Bring on the Bling

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Top 100 in Europe

"Life is all about taking risks. If you never take risks, then you'll never know what you're capable of." This has been the theme of my sojourn into Europe these last few months. I'm working on a final wrap-up blog post, since my last few posts have been written very quickly and I wanted to make sure I wrote down everything that I did. I obviously didn't include every picture (I kept over 2,000), but wanted to make sure I highlighted my faves! While I was gone, Nikki challenged me to compile a list of my top 100 moments in Europe. The list is made up of everything from feelings I had, places I visited, quotes I heard, experiences I lived, etc...meaning...there are no rules here. Some of the items will only make sense to me and to my new friends, so if you have a question, just ask! Here is my list in no particular order:
  1. Auschwitz I
  2. Renting bikes in Berlin
  3. Almost getting attacked by a bum in Kiel during our class outing, only to have all the guys in our class jump to my aid
  4. Laughing with Leisl as we watched the tourists grope The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen
  5. The 1st stamp in my passport: Prague
  6. Discovering a Döner at Garip's
  7. Leisl's fart app on the ride back from Copenhagen because "Solitaire is SO overrated!"
  8. Singing "Phantom of the Opera" from Phantom with Alex at karaoke night in the Irish Pub on our last Tuesday night in Kiel
  9. Auschwitz II - Birkenau
  10. Waiting out a rainstorm with 2 Irish families after our bike tour in a pub in Krakow, Poland
  11. Witnessing (and recording with 2 cameras) my friends get engaged on the bridge overlooking the Neuschwanstein Castle
  12. Frankfurt Temple with Wendy
  13. Being in Germany when Germany won the World Cup
  14. My 1st overnight train (even though my bunk-mates kept waking me up and offering me alcohol)
  15. The smell of sugary-dough as I walked through the town of Oswiecim, Poland
  16. Seeing the Texas flag in Kiel
  17. Watching the sunset over the Baltic Sea
  18. Being serenaded with Dr. Zhivago and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by an accordionist while eating curry pickled herring in Nyhavn
  19. Pepsi bracelets in Tivoli 
  20. Purple flowers "magically" showing up in my hair (dang it, Andrew!)
  21. Breakfast in Schweden!
  22. Photo bombs and photo-bombing
  23. Sitting for hours in the Copenhagen Castle gardens, just talking with Leisl, Tom and Andrew...cigarettes, tattoos and tickling... 
  24. Orange juice in champagne flutes?
  25. Straddling a cannon in Lübeck
  26. Sitting in a Strandkorb
  27. "She touched the butt..." in Laboe
  28. Äpfel zu Äpfeln
  29. Bearing my testimony in German
  30. Random Claremont connection in the Freiberg Temple
  31. Swinging in the giant swing with Megan in the Molfsee Museum
  32. The goat
  33. Almost getting "pushed" into the fjord inlet in Nyhavn by Andrew, only to be told "saved your life!"
  34. "So süß"
  35. Finding the drinking fountain in Hamburg and taking pictures of it as we all fill up our water bottles
  36. Eating a hamburger in Hamburg
  37. Singing songs from Cinderella inside Neuschwanstein Castle
  38. Discovering Kofola, then finding it on tap
  39. Anthony Bourdain and the hunt for Andrew's fried cheese sandwich
  40. "Das ist Kunst!"
  41. Andrew singing "Beauty and the Beast" at the Strahov Monastery Library
