Thursday, June 14, 2007
We took a miserable night train last night from San Sebastian to Paris. With funds running low, we opted out of the bunk beds and took the reclining seats. Soooo kewl. We got here at 7 am, checked into our hostel, and very soon we're going to walk down to the latin quarter to take part in another free tour. Since we only have a single day in Paris, we figured that a walking tour will show us all the hot spots before we depart for the ol US of A tomorrow morning.
This trip has been incredible. Likewise, Levi and I have only wanted to kill eachother a few times. The sites, people, food, drink, cities, countries have all been tremendous, but I need a freaking hoagie from sheetz topped off with a yuengling lager.
This is Nate, signing off.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
After they got off in Pamplona I passed out. Had been reading my book before I fell asleep and stashed in under the armrest of my seat. I wake up and we get to San Sebastian like 15 minutes later.
As we are walking to our hostel I realize I never grabbed the book. Then I realize my passport, train pass, and loot are inside. We book it back to the train station, I talk to the guy and tell him what happened and he gets on the horn.
I´m listening attentively to his conversation and hear the glorious words "está encontrado" (its found) and do a little jig. Turns out that someone found it before the next station and it was waiting there. So we hop on another train that was just then pulling up, go to Irun, and when we get off the train there is a train employee standing there with the book and all its important contents in hand. Total time of separation from valuables ~45 minutes.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Tonight we're going to the Camp Nou to see the FC Barcelona play RCD Espanyol in a pretty big league match. The receptionist at the hostel said that this game is going to be like the superbowl of futbol in Spain. There is a lot of tension between the cities of Barcelona and Madrid, which is going to heighten the competition for tonights game. It's going to be awesome. Taken from the Barca website:
"It has been 25 years since Espanyol managed to win at Camp Nou. Two draws and 20 defeats is the record the visiting team brings with it – a record Frank Rijkaard’s men hope to add to. If the blaugrana achieve victory, it will mean they are unbeaten at home all season. Up until now, they have won 14 and drawn 4."
Friday, June 8, 2007
We're about to go bask in the sun on the beach. So far Barcelona is great. We had an incredible time with Alice and her roommates in both Florence and Rome, but it is cool to move on and experience somewhere different.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Monday, June 4, 2007
We arrived in Rome yesterday to be greeted by ugly weather. After getting settled in Alice's apartment I found a nearby internet café. To my luck I found an email from Br. Benoit, who is a Benedictine from Saint Vincent that is currently studying in Rome. Benoit gave me the name of the monestary and told me to stop by and ask for him. I googled San Anselm and found that it was minutes away on foot. I called Benoit's cell phone via Skype and told him I would be there in half an hour.
I walked across the Tiber River and cought a glimpse of the gorgeous monestary up on the hill. I requested Benoit at the porter and minutes later I was greeted by the friendly monk. Benoit was excited as I was to talk about Rome, my trip, and Saint Vincent. Almost immediately he took me to the top of the tower that overlooked all of Rome. We could see Saint Peters Baslica, the Pantheon, and the Coluseum.
San Anselm is the Benedictine monastery in Rome that is the home for any Benedictine that is studying in Rome. The congregation is compiled of 120 monks from 40 different countries. I joined them for vespers in the chapel at 7:15, where I found myself lost in the psalms in Latin. I saw a monk that I recognized from Saint Vincent and pointed him out to Br. Benoit. The familiar monk was Fr. Mauris who just arrived in Rome a couple of days ago and is studying Latin Litergy for the next two months. Following vespers I joined both Benoit and Mauris for a delicious dinner.
While eating dinner the Benedictine hospitality that I am so familiar with immediately surfaced. Mauris offered to go with us Wednesday morning to see a handful of the churches in Rome. Benoit invited Levi, Alice, Alice's roommate Sarah, and myself to lunch at San Anselm on Wednesday afternoon. Even across the Atlantic I feel like I am back at Saint Vincent.
This morning the four of us got up at 6:15 to get an early start at the Vatican. We got there early enough to beat the lines for Saint Peter's Basilica. Although we had to battle some crazy nuns to get through security, we made it through fairly quickly. When we walked in the door any expectation that I had previously had was wiped away. It truly blew my mind. Everything about it was incredible. The statues, the art, the size, the brillance, EVERYTHING. To our luck, there was a mass in service whenever we were there. With a handful of bishops or archbishops around the altar, we experienced the Saint Peter's Basilica to the fullest.
