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November 2015

Gelato, Wine, and Pasta

This post is a long one since I was in Italy for a wonderful 10 days 🙂

Day 56: I didn’t have a normal charter bus leaving Zagreb, we had a mini personalized bus that only fit about 16 people, including the two drivers.

We were about half way to Venice and it was gorgeous and sunny, like really sunny and warm almost 20 (Celsius)! We took a lunch break and I took off my jacket and put on my sunglasses. Then I fell asleep back on the bus for maybe 15 min and woke up in the thickest fog I’ve seen!

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There was a girl from South Korea on the bus who’s hostel was near mine so we decided to take the water taxi together which was interesting for someone who gets sea sick. We briefly talked to a local who told us it was the first day in 2 weeks it was foggy and was most likely to stay, we missed the sun by 1 day! Once we reached our stop we decided to meet up a little later to explore together. We found a couple gondola…. tours? And they had an accordion and opera singer! It was really cool to listen to/ watch as they went down the canals.

After walking around we found a grocery store, the only food around seemed to be extreme tourist traps, looked way too over priced and not that good. SO we headed to the grocery store and went our separate ways.

Day 57: As usual I found a free walking tour and our guide was great. As well as the information because Venice was never meant to be a city, so it didn’t have the generic historic town hall and fancy statue that most tours do. She talked about the 125 islands that make up ‘the fish’ (only tour guides call it that) and she had a lot of great little facts which are probably what I enjoy the most. We also went to a famous book store that has books in bath tubs so when it floods (which Venice does often in the winter, they have tables/ boards they place in the middle of the main streets to walk on. They also had a book of tourists stuck visiting during the flood season and not knowing what to do so walking down the street bare foot/ guys carrying girls over their shoulders haha.

 

She told us that most buildings have been restored and how they have been because they can’t be build out of concrete or iron because they move. That the ground is mostly fossilized logs under everything to create more support,they can’t have open fires (all the houses are made out of wood) so the pizza isn’t as good, how the water is rising an average of 20mm per year! The day was also even foggier then the day before.

I was also kind of adopted by a lovely older couple in their 50’s from Oregon during the tour. After the walking tour the wife, Juanita, offered to take me out to Tapas and they got a bottle wine for the table which was really good, my first Chainti! After tapas we went to explore the city some more, we saw the famous Reale bridge and found this funky stair case someone built so their horse, yes I said horse, could get to the 5th floor with them. By then it was already getting dark again so we headed back to St. Marks square so they could see the basilica and I headed back to my hostel.

There was no one on my floor for most of the night which was a tad strange after the prior night but it was nice because I was able to skype friends from anywhere! My room, the lounge, or the kitchen.

Day 58: I got up and headed off through a still very foggy Venice by foot this time for what was going to turn into a very long day.

Florence

I never figured out why but we got severely delayed on some of the back roads. NOTHING was moving any where. I had both my books underneath but definitely should have kept them in my purse. I felt so bad for the people who were going to Rome/Napa because they still had at least another 3 hour bus ride AND we ended up being 3.5 hours late to Florence so the time doubled from a 3.5 hour trip to a 7 hour trip.

Then I couldn’t find my hostel and no one seemed to be a local who I asked so could point me where I was on the map. It was looking pretty dim until I asked a younger couple and they said to follow them and they’d show me the way!
I was so sweaty and gross by the time I made it to my hostel I was relieved to have such a nice room. I was in a room of 4, there were two girls from Canada, Emily and Sarah, and Bud, a 70 yr old man from the states, divorced 3 times, who had sold all his belongings and told his kids he’s be gone for 2-3 years traveling.

I showered and headed off to find some late dinner since I hadn’t eaten lunch being stuck on the bus. I spent the evening getting to know Emily and Sarah and we made plans to check out Florence’s free walking tour the next day.

Day 59: The walking tour wasn’t that great but it was a good way to see the city. We grabbed some lunch which turned out to be really expensive because I had gotten a simple salad! But it was worth it, I hadn’t had a salad since Amsterdam…?

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Then we walked across the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) and accidentally wandered into the botanic gardens which were gorgeous and gave us some great views of the city and was in general just entertaining to walk through.

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We spent a good couple hours exploring the gardens then headed off to get some gelato. It was SO good. Then we got a mini bottle of wine to take to the top of Piazzale Michelangeo which had the best view of the city! It was especially gorgeous at sunset 🙂

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Day 60: The morning was extremely cloudy and the girls were off to explore some of the museums since they were History/ Art History majors so I took a day to catch up on my blog. When the girl got back we headed off to grab some dinner at a place that when you purchased one drink you basically got a buffet included! And it was really good food too, and they kept bringing out more, we didn’t know what half of them were but we kept going back because they were all so delicious! When we got back to the hostel we headed to hostel bar since it was a Friday night but it was SO dead. We just enjoyed each others company then chatted with some other girls from Chicago until they closed it down.

Day 61: Luckily the day was sunny so we headed off to see the Dome which ended up taking the whole afternoon! There were SO many stairs and for the main one we had to wait since they only allowed a certain number of people at the top at one time, which makes sense since it was so small. That’s literally all we did all day was visit the tower then the Dome. I am so glad I had people to do it with thought because otherwise standing in line for the Dome for over and hour would have been a tad boring.

For dinner we decided to check out a more local place and splurge. However, before going out we headed to the roof top terrace/ pool/ bar of our hostel, however the last two were closed but we had a great view of the city and shared a bottle of wine.

I meet a lot of nice, interesting, and fun people while traveling but I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard I couldn’t breath and my abs even started to hurt! We were sharing another bottle of wine at this point but we had a lot of great conversation.

