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Monthly Archives: July 2012

After Amsterdam, I arrived in Frankfurt and spent my first day in Germany in a post-party coma. Which was good, because my dad soon arrived to play with me in Europe, and I had to take on the responsibility of arranging tickets, tours, and overall, be on my A-game to show my dad around. Pops has never been to Europe before, and all but jumped at the chance to come visit with me. Remember how I mentioned that I’m terrible at reading maps and getting to where I need to be? Unfortunately, my dad is no better. His sense of direction is on par with that of a blinded infant. With its limbs bound. So putting two directionless people together should naturally lead to disaster, but thankfully, we didn’t encounter too much trouble.

At the top of the Gothic cathedral in Cologne. 533 steps to the top.

Not too much happened in Germany, since my Dad was still getting over jet lag, and I was still recovering from Amsterdam. We went to Cologne, which is only about an hour from Frankfurt, and climbed to the top of the Dom.

From Frankfurt, we moved onto Prague. Side not: slavic languages, while similar in root, are not that similar in pronunciation, and my feeble attempts to speak Czech were returned with puzzled looks and were immediately shot down to the ground. Prague was overblown with tourists, especially Russian tourists, which made maneuvering around the windy, convoluted city a little frustrating. The development of certain post-Communist (or should I say, socialist) countries always amazes me. The Czech Republic, among with other countries such as the Baltic states, are doing pretty well for themselves. They’re clean, their economy is not in the gutter, and they’ve integrated pretty well into Europe. Prague is also very tourist-friendly, which is something you can’t really say about Russia. I don’t speak a word of Czech (except for “hello,” “yes,” “no,” and “I don’t understand”), and I didn’t really need to in order to get around. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that there are tourists who go to Russia not knowing the language — English just really isn’t as prevalent. Notable sight: the Bone Chapel in Kutna Hora. It is what it sounds like — a chapel with tons of decorations inside made from the human skeleton.

T

That is a chandelier made with all the bones from the human skeleton. Except for the ribs, apparently. Couldn’t find the ribs anywhere.

In front of St. Barbara’s cathedral in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Leaving Prague behind, my dad and I went onto Vienna, where we thoroughly gorged ourselves on their pastries. Apple strudle, sacher torte, whatever they had, we ate, and with gusto. Got our fill of art, since Vienna is bursting at the seams with various art museums. It was Gustav Klimt’s 150th birthday, so he was everywhere. In order to not feel too guilty about eating multiple cakes a day, we biked around the Danube and got a little outside of Vienna.

20 km.

Fun fact: ET is hanging out in the Albertina museum in Vienna. On a serious note, they have a great collection of impressionist to modern art in their Picasso and Monet exhibit.

Bratislava is only one hour away from Vienna, so out of curiosity, we took a day trip there. Bratislava felt like Prague’s not so attractive cousin who couldn’t speak English. Still very quaint and historical, but just didn’t have Prague’s charm. English was less spoken here, so again, I tried my hand at Slovak. Like I said before, knowing one slavic language doesn’t mean that you can communicate easily in all of them. One particularly embarrassing moment was at a museum, when my dad had to show his passport to get a senior discount. He had, however, hidden his passport in a pouch that was tucked into his pants. The interaction went down as such:
Me: (in Russian) “His passport is in his pants, but he’s 67.”
Grandmothers: “Slovak slovak slovak proof slovak.”
Me: “But he has to take his pants off to get his passport. He’s 67! Look at him!”
Grandmothers: “slovak slovak slovak.”
Me: (turning to my dad) You have to get out your passport
As my dad begins to take off his pants, the grandmothers, absolutely horrified, said, “NO NO, GOOD GOOD OKAY.” And he got his senior discount.

In Bratislava’s defense, we were only there for a few hours, so we only got a glimpse of the city.

We took an overnight train from Vienna to Italy, and after having roughed it on some really groedy Russian trains (and I mean, really disgusting), this train was a treat. Free wine! Free breakfast! Toilets that actually FLUSH! The first world is so nice sometimes. Despite the torturous heat, Rome was one of my favorite cities by far. Its history is so fascinating, and the food was to die for. Out of all the sights, the Colosseum was by far the most memorable.

