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5 Spots in Krakow Not to Miss

Kraków is Poland’s best attraction and the city has been drawing in more and more tourists each year. Perhaps best known for its picturesque main square, where the pigeons almost out number
the people, here are five spots in the city and around it that no visitor should miss.

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1) Rakowicki Cemetery. I know what you’re thinking. A cemetery? But trust me, as the largest and most elaborately decorated cemetery in the city, this is a site tourists should see, especially to better understand Polish tradition and appreciation for the deceased. If you can visit Kraków during All Saints Day weekend, even better. Droves of Poles flock to this cemetery to light candles and deliver flowers to the graves of their loved ones and pay respects. It’s a moving scene and unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Other central European cities have similar traditions on All Saints Day, but no one can top Kraków’s. To get there, take tram No. 2, which stops right outside the cemetery. You can plan your journey here.

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2) Auschwitz-Birkenau. If you’re in Kraków, you should visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the largest network of Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers that Hitler’s Third Reich ran during World War II. You should set aside a minimum of 3.5 hours for this visit, and you have to see them both to get the full experience. It’s best to visit the site with a guide, as some areas are blocked off without one. You can book a tour that picks you up from your hostel or hotel in the city center, provides transport and lunch, and takes you through both camps. On the day of your visit, be sure to give yourself some scheduled down time after the tour, as it takes a heavy emotional toll on most and you may not want to be out on the town right after such a visit. For more information on the camps, now operating as a memorial to those who died, visit the home site. Auschwitz-Birkenau is a must if you’re to begin understanding what Jews in Europe went through during Hitler’s reign, and to of course learn more about World War II.

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3) The Cupcake Corner. If you need a pick-me-up after visiting Auschwitz, go back to the city center and relax at the Cupcake Corner, a quaint shop just two minutes walking from the main square great for some lounge time. The cupcake cafe offers all kinds of melt-in-your-mouth bundles of deliciousness, including peanut-butter chocolate cakes that dissolve upon first bite, and it also serves coffee drinks and muffins. Furthermore, the bakery offers a nice escape from the bustling streets and is the perfect place for some quiet reflection after seeing the concentration camps.

4) The Wieliczka Salt Mine. I know this one also sounds strange, but Kraków is known for its salt mines, and this one is not to be missed. While the traditional tour gives you a condensed history of the mine, also a UNESCO heritage site, it also offers beautiful views of the breathtaking underground mini city. The tourist route includes an underground chapel, and it wouldn’t be complete of course without tasting one of the walls yourself. Be sure to take your student ID, as admission prices are cheaper for those under 26, and set aside about four hours for this site, as it is a bit outside of the city center.

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5) Wawel Hill (and castle complex). I know what you’re thinking. Another castle. But really, this one is not to be missed. Located just a short five-minute walk from the main square, Wawel Hill, on which the Royal Castle and cathedral are located, it sits atop the Vistula and is the site where the earliest Krakow settlements began. The castle complex offers nice views of the city, and also includes several museums and exhibits. It’s enough to just have a nice walk around the complex, but for history buffs, the museums offer a deeper look.

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Discrepancies: Italy vs. the U.S.

  1. While most adult Americans wake up at the crack of dawn, go for a morning jog, read the paper, read their emails, eat breakfast and do whatever else in the time span of 5:30am-8:30am before leaving for work and starting their day at 9:00, Italians do not. Many places of business in Italy open later than they do in the U.S, giving the day a later start. The working/corporate world of Italy is incredibly chill to say the least.
  2. Since the day starts later, and people move through life at a more relaxed pace in Italia, it definitely goes without saying that everything else is timed later in Italy than in the U.S and everything else moves slower in Italy than in the U.S. Exhibit A: Italians eat dinner around 9:00 sometimes later, while we Americans eat at times ranging from 6:00-8:00.
  3. Italians, and most other Europeans, know about the politics of other countries and the countries surrounding them. Many Americans barely know about their own politics.
  4. Number one thing I wondered the entire time I was in Europe: what is the European fascination with Pringles. They’re arguably one of the worst American snack foods (sorry everyone, but we have some much better prospects). It’s so bizarre to me, but it’s also incredibly embarrassing that Italians and Europeans seem to think that Pringles are God’s gift to Earth, when most of the Americans I know do not. The same goes for fast food restaurants.
  5. A main issue that the U.S has that Italy does not is the one of overindulging in pretty much everything. Booze, food, caffeine, material items, you name it. It’s a lot of the reason they dislike Americans so much, aside from the next discrepancy.
  6. Americans are so ridiculously loud. Traveling in Europe, it was never difficult to identify a stereotypical American because not only were they probably wearing shorts and sandals, but they were also speaking ten notches above a normal level.
  7. Americans wear shorts and sandals, Italians do not.
  8. The first thing I want when I wake up in the morning is a Venti coffee. First thing I think about. You can’t find that in Italy. Italians definitely judge Americans for their caffeine intake as well as the invention of iced coffee, which is few and far between in Italy. When you do find it, it’s usually pretty gross.
  9. Italians eat croissants for breakfast; Americans eat deliciously satisfying egg sandwiches.
  10. Italians are die-hard soccer fans, baseball the second slowest sport to golf, is the American pastime.
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7 Important Italian Phrases

