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A is for Abroad

“Being abroad is a strange yet terrifying yet completely liberating and exhilarating experience,” says the girl who has been here all of five days. If we are being real here, I thought I would be gallivanting all over Europe, drinking wine, eating pizza, and practicing my Italian on beautiful willing locals/Armani models. School? What is school? I am just going to travel and tan and be a European for the next few weeks. Hold up, woah, press pause. That is all wrong, my friends. Well, not all of it, but being abroad requires a little hard work and it really reveals who you are when dropped in unfamiliar waters. This is what I have learned these past few days.

Know when it is time to buck up and do something and when it is time to go home. You are abroad, gosh darn it. You obviously did not pay X amount of money to sit in your apartment and watch movies all day. The world is waiting for you! You are here to explore, to practice the language, to meet people, to see things people dream of seeing, to take advantage of life! See it, enjoy it, live it, and take it all in. But if you are ill, injured, or physically exhausted, don’t stress! The Coliseum will be there tomorrow. So will the Eiffel Tower. Maybe even Big Ben. You will have other opportunities but know when the time is right to stay and see or go and rest.

Find a happy medium between comfy and fashion-forward for your clothes. It is no secret that Europeans are world renowned fashion know it alls. I have even seen Roman women treck ruins in Louboutin high heels. True story. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Dress to impress as the Europeans do, but please do not sacrifice your feet to the cobble stones. It really isn’t worth it. I invested in Birkenstocks today (which happen to be alla moda here in Italy) and wow did I not know what I was missing out on. Adjust your closet to your comfort and vise versa, but never sacrifice one for the other. There is always a happy medium.

If you are ill, take action immediately. European pharmacies, unlike American ones, open late and close early. So if you are ill, it really is hard to be proactive. Bring with you extra Advil, a thermometer, an over the counter cold and flu medicine, and an extra pack of band aids from home just in case your local pharmacy is closed. Call a doctor immediately. Often times they do house calls as well!

Explore outside of your host city. I am head over heels in love with Florence but I would be lying if I said I am not psyched to go to Croatia for Ultra Music Festival and to the Amalfi coast. Explore your city, but do not be afraid to get out there and see something new!

Know enough of the language to get directions and ask basic questions. I am currently learning Italian so I am not having many problems getting by here in Florence. But if I was in Paris, Munich, or Copenhagen I would be lost to bits. Knowing how to ask who, what, when, where, how, and why is never a problem. Yes, lots of Europeans speak English but they will be impressed with you- and appreciative- if you try to speak their language.

Keep a journal, a blog, a photo diary, ANYTHING to remember these moments. No, Instagram doesn’t count. Neither does Facebook. It doesn’t matter if writing isn’t your strong suit, you will want to look back at these days with a full and clear memory. It can be just a sentence or two! Write every day so you can always look back.

Make friends. Like, duh. Who doesn’t want to make new friends? Talk with people in your classes, in your program, friends of your roommates, locals even! Invite them out to the bar, invite a group over for dinner, go to gelato, go to a museum, go do anything! You are in a new place. New friends would be a bonus addition.

Focus on your classes. That is the whole reason you are here. Classes are so important I can’t even begin to stress it. You are not in Europe to eat gelato all day (ahh…wishes) and go out every night. Study and study hard so you can play hard. Nobody likes writing a paper or doing a project while your friends are traveling new places and having the time of their lives. Do not procrastinate, study in groups, get your school work done efficiently and yes, make sure it is correct!

A good work ethic in the classroom will make this all happen. Classes are classes and they are important and the reason you are here. But studying abroad is the one chance you have to be out every night with friends, travel the world, meet new people, and make some amazing memories. Do your school work, but make sure you get the full experience.

Originally posted on Memoir of a Cliché, reposted with permission from Ally Arrigo. 

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11 Reasons Budapest and Vienna are the Most Underrated European Destinations

