4 Things To Do In Forence. Art In Hostel.

4 Things In Florence

If you’ve only got a few days in Florence, you’ll want to pack in as many sights as you can. So once you’ve checked in at the hostel, dropped your bags off in the room and headed off into the city, what should you go and see?

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (aka il Duomo)

The world’s 4th largest cathedral. Construction began in 1296: such a gravity-defying design, with a dome that size, had not been attempted since the building of the Pantheon. Filippo Brunelleschi took up the “Duomo” challenge in 1418, devising some new building techniques along the way, but sadly, he died before the final stages of construction were completed. The cathedral is completely covered with green, white and pink marble (now sparkling after a recent clean) and the interior is adorned with incredible frescoes and Donatello’s stained glass windows. The “Campanile di Giotto” (the bell tower), is the most striking feature of any view of the city: Giotto, the famous painter and architect designed the tower, however, by his death, in 1337, only the lowest part had been completed.

 

Palazzo Vecchio

The most important civil building in town. Pay the entry fee to see some of the best preserved ceiling frescoes, or just stick your head in the front door to take a snoop!

Ponte Vecchio

One of the three bridges in the world occupied by shops, and Florence’s oldest. Spared from destruction during

WWII because of its age and artistic relevance, it has withstood floods and hordes of tourists during the centuries and the dazzling jewellers you see today are a far cry from the stinky butcher shops and blacksmiths that originally occupied it. Above the shops, there is a hidden walkway, linking Palazzo Pitti to the Uffizi, once used by the Medici family to avoid the public.

 

Santa Croce Church

It contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and many other legendary artists. Visit the

historical workshops in the narrow street in front of the church, to see how some antique arts of the renaissance, such as mosaics and ceramics are still practiced today.

 

5 Things To Do In Berlin For Free

Are you backpacking on a budget? Well you’ve already made the right choice by staying at PLUS! And Berlin is a relatively cheap city. But we have further good news! Berlin is one of the best cities in Europe to explore without damaging your bank balance too much:

1. East Side Gallery

This 1.3km-long part of the former Berlin Wall stretching from Warschauer Straße towards Ostbahnhof is the longest still surviving, and each section has been painted over by artists from all over the world. There are over 100 different murals, but our favourite has to be the one depicting the famous kiss between the East German President Erich Honecker and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev (OK, we’ve outed ourselves as history geeks). And the best thing? It starts right around the corner from PLUS Berlin!

2. The Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer)

Also featuring some still-intact pieces of the Berlin Wall, this open-air exhibition on the former border strip gives you a closer look at how the wall and the “death strip” were set out. Particularly sombre is the list of names of escapees who didn’t make it to the West alive, played through a loudspeaker.

3. Mauerpark Fleamarket (Sundays only)

A great way to spend an hour or two on a Sunday morning, and completely free – as long as you don’t buy anything! Apart from the numerous stalls, the highlight has to be the “Bearpit Karaoke” – watch with a cold beer in your hand as willing members of the public perform in front of a mini-stadium.

4. Brandenburg Gate

A bit obvious, but just like the Colosseum in Rome or Prague Castle, if you’re going to have a cheesy selfie taken in front of anything in Berlin it has to be the Brandenburg Gate.

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5. Reichstag

Located just a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (the German Parliament building) is free to visit; you can hop on a guided tour of the building with some interesting surprises such as Russian graffiti dating from the conquest of Berlin by the Russian army in 1945. Of course, no trip to the Reichstag is complete without a walk up to the top of the dome, offering iconic views over the city! Make sure you book well in advance (at least 10 days) as they perform security checks on all visitors. !

 

5 Events Not To Be Missed in Prague

Heading to Prague for a few days this month? If not, why not? Apart from the classics such as the Old Town, Charles Bridge, Lobkowicz Palace, Malá Strana, Spanish Synagogue, Prague Castle, Prague Zoo, St Vitus Cathedral… (OK, maybe you’ll need more than a few days), here are just some of the events to czech out (sorry) in April, and many are just a short walk from the hostel!:


Birth of Joy @La Fabrika (just a 5-minute walk from PLUS Prague)

A psychedelic rock ’n‘ roll band from Netherlands. I mean, you just have to go, right?

Entry: 290czk (€ 10.70)

Naplavka Street Food Festival?

Food: definitely one of our favourite things here at PLUS Towers. This festival features some of the best street food from all corners of the world, including authentic dishes from Asia, Latin America, USA, and the Middle East, amongst others. Where else can you sample an Australian meat pie, Korean kimchi, Israeli falafel and Georgian chacapuri in the same place?

