When I stumbled upon this high neck midi dress at Zara a couple of weeks ago, it immediately “spoke” to me. There was something about the cut that intrigued and the combination of the turtle neck and short sleeves intrigued me. I bought it anyways, because it felt really comfortable and it’s one of those buys that was a bit of a gamble but turns out to be a winner! I have fallen head over heals: the length is perfect, with a bit of a side split to make it playful, the colours are my cup of tea because they go really well with a dark red lipstick and the stripes are flattering to my figure because they are vertical and make me look taller. Despite the short sleeves, it’s also surprisingly warm! In case you’re interested, you can shop the dress here.
A week ago, I left on a last-minute solo trip to Vienna. I decided to spend my few last free days doing something that I love, namely travelling. So, I booked a ticket and a hostel and a week later I was on my way. Here’s a play by play of what my trip was like.
First off, I arrived late in the evening at my hostel, the Wombats City Hostel. I believe it is one of the very, very few hostels in the city, which means you are bound to make friends there if you travel solo. There were lots of solo travellers there, which was nice. Overall, great hostel, would definitely recommend.
One other tip is to buy a 24 or 72 hour pass for the metro (the U-Bahn), an easy way to get around in Vienna. Or you can walk if you like that, which is very doable too.
The first place I went to is pictured above: Karlsplatz with its famous Karlskirche. Entrance for students was only 4 euros, and that includes an elevator ride up to the dome and a view over the city (behind bars, unfotunately). Nonetheless, the outside is more spectacular than the inside, unless you are into baroque dome paintings and lots and lots of gold.
Next up was Schönbrunn, one of the most famous palaces in Vienna. And you could tell by the number of people there, so touristy. I originally only intended to visit the gardens, but due to unfortunate stormy weather, they were closed. So I took the shorter tour of the inside rooms (there is a long one with 44 rooms, and a short one with around 20 rooms). And let’s be honest, if you’ve seen one of those castles, you’ve seen them all. I was truly impressed by the length of Princess Sissi’s hair though. I’m sure she could’ve donated her hair for about 20 wigs to ThinkPink.
That same night, I went back to the castle because I’d let some weirdly dressed guy that kept calling me “milady”convince me to go to a classical concert there at the Orangerie. When you’re travelling solo and you don’t really have much to do in the evenings, your brain is bound to think YOLO and say yes to things you usually wouldn’t say yes to. So I went, and it was great! The concert consisted of two 40 minute parts, one with music from Mozart and one with music from Strauss, both accompanied by dance and opera singing. It’s strange how much classical music you recognise without even realising you know it! I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the guests come to the concert in proper ball gowns and taking place front row while I was sitting there in my jeans at the back row, with the plebs. So, if you get the chance to see ANY concert in Vienna, it’s a must do.
The next morning, I was meeting some friends that I’d met over the summer in Canada. They were kind enough to meet me in Café Central, one of the most famous coffee houses in Vienna, and if I may believe so, the most beautiful. It dates back to the fin-de-siècle coffee culture that was prominent in Vienna at that time. It was known to be the place for Austrian writers like Peter Altenberg and other famous visitors like Freud and Trotski. It’s a great place to go in the morning as there is still room to sit (not so much in the afternoons, I was told by my personal guides), the breakfast is great and it’s a perfect departure point to go visit other main attractions the rest of the day.
One of my next visits was to the Hundertwasserhaus, a series of apartments that remind me a little bit of Gaudi, but are a work by the architect, you guessed it, Hundertwasser. They’re a bit out of the way, but I found them interesting enough to put in the effort. Also, it was a nice break from the rather busy and “touristy” areas of Vienna. One of my favourites parts of the trip.
Next up, I went to Stephansplatz, a central part of the town, with lots of (souvenir) shops and people. The main attraction of the square is the Stephansdom, which you can enter for free. Although the interior, again, didn’t really speak to me, I find the roof kind of interesting and pretty. It reminds me of the Matthias church in Budapest. Being neighbours, I guess it’s logical that they would have some influence on one another. With the Christmas lights still up, Stephansplatz was a nice area to wander around though. Two places I recommend going are, firstly, the Haas&Haas Tea shop, only for the smell if not to buy something. The second place is a good one for dinner and another recommendation by my friends, who called it “very Austrian”. It’s a place called Jonathan&Sieglinde and all of their dishes are made with apples or potatoes. Sometimes both. The food I had there was divine.
