Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Berlin for the Win

Our trip is coming to a close. We've had a few fun but hot days here in Berlin, and I will miss it. 
On the first day, we all saw two museums. One with ancient ruins from babylon and one with ancient Egyption artifacts. They literally rebuilt parts of these cities in the museum. It was amazing. 
I also had some mixed feelings like maybe this stuff should be in it's original geographic location, but apparently they did get permits for the expeditions, so...another discussion. 
We had really really good pizza for dinner. We tried to catch a concert outside, but it rained. Brendan and I ended up locating an amazing bad instead. A father and son own the bar, and the son was born 6 weeks after me in East Berlin. He was 3 years old when the wall fell, so we talked with him about what he remembers. 
Day two:
Brendan and I went to the zoo. They have so many animals there and some that I've never seen.

For dinner we found the best sushi, and for dessert, we had sorbet.

Today, our last day, Brendan and I visited the Berlin Wall memorial. I have been very obsessed with seeing this since visiting the war memorial museum in Caen. I have so many thoughts on the Berlin Wall...you don't have time for them all probably because you have to go eat dinner or something. That's okay, we can talk about it soon. Basically, this wall was a bad thing, and we are smiling because it is gone (except this part, which they left on purpose). 

Above view demonstrates how wide the "death strip" was. Over 1,000 people died trying to cross, many of them were children or teenagers. 

Some things that surprised me:
Germans are really pretty open to discussing their personal experiences from this point in history. Local people join tourists at the memorial (of course, they come for a different reason-to remember lost loved ones). A quote (paraphrased) I heard today from a west Berliner "we would hear about how many people had been shot in the east and then we would hear the weather. Everyone felt this was a crime against humanity, but we had to live with it. Everyone lived with it" 
You really can't see anything over the wall, unless you can climb to an observation deck.
It was really thick and there were multiple walls/barbed wire in between the walls. 
Seriously: it surprises me that it happened and that it was there for so long. It was a really bad idea. It makes me wonder what current world situations everyone will later regret. Hmmm. 
It was all a lot to think about, so I went and ate a 20 dollar salad at a vegan place. It was the best salad of my life.  
Then, the three of us consumed this cheese plate: 

It was the best end to the best trip. 
I'll still be thinking about all that I've learned--about history, this world, and my place in it (hint: I'm not that important, but it's okay) for as long as I live. I want to read up on many topics explored, and one day, I hope to come back to Europe. But if that day takes a long time, I'll have to hold on to the memory of being in my late twenties in Europe and pretending to be in my early twenties in Europe (to get the student discount) and how it felt. 
It felt amazing--the world was ours. It also felt confusing--there were a lot of subway closures and we don't read other languages. It felt scary. It felt exhilarating. Sometimes it was tiring, sometimes too hot, too cold, or too rainy: 

It made me appreciate home more (didn't expect that, but my love for my own country grew). It made me realize that most people don't dislike Americans (that's just a myth). In fact, most people were really really nice, Like absurdly friendly and going out of their way to help us find our way or communicate. I will be more aware of helping visitors now. 
I'm glad to be going home because it's where I'm from...but I'm sure everyone feels that way. But I'll miss it here. 
I do miss my family, free bathrooms, and free ketchup though. 
If you've read all this, you've done more reading than me this summer. I couldn't really focus on any novel. But using my time to blog was useful for helping me to remember...but now, I must use my time to pack (and get approximentally 4 hours of sleep!) The voyage continues in the AM. Wish us luck!!
<3 S&B 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Praguing and Blogging

Prague was perhaps our favorite city yet. It's so beautiful and quirky, affordable, and full of nice people. 

Babies climbing up a radio tower

We met up with our friend Rich. New friend really! He and I grew up together (our moms are friends), but we hadn't seen each other in years. Rich has been living in Prague the last two years, and he graciously showed us around and treated us to a very awesome dinner. Check out Brendan's pig...or guess, which is the pig? 