The bar was once again closed at the hostel but Emily and Sarah were leaving the next morning so we went back to the hotel to finish off our last bottle of wine (We’re not alcoholics I swear) and played some card games then had a dance party in the hall since Bud was sleeping.

Day 62: I had given myself blisters walking so much with my new boots and had seen most of Florence twice so took the day to relax, I didn’t get as much done as I had planned to but it’s always good to relax and skype people 🙂

Pisa

Day 63: Whenever I tell myself I’m going to have a couple of down days to REALLY catch up on things, it never happens.

I was the first one to my hostel which was very small. I played Goldilocks and the 3 bears and found the perfect pillow off one bed, perfect bed frame that didn’t squeak and was by a socket, then a perfect mattress! But about 10 minutes later the owner came in and asked me to switch rooms haha then I got to do it all over again!

My first roommate was another girl from California, Heather. She was what I use to consider the average backpacker (I’ve now learned there is no such thing) very nice, open, laid back, wearing intricate designed loose pants, a comfy sweater, and dreads. She said she wanted to explore the city and that honestly sounded way more fun than sitting in my room most of the day, so off we went. We grabbed lunch, some Gelato, and checked out the leaning tower. Now we could say we’ve seen all of Pisa haha

Over lunch I learned Heather does a lot of woofing, she spent a year doing it in California with her dog and she just finished a month on a horse rehabilitation farm. She said it was the hardest work she’s ever done and most isolated, most of the other workers didn’t speak English so she was really excited to meet another native speaker haha

We headed back to the hostel but grabbed some wine and food from the grocery store, more pasta of course. Wine, dinner for 2 nights and breakfast for 2 mornings cost us each $5 euro. I love shopping with people in my hostel.

In the kitchen another hostel mate from upstairs came in to make his dinner and we all started chatting. Taylor was also from California and in Italy for an undetermined amount of time. I later found out he’s one of those super motivated people. He went to pilot school in Hawaii just cause, went to South America for 6 weeks to learn Spanish on his own which turned into 6 months. He’s in Italy now to improve his Italian which is already pretty good, and is headed to a Yoga retreat in Spain afterwards to get certified as an instructor.

We spent the evening drinking wine and chatting when Taylor disappeared to grab his guitar then we started singing. Unfortunately since the hostel was too small we were too loud. SO we took to the streets where another guy from Dublin joined us, we snagged some actually pretty tasty Oranges from a neighbors tree, and sad on the street till we all got tired.

Day 64: Heather was off that morning so Taylor and I decided to check out Viaregglo which she had recommended, about 20 minutes by train away at the beach.

For Ryanair (my flight the next day) you need to print the boarding pass, so instead of stressing about it the next morning we decided to look that morning, it came in handy Taylor knew Italian because he had to ask about 4 different people until we finally found a place. After that we headed to the beach, it was an over cast day but I wanted to walk through the sand and put my feet in the water, it wasn’t as cold as I though for November but still damn cold. We pretty much spent the entire afternoon walking up and down along the board walk. We DID find a gelato shop that a nutmeg/cinnamon delicious christmas tasting gelato that is by far my favorite. Except we had no clue what it was and forgot to take a picture to translate it.

Back at the hostel we both still had left overs to cook from the previous night so bought some wine and threw  all our ingredients in together. It was bomb! Veggies, fresh egg plant, sausage, cheese, and pesto.

Then Cameron came in, a Canadian who had been working on a wine vineyard in France for the past month and was also received to find native English speakers. Eventually when we ran out of wine Cameron decided to go find a bar, we found one down the street that would be open for about another 20 minutes so the boys grabbed another drink but the night pretty much ended with us eating oranges, drinking, Taylor playing his guitar and getting yelled at by locals for being too loud too late.

Day 65: As I was packing up I realized I had lost my camera lens! Which was weird because I hadn’t used it the whole time I was in Pisa. Taylor, Cameron and I walked through the city again before I head to head to the airport since they hasn’t seen the leaning tower yet. After trying to help Cameron take a photo of him kicking over the tower we grabbed some more gelato (did I mention I had gelato about every day I’d been in Italy?) we headed back to the hostel to grab out bags.

 

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Zagreb

“To travel is to find out everything you thought about a country is wrong” And that can’t be truer for Zagreb/ Croatia.

Most people go to Croatia thinking it’s a poorer country, and maybe it’s just because I was in the capital and I don’t mean this in a negative way but it was just as modern and clean as most western European cities.

Day 53: As mentioned in my pervious post (Budapest) I got to the bus station very early in the morning (around 5:15am) to give myself enough time for my 6am bus. However, we were at the wrong station. After finding some other travelers on my bus and asking about 10 different people we finally found someone, within 5 minutes before our bus was to leave, who told us where our bus actually was. Turns out about a total of 15 people were in our situation and we all made it in time.

When we got to the boarder of Croatia around 9am it was freezing. Literally it was 0 Celsius out. We all had to file off the bus into the freezing weather to hand over our passports. I almost thought they were going to have a problem with my emergency passport but I got through. However, there was an indian guy who was denied access so the bus randomly started backing up (they didn’t tell any of us the bus was taking him back to the closest city) so we all had to stand in the cold for another 20 minutes waiting.

Tom picked me up from the bus station in his car, it had been so long since I rode in a car haha. I also met Tom at the Hansen Summer Institute over the summer! We went back to his place where I met his girlfriend, Katarina, who prepared a lunch of cheese, many meats and bread, they were all so good! Then we headed into the city center. We walked through the cathedral, city center, old town area and visited the Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum is full of objects people from across the world have submitted with a short story that represent their broken relationship. There were letters, mementos from first dates, wedding dresses, and much much more. One of my favorites was a heal, just one heal submitted by a prostitute/ dominatrix who ran into an ex and asked to keep the other…

After that we met up with another one of their friends and got some hot wine at a local bar.

