"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalks again; we had longer ways to go.
But no matter, the road is life." -
Jack Kerouac


City of Lights

We went to Paris on the high speed train from Munich, yeah thats right, the train was up to 320 km/hour. That´s 198.8 mph for all of you who don´t want to google it. It was pitch black out, so we couldn´t see much, but we could tell that we were going really fast. I think we entered Paris with a little trepidation based purely on rumors of the country (and the people). But by the time we´d left, we´d been treated pretty well. We found the hostel, which has been one of the more "interesting" ones thus far. It was located in a neighborhood that would make our dads cringe and our moms cry. The room was small, with barely enough room to turn around, the hostel was dirty, and I feared for our lives if there were to be a fire. And we had 5 nights booked in this lovely place! However, we decided to grin and bear it. We spent little time there because there was so much to see and do in Paris! It was also much sunnier and warmer than Germany, which was one of my favorite parts.

Our first day in Paris we wandered our way to Notre Dame and found Paris´ oldest bridge, The Pont Neuf, both of which are located in the oldest part of the city, an island in the middle of the Seine River. While we were touring through Notre Dame, we heard our names and realised that our dorm-mates from Munich were now in Paris. Definitly a surprise to get recognised in Paris. We then attemted to check out the catacombs and found them closed for renovations! We did check out the Latin quarter and the Pantheon and then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. The tower was huge and not exactly beautiful up close. But we walked to the second platform (they make you pay another 11 euro to actually go to the top) and the view was pretty amazing, especially as the sun was setting over Paris. We walked through the adjacent gardens and took some lovely photos of the tower all it up at night.

The next day we checked out a free walking tour that our Munich friends had mentioned. Upon leaving the hostel that morning, the hostel workers asked us if we wanted to do a free walking tour and we decided, nah, we´ll go on this other one that was recommended to us. Ironically enough, a few minutes after we arrived at the tour meeting place, the guy from the hostel shows up and it turns out that he is the tour guide! It was a really good tour of Paris and we learned a lot of the city´s history. We saw the palace that now houses The Louvre with it´s glass pyramid, the Tuileries (the former palace gardens), the obelisk which is located where the guillotine used to stand, and the Arc de Triomphe where the body of the unknown soldier lies. This is also the location of the world´s biggest roundabout with 12 streets leading off of it. After the tour, we grabbed some crepes for dinner. Mine filled with nutella and bananas and Mike´s with ham and cheese. We then headed to the Louvre because under 26´s get in free on Friday nights. I was too old, poor me, it stinks being a cradle robber. And I do feel discriminated against because Europe hates people 26 and over, stupid age limits! But we did get to see the Mona Lisa! And, it was really small and she does make you wonder what is on her mind? The tourists were thick like mosquitoes, so after pondering for just a moment, we moved on. We also saw the Venus de Milo and the lavishly furnished apartments of Napoleon III. The museum is overwhelmingly huge and we finally gave up in defeat and headed back to the hostel.

The next morning, we went to check out the grave of Jim Morrison in the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, which has over 800,00 people buried in it. It was a small, simple grave that had been turned into some sort of shrine and now has gates all the way round, two gaurds, and flowers overwhelming it. People can be creepy. We tried to go back to Notre Dame to see the piece of the cross and the crown of thorns that the tour guide told us about but they are only on display on the first friday of the month from 1-4. Another Paris opportunity missed. But we did find another used book store with English titles, which is always fun. We also tried to unsuccessfully to see the original Moulin Rouge, but two of our room mates went to the show and had a good time; they also paid 89 Euro apiece to go the 11:00 pm show. Ouch.

The next morning, we found a parade of people playing Christmas music on horns and marching down the street in Santa hats. This inspired us to buy our Christmas dinner in the little wine, cheese, and fruit shops lining the streets. That afternoon we went to Musee D´Orsay, which is in a former train station. We both enjoyed many of Monet and Pissaro´s works, as well as many others. After the museum, we enjoyed some fondue. We dipped meats, potatoes, and bread into beer cheese and it was delightful. Next morning, we said Au revoir to Paris and made our way to Bayonne for Christmas.

Photos HERE.


Happy Holidays!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Mike: We bought a baguette, 2 bottles of French red wine (the cheap stuff), some cheese, fruit and salami to celebrate a quiet Christmas in a bed and breakfast in Bayonne, France. Wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas!



Finally, we can share some photos with everyone. Don't get overwhelmed by the quantity, maybe only look at a few at a time :)


Enjoy, and tell us what you think. Good or bad (I'll just delete the bad!)