We met many of Rich's Czech friends, and they were all so funny and sweet. I didn't get photographs of everyone, but here's some from last night:

The guy to my right did the props for the movie Hostel II. I told him this series of films had me very scared to stay in a hostel! 

Other things that happened in Prague: 
Played fooseball with Rich and friends.
Got asked if all Americans read is Shakespeare (because Shakespeare appears in so many films taking place in American high schools).
Got many compliments from Rich's Czech friends...true gentleman! 
Took the craziest cab rides of our lives (taxi drivers here have NYC drivers beat in insanity category).
Had to pay 6 crowns (approximemtally 5 cents) for ketchup at McDonalds when I ordered French fries. This is all so very, very wrong. 
Brendan (a bit tipsy) got very mad at some backpackers at Mcdonalds for taking too long to order and preventing him from purchasing extra ketchup packets (for me, obviously). 
We walked by a former communist prison and by former communist housing/barracks. 
We drank lots of beer! 

Today, we made it to our last stop, Berlin, and we finally returned our rental
car. This is how relieved Brendan felt being done with the liability of driving a rented car through many a foreign country (2,500 miles to be exact). 

Our hotel in Berlin is awesome and around many shops and restaurants. We have 3 full days to explore here, and then we head back to the USA (but not back home). I do miss free ketchup, so...it's cool. KETCHUP!!!
<3 S&B 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


On our first day in Vienna, we checked out the Kunst Historisches Museum, which Brendan had been very excited about since the moment we first planned this trip. It has a large cabinet of curiosities and also paintings by Peter Bruegel, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Durer...we got to the museum at 1 and didn't leave until it closed at 6. We went to a cafe, got drinks, and met up with Tony for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant. 

The next day, we visited the Sisi museum, about Emperess Elisabeth (nickname Sisi) who was assassinated. She was incredibly eccentric and led a very strange life which included insane dieting and beauty rituals to maintain her 5'8", 99 pounds, and 20 inch waist figure. The apartments were pretty crazy too. 

Up next, we played with the butterflies! 
The butterfly house was beautiful ! 

Vienna is pretty: 

At night, we checked out a screening of an opera. I really have no idea what was going on, but the singing was nice. 

Today, onto Prague. 

<3 S&B 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hallstatt Salt Mine

On Sunday, we said goodbye to Salzburg and headed to Vienna via the slow and scenic route through Hallstatt. This makes the drive an hour and 45 minutes longer, but I had read it was a beautiful drive and it was. Mountains, lakes, green green grass, tall pines...I felt like we were driving through heaven! 

Once we reached Hallstatt, I saw this funicular going straight up the mountain 

Little did I know I would soon be on it! I was a little scared. But I wanted to see the salt mine, and I definitely wasn't going to climb up there. 
At the top: 

We were in the clouds

We still had a ways to walk uphill to get to the mine: 

Once there, it was time to suit up: 
It's really cold in the salt mines, plus you have to slide down on your butt, thus the protective gear. The slide after this went straight down, so I couldn't even photograph it. It was fun!

I learned all about salt and how it's made...it was being mined here 7,000 years ago. They know because they found a preserved miner's body from the prehistoric age...Brendan kept telling me we were going to be trapped and preserved in salt too. This was, less than helpful. 

It was too dark for photos, but at the end, we rode a mine car

We had no seatbelts of any kind. I can only hope these methods of transport have good safety records! 

Our guide, Gerhard, took a selfie with me. He was super serious. 

After going down the mountain, we checked out the bone house. Hallstatt today has less than 1,000 people, but there isn't much burial space, so bone houses were necessary back in the day. The skulls were decorated and everyone was cool with touching their loved ones bones. 

I can't believe I have a skeleton. 

We arrived in Vienna at 8:30. Brendan and I had to go park the car in a park and ride...the process took an hour and involved getting caught in a big thunder storm. It was kind if romantic because it was in Vienna, but would have been more romantic if I wasn't wearing open toed shoes. We ate bad pizza at 11pm, but I didn't care that the pizza was bad, it was a darn good day!
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