  42. Copenhagen Castle
  43. Stained glass everywhere
  44. Beautiful organs
  45. Rubbing the lucky mouse (Lübeck), dog (Prague), and lion's head (Munich)
  46. Wandering down the side streets in Olomouc, Czech Republic
  47. The 74-second escalator ride in Prague
  48. Double-helix staircase to the roof of St. Maurice's church in Olomouc
  49. The homeless piano player
  50. Searching for the mission home in Frankfurt
  51. The beds at St. Christopher's Inn in Prague
  52. Getting caught in the torrential downpour on the way to the Germany vs. Brazil World Cup Semi-Final game
  53. Using the German Rail Pass successfully and having it save my life
  54. Gelato
  55. Watching Tom get so excited to feed the fish in Tivoli
  56. Finding my 1st Dr. Pepper in Germany
  57. Having class twice sitting under a tree in the Botanical Gardens
  58. Goulash...REAL Goulash
  59. Bike tour with Mike's Bike Tours in Munich
  60. Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap
  61. My neon green bike in Krakow
  62. Train ride from Dresden to Prague
  63. Watching the drunk across the street from my streetcar stop in Prague
  64. Attending the little branch in Copenhagen and attempting to sing in Danish...attempting...
  65. Poland
  66. Kielbaska z cebula Lay's chips
  67. My pretzel necklace in Krakow
  68. Almost getting swung out of the hammock in Malmö, Sweden (again...thanks Andrew)
  69. Street performers everywhere...some creepy, but mostly awesome
  70. Hot chocolate in "Schindler's List" alley in Krakow
  71. Hearing the trumpet player atop St. Mary's Basilica 
  72. "American Dream Boy!"
  73. So many new German friends: the Labahns, Haaks, Cooks, Anna, and Tina to name a many more!
  74. Laundry day with Leisl
  75. Ordering breakfast for the first time completely in German, then being responded to in German instead of English
  76. Copenhagen Temple
  77. Walking along the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery
  78. Getting mooned by a bunch of drunk guys on our cruise in Copenhagen
  79. The street party in Kiel after Germany won the World Cup
  80. Eating a delicious red velvet cupcake in Krakow
  81. Watching an old man in full liederhosen smoking a huge pipe in front of a beer house in Munich
  82. Eating chocolate pie and drinking homemade lavender mint lemonade in Cafe 87 in Olomouc
  83. Watching the sun set and an even bigger red moon rise over the fields and hills of southern Germany on my way from Prague to Munich
  84. Waking up on the train and just staring out of the window
  85. Rocking out to Van Halen and Led Zeppelin while driving through Denmark
  86. "That looks like Quidditch!"
  87. Realizing that I could find my way in whichever city I landed in
  88. "Viva la Denmark"
  89. Andrew and I holding our breath during the tunnel that goes under the water into Sweden
  90. Driving the wrong way down a one-way street in Copenhagen
  91. Feeling rich when I would pull money out of the ATM: Zloty and Kronor
  92. Hanging out under the Brandenburg Gate
  93. Taking a nap in the Tiergarten in Berlin
  94. "It's dangerous to go Solo: take a Wookie with you" sign in Frankfurt
  95. Whales and leaves on the TP in Kiel
  96. Briefly visiting the Ritter Sport factory store in Berlin
  97. Hanging out in the Labahn's backyard
  98. Institute/FHE/church in Kiel
  99. Eating a hot dog in the Krakow Castle
  100. #honeymustardeyeball

