Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oh, Freiburg how much fun we had!

Tom and I

So I am currently sitting in a bus station on my way to Norway, Michigan to visit my sister since Emily and I are back in the United States, but that isn’t what I’m going to write about. I am going to write about Emily and my trip to Freiburg, Germany.
It was here that Em and I reunited from our time apart. I went to Amsterdam, packed, and said some final good-byes to friends. Em traveled around the south of Germany. She got to explore Heidelberg, have misadventures in Stuttgart, and buy a dirndl in München. It was a joyful reunion! However, on the way down I got to do some thinking. And we all know that that cannot be good. I swear there was smoke coming out of my ears and everything!
Now, before I met up with Emily I was really close to just canceling the trip. I had no motivation to go and I wanted to stay in Oldenburg for a little bit longer. We can thank the fact that I had already bought all the train and plane tickets, because that was the main reason I went. I had already spent the money on the mode of transportation and I was going to force myself to go! And Em would have killed me, but on the train down I saw the beginning of the Black Forest and the mountains. I remember seeing mountains when I was younger, but this time it was different. I watched in awe as it all came into view. I couldn’t believe it! I just watched as we just traveled through them and my passion had returned. I was feeling rejuvenated and happy again. I didn’t feel melancholy anymore and it was a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t stop thinking that it was this that I lived for. I lived to see and experience new things and to tell others and invigorate them.  I couldn’t do any more homework once I felt this. I just couldn’t make myself.
Pastry anyone?
However, back to reuniting with Emily, it was a joyous occasion filled with trumpets going off, us running to each other in slow motion with arms wide open, a great big hug, and laughs while we walk out of the train station. Okay, that didn’t happen. I was sitting in Starbucks drinking some tea and doing some homework, I had to make some headway. It was a nice reunion. She just sat down and we picked up right where we left off two weeks before. I heard about Stuttgart, way before you guys ;).  We just sat there waiting on our host to show up to take us home, we sound like lost puppies or kittens.
Eventually our gracious host, Tom, showed up. You could tell that at first he was a little bit hesitant at first. It was easy to see by his posture, but I can say with a guarantee that it didn’t take long for him to take a liking to us. I think it helped that we made him dinner and dessert. It was also funny and shocking that he knew one of my friends that I went to Taiwan with. Tom was even nice enough to take us to where he studied and let me catch up with Cornelius. It was great. We talked a little bit and caught up while Tom and Emily went to go buy stuff for dinner. Cornelius was the first non-American Taiwan friend I have seen, until Paris.
Emily sized hole.
Once my little visit was done we headed back to Tom’s apartment to make dinner and just relax a little bit. It took a little bit to finish dinner, because we just kept goofing off. Tom got Breakfast at Tiffany’s stuck in our head and that wasn’t very nice of him, because that song stuck with us through the rest of our trip. Thank you Tom thank you. It took even longer to eat dinner and dessert, because we kept getting distracted by YouTube and just chatting in general. After dinner Tom took us to his friend’s apartment, because it was her birthday! That was fun. I got to see how much Emily’s German had improved and Tom tried to help me with my rs. The r is something I have always had trouble with, but I am still practicing. When we left the party we all pretty much went to bed. Tom had to make a train the next morning because he was called in to sing. Oh, did I mention that he is training to be an opera singer? Well he is and he sang Breakfast at Tiffany’s opera style to us that morning. It was a sad morning, because we couldn’t stay another night, but so much fun.
After we said good-bye to Tom we spent the day just catching up on writing and homework. I just love love love doing homework while on holidays. We had a semi-creepy moment, but Rebecca was able to help save the day with her ‘emergency’. I still owe her some snicker doodle cookies, maybe when she comes to the States I will have some for her.  However, this creepy moment happened around the time that our second host got home from work, so we were able to go to his house at that time. Or second host was Ralph. He was very nice. Our first night he made some yummy homemade meat balls. I got to help a little bit, by help I mean I was peeling potatoes. He also helped me pick out a nice beer to go with dinner. We didn’t do too much that night besides talk and just get to know each other.
It was the next day that surprised Emily and I. Ralph and is girlfriend took us to France! It was a surprise to us since we only thought they were going to go. It wasn’t until they were getting ready to leave that they asked if we were coming. We jumped on that. We went to Neuf-Brisach and a town named Colmar. Neuf-Brisach had been around since the 1500s I believe and the town wall was still up. It was so much fun to talk around. Emily was even able to crawl into one of the holes on the side of it. It was very small and cute. I just loved how it looked. The houses were nice pastel colors with shutters and all roads lead to the center of the town and church. It was here that I had my first French pastry. It was so good and pretty, raspberries and cheese on a pastry.
After this quaint little town we went to Colmar. It was about 30 minutes west of where we were and a bit bigger. We walked around the town center and saw some old buildings. I was wondering how they were still standing. Some were leaning too far forward and others to the side. They all had that skeleton look to them, the one where the wood is on the outside of the building making those nice shapes. It was also some sort of Carnival for the children. So much confetti was thrown; Emily even picked some up off the ground and threw it at me. I wasn’t too happy, but what can you do it was all for fun. We didn’t do much in this town, but walk around and explore a bit. Our hosts were nice to take us and show us what France looks like outside of Paris, since we were heading there in a few days.
On our way back from the adventures in France we stopped to pick up some baguettes, coffee, and dessert. I got to have a mini baguette fight with our host, or was it Emily? I can’t remember it was getting late and I was getting tired, I sound like such an old lady. We ended up having fondue that night. It was my first time ever having fondue and it was so delicious. I will definitely be eating it when I can. That night was filled with laughs, riddles (which I am terrible at), great company, and learning more about our hosts and the area.
Slippin' and slidin' is what I do.
That Sunday Emily and I were left up to our own devices. Both of our hosts had plans, but they did tell us about some places to see in Freiburg. One of them was to walk up Schlossberg and see the city from there. I was a bit hesitant, because I knew both of our shoes were not meant for walking up hill in snow and ice, but we did it. I didn’t care for it when I would slip, but I never fell on my butt and the view was worth it. I will always remember watching the snow falling gently. It made Freiburg seem like a sleepy little town, but it added something to it. It once again reminded me that there was more to see in the world. Emily and I even took this time to just talk about what we wanted to do once we got back. Halfway up the mountain it just turned into a leisurely stroll, mostly because it wasn’t as steep anymore. It was a bonding moment for us that is for sure. There were points where we just sat on the railing looking out on the town and the mountains surrounding it just talking. The way down wasn’t so serene. I would say it was a death trap of snow and ice, but so much fun.  We got a few funny pictures of us goofing around. Emily was even able to slide down the mountain, once we found railings, because her shoes had no grips on them. I was stuck taking super baby steps. I saw people laughing at us and mimicking us since Em’s idea was so good.
A street in Colmar.
The rest of the day we just walked about the city center. We found this place with amazing chocolate and bought a cake for our host, since I didn’t want to bake. It was just relaxing, something we needed since the next few weeks would be a whirlwind. There is something about Freiburg that is going to stick with me for a long time. I think I might have to plan a return visit sometime.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Good times Munich!

