Road Trip Through Norway

Hey 20 Somethings,

So for those of you following me on Instagram, you’ll see that I have been doing some travelling lately. I’m currently in Norway, more specifically doing a road trip through Norway, which has been quite eventful. So I thought I’d do a little post about my trip so far and let you know how it’s been going.

First of all, Norway is beyond beautiful. Like when I say views, I mean VIEWS. Everywhere. Every town, every city, every corner. I’m staying in a different hotel every night, some have been really awesome and some have been below average- but it’s all part of the adventure I guess.

Norway is known for it’s immense greenery and fjords (lakes but like, bigger.) It’s summer here at the moment, so that means in the cities its very hot during the day, but what’s amazing is that like an hour or two out of the cities, you can see snow on the neighbouring mountains. It’s beautiful.

Yesterday I saw one of the most magnificent waterfalls, I’ve ever seen in my life. Norway is covered in the type of beauty that takes your breath away. And what annoys me most, is that the pictures just don’t do it justice. So like, just picture everything I’m showing you but like 1000x better.

So far I’ve visited Oslo, Geilo, Bergen and Sogndal. I’m on my way to a town called Alesund as we speak. Oslo is lovely, it’s got the typical buzz you expect from a city, but it’s still pretty laid back. Actually, the entire country is extremely laid back- Norwegians are super chilled. I fell in love with Bergen, it’s the cutest little city with something to see around every turn. I took a walk down the Bergen fish market, which isn’t for the faint of heart, and saw some fish I never knew existed. The city is the perfect combination of past meets present.

The problem with road tripping in a place like Norway, is that there are just so many amazing sites, we can’t help but stop. We turn 2 hour drives into 6 hour drives because we stop every five minutes to take photos. (Also can I just say how great it is travelling with my family. They’re so down for pictures all the time. I don’t have to beg to get content for my Instagram, actually my dad is the one calling me over every five minuets because he found a new backdrop that I have to pose in front of. Its pretty great. – Take notes Boyfriend.)

The hardest thing about this trip is waking up every morning, because our days are filled with travelling and activities and by the evening, I’m poofed. Also, the sun doesn’t completely go down before 1 am, So I accidentally stay up all night thinking it’s still early!

But I am having a great time, I’m in Norway till Saturday and then it’s off to Sweden. I haven’t really been doing much shopping, because I’m saving that for Sweden, when I’m in one place for a bit longer. Which is actually a good thing, if there was a Sephora in Norway, I’d be broke in a matter of seconds.

Okay, Well I’ll write again later this week. Send me any questions in the comments section!

xx

Nadine

Part 3, Why Contiki?: What to Pack

So if you’re planning on travelling this year, you’re probably wondering what to pack. I learnt the hard way what I needed and what I didn’t need. But hopefully this post can make your packing stresses disappear.

  • Get a real Camera
    Listen, I know your phone camera is great, but you don’t want average pictures to look back on after your trip. I took ALL my pictures on my phone, it was only recently when I got a real camera that I realised how shitty cell phone camera quality is. You get cameras these days with wifi that connect to your phone, so you can easily share your pictures and keep your instagram alive. If you have a GoPro, pack it. There are tons of adventure activities you’re going to want to capture. Also, don’t forget your Polaroid/Instax camera, Europe is so photogenic.

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  • Leave your stilettos at home
    Listen, Europe is nothing but cobble stone streets. EVERYWHERE. Babes, I almost broke my ankle 20 times in Paris. You don’t need the world of shoes with you. A good pair of sneakers, (Because you walk A LOT.) cute sandals and/or flip flops and maybe a nice flat shoe to wear out to clubs at night.

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  • Bikini time!
    If you’re going to somewhere sunny in Europe, like Greece, definitely pack your bikini, actually pack five. But if you’re going into the main cities, you’ll be fine with one swim suit, most of the hotels do have pools, but you don’t have much time to enjoy them. But after a hot day in Berlin, that indoor pool was everything I needed and more.

