Monthly Archives: October 2018

Wanderlust Part 6: Budapest to Krakow

Catch up on the journey so far!
Wanderlust Part 1: Hong Kong and London
Wanderlust Part 2: Paris, Swiss Alps
Wanderlust Part 3: Florence and Rome
Wanderlust Part 4: Rome to Venice
Wanderlust Part 5: Salzburg and Vienna

Day 17: January 10th, Vienna to Budapest, via Bratislava

Another travel day, another early start. In the hostel room, my roommates state how envious they are of my packing cubes. Tori, one of the girls, swears by her space-saver bags. But I respectfully disagree.
Topdeck has pretty strict luggage restrictions in theory. But as far as I can see, my bag is among the smallest and lightest of anybody’s (although there was a boy who managed to bring only 7kgs for around 8 weeks of travel. And he also wore shorts. In the snow. There’s always one). While planning my trip, I did extensive research on packing light and managed to get everything I needed into a medium-sized suitcase weighing 9kg. As much as I love the idea of travelling carry-on only, this trip was from Australia to Europe for five weeks in the dead of winter. It just wasn’t going to happen. I’ve packed conservatively, in terms of how much I’ve brought with me, and I’m immensely grateful for the laundry facilities in the hostels, the game changer for me is my packing cubes. They keep my reasonably sized suitcase organised, helped me pack only what I absolutely needed, and made repacking my bag a breeze every time we’ve gone somewhere new, which has been every couple of days. I am never travelling without them again.
After breakfast at the hostel we have to walk to the coach, and at this point in the trip I’m not only glad for packing light, I’m also glad for exercising restraint when it comes to buying pointless souvenirs because some people are getting seriously weighed down.

We leave Vienna and begin the trip to Budapest, Hungary. But first, we have a stop in Bratislava, Slovakia.
I’d like to say this day stop is eventful, but that would be a lie. Because it is pouring with rain. My down coat, for all the warmth it’s given me, is sadly lacking in the waterproof department. I’m getting soaked. My companions and I can’t figure out where to go for lunch with the limited time we have. Eventually, after going back and forth, we simply walk into a McDonalds and thankfully my coat dries with the heat.
As we’re descending into eastern Europe, I can see a distinct difference in architecture. And sadly, reminders of WWII. On the outskirts of Budapest, we drive to the top of the citadel and get an incredible view of the city we’re about to visit. The bridges we drive across were all destroyed in bombings, but rebuilt.
As we arrive in Budapest to the tune of the George Ezra song, we go on a driving tour but it’s obvious this is a very walkable city. Our accomodation is another Plus Hostel, a chain we’re all very fond of. The walls are painted with famous Hungarians. Even walking around is a lesson.
Nearly everyone goes out for a pub crawl. I stay in the hostel and respond to the mountain of acting-related emails I’ve gotten with the glorious access to WiFi.

Day 18: January 11th, Budapest

It’s a free day and I am keen for some exploring, despite the cold. Most people are heading to the Gellert Baths, Budapest’s famous thermal spa. I’m not planning to go because A) New Zealand’s thermal spas have set the standard I will live and die by B) I’d rather explore the city as much as I can and C) I didn’t bring my bikini and there’s a snowflake’s chance in hell I’d want to wear it in this weather anyway. I have an idea of what I want to do, but sadly, my plans have to change slightly. I was dying to visit the House of Terror Museum. Before anyone has a heart attack, the exhibitions deal with WWII, Communism, Fascism, the Iron Curtain etc.
Unfortunately for me the Museum is closed for renovations and the history geek in me is throwing the tantrum of the century. But before I can get too upset, I have to race back to the hostel and film a couple of self test audition videos. Actor life never ends.
Once that’s done, I head back out again. The best way I can describe the city is if New York was clean and not overcompensating for something. I wander around for a while, enjoying the old world charm of Budapest, and then I find myself at the Budapest Eye. There’s no line, and the ticket is 9 euro. I race straight to the front and get on immediately to a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the place.
For the next few hours, I take dozens of photos, indulge in a bit of retail therapy for pretty much the first time this trip and I learn the hard way that getting cinnamon filling in Trdelnik is a horrible idea.

That night, we do one of my favourite activities on the trip. A dinner cruise on the Danube River. If anyone is going to Budapest, this is a must.

Day 19: January 12th, Budapest to Krakow, Poland 

Disaster strikes the next morning. As soon as I’ve packed everything into my suitcase, I go to put one more thing in, only to realise the padlock is jammed. And because I’ve had it for a few years, I can’t exactly reset the code. Drat.
There’s no time to remedy the situation though. It’s another long long drive day ahead, this time to Krakow.
During a phone call to my Dad, I professed that Salzburg was my favourite country, and he responded “Wait til you see Krakow and Prague,” Let’s go for it then.