Colossal

Super excited

My travels and living abroad have officially come to an end for now, and I’m state-side for at least two years (with a few breaks in between). Which means that, inevitably, this blog has come to an end for the time being. Thank you to everyone who read this — I am grateful for your readership. Until next time.

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After the hectic pace and crazy people of Paris, I arrived in Amsterdam with a big sigh of relief. Amsterdam so far has been my favorite city, and believe it or not, I don’t like it just for the drugs and prostitutes (those are a big plus though). The layout of the city is something I have never seen before: tall, narrow houses that lean slightly over the many canals. Bobbing boats and boat houses that cling to the sides of these waterways. Deft bikers weaving in and out between pedestrians, unaware tourists, and cars. And their history is so fascinating! (had no idea that the Dutch started the stock exchange, or that it was such a rich city) The Red Light district, where my hostel was located, was a bit jarring at first. The prostitutes are literally in your face, standing scantily clad in a window. But, I’m sure that after a bit of time, anyone would get used to the sight – prostitutes are, after all, people too!

Their lax attitude towards marijuana is also somewhat of a shock, especially coming from the states, where the stuff is quite illegal. The smell would literally hit me in the face when I was walking around the Red Light district. The Dutch have it right though – tax it, and make loads of money off it and the tourists who use it. Because if you think about it, they’re not just making money from the weed itself, but also from the rolling papers, various paraphernalia, Bob Marley CDs, and tons of greasy junk food that they sell to the absolutely baked tourists. Brilliant.

For most of this trip, I was traveling by myself, but unlike in London, I was rarely alone. I would do a lot of the tourist things (ie Anne Frank house, van gogh museum) by myself, but at night, I’d come back to my hostel and people were just so welcoming and inviting, and I never had a dull night here. The hostel culture is so unique in that you literally just go into a common room, and you instantly have friends! People are so eager to meet each other. Yes, you end up sharing a room with 10 people and you don’t really sleep, but if you’re traveling, you really shouldn’t be sleeping anyway. I also had the chance to meet up with someone I had met when I was traveling around Eastern Europe two years ago, and it was a very lively reunion.

Now onto Frankfurt. I did not plan Germany out well- basically just chose a city without doing much research. My Dad is coming though, so I’m excited to see him and travel together.

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I have always wondered if English people think American accents are charming the way we do about theirs. I’m going to put it out there that the American accent is the least pleasant out of the English speaking accents. It’s so damn nasally, flat, and uneducated sounding. I swear if I had a British accent, I would just never stop talking. Ever. They can say things like “cheers” and not sound like pretentious asshats! Brilliant.

I arrived in London bleary eyed after an overnight, overbooked flight on July 1st. I’ve never traveled alone before, and it definitely has its positives and negatives. A big positive is that I can do whatever I want and plan my schedule however I want. Harry Potter walk? No qualms about it. A negative would be that it’s just more difficult to get around. At least for me, it was. I am awful at reading maps. In fact, I’m pretty sure a person with no eyes would be more successful at determining where he needed to go then I was. Despite my terrible sense of directions, I was able to hit most of the touristy things: Tower of London, St. Paul’s cathedral, the British museum, and of course, platform 9 and 3/4. Among other things.

On July 5th, I left the overly crowded London for the even more crowded Paris. To be honest, I was a little nervous, since my French is pretty rough. I met up with a few friends and made some more, and it was nice to have people to hit up the tourist spots with. Pictures below.

I have conflicting feelings about Paris. It’s such an astonishingly beautiful city and I love how fast paced it is. On the other hand, I definitely had a sour impression of Paris at night. I went out with a few people from the hostel, and the entire time as I was walking, people (more precisely, the middle easterners) were throwing out some pretty insulting comments about my ethnicity along with disgustingly lecherous looks. I’ve never been so verbally harassed in my life! Definitely did not expect that kind of sleaziness from Paris.

Next up: Amsterdam. Only two words can describe my feelings: f-ing excited.

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