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Final Week of Europe!

resferber (RACE-fay-ber)

(n.) the restless race of the traveler's heart before the journey begins, when anticipation and anxiety are tangled together; a 'travel fever' that can manifest as an illness

One thing that I've come to understand is that some languages have words that cannot be translated into English. One word that can describe something so beautiful, with no word-for-word translation into another language. There are a few German words that I have learned, but won't bore you. In this case, I think the Swedes have it right. I started to feel this way as I said goodbye to new friends in Kiel and headed off with Andrew. I felt it again as I watched his bus drive away in the rainy streets of Prague. I had tackled solo travel before, and I was ready to do it again. I enjoy having the company of good friends, but sometimes it's nice to pull away and discover how awesome you really are.

Along with my awesome German Rail Pass, I am able to travel between Prague and Munich via IC Bus. What is that exactly? A really HUGE double-decker bus with lots of space, a WC, free wi-fi, and a non-stop trip in comfort to Munich! Side note: I think the driver was a little lost. We had to turn around a few times, making my stomach a little gurgly. I was happy to be finally dropped off! We parked at the ZOB, which is the main bus station and just a quick S-line ride to the main train station. My hostel was "around the corner" from the main train station. Unfortunately, there are about a dozen different ways to get out of the Hbf, so I had to use an app...and it was almost midnight again. I really have to stop doing that...

I finally got up to my room, and again found that I was the only female in the 10-bunk room. Whatever. Side note: I booked a bed in a female-only room for Berlin). It was so hot in the room! Seriously Germany, you need to GET ON BOARD WITH THIS WHOLE A/C THING! YOU INVENTED IT! Granted, it was invented to help keep beer cold, but I digress. I fell asleep face-down on my pillow at about 1am and didn't move. Well, I couldn't even if I wanted to...the bed creaked every time anyone breathed. I woke up around 6:45 and got ready for the day! The forecast called for rain, but I said NO, so it didn't.

I met the bike tour I scheduled and took off. I had a blast! I highly recommend Mike's Bike Tours!!
Neurathaus in Marienplatz 

Homer and I had a great ride together!
I love bike tours!

Rubbed the dogs for luck...lots of that going on in Europe...
Outside of the Fuhrer House...where Hitler used to stand on his balcony and make his "speeches"

Riding through the English Gardens...staying away from the nudists...
Bought a stein at the Beer Garden!
Long story short: a SoCal engineer/surfer added extra beams to the river so people can "surf" on the river

Today wasn't all fun and games...I returned to the hostel late in the afternoon to do some laundry. Thank goodness because I don't know when I'd have any time later this week! I decided that I was craving a good-old American burger. Someone had put up an ad for the Hard Rock Cafe. DONE. As I sat down to my burger, I thought about the time Tom, Andrew, Leisl and I were in Copenhagen doing the same thing. Saddened by the fact that the guys weren't around to finish my burger, it went to waste. I couldn't finish that massive thing! Oh well. After dinner I walked around Munich a bit. I love looking at the old buildings at night. It gives them such a different feel.

Morning came and I left the hostel and headed to the train station to drop off my luggage. I had just gotten a pastry from across the street when I heard a familiar voice call my name. MEGAN!!! After spending almost 24/7 with people for weeks, it's a big change to NOT hear their voice every day. I missed this girl! Plus, I got to meet Kevin, her BF. We headed out to our Castle Tour! I was so glad that she mentioned they were doing this tour, because I didn't hesitate! After going through the tour, I see why people say to NOT do the tour. We were rushed through the village of Oberammergau, and didn't feel like we had enough time to wander around the grounds of the castles. We had to race to make our tour time, and then race back to the bus so we didn't get left behind. However, seeing the lines that we avoided when purchasing the tickets and being able to enjoy the drive on the Romantic Road, I can see why it was worth it. Nevertheless, I had a blast! Best part? The rain made the castles seem so mystical!

Outside Linderhoff...and of course it's raining!

Linderhoff...pretty gaudy and tacky inside, but still amazing!

The gardens at beautiful
Megan, Kevin and I
Neuschwanstein...what what??

And she said yes! Kevin asked me to record his proposal on the bridge overlooking the romantic!

View from the bridge!
Hohenschwangau castle...didn't go in, but had a great view!
After the whirlwind castle tour, we parted ways back in Munich. They were headed out to celebrate their new engagement, and I was killing time until my train to Berlin. I decided to head back to a place we visited on the bike tour that I wanted to have more time at. It was still raining, but I felt it was appropriate. I headed back to a square that has 2 buildings that are now museums. Back in the day, however, they were the headquarters for the Nazi Administration. I was able to stand in the rain and just let my feelings sweep over me. I felt anger and apprehension as I climbed the steps to each building.
Before the grass and trees, this is where rally after rally was held, including the first book-burning...
The Führer Haus, next to the above Platz

The Führer Haus balcony where Hitler would give his "speeches" (rants)...