The trip on the coach is eventful to say the least. I decide to go for the front row seat this time, and a number of people, along with the usual daily hangovers, are getting sick, not unlike I did in Paris. I’m not going through that again, so I’m drenching my hands in santizer every five minutes. And during our first rest station stop, an adorable stray puppy starts chasing the coach. And yes, I get out and cuddle it.
Morgan gives her usual this-is-our-next-country introduction but the one for Poland is incredibly sad, to put it mildly. Poland was the country most affected by WWII. I know most of it already being a history nut, but some of the statistics of just how many Polish people died is horrifying.
Morgan then puts on Schindler’s List, and I watch it even though I’ve seen it several times before. But judging by the gasps and tears from behind, it’s clear a lot of my fellow travellers haven’t.

We’re in for a shock with Krakow during the walking tour. And by that I mean nobody is prepared for how cold it is. Even with the other countries we’ve been to, this is something else.

My night ends with a very funny experience. When I get up to the hostel room, the lock on my suitcase is still jammed. I’ve brought a spare one with me, so I head down to reception to see if they had WD-40 or something to just get the lock off.
“Do you mind if we break the lock?” the woman at reception asks.
“Nope, you can do what ever you need,” I say.
She disappears into the back and returns with a hacksaw. And the look on my roommates’ faces is priceless as she saws the lock off.

NEXT TIME: Part 7/11 – Krakow, Auschwitz and Prague!

Wanderlust Part 5: Salzburg and Vienna

Get caught up on the journey!
Wanderlust Part 1: Hong Kong and London
Wanderlust Part 2: Paris, Swiss Alps
Wanderlust Part 3: Florence and Rome
Wanderlust Part 4: Rome to Venice

Day 14: January 7th, Venice to Salzburg

Another long drive day means another early start. I think I’m the only one not bothered by this. Today on the bus, most people are wearing their new Topdeck hoodies, and others are lamenting over their clothes being ruined by the laundry service. But I have other things on my mind. The next destination holds very special meaning to me.

January 7 is a very important day. It marks eight years since my beloved Grandma, Judy, left this world following a long battle with polio and Multiple Sclerosis. I was seventeen at the time. The last thing she and I did together was watch The Sound of Music. She’d been given a portable DVD player and my Mum had bought the special edition DVD of the movie. She’d seen it a million times, as had I, but her face lit up throughout the running time. With just her and me sitting beside her bed, where she spent the final six months of her life, we watched it together. She held my hand the whole time and told me how much she loved me. It’s a precious memory, because two weeks later she was gone. So much time has passed, but I miss her terribly every single day.
It seems the universe has lined this moment up for me, being in Salzburg where The Sound of Music was filmed on this anniversary. The only thing I intend to do in the city is the tour. And I will do so.
As the coach makes the journey to Salzburg, Morgan attempts to put the film on but the DVD won’t work because it was bought in Australia and the coding or something is different. She resigns herself to the soundtrack and not everyone is happy about this.
Italy may have been quite mild in terms of the weather, but as we cross the border into Austria, the snow becomes deep and heavy. The alps loom high into the sky and it’s clear we’re entering another world.

The hostel is a really nice one, though some people think the rooms are too small (for the record, I don’t). Every night The Sound of Music is played and a number of people plan to watch it. First, we set out into the chilly evening for the walking tour. We see Mozart’s birthplace, and several filming locations from The Sound of Music. Most of us head to Burgermeister for dinner, and a bunch of us get tickets for the tour the next day.

Cameras don’t lie. Salzburg is spectacular.

Day 15: January 8th, Salzburg

My day begins early. I don’t want to waste a moment of my time in the beautiful city. Those of us going on the Sound of Music tour get picked up outside the hostel. It’s a balmy 1 degree Celsius. I’m very grateful for my thermals and fleece lined boots.

Once on the tour bus, the guide wastes no time launching into the history of the beloved film and why people in Salzburg have, for the most part, never seen or heard of it (it’s a long story. Google it). My seatmate introduces herself as Rachel, and her accent immediately identifies her as America, and she’s with her boyfriend Tyler, who’s studying in Europe. They are, quite honestly, two of the coolest people I have ever met.

First stop is Leopoldskron Palace, the exterior of the Von Trapp house. The lake is frozen over, but one light tap from my boot is enough to shatter the delicate crystal. I sure wouldn’t want to fall in like they did in the film.
We drive past Nonnberg Abbey, which was used as the convent exterior. Hellbrun Castle contains one of the three pavilions famously used in Sixteen Going on Seventeen, and was also used as the entrance to the Von Trapp home. The guide points out the path where Julie Andrews sang I Have Confidence and asks if anyone wants to skip down said path singing the song. I don’t need to be asked twice. Tyler very kindly takes what becomes my favourite photo from the entire trip.