The next day was already my last day, and because it was so cold (-11°C, but with windchill about -20°C), I decided to spend it visiting a few museums. The first place I went to was not a museum, though, but a secret, hidden gem called the Ferstel Passage, right behind Café Central. It’s a gorgeous gallery that goes past a tiny square with a fountain (you’d think it’s outside, but there is a huge glass dome). It looked like something out of a movie.
Onwards, I walked past the Hofburg and went to the National Library, a definite must-see for any book lover. I was suffering a serious case of library envy (yes, that is a thing and if it’s not, it should be). I tried to take some pictures but they don’t do the place justice.
My next stop was the Museum Quartier, where I went to the Leopold Museum. If you like paintings by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, this is the museum for you. Also, the building has some cool windows which offer good views of the city. (I seem to have developed a love for museum buildings rather than the artefacts themselves, is that strange?) Also the MQ shop has some really cute stuff, worth a visit.
My last stop was the Secession, a very small museum, but with one of the most fun exhibitions by Francis Alÿs. His art pieces are tiny, tiny works of art on pieces of wood of about 10 by 15 cm. You get a magnifying glass to look at the art pieces. At first glance, each art piece represents a very mundane habit, but if you look closely, each piece is absurd. In between each piece there is text. The text doesn’t necessarily say anything about the picture, but nonetheless, the pieces and text are interactive. Loved it!
Back to Naschmarkt I went, to pack my bags to go home. If you’re in that neighbourhood, there is a good burrito bar called El Burro. Cheap, cozy and delicious.
I know. I am weeks behind on this travel diary blog thing on my trip to Iceland. But hey, sometimes friends and family come first and my blog will have to wait. Deal with it. Here I am, after all. So let’s rewind to 19 January, when my trip was supposed to start. Supposed to, indeed, because when I made it to the airport that day, the first thing I saw on the screen was one big fat word next to my flight: CANCELED. Awesome. I managed to keep my cool and asked around where to go and what to do. I finally ended up talking to this lady at the Scandinavian Airlines desk. To sum up: there was no news but that there was a big (snow) storm in Iceland and that they had no idea whether any flights would leave at all. When I asked her whether to stay or go home she replied: “I would go home… if you have a home.” Gee, thanks for that.
I did not take her advice; instead I eventually managed to get some wifi onto my phone and decided I wouldn’t leave the airport until it was all settled. So about six phone calls and an hour and a half later, I had managed to rebook my flight (for the day after), rebook my day trips, cancel my reservations for the hostel I would be staying at and reschedule my airport transfer. Phew. I rewarded myself with some Burger King, ate away my sorrows.
Disappointed but nonetheless happy with my managing skills, I returned back to Lund from Copenhagen Airport. Over the bridge again I went. I spent the afternoon cleaning up, packing for my return home after Iceland and doing nothing at all.
The next day was super boring because well, I was supposed to be in Iceland and instead I was just sitting home all day. They had only been able to put me on an 8 PM flight, so… I left early that afternoon simply because I thought sitting at the airport might be at least a little bit more interesting that sitting at home. Turns out it was a good thing I did that: all trains to Malmö cancelled. And there is no way to get to Copenhagen Airport NOT through Malmö. There I found myself, amidst a lot of confusion and pushing passengers again. Five buses and an Indian friend made later, I managed to squeeze myself on a bus that would take us to Malmö train station. Once I got there, I found my Indian friend (-I don’t actually know his name-) again and only half an hour later we found ourselves on a train to the Airport. Sighs of relief were exhaled.
I made it to Reykjavik that night, pretty late. I only got to bed at around 1 AM. I had a pretty smooth flight and airport transfer though. And the bed at my hostel had already been made. I shared a room with five other girls, though only 3 other beds were taken.
