The Trip Home (or at least back to Chapel Hill)

So, I am finally safe & sound, stateside, with internet. My huuuge apologies for not getting all of the past 3 posts up sooner–life’s been a little crazy.

The plane ride to Frankfurt went without a hitch, but after that, it was like God was telling me not to go back to America. I had to leave the security area in Frankfurt and switch airlines, but because I had to switch airlines, I didn’t have a boarding pass for my Frankfurt->Philadelphia flight. So I had to go to the check-in desk, which, conveniently, was being sniffed by drug/bomb dogs in a police-taped off area. So I had to wait for that. And then in a long line that was confusing. And then FINALLY I had my boarding pass, made it through security and got on the plane. Of course the guy sitting next to me had to smell bad. So that already put me in a GREAT mood, and then the flight was about 9 hours which I survived pretty well, and then we were about to land in Philadelphia when our pilot came on the intercom and told us that due to bad weather, we had to land in Syracuse and refuel, then go back to Philly. Not so bad, I thought. Incorrectly. We sat in Syracuse for 3.5 hours waiting to get checked by customs and re-fueled, so that by the time we arrived in Philadelphia (around 6pm), my connection flight to RDU was already IN RDU, and I was most certainly not on it. So, I was stuck in Philly. And by that time, I was really really hungry, had a headache, and had been awake for 20 hours. Most of them in a plane.

On the bright side, I DID get my luggage back for the night. And the not-so-bright side, they couldn’t fly me out until Monday night at 9pm–over 29 hours after I was supposed to fly out. The other bright side was that Ali, my roommate for the past two years, is currently in Philadelphia doing Institute, the training for Teach for America. And I’d been in contact with her so that by the time I knew I’d be in Philly for a day, I knew I could stay with her. So I got my boarding pass for the flight the next day, took my stuff and hopped on a train to around where Ali was staying in the dorms at Temple University. After a little bit of confusion, we found each other, and it was icing on the cake of my Europe trip to be able to see The Ali.

I got home, went to sleep, and woke up at 4am to pack for living in Charlotte for two weeks, then got in the car my job rented for me at 6:30am and drove to Charlotte for work. Yesterday was EXTREMELY slow at the clinic (10 people the whole day), but I liked the office-workers, the environment, the people. Everyone has been really nice (surprisingly to me) in Charlotte. After work I succeeded in obtaining my key and finding the apartment complex I am living in for the two weeks I’m here. It’s okay…I suppose a nice apartment. But I have to share a room…which I’m never a fan of. It is, however, about 5 minutes from the clinic I’m working at–that is something I’m a HUGE fan of. It’s a really weird area–driving to work, the entire last 3/4 of the mile or 2 is doctor’s offices of every kind–plastic surgery, foot doctors, OB-GYN–you name it, they’ve got it. I was looking at all the different clinic names today driving to work and thinking about what a joke it is–who needs so many different kinds of doctors all with their own private practices that I could just walk in and ask for something from?? Maybe that’s stupid–maybe we really need it. I just thought it seemed strange, I guess with so many in all the same place.

After work yesterday, I went out to dinner with David, my big bro, who’s birthday it was. It was quite nice and his roommate and another friend came with us–we had a lively conversation and it was a good time.

Today was a bit better at the clinic–still slow. But I don’t have to be at work until 9am, which is so so so so awesome (5 minutes away AND 9am???!). After work today I managed a trip to the grocery store without tooo much trouble and then talked to my friend Daniel in Germany (yay Skype!!). Really, I love Skype. It is one of the best inventions ever. It doesn’t save any lives (probably), but to be able to talk with someone half-way around the world for free for as long as you want–awesome.

Being still somewhat on European time, and with all the waiting I did today, I’m pretty beat. But…hopefully I’ll be updating regularly. I’ve maybe found an apartment in the City, we’ll see. My love to all–

Jönköping, Sweden

I cannot believe my trip is already over. I am definitely not ready to go back home—I have had so much fun getting to just spend time with my friends and not worry about my usual life. I don’t think I could have asked for things to go better as far as traveling and the time spent with my dear friends. Apologies for the lack of updates on time in the past week—it has been difficult to find internet, even less internet that works with my computer. So I’ve written things along the way and am posting them when I get home. Anyway, the rest of Sweden.

