too much time to walk around the street to find the best-valued restaurant. Most of the time, I compared a couple of places and picked the one I prefer. A burger with a drink at lunchtime costed me about €20. This is on par with London. However, Vienna transportation is surprisingly affordable and easy to use.

Vienna State Opera House

Watch an opera on my birthday there was the main purpose of visiting Vienna. Just like what I expected, it deserves to be included in anyone’s bucket list. The outlook of the architecture is a “WOW”. The DER FREISCHÜTZ performed in it was a “WOW WOW WOW”.  I got a cheap ticket in a box. So I ended up sitting in the second row in the box where I had to stand up to see the stage. Not a decent seat but still alright. During the halftime break, I walked around this glorious place. The staircase, the lobby, the bar… it’s like a palace. I couldn’t help myself but stood at the staircase and admired the beauty until the second half began.

Hundertwasserhaus

I knew about this place from Instagram. I was attracted by the unique and innovative design. So I did some research before putting this onto my itinerary. It’s built in 1986, 32 years ago. It’s such a brave design. In my opinion, this is kind of confirm the artistic impression of Austria.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace caught my eyes as it has its own zoo. However, I had a tour around the palace only (animals should live freely in the wildlife right?). This palace not as good as the one in Paris nor London but I had the best experience there. This is probably because of the free audio guide that was provided with the tour. Each recording was not too long, storytelling based. It leads you to understand every bit of the palace and artifacts. Usually, I don’t purchase any digital guide to save money. Maybe I should start doing it to have a better experience and engage in the tour (too much tourism marketing thinking again).

Belvedere Palace

Since the pricing in Vienna was much higher than I had expected, I decided just walked around the outside of Belvedere Palace and its garden to save money for the days in Bratislava. There is a huge pool in front of the palace. It was a very sunny day. If I was royal, I must have jumped in it lol.

It was a nice walk around the garden. There were so many people jogging. Not only in the garden, but also around the palace pool. I would do the same every day too. After a good long walk, I finally reached the water fountain, where a fashion photoshoot was going on. Hence, that was an Instagram worthy spot. After that, I walked to the end of the garden. I was worrying that I had to walk all the way back to leave the palace. Fortunately, there is a small exit. The tram stop was right there.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral (world best ice cream)

After I went to see the Vienna State Opera House in the daytime, I saw this stunning St. Stephen’s Cathedral on the way to the underground station. I stopped and took some pictures. Then I was a sign saying the best ice cream in the world. So I got one to have a taste. It’s nice but the best in the world….? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The Austrian National Library

When I visited the Austrian National Library, there was an exhibition/fair about the research of the Vienna University. It was quite busy. That area was so beautiful. However, there was a not so decent scent. The hot weather may be the reason.

Naschmarkt

I visited Naschmarkt at lunchtime so I intended to grab lunch there as well. This market does not have many stores that serve small bites but full of restaurants. There was a variety of cuisines. I picked one that serves Austrian food. I ordered two mains and two beers. They costed over €40 in total. I told myself to treat it as my birthday meal so I could feel better as I didn’t prepare too much cash for this whole trip.

The whole meal was very nice. What made me very confused/angry is that the waiter gave us the bill and said, ‘If you think my service is good then you give 10-20% tips. If you think the service was terrible then you can just leave it.’ I don’t know if it’s the language barrier or what. I felt quite uncomfortable with what he said. I wanted to just give him no tips.

Didn’t want to be a “horrible person” so I still left 10%.

Gdynia Poland: Best grilled salmon and worst aquarium experience

Took the advantage of the tri-city transportation. Gdynia is just a train journey away from Gdansk. Gdynia is a seaside city on the Baltic coast in Poland. Similar to Sopot, it has a beautiful sandy beach but less crowded. Plenty of restaurants that serve high-quality seafood can be found there. The Gdynia aquarium is a famous attraction and is also the reason I decided to visit this place, although I don’t really like that aquarium.

By train

I took a train to Gdynia from the central station of Gdansk. It was a public holiday in Poland. There were long queues at the ticket machines. The train ticket between the tri-city is very affordable. However, the conditions of some of the trains are not very nice. The train we took smelled like pee. It might be a special example as the one took us to the airport didn’t have any unpleasant smell.