After experiencing this dark piece of history again, I headed back to the train station for my journey. I used my rail pass, so I ended up sitting up all night. Ugh. Not the best idea, but it was free for me and I was able to get a few hours of sleep.

Hot mess in Frankfurt on my "layover"
I arrived back in Berlin and made my way to the East Side Gallery. I didn't have a chance to visit on my last trip to Berlin, so I made it a priority this time. I was so happy I did.

I just HAD to make one more visit to Mustafa's!
There was a 90 minute wait this time, but so worth it!
After finally eating my Döner, I went back to the hostel to figure out my next few days of getting back into Prague. Not having internet available 24/7 has proved to be both a blessing and a curse while in Europe. It's been nice to not be plugged into the world all the time, but it has made making travel arrangements a little difficult. This was no exception. The hostel only had free wifi downstairs in the bar. Great. So I sat down at a table and figured out the trains I needed to take. I wanted to head down to Freiberg first thing in the morning to go to the temple. Looking at the sessions' schedule, I realized that if I was going to be able to do a session and have time to get to Prague before midnight, I needed to be up at 5:30am, and out the door before 7. Well, I haven't slept in once this whole time in Europe, so why start now? Thankfully I had booked a bed in a room with only 3 other females, so getting up and out was easy. I jumped on my train and headed down to Freiberg. Again, much more complex that just that: I took the subway one stop, got on a regional train to the main station since the S Bahn wasn't working, then took a train to Dresden, followed up with another regional train to Freiberg. It was such a cute town! I didn't want to spend time figuring out their small bus system, so I found a map, took a picture, and then headed out on foot.

Walked by a park with some awesome lakes

3 km later...found it!

I ended up meeting an awesome missionary couple who were connected to a family in Claremont by marriage, so we spent some time together after the session. They were sweet and took me on a little tour of the city. So awesome! Then they dropped me back off at the train station, just in time to catch my train back to Dresden. I was able to grab some food and relax before my train back to Prague. I was super excited about this one, as the route was going to be through a beautiful part of the countryside. I finally landed back in Prague around 10 and made my way to the hostel...subway ride, streetcar ride, walk up a hill...pretty standard. However, this hostel was anything BUT standard. It was the cleanest, nicest, and cutest hostel ever! Such a great way to spend my last night in Europe...on a comfy bed!

View from the train doesn't do it justice

Waiting for the streetcar at 7am...

Last meal in Europe...doing it right: Goulash and a sausage for breakfast!

Sums up the trip
My flight from Prague to JFK went by really fast. 8.5 hours worth of movies and just relaxing...and then I landed. Customs wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be...made it through in 45 minutes. I called my dad to talk to him and let him know I was back on American soil. I headed over to my gate for my next flight, only to find out that the seat next to me was going to be empty. SCORE!! 5.5 hour flight and more movies...again relaxing! I am proud to say that I flew out to Europe and back with only 2 carry-ons: my backpack and a bag. This time, I had to buy a bigger bag in Prague to accommodate all the chocolate I bought for my family, LOL. Love the bag, so it wasn't a big deal. When I landed, my parents and Michael picked me up and took me to In n Out. That was the best welcome back gift I could have ever imagined! Haha.

I'm spending the next day and a half here in LA with my family before heading back to Utah. I still don't have an apartment lined up, but I'm sure I'll be able to find a room somewhere. I'm obviously not too worried about it. This trip has been just so amazing! I am so grateful that I went, and will be writing a wrap-up post soon! Also, my friend Nikki gave me an awesome idea of compiling a list of my top 100 things that happened while in Europe. I have started working on that and will post it as soon as it's done!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Prague, part 2!