A Pint at the Hofbrauhaus, Munich!
     So next stop is Munich! Yay! As we were not able to make it to Munich for Oktoberfest I still wanted to go to Munich and see what kind of a city it was (and of course I knew that they would have some of the beers still available for tasting).
First up Munich is beautiful. Albeit it was largely destroyed in WWII there still retained some beautiful architecture and land marks. (Some of the main landmarks were not destroyed during the bombings because they were used as navigational tools for the pilots). When I arrived by train I was left to wander around the city for about 4 hours by myself before I could go to the house of my next host, Stephan. So during this time I just chose a direction and went for it. I ended up finding myself on the main shopping street full of name brand stores and many, MANY gift shops. I wandered around these parts for a few hours before grabbing a quick lunch at a beer house called “Weisses Brauhaus”- home of the Schneider Weiss Beer. Although it is a local brewery it is not native to Munich, thus not being allowed to participate in Oktoberfest (which is probably why they have a restaurant there so they can still profit from the tourists). This was one of the only restaurants where you can eat the odd parts of an animal- cows head, hoof, tounge, etc. – awkward. However, the food AND beer was fantastic. I chose to try the Bavarian version of Grunkohl (a native Northern German dish) and the brewerys original brew. The Grunkohl was fantastic and true to the flavor and the Original brew was actually a damn good tasting Hefeweisen (if you are not sure what is a hefeweisen this is the point where I URGE you to just google it). During my meal I overheard a tour that came in and sat at a table near me. The guide was hilarious and had me laughing from two tables away while being informative about what he was joking about. I decided then to find his tour services and take the tour.

