We’re moving!

Hello wanderers!

Over the past year, I’ve loved sharing reflections on my personal travel experiences as well as recommendations on where to go, what to pack, and what not to do when traveling. I’m so excited to add those posts into the mix on literallykatrina.com!

Literally, Katrina has a new look and new content – combining my love of literature and my passion for travel, you can now look forward to the same great posts about literary news and book reviews, alongside exciting travel tips and tricks.

Thanks so much for following along on Hopeless Wanderer – it’s been a blast. For future travel posts, book recommendations, and more, visit literallykatrina.com.

❤️ Katrina ❤️

Away we go

Hopeless Wanderer Final CollageHello wanderers!

Thank you so much for following along on my travel blog journey – it’s been an incredible year and it’s been so much fun chatting with you about where I’ve been and where I’d like to go next. I have really enjoyed writing this blog and even though my school year (and therefore my school projects – including this blog) is at an end, this is more of a “see you soon” than a goodbye.

As I keep exploring new places, I’ll try to keep you posted. As you know, I’ll be backpacking my way through Europe over the summer and I’m sure I’ll have many stories to share with you. Make sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to follow along on my adventure. Now, it’s on to the next big adventure. Wishing you all the best on your journeys – keep on travelling!

Stay well,
Katrina

Hotel, hostel, help!

 

hotelcollageHey wanderers!

It’s officially April, which means I’m only a few months away from my European adventure (yay!). My travel buddies and I are now at the point where we’re looking at what we’d like to do and see, which is very exciting! This also means that it’s time to start looking at how to get where we’d like to go and where to stay when we get there.

There are so many options for booking accommodations, and I’ve lucked out with a few of them – from Expedia to Hostelword to Booking.com, I’ve stayed in some great hostels and apartments. On the flip side, I’ve also stayed in some odd places (a Bed & Breakfast in Nice definitely turned out to be a spare room in a family’s apartment…we ate breakfast in their TV room and it was super awkward!). How do you know what kind of accommodation to choose? Do you want an apartment, guesthouse, hostel, hotel, or campsite? What are the benefits and drawbacks to each? Navigating all of the different booking sites and apps can also be tricky – how reliable are the guest reviews? Are the rates reasonable? And with new booking services popping up daily, how do you choose which site or app to go through?

Just like many of you, I’m on the lookout for answers. Here’s what I’ve heard from a few friends:

  • Read as many reviews as possible – ratings on airbnb and Hostelworld matter and are pretty reliable. Look for high ratings and positive reviews.
  • A picture really is worth a thousand words – look for accommodations that include photos and get a sense of where you’ll be staying. If the photos don’t showcase nice digs, then you probably won’t want to stay there.
  • Crowdsource – if you have friends who have been to a destination you’re planning on visiting, ask them where they stayed! Did they like the area? Was breakfast included? How close was the train station? Don’t be shy – if your friends had a good or bad experience, you want to know the truth. Friends of mine gave me a great recommendation for Barcelona a few years ago and I ended up staying right on the beach! But they were also honest about how the accommodations weren’t amazing. The location made up for what the hostel lacked in amenities and it was nice to know what to expect ahead of time!

That’s where you come in. I need your help – if you’ve been to Europe a couple of times and stayed in a really cool hotel/hostel/apartment etc., I want to hear from you! Comment below, write to me on Facebook, or send me a tweet – I’m officially taking recommendations!

If you’ve been following along with Hopeless Wanderer over the past few months, let me know how I’m doing by filling out this quick survey! Thanks for your help and for checking out this post. I can’t wait to read your suggestions!

Until next time, stay well!
Katrina

24-hour City Guide: Berlin, Germany

Sights to see in Berlin, Germany. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

Sights to see in Berlin, Germany. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

What to see and what to skip if you only have one day in Germany’s capital, Berlin

Hey wanderers!

This is your 24-hour city guide for one of my favourite German cities – Berlin! This post is a quick reference for what to see if you’re short on time – when I was in Berlin back in 2012, we really did only have two days to see everything. We spent one day visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and the other day seeing all the city had to offer. Of course, my first recommendation is to extend your stay past 24 hours if possible, because this city has so many cool things to see…but if you only have a day, here’s what I recommend you check out.