Munich, Salzburg, Ulm, and Garmisch

I think these places will all be rolled into one posting as we went to Salzburg; then on to Munich for a couple days. We then took a train from Munich up to Ulm, where we stayed with Drew and his girlfriend, Sabrina. We then went back to Munich, took a day trip to Garmisch. Confusing, I know, which is why I am throwing them all together. This will be a short post because the letters on the keyboards in Paris are in different places and it is infuriatingly slow to type. It requires typing one letter at a time...

Salzburg was a gorgeous city in the midst of mountains and, of course, there was a fortress in the middle. The first night we arrived at our hostel, after walking 2 miles in slushy snow, we barely caught the nightly viewing of the Sound of Music. Just so everyone knows, it was Mike who suggested we watch it. It was kind of fun to watch the movie and then see the places the next day. This is also the hostel where we came upon the bed stealing couple who took my things and tossed them onto another bed after I had claimed it. This was a major offense of which they said nothing when they came into the room that night. I was not brave enough to reclaim the bed but I did get up the guts to question them about it the next morning. Turns out it was a misunderstanding, they thought the beds were assigned...oops. Other than this, we wandered round the city, hiked up quite a few stairs for a view, and ate some good food. By the time it was dark, Mike was sniffeling and feeling terrible so we had an early night.

Munich was great with Christmas markets and lights all over but it was very cold. We had lunch at a decent restaurant where the waiter thought he was pretty sneaky and tried to overcharge us because the menu was in German. He was not happy when 15 mins later his manager made him give us back our money after I complained. That night we checked out the Hoffbrau haus, a famous and touristy beer hall. We were planning on having some good German beer and some brats. The place was packed with a traditional German band in the middle and more twists and turns than a maze. We ended up sharing a table with a couple from Australia. We got to talking, ordered more beer, and ended up getting kicked out around 1 in the morning, walking back to the hostel with our new found Australian friends, who happened to be staying at the same place.
Somehow, Munich was warmer at 1 am, who knew?

Ulm was nice; we had hot wine and dinner with Drew Joechl (graduated with Mike) and Sabrina and the stayed at their house in a little suberb outside of the city. We watched a movie, with popcorn and couches and it was heavenly to just sit and relax. The next night we went with Drew and Sabrina to her Great Uncles 87th birthday party. It was great fun to meet Sabrinas family, talk with them through the family members who knew English, and enjoy German cake, wine, and schnapps. Thanks to Drew, Sabrina, and her family for welcoming us into their homes. Next day, we were able to take a tour of Pisten Bully, where both Drew and Sabrina work. For those who dont know, this is the company that makes snowcats to groom ski slopes. They hold about 60 percent of the world market. It was really neat to see how they were produced. We didnt get a ride in one but we did get to sit in one and pretend.

We took the train back to Munich and had more delicious Bavarian food; lots and lots of saurkraut. Next morning, it was off to beautiful Garmisch for the day. It it set in a little valley with amazing snow and evergreen covered jagged peaks all the way round. Breathtaking and very, very cold. Back at the hostel that evening, we were trying to convince ourselves to go out in the cold when the waitress from the hostel bar asked if we wanted to order takeout. We were all for the idea and ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out at the hostel and talking to our room mate about where to go in Italy as he had lived there for two years. The next morning we wandered around the expansive Englishcher Gardens, where in the summer, Germans are known to sunbathe nude and drink beer at the many beer gardens along the water.

Damn winter.


Krakow, Poland

Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but we've had a lot going on. Unfortunately, I still don't have photos to share. I'm starting to think that all these kids travelling with their own laptop aren't stupid, but actually quite a bit smarter than myself!

We left Vienna for Krakow on 12/6 by train. We'd purchased tickets earlier, knowing that the Czech Republic and Poland are not part of our Eurail passes. So, we were a bit surprised when the ticket-taker on the train told us that we had only purchased tickets for the Czech Republic, and had to buy the additional Poland portion. The next time we saw our ticket-taker friend, he asked us where it was we were going, to which we replied, "Krakow". He slapped his hand to his head and said "Oh no, we just passed the stop you needed to transfer at!" (note that no one had mentioned a transfer to us at this point; it was appartently something that we should have known). The ticket-taker ushered us out at the next stop, and told us to wait for the next train going the opposite direction. That would take us to our transfer, and then off to Krakow. We bought more tickets and caught the next train to the transfer station. The ticket sales-lady told us to go to platform 4, but there was no train. Across the way, at platform 3, we saw a sign that said "Krakow", so we jumped on it. Naturally, we were thinking that we were pretty slick and that our mini-adventure was finally wrapping up. Until, that is, the ticket-taker on the train looked at our tickets. He shook his head, saying that we were on an express train and had non-express tickets, and we ended up purchasing the 4th tickets of the day. Finally, at 11pm, we had made it to our hostel.