 

  • Pack a Towel
    The nice hotels have towels and that’s pretty great. But we got to some of the hostels and they didn’t provide towels and when they did there where two towels for four people in the room. Unless you’re a fan of air-drying, this is a must.

 

  • Winter or Summer?
    So consider what time of the year you’re going. May- July you’re bound to experience a great European Summer. Outside of those months it gets cold fast. But even in summer, the weather can be unpredictable. I was caught in the rain in Amsterdam, Venice and Paris. Pack a light raincoat, which you can squash in your bag if you need it later in the day. Don’t pack a hoodie, you’re most likely to buy a Contiki hoodie on the trip- which is great to wear on bus rides.
    Pack a warmer jacket just in case, one that won’t take up too much space in your bag. You’re going to want a lot of shorts, I lived in my running shorts during the day because it was comfortable to walk in. You only need one pair of jeans and a pair of tights. Pack some cute dresses in too. Contiki throws a lot of themed parties in a few cities. In Austria we had a lumo party, Venice was a nautical party, Rome was a I love Roma party etc so think of where you’re going and pack some cute outfits to dress up in.

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  • Pack Enough Underwear
    This goes without saying, but still. Most girls on my trip didn’t pack enough underwear, so they spent a good part of their trip doing their laundry. Which is usually 1-2 Euros a pop.
    Just take a little laundry bag with for your dirty stuff and do all your washing when you get home.

 

  • Make Up and Sunblock
    Australian girls love their make up. They had fully made up faces at 7 am every morning before we got on the bus. So you’re going to want to keep up. My trick? My Avene Tinted Moisturiser and some eyeliner and mascara, the two minute make up look that left me looking fresh all day.
    For your nights out you’re going to want to wear a bit more make up. So pack your essentials, you don’t want to be travelling with Twenty different eyeshadow palettes. Sunblock is your best friend. So many of the girls on my trip looked like roasted tomatoes after a day in the sun. It’s harsh and intense no matter if you’re in the streets of Berlin or on top of the Swiss Alps. A lot of the girls used Dry Shampoo on the trip, this might be something to add into your bag if need be.

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  • Bags?
    Besides your suitcase, you need a backpack for all your shit on the bus- usually a change of clothes when changing cities etc. Then you also want a good handbag to use during the day, when you don’t want to carry around your backpack. I just got a cute little bag that went on my back and carried all my daytime essentials. Just be aware of pickpockets at all times and you should be fine.

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  • Medication
    The last thing you want is to get sick on your trip. Make sure your stocked up on the following:
    – Nausea Tablets
    – Tummy cramp tablets
    – Headache tablets
    – Allergy Tablets
    – Sleeping tablets
    – Viral Choice (I popped one a day to stay healthy)
    – Corenza C (If you feel sick, just take two immediately)
    – Rehydrate (I got heat stroke in Berlin, you’re going to want a little pick me up after a day in the sun.)
    – Any medication you need or use etc.
    Better safe than sorry.
  • Activities! 

You’re going to want things to do on the bus! Pack in a portable charger to keep your phone alive and make sure you’ve got loads of reading material or even a colouring book for those long bus rides!

Okay, thats all I can think of for now, I hope that helps! Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you have and tell me what you’d like future posts to be about!

Happy Packing!
Nadine

 

Part 2, Why Contiki?: Money, Money, Money

What’s up Somethings!
Today I’m talking all things Money when going on a Contiki Tour.

Let’s be real, travelling to Europe is expensive, especially with the Euro to Rand exchange rate. So if you’re going to be travelling, you’re going to want to take a good amount of money with to ensure you get the most out of your trip.

It’s really depressing when you get your money exchanged for Euros, you go from being really rich as a South African to being really poor in Europe. Meh. So let’s talk about expenses and what you’ll actually be spending your money on.

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Nautical Party in Venice!