 

Location: Smichovska naplavka (on the riverbank; nearest tram = Palackeho namesti)
Entry: 30czk (€ 1.10)

 

St Matthew’s Fair

The Czech Republic’s most-visited fair, featuring with foreign and domestic rides and traditional Czech fast food stalls. What’s not to like?

Location: Vystaviste Holesovice, 2 tram stops away

 

The Slav Epic, by Alfons Mucha

We don’t think a visit to any city is complete without taking in some culture, and while Prague has it by the bagfull, why not try out something a bit different? This exhibition features 20 huge canvases about the history of the Slavic people.

Location: National Gallery at Veletrzni Palac (Trade Fair Palace, 3 tram stops from PLUS Prague)
Entry: 90-180 czk (approx. € 3.30 – € 6.60)

 

The Soul of Money (multimedia exhibition)

An interesting take on the concept of most people’s favourite thing: money. So having already saved a load of it by staying at PLUS Prague, why not take a closer look at our relationship with money? Not recommended with a hangover.

 

Location: DOX Centre for Contemporary Art (5min walk)
Entry: 90czk (€ 3.30) – students, 180czk (€ 6.60) – adults, plus a 50% discount for guests

What Makes A Good Hostel Breakfast?

Every good hostel will offer you breakfast in the morning – whether it is complimentary (included in the price), or something a bit better that you need to pay for on top. Either way, the facility should always be there, but more importantly for the majority of hostels which do offer breakfast in the mornings – what makes a good breakfast by hostel standards? When you’re only paying €10 a night for instance what should you be able to expect?

The Basics…

First off, lets start with the basics! The things that should always be included in a hostel breakfast whether it is an add on that you pay for or included in the price of the bed.

Bread/Toast

Never have I been to a hostel where the breakfast didn’t include some sort of bread, rolls, or croissants! It’s a staple food included in most diets around the world, so no matter where you are in the world you should be able to expect bread as a minimum in most hostel breakfasts.

Spreads

Again, like bread this is usually one of the minimums included. Some hostels will offer a wider range of spreads than others. You may get butter, jam, chocolate spread, marmalade, or something else. As a minimum though you can expect 1 or 2 spreads on top of bread that can be toasted or you’re not getting your moneys worth!

Cereal

You’ll usually find a basic selection of cereals available in your hostel breakfast as a basic.

Milk

Whether you use it for your cereal or for some tea or coffee, milk is also something you should expect to get in any basic hostel breakfast.

Tea/Coffee

Most hostels will offer tea or coffee as part of the breakfast. In fact, you’ll find many offer it free 24/7! You’ll usually find sugar is also something that you have access to 24/7 in many hostels.

Fruit Juice/Squash

And last but not least, you should expect to get some sort of fruit juice/squash included in your hostel breakfast!

Any hostel which doesn’t offer all of the above as a basic in it’s breakfast usually isn’t a very good hostel in my opinion. You should be able to get the above as a minimum in the morning, even if you have to pay an extra subsidiary for it!

What makes a GREAT hostel breakfast?

When you’re staying somewhere like PLUS you can usually expect a lot more for breakfast in the morning for a cheap price at our in-house bar/restaurants! For a start there will be hot food on offer as well as the usual basics mentioned above which are typically served cold.

Eggs

It’s amazing how a few eggs can suddenly make a dull breakfast look and taste yummy! At PLUS you will always have some sort of eggs on offer, whether it’s scrambled, boiled, or presented in another way, you’ll always have eggs on offer as part of your hostel breakfast here.

Fruit/Vegetables

There will also usually be fruit and (salad) vegetables of some sort on offer to make sure you are getting a balanced meal! A great hostel will always make sure there is this healthy addition to any breakfast as it’s important you get your 5 a day, or at least have the choice to choose healthily!

Cold meats & cheese

At PLUS you’ll usually find there is also a selection of cold meats and cheese on offer to go with your bread.

Other hot foods

Other hot food can vary, but usually at PLUS you’ll get things like beans and sausages included in your breakfast too.

At any PLUS hostel you go to you can expect an above average breakfast compared to many other hostels around the world because we have a team of people making your food. It’s also an “all you can eat” style buffet, so for around €6 you really get your moneys worth! Either way, a good hostel should at the very least offer you the basics mentioned in this blog post for your breakfast each morning or it’s not doing a very good job!