Bavarian version of Grunkohl and the house brew!
   When I was done with my meal I still had about 2 hours left to roam so I went next door to a Dirndl and Lederhosen shoppe, gritted my teeth, and bought myself a (rather expensive) dirndl. It is a beautiful piece that I plan on making a NMU coloured apron when I return to the States and wearing it beneath my graduation gown during the ceremonies. ;) And yes, there WILL be photos of this.:) By the time I had purchased my dirndl, found a wifi hotspot, called my mum and dad it was FINALLY time for me to be able to drop my stuff off and relax for the night. Stephan had given me directions to his place using the metro but not from the metro station to his house. So I got myself lost for about half an hour before a nice fellow noticed me trying to figure out where I was on a map while standing in the middle of a mini-blizzard. I think he felt bad for me because he told me just to tell him where I was going and he would look it up on his mobile which would be more accurate and quick than me figuring out that the part of the city I was located in is not located on any of the Munich city maps. Go me. By the time I finally found Stephans I was an hour late and he and his brother were so hungry that I walked in, dropped my stuff, and they ushered me into the kitchen to help them cook. :p That night I was too tired to actually do anything so we all stayed in and watched cheesy youtube videos on his large projection screen.

The Munich Rathaus. 
    The next day I woke up, fund the tour from the previous day (it was a free walking tour with Ozzytours) and headed out to the meeting point at the Wombats hostel. The tour was supposed to be exclusive for the residents of the Wombats but because I was couch surfing he let me join along. The guide (and owner of the tours, Osbourne) was a very lively and cheery individual. He took us around for about 4 hours describing monuments and crucial Munich history to us. He even took the time to describe the Birth of the NAZIS and explained where they came for, why they did what they did, and their demise in terms that were very easy to understand and grasp (he used a lot of modern-day references). Overall it was a fantastic tour full of information that soaked in like a very dried out sponge. To anyone that is going to Munich in the future I would recommend his tours to those who actually want to learn more than what the average tour book would teach you.

The Munich Victory Gate. 

     After the tour I was cold, hungry, and in search of a good place for lunch. I found a local Paul Anders restaurant and sat down to try some of their Oktoberfest beer and some of the local grub (a cheese dip that I forget the name to). The beer was good, cheese decent, and the service was far from great (I got stuck with an older lady with a serious attitude problem). I spent a good 2 hours here relaxing, drinking, and generally warming up before heading back to Stephan’s for the night. When I did end back up at Stephans I was not feeling so good so I went to bed quite early and feeling guilty because Stephan had invited me to go Ice Skating with his friends. As much as I wanted to go I felt it necessary to stay home and make sure I would not get ill before I met up with Ashley in Freiburg the following morning.
     Well that is all for Munich! I hope you enjoyed my brief but lengthy tales of my travels around Munich. To any who are going to Munich a few tips: Take the Ozzytours (you will not be disappointed), Try the pretzels, beer, sweet mustard, weisswurst, and cheese dip thingy; keep a map on you at all time and try to keep a watchful eye on your possessions (it is a heavily tourist area and full of pickpockets).

XOXO Emily

Look what I found outside a restaurant!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Breathtaking Füssen

Neuschwanstein Castle!!!

     Finally! I made it out of Stuttgart! And I was on my way on a slow regional train to beautiful Füssen. Füssen is a little town nestled in the Alps and is most famous for its skiing and many castles. The regional train was perfect to take because I was able to travel through the country side at a slow and steady pace (of course I took a ton of photos of the snow covered hills and towns).