IMGP4194Don’t forget to grab that hostel reservation

Berlin is relatively affordable for backpackers and travellers, and there are a lot of great options for accommodations. Just remember to book ahead – Berlin is a pretty popular tourist spot. We opted to stay in a suburb and it was amazing. Don’t be afraid to stay on the outskirts of a big city – you’ll get more exposure to local culture and have a more authentic experience. We still had excellent access to train stations and bus routes, so getting to and from the city centre and all the hot spots was no problem. Another great thing about our hostel was that it offered free walking tours. And, as you’ll have read in Kaeri’s post about Seville, walking tours are often the best way to see a city!

What to see:

Whether on a guided tour or not, here are some sights to see while you’re in the city:

IMGP4202Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

A historic staple, this giant and gorgeous gate is a natural meeting place and offers a great photo op. This is where our walking tour started and it really introduces you to the city and its history. Damaged during the Second World War, it’s now fully restored.

IMGP4226Checkpoint Charlie

A relic of Berlin’s tumultuous past, Checkpoint Charlie is the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Germany. Decked out with retro insignia and soldiers in full dress, this army checkpoint will take you back in time. Here, you’ll learn a lot about the Wall that separated East from West, Soviet-occupied Germany from the Western Ally sector. It’s a pretty crazy story.

IMGP4214The Berlin Wall 

You can’t miss out on seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall – it was so weird for us to see sections of the wall still intact. The deconstruction of the wall represents a defining moment in Germany’s (and the world’s) history. Although much of the tourist spots in Berlin are a reminder of the World Wars and everything that followed, the Berlin Wall, now, is more a symbol of the movement that brought down the Iron Curtain.

IMGP4213The Holocaust Memorial

Located in the centre of Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, the  Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a moving reminder of the human cost of the Second World War. It’s super sad, but also important to go see. The memorial consists of a Field of Stelae (the concrete blocks pictured) and an Information Centre. It also memorializes the Sinti and Roma, as well as homosexuals and others who lost their lives under the National Socialist regime.

IMGP4196Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt 

After experiencing Berlin’s fascinating history, you will be in need of some delicious German chocolate. Stop by Ritter Sport’s Schokowelt (Chocolate World, my friends) and make yourself a custom chocolate creation, or just stock up on hundreds of amazing chocolate squares. I can’t tell you how worth it this stop will be! We each brought home several bags of mini Ritter Sport chocolate bars – they make great gifts (and are tasty snacks whenever you need a guilt-free pick-me-up). Always finish your day on a positive!

What to Skip:

Honestly, I can’t think of anything not to see in Berlin. My best advice is to take it all in if you can. I should also mention that there are great day trips to make from Berlin, like traipsing about Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest palace in Berlin, or taking a train out to Oranienburg to visit Sachsenhausen – if you have an extra day or two, I suggest doing both.

What else do you recommend seeing in Berlin when short on time? Is there any spot you love that I missed? Comment below or send me a message on Facebook – I love hearing from you!

As you know, this travel blog has been part of a school project – let me know how I’m doing by filling out this quick survey! Thanks for your help and for checking out this post.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

24-hour City Guide: Seville, Spain

seville collage

Clockwise from top: the Metropol Parasol, Puente de Isabel II (bridge spanning the Guadaquivir river), a pretty building, a gorgeous lamppost outside Plaza de España, Seville Cathedral, and Plaza de España. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

What to see and what to skip if you only have one day in the cultural capital of Spain

Hello wanderers!

This is your 24-hour city guide for what to see and what to skip when you only have 24 hours to “see it all” in my favourite city in Spain – Seville! Written by Kaeri Rempel, this guide will help you navigate this gorgeous city when you’re short on time. She mentions all of my favourite spots and has some excellent advice on where to go and what to see. Enjoy!


When planning my last trip to Europe, there were so many places we wanted to see. My cousin, Chad, wanted to visit Seville particularly because he wanted to see the “mushroom sculpture,” also known as the Metropol Parasol. This last addition to our flight schedule was well worth it! Seville was by far my favorite stop that we made.

If you only have 24 hours in Seville, I have a few recommendations:

First off – if you plan to stay the night, do your research and find a reasonable hostel. Ours had breakfast provided, as well as a few dishes in the evening. I should also mention that they served Sangria every evening!