Photo Credit: Dries Buytaert

How To Raise Over €5000 In 6 Months (For Your Travels)

In early 2010 I managed to raise the equivalent of €5000 in the space of 6 months for my travels around Europe. All of this money was raised through a) selling my belongings to raise extra cash, and b) making cut backs on my existing spending and putting those savings in the bank. At the time I was earning next to nothing as I had not long started my travel blogging career, so I probably had less money coming in than most people who will read this article. My earnings were certainly below the national average in the UK. So the question is how exactly did I do it, and more importantly – how can you do it too? As at the end of the day that is the point of this blog – to help people who want to travel based on my years of travel experience…What items tend to sell fast?The easiest way to raise immediate cash to go travelling is to start selling some or all of your possessions. How much you can raise will depend a lot on what you have available to sell and also what you’re willing to sell.

Before deciding what you want to sell it may be worth thinking about the fact that it may be easier to just sell all of your possessions anyway before heading off on your travels. Sometimes it’s more hassle to find storage facilities while you’re away than to just offload everything and make a bit of cash to take with you.

Typically fast and easy things to sell on internet auction sites are electrical/computing equipment. Laptops, tablet computers, cameras, smart phones etc can quite easily get you €50 – €600 per item depending on how new they are, the condition, what it is you’re selling, and whether or not the model you have is the latest ‘in thing’. I’ve also noticed selling items before and after Christmas usually results in more/higher bids than other times of the year. Also, the key thing about these types of items is that they are easy to ship out to people compared to some other ‘high value’ items you may be able to sell online, but that are larger or have more red tape.

Tip; If you’re reluctant to sell something like your iPhone or laptop, what I would say is – do you really want to carry expensive equipment around with you in foreign countries? If people are going to have things stolen it’s usually when they are in a foreign country and stick out like a sore thumb compared to the local people. Why not cash in now and take a cheap phone with you instead? 90% of backpackers do not need a laptop as they travel. A small tablet would do, or just check your emails at internet cafés wherever you are. This way you make extra money to prolong your travels, and you have less risk of being pick-pocketed for expensive items abroad.

How much did I raise from selling my belongings?

I managed to raise €1500 of the €5000 mentioned above simply from selling electrical appliances such as second hand phones, computers, and cameras. I made around a further €200 from selling lots of other little things such as old CDs, DVDs, books, and lots of other low cost items such as shoes and clothes. I did have a lot of electrical equipment that I could sell at the time (which not everybody has), but even if you just sell your computer second hand you could make an extra couple hundred Euros that would pay for a few extra weeks of accommodation in a hostel like PLUS while you’re away.

How much could you raise from selling your belongings?

For those of you who have a house you could rent out/sell, or a high value item like a car, making a lot of cash for your travels may become a little bit easier – although it will obviously take a lot more time to sell these types of items. For most young people who travel such as myself though, it’s unlikely that you will have a house to sell, and you may not have a car. That is why I wanted to use this €5000 figure. If you have a few expensive electrical appliances you could sell like those mentioned above, you could already be well on your way to matching that figure.

Cutting back…

One of the reasons I was able to save €5000 in a relatively short amount of time was that I moved back in with my parents. Instead of paying 380 GBP per month + bills on a room in Edinburgh where I was previously studying, I was now only paying 100 GBP ‘dig money’ per month to my parents which included ‘rent’, all utilities, and food. Including the utility & food bills I was saving more than 480 GBP per month (approximately €592 per month). This in itself was what got me to the €5000 mark within 6 months quite easily. In fact, if you do the calculations of what I sold and how much per month I saved on rent and bills, I managed to go just over €5000.

The important factor of all this was that I did not need to alter my going out habits or how much I was spending on eating/drinking out, buying clothes etc – although admittedly I probably spend less on this than most young people my age. If you can move back in with your parents you’ll find saving money for your travels comes a lot more easily. If that facility is not there, down grading your accommodation or renting out a room in your property could still potentially save you hundreds of Euros per month. There are also further cuts you can make like cycling to work instead of driving (and paying fuel money), or bring in some extra by getting an extra job or doing overtime. If you spend a lot of money on alcohol at the weekends then cutting back on this is another common sense way to save some much needed cash. There will be plenty of time for drinking when you’re away!

– Sometimes the people who write these types of articles give you unattainable figures when they quote you what they say you can save, but usually these figures involve selling a house or a business that a lot of people just don’t have in the age band where they want to travel. I think €5000 is an attainable figure for most young people on a low or student type income if you’re committed enough to saving. €5000 is also more than enough money to spend a summer in Europe with (trust me, I do it on less all the time) if you are staying in hostels like PLUS. Depending on where you’re flying from it should also cover the cost of flights too.

So what are you waiting for? Travel could be just around the corner…