Thursday, August 22, 2013

Belgium. And Getting Home.

These are some very out of order pictures from my time in Belgium. Mostly we just hung out at Elizabeth's.

My new amazingly delicious favorite snack. Good with peanut butter too. Elizabeth said she would send me some soon.

Fancy schmancy home made ice cream from an ice cream shop nearby. Hands down the most delicious meal. And it was served to us with menus and a French waitress. It's ice cream.

Some treats we made, Nutella cupcakes,
And pepper jack cheezits.

A very pretty avenue to the airbase.

Look how miserable (but great) this weather looks. Also admire the crookedness.

And our dog sitting adventures:

These are just a few that I remembered to take pictures of. We had our hands full my entire stay. 

We did plan a day to train to Brugge, a very beautiful city about an hour away. But the one day we can make it work, a torrential downpour appears ALL DAY. And since neither of us have umbrellas, well, it's not really an option anyway. And it's so fun to touristy around while soaking wet. Belgium just didn't want me to go anywhere this time. Next time.

So I left Belgium and started on the very long ride home. I'm now in Mass with family, so I'll consider this home for now and say the journey was for the most part, hassle free. It did help that most of the way was in English, but here is a little how my endless day went.

Catch 10:17am hour-long train from Jurbise to Brussels Airport and arrive two hours before my flight leaves, because early is better than late.

Farewell weird leprechaun singers of Belgium. I got video too. But I don't know how to post that in here. 
There was an encore.

3 hour flight from Brussels to Reykjavik.

2 hour layover.

6 hour flight from Reykjavik to JFK.

Now it's 7pm local time, and 2am my time. And I haven't spoken in like 12 hours. (I really don't like traveling alone.)

After getting on the wrong train and circling the airport terminals for a good half hour despite all the signs in English...I get on the right train and make it to the place where my hotel shuttle picks me up. Finally check in the hotel at 9pm.

I fall asleep at 10pm and set every alarm I have to loud and repetitive, because who knows what jet lag will do. Alas, I wake up almost each hour, and by 4:30am I'm just wide awake and decide to get up. I have four hours till I leave the hotel, so I get ready and eat breakfast with the utmost slowness.

Take the E Train from nearby station alllll the way to Penn Station which takes about an hour. Then realize I'm still too early for my train, and so I people-watch at the station for two hours. The announcer for the station sounds like Dave Foley, so the wait is rather enjoyable. 

The train has wifi and outlets, and I take a moment to appreciate traveling in a first world country once again.

Oh! And I have working cell service.

4 hour train ride later I arrive in South Station, Boston. And it's been raining all day along the way. My aunt picks me up and I'm with family!

So as long and boring as that small part of my journey was, I'm very glad there were no crazy stories to relate, because I'm so done with those.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nürnberg, and Parting Ways

Our last stop together, Nurnberg, Germany.

Some pics:

This is the view from our new dorm room in Nürnberg, and we face the Opera House! Or, in German, Opernhaus.

And a view out the bus window, on the way to Nürnberg. We got caught in a HUGE storm on the way, but you can't tell at this point.

Oh, and look at my spiffy sandal tan. You really don't want to see it, probably. But believe me, it's not dirt. My feet are especially clean here. And I have a hiking sock tan as well. Am I proud of these two things? Maybe a little.

Now that the close up picture of my feet is past, let me leave you with something more pleasant.

We didn't actually explore the city at all, this time. Since it was our last day we just felt exhausted and it even took us an hour just to figure out if we wanted to go to the supermarket to find something for dinner.

A rather unique experience came out of this though. As Tessa and I flopped onto the couch in the reception/common area, we started talking to this guy sitting there as well. We asked the usual travelers questions like where you're from, and what you're doing in the city...turns out he is here for a music festival, and he has been sitting in the common room people watching for the last five days or so. Why? Just so he can meet cool people, and think, and observe.

For the whole afternoon we sat there too, discussing just about anything that came into our minds. Tessa and I did have a city map and we all consulted it at various times, with full intention of leaving the couch to go see the Documentation Centre, or Hat Museum, or Pencil Museum. 