You’re not going to have time to go shopping. There is a lot of time to do what you want on a Contiki, but if you’re going to spend that time inside H&M in Paris, you’re going to regret it. There’s so much to see and do in Europe, and shopping there really isn’t a must. The prices work out the same as they would be here, sometimes even more expensive. If you’re travelling to Asia then by all means, shop till you drop. But Europe, I’d advise against it.

On a Contiki, they give you a list of added on extras, which you can pick from. This ranges from activities and dinners etc with the group. Doing everything on the list (Which is what they suggest you do) is quite expensive, and it would have taken up a bulk of the money I’d saved. So I left a few things off the list. Which I now regret. So this is what I’ll do on my next trip: I’ll work out how much money I’ll need to do all the added extras, and ensure that I’ve saved enough to get all of those. I suggest that you do all the activities but leave off some of the traditional dinners. There’s no need to spend R500 on a meal you might not even like, unless you’re a foodie, which I am not.

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You get breakfast included in your Contiki price and a few dinners, other than that, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on food – Pasta is expensive in Italy. My advice is that you stock up on food at breakfast, grab some fruit and croissants to eat throughout the day. You’re also going to spend a lot of money on snacks for the long bus rides, like be prepared to spend R40 on Pringles like every day.

And last but not least, Alcohol. You party a lot on a Contiki. A lot. And drinks are expensive AF, but luckily the Europeans are generous with their alcohol. They were free pouring for days, so you don’t have to buy too many drinks to get a buzz. But I suggest before a night out, you take only the cash you need or are willing to spend, so you can avoid over spending while you’re drunk.

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Bike Tour in a Beer Garden in Munich!

So how much should you take?
Listen, between R20 000- R30 000 should be enough to ensure you have a good time. If you can take more, do it. The more money you have the better.

There are lots of ways to have a good time on your Contiki without spending money, I spent a lot of my time just walking through the streets of the cities. I put myself on a daily budget – which was cool because if I didn’t spend all the money I had budgeted for the day, my daily budget increased for the rest of the trip. If you control your money and keep track of what you’ve spent, you can make any amount of spending money work.

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Bidvest has a great option called the World Currency Card, which comes with an app, so you can always check your balance and expenses wherever you are in the world.

Feel free to post any other money related questions below! I’d love to help out! Also ask me your Contiki questions!

Okay, I’ll let you go start saving now!

à bientôt!
Nadine

Part 1, Why Contiki?: Solo Travel

Hi there guys!
So I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about my Contiki Tour last year. A lot of people want to know if it’s worth the money, what to prepare for, what to pack etc. So I’ve decided to start a blog series about why My Contiki changed my life and why I’ll be doing more in the future.

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Me in Prague 

I travelled alone on my European Whirl Contiki, which was 18 days in Europe, starting in Amsterdam or London and ending in Paris. I often get asked why I went alone, firstly, travelling is expensive for South Africans and not accessible to everyone. I did ask a few friends to join me, but they couldn’t for their own reasons, which bummed me out at first- but it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

It’s great fun travelling by yourself on a trip like Contiki, because you’re not actually alone. Only for the first day, when you meet your group, after that, you’re travelling with a group of friends you just met, having the time of your lives. A lot of people like to do Contiki’s with their significant other, which is cool. Personally I’d prefer to do it by myself. Travelling solo forced me to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people (something I struggle with, I’m an introverted extrovert).

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My group was made up of mostly Australians, Canadians and Mexicans, three of us were South African. Everyone was extremely nice and keen to make friends. We partied so hard together on our first night in Amsterdam. Our night was kicked off with a Sex Show in the Red Light District. Like if you can’t make friends with people after something like that, you never will.

If you’re travelling with friend, boyfriend or group of friends, make sure you are not cheating yourself out of the full experience. People who came with other people tended to exclude themselves from group activities and thus missing out on all the fun because they had their own agendas.