Day 1 – Golden Circle
Bright and early I got ready to go an a day trip (with Reykjavik Excursions if anyone is interested). I went on the Golden Circle tour, which is probably the most popular tour ever in Iceland. Our first stop was one of the many greenhouses in Iceland. It was interesting to see how Iceland uses its natural resources (its volcanoes and hot water springs).
Our next stop were the geysers, which are actually named after one of only two of the geysers that are there: Geysir. The other one, the one that is active nowadays is called Strokkur. They erupt every 4 to 10 minutes and their fountain can be up to 20 metres high. Pretty impressive to see. Even funnier is to watch the people as they wait for the eruption; camera ready, some of them even in a selfie pose for several minutes. My favourite kind of entertainment.
Next up was one of the more well known waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss. This literally translates to the Gold Waterfall and this is no surprise seeing as in summer you can sometimes spot a little rainbow across the waterfall. Everyone kept telling me Iceland would be so cold and it would be better in summer, but I found the (partly) frozen waterfall something entirely different. Pretty cool! It was also much bigger than I expected, which made it even more impressive.
The final stop of the guided tour was Þingvellir National Park. It’s also the place where the old Parliament (Altinget) was founded and held for several centuries. To many Icelanders it is still an important historical place and if something major needs to be celebrated; this is the place. We only took a quick walk around, but it became pretty obvious to me why the country is called Iceland; everything was so white, rocky, snowy and icy. Besides my nose almost freezing off from the icy wind it was a gorgeous view to enjoy and a nice end to the day.
Day 2 – Reykjavik
I spent my second day in Iceland roaming the streets of the capital, Reykjavik. Because I had done nothing but sightseeing over the past six months, I decided to break up the sightseeing in two half days rather than just one whole day. So before lunch, I went past the city hall, a cute church, a big lake (for a city at least) called Tjörnin and I spent a good hour browsing the shops, which was surprisingly disappointing since most shops (I’d say 50 percent) were souvenir shops which didn’t particularly interest me. Most of the other buildings were restaurants or cafés.
My favourite part was probably the Hallgrimskirkja, a church unlike any other church I had seen before. It has a very special shape and,lucky me, the sun was just rising as I walked up the hill. The best thing about it, however, is that you can pay a small fee to go up the elevator to the top. The view is gorgeous; you can see the city with these mysterious snowy mountains in the background. And one thing that is very noticeable from up high is the amount of colourful houses and rooftops in Reykjavik. Very cute!
The afternoon consisted of something that I was unable to take pictures of, but nonetheless amazing and therefore a must mention. Upon recommendation by my friend Kaatje, who is a pro when it comes to anything Icelandic (Thanks for the help, by the way!), I went to one of the local swimming pools. The one I chose to go to was called Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool. One thing that is particular about Icelandic pools (and I think I can speek about Scandinavia in general) is that you have to shower without your swimmers before you enter the pool. So…naked. No big deal for me, because I’d already gotten accustomed to this in some degree in Sweden, but I can imagine it is “kinda weird” for some other tourists. (For those, they provide separate showers). Personally, I think it’s great; who wants to share a pool with dirty people anyways? ;) Everywhere you’ll see signs like these:
I thought you might find that interesting. If you want to read more about this, click here. Anyhow, back to the actual swimming pool. Most parts of the pool were outside. The outside temperature was about 0 degrees, but the outside pools can vary from 38 degrees to 42 degrees. I though it was amazing and I felt totally relaxed afterwards. Apparently this is how most Icelanders solve their problems: pondering life in a bathtub. Pretty nice way of problem solving if you ask me.
Day 3 – South Shore
On my third day, I had planned to go on another guided day trip. This time it would go to the south shore of the country. We drove past a handful of volcanoes before making our first stop at a glacier, the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. When there, I got to experience the infamous saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” This saying describes the weather in Iceland perfectly; it is unpredictable and ever-changing. When we were walking out towards the glacier, it was sunny. Once we got to the glacier, it only took a few minutes for the weather to become foggy, grey and rainy, before ultimately turning into a snow and hail storm. Walking back to the bus felt like a polar expedition. I feel like Roald Amundsen would’ve been proud. We all got back to the bus looking like not-so-nice versions of Olaf from Frozen.
