That's right, another month of travel already wrapped up and tucked away in my memory. People often tell you that time goes by faster the older you get — but I'm convinced that it goes by doubly fast when you're traveling.
Check out what I got up to during my third month of traveling:
Countries visited: 4 — Poland, England, Ireland, and Northern Ireland
Cities visited: 8 — Warsaw, Krakow, London, Dublin, Killarney, Dingle, Cork, Belfast
Favorite big city: London
I didn't visit a ton of huge cities this month; London was by far the biggest. And, honestly, I don't care how many times I've been there — I love London to pieces. During this visit, I got to catch up with a bunch of friends (from my travels, from home, from my blogging life), and saw some parts of the city that I've never visited before.
Favorite small city: Dingle
I got to visit a lot of small cities in Ireland during my two weeks there. And while I enjoyed all of them, the west-coast town of Dingle was definitely my favorite. The colorful streets popped even under cloudy skies, and we happened to be there during the annual Dingle Food Festival.
Biggest surprise: Warsaw
Not knowing what to expect from Poland, I can honestly say I was blown away by Warsaw. After being pretty much completely destroyed by the Germans after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, the city is actually a relatively “new” one. It is still growing and developing and figuring out what kind of city it's going to be. I loved its wide streets, big green parks, and history around every corner. Warsaw gave off a vibe similar to the one I felt in Berlin, and therefore I was won over almost immediately.
Most impressive natural wonder: Giant's Causeway
My first trip to Northern Ireland was a short one. But it included a visit to one of the most amazing (and perplexing) natural wonders I have ever seen — the Giant's Causeway. Formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of basalt columns that form step-like formations leading from a cliff into the sea. The weirdest thing is how perfectly-shaped the columns appear. Mother Nature sure is amazing.
Most interesting tour: Black taxi tour in Belfast
Also in Northern Ireland, I took a short black taxi tour around Belfast to learn about the city's “Troubles.” From the 1960s right on through the 1990s, the city was basically an active war zone in a religiously-charged battle. And, even though the violence has largely subsided, the tension still remains. Walls and gates still divide Belfast, and it was fascinating to learn about the city from someone who has lived there all his life.
Most emotionally draining experience: Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau
Thanks to my interest in “dark tourism” and the fact that I was already going to be in Poland, I knew that I had to visit a concentration camp. And since Auschwitz-Birkenau is close to Krakow, I knew I had to make myself go there. It was by no means a pleasant experience, nor one that I would ever want to repeat. But, nevertheless, I'm glad I went. Tours of concentration camps are not supposed to be happy oo pleasant — they're supposed to make you sad and disgusted and determined to never forget what happened during WWII.
Most beautiful church: St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow
From the outside, St. Mary's doesn't necessarily look like much. But inside? The basilica on Krakow's main market square is absolutely stunning on the inside. With golds and blues and blush pinks and a detailed altar piece that is opened with pomp and circumstance at noon each day, this is one church definitely worth visiting.
Most unexpected church: Salt cathedral
What if I told you that there exists a cathedral made completely from rock salt, right down to the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling? Would you believe me? Well, I hope so, because it does exist inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland. The salt mine has been in operation since the 13th century, though today it's mostly a tourist attraction. The crown jewel of the mine is Saint Kinga's Chapel, pictured below.
Most random place I visited: The National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
When I heard that there was a leprechaun museum in Dublin, I knew I was going to have to visit it. The museum was a bit strange and definitely kitschy, but with an emphasis on storytelling and a room filled with giant furniture that you can climb around on, it was a fun way to spend an hour.
Most touristy thing I did: Kiss the Blarney Stone and cross Abbey Road
This one is a tie. In Ireland I kissed the famous Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, and in London I took a Beatles tour and got a photo at the famous Abbey Road crossing. In my bare feet, of course. Both things are super touristy, and yet I don't even care — sometimes the touristy stuff is the most fun.
Silliest photo I took: This one at Platform 9 3/4
I've been to King's Cross once before to be a Harry Potter nerd — but that was before the Platform 9 3/4 cart was a full-scale production. Now you can put on a scarf and have actors and photographers help you get the perfect “magical” shot. I went with an Aussie friend of mine and laughed so hard my stomach hurt afterwards.
Place I most enjoyed re-visiting: Dublin
I'd been to Dublin once before, about 6 years ago. On that visit, I went to all the top sites: the Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar, Kilmainham Gaol, etc. This time, I went back to Dublin for a blogging conference. But then I decided to stick around and see more of the city. I loved re-discovering Dublin, and even uncovering some new corners.
Place I was overly excited about seeing: This Welsh town
When my train from Holyhead to London stopped at this station, I couldn't help but be excited. I can't even begin to pronounce the name, but it's the second-longest place name in the world!
Favorite museum: Neon Museum
Warsaw has some unique and interesting museums. The history nerd in me enjoyed spending an afternoon at the Warsaw Uprising Museum. But the I-enjoy-weird-stuff part of me loved the Neon Museum the most. This tiny, hard-to-find museum is filled with old neon signs that used to adorn Warsaw's streets during the Soviet era. It's really fun to photograph.
Favorite sunset: My last night in Dublin
Because, who doesn't love a colorful sunset over a river?
Here are some other stats:
Flights: 4 (Krakow to London, London to Dublin, and 2 flights to an as-yet-unannounced destination)
Trains: 3 (Warsaw to Krakow, and 2 trains from Holyhead, Wales to London)
Ferries: 1 (Dublin to Holyhead)
Splurges: I basically had to buy an entire autumn wardrobe for the last month of my travels. Poland, England, and Ireland get chilly in September/October. Who knew?
Photos taken: 1,108
Where to next?
I have made some big changes to my RTW plans in the past month. But I'm not quite ready to reveal what those changes are. Some of you will have already figured them out, of course, but for the rest of you: stay tuned for another RTW Diaries post next week, or to hear the news first!
What's up on the blog?
I've been busy this past month. Between traveling and changing my plans and attending a conference and going on a press trip, I've fallen even further behind. I'm now about 2 months behind blog-wise. Oops! But with weeks of staying in one place ahead of me, I fully intend to get caught up!
In the meantime, here's what I've written recently about my travels through Europe:
- That Time I Went on a Rafting Pub Crawl
- The Sights of Salzburg
- The Sound of Music in Salzburg
- Losing Myself in Venice
- Venice Isn't the Only Island in the Venetian Lagoon
- In Photos: Rome, the Eternal City
Let me know what you thought of this monthly summary in the comments!