The next morning, we did the usual, and walked around checking stuff out. We found the old town center, with it's two large squares, and a giant statue of some guy's head lying on it's ear. We ate a big Polish lunch with many different meat-products in different shapes and sizes and potatoes. Later in the afternoon, we walked up and around the inside of the Krakow castle. It was late, and they were near closing-time. After a short bit, a guard motioned for us to follow him through a door. In keeping with my rule of generally listening to people who have guns and don't speak much english, we did. Turns out he was escorting us out a side-door exit. The rest of the day was consumed with searching the internet for a place to sleep on Christmas and New Years, and buying our tickets out of Krakow (which turned out to be a bit easier than getting into Krakow).

The day after, we were up early to catch the bus for Auschwitz, one of the Nazi concentration camps now turned into a museum/memorial. Needless to say, this was one of the most powerful experiences either Emily or myself has ever had. I won't go into pain-staking detail of all that we saw in our 6 hours at the museum, but will mention some of the parts that stood out (for me): the giant rooms full of the victims' personal posessions (hairbrushes, shoes, suitcases) and human hair (a whole room of women's hair, some of it stil braided after all this time), the descriptions of how victims were lured into the gas chambers with the promise of a shower after their long travels in cattle rail-cars and the fake showerheads hanging overhead in the chambers, the descriptions and photos of the experiments carried out on humans, and finally, walking through the gas chambers. Never have I felt so overwhelmed by and powerless against the extremes of human nature as when I walked through these concrete rooms.

That evening, back in Krakow, we caught a jazz show in an underground
club (no, literally, like in a brick basement). The band leader was a 60-something year old saxophonist who sat down in his chair and smoked a pipe every time he wasn't playing and yelled at the audience when someone spoke. It was a good show.

The next day was a train ride into Budapest, Hungary. Krakow was fun, and Auschwitz was an experience I won't soon forget.

Budapest, Hungary

We arrived in Budapest late in the evening (after a 9 hour train ride from Krakow) and finally managed to figure out the subway system and get to our hostel, after finding a broken ticket machine and about 10 homeless guys. This hostel was interesting, as it was an apartment on the third floor of an old building. We were given a key to get into the building, a key to get into the hostel gate, which then needed to be locked from the other side and got stuck in the keyhole every time, and then we were told not to be too loud because the downstairs neighbors were complaining. The hostel wasn't bad, just a little quirky. After this trip, I will be satisfied with life if I never see another bunkbed again. Mike, however, has been inspired and now feels the need to build queen size bunkbeds from our two beds. Ummm...no.

Our first day in Budapest was full of rain. It rained steadily all day but we just put on our rain gear and went out anyway. The city is really beautiful with many old buildings (imagine that) and a river running through it. We crossed the river, took a 30 second tram ride up the hill, and wandered around Castle Hill. Great views of the city had there not been so much damn rain, mist, fog and clouds! Ah, well that's what we get for travelling in Europe in the winter.

We did find an amazing restaurant that made up for all the rain. We enjoyed some Hungarian food, me with a soup and Mike with stuffed cabbage leaves over saurkraut. The food was so good that we actually went back for drinks and dessert the next day!

I do have to mention that since it was raining and our hostel had a fridge we could use, we decided to go to the store for some snacks and bleach for Mike's towel. First off Mike's towel started smelling horribly a few weeks ago and had progressed to the point of needing to be fixed or killed; seriously you could smell the towel across the room! Off we went to buy some bleach, the towel's only hope at this point. On the way, we heard music and came upon a group of Jewish people dancing, singing and lighting the menora (video on the blog). We enjoyed this for a while and then it was down to business. In the end Mike shoved his towel into a water bottle, added water and bleach, and let it soak for a few hours. After some serious scrubbing in the shower (being wary of splashing bleach on our few clothes) and some serious rinsing, the towel came clean!! One cannot appreciate this momentous occasion as well as Mike and I. This towel smelled awful and if the bleach wouldn't have worked, the towel was a goner. Don't worry, Mike took pictures of this grand adventure.

That night we went in search of some live music and we are pretty sure that we got turned down from 2 clubs as they were pretty nice and even on the best of days (laundry days, of which we have had 3) our clothes are not exactly dressy. After this realization, we dried our tears and found some more Hungarian food and wine and called it a night!