Zagreb

That night we went to dinner at a Bosnia restaurant since Katerina is from Bosnia and wanted me to try their local dish. It was SO good, very greasy and buttery called a Cevapi. They also had a band playing traditional Bosnian music which was very very loud and made it almost impossible to hear each other over the instruments.

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Day 54: Tom wasn’t feeling too good so we all spent a lazy day in and I was able to catch up on some blogging and photo editing. Katarina also made some delicious spicy potato dish which they called a pic but by American standards was definitely not a pie. Katarina also helped me with my laundry and told me about the current elections taking place, voting would be the following day so I could go with her and Tom to see.

Day 55: We had left over potato pie for breakfast which was still just as delicious then headed off to get me some new boots. Mine had wholes wear through them and I could still wear them as long as it didn’t rain but I was afraid I’d run into some rain in Italy and my feet would get soaked and boots would definitely be more expensive there. After finding a pair we headed into the city center to the voting stations.

After walking around some more of the city we headed to the massive cemetery. They have just celebrated Day of the Saints on November 1st, similar to Dia de los Muertos. Basically family members go to the graves of their loved ones and bring flowers and candles. We were there a few days after so there were still flowers every where it was absolutely gorgeous!

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That night the poles closed so the whole family sat around the TV watching the results. They release them every couple hours as they collected the votes and by the second to last results they were tied right down the center 56-56! It was all in croatian so I didn’t understand anything but it was interesting to watch.

Day 56: I made sure to pack the night before since my bus was at 8am so Tom and I headed off for the bus station. It was nice to have a ride and not have to worry about finding public transportation. It was the smallest bus I’d ridden on, I’d honestly call it a van. It only fit about 15 people

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Budapest

My new favorite city on my journey 🙂

Day 49: I met Ky on the bus into the city. Turns out she didn’t have any accommodation booked nor know where to go so I offered to show her to the city center, on the way she figured she’d just follow me to my hostel since she didn’t have place booked. And what do you know they had an opening in my room!

First roommate we met was Linda, a 70 yr old woman from Maryland traveling by herself for the past 2 months. She’d spend about a week in each city but I wasn’t able to ask her more about her life/ travels cause she went to bed super early to get up at 4:30 for her bus.

Ky’s from Melbourne, Australia teaching in England for about a year so was just on a week long holiday between Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. She’s also a budget traveler but so we went to the grocery store together. When I got out of the shower Ky had already started cooking and had made two new friends. Bridget was also from Melbourne like Ky and backpacking for four months and turns out we all went to Deakin university! At different times it turned out but what a small world. Lorna was from England who had saved up enough work holiday days and needed to take them before they expired so was doing Vienna and Budapest. It turned out we had all been in Vienna during the same time and all traveled to Budapest within a couple hours of each other. We all ate and chatted for a while until deciding we should all go to the free walking tour the next morning!

Day 50: We met up in the kitchen and headed off. Bridget had data on her phone so she directed us to the tour meeting point. We stopped half way at the Melbourne Coffee house which had decently good coffee. We were the first ones to show up for the tour and with only 5 minutes before it was suppose to start. Then about 25 other people showed up.

The first thing our tour guide told us was that you pronounce Budapest like Buda-peshht. She was a local and she was great! She tried to teach us some Hungarian which proved quite difficult, they have 30 something letters in their alphabet. She also gave us a little card with her favorite food dishes on it for us to try which was super helpful since we couldn’t pronounce any of them.

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Budapest also has a Michael Jackson memorial like Munich, but just under a tree in a local park. I really don’t understand their fascination with him.

Our tour ended on the other side of the river by a Church with an amazingly tiled roof, it was absolutely gorgeous. After taking some pictures there we wandered back to the main side of the river and had our first Langos. They are absolutely delicious, probably thousands of calories but they are SO good. Deep fried dough with toppings kinda like a pizza but not really. Most came with sour cream and cheese, then I added sausage. After our late lunch we walked back to the river to the Parliament which really is a gorgeous building. By this time we were tired so returned to the hostel to rest/ have dinner.

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After dinner we decided to go for a walk around the city and to get some good night photos. The bridges and Parliament looked SO nice all lit up! Although I forgot my camera doesn’t take good night photos. On our way home I met up with my two couch surfing friends from Vienna! We just had a couple beers and continued to talk about our travels.

Day 51: We all decided to go check out the other side of the city so headed off, it was once again a gorgeous sunny day! We walked around a couple more squares/ plazas, small castle, parks, and checked out the Turkish baths. We also found some cute street vendors and another local places that had amazing Langos, this time I got Garlic butter and cheese, SOOO delicious. Ky had to leave after lunch because she was off to Prague and Bridget wasn’t feeling good so Lorna and I kept wandering through the city. I’m so glad we did because we were able to find the rose shaped gelato! We had wanted to go into the Basilica but it was close due to a meeting inside but like I said we got rose shaped gelato so it was all good.

After that we went to go find the local market which was HUGE. and all the stores are starting to get their Christmas stuff in stalk. Lorna also showed me this really cool box, you think you’re able to easily open it BUT the key is hidden some where in the box so you need to move it around, it’s basically like a giant puzzle. The one thing that’s kinda disappointing about backpacking is I can’t really buy anything, which is good for my budget but these boxes were really cool. Guess that’s just my excuse to go back!

That night our hostel was putting on a free wine tasting, which basically turned out to be them just providing us with a bunch of bottles of wine. Lorna and I went to dinner at the hostel and had some really good Goulash and a burger. During the wine tasting we met a lovely couple from Australia in their late twenties who were basically taking a year long honeymoon.