When we left the Saint Peter's we departed for the Vatican Museum where we apparently did not beat the line. The line extended for blocks around the Vatican wall. After 2 hours and 8€ we were wandering through the home of the Sistene Chapel. We went through a number of fantastic exhibits, but the prize was truly at the end. When we stepped into the Sistene Chapel everything that was previously saw could be compared to a coloring book. Michelangelo's masterpiece is truly a MASTERPIECE! Both the front fresco and the ceiling are beyond belief.
Tomorrow we're going to explore the ruins, the colluseum, the pantheon, and the other landmarks in the hustling and bustling Rome. When in Rome...
I cannot wait to be on the beach in Barcelona!
In short, don't expect jack diddly after this lengthy entry. Entreaties for my version of events will be ignored entirely.
I'm gonna go chapter style:
1. ON MAKING FRIENDS IN FARAWAY PLACES
I was really impressed with Vienna and everything it had to offer. When Nate and I walked around on the first day it felt like there was way more than we could get to in three weeks let alone three days and that proved to be true. We did have a wonderful time there though and I must admit that much of my enjoyment was derived from spending that time with new and interesting people. One of the girls we met early on our trip referred to people met while traveling as "24 Hour Friends" which I think is a fair and apt description. We got to hang out with Natalie, Chris, and Melanie for two days so it was that much better. Nater and I still laugh about how on the one night we all got into our pijamas in the dorm, took turns using the bathroom, and then shut the light out and said goodnight as a group. If you guys are reading this good luck with your travels and many apologies for not making it back to the hostel. We missed the last bus by about 30 seconds.
Overall I loved Vienna and would go back in a heartbeat. To me it seems we didn't really get to hang out there because there was so much to do so I'd like to just take it easy for a day or two in a park.
2. ON THE PERFECT DAY
The next stop after Vienna turned out to be Munich. It is known as the beer capital of the world. It turns out I liked Munich. ORLY???
We spent two nights, each at a different hostel. The first was at a place called Jager's (Yeah, that's where the name is from) and the second was at this incredible placed called Wombat's. The first day it was still raining so we just grabbed some quick food, a ham panini if I remember right, and then kind of settled in before heading out for the night. There was an American guy who was living in Argentina that played poker for a living so we talked shop a good bit at the bar. Went to a bar next door, chilled with some more folks that we met up with, and then called it a night early. In retrospect that was a good thing.
The next day, the perfect day, we got up fairly early and got ready to go on a free bike tour of the city. The place had breakfast so ate and talked extensively in the lobby with a girl from Seattle. Also witnessed a hilarious exchange between a guy and a girl who had obviously hooked up the night before. The girl was clingy as hell. The guy couldn't get out of there fast enough with his friends. I choked on some strawberry preserves.
We met up for the bike tour and the guy who led it, Lenny (!), was ridiculously funny (like he could be anything else, CMON!). He took us around on some sweet California cruisers and gave funny anecdotes about just about everything from the nudist meadow, to the stupid glockenspiel clock and the dance that goes on, to his beer belly. We stopped at the biergarten and got a liter and some lunch and then saw a lot of the great stuff that Nate detailed. By the time we were done it was a little after three and we were in the mood for some action after being refreshed by a day off our feet. We had met four people on the tour who were down as well and decided to head to the Hofbrauhaus. 3 liters and about 4 hours later that had been filled with talk about brew, broads, biking, being abroad, and being deported by your own family from Thailand, we realized that our waiter hadn't spoken to us in well over an hour. We were in a place that seats 5000 people. We were ready to leave. All signs pointed to the dining maneuver you hear about from friends of friends and in urban legends. Thats right...the Dine and Dash. I'm proud to say that I am the one who initially suggested it. Perhaps karma caught up with me later (you'll see), but it was freaking worth it. I was laughing so hard and felt like a million bucks when the girls finally made it outside after about 10 minutes (we thought theyd gotten caught). We then went back to hostel row and the bars there. The two guys from FSU, Landis and Blake, decided they wanted to be loaded for their night train to Amsterdam. My jaw hit the bar when one asked for 3 shots of Jager and the other echoed, but the number had double to 6. I was in bed an hour later, or at least thats what I have been told.