One of the churches around the town.
      When I arrived to Füssen it was about 2 in the afternoon and I had one mission stuck in my head and heart: too see the Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle that Disney based many of its castles on). I had texted my host, Michael, to let him know I was in town and to see if I could drop my stuff off to his place. But he was at work and would not be able to get me until 6pm. He also informed me that I would not be able to go into the castle because it was too late in the day. But I decided that as long as I was able to see the castle, even from a distance, I would be just as happy. So from the minute I stepped off the train into the platform I begun my search for the magnificent castle!

I really had no idea where to go and there were not many maps around for me to analyze so I pretty much just chose a general direction and headed off. All of the buildings, shops, and scenery was all designed so beautifully. I did not end up finding the castle upon my first embarkment, instead I found a modern castle next to a big cathedral and a park that led me to a high view of a part of the city and the Alps. I could have stayed in this spot all day long. But I made my way back to the inner city to find a tourist info centre to grab some maps and figure out how to get to the castle.

The more modern castle available to tour around. 

     Well it turns out that to get to the castle I had to take a bus 5km away to a smaller town where I would be dropped off at the base of the hill of which the castle rested upon. The bus was cheap and lovely but once I stepped off the bus and looked up my heart stopped. There it was, the castle I have dreamed of seeing in person, the castle which influenced the movies or my childhood. I almost cried because it was such a breathtaking sight to see the castle nestled among the snow covered alps with the sun setting right in front of it. I wanted to walk up to it but it was beginning to get dark and I did not want to lose my way. So I just took a million and half photos and hopped on the next bus back to Füssen.

By the time I was back in Füssen the shoppes were closing and I snuck into a few to grab some souvenirs and postcards. Then I found my way to a quaint cafe near the main station to warm up with a hot cup of tea and write out some postcards. Michael soon called me and let me know he was at the station so I rushed out to meet him and go grocery shopping with him for our dinner that night.

A view of SOME of the surrounding hills and the Alps.

Michaels flat was super nice and he told me of all his recent renovations and decorating. We had great conversation over dinner and afterwards his friend came up to watch some television with us. His friend did not speak English so I switched to German and we talked for hours about living in Füssen.

The next morning I woke up early and headed on my way to Munich. But for now, Füssen would always have a place in my heart as a spot so lovely and so beautiful that I would definitely find myself returning soon to create new memories.

XOXO Emily

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stuttgart: Mishaps and Memories


Night skyline of Stuttgart
     The trip to Stuttgart starts in the morning while still in Heidelberg. I just had gone to bed at 6am because we were up late drinking wine, playing cards, and having good conversations. I had planned to sleep until 9am, not take a shower, and catch my 10am train to Stuttgart. Well, as it turns out some new neighbors were moving in and decided that it would be a great start to the day to hammer shelves and hooks into the walls at 8am. After 10 minutes of the hammering, coming to the conclusion that it would not stop any time soon, I finally just got out of bed, took a shower, took my time getting ready, and even cleaning up after the party a bit.

     Finally I made my way to the station, hopped on the train, and began my journey to Stuttgart. However, halfway through the train ride the train stops and the person on the loud speakers announced that there would be a delay and we would go back to the previous station and wait for about an hour. Alright, I can handle this- a bit inconvenient, but what could I do?? While on the train I contacted my host for the night, Saskia, that I would be late because of the train. She responded that she was sick and had a lot of  homework for an upcoming exam but I was still welcome to stay with her. I told her that if she was 100% OK with it then we would cancel my stay there and I would find a different place to stay. We both agreed and so once I did make it to Stuttgart my first mission was to find a place to stay. I was thinking it would be alright to stay in a hostel until I looked at the prices! HOOOO WOW!! I then thought “Well, maybe if I find the hostel and ask at the front desk I could get a sort of discount for whatever”. I wrote down a few of the addresses and walked around for 2 hours trying to find 3 different ones but having no luck whatsoever. So, I found myself a Starbucks and posted an emergency couch surfing request for the night. (I had a different host still planned for the next night but I did not want to bother her so much because I knew that she was in the process of writing her master’s thesis). Within about 10 minutes I get a reply from a guy named Brandon. He said I was welcome to stay with him for the night, but then asked me if I was wanted by the police… to which I responded “I do not think I am, should I ask?” He said that as long as I am not illegal nor wanted by the police I am welcome to stay there. So I’m thinking “Alright, ok. Should I really ask a police man about me being wanted? Why? Does he not  harbor fugitives or illegals?” I then check out his profile for the second time and see that he had been in the US Military for 7 years and then it all clicked from there. Turns out he lives on a nearby base and I had to be checked in and out every time I go on/off base.