During the day, I suggest a walking tour. Not only do you get to wander through the beautiful city, you also learn so much about its history. The tour guides try to keep it interesting and do a fantastic job. After travelling all over Europe and going on countless walking tours, the best tours I had were in Seville and Berlin. Just a reminder: the streets are all cobblestone, so make sure to wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes or sandals!

IMGP3797

Huelva Ocho tapas bar in Seville. Great flamenco performances here! Photo by Katrina Sklepowich.

After a day of walking,  stop by a local restaurant for some “tapas”. Don’t hesitate to chat with the front desk at your hostel or ask your tour guide which nearby pubs and restaurants are worth a visit. Some pubs also provide entertainment. We went to a pub just down the street from where we were staying for drinks and a flamenco show. The dancing was amazing – and so was the live music.

MetropolParasol Collage

Views from the Metropol Parasol in Seville. Photos by Katrina Sklepowich.

You cannot forget to visit the Metropol Parasol, which is claimed to be the world’s largest wooden structure. It is built above an archaeological excavation site of Roman ruins – there’s even a museum. Throughout the structure are multiple bars and restaurants. On our trip, we decided to visit the Metropol Parasol during the day and were able to appreciate the 360-degree view of the city on the terrace. While the view was spectacular during the day, I would also suggest visiting at night. I imagine the lights from the city would be enchanting.

If you have more time, visit some of the places on the tour that piqued your interest, or simply wander the city. There is nothing quite as fun as losing yourself in a new place and simply appreciating its beauty.


 

Kaeri and Katrina visiting the Metropol Parasol in 2012.

Kaeri and Katrina visiting the Metropol Parasol in 2012.

Kaeri Rempel is an elementary school educator in Winnipeg. She loves to travel and has been to many exotic places, including India and Turkey. She also participated in an exchange program in high school, living in Germany for 9 weeks. When she isn’t teaching, she’s on the field, playing soccer and ultimate frisbee. She’s also Katrina’s bestie!

What else do you recommend seeing in Seville when short on time? Is there any spot you love that we missed? Comment below or send me a message on Facebook – I love hearing from you!  Also, a big thank you to Kaeri for writing such a great post!

Until next week, stay well.
Katrina

Great Expectations

Hey there wanderers!

One of my favourite things about traveling is that no two trips are the same. You can visit the same place over and over again and experience something new every time. You can go at a different time of year and have a completely different experience, or go with a new group of people…all of these factors can have an impact on what you do and see. And I love that. Like I’ve said before, traveling is what you make it! When you go on a trip, it’s totally okay to expect the unexpected. It’s often even more fun that way!

I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was raining and gorgeous on both occasions.

I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany for the first time nine years ago. Two summers ago, I got to go back! It was gorgeous (and raining!) on both occasions.

After writing my city guide for Venice last week, I got some great comments from a few of you. What I loved most about your feedback was finding out how we had both common and vastly different experiences! What happens to your friends may or may not happen to you. Your favourite thing about Paris may end up being the very thing your sister dislikes. It all depends – and that’s the beauty of traveling.

Even though doing research before you head out on an adventure is important  (it really is!), take what you find out with a tiny grain of salt. Ask friends and family for advice, check out Pinterest for travel inspo, and hit up the travel section in your nearest bookstore for information, but keep in mind that while being informed is smart and necessary, your expectations might not be met…or they might be exceeded!  Information might be outdated (we all know how quickly situations can change) or based on one person’s experience – all of this can create positive or negative feelings toward a place before you even get there.

My best advice: keep an open mind and roll with it. Due to different circumstances, you might end up having a less than ideal time in any given place you visit, but with the right attitude, you may end up liking a place more than you thought you would! When I was traveling around Europe two years ago with my mom and cousin, we ran into some bad luck in Rome and had a few misadventures. I was kind of sour about it – I had expected more from Rome! But it wasn’t Rome’s fault that we had a few run-ins with bad luck and it certainly wasn’t personal – once we all got over taking an illegal taxi (true story) and having no power or water in our apartment for a few days, Rome really wasn’t so bad. In the end, I kind of loved it there and am looking forward to going back this summer. It really is all about your state of mind.

Until next week, stay well!
Katrina

24-hour City Guide: Venice, Italy

Photos by Katrina Sklepowich

What to see and what to skip if you only have one day in the Floating City

Hello wanderers!