Kiel was sad to see us go. Seriously, it only rained about 5 times the entire time we were in Germany...2 of those days being the last 2 games of the World Cup, our last Sunday, and another random day of a "last." After our farewell dinner/banquet, Andrew and I raced home to finish packing and got ready for our adventure. We had to take a train from Kiel to Hamburg in order to catch our sleeper train. I was a little worried that we would miss the sleeper, but we had plenty of time to explore the Hamburg Hbf. 

Random pig over a restaurant in Hamburg...weird

My top bunk for the night...praying the train doesn't have to make any sudden stops!

Arriving in Prague and trying to find the hotel...
Okay, so funny story: Andrew didn't really know anything about Prague before we got here. In order to expand his mind, he pulled up an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" about Prague. We watched it all in our hotel room. There was a clip where Anthony was eating at a food stand and ate a fried cheese sandwich. Oh. My. Goodness. Andrew looked at me and said "we're going to find this!" He grabbed a piece of paper, just in case they told us where it was. No such luck. We both started Googling the episode and finally found it! It was a little stand in Wenceslas Square. I found the Metro stop, and we were off! Fortunately, the sandwich didn't disappoint him. I settled for an Old Prague Sausage that was hanging in the window.

Wenceslas Square
Prague has a lovely little transit pass called the Tourist pass, which allows unlimited access to all modes of transit for 72 hours. Perfect! We took full advantage and made it to the city center. We walked around a bit after, finding Old Town and retracing some places that I explored on my last visit to Prague. I had totally forgotten about this little gem:
"Art" - das ist Kunst!!
On the boat tour
After walking around for a while, we passed a sign that was advertising hour-long boat tours up and down the Vltala River. We bought our tickets and waited under a bridge for our cruise. In the shade. Because it was hot. Yup. So we got on our cruise and ordered some huge waters, just enjoying the ride. By the end of it, both of us were falling asleep. Well, at least I was. We decided to head back and take a quick nap at the hotel, then head back out. That would have been awesome, except I fell asleep and woke up at 11pm, only to ask what time it was, apologize, and then fall right back asleep. Oops. I guess I needed it because I didn't wake up again until 4am, then again at 8.

Saturday's agenda included getting to the Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery. We were able to take 2 Metro lines and a street car up to the Monastery, only to find out that they were out to lunch. I love it! We found this little pub up the street and out of the tourist area. It was like eating a home-cooked meal! We were introduced to a Czech specialty: Kofola, which is their take on Cola, using 24 herbs. It was actually pretty good!

Cheers with our Kofola!
The Strahov Monastery was something that I had seen on Pinterest and was super excited to try to see in person. The library is pretty famous, having been used as a backdrop in a few major Hollywood films. It was exquisite! Tourists have to buy a pass to take photos, and even then you can't use a flash. It was so awesome!

Prague Castle (taken from Google)

Couldn't believe I was here!!

The stained glass of St. Vitus Cathedral

They didn't answer...

The view from the castle was breathtaking!
Like a postcard...
Another thing that I had put off for this trip to Prague was crossing the St. Charles Bridge. On my bike tour last time, we went up next to it and talked about it, but never crossed it. I needed to check that off of my list, so we headed over after the castle. The statues that flank the bridge are pretty cool, as are the gates at either end. However, there were WAY too many tourists. I'm sure it would have been a better experience late at night or early in the morning. Oh well. It's done.

Getting ready to cross the St. Charles' Bridge!
St. Charles' Bridge (taken from Google)
Apparently it's good luck to rub the dog...?
Way too many tourists! So grateful for my PacSafe bag!
I loved walking down these streets. So beautiful no matter which way you go!

Tower at the end of the bridge
After exploring for a while, we decided to head back to the hotel to rest and NOT FALL ASLEEP THIS TIME, as Andrew reminded me. Oops. We plugged into the wifi and got lost in cyberland for a few hours. Andrew turned on the TV to see what was on...and he ended up on the channel that was playing The Big Bang Theory. In German. While we were in Prague. Hmm. Anyway, we jumped back on the Metro and headed for Old Town and just wandered around a bit.