We never did leave to see anything exciting except for another grocery store run, and we managed to get this guy to come with us, because we felt he really needed to get out. And once we left, he should know where food was available.

So it was a great day of non-exploring, and I recommend anyone to do that sort of thing (not in your plans) at least a few times on any trip you're on. We met some really interesting people in the common room that day, and I felt bad the last day was when this first occurred to us.


Since our changing-of-plans crisis, we had decided to go through this last week so I wouldn't miss Prague, but then part ways right after. Tessa managed to get a flight home booked out of Frankfurt, so that's why we stopped in Nürnberg, making our way over there. And I booked a flight to Brussels, where I'll be staying with my friend Elizabeth until the 21st of August. Details on that later.

It's been a crazy and fun trip this summer, and even though the majority of it is over and I'm ready to go home in a few weeks...well I can't wait to plan the next adventure.

Bye, Tessa!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kutna Hora-Sedlec Ossuary

The small town of Kutna Hora, outside of Prague, is famously known for the Sedlec Ossuary or, the Church of Bones.

What makes this place so cool and creepy is all of the ossuary's bones are on display in a decorative fashion. Tens of thousands of people's bones piled into pyramids, arranged into a shield, and then the famous chandelier which has at least one of every single bone in your body.

There's an interesting history to it, and you can read more here:

We took the night tour which is only narrated in Czech, and is naturally creepier after dark. Even though we didn't understand a single word of what the guide said, mostly we wandered around inside and took creepy pictures for the hour. Lighting was really difficult because the whole place was only lit by candlelight, but with some camera adjustments, we were able to get some pretty good shots. And a couple on our phones, which I can share with you here.

After the main tour, the monk guy took us outside (through the graveyard for a minute) and upstairs, where we got a special performance of one monk singing, another one playing the organ, and the original guide controlling the airflow of the organ, I think. This took up almost another hour, and it was super cool because one of the monks looked like a knight from Lord of the Rings , and he sang really loudly, I actually jumped.


This is us before, getting excited for our "night out." Forget the pub crawls and partying, we're going to a Czech Ossuary, dude!

(Since we each hate ourselves in the opposite picture, the compromise is to post both.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Prague Pt. 2

We joined a free walking tour that started at 11am, which is way too late by the way. And I did get a fair amount of sun. But we learned a whole lot of history, and I can't wait to look up more about Prague when I get back. And since I don't have any particular stories to relate at the moment, here are some pictures.

(After the pictures there may be a story.)

First, this is one of the statues on Charles Bridge. I think the pinwheel hats are a little avant-garde but--wait, they're halos? Never mind.

The astronomical tower! Extremely pretty and so incredibly detailed, I loved just staring at it. But the on-the-hour "show" that's so famous? One of the most overrated touristy things ever. I did get video that I might share later.

View from the side of the square, to the left where you see the church, is where the main area opens up. But this corner looks huge with the panorama.

In the Jewish Ghetto. This clock runs backwards, as expected.

A statue of....anyone? Anyone? No not anyone. Specifically Franz Kafka. Author of The Metamorphosis and other stories. He's from here. Born lived and died here, actually.

A bad combination of a black building, and sunlight in the back. But it is really this dark in real life. Used to store gun powder for the city.

This artist (of a random door at a garbage facility) is actually the architect for some famous things, including something or other from the London Olympics last year. The heat was getting to me, I'll admit my mind wandered.

Tessa being a bad vegetarian.

This guy was one of our roomies (we had to switch rooms for the second night.) but I never saw him awake. When we got there he was asleep, and he slept all day, and then later when we came back to go to sleep, he was out with the other three dudes in the dorm, until 3 or 4am, when they all came back and fell asleep. And he was still asleep when we packed up and left in the morning. He had a sombrero. 

These random-words Coke bottles are everywhere in Europe, and we can't figure out why. For fun I guess. Tessa sure got excited upon spotting this one.