Friday night, Hans’ mother made a wonderful meal, though I disagree that it counts a barbeque…there’s just that NC part of me that can’t think of it as anything but pulled pork…But it was delicious none-the-less and his parents were quite hilarious. His whole family I just really like. They are nice and very light-hearted. After dinner, we went out to Bongo, a bar Hans went to when he was in high school, and a couple others. The night was uneventful—a few drinks, some blackjack—nice but not incredibly exciting. We came home sort of early (12am) because Hans’ brother could give us a ride…and that was much preferred over the bus ride, which I was warned was hideous. Again, I got a cool 10 hours of sleep, which was wonderful.

Yesterday, we went into Jönköping and just kind of explored—we went down to the pier to get some ice cream (we had to start early so that we could make up for today not being able to get any…you know…) and sat out by the lake looking over the beautiful Swedish crystal-clear water. We walked by the beach (which was SO crowded, especially with brown Swedes), and I stopped and made a flower crown, with clovers, which I hadn’t done since high school I don’t think. We stopped over at an H&M and then went up to a peak above the town, from where you could see miles (kilometers…) of nothing but evergreens. It was incredible. We had fica and ice cream (again) and took pictures. Then we headed back home and had dinner (moose meat and potatoes with linginberries), and dessert (strawberries with ICE CREAM….3rd time). After dinner, Hans took a nap while up uploaded FIVE albums of pictures on facebook, then we went to a party of friends’ of Hans. So I got to meet some Swedes my age, which was cool. They were all very nice and (as Hans & I had discussed earlier) asked me what I thought about Sweden, which we decided was quite a difficult question to answer.

It’s so hard to put into words what is different about a place—Sweden, Europe, the United States. It just IS different. And not, at the same time. After being friends with these people for a semester, I was not really surprised by anything. There is sort of a different style in clothing, in architecture/building design and decoration, but in the end, all of the differences seem really minor. Plus you can never tell what parts of the differences you feel are simply because you’re on vacation, or a year that doesn’t really matter academically. I mean, I’ve felt really relaxed here, but that might just be because I don’t really have anything to worry about. I hope I can take at least a little of that home with me, though, because it has been really really nice. I have proven to myself that I can travel not very conventionally or securely and not feel very nervous. I was a bit nervous on my past two trips (the Germany-Spain and Spain-Sweden legs) because they were so difficult to get to the airports and everything, but it all worked out, and a have so much more confidence in my ability to deal with whatever comes up. Being able to go on this trip with as little planning as I had was really priceless, and it was so nice to have my friends be the guides—they were able to show me things that they’d seen in their childhoods, where people who live in the places go, that they hadn’t seen in years. So they were excited about it too. I felt like I got to share a really cool adventure with them all, and, as anyone who knows me will attest, the most important thing to me on this trip was the people I was visiting. So while I got to see some interesting places, they were made so much more interesting in how they connected to these wonderful people I’ve befriended.

I’ve talked to everyone about visiting me in New York City next year, which, conveniently, is the cheapest place (ticket-wise) to go in the States from here. So hopefully people will come visit me :-D.

As for now, I’m heading home. I’m not really ready, but I have things to do and New York to prepare for, so, life goes on even when you don’t want it to. When I get home, I’ll be quickly unpacking and re-packing to be in Charlotte for 2 weeks, where I’ll be working in an all-Hispanic clinic (with Mexican/Central American Spanish, thank goodness). My job has very nicely rented me a car so that I will not be swimming on my drive there—neither from water leaking into my car nor from sweat. The place I’m staying is supposedly really nice (pool, work-out room, etc), so that is promising. As I’ll presumably have internet, I’ll try and keep you updated.

Much love to all,

Lorca, España

Now in Sweden, Jönköping (which is pronounced youn-shou-ping), the town we have to thank for Hans. I haven’t had time to write in quite a while because in Spain, we had no internet.

