26 May 2011

The Full Story: Day Three

Traveling to Prague involved two very, very bad ideas.We were in for a six hour train ride. Luckily there were very few people in the compartment the entire length of the journey. Somehow, I couldn't fall asleep. I read The Protector's War by SM Stirling and watched the countryside pass me by out of the window.

Now for the bad ideas. Number one, not eating enough breakfast. Second, writing the directions to the hostel down in my notebook instead of finding somewhere to print a map. Herp. Derp.

The train we were on did not have an eating car, so from 8AM until 4PM I had a piece of bread, nutella, a banana, and some water in my stomach. This would not have been so bad if we were able to go straight to the hostel. Unfortunately, my not-so-brilliant sense of direction led us in the wrong direction for about an hour. I was a mess. Hunger, fatigue, and frustration set in and my friend had to lead us through Prague and ask an Asian student, who luckily spoke a little English, for directions. We arrived by 5PM and when the receptionist saw me she immediately asked what was wrong and offered me a banana to eat. Not everyone hates Americans.

After settling down for ten minutes, we got a map, I made a call to my dad, and we were on our way to the souvenir shop to pick up our concert tickets for the next day. Everything was better from then on. I had half a pizza for dinner. After that we went sight-seeing. We walked across the Charles Bridge and up to the Old Prague Castle. The view from the latter is magnificent; one can see the entire city as well as ruins of a military fortress.

After our sight-seeing, we went out for a real, Czech budweiser beer at a restaurant across the street from our hostel. It came on-tap as a 0.5L glass. I barely scratched the surface on mine. After that, we went to a kebab place and shared some fries with mayonaise. The "guy behind the counter" was pretty drunk and hit on us. And on that slightly disconcerting note, we ended our night.

25 May 2011

The Full Story: Day Two

We arrived in Munich around noon. Due to my impatience, we did not get off at the main station. We got off the stop before the main station. It was an easily resolved situation, as Germany has local lines that take one to different train stations in the same city and within the region. We arrived at Munich HBH about fifteen minutes later than we were expecting.

Our hostel (called Wombats Youth Hostel) was within three blocks of the main station, very easy to find. The staff had us give up our metro cards in order to get our keys but, they were very nice people. After we acquired a map we set off in search of some cool, but nearby sights. First up was the shopping district. A large pedestrian boulevard leads straight to the Karlsplatz, which is a plaza area plus giant cathedral plus astronomical clock. Next we decided to take the Munich underground to the Olympic park. It was a beautiful area. The park has lanes with room enough for runners and tourists, the training ground for the German olympic swimming team, a giant lake on which one can take their boat, and a hill which gives a bird's-eye view of Munich.

After that, we were pretty exhausted. Heading back to the hostel, we stopped into a small restaurant where I ordered a doner kebab for the first time. It's lamb meat in thick bread, essentially. Most of the time it's served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a garlic sauce on the inside. My verdict - delicious! I have become addicted.

We rested up in our room for a while, then decided to embark on a bar-hopping adventure. The hostel was the first leg of the journey, as a ticket for a free drink comes with the price of the room. We sat in the lounge drinking our German beer when we met another American student studying in Spain from the University of Virginia. She spent most of the night attempting to convince us that even though her school was filled with old-money white families, she wasn't one of them. It didn't necessarily work.

We stopped at two bars and a beer garden before the night was over. The night ended with drinking on-tap German beer, sampling four types of sausage, and eating saurkraut. Verdict - German sausage = best sausage.

By this time it was midnight and time to rest up for the next leg of our international trek.

21 May 2011

Checking In

Hello all! I am back in the United States. My sincerest apologies for the unexpected hiatus. My laptop decided to break down on me eight days before my departure. A netbook is now in my possession; hopefully it will last awhile. Starting tomorrow I will make up for lost time as well as, give a little insight into reverse culture shock and my personal experience with it.

05 May 2011

The Full Story: Day One

I began my journey at 9:31 getting on a train to Strasbourg. I thought the train ride would only be three hours long but, I had read the timetables wrong and we would be arriving at 14:30. It wasn't so bad. We were super hungry by the time we got to the train station. We ended up stopping at a sandwich place before finding our hostel. On the way to our lodging, we got lost. The directions indicated that we would see the "Palais de Justice", which at first we couldn't find because we thought we would come across it fairly quickly. The long walk caused us to stop a woman and ask her for directions. Turns out it was the giant building with the green roof straight ahead of us.