This is my horrible attempt at a Star Wars impression thing. What it turned out as: a too-skinny backpacker trying to swat a fly with a cape on.

Tessa's worked out better. She had been wearing the shirt all day anyway like that, to avoid sunburn. And in case you're wondering, this building behind is a very famous concert hall where Mozart conducted at, and parts of the movie Amadeus were shot. And the statue is in honor of the opera Don Giovanni.

And for all those Lemony Snicket fans (this includes me and Tessa) well take a look, they're everywhere....and this weather did take a very frightening direction from the norm, a few minutes after this was taken.


And you thought the post was over, no? No. See, as we did our last outing and looking around for postcards...well we had another close call with the apocalypse.

I almost bought a water color from an artist on the Charles Bridge, but I wasn't sure how I'd bring it back. But as we explored the old town that afternoon I thought and thought about it and decided I really wanted it, and would find a way to get home. 

So we're walking back, about a 20 minute walk to the bridge, and it starts to rain a little. This was in the forecast, so we expected it. But I had stupidly worn my sandals anyway, and of course a tank, because it was still insanely hot out. But within 10 minutes, gusts of wind were shooting through the small streets and into the shops, and the sky got dark, and rain started coming down sideways. I was reminded of the movie, The Day After Tomorrow. Since the shop windows and doors were open to all the tourists, things were flying around, and breaking, and we still slowly made progress, ducking in the eves, toward the Charles Bridge. People were rather freaking out, and we found ourselves against what seemed like every tourist in the city. Why was everyone going this way? It's hard to walk against a frightened crowd.

Tessa managed to get some video clips before it got too bad. 

We finally get to the bridge, and realize we can't see it at all, which is not a good sign, and so we hide with a bunch of other people in a tunnel nearby for about 15 minutes, waiting to see if it will let up. 

Well it didn't.

Since our hostel was about 100 meters after the bridge, once we crossed it, we would be good. So we take a deep breath and start sprinting in bursts again. We meet a lady on the edge of the bridge, in a covered area, and she says, "I got halfway across before I had to turn back!" Cue our horrified faces.

Apparently some sand is mixed up in the tornado-like weather, so as we finally brave our way across for the next 20 minutes, sand is stinging every part of our exposed skin, and we are soaked to the bone, and Tessa is trying not to have an asthma attack.

By the time we make it to the other side, the weather is okay enough to take out the camera, and look at the famous bridge...with no tourists on it! 

Happy ending.

And I'll leave you with a very nice view of our dorm window. The calm after the storm. 

Budapest exploring pics

The walking tour was good, but so hot because it starts at 10:30, and is about 3 hours long. I vote midnight tour for the next one. If only.

One of the coolest things I learned this time was Hungarians are technically from Asia before mixing with other cultures (after wars had to bring in new population) so that's one of the reasons their language is so different than the areas around it. George Lucas actually used Yoda's lines in Hungarian. He wrote them in English, translated them to Hungarian, and then back to English. That is why it sounds so weird. :) so Hungarian is the Jedi language.

Anyway here are some sightings from our explorations. We did look around after the tour as well.

Chain bridge from a hill on the Buda side.

Last time I was in Budapest this was our ride, Viking River not thinking about how awesome it was...and with no heavy backpack...during the cool Christmastime.....

As weird as this is to say...I'm pretty sure I've seen this before.

A far-away view of one of my favorite buildings I've ever seen. It's the third largest Parliament building in the world. I think it's London, Brazil, and then this one.

Tessa tends to find cool graffiti.


Yellow watermelon. What.

This is possibly the best and cheapest ice cream I've ever had. Tessa got: dark chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla and I got: peach, pear, and hazelnut. We went twice within the day and a half we were there.

The view from my bed, looking up.

Famous hourglass that's turned around every new year.

Mushroom ceiling on the Metro.

Also. I tried to discreetly get pictures of this awesome phenomenon. This is the first city we've seen so far, that the advertisements are placed diagonal like the Metro see where I'm going with this. Once you tip your head and look at it one way, you can't un-see it. We love this.