Patricia picked me up at the Alicante airport on Monday with her cousin after a completely uneventful flight (which is always a good thing), and we spoke some Spanish, then English, on the 2-3 hour drive back to her house in Lorca. We had to wait to pick her mother up from the train station (she was coming in from Madrid after working in the morning), so we got some ice cream (and I realized at this point that I’d had at LEAST one ice cream per day…), and then moved Patricia’s car so that she didn’t get a ticket (though later she explained several times that no-parking zones are sort of optional, so I’m not exactly sure why we had to move the car…) to her family’s house in Lorca. She explained it was in a really nice part of town, but that her house was built before all the others, so it wasn’t as nice (the other houses were basically mansions). So we finished our ice creams and headed over to the train station on foot to pick up her mom. With her mother in tow, we headed up to the country house.

At the country house (maybe 5-10 minutes outside of Lorca), I got to meet Patricia’s grandmother, who was wonderful (as was her mother). The geography reminded me a lot of Mexico—basically desert and mountains—and the country house is on the side of a big mountain, with high ceilings to keep it cool and a pool and outdoor kitchen. I put my things down, changed into my bathing suit and went for a swim in the very refreshing pool. We all ate some dinner together—salad, chicken, quiche & cherries for dessert—and talked into the night about politics and history. Finally I went to sleep and slept very very well, which was not surprising in the least considering my previous few nights of sleep were severely lacking length.

We woke up on Tuesday morning and headed for a town called Mojacar that probably would have been half an hour away if Patricia hadn’t gone around a mountain, but it’s ok. I got to see more of Spain, and we drove past the beach on our way up the hill to the town. It overlooks the Mediterranean and is almost identical to pictures I’ve seen of Santorini in the whitewash and shapes of the houses and other buildings, as well as the bright flowers and cobblestone streets. After walking through the streets of the beautiful town, we made our way down the mountain and onto the beach where we ate some lunch (and I got my daily ice cream fix), then laid out in the Spanish sun and I got to swim in the Mediterranean a bit. It was quite glorious. On our way home, we stopped by another beach that Patricia told me was more for Spaniards, which it was full of. There was an awesome little cave in the side of the rocks by the side of the beach there, which I thought was just so incredible.

We came home and napped for a while, then went to dinner at a place Patricia had grown up eating at, where one family owned the restaurant, raised the pigs, killed them, cleaned them and prepared them (or at least had staff that did it…). So we had chorrizo and some sausage, excellent and incredibly greasy all of it. Plus some Sangria. Delicious!

The next day we visited Real Castle #2, basically in the middle of Lorca on a mountain. This one was from the 13th century and was the frontier castle for the Christians while the Moors still had control of the more Southern part of Spain for hundreds of years. So the area has influences from Christian and Muslim cultures, which I think is pretty cool. It was a beautiful castle and they had people dressed up as if they were from the 13th century, playing characters—sweet. I understood probably 75% of what they said…maybe a little less…but I tried!! I did learn a lot about the castle and area.

After the castle and a nice dinner, we headed to Murcia with Patricia’s mother, where we walked around and I got to see Murcia, then they took me to the train station and I took the last train to Terrellanos, the station closest to the airport. From there, I called a taxi and slept in the airport. Thursday at 6am, I flew out of Alicante with a bunch of Swedes to the land of Narnia (just kidding—Sweden).

Hans picked me up from the Gothenburg airport and we went into town to a park and ate the wonderful picnic of fruit and champagne (from Chapel Hill, Hungary!) Hans had brought. We walked around Gothenburg a bit and got some ice cream (obviously), then headed back to his house. There, we met up with his brother, Peter (his parents were on vacation in Germany, got back today), and got Lebanese food, candy and some beer and sat out on the beach of the lake in Jönköping, eating and watching the sun set—very pleasant. We went home and to sleep early.