If you want to go off and do your own thing on your trip, Contiki gives you the freedom to do that, but honestly, If you’d rather plan your own trip and stick to your own agenda, you shouldn’t book a Contiki. Contiki trips are designed to ensure everyone has the time of their lives, your tour leader will ensure that you see everything you need to see and experience everything you need to experience. And doing things with the group is where all the best memories are made, if you’re going to leave the group for half of the day, you’re gonna have serious FOMO later at the group dinner when everyone is speaking about their adventures.

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Living our best life in Switzerland

For those worried about getting alone time or getting annoyed by being surrounded by people 24/7. Relax. The bus rides are long, I often just got a seat at the front away from the group, popped in my earphones and gave my social brain some rest between stops.

So Although I was TERRIFIED of travelling alone, I’d do it over and over again without hesitation. Travelling alone builds character and maturity, not to mention it’s an adventure. And now I’ve made friends from all over the world who I still speak to all the time!

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I found out new things about myself, I felt lighter and carefree, a thousand miles away from my problems and by the end of the trip I did not want to leave Europe. I found myself over there and the chances are you will too.

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Until Next Time,
Nadine

Eurotrip: Paris

We all know Paris is a dream city and it didn’t disappoint me one bit when I arrived there. I knew I loved the city, the moment I stepped foot in it.
We had some time at our hotel to get ready before we went off to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, which sits on top of a hill overlooking the entire city. It’s views for days guys. It’s a great place to watch the sunset while drinking a beer or some wine on the hill.


We then walked down to the Cabaret area of Paris, basically Paris’ own red light district. We got to watch a traditional French Cabaret, which blew my mind. If you’re in Paris, it’s just something you have to witness for yourself. Girls in can-can skirts, men kicking their legs past their heads! And special effects acts that will knock your socks off. And this is all accompanied by a bottle of Champagne for you and your company. We watched a show at a theatre called La Nouvelle Eve. Of course there’s the Moulin Rouge, but tickets are insanely expensive, so be ready to pay if that’s what you’re after. 


We ended our first night there at an Irish Bar called O’Sullivans. It gets very crowded on a Saturday night, but the music is really good. 


We woke up to a city tour, on our bus because it was raining. We then visited a traditional French perfumery, where we found out how Perfume was made and got to do some perfume shopping. 


We then had some time to explore the city and get some shopping done. We then went to the Arc De Triomphe, you can go up to the top for €8 and get an amazing view of Paris. Then if you walk down that road (Champs Elysées) you will see some of Paris’ main shopping spots and cafes. This street has everything you need to get through a full day of Paris shopping.


We then had a traditional Parisian Dinner, where we were served French wine and Escargot. We watched the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower. If you hang out by the Eiffel Tower around 11 and 11:30PM you’ll get to see it light up and sparkle for a few minutes. It’s beyond amazing. 


For more shopping, there’s a huge mall called Galeries Lafayette that houses all of the world’s biggest brands in shopping.


I had two extra days in Paris, I got to explore a bit more and take in more of the beautiful city. I left my heart in Paris. It was the perfect way to end off the trip of a lifetime. Thank you all for following my journey. I can honestly say this trip has changed me for the better. 

Until my next adventure!
Nadine 

Eurotrip: Swiss Alps

Next stop on my journey was the Swiss Alps in Switzerland. Where we would spend the next two days nestled in between the beautiful Swiss Mountains and waterfalls.
On the way we stopped in a city called Lucern, where we got to do some shopping and attended a Swiss Army Knife and watch demonstration. If you’re planning on going to the Swiss Alps but wanna stay in a city, then Lucern is a great option!


We then began our drive up a few more meters above sea level to reach our destination: Camping Jungfrau, Lauterbrunnen. What a beautiful little campsite, it’s walking distance from the train station that takes you up into the mountains and it’s close to town.


The day after we arrived, we went up the Jungfrau mountains, where we would stand at the top of Europe and get to play in the snow. I promise you, this is one of those places you have to see before you die. The pictures do not do it justice. 