This is your very first 24-hour city guide of what to see and what to skip if you only have one day to “see it all”. Whether you’re trekking it for business or pleasure, sometimes you will only have a day or a couple of hours in a given destination before having to move on to the next spot in your itinerary – when this happens, you’re faced with the challenge of prioritizing what to see and what to skip, knowing that you only have a short window to make the most of your experience. This has happened to me so many times on my travels – an evening in Nairobi, Kenya, a day in Toronto, a couple of hours in London, etc. It’s so hard to know what you should try to go see in such a short amount of time, especially when there’s simply so much to see!

These new 24-hour city guides are designed to help you figure out what’s most worth your time when you don’t have a lot of it. Do you spend the day in line at the Vatican or do you hop on a bus tour that hits all of Rome’s top tourist spots? Or is off-the-beaten track a better choice? These guides will be from my own experience or from friends who’ve lived in or traveled to exotic spots across the globe – hopefully we’ll give you some insight on what to see and what to skip the next time you’ve only got a few hours to see as much as possible!

First stop: Venice, Italy.

I love Venice – it’s the greatest city to just get lost in. With so many canals and tiny, winding streets, it’s the best place to simply wander. Grab a daypack armed with water and a trusty map (you can usually get these for free in hostel and hotel lobbies!), and start exploring!

What to See:

The Grand Canal
While there are many canals in Venice (canals being more popular than streets in this Floating City), the most famous artery in Venice is the Grand Canal. Follow the waterway all the way to the Ponte di Rialto, Venice’s most famous bridge (it’s the oldest of four bridges that crosses the Grand Canal). To be honest, there isn’t too much to see here, but it’s a great stop on the canal and is perfect for photo-ops. Keep going along the canal and you’ll hit Piazza San Marco.

sanmarcopiazzaPiazza San Marco
Dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica, a gorgeous church (one of many in Venice), the piazza is Venice’s main public square. There’s lots of history here, from the basilica to the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) to the Campanile, and you’ll get a ton of great photos. Most of the historical buildings located at the square are open to the public and offer guided tours (very worth it if you want to learn the history of Venice and see a ton of cool things all at the same time. I’m a huge fan of guided tours – especially free ones!). You can spend all day here or just a half hour – it all depends on how much you want to see. My recommendation: give yourself a maximum of an hour to explore the square and take photos (you likely won’t have time to pop into the Basilica).

IMG_1996Murano and Burano
From here, I highly recommend popping on a  Vaporetto (like a long-distance water taxi) to visit Murano and Burano, two distinct islands off of Venice. Murano is famous for glass-blowing. Pop in a few shops and take in the marvels of glass artistry – but I wouldn’t recommend buying your glass trinkets and jewelry here. In my experience, you’re better off purchasing these items on Venice, where they aren’t so expensive! Burano is my favourite of the two islands – famous for it’s colourful buildings and lace production, Burano is tiny but full of life. Very worth the stop! Murano and Burano will likely take up your entire afternoon, but I highly recommend this excursion.

What to Skip:

There isn’t much to skip in Venice! I could spend days simply wandering the canals, plazas, and tiny streets taking in all the sights without getting bored. There’s so much to see, but you can see a lot of it in a day purely by walking around or hopping on a water taxi. If you’re really short on time, I would skip guided tours as well as line-ups at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace – while both are beautiful, they’ll take up a lot of your precious time. I would definitely recommend spending a day or afternoon exploring Murano and Burano – and you don’t have to spend a whole lot of time on either island to take in a ton of culture, art, history, and delicious food. While 24 hours probably isn’t enough time in this enchanting city, you can see and do a lot!

What else do you recommend seeing in Venice when short on time? Is there any spot you love that I missed? Comment below or send me a message on Facebook – I love hearing from you! I’ll be back in Venice this summer and I’ll take every recommendation that comes my way.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the #WanderlustWednesday contest! I loved seeing your gorgeous travel photos on Instagram and Twitter (take a peak by looking up the hashtag #hopelesswandererblog). I’m so happy to announce that the winner of this contest is Miranda Lynn Bergen – congrats, girl! You won a sweet travel prize and I can’t wait to see how you use your prize on your next big adventure.

I’ll be back next week with more travel tips and tricks. Until next time, stay well!
Katrina