Next day, we checked out a Jewish Synagogue and went on a tour. It was really interesting and made me realize how much I don't know about Judaism (sorry Whit, I am a terrible friend!) . We then ate at a Jewish Hungarian restaurant, where we had matza ball soup, stuffed goose neck, and Jewish cake. We checked out the Great Market, which is a huge building on three levels selling all kinds of fresh produce, nuts, meat, and seafood. The poor fish were still alive, shoved into tanks so tightly that they couldn't move. Mike was pretty sure that PETA would not approve. That afternoon, we were on our way to the Gellert Hotel to check out the baths, when we found an interesting detour of a church in a huge cave in the side of a hill. Apparently, Budapest is full of caves but this is the only one we saw and it was kind of weird with a church in it.

Then if was off to the baths, which Budapest is famous for. There are baths, not bath houses, all over the city but the ones in this hotel have been around for a long time and used to only be used by rich people. They were very similar to Lava Hot Springs (Pocatello) only they were indoors and the men all wore speedos- ooohh la la. In the end, it was very relaxing and we were very pruney. A good way to spend our last night in Budapest.



Off the train in Vienna, we spent way too much time looking for our hostel as Google gave us the wrong directions! Needless to say, Mike was shocked and disappointed. It seems finding our hostels once off the train is always a trying experience, because either the train arrives at the station that is not on the map or our hostel is hiding from us. I think it may be a conspiracy against us by people who are jealous of the trip!

Vienna was a beautiful city full of amazing old buildings. It was a bit touristy and full of shopping in the city center but once we got outside of that, it was wonderful. We were able to ride a tram around the city and see some of the architecture. So far, all of the cities we have been in have grand old buildings. Mike is beginning to think that the big cities in the states are now a bit of a letdown. Vienna was great, however, because we managed to wander down one of the streets and into a German bookstore with a great used English section, yaay for cheap reading (3 books for ten euro). We then wandered into a bit of a Roman wall that had been uncovered in the city center dating back to the 3rd or 4th century. This was found on our way to a wine tavern, built in 1683. We went down a steep stairwell into a "basement" with brick walls and hidden nooks everywhere. We sat and drank some of the best wine I have ever tasted, played a few games of chess, and proceeded to get mildly intoxicated in the middle of the afternoon. As we were getting up to leave, an older foursome came in and were so happy to get our table. One of the gentlemen helped me with my coat, while the others exclaimed in German (we think) how excited they were to have our table. There was more laughter when they realized that we had no idea what they were saying but Mike and I just nodded and pulled chairs out for them, drunkenly and happily.

Speaking of drunk people, the next morning we had just enough time to wander around and have a coffee or three before our train left. We were enjoying our coffee when some guy happened to grab my attention. He motioned for me to come over to him and his friend who were standing at the bar (it was around 11 in the morning). I shook my head no and this immediatly prompted him to invite himself over to our table. We were quick to realize that he was drunk, spoke very little English, and was very clingy as he was literally hanging on Mike, both arms around his shoulders. He then made motions that he wanted me to slap his friend accross the face. We have no idea why but I continued to refuse and then the friend came over. He also spoke little English and was pretty drunk. It continued to be a weird experience, as they explained to us that they had been partying for 2 days and one night, while the other smelled his armpit and then scrunched up his nose, all the while hanging on Mike. In the end, Mike made an excuse and we got the hell out of there. What an interesting way to cap off Vienna!

Photos to come later, fascist internet cafe won't let Mike upload them!


Flamenco Guitar Player and Rocking Live Show

I think that the title pretty well sums this post up.

The flamenco guitar player video is from the show we saw in London and posted on earlier, and the other is a "live show" we caught on a street corner on our way to the supermarket this evening. I'm not exactly sure what was happening, but I'm reasonably sure that it wasn't Matisyahu singing and completely sure that it was great!

Take care, posts on Vienna and Krakow to come.


Prague, Czech Republic

On Friday, 11/30, we took a couple of hour train ride from Berlin to Prague (or Praha, as it´s referred to in Europe). We did the usual, walking around the city center looking at beautiful old buildings and looking into stores, shops, food vendors, etc. That evening, we went to a jazz club where 3 young guys played a set that was a good combination of classic jazz covers and modern originals of theirs. The other fun part of the show was the family of Russians (including their 5 year old girl) who sat next to us, drinking, smoking (not the little girl!), laughing, dancing, and by the end of the evening, taking shots after chanting some loud drinking chant! After leaving the show, we found out that the tram we planned to take back to the hostel wasn´t running that evening, and we walked the 2.5 miles home.