On the way to Wedding Church Mondsee via St. Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang, the soundtrack is played and a singalong is actively encouraged. My time to shine. I even get the bus microphone for a spell. In between the Wi-Fi dropping in and out, I manage to send a quick video back home.
Church Mondsee is a shock, since it’s much smaller than the movie would have you believe thanks to a wide-angle lens. I light a candle inside for Grandma.
We have a bit of free time so we go into a few stores. I get a fridge magnet and a bar of Eidelweiss soap, since there’s no way I can bring the flower scenes through Australian customs.
The tour ends with the stunning Mirabelle Gardens, where the famous Do-Re-Mi sequence was shot. Afterwards, Rachel and Tyler are heading to the salt mines, and we make plans to have dinner later that night at Burgermeister.

I find a place called Shakespeare Cafe for lunch. I’m not used to being asked “smoking or non-smoking?” at a restaurant, but the open doors mean that the cigarette smoke leaks in regardless, so my choice hardly matters. I have finally seen how serious my weight loss has become, and I am determined to do something about it. When my lunch arrives, I firmly tell myself that I will not leave until I’ve eaten the lot. And I manage to do it.

After doing my laundry in the hostel, I head to Burgermeister to meet Rachel and Tyler. We have a delightful evening explaining our respective countries’ slang, and laughing about a certain President.
I’m definitely visiting them when I return to the USA in 2019.

Day 16: January 9th, Vienna

Another drive day, to Vienna. This is a city I’ve read about for years.
Our first stop is at the Schonbrunn Palace. We wander around the immaculate gardens. There’s nothing like this back home.
It’s sad that we only get one night in Vienna, because it’s gorgeous. The city is too big for a walking tour, but we get driven around the streets. Past the arts university that rejected Hitler 3 times, the Prater, Hofburg Palace, Belvedere, Vienna State Opera…

I don’t go out in the afternoon because I have a bunch of self-test tapes to try and film in the darkened hostel room. But as night falls, I’m in for a real treat. We’ve been booked into seeing the Salonorchester Alt Wien–the Orchestra of Old Vienna. First, we have dinner at a beautiful restaurant and then we walk to the concert hall, Kursalon.
It’s a highlight of the trip for me. The orchestra plays Strauss and Mozart without a conductor, and there are opera singers and stunning ballet duos. Not only is the performance world-class, but the hall and even the chairs are gorgeous. I’ve never seen anything like it. Sorry Sydney Opera House.

The night reminds me, again, why I chose the arts. And I have fallen head-over-heels in love with Austria. This country is everything beautiful in the world, and for the first time in three months, I’m feeling genuinely happy.

This is the country that gave me any hope that life was going to be ok again.

Next time: 6/11 Budapest and Krakow

I Have Returned

For the last year, my blog has been very quiet without any explanation to my subscribers and friends. I’ve posted very little, and very rarely. I wasn’t in any space to give notice or reasons, or to give a ballpark when or if I was going to blog again. This is all going to change right now.

Without going into all the gory details, or naming any names, in October 2017 my life fell apart in every single way. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, in just a few moments, everything I was sure of was gone. Just like that.

It’s hard when other people make bad choices. It’s hard not to blame yourself and then come to terms with the fact that you haven’t done anything wrong. Especially when people insert themselves into a situation, thinking they know the truth when they really have no idea. It’s hard when you find out you were lied to and used, for absolutely no reason.
It’s hard when people you thought were your friends, who you would have trusted with your very life, betray you in the worst way. And thanks to social media, escaping it is also next to impossible. My whole identity was brought into question, through no fault of my own.
On top of this, and really because of it, I was battling some serious health issues. Still am, even though I’m a million times better than I was.

I tried to write. But I couldn’t. I was physically incapable of doing it beyond the occasional short review, and I was too afraid to share it around like I normally would.
Writing is something very dependant on mood, emotions, headspace and personal feelings. I don’t know how on earth J.K Rowling wrote the way she did with the kind of pressure she faced.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everything is perfect now. It’s not. I’m still rebuilding the person I want to be. But I feel I’ve reached a point to bring this blog back, and make it better than ever on top of everything else I’m doing.

I am sorry to all my subscribers and friends who’ve missed my work. I’m truly sorry for dropping off the radar like I did.  But I had to take care of myself first and foremost, and I have plans for my blog.

What’s coming….

  1. My Wanderlust recap of my incredible solo trip to Europe will be completed by the end of the year, as I plan my next overseas adventure. Travel blogging is definitely going to be a new venture for me, but obviously the arts are my number one passion and my site will ALWAYS be about them above all.
  2. As I take on new acting projects, you can expect to be kept in the loop and brought behind the scenes.
  3. My first artist interview is coming very soon, something I am hopeful will become a semi-regular occurrence.
  4. Yes, I have many critiques, reviews, lists and analysing blogs in my backlog. And they will be released as I see fit.

It’s great to be back.