Day 52: My day was spent very hung over. Lorna and I went and got some good thai food for a late brunch before she had to head off to the airport and to say goodbye. (Her flight ended up getting cancelled and they didn’t want to put her on another one until like 5 days later haha so she had to take a bus back to Vienna, to fly to Brussels and have a something like 7 hour layover then fly home). I wanted to spend the whole day in bed but Lorna had told me about a nice hill to climb during sunset so I headed off and am so glad I went. 1 it greatly helped with my hang over to get some cool fresh air and 2 it was absolutely gorgeous! Pictures don’t do it justice or the sunset (that was at 3:45pm) but I’ll just leave them here.

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Day 53: Had to wake up at 4am to pack my pj’s away and make sure I made it to the bus station in time. Which it’s a good thing I did because it turned out my bus wasn’t at the actual station… it was a cross the street. But I found some other travelers in the same situation so we were all able to make it by running frantically across the street 5 minutes before out bus was due to depart at 6am with all our stuff.

If you have to lose your passport, do it in Vienna

I didn’t advertise this because I resolved the issue in about 3 hours while everyone back in the states were sleeping BUT I lost my passport somewhere along the way from getting on the but in Munich to my place in Vienna. I honestly think it fell out of my bag while on the bus because nothing out of my bag was missing doubt someone would just steal that and not my wallet. I didn’t realize this however until the next morning. Luckily I was in a city visiting a friend who had a local phone so I was able to contact the consulate and 3 hours later and $130 less I had my emergency passport.

Day 45:. De Jan was also a participant in the Hansen Summer Institute, originally from Bosnia but studying in Vienna. De Jan met me up from the bus station after chasing down some guy who had stolen money from Refugees who needed tickets but didn’t want to be registered so asked the stranger to buy them tickets. After he talked tot he police we took the metro into the city. We stopped at a cafe for a beer and fries when suddenly an ambulance pulled up. Someone inside the cafe was excessively drunk ha. I love how the cafes have blankets for the out door seating. After that on the walk to his dorm we saw a bunch of fire trucks that looked like they had put out a fire, there was water every where but none of the surrounding building looked damaged. We also passed several police cars on the street. He was so surprised because he had been telling me how Vienna was super safe but we encountered every form of Emergency services in about an hour of my arrival. I’d be staying at De Jan’s dorm room while he stayed at his gf’s apartment which wasn’t big enough to fit 3. The dorms however were male only so I kept getting strange looks haha.

Day 46:  De Jan came and picked me up to show me around the city and that’s when I realized I didn’t have my passport. After calling the consulate and them calling back with an appointment time we went to lunch on top of this gorgeous building and had a fabulous view of the city.

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We went and got my passport which went my surprisingly quickly, then we walked through the city some more on the way to see his university. That night De Jan was going to Taekwondo class so I found a group meet up on couchsurfers.com. I’ve never actually couch surfed before but I’ve met people via the forum before. The meet up was at a hostel bar on the other side of town. When I entered I saw the main group of people sitting in the common room but headed to the bar to grab a drink first. I ordered a drink and asked the first person I saw if they were there for couch surfers. And they were! Two other Americans from the east coast backpacking for 3 months and usually couch surfed. We spent the entire evening at the bar talking about travels and them giving me advice on couch surfing. Maybe I’ll actually try it in the future.

Day 47:  De jan got held up running errands for the day so I was off to explore the city on my own. I had gotten some new books from Rowan in Munich so grabbed one and headed off to find a park since it was still sunny out. I went back to my place to grab lunch then headed off to Schönbrunn Palace, it was MASSIVE! It was still sunny and the Autumn leaves covered the ground. There were certain trails that were completely covered and you had to shuffle your feet through 3-4 inches of leaves, it was great. I spent my entire afternoon there.

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Day 48:  Sunday we went for a walk/ hike on some hill right next to Vienna (yeah they called it a hill haha) had lunch and wine on the hill at a gorgeous little cafe/ vineyard! De Jan and his girl friend made sure I tried plenty of local Austrian dishes.

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After our hike we headed to the Prater which is basically an amusement park, it was so much fun! We only went on one ride but I enjoyed walking around. The one ride we did go on was super fun and right as we got to the top we had an amazing view of the sunset over the ferris wheel, then the ride started ha.

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Day 49: My bus wasn’t until noon so I was able to sleep in a bit before heading out. De Jan came to say bye and I was off!

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Munich

Day 39: I arrived in Munich at dark. It was the first time I had arrived to a city when it was dark and on top of that didn’t have someone picking me up. But I had my directions and wandered around until I found someone who could point me in the direction of my bus stop.

Markus was another member of GAA last fall and offered to host me while I was in Munich! Once I made it to his place we went to dinner at a Turkish restaurant that had VERY slow service. We had 1 course and it took 2 hours! But they did give us a free shot at the end of the meal. Markus had some colleagues who were going out for drinks so we wandered toward the city center. Every where was PACKED but we finally found a place that wasn’t too bad and had an open table. It’s a bit strange because you pretty much always seat yourself, you don’t wait for someone to come and seat you.

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Day 40: We had a lazy morning in and watched a few episodes of Fargo which is really good. Sadly we didn’t realize it was so nice and sunny out until we left! Then we were off to Stuttgart where Markus would be meeting him grandmother for a surprise trip to Cirque-o-lay and I was off to visit another friend. The train ride from Munich to Stuttgart was gorgeous, I didn’t manage to get any good pics but it was a beautiful Autumn afternoon and the sun was shining bright.