3. ON THE FOLLY OF DISCOUNTING NATURE
After we left Munich we went to Fussen, Germany and Bregenz, Austria for two days. Probably the only two places that heavily involve being outdoors that we have visited thus far. Of course it rain incessantly and was freezing on both of those days. As a result I did not make it to Ludwig's castle, did not see Lake Constance in the middle of the Alps, and basically did a whole lot of nothing for two days. Was/Am I bitter? Not at all really. While it would have been great to see those things they were both in the middle of small towns that didn't have much else to offer, at least ostensibly. I walked around Fussen while Nate went to the castle and it was a very quaint little town even smaller than Hollidaysburg. I enjoyed it and being alone. Bregenz was kind of crappy but had a casino. I was pretty excited to go play poker but decided against it in the end because I didn't feel like concentrating too much and staying out of the rain and reading was a much more appealing option.
4. ON HOW AWESOME IT IS TO LOSE YOUR PASSPORT WHILE ABROAD
So we decided while we were in Fussen to skip Zurich and go directly to Venice before meeting up with Alice and Co. in Florence. I liked the idea. Little did I know that we would end up seeing Zurich anyway.
While making our way to Venice we went through Switzerland, switching trains a few times. I also keep (kept) my travel wallet out because the officials would check to see that we had tickets and passports with pretty fair regularity. Our changeovers were very quick; we only had about 5 minutes to get off our train and get to the correct platform before the next train came. As many of you already know or can surely guess I left my pouch on one of the trains while we were switching over. I really don't know how other than I grabbed my bag in a hurry and hustled to the next train. I didn't realize it was gone until we were on the next train for a few minutes. I wish I had a picture of my face when I realized what I had done. This was exponentially worse than forgetting about a paper until the morning it was due or the feeling I get when I fire a big bluff on the end and the guy snap calls before I even start sliding the money in the middle. I wanted to chew my leg off and then feed the bloody stump that remained to a wild pit bull army.
After getting off at the next stop and trying to get the passport back through the train authorities we really had only one option. Our efforts thwarted, we called Nate's friend from freshman year, Sascha, who lived in Zurich. We met up with him at the train station and he figured out just what we needed to do. It turned out there was no real embassy in Zurich so we would have to go to Bern the next day. We filed the loss online (which included far more than just my passport. I now am considerably poorer, have 1/3 of my original count of DS games, have no insurance card, have a 2nd EuRail train pass, cannot use the UPitt athletic facilities due to lack of an ID card, and am without a bunch of files from my jump drive, you know...just to name a few), called the consulate, found out I needed a police report and passport photos, and then called home a bunch of time to get a Western Union transfer from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad!). The whole process took about 8 hours with dinner thrown in there. I am happy that I never really panicked, that we thought things through rationally, and that Sascha's phone plan covered calls to Italy and the US. He's the real hero here, so I just want to say thank you sir for your generosity and help.
After that cluster fuck of a day we went to his house outside the city. One of his friends was having a party so went there and had some brews and some good conversation. Somehow Nate made it behind the wheel when we were driving home. I didn't care. We had a long day ahead and I was thinking only of getting this shitty situation resolved. Luckily it worked out pretty well. Apparently if I lose my passport again I can never have a fully valid one. Ever. Sweet. I'll try to remember that.
5. ON GUELPHS AND GHIBELLINES
With Switzerland memorably behind us we made our way to Florence to meet up with the brown wonder of the world, Alice. We woke up at like 6 and and didnt make it Florence until 10 because our high speed train broke and turned into a no speed train. Italian engineering in da house. It was a long ass day, but I guess I didn't really deserve to have it easy after my mighty gaffé. I was very happy to meet up with Alice. Her roommates became our roommates and we spent three very fine days in one of the great art cities in the world. Saw the Uffizi, saw David, and ate some great food. David was one of the most incredible things that I've ever seen. He's tall.
That's kind of a weak description but I haven't had a lot of time for reflection. We went at it pretty hard today in Rome but I'm sure Nate already wrote abotu that. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm excited to lie down.