The Italian language is charming, beautiful and somewhat confusing. If you’re going to be visiting and/or living in Italy, it pays to learn a few essential phrases in Italian. Personally, I believe you could get along quite nicely knowing only, “Un cono grande con straciatella, per favore,” (A large cone with chocolate chip gelato, please). But if your definition of survival goes beyond the ability to order delicious dairy products, these phrases will help you out:

1. Dov’é…? (Where is…?)
Whether you’re looking for the bathroom (il bagno), the police station (la questura) or your friend Kayla, this basic question will help you in your search.

2. Permesso (Excuse me/let me through)
In a country where no one seems to be too fond of orderly lines, you’re going to need to know how to politely elbow your way through crowds.

3. Aiuto! (Help!)
Let’s hope you never have to use this one unless you’re trying to translate a Beatles song. Still, your mom will be glad that you know how to say it.

4. Per favore (Please) and Grazie (Thank you)
Good manners will get you everywhere in life. Or at least the occasional free round of grappa.

5. Salute/Cin cin! (Cheers!)
You should always know how to toast the way the natives do.

6. Non capisco (I don’t understand)
This is such a bittersweet phrase. It can make you feel pathetic when it’s all you know how to say to a frustrated nun in the Vatican gift shop. It can also be an absolute lifesaver in awkward social situations. Sometimes it pays to be a foreigner.

7. Sono Leonardo DiCaprio e la sua pistola ad acqua nelle vicinanze? (Are Leonardo DiCaprio and his water gun nearby?)
In light of recent events, this one is particularly essential.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Pick Up and Move to Greece

1. Gyros: If heaven in a pita isn’t enough reason to pack your bags and head to Greece, then I don’t know what is.  For prices lower than the dollar menu at your local fast food joint, you can get a hot pita filled with shaved meat, tomatoes, onions, french fries, and of course a healthy dollop of tzatziki sauce. The only question is, why stop at one when you can have two?

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2. Toga parties: A trip to Greece is a perfect excuse to finally recycle your sheets and dress like the Greek Gods for a night. Just make sure to Youtube some toga tying techniques beforehand, because shockingly, it’s not as easy as it looks.  

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3. Original Marathon: Marathons have been growing in popularity and come in all shapes and forms these days; you can end up covered in paint, face all sorts of muddy obstacles, and even adorn yourself with glow sticks for a night version of these runs. So why not go to the place where it all started and give thanks for the opportunity to dedicate months of sweat and tears for the unbeatable adrenaline rush that comes along with running a marathon.

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4. Feta: “The feta is better.” Though you kind of have to say this with an accent for it to actually rhyme, the statement could not be more true. Whether you eat it on a greek salad or simply on its own, this crumbly cheese is lifechanging.

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5. Jewelry:  Greece has some really phenomenal jewelry; what with evil eyes adorning everything from rings to bracelets and beautiful lava rock necklaces in Santorini, you really can’t go wrong.  So head to Greece, get that credit card out, and ice yourselves

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6. Blue water: You know those pictures that come as a standard desktop on just about every computer since their invention in the 1800s- the ones showing unbelievably blue water you never thought actually existed? Well, in Greece it actually does. Without Instagram filters.

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7. Santorini:  Whose Facebook cover photo couldn’t use a little revamping? Become a model for a day with Santorini as your backdrop. Here, beautiful white houses line the cliff sides with an occasional blue roof or splatter of vibrant  color brightening up the horizon.

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8. Greek People: If the landscape and the food aren’t haven’t convinced you yet, the people of Greece are enough of a reason to come visit this country. The people are friendly, happy, and enjoy a leisurely lifestyle that makes this country even more welcoming. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your very own Kostos.

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9. History: Remember when you had to read the Odyssey in middle school? Well, that’s just part of the extensive history of Greece. Here you can learn all about the tales of Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and all the other Greek Gods you grew up learning about. Not to mention the remains of old architecture, like the Acropolis, parts of the original Olympic stadiums, and the Parthenon.

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10. Island Hopping: There is no better place to try out that new bathing suit and go island hopping than Greece. There are dozens of islands to choose from including Ios, Mykonos, Corfu, and Milos; each one only getting more beautiful than the last. The only question is, why aren’t you already on a boat sailing around?