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Stuttgart

I met Odai just this summer at the Hansen Summer Institute in San Diego. He’s originally from Syria but studying in Istanbul and currently doing a year abroad in Stuttgart.

Markus’s grandma found us first at the train station and soon Odai found us. Markus’s grandma spoke perfect English! Which isn’t too common for the older generations. Apparently she lived in Canada for a while which is why she was fluent. She then suggested we go to the Panorama point of the train station. It gave us a great view of the city and were able to point out different areas of the city.

That night Odai and I went out but spent majority of our time on the metro going to wrong places because his friends had already left and weren’t answering their phones haha. We finally made it and it was like being at a college again, everyone was an international student. Found another dipole ganger but of a kid I had studied abroad with two years ago. We eventually went to a club where we lost half the group and after about an hour of dancing we walked home.

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Day 41: We took the morning to sleep in, well Odai did I’m horrible at sleeping in after a night out drinking so I continued to read my book I had gotten in Prague. We had a late brunch and set off to explore Stuttgart. We walked around the city center, checked out a castle or two, and ended out by the Cathedral.

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On our last leg home we got stopped by ticket police which Odai said were rarely out/ checked. But I managed to talk my way out of a €60 fine and just bought a day ticket for 6 I started buying tickets after that ha. We enjoyed a movie night in watching ‘the minion’ movie and eating movie snacks we had bought on our way back.

Day 42: Odai had class as it was now Monday so I took the morning to read some more, I was getting seriously sucked into my book. When he got back we had lunch, I packed up my things and headed off to walk around the city a little bit more before my train back to Munich. We walked through a park and played on the swings for a while. I can’t remember the last time I went on a swing set when not playing with any kids, it was relaxing. We went back tot he Panorama view point on top of the train station and started looking at the locks. We found an obviously recent lock but engraved with their anniversary from 1974.

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Markus was out of town that week for work but had given me the keys to his place! It was so nice to have a big comfy King size bed to sleep in and my own room.

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Day 43: I didn’t get too much sleep that weekend and Markus bed was SO comfortable it was hard to get up. I finally managed to leave the house to head to the city center for another free walking tour. As I’ve probably said before they all start to blur together but I mainly go to meet other travelers now. I immediately noticed there was another guy by himself so started talking. Rowan was from Canada and doing a gap year/ taking five months to travel Europe.

Our tour guide was nice but would try and cram too much into each spot so we’d end up standing in one place for 15-20 minutes which is way too long for a cold windy day. The most interesting thing I remember was the Michael Jackson memorial. It’s located in front of his favorite hotel, people still come daily to light candles and lay flowers haha.

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After the tour Rowan and I decided to grab dinner together, we ended up staying for 3 beers and desert because the conversation was so good. We decided the next day we’d go to a famous castle on the boarder of Germany and Austria, the Neuschwanstein Castle, that his hostel was hosting.

Markus’s roommate is so nice, when I got back from dinner she came in to chat with me for a while before bed. She’s back in school for Architecture but has traveled a decent amount herself.

Day 44: In a separate post but basically the day was awesome.

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Day 45: I took the morning to sleep in after waking up so early for the castle which was probably a bad idea, I hadn’t packed the night before so was frantically shoving my stuff in my bag to not miss the local bus to the bus station. I got to the station with about 2 minutes to spare before the bus pulled up, we hopped on and took off. If I had missed my city bus (which I almost did) I wouldn’t have made my charter to Vienna, which honestly might not have been that bad since I lost my passport on that bus.

Prague

Day 35: I added my new leather making friend I had met on the bus on Whatsapp in the hopes I’d be able to go to her show. She was going to try and see if she could get me a free pass to enter! We parted ways and I was off on one of my longest walks to my hostel. When I arrived I was so tired, it was quicker for me to walk than take public transportation from the bus station even thought it was 45 minutes away. I had a delicious dinner of traditional Czech Beef Goulash, the meat just fell apart in my mouth it was SO good! However, I crave coke now, like all the time. I’m going to have to start restrict myself from now on cause if I don’t feel like drinking beer I get a coke and I could DOWN a bottle so fast it’s SO good.

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Day 36: It was cold but not raining. I got to my free walking tour and a guide from Georgia recommended a local backers for breakfast, finally some cheap local food! Once again I didn’t know what anything was so just pointed to a couple pastries that looked good, the three equalled out to less than 1 U.S. dollar.
People were quiet on the tour, I spotted a few other solo travelers but none seems too out going. Eventually I approach another girl and asked if she was traveling alone, she replied ‘Yup, are you also a lone wolf?’ I immediately thought of Mamma Mia. She’s only 18, just graduated high school in Australia and is doing a solo 3 month backpacking trip. She said her family travels a lot but even so I couldn’t imagine doing this at 18 right out of high school.
At the halfway point two other solo travelers decided to join us, a girl from Taiwan who’s English wasn’t that good and a guy from Canada. The Canadian joined us on the second half of the tour, he was also doing a post grad 3 month backpacking trip.
After the tour we all went to a late lunch and had more goulash. And some very bad beer to be honest. Was too bitter for me. I realized that all the restaurants bring you your silver wear and napkin on one plate for everyone. After lunch I stopped to try a Trdelnik. It’s a hollow, spiral pastry that is rolled in cinnamon and you can add either nuts, carmel or chocolate on the inside. I of course got chocolate.

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Afterwards I headed back to my hostel due to an upset stomach. I went out again later that night before dinner to try and get some good shots of Charlie’s bridge but it was raining and I forgot my camera doesn’t take good night pictures.