Once you’re at the top of the mountain, there are loads of activities to take part in, there’s a zip line, tubing, skiing, an ice sculpture museum, souvenir shops, exhibitions and you can go up to the top of the sphinx for the view of a lifetime.


We spent our time up on the mountain, throwing snowballs, playing in the snow, taking topless pictures and just enjoying having our fingertips freeze off!

A group of us went tubing down the mountain which was lots of fun, it’s just a bit of a bumpy ride, but oh my goodness- is such a rush! 


The train ride up and down the mountain is quite long, I caught a nap on the way down! This might sound weird but, wear sunscreen! You may be in the snow but the sun is still harsh up there and a lot of people came down with red noses and foreheads! Not a good look at all. Don’t forget your gloves and a warm jacket because it’s freezing up there. 


We ended our time in Switzerland with a party in a bomb bunker, underneath the campsite! It was such a good time!
The final stop on the tour was Paris and I could barely contain my excitement! 

Eurotrip: Florence

We only had one day in the beautiful little city of Florence, but it was great. What a pretty little city. The heart of Italy’s artistic past.
The views are to die for, I suggest wondering through the city by yourself to get the most of it. There’s beauty to be found around very corner. We did a walking tour through the city, where we got to see the Statue of David, as well as the other magnificent statues surrounding him. 


We also attended a Leather Demonstration, which is Florence’s specialty. We learnt how leather is made and how to identify fake leather items. It was extremely informative and we were able to do some shopping afterwards. 
A few of the girls bought, what we called, puzzle rings. They’re a Florentine specialty. The ring is perfect when you wear it, but if you take it off, it will fall apart into four pieces. It’s quite complicated to reassemble. The story behind the ring is that a Florentine king knew his wife was cheating on him, so he gave her a ring that would reveal when she was being unfaithful (she would take her rings off to commit adultery!) it’s a fun little gift to get someone back home!


We found a really amazing spot, overlooking the city for a group photo! It was extremely windy up there, but I think we got Florence on a stormy day. 


The evening started with a traditional Florentine Dinner, which was delicious. SO much food! The Italians love to feed you, so if you’re eating out, don’t over order- check the portion size first then decide if you need more!


We ended off at the Red Garter, a local karaoke club in Florence. Bad singing, cocktail jugs and a dance floor? What more could you ask for?!


Florence is so beautiful. I wish we had had more time there, but our next stop was the Swiss Alps- so we had to get going! 

 

Eurotrip: Rome

Rome is just one of those cities you HAVE to see before you die. It’s like being in a time capsule and being able to experience the way the Romans lived in the past, because so many of their ancient buildings are still in tact. 
My time in Rome was filled with Gelato and lots and lots of pizza, accompanied by walking- so much walking! The city is huge, we had a day and a half to fit in all the big sites. 


We started with the Vatican City, we had a guided tour through the smallest city in the world. Our tour included the Sistine Chapel, which is amazing- it should definitely be on your bucket list. Our tour guide explained how Michelangelo designed and painted the ceiling of this beautiful chapel. After the Tour, we got to enter the Basilica. If you wanna see the Vatican, I suggest booking in advance to skip the queues (which go all the way around the block) or book a tour as part of a group. I could think of nothing worse than lining up for hours in The Roman Heat!


We then took a walk down to the Trevi Fountain and tossed some coins! (1 coin means you’ll return to Rome, 2 means you’ll find a new love and 3 means you’ll get married- I’m not telling how many I threw in!)  


It was then off to the mind-blowing colosseum, where we had a guided tour of the floor where the gladiator matches took place! It’s amazing how centuries later, this building is still in tact (with a few bits missing here and there) and standing. We had a few minutes to wander around and I managed to snap some awesome pics! 


Rome is referred to as the Lasagna City, because it has so many layers- this was evident during our tour of the Roman Forum, as we wondered through the ruins of Ancient Rome, my breath was taken away but how advanced the ancient Romans were regarding architecture. 