Our next stop was the village of Vik. Vik is known for its cute church on top of the hill and being surrounded by bird cliffs (now deserted because of the winter) and black beaches. The sand on these beaches is black because, well, you guessed it, volcanic rocks have eroded. Pretty hard to spot since it was covered in snow and all.. To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it that day; I was a bit sick of the solo travelling and therefore also homesick. Some rude people in our group that day didn’t exactly make it any better. Nonetheless, I tried to enjoy the tour as much as I could and I did take advantage of every stop to see as much as possible. Solo travelling can be fun, but it is also tiring and sometimes a bit of a letdown; there is not always someone to share these special places, memories or views with. Also, my arm gets tired from all the selfie taking. I think this is a side of travelling alone that not a lot of people dare to speak of because, like myself, they don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m thankful for all the places I get to see, whether that is alone or with other people. But I’m rambling, let’s move on.
The next stop, on the way back to Reykjavik, was Skogafoss, another one of the famous waterfalls of Iceland. This one hadn’t frozen and was therefore totally different form the other one we had seen. By that time, the sun was already setting again (at 2PM, I believe). I’d have to say this waterfall was my favourite one.
Our next stop was indoors: the Skogar Folk Museum about the first settlers in Iceland and its traditions and beliefs. As a Scandinavian Studies student, I found it very interesting, even though it was only a short visit. I even found the original tapestry of an image we once had in our course material. I was excited. These things excite me, okay?
The last stop of the day was another waterfall: Seljalandfoss. Pretty similar to Skogafoss, at least to me. By the third waterfall, I was less excited. I can’t imagine what it’s like to drive around Iceland and see one pretty much every couple of kilometres. Not saying I didn’t appreciate this waterfall, because I did. And that was the end of the day again.
Day 4 – Blue Lagoon & Reykjavik
I spent the first half of my last full day in Iceland in the Blue Lagoon. It is one of the most popular places in Iceland. Besides being surrounded by British tourist, it was an amazing experience. It’s similar to the public pools because the water is naturally really hot. However, here, I had the sunrise, mountains, rocks and a mud face mask to go along with it. Because I didn’t want to look like the idiots who held their smartphones above their head, hoping they wouldn’t drop it in the water, just so they could take a few good photos, I don’t have many pictures. I had one taken by one of the employees who sat next to the pool and I did go back fully clothed to take some outside. I would highly recommend going to the Blue Lagoon if you have the chance. (However: a word to the wise: get the cheapest package. A lot of people felt “ripped off” because they paid about 25 euros more for a free drink and a face mask, while you can also find the face mask in buckets on the edges of the pool).
Once I got back to Reykjavik city I treated myself to some pancakes and then headed to a museum that I was interested in, only to find out that it was temporarily closed. So I decided to go to the art museum instead. Not really interesting but it kept me busy. I didn’t do much after that before dinner.
Before heading out to dinner, I decided to take a short walk along the seaside. There is a sculpture walk that you can do, but honestly the wind and snow made it hard to see anything and it made walking a little less enjoyable too. I did however see the Sun Voyager and I got to see the concert hall.
Day 5 – Going home
So on my last day I didn’t do anything. I packed, checked out, had breakfast, watched the sun rise, waited for my airport pick-up. On our way to the airport, the wind started to pick up and the car started swerving a little bit. It wasn’t until we actually got the airport, I noticed how much wind there was. The driver had trouble opening the trunk of the van and when he got out my backpack, it moved on its own, despite its heaviness. It was a struggle even getting to the entrance door of the airport. When I asked the lady at the check in if flights would take off, she assured me that they would. I didn’t really feel like getting on any plane at that point, especially when I saw the plane I was supposed to get on trembling in the wind, moving from side to side and wings shaking up and down. They eventually delayed the flight because it was simply too dangerous to get out the jet bridge. My flight ended up being delayed for a good two hours, but I had someone to keep me company during the wait: an Australian guy who had been working on a farm in the north of Iceland for a few months (Seriously though, you Aussies are EVERYWHERE). And then I also ran into some people I knew from Lund at the airport.