Day 37: I headed out that morning half in search of the John Lennon wall half to just wander around my side of the river. It took a while to find the wall because certain roads were closed due to some important person from Belgium being in town. The wall/my hostel is near the Prague Castle but also all the embassy’s. The John Lennon was was gorgeous, hundred of people write new quotes on it each day, all about hope, happiness, and peace.

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In my wandering a I found a little bookstore, used English books! I had half been looking for a book store for a while but finding used English books (usually they are new) can sometimes be difficult. I met up with Canadian for lunch and talked about our travels some more. Then we walked up to the castle where we parted ways again, I went inside and he went up to Strahov Monastery. That would be my stop the next day. The castle was MASSIVE. The cathedral inside was free to enter but just about everything else has been turned into a museum of sorts and cost to go into. None of the museums sparked my attention as super interesting so I just wandered around for a good two hours. I Skyped more family and friends and enjoyed some delicious pasta for dinner with a couple people in my hostel.

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Day 38: I got a late start but ended up spending my whole day up at the Strahov Monastery and wandering around the Petrin Hill. It was finally sunny out and with the Autumn leaves it was absolutely GORGEOUS. There’s really not much else to say, the pictures can’t do proper justice to how beautiful that day was. I spent the whole day up there.

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On my way back to the hostel for dinner I stopped by the John Lennon wall again. This time there was a street performer playing Beatle songs and it made the wall that more magical.

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Day 39: My bus wasn’t until later in the evening so I took the morning to go back to the Petrin Hill. I never was able to meet up with my leather making friend, the show didn’t start until the day before I left and she didn’t message me until mid day while I was out to come visit. After walking around Petrin Hill I stopped at a cafe near my hostel. The hot chocolate only looks goods, it was really bad. That’s about the only disappointing thing about Prague is they don’t know how to make Hot Chocolate. However, the Apple strudel I had after that was absolutely delicious!

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Northern Germany

Hamburg 

I keep finding nicer and nicer buses AND for only $10-20 US dollars. People keep asking if I use the euro rail but with my short distances it really isn’t worth it, I have the time to spend 4-6 hours on a bus. However, if you’re traveling for a shorter amount of time and visiting more spaced out cities then I probably would recommend euro rail because I tend to just spend those days on the bus cause I never want to wake up super early.

Day 28: The bus from Amsterdam was a long one. I said goodbye to the few hostel mates I knew that were left (most left Sunday morning) and wandered off to the bus station. People seemed to understand me in English but would then give me directions in German…. Excessive hand gesturing became my best friend. My bus arrived in Hamburg right above the metro and the metro took me within a 5 minute walk of the place I was staying. My childhood best friends dad grew up in Hamburg, and I was staying with his best friend from college. Ralf was a petit but energetic man, we chatted over some white wine then headed out for dinner. I thought he had said there was a delicious sea food pasta (sea food is big in Hamburg being so close to the ocean) that he ordered for me but it was mini octopus (not quite like calamari cause it wasn’t breaded), another chewy sea food (honestly no clue what it was) with Salad but it was really good! We then waited for Ralfs espresso, which the bar tender had forgotten, and it was really only the size of a sip.

Maybe it’s just cause I don’t go to cafes that often even in the states but the espresso here seem to get smaller and smaller with each city. And most of the time the already very tiny cup is only half full! That’s something else I’ve been having to get use to, they don’t always fill your coffee or hot chocolate cup to the top, it comes out of the machine and if it fills it, it fills it. If it doesn’t, well then it doesn’t. I just kept imagine the complaints most Americans would give their servers if that happened to them. – I later found out why the cups are never full, normally people drink at the cafe so the drink isn’t filled to the top so it won’t spill when walking to the table!

Day 29: Moin moin is a common Hamburger greeting and (yes the people from Hamburg actually call themselves Hamburgers, but it’s pronounced differently so doesn’t sound as funny with my American accent).
I headed to the city center for my usual Sandman Free Tour. It’s not entirely free, you are expected to tip them at the end but you tip them for however good they were. My tour guide looked like the dipole ganger of a friend back in the states, but I never managed to take a decent picture. He was from Miami, fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and now German. He moved to Hamburg to get his masters since it was practically free (like 250 euros a semester) and hasn’t left since he finished two years ago. Before the tour stated I found a woman hand feeding pigeons haha

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The tour started at the Town Hall, and our guide summarized the history of Hamburg into about 10 minutes. I’ve known this but really started to realize how city tours are starting to blur together. There’s the town Hall, an old cathedral, a city famous statue, and maybe a famous dish the guide recommends us to try, a famous statue to rub for good luck, and a big pretty fountain somewhere. However, it was interesting hearing about the Hamburg Fire, I had heard of it before but didn’t actually know much about it. They never caught the arsonist but they think it was a disgruntled employee trying to burn down the cigar shop he worked at. He failed. The cigar shop is still there and he ended up burning down half the town over the course of 3 days and killing 30 some people before they finally got the fire out.

After the tour I wandered around the city by myself, I checked out the harbor, botanic gardens, and St Michaels church. That night we went out for Sushi! On the walk home Ralf kept trying to help me with my German pronunciations even though I had nothing to work off of. The main confusing this was the a W is pronounced like a V, a V if pronounced like an F, and I think F is pronounced like a W…?

Day 30: I had multiple different people mistake me for a local, or at least someone who spoke German. Funny thing was I would just say ‘sorry English’ and a look of shock would wash over their face but be like ‘oh okay’ but then just ask me in English.