Barcelona and San Sebastían coming up next. The beach. Haven't decided if I'll be getting in the water but am pumped at the idea of doing nothing.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
- Michelangelo's David
- The Florence Cathedral and hiking 439 steps to the top of the Duomo
- The Ufizzi Gallery
- Piazza Michelangelo
Pretty much everything has been super. Last night, after some wine, I haggled a street vendor for a fake Louis Voiton (sp?) handbag that I had no intention on buying from €45 to €15. Everyone got a kick out of it.
Oh another thing. A couple years back my Uncle Jim told me about the image of a fly that appears in urinals in Germany. Anyways, I couldn't find any flies in Germany, but while taking a leak at the train station in Zurich I found the fly. My goals for my backpacking in Europe have been completed.
Roma tomorrow! Vatican on Monday! Barcelona on Thursday!
Note: Levi, you need to spellcheck this.
Friday, June 1, 2007
We didn't make it to Venice (you'll find out why), but we're in Florence and it is awesome!
We saw the David statue today and went on top of the dome of the Santa Maria Cathedral. It was pretty amazing.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Today we're on the coast of Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria. The lake is awesome, but it's freezing out and we're stuck indoors.
Scratched out Zürich. Venice, Italy tomorrow!
Monday, May 28, 2007
Saturday, we left the most gorgeous hostel ever in Vienna. The place was incredible and overlooked all of Vienna. It was a complete hippy hostel, had free breakfast, but was a good 20 minutes outside of the city. The train ride went across Austria to Salzburg, where we changed trains to get to Munich. The ride was a good 5 hours, but was filled with beautiful landscapes. We actually got our first, but not last, glimpse of the Alps.
We got to Munich, checked into our hostel, and it rained. After the down pour, Levi and I walked into the center of town through the tourist track to the Hofbanhaus. The Hofbanhaus is the largest beer hall in Munich (I think second largest in the world), seats 5,000 people, and serves 10,000 liters of beer in the dead of winter. We each enjoyed a liter of Bavarian brew, then headed back to the Jaeger Hostel.
While hanging out in the bar in the Jaeger Hostel we met two Aussies named Ollie and Ross. Excellent mates who are doing an excursion similar to ours, but multiplied times 1,000,000. The started in Australia, did a little US tour (San Fran, LA, and NYC), two month Euro trip, then to Tokyo! Pretty insane. We chilled out with them for a while, then turned into bed fairly early.
In the morning we checked out of Jaeger's, checked into Wombat's (next door), and departed for a free bike tour. We've seen things like this all over Europe, where the tour guides simply work for tips. This tour in Munich was three and a half hours long and included a cruiser, for FREE! Our tour guide's name was Lenny and he was the man.
Things we saw on the tour:
- The historical side of Munich
- The Hofbanhaus
- The English Gardens (twice the size of Cenral Park)
- A nudist meadow
- Beer Garden in the English Gardens (I bought a liter stine for €2.60, which now has to fit in my pack)
- River surfers (the water rushes under a bridge and forms a wave on the other side where people actually surf the wake)
We met four people on the tour. Landis and Blake, who are two frat guy from Florida State and doing the same thing as us. Ali and Emily, who are Fulton Scholars from the states and teaching English in a small town in northern Deutchland. The 6 of us went to the Hofbanhaus after the tour and enjoyed many liters of Bavarian brew. Excellent time. We eventually made it back to the WomBar in the hostel where the fun continued.
Ah running out of internet time!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I spent the day walking around Vienna with a guy from our hostel named Chris. He just finished pilot training and is traveling Europe by himself for a while. We walked into the Museum Quartier and saw the outside of a lot of museums and the inside of a few churches before we went to St. Stephan's Cathedral. I actually took pictures for once because Nate wasn't there. I doubt I'll load them but the place was enormous and mind-boggling.
We then went to one of the many museums. It had Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits, but I put most of my attention towards the paintings. They had 3 rooms of stuff by Rubens, plus some works by Velazquez, Vermeer, Van Eyck, Caravaggio, Titian, etc. Very good stuff. I'm pretty tired so I'm gonna go take a nap until Nate gets back from his nature hike.
Mom, check your email.
I woke up this morning at 6:30 and took the westbound train to Wels, which took two hours. Upon arrival I waited for a good forty minutes before I called David's cell phone from a pay phone, for he said he would have it in Austria. When he answered he wasn't on his way to pick me up from the train station, but rather he was asleep in his bed in Ligonier at 4:15 in the morning EST. Ah, burn.
