Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 13: I love cats bad

Helllllllo world! I write this on Tuesday, our last day in Germany, and really, our last day in Europe. The past two weeks have been crazy, exhausting, exciting...overall, just unbelievable. But I'm not reflecting on our trip just yet. That can happen when we get home. Let me just fill you in on our journeys over the past few days.
For nearly two years, I've wanted to go to the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, the "Disney Castle," as Johannes' friends call it. Timing never worked out when I was abroad, but Johannes arranged for us to go yesterday, along with some of his friends from school. Lets start from the beginning...
Driving in his friend Tessilo's little red Ford (the 'college student car,' we've been told), speeding down the Autobahn, you'd hardly know you were in Germany. Once we left the city, we drove through nothing but lush, green farmland that made me feel like I was in Ireland more than the outskirts of Munich. On the way out. we stopped in a little Bavarian village for coffee (in my case, hot chocolate), in a restaurant overlooking the lake. From there, we drove through the backroads, down a dirt road that couldn't fit more than one car at any point. For more people, it would have been terrifying; for me, nothing could be scarier than the ride from Berlin to Munich with Martin at the wheel.

The castle was astounding. There are just no words for how ornate and elaborate every single room was. Well, at least the finished rooms - all four of them. The castle itself is set high up on a mountain, so we had to hike up a windy hill just to get there. After the castle, Johannes said we were going to hike even further up the mountain. We literally climbed up, grabbing onto tree roots and rocks to hoist ourselves us. Utter insanity.

On the way home, we, well...we stopped in Austria. Apparently it's not too far from the castle, do we drove through on the way back to Munich. The Alps are gorgeous. Simply put, there is nothing in the world more serene and peaceful than what we saw yesterday. The snow-capped mountains jutted out from above the water, occasionally vanishing into the chilly mist like a modern-day Brigadoon. The lake was a blue-green that no Crayola color could ever do justice. At one point, we got out and skipped rocks from the shore.

Finally, we made it back to Munich. We headed straight for the beer hall to watch the Euro 2008 football match between Germany and Austria. I don't think there is a point to me describing it. There was lots of beer, lots of cheering, lots of singing, lots of German flags waving around. You'd think the Germans had won a war (for once) or something. It was really cool though, to be part of something that brought out so much national pride in people. Germany won the match, 1-0, and it should come as no surprise to you that I missed the only goal scored because I was waiting in line to pee. Not surprised, right? That's what I figured...
After the match, we sang and jumped around and danced in the beer hall, then headed to the streets to celebrate. Armed with local beer and loads of layers to ward off the cold and rain, we made our way to a main street in town, where we were told Germans rioted after the team won the World Cup two years ago. There must have been thousands of people out there last night - it was utter insanity, much better than when Maryland won the womens's NCAA a few years ago...
Around 1 a.m., riot police stormed the streets and made everyone get on the sidewalks. Following that, huuuuuge street sweeping machines trolled up and down the streets, getting rid of all the broken glass bottles and debris (and trust me, there was a ton of it). We ended up going back to Johannes' friends flat nearby for awhile, then came back here.

We woke up this morning and immediately hit the streets, since Tor had yet to actually see Munich. We visited gardens and some cool stuff left over from the Nazi regime. We also came across guys surfing in the stream in the English Gardens. Architects created an artificial wave area where surfers could bring their boards and ride the waves, right in the middle of the city! How crazy is that!?

After the gardens, we walked into town and Johannes continued to be the best tour guide ever. We climbed up to the top of a church in the middle of town and got some astounding views of the city. Then we said goodbye to Johannes for a few hours and wandered around on our own. We came back to the main square, Marienplatz, to watch the glochenspiel. The gloch is perhaps one of the best things in the world - not as great as World Press Photo or mac and cheese, but probably on par with poop shelves (Quote from Tori, who is occasionally peeking over my shoulder: "There really are poop shelves here!"). The gloch is a long and complicated thing to explain, but take me word for it, its AWESOME.

Post-gloch, we hit up the Hofbrau house in search of some good beer and German food. Tor ordered the Hofbrau House Sausage Plattern. Damn, that girl loves her wursts. I opted for something more pig-friendly-turkey and spatzle. When we left, we began a long-winded search for a couple bottles of beer to enjoy on the Oktoberfest grounds (since Germany has no open-container laws. Or if they do, we've chosen to ignore them up until this point.). We finally made our find and headed over to Lady Bavaria, Munich's answer to the Statue of Liberty. WE popped open our bottles and enjoyed the brisk air and the company of Lady Bavaria.