By Devin Billbrough

  1. Thermal Baths: We all go on vacation to have a little me time. So why not sit back, relax and enjoy the world’s largest outdoor “hot tub”?  Enjoy these healing waters until your fingers turn all pruny or wait until the Széchenyi Thermal Baths turn into a rave at night.1920332_10152304586777502_1700682705_n
  2. Bar Scene: From the ruins pubs in Budapest to the Bermuda Triangle in Vienna, you have plenty of options to wet your whistle. Taste test everything from the traditional Hungarian pálinka to the variety of Bavarian beers or schnaps offered in Vienna.
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  3. Food: Any foodie knows the most important part of traveling is eating local cuisine, and Budapest and Vienna have incredible dishes to choose from. Enjoy everything from goulash and dumplings to schnitzel and noodles (thank you Julie Andrews) #yummmm
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  4. Fresh Markets: If meats don’t tickle your taste buds, treat your sweet tooth to some apple strudel and Sachertorte. Traveling and trying to stay healthy? The Great Market Hall in Budapest and Naschmarkt in Vienna have farmer’s markets every day that display their prize winning crops.
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  5. Public Transport: Lazy and don’t feel like walking anymore? Vienna, the dreamboat that it is, has an awesome public transportation network (deemed one of Europe’s best) with buses, trains, trams, and subways.  Budapest, while extremely pedestrian friendly with compact neighborhoods, has metro stops every 5 minutes from each other.
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  6. It’s cheap – Ball out like a young Marie Antoinette in Vienna or live like kings in Budapest. Both cities are extremely budget friendly. The Hungarian Forint’s (HUF, Hufflepuff, etc.) exchange rate is one of the best you’ll ever experience while in Europe. All you can eat buffet meals will cost you around €15, and you can get a beer of stein for around €3.
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  7. Hidden gems: Ever wonder what it’s like to crawl through caves beneath a city? Experience it for yourself in Budapest. It’s like a gold mine down there. Want to feel the wind in your hair? Vienna’s Prater amusement park is just another way to channel your inner child and escape the city feel.
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  8. Opera for penny pinchers: Like music? On a budget? Want to see some of the most beautiful opera houses in all of Europe? You’re in the land of Mozart and Beethoven, so why not?! You can get €1 tickets in Budapest and €4 tickets in Vienna. Even if you just go for 30 minutes, well worth it.
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  9. Vienna Zoo: It’s not every day you’ll be able to visit the world’s oldest operating zoo! Located just behind the Schönbrunn Palace, you can see some of the most beautiful and elegant creatures ever created. Feed some giraffes, pet some pigs, and oogle at the beauty of penguins.
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  10. Christmas Markets: The Christmas markets in Austria are breathtaking. And you can get some souvenirs for mom and dad!
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  11. Green Space: Claustrophobic and feel like skyscrapers are closing in on you? Just think of big, wide, open spaces. Budapest and Vienna both have plenty of green space for you to enjoy. Silent meditation in a park not enough? Take a hike. Literally. Up to Buda Castle. The views you’ll get of the city are breathtaking.
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13 Things That Will Happen During Your First Month Abroad

By Annie Bergmann

Whether you are coming abroad or have had the pleasure of living abroad in the past, you either have or will have the uncomfortable feeling of culture shock. Lets face it, we all will go through it at some point or another. You are going to feel uncomfortable, confused, shocked, and amazed particularly in your first month of adjusting to your new surroundings. But because of it you are going to have some stellar stories to bring back home to your family and friends! Here is a list of the 13 things that you will experience in your first month of being abroad.

  1. Everything is closed on Sunday – So plan accordingly!
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  2. Water isn’t free- really it’s not- oh, and you can forget about ice.
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  3. Drinking in publicWhether it be gathering with a new friends in a piazza for a couple of beers, or sharing a bottle of wine (friends) on the way to your favorite bar, most countries in Europe are accepting of drinking in public. What better way to enjoy the fresh fall air than with a nice Chianti?
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  4. Communication catch yourself responding to someone in any language other than the one they actually speak.
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  5. Getting lost is more of a blessing than a curse - but oftentimes a great story will come from it.
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  6. Patience – Whether it be the speed of the service in the restaurant or the speed of you internet connection, practicing patience will be apart of your daily routine.
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  7. Free public restrooms are a rarity– Who would have thought taking a bathroom break and not shelling out 50 cents – 1 euro each time was a luxury? If you haven’t realized it yet, a free toilet in Europe is very difficult to come by. Better make sure you always carry some spare change!
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  8. Friendships develop quicker- you’ll become best friends with the people you meet I approximately 3 seconds.
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  9. Homesickness – You might get homesick but then you realize the only thing you are missing out on at home is sitting on the couch and watching reality TV.
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  10. You realize to live on the edge and take chances, because when else will you have this opportunity again? Go explore, seek adventure.
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  11. You will catch yourself watching the sunset, which is worth doing almost every night
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  12. You will get creative with ways to save money- try cooking with each other, it’s a lot of fun (especially trying to figure out which ingredients to use)
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  13. Grocery shopping will take you three times as long because of time it takes to examine everything in the store. Oh, and you’ll quickly learn that you have to bag your own groceries.
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Packing for Europe 101

By Tiernan Cutler

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1. Rainboots/Jacket
Fall is the rainy season, and there’s no better way to stomp through puddles as you explore Europe!

2. Peanut Butter
Bring all things peanut butter–it exists in Europe, but in the smallest, most expensive form.

3. Football
Looking to toss one around on the beach? Well, you won’t be able to find a football over here. While soccer balls are abundant, your classic football is a little harder to find.