Not wanting to just jump on the train and go right back to Vienna, I decided to make the most of the situation and exlore the town of Wels. The town is smaller than Altoona, but larger than Hollidayburg. I wandered from the train station to what seemed to be the center of the city, where I found a nice lookin cafe. I had some lunch and a beer and asked the waiter where I could possibly rent a bicycle. The gentleman was very helpful and he pointed me in the right direction.
For €10 I got a decent mountain bike for the entire day. I started riding and found myself blazing along a trail that ran parallel to a large river in the woods. It was so awesome. After 10 days in large cities, it was awesome to be out in the woods getting some exercise. The trail had every kilometer marked with a post and it extended 5 kilometers. The trail ended, but the path seemed to continue, so I kept riding. There was a large dam and on the other side was a wide, calm section of the river with a field to the right. Up ahead I saw a woman with her feet in the water, a dog laying in the grass, and a guy cooking on a charcoal girll. As I got closer it became very apparent that this dude was grilling butt ass naked. I just kept riding by without saying a word (it's not like I speak German anyways). The bad part was that I had to go back in the same direction to get back to where I was. I didn't want to turn right back around and fly by the naked dude again; so I went a little further, turned around, and made a second pass at the naked cook. I guess that's how they roll in Europe.
When I got back into town I saw a castle looking tower up on the hill. I said to myself, "I want to go up there." So I did. After pedaling up hill, which seemed like forever, I made it to the tower called Marienwarte. I climbed to the top of the lookout, up the sprial staircase, and caught a panorama glimpse of the entire area. The view was incredible!
I rode back down to town, grabbed a couple of beers at a bar along the river, and made my way back to the train station. Now, I'm just waiting for the 5:34 train back to Vienna to meet back up with my dear friends, Levi and Pinnochio.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Prague was such an awesome time. Levi and I ventured into Prague from Rob's town of Dobris on Monday and immediately began wandering the winding medieval streets of old town. After exploring old town we made our way across the Charles Bridge and to Prague Castle, where we climbed 287 steps up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of the southern tower of the cathedral within Prague Castle. The view was incredible! A complete 360 degree view of the entire city of Prague. After hiking down from the castle we enjoyed a delicious, but over priced, meal of food at a cafe. This is the point in the story where we picked up our new travel partner, Pinnochio! Of course, you have all heard about him.
When we made it back to Dobris, we found that Rob wasn't home yet from work, so we enjoyed a Pilsner at the bar adjacent to his apartment. Thinking that he would walk by from work, he never did. After a half hour or so, we went back to his apartment to find a note that read, "Nate, I went to play tennis. Should be back by 8:00. Call my cell phone." It was only 6:30, so we walked to a pay phone to give our Slovak a call, but no answer. I walked up to two teenage girls and asked them if they knew where the tennis courts were. They were obviously embarassed to speak english, so all I got was giggles and some vague directions. Anyways, we began to walk and luckily saw three other kids walking in the same direction with tennis rackets. Cha-ching! After a half mile walk (we would have never made it on our own) we found Big Rob attempting to play tennis. The sport club was incredible! Two clay courts, a childrens' playground, and a wet bar! For 18 crown a beer, you can't beat that! After hanging out at the tennis courts we went back to Rob's and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Yesterday, we spent our final day in the City. Having already seen most of the sites, we decided to take a pedal boat out on the river. To say the least, we had an enjoyable relaxing hour of floating on the river. We ended the day short and went back to Dobris to spend our last evening in Czech with our Slovak friend.
We hopped on the bus, metro, and train to finally make it to Vienna this afternoon. We spent a few hours wandering around the city before making it back to our hostel. We were greeted by a happy hour at the bar within the hostel. Relaxing and drinking some beers, two fellow Americans pulled up some chairs to join us in the courtyard. There names are Mary and Bobby, two students from the University of Hawaii. We chatted for about an hour or so until their friend David showed up. Mary craved something "salty" and Levi was hungry so the five of us grabbed something to eat at a Turkish restaurant around the corner. Good group of people and definitely good times.