Pączki

After arriving Gdynia station, it’s just one long main street down to the aquarium. On the way, there is a pastry shop that sales a Polish donut. They are so good that you need to try at least once. There were several flavours. I tried the one with strawberry fillings.

al. Jana Pawla II

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When you see the busy street that fills with restaurants and an amusement park on the side, you are not far from the aquarium. Like the other seaside city, those restaurants serve seafood at a very affordable price. I had lunch in one of those restaurants and tasted the best grilled salmon in my life.

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It was hard to find an English menu there so Google translate came in handy. I picked a restaurant for lunch which I needed to order at the counter.  They gave me a number that they called out when the food is ready. While I was worrying that I can’t listen to the number in Polish, the staffs were so nice and called the number in English for me.  When I first see my plate of food, I “WOW” out loud as I did not expect the portion would be that huge with what I’ve paid. And it’s so delicious that the wasps came to fight the food with me!

Armed Forces Day

The day I visited Gdynia was the Poland Armed forces day. There was a ceremony at the pier and a fun fare at the park that exhibit different military vehicle. I also experience a salvo for the first time.

The aquarium

Finally, I found the aquarium at the end of the street. There was a long queue at the ticket selling point but it didn’t take too long. As it was a local holiday, the aquarium was too crowded to move freely. I had to follow the stream and wait to move from tank to tank.

I personally don’t agree with the idea of aquarium since I think sea animals should live in the ocean rather than the tank. A lot of aquariums that I’ve been to do provide sufficient space for the animals and aim to teach the visitors to protect our beautiful ocean. However, I’m really not happy with this one. In this aquarium, there are so many small tanks that gave me an impression of a big goldfish shop. Also, many tanks there were way too small for the size and number of the fish. I don’t know if the fish were tired or what. A lot of them didn’t really swim around. My conclusion is: don’t visit this aquarium unless they improve the environment for the animals.

Gdynia beach

After the aquarium, I walked to the beach nearby and put my foot into the Baltic water for the first time. Since I didn’t plan to stay at the beach in Gdynia, I didn’t have my bikini with me. It was a very sunny day. The feeling of the cool water was amazing. I sat and relaxed at the beach for a while only and saved the Baltic Sea for the next day in Sopot. Read Sopot Poland: First dip into the Baltic Sea and see how my first Baltic experience.

Wander around Gdansk

Never have I ever been on a holiday in summer. I thought Poland should be a great destination for me to escape from the heat. However, it was still boiling there. This was my first trip to Poland and I chose to visit Gdansk which is a small city in the north. It is a great destination for experiencing the Baltic Sea and European history.

Find the way to the hostel

I arrived quite late at night and needed to catch the last one or two trains to the city center. Took me a long while to figure out which ticket I needed and how to purchase it from the ticket machine. This almost made me miss the last train.

Finally, I made it to the correct train. And something happened. To be honest, I still don’t know what has happened. People were arguing in Polish and the police came. I found it quite scary when I don’t understand what people are talking about while they are angry. Anyhow, I arrived at the hostel safely.

Accommodation

I stayed at Elewator Gdansk Hostel. It’s interior is very clean, modern, and with free breakfast. The room I stayed in was on the top floor with a private rooftop which was a big surprise! It’s located in the center of the city center, where all the bars, restaurants, and most of the attractions are. Highly recommended.

St Mary Church

In my opinion, St Mary Church is a must-visit attraction. It is the largest brick church in the world. The view on top of the church tower is definitely worth to climb 400 steps up the super narrow spiral stairs.

Gdansk Long Market

Every day, there are many restaurants and stalls that sell a variety of products in the long market. From the famous amber to local street food. It’s a good place to get a snack and look for a souvenir. I had too many chimney cakes and smoked cheese and cranberry sauce. Also, the historical architectures were my favourite.

Amber street

Amber can be found everywhere in Gdansk. You can even find them in the street market stalls. Since I don’t know much about gems, I can’t tell which is real and which is fake. The shops in Amber Street seem more authentic and trustworthy. I wanted to buy an owl amber necklace. After enquiring, the charm and the necklace are sold separately. I was so disappointed.

Chleb i Wino Gdańsk

Chleb i Wino Gdansk is an exquisite fine dining restaurant that always has a queue at the door. It is located near to my hostel. I sat outside with some heaters and blankets. It was so relaxing. I ordered cocktails which were very generous in terms of the amount of alcohol. The pizza was a bit oily but tasted good.

Check out my Instagram @comewithjess to see more of my pictures in Gdansk.