This time of the year Rome is extremely hot! If you’re going to be doing as much walking as we did, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and dress appropriately. For the religious cites, women need to have their shoulders and knees covered and men may not wear hats and should also be dressed respectfully. 
All in all, Rome was a great time. It was just too hot for me! Which is why I was glad to hear, that our next stop; Florence, was a bit cooler! 

Eurotrip: Venice

We arrived just off the coast of Venice we were stayed on a campsite that was just a 30 minute boat ride away from the floating city.

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Venice is a dream. It’s a time capsule, all the buildings and architecture represent a beauty that can only be claimed by the Venetians. The city is very small, you can walk from one end to the next in about 10-15 minutes. The streets wind into narrow alleyways, where you’ll find some of the best Italian coffee, gelato and pizza.

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If you’re looking for Gelato, I suggest finding a shop called Suso and treat yourself to one of Italy’s delicacies. Try the Spritz when you’re in the city, it’s a refreshing drink and you get a takeaway cup to walk around with while you shop.

We started our day with a walking tour through Venice, where we saw St. Marks Square as well as all the big monuments and important buildings. Our tour was just over two hours and ended in some Venetian Tapas and drinks. There are many walking tours in Venice, I suggest doing them so you can truly understand the history and beauty of the city.

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The local markets are filled with souvenirs, from sailor hats to fans, there’s something for everyone. The local mall houses all of the big designer brands, if you have some cash to spend, you’ll be able to shop till you drop there.

For lunch we got some Pizza and sat in the middle of St. Marks Square eating it. (Like real Italians)

Unfortunately it was raining on the day we were there, so to get out of the rain we went to see how Venetian Glass Ornaments are made at a glass blowing demonstration. It’s pretty amazing and it’s free to watch, so you should check that out!

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We took a gondola ride through the city, where we got to see Venice from a different angle. Do not leave Venice without getting on a Gondola, it’s a relaxing and beautiful ride.

For dinner we stopped at a place that sold Pasta in a box, these places are everywhere, so if you need a quick meal that’s a good suggestion.

All in all, it was a beautiful day in the Floating City. You’ll fall in love with it, just like I did.

Next stop, Rome!!!

Nadine Suliaman
20somethingsomethings.com

 

Eurotrip: Berlin

After spending the day traveling to Berlin, I decided that my first night in the city would be a chilled one. We stayed at the Plus Berlin Hostel, which is a great space for young travelers. The hostel has a bar and restaurant, a pool, table tennis, a sauna and loads of awesome spaces to ensure you have the time of your life.

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Berlin is so rich in history, it’s quite inspiring to see everything that Germany has been through yet they are still trying to correct the mistakes of the past. Berlin is now one of the most accepting and tolerant places in Europe.

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The next day, we woke up bright and early and assembled at the TV Tower, where we started a walking tour of Berlin, by Original Berlin Walks. The tour lasted just over three hours, but gave us all the information on the monuments and world war memorials. If you don’t have a lot of time in the city, signing up for one of these tours is a great idea. Some of the sights we saw included the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall, the Memorial to the Murdered a Jews, the site of Hitler’s bunker etc. Our tour guide Lindsey, was extremely informed and helpful.

I then spent the day exploring Berlin’s shopping scene. The Mall of Berlin is huge and has stores to satisfy all your shopping needs- plus they have a really good food court that has food options from all over the world.

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The evening saw us taking another tour, called Cold War and Cold Drinks. Which covered the effect of the Cold War on Berlin and how the Berlin Wall affected the people living in the city. The tour included two bar stops which gave us complimentary drinks and a German Pretzel!

The night ended with drinks in the outdoor bar at the hostel, which was a great way to end the busy day we had!

 

Don’t forget!
– Sunscreen! It’s extremely hot in Berlin and you don’t wanna get sunburnt while touring the city.

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Now we’re off to Prague, in the Czech Republic! Along the way we stopped in Dresden, a beautiful little city with amazing architecture.

See you in Prague!