The Stuttgart Castle

Before we met up I first needed to buy a new sweater. Somehow during my travels I managed to get a big blue stain on one of the two sweaters that I had. So I went shopping on the large, main shopping street in Stuttgart where I found a cute and warm sweater on sale for only 10 Euros. Yay!!! Afterwards I headed back to the HBF (Main Train Station) to meet up with my new host, Brandon. He picked me up in a Pick-Up Truck!!! Yay! It had been over 7 months since I had ridden in one and was so excited! While we drove to the base we had a great getting-to-each other conversation. He was turning out to be so funny and a great person for random conversation (I let slip my inner-star trekkie). After arriving, eating, and talking on base we decided to walk down to the nearest town to go to a local brewery and try some local beer. He warned me it was a long walk but addictive beer…. No problems. J When we got to the brewery (Shoen Brau) he was shocked that I automatically asked the waiter to seat for 2 and for us to be served Hefeweizens in German. He had never been around someone that spoke German around him at a restaurant and he was very impressed. After we downed the delicious Hefeweizens I ordered us some Banana-weizens (Hefeweizen with Banana juice in it, the Germans love it and so do I). Brandon had never tried one before and he had been living in Germany for 2 years and he liked it! But afterwards we stuck to the normal Hefeweizens before stumbling our way back while having a snow ball fight the entire way. J

     The next morning we woke up at 11am and I was informed of my sleep-habits. Apparently when I am sleep deprived and drunk I try to plug in my phone to peoples Aquariums. Brandon had a big laugh with it and said that in the night I had woken him up by reaching over my head and trying to plug in my phone to his turtle aquarium glass. He had asked me what I was doing and I responded “Plugging in my phone, I almost have it”. He then told me to forget about it and go back to bed, in which case I did (or so I am told). So now we know there is a new rule of thumb with me: Do not sleep deprive me AND get me drunk, or I will do weird stuff in my sleep.

     Once we had woken up fully, showered, and ate breakfast he took me around to get some coffee at the food court and to show me what a Px looked like. When we got our coffee I was so shocked to get it in a to-go cup. I have been so used to getting real cups with my coffee and sitting down to enjoy them I had forgotten that America does not do that. I asked if he had real cups and he gave me the weirdest look and said no. Okay, I guess I could deal with it. Then Brandon says to me that we would walk around with our Coffee in the store. I demanded that we sit down and enjoy the coffee, he obliged, and I then realized how Germany had affected me so much. (Also: They do not recycle on base and I was offended by it: Thank you Germany). Once in the Px store I was like a little child: “OH WOW! DORITOS!!! OH WOW!! CHEEZEITS!!!” Brandon had a good laugh and I also taught him about a few products and appliances of the Germans. He seemed a bit less interested but another soldier who had overheard me talking about life in Northern Germany was interested and followed us around a bit as I was explaining some things. We left the store after about 20 minutes of me Oooh-ing and Ahh-ing and headed back to his place.