And that's all, folks. We're about to go to bed, because we are waking up early tomorrow morning in order to get to the airport in time for our 11:55 a.m. flight. We have a brief flight to London, followed by a three-hour layover in Heathrow before we continue on the final, and longest, leg of our journey. You all know how I hate flying, so I'm hoping there is some sort of free wine involved at some point over the next 24 hours...

I did want to say a few things though. Thanks to everyone for reading, commenting and offering suggestions! You have all contributed something to our trip, and for that we are very grateful. Secondly, I'm getting a pedicure Thursday because my feet are disgusting. If you are in the Kingston area and want to join, just let me know. Thirdly, we didn't blog yesterday so we were unable to wish a very special lass a happy 22nd birthday. SO HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY AMY CLEGG!!!!!!!

We'll be posting a reflection from the States in a few days, so keep checking back! Auf Weidersen!

Love and extreme world travel,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 11: Because of the sheep's chill

When it comes to once in a life time experiences, Melissa and I definitely have you beat. Thanks to our Munich host, Johannes, we traveled to Eichstatt today for the 1100th birthday celebration.
We arrived in Munich last night around 11pm, after a full day in Berlin and a LONG car ride down the Audobon (yes, people drive really fast on it and it was something both of us can cross off on our 'list of things to do before we die')
Not having even seen Munich in the daylight yet, we woke up and got breakfast downstairs at a cafe that had free breakfast (croissants, pretzels, brie, nutella, granolla, and meats) and hopped on a train outside of the city. First stop outside of the city was Dachau, so um, Melissa was on a train to Dachau. After about an hour or so, we arrived at Johannes' hometown and one of the most beautiful and surreal places I've ever seen. The town had so much character and charm, as well as a Medieval party flooding the streets. We saw a parade that encompassed 1100 years of history in about 30 minutes, ate authentic German food, saw crazy Baroque style architecture, I ate Bratwurst, and drank liter large beers. All in all, what I call a great party. After the parade, we walked around and explored the town. We both walked around in awe of what we were seeing. Technically this was our 6th place we've visited during our trip, it is definitely the oldest as well as the most original.
Our full day at Eichstatt's birthday left us tired and wet. The weather in Munich is about as bad as it's been all trip. Turns out this is called sheep's chill because now is the time all the sheep's wool is shaved off, causing them to be quite cold before the temperature really heats up. Oh well, we're so used to being freezing and rained on after the past few weeks that it has really stopped bothering us. I bought a pair of crazy hot German jeans and I've been sporting a scarf ALL TRIP, so I'm not as cold anymore:
Once we got back to Munich, we took a stroll down the block to where Oktoberfest is held every year. Turns out, Johannes lives less than a 5 minute walk to the location of the biggest beer festival in the world! Right now it's empty, but we got to see Lady Bavaria and a few beer gardens along the way.

Tomorrow we head off to the Disney castle and Tuesday we're off to explore Munich itself. Wednesday we take our longest journey, 14 hours, back home before joining the real world again.
Radler's and spezzi,

ps- We want to give a SHOUT OUT to our dads! Happy Fathers day y'all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 11: Poop Shelves!

The title of this post may sound weird to you, but I assure you it is not. One of the greatest things in life, though not as good as mac and cheese, World Press Photo and Greek, poop shelves essentially define Soviet-era plumbing. I haven't seen once since my Kolej Komenskeho days, when I lived in a prison in Praha. Basically, there is a shelf in the toilet. You can probably guess what goes on it.
Anyway, I was delighted to see that our hostel here in East Berlin (to quote the Aussie from Amsterdam making fun of me for calling it that: "East Berlin? You know the Cold War is over, right?") is fully equipped with them. Tor is still asleep, but I'm sure she is going to read this and ask me what the hell I was thinking when I wrote it.

So let's see. It appears to be bright and sunny here in Berlin, hopefully it will stay that way for the rest of the day. We're going on a free tour (from the same company who gave us a tour in Amsterdam) in a few hours, then probably wandering around the city afterward. Yesterday we walked past Checkpoint Charlie; after our tour today, I can tell you what Checkpoint Charlie is.

We're leaving for Munich this evening, where my friend Johannes will be meeting us at the train station and (because he is probably the nicest guy ever) letting us crash at his flat until Wednesday. We're going to his hometown, Eichstaett, on Sunday, because it is celebrating its 1100th birthday.

Next time you all read this: we will be in Munich!!!