The longest escalator ride ever...Andrew clocked it at 74 seconds from top to bottom!
Sunday morning I decided to head over to Olomouc, a small city about 2.5 hours east of Prague by train. Nikki told me that this was her favorite place to go, so I just HAD to check it out! I went to the train station and found out that a round trip ticket was only about $19 USD. DONE! I was able to relax and write a few postcards on the train. Although I don't speak a word of Czech, some words have actually taken on some I now know what words mean "next stop" and a few others related to trains. Sheldon would be proud.

When I got in to the Olomouc station, it hit me that I probably should have looked up a map or something before I got there. Oops. No worries...I just flashed back to my visit to Oswiecim. It took me a second to find the ticket machines for the public transit. There was no English option, so I guessed on which ticket was a day pass. I swear, those tickets are wonderful. Stress free and if I get lost or take the wrong bus/streetcar, I can just hop back on another one! I found the streetcar that took me to the Old Town and I headed off! Nikki gave me a list of places to do, food to try, and adventures to live. So grateful because I followed it to the T!
My "lunch" at Cafe 87...famous for their chocolate pie!
Staircase was in the round tower, then I climbed into the square one and was on top!
Spent some time at the top of St. Maurice's church 
View from the top
The exit onto the roof...a little scary in the wind...
Not all of the lights worked... 
Double helix staircase

St. Wenceslas Cathedral

Such a cute little town!
Random homeless guy playing REALLY GOOD classical music!
I never get tired of seeing all of the beautiful organs! 
Climbed up to the bell tower in St. Michael's church...nervous since it was close to the hour!

Tight corners all around...

Every street was like a movie scene!
Holy Trinity Column
Some of the most impressive stained glass in the churches...this one was my favorite in St. Maurice's church
When I finally made it back to Prague, I wasted no time jumping in the shower and downloading pictures. It was such a great day! Andrew came back right after and was so excited to see my pictures. It was so much fun reliving the day all over again! I started to blog when something exciting happened: the fire alarm went off. Always wonderful. It was so loud, I could feel my pulse in my ears. Ugh. We walked down the 10 flights of stairs and realized that it was just our floor. Apparently some idiot was smoking. Grr. And the hostel only has 1 elevator, which is super slow. Wonderful. We finally got back into bed and fell asleep.

The next morning, we woke up to rain. I'm sensing a pattern...Europe just doesn't want me to leave it ever! Something to think about...

We decided to head out to get some lunch. Well, it took us a lot longer than I am letting on. We had to clean up our room and repack, which is always an adventure. We just accumulate so much stuff! And let's be honest...dirty laundry is never easy to pack! We sat downstairs in the lobby for a while, trying to figure out what to do. It was raining and neither of us really wanted to be hauling our stuff around while sight-seeing. Plus, we'd already seen and done everything that we wanted, plus more. I suggested going to the first restaurant that I ate at in Europe: Hastalsky Dedek. We made it there and found that they had Kofola on tap. I've rarely seen Andrew so excited, so we just HAD to get it! And the food was so good...just as I remembered!
Andrew posing with his drink and...yeah, I lost it when he played "paparazzi..."
After sitting in the restaurant for a while, we headed out to take the Metro to the last stop where Andrew could catch the bus for the airport. When we boarded the Metro, we were pleasantly surprised to find a few "familiar" faces. Missionaries! We chatted with them a bit (it was transfer day) and I just HAD to get a picture with them (haha Wendy...I remembered Alex and her friend!).

After dropping Andrew off in the rain, I headed back to the main train station to wait for my bus. After hours of waiting (literally), I boarded the bus and took off for Munich! The bus was huge and had free wi-fi, so I was able to text some friends. The Czech countryside is so majestic at sunset! I was sitting on the top level of the double-decker bus and had a beautiful view. I was able to watch the sun set and then the moon rise, passing fields, quaint villages, castles, and then finally crossed back into Deutschland...where I start my next journey...