Stuttgart is the birthplace of Mercedes-Benz

     After another meal (Brandon eats 8 small meals a day) we decided to go see a Windmill and the Zoo/Botanical Gardens. Well, we got lost and ended up 20 minutes out of the way. By the time we made it to the Windmill it was too dark to venture to it and see it and the Zoo/Botanical Gardens would close in a few hours so it would not have been worth it. So we decided to find a local restaurant near to where we would meet more Couch Surfers later in the evening. We found a restaurant that served “maultasch”. Maultasch is a Schwabelian dish (typical Stuttgart-ian) which is different veggies (and maybe some meat) wrapped in a pasta dumpling and boiled. I chose their “Oma’s (Grandma’s) Special” which was the traditional of the traditional. They served it in a French Onion Soup with carmelized onions on top of it. It was sooooooo good! We wanted to eat more but we were so full already! Oh well, maybe I will have to learn how to make it. :-p

     Afore mentioned there was a Couch Surfing meet and greet that night at a local lounge. We found it with a bit of difficulty and began to meet other Couch Surfers, some hosts and some surfers. It was a lot of fun and we learned about the various immigrants, nationalities, etc. of the people living in Stuttgart and a part  of the Couch Surfing community.

Where I spent the majority of my time :(

     After a few hours of meeting some pretty awesome people I left around 9pm for my next hosts place. Well, go figure, I got lost and I made it to her house around 11pm. When I got there she was getting ready for bed because she had to wake up at 5am. She said I could sleep in and do things on my own, just do not steal anything. She was very nice and while we were awake we had great conversation.

     So, Stuttgart definitely was a challenge and something different. As I talked to different people I do not really remember why I came to Stuttgart, I really knew nothing about it or what it had to offer. Turns out Stuttgart is the home-city for Mercedes Benz and was mostly a car city. It was fairly modern and so there was not a lot of Cathedrals, Old Museums, etc so see. But, the people I met and the memories I gathered definitely made the city worthwhile. 

XOXO Emily 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Romantic Heidelberg

  On top of the Old Bridge

 Now it is time for my post about my third travel location: Heidelberg, Germany.

     First off, this place is absolutely gorgeous. It has the perfect mixture of modern and old world charm. I missed my bus from Frankfurt because the map that the bus company provided was incorrect and they arrived 10 minutes early which meant they left 10 minutes early. So I only had 5 minutes to realize the directions were false, ask for help, call the company, and find the bus. But, I missed it so I took a train to Heidelberg. Which, turned out better because I arrived there earlier.
     Upon arrival I texted my new Couch Surf Host, Ben, and we arranged for me to take the Tram to his stop and he would meet me there. When I got off the tram I did not see him until the tram passed and I saw he was on the platform opposite. We quickly went to his place, talked, ate a quick lunch, then headed off to the inner city where he would show me around. :) Ben is a student studying Sciences at Heidelberg University. He has traveled around quite a bit and had may interesting stories. I loved talking with him because we had different opinions about somethings and we would argue about it with good humor.

     First we went to the Student Prison!! This was where in the 1800s-1900s students were governed not by the local government but by the school. So if they misbehaved or got into trouble with the law then they would be sent here for a few days to sleep and think about what they had done. At first it was considered horrible to go here, but towards the end it was the "cool thing to do". On the walls were shadow-portraits and peoples stories about what they did to get there. My favorite one was "3 honest students had found rocks on the sidewalk. As these rocks were 'found objects' they felt inclined to return them to the authority...-by throwing them through the windows of the police station". I though that one was the best, but there were other stories about letting loose pens of pigs and chasing them into the city, calling the police names, etc. It was so interesting to hear these stories (Ben had to translate them for me) and laugh about the creative ways people thought of to get into the prison.

Inside one of the rooms of the Student Prison

     After this we went to the main Cathedral where we climbed the steeple to (almost) the top where we had a beautiful 360 view of the city. Here Ben and I took our time, talked with one another, and enjoyed the beautiful view of Heidelberg. He told me of festivals the town had, the joys of living here, and so much more. I could have stayed here forever but we soon headed off to the old bridge.