Love and poop shelves,

ps. Tim Russert dying broke my heart
pps. LOOK AT ALL THE COOL STUFF I CAN DO ON GERMAN KEYBOARDS Äöߧµ€. Also, the keyboards switch the Y and the Z. AWKWARDDDDD

Day 9? No more all-night bus rides

So leaving Amsterdam was probably the hardest departure yet, and not only because it was a midnight bus with some questionable drivers, but because we were leaving all the amazing times we had there. After one last run around the stores, we went to the Albert Heijn (a cute grocery store all over Amsterdam) and ran into one of my friends from Buffalo completely randomly! After chatting him and his travel buds up, we were off to meet up with Donny and Asaf for a canal cruise. After that we decided to just chill out at their hostel bar, play some pool and watch a game of soccer. When it came to say goodbye we had some tender hugs and then Melissa and I went to find the bus station. In between border police, Melissa's dream about an old high school boy she still carries a torch for having an older brother, and mine about an engagement party on the bus which turns into a wedding to another person (how sitcomical!), I got to thinking about all the perfect moments I had while in Amsterdam.Basking in the sun, simply enjoying the bright rays, our first day in the city. Watching boats float by the canals, looking at the funny tilted and leaning houses with my best friend. Walking around in circles trying to understand a city without a map and feeling the breeze go by but not giving me a chill. That is my ultimate Amsterdam moment.Not to be overshadowed, is when Donny, Asaf, Aussie Andrew, Melissa and I walked around the red light district at night soliciting TV's, but finally settling ourselves down at Dam Square (the main circle in the city that houses their national monument) and looking at the people going by and soaking in the company and the great times.I loved Amsterdam so much that I know I'll be back. Can't you see me on a houseboat in the canal, working a job and giving tours? I've never fell in love with a place so fast and so hard, that not going isn't even an option. I need more perfect moments in my life, and Amsterdam sure knows how to deliver. So now we're off to explore Berlin. We've heard great things and Asaf and I are in a competition for best city in Europe. We'll see who wins.

Hearts and wooden shoes,Tori

ps- further proof why I belong in Amsterdam is that their patron saint is SAINT NICK AKA SANTA CLAUS!! They have two Christmas's!!! I belong there!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 8: Still avoiding Bananen Bar...thank God

Helllllllllo from rainy Amsterdam.

Today is our first day of less-than-stellar weather in this awesome, incredible, mind-blowing city. Tor agrees with me that Amsterdam has been the best city we've been to so far.
I wish I could remember everything we've done over the past two days, but its been so nuts that I'm definitely going to forget things.
We took a free three-hour tour of the city two days ago and saw EVERYTHING - Red Light District, Jewish neighborhood, the smallest house in Amsterdam, the oldest one, the Homomonument (it is exactly what it sounds like, nothing "lost in translation," in Tori's words). Then after the tour, we went to the Anne Frank house. It wasn't what I was expecting; but then again, I'm not entirely sure what I WAS expecting. The diary itself wasn't on display because they were in the process of adjusting the lights so nothing would be damaged. Additionally, the outside was covered in scaffolding. But the feeling I got there was similar to the one I got when I visited Auschwitz last year. I don't know about the Anne Frank house. You should all go. I'm sure I'll be back.
Speaking of coming back, TOR AND I WANT TO LIVE HERE. This is the most livable city we've been do, helped in part by the fact that everyone has been so damn nice to us.
OH, we met up with Tori's friends Donny and Asaf, who are here for the week. They're awesome, and I'm bummed I didn't come back home early to meet them sooner, when they were in Woodstock.
The first night we all hung out, we walked around the Red Light District. We tried soliciting a prostitute. Well, we tried soliciting a television set in a prostitute's room. We just wanted to watch tv for a few in one of the rooms, but the hos weren't having any of it. We offered to pay and everything!
Yesterday, the four of us met up for lunch and then went to the World Press Photo exhibition. World Press Photo is pretty much the best thing in the world. I personally place it above mac and cheese and Greek, just so you get an idea of how serious my love for it is. I saw it for the first time in Prague, and haven't seen it since. Its basically a collection of the best photographs taken during the previous year-mostly war photos and sad, depressing shots. BUT ITS AWESOME.
OH, I almost forgot, before Tor reminded me. Last night we all went to see a live sex show in the Red Light District. I, personally, was most stunned by the woman who smoked a cigar out of a place I didn't think it possible. But, as I've learned in Amsterdam, nothing is impossible. Even that.
Tonight, we're catching a night bus to Berlin, where we'll spend a couple days before booking it to our last stop, Munich. So until then, bye (I would say it in Dutch, but this language is so damn confusing)!