Here I am. Wels, Austria tomorrow to meet David Adams and Roger Lewis at the Rotax plant to see some Operational Excellence in action, then back to Vienna tomorrow night.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Dancing for the ladies
Levi, Pinnochio, and Nate hanging out in Prague
Enjoying some tennis and a pilsner back in Dobris (Rob's town outside Prague)
[Special Note: Don't show little Mary the blog, for Pinnochio is her gift whenever I get home]
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Our departure from Berlin was smooth and easy. The train ride was tremendous. Very scenic and breathtaking throughout, with much of it following a river and mountains on the left hand side, it reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie for some odd reason. Probably the part in the last one where he is fleeing with his dad from the castle and the baddies.
Moving on, upon arrival we met up with Rob at the train station. I just want to say first off that Rob has been awesome in every way since we got here. In addition to putting us up in his place he's showed us around, taken us out to dinner and to party, and just basically been real cool and chill. It's so nice to stay at an apartment for a couple days where you don't have to worry about random people being around and getting into your stuff and other similar crap that you take for granted when you're not traveling. Rob if you ever want to come back to the States for a bar crawl through Oakland then let me know. After pick-up we went back to Rob's to drop off our things. He lives about 20-30 minutes outside the heart of Prague in a nice little area that is quiet but still fairly heavily populated. We took a bus back into the city around 4 prepared for a long night of debauchery. Our expectations were met in full.
We walked around the city center for a while seeing some of the more popular tourist spots. Prague is definitely my favorite city so far. In terms of its appearance I found it almost flawless. No wasted space, no buildings seeming out of place, everything just beautiful. It was jam packed with people in some of the busier areas, but I think that is to be expected. Nater posted some of the pictures from when we were walking around.
We wanted to watch the ManU-Chelsea game, but all the sports bars were packed so we settled on a different restaurant-pub type place. I got beef tenderloin with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce. It was delicious. Great vegetable gravy to soak the bread in. Also served as a perfect pre-game meal. I got a red bull as well because I was beat and didnt sleep on the train.
The plan was to meet up with some of Rob's friends from basketball at a bar they like to hang out at so we headed in that direction. We got there before they did and had a few beers while talking about how few Americans travel and how much they miss out on because of it. [sidebar] There seems to be a general consensus in Europe, and probably elsewhere, that American ignorance towards foreign affairs as well as cultural ignorance stems from a certain native selfishness and inability or lack of desire altogether to experience new things. It's hard to argue when only 20% of Americans have passports, and you have to wonder how many of those are just so people can go to Canada over the weekend to get bombed with the new rules coming into effect [end sidebar].
The wheat beer flowed freely before and after Rob's friends showed up. There ended up being 10 of us altogether so things got a little loud and rowdy. There was an obvious language barrier as Nate and I knew zero words of Czech/Slovakian before we got here, but most of them understood our English so we made due. They made us take a series of four shots that are common here. Absinthe was involved. The one guy, Jirka, kept buying us shots anytime we called him Georgie. Shortly after I had a second meal of California chicken, Georgie-boy sent me to the WC with another shot of Absinthe. Many thanks George.
We had a few more brews then paid and left for a club. Everything is pretty cheap here because the dollar and Euro transfer favorably to Czech crowns. For example my big meal was only like 7 bucks and only like 11 or 12 after we threw in two beers and the redbull. 5 of us went to the club and it was hilarious walking in because Nate and I are fairly average sized and obviously not Czech and the three guys we went with were all 6'7"+. The one guy Petr is almost a 'footer. Refer to the picture in Nate's post for a laugh.
The music at the club was hilarious; the cheesiest of 80s pop blasted through speakers and into the gyrating hips and pulsing hormones of the crowd. I was hoping for Sandstorm but, alas, no dice. Me and Nate would have pwned with that beat. It was good times though. The rum and coke was good and came quickly. We ended up leaving at 3:30. We got a sausage dog at a stand outside. I didnt taste anything except for the mustard slathered all over it. We got a cab back to Rob's. By the time we got inside the sun was coming up.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Berlin was great. A really well spread out city. There is graffiti everywhere; that's the first thing that went through my mind when we were coming into the city on the train. Much of it is very artisitc though rather than the standard defacement and vandalism that is seen in the US. Culturally the city is a bit strange. It's as if the city as a whole does not have a true identity. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who has been here for all of two days, but I think it is fairly obvious that the cultural recovery from the East-West split and the aftermath of the wall coming down is still going on.