After settling in, we walked around in a park area called "Place de la Republique." After that we hopped on the tram to see the headquarters of the European Union. Heading back to the center of the city, two Mormon men hopped on the tram right behind us.

Our next major stop was the cathedral located in the old town. There was a artisan cookie shop on our way there, so we ordered some. I got two chocolate and pistachio cookies and they were delicious. I had a jambon crepe for dinner, as well as my first creme brulee at an Italian restaurant.

When we got back to the hostel, an older French woman was there. She had taken my backpack off my bed and moved it to the desk, and she had set her stuff in my bed instead. Whatever. I just took another one; I didn't really want to start any problems. After getting situated, we spent some time in the hostel bar. Unfortunately, it was closed. No drinks for us. Our night ended around 11 so we could catch the early train the next day.

03 May 2011

Vacation in Photographs

Day 1 - Strasbourg

Strasbourg is located on the French-German border in the Alsace region. It serves as the location for meetings of the European Union, has a beautiful cathedral and touristy old town, and the cleanest rivers I have seen in a French city. We arrived in the afternoon and made our way up to the EU headquarters (right) around 4 pm.

Day 2 - Munich

The above picture is a statue dedicated to John Paul the Second with the Marianplaz in the background. Munich is located in southern Germany, which is heavily Catholic. The city was the site of the 1976 Olympics and is in the running for hosting the 2018 games.

Day 3 - Prague

From where I am standing, the Old Prague Castle is within my line of sight. This picture was taken after my climb up to the top of the hill. It was tiring, but as you can see the view is worth it. You may also notice that I'm wearing a scarf. Turns out that it is pretty cold in the Czech Republic, so I bought it for 100 Kc at a store that was also selling candy and absinthe.

Day 4 - Brno

So basically, the entire point of being in Brno was to see Boyce Avenue at the Carodelas 2011 music festival. I would also say that it was the reason I wanted to go to Germany and the Czech Republic in the first place. After a day of hellish navigation of the Brno tram system and random rain in the afternoon, I finally got to see my new music obsession at 11PM Thursday night, knowing full well that I had to be awake at 5 AM Friday morning. Daniel is on the left, Alejandro is on the right, and Fabien is missing. Two out of three isn't bad. Especially when I was making other Czech fangirls mad by being the American fangirl in the front row.

Day 5 - Berlin

This is the Brandenburg Gate, located near the Tiergarten. The Berlin Wall was constructed directly behind the gate, separating the eastern and western parts of the city. When looking through old photographs of this area as it was 20 years ago, the difference from now is striking. The street leading to the gate is a major shopping and tourist district now, but just before I was born it was abandoned and bleak-looking. Berlin is a great example of how fast people can combine their strengths to come out of the ashes of a violent history.

Day 6 - Berlin

Since we were able to stay another day in Berlin, we decided today would be a good day to see some museums and major sites. We left the hostel around 10:30AM and saw the Parliament building, Soviet Memorial, the Topography of Terror exhibit, a Salvador Dali exhibit, and finally made our way to the Olympic Stadium. I find the concept of the games fascinating. Nations gather to compete in friendly competition despite political turmoil or international rivalries. History has given us lessons in the hypocrisy sometimes associated with the Olympics, but knowing that they continue gives me hope for a stable world.

02 May 2011

Pas Mal

Duration: 45 minutes preparation, 5 minutes staring at a wall, 3 minutes of speaking to the professor.
Number of Questions: One
Confusion Level: Moderate

Today was my exam in foreign literature (yes, vacation was awesome, but those stories will come tomorrow). I drew the slip of paper with the following question: "Robinson Crusoe: adventure novel or a morality book?" It took me the whole time just to write a page and a half worth of answers, but I was not as lost as I thought I would be. I wrote it, then read directly from my notes to the professor. After that, he asked me where I was from, said that he understood that I would have problems explaining myself since French is not my first language. He said I spoke a little fast and that my pronunciation of "chritien(ne)" fell victim to my English habit of saying "christian" but that I was the middle of the other two international students and my answer was good. I'll take it.

24 April 2011

Joyeuse Paques

Today is Easter. Pretty much all I've done today is watch mass on TV and have a three hour lunch. That and get ready for my vacation. I've got everything packed, a list of major sites, a list of decent bars, and all of our train times recorded in the official travel notebook. I won't be around until the first of May. I'll definitely have a lot of exciting train stories and pictures to post. See you in a week!