What I’ve seen and done

Henry – Semester Exchange to University of Heidelberg, Germany

Semester 2, 2016

Whilst my time on exchange at Heidelberg University in Germany has been an incredibly fortunate experience, the travel I’ve been privileged enough to do on the side has possibly been an even bigger learning experience.

Most recently, to take advantage of a week’s break, I travelled to London, Rome and Prague.

Once you’re on the continent, travelling between European countries is surprisingly cheap. Whether through discount airlines such as Ryan Air or W!zz, or via international rail it is not uncommon to find transport for under one hundred euro, and so I managed to book multiple flights and accommodation to 3 different countries for a fraction of even my one flight to Europe from Australia.

After spending the last couple of months in non-English speaking countries, it was extremely refreshing to be able to communicate with people beyond a few broken German, or limited English sentences. Furthermore, the city’s architecture and culture felt more like Melbourne’s than any other European destination I had experienced yet. Whilst in the city I made sure to check out typical tourist attractions such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the London Sky Garden.

After experiencing 3 days in London, I flew to Italy to visit Rome. Having already visited Bologna, Florence and Venice on a previous trip, I was excited to observe the nation’s capital. Given its status as a tourist hotspot, the city can be rather chaotic – I found this out the hard way after a taxi driver stole 50 euros from me. Nevertheless, its status is well deserved as all attractions are tremendously beautiful. One of my favourites was the Largo di Torre Argentina. These are the ruins of Pompey’s Theater in which Julius Caesar was stabbed, and, after being transformed into a sanctuary, are now home to dozens of cats that roam the ruins during the day. I also managed to make time for the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain and St. Peter’s Basilica. Also, while technically another sovereign state, the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel within Vatican City was another highlight.

Following Rome, I flew to the Czech Republic to visit Prague. Although Prague is not a destination I would have previously considered, having heard about a lot about the city’s cheap cost of living, many attractions, and famous Christmas markets, I decided to give it a go. After spending 3 days there pretty much all my expectations were met. Prague Castle is the world’s largest ancient castle, and in preparation for the upcoming Christmas festivities, it was filled with heaps of market stalls. It was fantastic to be able to look over the entire city whilst enjoying some mulled wine. The city’s Old Town was another incredible sight with its Astronomical Clock and the army of tourists eager to celebrate Christmas.