Sopot Poland: First dip into the Baltic Sea

It was the third day of my summer trip. Waking up with a clear blue sky had made me more than excited for the Sopot beach. Never have I ever thought about visiting a beach or even swimming in Poland as it always gives me a cold impression. However,  that’s incorrect. On my way to Sopot, I sweated so bad.

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When I first stepped out from the train and saw Sopot, I thought to myself it’s so different from Gdansk. It’s much more modern and busy. From the train station to the beach, everything was so beautiful and delightful. Many people were enjoying the sun while having a meal or a drink. Smelled so good. On the main street, there was probably the most funniest looking Costa.

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After around 10 mins walk, I finally saw the Sopot Pier. It’s a very long white pier. It’s a nice walk and the view was priceless. However, it took me over 20 mins to walk down. When I reached the end of the pier, after three days of walking on Gdansk pebbled roads, my legs asked me to turn around and head to the beach for a lay down.

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The beach is very long and the sand was fine and smooth. I found a spot at the beach where close to the water and sunbathed before going into the water. To be honest, despite the sun was strong and warm, the wind was a bit chilly for the bikini in my opinion.

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After sunbathing and getting a little bit warmer, I braved myself to step into the water. It’s FREEZING, which met my expectation. I kept telling myself to think about the winter swimming that I’ve done ten years ago and tried to adapt to the water temperature.  I then slowly submerged myself in the Baltic Sea for the very first time! It’s amazing!

Nevertheless, when I look closer at the water, the water is actually very clear but there were a lot of algae. I did a little research after that. There was a massive toxic algae bloom a few weeks ago.  It’s very sad that such a beautiful place was affected by our pollution. We human really need to take care of our planet.

 

Horror Story in Venice

“Con, is earthquake a thing in Italy?”

“I don’t know,” Con answered.

I was quiet for a few seconds. I was laying in bed,  staring at my towel that hung on the wall and said, “Don’t you feel the house is shaking?”

“Well, it’s raining and the chalet is off the ground. Maybe that’s why it shakes a bit.”, Con casually replied while organising his backpack for heading home tomorrow.

Suddenly, we both stopped talking. We stared at each other. My mouth was slightly open. Scared.

The chalet was proper shaking. It seemed like it’s not going to stop.

“You’re sure it’s not an earthquake?” I broke the silence, finally.  Con looked out from the window and said, “no, no one came out”.

“OUCH!”

That was a scream from next door. We stared at each other again. Con walked slowly to the bathroom where the wall that separates our rooms. I whispered, “are they fighting or having crazy sex?” I was pretty sure the answer was not the first one. Con looked like he’s disgusted and knocked on the wall a few times. The shaking stopped immediately. “That’s crazy. Ew!” I said.

“They better not do it again tonight.” By that second Con finished his sentence, it shakes again wildly. I could tell he was angry. He quickly walked into the bathroom again and punched the wall once, “Dare to do it again!”, he shouted. I quietly shouted at Con, “Hey! What’re you doing? Don’t do that! What if they come out and try to start a fight?” I was just so scared that they would come out and do something crazy to us.

He then walked out and started to change his PJ to t-shirt and jeans. I asked, “where are you going?”. “To the front desk and complain.” He said, “Look at you. You’re shaking with the bed.

After a couple of minutes, he’s back. He sighed and started telling me his conversation with the security, “I told the security that our next door might be having a crazy sex or something and make the whole chalet shakes like there’s an earthquake. Guess what that security told me?” I looked at him and waited for him to continue. He explained in a deep voice, “you need to go speak to them. Like a human. Tell them it’s late at night and people need to sleep.”

I closed my eyes. Covered my face with my hands and screamed in my head, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PLACE!”

And the chalet shook again.

My honest opinion:

This story is real and it happened on the last night of my holiday in Venice. We stayed in Camping Village Jolly, where is about half an hour bus journey from the Venezia. It is a decent place to stay if you’re okay with sleeping on the ground floor.  Although it is a campsite, the interior of the chalet was very clean and the facilities are new. There’s also a shop at the site that you can buy snacks and drinks. I didn’t try the bar and swimming pool but they make the campsite like a resort. I didn’t really enjoy staying there just because I don’t like sleeping and hearing someone walking outside. That creeped me out (I spent 90% of my life living on a skyscraper. And this horrible experience made it worse. However, I think I was just too “lucky” to experience it.