The view from the top of the Cathedral
     The Old bridge was fun and really neat to be on but we crossed it fairly quickly because Ben had arranged for me to see an old European Fraternity house. This was so cool! His friend toured us around, told us some of the history, and let me meander my way around telling them about the Fraternities in the states. (Sorry now pictures or names because I do not want everyone getting too nosy :P )
     Ben and I decided it was time to go grocery shopping for Bens going away party tonight (he has an internship in Frankfurt for the next 6 months). He decided he wanted to make Hamburgers and drink beer. An American specialty ;) I helped him make the burgers and cut the veggies. Ben even taught me a few things about making Burgers! Go Ben!!! The burgers turned out delicious and I congratulated Ben on becoming a "Professional American Burger Cook". :-)

The next day I left Ben's (I was only spending one night with him because he was leaving for Sweden then Frankfurt) and headed to the Heidelberg Castle. It was 300+ stairs to the top and I nearly died with all the weight on my back and shoulders because I had all of my stuff with me. The castle had been built, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, etc. multiple times and the remnants created a beautiful mystique within itself and Heidelberg. From here the view was absolutely breath taking-more so than the Cathedral. I spent a long time just looking out onto the city and wandering around the ruins. I have found that I had come to love Heidelberg and now I would love to return to Heidelberg, and Germany, sometime in the spring/summer of a future year to see a different season of beauty.

The view from the Castle

     Towards the end of my wandering of the Castle I get a text from my new host, Uros, that he was in the area and could pick me up. We discussed a meeting point but, me being me, I got confused and lost. So I had to call him and describe where I was at. Uros was totally cool about all of it and found me within about 20 minutes. We then headed to his place where we had some great conversations about his job, life, and about Heidelberg. Uros was a Physicist who was full of life and stories galore. He is an inspiration to those who love to travel and try new things. At his place he was so kind as to let me crash there the rest of the day and to also do laundry. I was amazed that his washer was also a dryer and within 4 hours I could have my clothes washed and drieed in the same machine! Uros laughed at me because I was so shocked and awestruck by it.

Parts of the ruined Castle.
     Uros left me alone in his place to go back to work and I quickly did all my laundry. He came home a few hours later and invited me out to dinner with a friend of his. However, I only had a pair of leggings and a tank top on and everything else was still in the wash. He was so nice and asked his friend to bring some clothes for me and let me where a hoodie of his. When we picked up his friend I decided to just stay in the hoodie and look like a true "careless" American. ;-) We tried to go to an Italian place but they were booked so we went to Uros favorite German restaurant. I tried a new German dish "Flammkuchen" that was like realllly thin pizza crust with procceutto, cheese, onions, and a special sauce on it. IT WAS SO GOOD! And his friend that we were with was great company. She was so nice and was so willing to tell me everything she could about Slovakia and her life. I greatly enjoyed her company and her opinions/knowledge about the world.
After dinner we went home to play cards with more of Uros friends who were all scientists. We drank some really yummy red wine and played card games until 6am. However, I did not regret that I would only have 2 hours of sleep because I had so much fun!

Me at the Castle!!! 

     I am so grateful for the people I have met so far and for sharing a moment of their lives with me. So far these people are the most amazing and inspiring people I have known and I wish them all the happiness in their futures. I also hope to meet them again and build some good lasting friendships. Thank you everyone.

XOXO Emily

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Amsterdam a city of beauty, hen/stag parties, and adventures

 So my second trip to Amsterdam was filled with lots of fun, getting lost, and discovering some secret ability I have. This time I went with Emma and stayed for a whole weekend. No one dayers for me this time!
Why hello Amsterdam, again.