I took the morning to sleep in a bit but headed out before lunch since it was suppose to rain in the afternoon. The weather was cold and it was suppose to rain in the afternoon so I headed off to find the Alstar, it’s basically an important river in Hamburg. After walking around there for a while I headed back toward the house to find a cafe, I wanted to be close incase it really started raining. I found an adorable cafe named May’s, I didn’t know what any of the signs said but picked what turned out to be a delicious apple stroddle type thing, and the hot chocolate was once again delicious. I had brought my laptop with me so spent the afternoon doing some much needed catching up on my blog. While at the cafe I had 3 different people come up to me and start speaking in German. One to ask if I could use the socket by feet to charge her iPad, another if my wifi was working, and a third to know the time.

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Ralf left that afternoon to Berlin while I was out, when I got back the house cleaner was there who also assumed I spoke German. Bettina, his wife, got back fairly late and made a delicious late dinner snack of wild mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. (She had been visiting one of their sons up north by the Black Sea) It’s been so long since I’ve had good vegetables! As she was cutting up the mushrooms I asked her about the different kinds and she told me one is poison ‘but don’t worry, I ate it last night and I’m still alive!’ Needless to say I am as well, apparently you just have to boil it long enough to pull the toxins out. As mentioned before the mushrooms and Brussels sprouts were deliciously seasoned and we had some red wine and fresh tea with dinner.

Day 31: I packed up my things and headed out in the light rain. I mistakenly ended up standing with my bag on while waiting for my bus. Never again. I arrived 15 minutes in advance like they advice and figured ‘meh I can wear it for 15’ but then the bus was late and I kept thinking as soon as I take it off it’ll get here. It was 30 minutes late ha

Berlin

I love how Germans say ‘Make Party’ and I’m not making fun of their English cause I know it’s a hard language I genuinely enjoy it when they say that. I’ve ran into several Germans who ask if I’m going to  ‘make party’ tonight vs just party or partying. It was raining and almost dark by the time I arrived. I checked out Yelp to see which direction I should head towards for dinner. As soon as a burger place popped up I was suddenly craving burgers and it was exceptionally reasonably priced, and very delicious.

Day 32: My newest hostel mate is a porn actor. I am not joking he spent about 30 minutes that morning telling me about his work life and how people are normally so surprised but he’s been doing it for 8 years so its common for him. It was such a strange conversation, not creepy or awkward at all just strange, he’s in town for a porn expo to talk to producers etc haha.

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Sam came to meet me at my hostel so I wouldn’t get too lost train hopping to the city center. Sam studied at SDSU for 1.5 years but I didn’t meet him until Spring 2014 when I got back from Barcelona. He transferred after that semester to Berlin and I haven’t seen him since! We spent a while on the metro, went the wrong direction once, but we eventually made it to the Brandenburg Gate. I cannot pronounce anything in German it’s horrible ha then we got some delicious kebabs, I hadn’t had any since being back in Europe and forgot how delicious they are! Then we wandered over to the Jewish memorial, lost each other in there and headed to the Sony center. Afterwards we headed into the mall to find the restrooms, which is when I realized I still needed a hat, my ears have started to freeze at night or if there’s a decent amount of wind. After trying on half the store’s selection, cause I don’t wear hats, I finally picked one out. After that we wandered through Tiergarten park on our way to Victory Column. I forgot how much I miss being out in nature. The park is HUGE so you can’t hear the sounds of traffic around you. It was cloudy out but the Autumn leaves and green ponds were still gorgeous. Our hands were freezing and feet ached from walking all afternoon so we headed to Alexander plaza to wait for Eddie. We found a cafe, ordered some hot chocolate and pastries, and talked to our Cyprus host.

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Eddie was also part of GAA but last Fall semester.  Eddie and I wandered around the center and the Light Festival. We soon met up with one of his friends and ended up back at theorist place Sam and I went to, Brandenburg Gate. Before we got back there we wandered around Museum Island, got some warm wine which is usually only sold during Christmas at the markets but I guess because it was so cold out and the light festival was going on a few stands came out. We went and saw the Sony center at night, checked out Charlie’s check point, and grabbed a quick dinner/late night snack. We arrived just in time at the Brandenburg Gate as we arrived they announced the 60 second count down until the video competition. They festival has their own version, then there were 6 finalist done by light show company’s from around the world. I’m not entirely sure what the theme was but I liked Australia’s the most. It didn’t quite fit the theme of what everyone else was doing but it was about tree’s/ life and was very nice.

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We finally made it to the bar a little after 11 and didn’t end up leaving until 2 hours later. The boys were headed the club and anticipated they’d be there until about 6 or 7 am so I decided to head back to the hostel. The boys waited with me for my tram to arrive and I was off to find an unpleasant surprise back at my hostel.

I got back to my hostel around 2am, and the new roommate, a guy in his 70’s I’d say, had an old fashion ticking clock. But it wasn’t ticket every second it was ticking every millisecond and was on the night stand in between us.

Day 33: I got maybe 3 hours of sleep? I didn’t end up falling asleep until maybe 3:30am? Then would wake up every 45 minutes it felt like. Then clock guy got up at 6:30, had his own hot water maker in the room, made his breakfast and didn’t leave until 9am! I was up the entire time and then couldn’t fall back asleep. I had a lazy morning, made more bookings, finally made my flight from Italy to Spain, the bus would just take WAY too long. Before meeting up with Eddie I wandered around Charolttenburg, I walked around the stores on the hunt for another hat with no luck but did find some ear plugs. Then wandered around a farmers market, and then went for lunch and a yelp recommended Persian place. The lamb was SO delicious. I met up with Eddie and two of his other friends as we headed to Berlin last weekend of Octoberfest.  Contrary to popular belief Octoberfest is celebrate in other cities besides Munich, Munich is just the largest. I honestly think I would prefer the Berlin one to Munich because it was mostly locals. The old couples were SO cute, (and by old I do mean old like 70) they got there early to get good seats so were already drunk by the time we arrived, and once the live band started playing they all started dancing!