On a more fun note, today's tour was really informational and interesting. It was the first truly nice day in terms of weather since we've been here as well so that was a plus. Hopefully it will continue. Nate covered a lot of the bases in his post so I won't reiterate.
I will speak about last night though as it was largely hilarious. The whole pub crawl thing is basically designed for its customers to get super shitty and splurge all kinds of money. There is a limited amount of time when you get "free" beer so we (and everyone else) just pounded down as many as possible. Throw in the free shots and the time in the bar and by the time we got to the second bar...well you know. We had this incredible meal before going out with this girl Katie that we met at our hostel at a dungeon-like bistro. I had an enormous club sandwich with all kinds of goodies on it. That mixed with the bier inhalation led to difficulties. I can't tell if that picture Nate posted was taken before or after I induced the vom but based on my smiley face I'm going to guess after.
We left the crawl after the third crawl because they were going to take us on a tram and there was no way that was happening. Nate tried to lead us back because he "has a great sense of direction." Not surprisingly that didn't end well but we made it back after only a few wrong turns. Saw some of the stupid-pirate-hooker-from-Wisconsin-broads on our tour today that were on the crawl. Apparently they are awesome simply because they are from WI. Sorry girls, but the cons far outweigh the pros and you are living, breathing proof.
Had a great pizza meal tonight and now we are about to head to sleep. Prague tomorrow! Hoo-ra.
Levi and I just got done with a 4 hour walking tour of Berlin. We pretty much saw it all. This company called Sademen's New Europe offers free tours of a couple European cities, such as Munich, Paris, Amsterdam, and London. They expect you to tip the tour guide at the end, but for 5 euro we got way more than what we paid for.
Our tour guide, Nickolai, showed us many parts of Berlin, including the wall that remains as a momument, the place of Hitler's bunkers, Check Point Charlie, the museums, and an enormous amount of information in regards to the history of Berlin, the Third Riech, and communism. Great day, great great city, and TONS of pictures.
Last night we went on a pub crawl that is put on by the same company that does the free tours. That picture of Levi and I was taken by the photographer from the company and was posted on their website. I won't go into all the drunken details, because my mom will probably say, "I didn't think you went to Europe to drink beer." For 12 euro we got keg beer from 8:15 until 9, then drink specials at each of the four bars, free vodka shots between each of the bard, and free entrance into all the bars. We had fun, maybe too much fun.
Anyways, we just left the Easteners Hostel and now we're heading across town to another hostel. We're going to get our rest tonight and depart early for Prague!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Our travels have entered an entirely new playing field. As expected, in Germany everything is in German. It's sort of scary, but it is something that we must get adjusted to.
We woke at 3:30 am this morning to grab a cab and get to the airport. Luckily, checking in, security, and boarding all went very smoothly. Our flight on RyanAir was just what we expected, no frills. I guess every RyanAir flight is the same, which means every landing is kind of rough. We made it and we're on the ground.
After struggling to figure our Berlin's train station to get dahn tahn, we eventually made it to the center of the city where we are now sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts internet cafe. We need to go find our hostel and figure out what we're going to do for the rest of the day.
Berlin until Saturday, then we're off to Prague to visit Saint Vincent Alum, Mr. Rob Husar.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The weather is worse than in Pittsburgh.
Guinness is good for you.
Guinness makes you pooh.
Irish women, on the whole, are very underwhelming.
Irish beer, on the whole, is a way of life.
Walking with Nate is often difficult.
I walk behind him, he goes super fast and I must jog to keep up.
I walk in front of him, he steps on my feet repeatedly.
I buy clock radio, he cannot afford. Great success.
Irish people are really friendly. I have no bad things to say here.
Galway is cooler than Dublin. By far.
Irish love the gamble. There's a betting window every block.
Traveling makes you hungry. And tired.
Curry on French Fries is actually pretty tasty.
If I lived in Ireland I'd be a happy fellow.
After good fun in Galway yesterday, which Nate already chronicled, we took a bus back to Dublin this morning. I played DS and snoozed and Nate conked out the whole way. It is so hard to get enough sleep right now. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel and then walked to the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery. It really was a great little tour. Self-guided, we took our time and saw/read a lot of interesting stuff about the process and history of the place. Definitely worth the price of admission (about 10 euro) and a great thing to do in Dublin. Stopped at a pub on the way back just to look around and then got a meal. The food so far has been fantastic. Now we're going to head back to the hostel and chill/sleep. Early departure be damned. Next update will be from Berlin.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Okay, so I've had a couple of Guinness and it's about 2:25 am DST.