However, we did start off with getting lost trying to find out hostel. I forgot to print off the directions and since our hostel was a boat it didn’t have an accurate address, Google Maps wasn’t much help either. Yes we slept and stayed on a boat. It was so cool. I had that lovely song about being on a boat in my head the whole time. I even played it for Emma, who wanted to kill me by the end of the weekend because I sang it that often.  We got lost for 2 hours trying to find this damn place, before we found WiFi to get the directions off the website. Two hours of carrying our luggage, okay my luggage. We did find a nice little bar that was filled with locals, not WiFi, and we had some drinks, beer and tea. Walking past the hostel twice without knowing it, luckily Vapianos, a nice little Italian style place there and in Germany, had WiFi and we found it! The boat was nice. We were worried since we were paying so much, but it was worth every euro.  
Just had to.
We got to fall asleep to the gentle sway of the boat. Emma felt like she was in a coffin, she got bottom bunk.  The receptionist left at 8 or 10 every night and left us with the bar, trusting people would pay in the little bowl in the fridge.  It was super awesome; minus hearing people come and go since the walls were thin. It was funny watching us get on and off the hostel since we weren’t too sure on the ramp we had to use. All in all it was an awesome one of a kind stay.
After we were all situated in our room, we went to go have some fun exploring this beautiful city. First we started off with a canal tour, but almost fell asleep during it since we had been up since 4 am. I did see some things that I didn’t see the time before. Emma was just wide-eyed, because this was her first time. Once the tour was done we just walked around the main area looking for a place to grab food and wait for night to come. As night fell we sat in a spot and just people watched for a bit. It was funny to guess who was high, who wasn’t, and who was drunk and we were pretty good at it for the most part. We talked about home and got to know each other better, since watching Dr. Who and Sherlock doesn’t already do that.
When we were bored of sitting around and observing the general population we headed towards the Red Light District. We went early, mostly because we are old frail women. Emma found our stroll past the bars, window girls, and sex shops funny, because my face was red and I didn’t know if I should look or just keep walking past. It was an interesting and fun time. We, once again, learned a little bit about each other’s culture. We saw a woman buy condoms and the owner just looked at her, asked if that was all, and she walked out. She didn’t even ask for them he knew! It was funny. He tried to talk her into buying something else too saying how pretty she was and how those two guys were going to have fun. On our way back to the boat we saw two police officers on horses charging through the crowd and you know something serious is going down if they call in the Calvary, Emma’s words not mine. The rest of that night was pretty ordinary and quiet. I was a good student and took my quiz on time and Emma got ready for bed.
Cats and children just hanging off the balcony.
The next day we met my friend Thijs and boy was that some good fun. We met him at the train station after getting lost trying to find the meeting point, but he got lost too so it was all good. From there we went to an open air museum and I finally got to see some windmills! Oh, and we visited a clog museum and store. Clogs are not comfortable! That is all I can say to that one. The museum was cool, because it was so quaint. I am trying to think of a way to explain it other than think old cottage with little canals running through it. Once we were done there we went back to Amsterdam. We went and explored the Jordaan district. There we found a market and walked down. I saw some ham just chillin’ in the open air and I freaked out a bit. This market was a huge novelty for me and for the others since they got to see my reaction to it all. Right off this little market was a small bar. Thijs found it for us, since Emma and I would never have thought to go down this other little side street. What made this bar special was that it was seriously just people who lived in that area, no English. It was so much fun and I have never heard so much accordion music, ever.
Our hostel was by a boat named Gandalf!
Now it is after this bar that we find my, apparently, hidden talent. We decided to go for a walk after our second drink at this bar and nothing serious happened. Just talked and enjoyed the scenery. However, after a good 45 minutes of walking Thijs mentions that we should go to another bar. We didn’t know what direction to go and I happen to see this small black sign four blocks away as the sun was setting in an already cloudy day, because I thought it said Guinness. Well I was correct and Emma was shocked. I was the only one with glasses! She said that had to be a talent. I don’t know if I should be proud of this talent or disgusted. Either way, we all had another drink and enjoyed the rest of our time together, because Thijs was going to see his sister after this beer.
Just relaxing on a random couch.
On the way back to the boat Emma and I bought a fifth of Malibu and a liter of coke, you can guess what we did that night. We thought a night in would be more fun than trying to see everything and being cranky in the morning. Plus, we were going to see the Anne Frank House the next morning.
The Anne Frank House was amazing. I didn’t want to go the first time, but I am glad I went with Emma. We got in line at about 9:30 am and exited the house at about 11:30. Luckily, we got there when we did because the line was wrapping around the church that was by the museum! If any one goes to Amsterdam I recommend going there. I haven’t read her diary, but the house was just awe inspiring.
After the museum we didn’t do much. Just walked around and enjoyed our last two hours in Amsterdam. I do have to say that it was a trip well spent. I think Amsterdam is one of the prettiest cities in the world. The next post will be by either Emily or me, we don’t know yet, but it will be a good one. I meet up with Emily in Freiburg in a few days and that is going to be a blast! Off to finish packing or sleep, whatever one comes first!