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.