4. Adapters
You can never have too many of these. Skip the big converters and just stock up on the simple adapters.

5. Tobasco
For those who love to spice up their food, you’ll be hard-pressed to find your trusty Tobasco bottle on this side of the Atlantic.

6. Pocket External Charger
While you’re busy making your friends back home jealous with your constant stream of Instagrams and Snapchats, we can guarantee your phone will be dying quickly. Don’t let that happen.

7. Tide-to-Go Pen
We’re in the land of 3 hour dinners, spaghetti on the reg, and flowing red wine. Aka, the land of spillage.

8. Salad Dressing
Bottom line: salad dressing doesn’t exist here.

9. Wedges
The Italian women might be able to strut in stillettos, but cobblestones are trickier than they look. Save yourself the embarrassment of the faceplant and pack wedges.

10. Mac n’Cheese
You’ll be exposed to the best cheese in the world, but after 1 month you’ll get that itch for a taste of home.

11. Personal Makeup
Make sure to stock up on your favorite beauty products, otherwise you’ll get stuck buying everything for exorbitant prices.

12. Deodorant
If you have a favorite brand of deodorant, good luck finding it over here, especially you boys.

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The Best Cell Phone Apps for Your Study Abroad Semester

By Endsley Eggert

We’re all on our phones anyway, so might as well use them to aid in our travel experience. Below are some of the travel apps that I have found and used over the years. From flights, to packing, to city maps and even first aid, these smartphone apps will ensure you are well prepared to enjoy your trip(s) to the fullest.

TRANSPORT/ACCOMMODATIONS

GateGuru: Have a long layover and need to find some way to kill the time? GateGuru will become your best friend. Input your itinerary and let GateGuru do the rest. You’ll receive information about your check-in terminal, weather at the airport, terminal and gate arrival/departure information, flight status, estimated TSA security wait times, airport food and amenity information (did you know that San Francisco International Airport has a yoga room?), and airport maps and tips to help you navigate an unfamiliar airport. Free on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

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easyJet: We all love to fly this cheap airline, well maybe not love but we do love the prices! And they just made it easier. You can search, book and manage your flights all in the palm of your hand. Free on iOS.

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Ryanair: Search cheap flights right on your iPhone and manage your bookings. You’re able to check-in for your flights and get your mobile boarding pass direct to your phone so you don’t have to worry about finding a printer! Free on iOS.

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Skyscanner: Skyscanner helps you find cheap flights with just a couple of clicks! They help you compare millions of flights and hundreds of airlines in seconds. When you’ve found your perfect flight, they will link you to the airline so you can buy directly and get the best deal. Free on Android and iOS.

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Sleep Sounds HQ: If you’re like me, you absolutely cannot sleep in silence. Maybe your years of urban living have made you accustomed to fall sleep to the sound of honking cars, or you have been conditioned to sleep with a Sound Machine from Hammacher Schlemmer (thats me). Sleep Sounds HQ to the rescue! There are more than 600 natural and city sounds for travelers who need more than a bed to get to sleep. Search sounds from their 19 categories including ocean, cricket & insects, fire, public places and household. I am all about the White Noise. $1.99 on iOS.

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Jetlag Genie: This app is here to help you battle jet lag! Input travel dates, destinations, and usual sleeping times and it will generate a personalized alarm clock to help you get settled in your new time zone. $2.99 on iOS.

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Entrain: Entrain is another alarm clock for jet-lagged travelers. It was developed by researchers from University of Michigan and includes a lighting schedule to recommend some darkness during the day or some hours of bright light to help you overcome jet lag. Free on iOS.

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SafeTrek: If you find yourself in a potentially unsafe situation, the SafeTrek button could be your lifeline. Feeling uncomfortable walking home from the bar? Hold the SafeTrek button until you feel safe. If nothing unexpected happens, input your unique 4-digit pin. If a situation takes a turn for the worse, simply let go of the safe button and the police will be immediately notified. Free on Android and iOS.

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Hopstop: Hopstop provides public transport information covering more than 68 of the world’s biggest metropolitan hubs. You are only a few taps away from a stop-by-stop itinerary. Free on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

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PackPoint: PackPoint will help you never forget anything again! This intelligent packing list will build your perfect list based on length of stay, weather of your destination, and any activities planned during your trip. Free on Android and iOS.

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Sunscreen: I think this app was made for me, the pasty white girl who only gets burned… Input your skin type and the SPF of your sunscreen and this app will set a countdown timer on when you’re due to put on a second coat. It even takes the UVI rating of your current location into account. Free on iOS.