So, it's the second night of our Euro trip and tonight was by far the BEST!
Levi and I made friends with two of our roommates. A couple from Nebraska, whose names are Dan and Meghan. Dan has been studying abroad in Limerick and Meghan is on a 9 day trip visiting Dan. After meeting we decided to go out on the town together. All of us pregamed in the hostel with a couple of brews and then we headed out for Taaffes, which is a pub in dahn tahn Galway (gotta throw that Pittsburghuese in there).
Taaffes was a great time! Live traditional Irish music, Guinness that was much much much cheaper than Dublin, and a laid back atmosphere. Unfortunately, most of the pubs in Galway shut down at midnight. We departed from Taaffes and went to to Quay Street, where there was a bar that was SUPPOSEDLY open until 2 am! Well, that wasn't the case. After using the restroom, or as they would say in Ireland the, "toilet," we found that the bartenders were no longer serving. After inquiring with the bartender we discovered that there was a bar down the road and across the river that was open late. We told Dan and Meghan that we would meet them and we left for the Roisin Dubh, which ended up being a club. Levi and I aren't really club type of guys, but we went in anyways and bought some pints.
When the pints were gone, we decided to be too. We found a fast food place (again) across the street, where we proceded to buy some fries and whatnot. While waiting for our fries, an Irish girl asked us, "can you spare 3 chips (Irish for fries)?" We told her of course and her and her friend joined us for a late night snack. We ended up chatting for quite some time. Their names were Maria and Sinead. No, not Sinead O'Connor. The two of them ended up being quite fun and we had a grand time. Levi and I went back to dance for a little bit, then we walked back with two Canadian dudes that praised our Euro Trip bender...
Ah, I would like to formally wrap this up, but I only have 28 seconds left on my internet.
Edit: Nate spells like a 3rd grader and I just wont stand for that - Levi
I only have 4 minutes left on this computer at the hostel, so I must make this fast.
Levi and I took a bus this morning across the ginormous country of Ireland. After 4 hours in the bus we arrived in the picturesque city of Galway. The brick streets are lined with traditional pubs & restaurants, quaint shops, and street musicians carry on the celtic tradition.
We're relaxing for a little while before we find some pub to kick back in.
Monday, May 14, 2007
We got a good meal and I finally felt fulfilled after downing some chicken and fries along with some fried banana and pineapple. Then we headed back to the hostel and I took a nap for a few hours that was interrupted like 90820934 times by the aforementioned broads. Thanks broads.
Feeling moderately revived Nater and I headed out on the town towards Temple Bar and found a sweet pub/restaurant called Gogarty's. We ran into two of the quieter girls from the hostel and went to the 2nd floor where they had live music. This was a tremendous upgrade from the soft rock and pop blaring on the first floor of the bar. We ended up staying for like 3 hours and drank lots. It was awesome, the people were great (met two women who grew up in Homestead and talked to a group of guys from Madrid) and music enlivened us. We stopped for some fast food after as we were starving. It was terrible but I'm not hungry anymore.
Heading to Galway early tomorrow morning for more of the same shenanigans I reckon before heading back here to Dublin to check out the Guinness factory, etc.
Cheers and love,
We're here, finally! After checking in and getting comfortable in the Globetrotter Tourist Hostel in dahn tahn Dublin, Levi and myself enjoyed a delicious meal of food at a restaurant called Flanagans. At the conclusion of my delicious bowl of traditional irish stew and a crisp pint of Guiness I told told the waitress that it was the best Irish meal I had ever had. Levi said I sounded sarcastic, but I was being serious. I'm full.
I'm ready to enjoy our first night out in Europe. So far, I haven't seen any golf carts in Dublin...
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Monday, May 7, 2007
The mallard and myself will be flying out of Washington, DC in 6 days. After months of planning, it is hard to believe that our adventure is about to begin. We'll be flying into Dublin, Ireland on Sunday, May 13, 2007 and we'll b e returning from Paris, France on Friday, June 15, 2007. Everything in between is going to be one heck of a pilgrimage.
Next time, I'll be on the other side of the pond.