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Two liters of beer is a lot, which me and eddies two girl friends thought we could handle. The second portion of the evening was a bit of a blur and was spent dancing on the tables and fake siging along to German songs I had NO clue as to what they were saying.

Day 34: Day 4 of Berlin was spent mostly sleeping now that I had earplugs and being hung over. I managed to go out for lunch and grab a Döner and then wandered over to the Charlottenburg palace. I was able to skype with a few family and friends but I mostly spent the day enjoying Netflix.

Day 35: It was once again sprinkling when I headed out, at least it wasn’t actual rain like when I arrived. At the bus station a girl asked me to watch her bag while she went and grabbed a snack before the bus arrived. When she got back we started talking, she was going to Prague as well but for an art show! She went to design school and now makes leather furniture and accessories. She was going to the show to show her jewelry type leather materials which is why her bag was so large. Luckily our bus was on time and we were off.

Try not to die while riding a bike in Amsterdam

Just do it. You only live once right? So take a bike ride in Amsterdam and hope it’s not your last. I lucked out on the weather in Amsterdam, it was chilly but by noon everyday the sun burned off the clouds and it was a gorgeous sunny day.

Day 24: Our bus dropped us off on the outskirts of the city so everyone scrambled off to find the closets metro. I started talking to a woman, about mid 30’s, who was struggling with two large suitcases. I asked her if she was moving to the city with so much luggage, she just laughed and said no she’s been traveling for the past 3 years. My immediate response was ‘With all that luggage?!” She then told me her story. She hated working her 9-5 office job so left to teach English in South Korea for a year. But she loved it and ended up staying for 3, now she was on her way back to the states doing a 3 month euro trip, with three years worth of clothes she’s collected in Asia, and almost broke. She said her next plan of action was to get a temporary job, then immediately leave once she’d earned enough. I then told her about my 3 month backpacking trip and she told me by the end I would have the travel bug, I told her the travel bug is why I’m even on this trip.

The first roommate I met was a guy from Finland who fit the definition of a tourist in Amsterdam, he was high out of his mind the whole time he was there BUT very nice. I usually don’t go out on my first night in a hostel, new city, it’s dark, no clue how to get around and don’t speak the language but there was a local staying in the hostel as well. He offered to show me around the area which was very nice. We met a guy on the street who tried to sell me a stolen bike for 10 euros.

Day 25: I went down to breakfast and recognized two of my roommates, a Spaniard and a guy from Taiwan. After talking about plans for the day Alex, from Taiwan, decided to join me for a walk around city center and the free tour. We went to the city a couple hours early and just walked around the streets, it was gorgeous! It was sunny and there were flowers over all the canals. Our tour guide was from Germany and gave us a great tour of the city. He ended with tellings us we ALL needed to start calling Venice the Amsterdam of the South instead of the other way around because Amsterdam is bigger and has more canals then Venice! I guess I’ll see if that was true or not in a couple weeks!

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That night I convinced a couple roommates to go to the Red Light District. It wasn’t quite as I expected, it was girls standing in what honestly looked like bikinis in windows and most were just talking to each other. A few were trying to catch the eye of some guys but I never saw guys actually at the windows. I later heard they’re trying to shut it down because the girls only make $100-150 euros a night on average because tourists are usually with families so it’s not that big of a tourist attraction they thought it would be, at least for a different purpose.

Day 26: My Dutch roommate had offered to give me a private bike tour that day and who am I to turn down an offer like that? We probably should have planned it a little better because by the time we went down to the front office, about noon, all the bikes had already been rented. SO he biked and I took the tram into the city center, by the time we finally got to a bike rental place it was already 2pm!

I think riding through central Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon has been the most scared I’ve been so far. There are other bikers, cars and pedestrians EVERYWHERE!

Our first stop was Vondelpark park. Where we ended up waiting for almost an hour for some fries because they forgot our order but they were delicious! Then we rode a little more, and stopped along the way to have some wine in cute little mini bottles along a park canal. We spent the rest of the evening riding around the out skirts of the city along parks and canals.

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That evening they had a bonfire out back, it was freezing so we didn’t stay too long but drank a couple beers and hung out by the fire.

Day 27: I rode my bike to city center by myself along the canal. It was great! I felt liberated and free riding along the canal with the freezing wind and gorgeous sun shining. The air was SO chilly my nose felt like it was going to fall off and my tail bone hurt from riding so much the day before but… The sun was shining, the river was beautiful, and I felt at peace.

I met a roommate and a guy from Chile we had met at breakfast at the city center so we could check out the IAMSTERDAM sign. It was VERY cold out and the wind was picking up but at least it was sunny! We walked around the museums but the lines were all ridiculously long then walked back into the city center. After getting lost we walked around and sampled cheese from at least 5 different places, exactly what we needed before we went into a 3 story coffee house.

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On the way back to the hostel I at in a park for 30 mins and listened to the fountain, the bikes, the people, the cars, the birds, the languages, and soaked up the sun. I watched two sisters, probably 4 and 1.5 run around and play in the dirt and fountain. I watch a two year old practice biking on a bike that had no training wheels or pedals so he just used his feet.
When my Spanish roommate was leaving that night as he was saying goodbye to everyone and told me “Me infierno…” (I can’t remember exactly what he said) But he told me it translates to “You give me passion.” I had told him about my solo backpacking trip several days ago but it’s always nice to hear that my travels inspire, or give passion, to others 🙂

Day 28:

I packed a small lunch for myself at the hostel breakfast, even though we’re not suppose to every does anyways but I had a long day of bus riding ahead.

Amsterdam was another city I left a part of my heart in.

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