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Onavo: I’m not exactly sure how this app works but all I know is that it does and I’m not complaining! Once installed, Onavo will reduce the amount of data required to post your perfect picture of pizza to Instagram or share your thoughts on Facebook. It will also keep your parents happy when the next phone bill comes in the mail. Free on Android and iOS.

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TravelSafe Pro: A database of all emergency service numbers for almost every country you visit. Embassy details, access to police, ambulances and more. $0.99 on Android and iOS.

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SitOrSquat: Yes, this app is exactly what it sounds like. With a list of almost 95,000 bathrooms worldwide, this app tells you whether a toilet is open or closed and if they have hand dryers, stalls, or single rooms. When you got to go, you got to go! Free on BlackBerry and iOS.

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WeatherPro: Up-to-date weather reports so you can make sure you’re never caught without an umbrella. $2.99 on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

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Wi-Fi Finder: Don’t want to use data to upload your perfect picture of pizza? Fire up this app and follow the directions to your nearest wifi source. The offline mode allows you to download maps before you go so you don’t have to worry about a massive cell phone bill and angry parents. Free on Android and iOS.

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Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association: While you will hopefully never have to use this app, it could come in handy in case of an emergency. Pocket First Aid guides you through tough medical situations with images and videos. From allergic reactions to snake bites to electrical burns, you will be prepared for any situation. You can even customize a profile with your emergency contacts, medications, and any other important information. $3.99 on Android and iOS.

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MONEY

Converter+ by TranCreative: There are many converter apps out there but this is the one I use. Not only does Converter+ help me with currency or weight conversions to make sure my luggage isn’t overweight, it also comes with many calculators like mortgage, loan, tip, or fuel consumption. Free on Android and iOS.

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Venmo: Splitting the bill can get tricky so have one person pay and venmo your owed portion with a click of a button. Venmo links to your bank account and you can send money back and forth between other users. I use it almost daily to give my roommate rent money or pay my boyfriend back for groceries. The money you receive goes into your Venmo credit that you can then use to pay someone else. Or “Cash Out” to have the money go right back into your bank account.  Free on Android and iOS.

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Xe Currency: This app not only provides an accurate currency conversion but also provides the historic rates for the currency. This app can be used offline. Free on Android and iOS.

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Tipulator: Tipulator doesn’t just help the mathematically challenged figure out how much to tip, but also takes in account the acceptable tipping etiquette of your location. Free on iOS.

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Mint: Mint will help you keep to your budget while you’re traveling. You can access your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, and other financial data all in one place so you can keep track of your spending. Free on Android and iOS.

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9 Bucket List Sunsets

1. Sorrento, Italy

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Until you’ve seen the clouds tinged with a golden hue that seems nothing short of angelic, you haven’t really absorbed the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. Don’t forget to glance down to take in the serene waters of the port below.

2. Oia, Santorini, Greece

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The world’s most photographed sunset didn’t get that distinction by accident. A sky brushed with lavender, mauve, coral, and so much more atop the blue-domed and white-washed buildings will take your breath away every time.

3. Split, Croatia

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Amber reflections off the peaceful sea lining the palm-tree-studded main street of Split is the perfect end to a day spent tanning on the Dalmatian coast, and the ideal precursor to a night spent in Croatia’s legendary nightlife.

4. Nice, France

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Watching the sun set from Castle Hill in Nice affords views of the whole Promenade des Anglais, not to mention the famous pebbled beaches and azure water. They don’t call it the Côte d’Azur for nothing.

5. Florence, Italy

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Iconic and instantly recognizable to anyone who studied in Florence past, present, or future, the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo is not to be missed. You’ll never feel more fond of this Tuscan gem than when the sky turns into a piece of art worthy of the Renaissance masters who loved this city also.

6. Amsterdam Canals, Netherlands

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With more canals than Venice, Italy, Amsterdam is not short on charm. When dusk hits and the sky turns every shade of pastel, all reflected in the canals already mirroring the myriad colorful houses and boats, you’ll be hard-pressed to look away.

7. Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

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Taking in the views of this city from arguably the world’s best park is breathtaking anytime of day, but add in a sinking sun against Gaudi’s mosaic masterpieces with La Sagrada Familia and the Mediterranean Ocean in the forefront and it’s a whole new ballgame.

8. Prague, Czech Republic

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The shades of pink and purple the sky turns at dusk in Prague can’t be replicated. Add in a striking contrast to the Charles Bridge and you have a pretty unforgettable view of Eastern Europe’s prettiest city.

9. The Swiss Alps

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The Alps are a decent background to begin with, but add in a sunset reflecting off the snowy white mountaintops after a day spent adventuring in Swiss heaven, and you have the perfect setting to reflect on just how lucky you are to be there.

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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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