Love and Euro soccer (even though the Czechs lost yesteday),

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 6: We figured out how many days and DAM it's awesome

Ah, so here we are sound and safe, completely settled into our hotel and falling in love with Amsterdam. After leaving Brussels yesterday we took a train into Amsterdam Centraal. Finally we were having the weather we had hoped for all trip, sunny and warm, so we both agreed to take the day to just soak in where we are and how beautiful it is.
Our hotel, The Orange Tulip is right next to the famous Red Light District and Dam Square, a perfect location for sightseeing and shopping. We spent all day yesterday wandering around the different neighborhoods and finding small cafe's to take in the sights. Our first cafe was right next to the first Canal, near the largest bridge in Amsterdam and a monument to Multatuli (apparently some really boring Capitalist writer that all Dutch kids have to read but is utterly BORING to anyone who isn't from The Netherlands). After being ignored by the server for an hour, apparently the Dutch aren't attentive servers and can't multitask, we explored the red light district, tried the local cuisine of Dutch Bitter Balls (DELICIOUS!) and then sat around Dam Square.
Today we woke up, got our free breakfast from two down on their luck soccer fans, lamented the fact that there's still no hair straightener, and then hopped on down to go on a FREE walking tour of the city. Starting in the red light district, we saw some coffee shops, Amsterdam's smallest house (literally not even 6 feet across), some historic sites, the first gay monument (the homomonument), ate at a place that had whole wheat bread and Pepsi MAX (both things i haven't had since i got here) and then ended the tour with the Anne Frank House.
We are both sporting sun tans after 3 hours in the sun and also have a much better understanding of the city.
Amsterdam is by far the most beautiful city we've been to, and already becoming my favorite. Melissa and I are taking in the sites and NOT getting on each others nerves as some had warned.
Hopefully today we'll track down two of my friends, and Wednesday we're going to meet up with another old friend of mine before we take a midnight bus to Berlin.

As for now, there's still 6 hours of sunlight (yes, the sun goes down around 11pm this time of year) and we plan on enjoying every second of it.
Bubblegum and blueberries,

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day We Don't Know What Number

Greetings from Brussels, Belgium! We just got in yesterday afternoon, and already we are heading out. But its been a really good 3/4 of a day. We didn't have any problem getting from the hotel in Paris to the hostel here. Once we threw our stuff down in our 10-person room (more on that later), we took a walk around town. Highlights: getting fries, with sides of mayo (less gross than it sounds) and curry ketchup (especially good when mixed together); eating a belgian waffle smothered in chocolate sauce, bananas and strawberries; drinking delicious Belgian beer. So basically, we're fat.
We were so stuffed from the waffle that we skipped dinner and went straight for the beer. We downed a few, and were then joined by a young guy who had been making eyes at me all night (I swear I'm not being conceited, he really was!). His name was Hamsa, and he had grown up in Brussels, although he was born in Morocco. We talked to him for three hours or so, about movies (In addition to being huge in real life, Jean Claude Van Damme is a huge deal in the film industry here), languages and his family in L.A. Oh, maybe I should mention that he spoke NO English. At all. Our entire conversation was through hand gestures, high school French and miming. We were able to communicate that Tor loved Hillary Clinton, beer and Diet Pepsi, and once we did that, Hamsa kept making fun of her for being very American. We tried to explain to him the concept of a hostel, but he thought we were talking about an orgy. Cultural miscommunication, much?
At one point, he started telling a story. I was pretty convinced he was making fun of Jew (the only words I understood were Jew, Morocco and laugh). Turns out he was telling us about an Israeli comedian.
At the end of the night, he walked us back to our hostel (which was only a few blocks away) and then headed home. Oh but don't worry, I got his e-mail address. Freetranslation.com, here I come! Then we stayed outside for awhile and talked to other people staying at the hostel-a few Scots, some Aussies and a Canadian. One of the Scots had spent a few months partying in Thailand, then met a Belgian girl and moved here with her. He woke up yesterday morning, dumped her and wound up in the hostel.
We went to bed at a decent time and woke up early this morning to try and get waffles again, but alas, every place was closed because it was 8 a.m. So we settled for Subway. Mange fraiche!
We're leaving for Amsterdam in an hour, and will be there and hopefully settled in our hotel by mid-afternoon.
Thanks for reading, and we'll update you once we get to the Netherlands!

Love and Moroccan Muslims,