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11. But honestly, 10 reasons don’t even begin to cover it…all of Greece is amazing!

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Vino 101: Parte Uno

When in Rome, drink as the Romans do. And that means trying a lot of fantastic Italian wine. But unless you’re A) someone who was born and raised on a vineyard in Italy or B) someone who drinks wine for a living, navigating the world of Italian wine can be more than a little intimidating.

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But never fear! In this multi-part series on Italian wine, you’ll learn everything you need to know to release your inner-sommelier (or at least pick out a bottle of wine in the grocery store for a reason other than its cool label).

Today we’re starting with one of the most easily spotted things on a wine bottle: its classification. On all (good) bottles of Italian wine, there are phrases and/or acronyms that signify the quality of the wine based on Italy’s standard method of categorization. Some are written on the label, some are placed on a sticker around the neck of the bottle, and some are stamped in a seal over the cork, but if you know what letters you’re looking for, you can learn a lot about a wine by its classification. These are the categories of quality:

Vino da Tavola (VdT): When you simply order “vino” at a trattoria, this is what you’re getting. “Vino da Tavola” translates to “table wine,” and it’s at the very bottom of the Italian wine totem pole. Made from an inexpensive mix of wines produced in different regions and possibly different years, VdT wines are essentially the Jungle Juice of the wine world.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): As a slightly more refined Italian wine, IGT wines are a step up from VdT wines. In order to achieve IGT status, producers have to adhere to a general set of rules regarding the geographical origin of the wine. Still, IGT wines are often blends of several different kinds of grapes. If “How to Be a Great Wine” were a class, IGT wines would be taking it pass/fail.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC): The DOC status is where things start to get intense. As opposed to the loosely defined rules of IGT, DOC wines have some serious standards to live up to. The grapes in the wine must all be from a small and specific region in Italy in order to qualify. Taking the requirements even further, each region has its own set of DOC production rules designed to preserve the area’s wine-making traditions. If you’re looking for a quality wine, a DOC definitely won’t disappoint.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG): If a wine has achieved DOCG classification, it’s won the wine world equivalent of an Oscar. DOC requirements look wimpy next to those of DOCG. Not only do DOCG wines have to follow even more of the extremely specific regulations set by their region, they also have to be approved by a professional taste-testing panel and produced in very limited quantities. If you’re an aspiring wine snob, go straight for the DOCG wines.

 

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Can’t-Miss Fall Concerts in Europe

If you’re like me, you can appreciate a good concert with great friends in your hometown. However, with the opportunity to study abroad in Europe comes the opportunity to see your favorite artists with your best friends in places like Paris, Amsterdam, Ibiza, London, and Prague… which really changes the game.

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A couple can’t-miss concerts this Fall are pretty epic. Let’s start with the biggest and baddest one of all, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. With divorce rumors running wild throughout Hollywood, this could be your last opportunity to see them together live! Not to mention, the concert is in this tiny, strange city called… PARIS! So get your friends together and grab tickets to their last stop on the “On the Run Tour” in Paris, France.

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Next on our list: None other than Lady Gaga. She’s currently touring all of Europe so you have multiple chances to see her! From Amsterdam to Prague, to London or Paris, she will be in Europe the entire time you are! Let’s cheers to running into her at a club somewhere, hopefully while she’s wearing a dress made entirely of raw meat.

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Are you an EDM fan? How high does Hardwell rank on your list for DJs? For me, pretty high. If we’re on the same page, you absolutely cannot miss Hardwell in Amsterdam on October 16th.  Talk about a crazy time: not only are you experiencing the insane city of Amsterdam, you’re seeing one the biggest DJs of our time perform live. Oh and guess what, tickets are around €39. Done and done. While we’re on the topic of Amsterdam, another can’t miss concert is the Amsterdam Music Festival in October! The most incredible EDM festival in this city hands down.

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Now lets talk about a place that’s been on everyone’s mind since J.Biebs “hit” Orlando Bloom: Ibiza. Whether you pronounce it “Ibiza” or “Ibitha” we can all agree that this place is unbelievable. With upcoming concerts like Ellie Goulding, Snoop Dog (Snoop Lion?), incredible DJ’s, and the opening and closing parties, this is the place to be this Fall. Check out some of the concerts here.

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And finally, a tribute to my favorite city in the world: Barcelona. This is home to the greatest clubbing in Europe: Opium, Catwalk, Razzmatazz; I could go on forever. Along with these amazing clubs come awesome DJs gracing us with their music, pretty much every day of the week. (If you want to rage on a Monday, this is your city).

No matter where you go this Fall, if you’re a fan of music, make sure to see at least one of these concerts. This is just a tiny sampling, so make sure you do some research so you don’t miss any opportunities to see your favorite artists while living abroad!

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