This summer one of the things I did using Gateway funding was go travelling with a friend from college to Eastern Europe. It was an incredible 12 days of excitement and we managed to fit in a wide range of activities, from seeing a circus to hiking to exploring cave systems. We visited 4 places in total: Prague in Czech Republic, Bratislava in Slovakia, Vienna in Austria and Ljubljana in Slovenia. I had never visited Eastern Europe so this trip allowed me to explore new places and venture out of my comfort zone.
We visited Prague first and arriving there was both exciting and fascinating. The buildings were beautifully fairy tale-like and overall the atmosphere felt so much more relaxing than in London, where I live. As we walked around admiring the view, we bumped into another interrailing traveller and exchanged travelling experiences. On one of the evenings in Prague we watched Swan Lake. I had never watched any sort of ballet or dance performance before so this was a new and interesting experience for me. Going up the mini Eiffel tower on the last evening gave us an impressive view of the city against a night sky background and was the perfect way to end our time in Prague.
The next city we travelled to was Bratislava, which although it is a very compact city, was very memorable to me because of the incredibly friendly people there. When we first arrived we struggled to find our accommodation but several people went out of the way to help us. I was astonished but extremely touched by their hospitality and kindness. Time spent in the city allowed me to immerse myself in their pleasantly slower pace of life which, compared to the rushed madness of student life in Cambridge, was a breath of fresh air.
We stayed one night in Bratislava before heading to Vienna, an hour away by transport. The architecture style there was very different and I loved seeing the contrasts between the cities. The most fun activity (apart from sampling delicious cakes and pastries of course) was seeing a circus performance. I was in awe from start to finish at the acts which were all so incredible. It was definitely the highlight of my time in Vienna.
Visiting Slovenia was the most physically tiring yet most exciting. We visited the most famous cave in the country, did plenty of hiking, saw breath-taking views of the Lake Bled, relaxed at the tranquil Lake Bohinj and wandered the streets of Ljubjlana.
Me and my friend planned the trip well in advance and booked all the accommodation, train and bus transport which meant that the costs were kept to a minimum. The most difficult part of the trip was moving between cities because we had to make our way to the correct train/ bus stations and find our accommodation. However, having all the relevant tickets ready beforehand and having Google Maps made the journeys less stressful.
Overall, it was an amazing 12 days of adventure and excitement. Through organising and taking part in this trip, I feel like it has made me more confident and independent as a person. I am grateful to Murray Edwards College's Gateway funding that has allowed me to make the most of this summer.