The next day we went to the Museum of Communism. Lots of original anti-American, anti-capitalist propaganda examples and some good history, as well. One story told of a certain potato bug that ruined many crops in the 50´s in Czech. The government told the people that the bug had been dropped by American planes so as to ruin the communist nation! We also learned a bit about the anti-communist demonstrations and demonstraters, including Jan Palach, the 21 year old student who lit himself on fire on the main square in Prague to speak out against communism in 1969. Powerful stuff that put the (to me, at least) funny propaganda and impossibly ostentatious statues into a deeper light. That night, Emily and I both tried absinthe for the first time at the hostel bar. The bartenders prepared it using a modified version of the Prague-method (methods described HERE), which was different than the basic water-over-sugar cube method I´d always heard of, and different than any Prague-method I found on the internet later. At one point in the "shot", we inhaled the vapors from the burned absinthe/sugar combination left in the over-turned glass through a bendy-straw, like a pipe. Weird. Neither of us cut off an ear (Emily can't even remember what it tasted like), and neither of us hallucinated anything, but it was quite the drink!

Our last day in Prague, we walked around the castle (every town over here has a castle in the middle, it´s like seeing a Starbucks in Seattle) and then attended a small orchestra performance. It was a great time, even if we were dressed in our "going-backpacking" outfits instead of our "going-out-to-the-opera" outfits!

Prague was nice, the food was great, but it was a bit overrun by tourists and souvenier shops. I guess that that may be the case as we get closer and closer to Christmas, though. And it does mean a steady supply of sweets and drinks, so I won´t complain!

Photos from Prague, HERE.


Berlin, Germany

Finally getting around to posting about our 3 days in Berlin. Photos HERE.

The first morning, we walked around the city and looked at all the local shops and the graffiti-covered walls. Berlin is covered in graffiti (which I think is great, Emily does not always agree)! More on the graffiti below. That afternoon, we took a free 1/2 day tour which turned out to be fantastic, even if we nearly froze to death. We saw the sight of (and a memorial for) one of the Nazi book-burnings, Berlin´s individually numbered public trees (they counted every single tree in the city at one point?!?), "Checkpoint Charlie" (one of the checkpoints to pass to/from East Berlin ((communist)) to West Berlin ((non-communist))), Hitler´s bunker (a now intentionally-empty patch of ground next to an apartment´s parking lot), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2700 rectangular granite stones of varying heights and angularity spaced evenly on a grid and very eerie to walk through while thinking about what they stand for), a bank whose interior was designed by the same architect who did the EMP in Seattle and finally the Brandenburg Tor, the column-esqe structure with a horsed-chariot atop it that Napolean once stole on his way through Berlin). Later, we went and checked out the observation deck in the giant glass globe atop the German Parliament building, allowing us views of the entire nighttime city-scape.

The next day we went to an outdoor exhibit built on the former grounds of the Nazi SS headquarters during WWII, and then tried to find a museum about the Stasi (the secret police of communist East Germany), but failed, and ended up just eating some delicious Borschtscht soup at some little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (rest assured Colleen, your´s tastes every bit as delicious!).

Our third day in Berlin, we checked out the East Side Gallery, which is a 1.3 km piece of the Berlin wall still standing that was decorated by graffiti artists in 1990. There was some truly amazing art on this wall. There are several pictures in the linked album from here.

The next day, we were off to Prague, in the Czech Republic.

Berlin was great, and although we didn´t go to one of Berlin´s all-night Techno clubs, I still we think we did it big!



Bikes, canals, illicit substances, red lights, museums!

Amsterdam was great, with beautiful architecture and canals cut all throughout the city, more places to eat and drink then you could shake a stick at, and of course, all the other stuff that makes Amsterdam, Amsterdam (like MUSEUMS, jeez, what do you guys think I meant!). We spent a lot of time just walking around, learning that you don't necasarily have to participate in all of Amsterdam's seemingly-illicit activities to have a good time; watching crowds of people walk the red light district is entertaining in and of itself.

We also got to see the Anne Frank house and the M.C. Escher museum. The Anne Frank house was interesting, and had us wishing that we'd re-read the book in the last few years to remember more of her tragic story. Even without remembering all of it, the house did a good job of portraying what living for a couple of years in the same few rooms, constantly in fear of your life, might feel like. The Escher museum is located in De Haag, about an hour away from Amsterdam by train. It was neat, as they had almost all of his works on display there, along with some interactive displays where you could try to get inside one of his "impossible" prints.

Photos are located HERE. They are rated PG-13, so I (personally) wouldn't open them at work. Enjoy!