Today, we got up and went to an island on the lake by Jönköping across from a town called Gränna, but I can’t remember the island’s name. It was a 40-ish minute drive, and then we took a ferry across the water to the island, which is where the first kings of Sweden lived (and the very first king of Sweden was murdered…). Once we got there, we tried to rent bikes, but there were none left by the rental place at the dock, so we had to walk further inland. First, we explored the herb garden and old castle that were right by the dock. We finally found the place with bikes, though, after a bit of wandering. There, we had fica (I’m not sure if I’m spelling that correctly…actually, I’m pretty sure I’m not…but oh well…), which is basically a snack—it can be anything from a small sandwich to cake and coffee or a coke. So we had meatball sandwiches (appropriate) and Coca Cola light (European diet coke). Then we got bikes and took a very nice ride down to the end of the island (about 25 minutes) where there were some castle ruins—the place where the first Swedish king was killed, and that was destroyed in the 14th century.

The island was so beautiful—the water was the clearest I’ve ever seen and the sky was perfect, with, as Hans put it, “Simpson’s clouds.” The temperature was just right—warm enough to not be cold, even biking, but not so warm that you were sweating profusely. We headed back to the dock on our bikes, caught a ferry back over to the main land, had some ice cream and drove back to Hans’ house where his parents were back from their vacation. A great start to the Sweden trip.

Stuttgart, Germany

On the train to Munich from Stuttgart to catch my flight at 11:50am to Alicante. Finding the train and buying the ticket this morning was quite an adventure, but I managed to find the train and get my ticket at least to the main train station in Munich.

Stuttgart was definitely so awesome. It was great to see Daniel and it was very much a student experience. I got to meet his roommates and some of his friends…and had a lot of fun even if I didn’t get much sleep.

Daniel picked me up from the airport in Stuttgart and we went back to his apartment, then to the bakery across the street to get bread and croissants, went back to the apartment where he put out plates and breakfast stuff for all 3 of his roommates and us. They filtered into the kitchen and we ate breakfast (my second, since I also ate at Gabi’s in the morning). It was quite lovely, and his roommates are all nice, goofy…nothing surprising.

We took the metro into the main center of town and walked around, went to a biergarten, where we got beer with sprite, called radler. We walked around the area around the biergarten, which was a beautiful garden and just green grassy-ness.

We got back on the metro and went to a “castle” and clarified that, while in German there is just one word for castle that is also used for what I’d call a mansion, in English it’s probably not exactly correct to say we saw a castle. But a huge house that was beautiful with lots of flowers and beauty.

We got hungry, so we found a cute little restaurant nearby and ended up sitting and eating, talking, drinking coffee, etc for about 2-3 hours. Very pleasant. We headed back to his apartment where we drank some wine and one of his friends came over; we sat around for a while, talking (mostly about America-Europe), then headed over to a club to meet some more of Daniel’s friends. We had tons of fun, and of course a very long day (since I woke up at 5am to get on the plane…).

Sunday we woke up (with some difficulty…) and drove to Tübingen, which is an adorable little town on a river that Daniel calls the Chapel Hill of Germany. It was really adorable and nice, we got some ice cream and it rained a bit, but we kept pretty much dry…The weather the rest of the time completely made up for it.

We got back in the car and headed to a REAL castle, making a stop by Daniel’s mom’s house on the way so I got to meet his mother (sweet & adorable) and brother. Then we drove to the castle, or at least to a parking lot at the base of the mountain the castle was on. So we hiked up to the castle and decided it was worth the extra 2 euros to actually take a tour of the interior of the castle, which was wwwwaaay one of the best decisions about ticket-buying I’ve made on the trip. Even though it was in German, it was soooo cool to get to see the inside of a castle. And this was a REAL castle—with towers and a ballroom and treasure room. Very awesome.

We ate a snack at the castle and then went back to Daniel’s hometown to get schnitzel and another radler—both good—then drove back to Stuttgart and crashed, since we had to wake up this morning at 4:15am (for me to get on the train, Daniel to go to work). So…now I’m on the train. Still a little worried about getting to the airport, but I have plenty of time and I think Munich will be even more English-friendly. I am super-excited about finally being in a country where I speak the language. I think it will be a total relief to see signs and hear conversations that I understand, at least more or less. And hopefully I’ll get to go to Granada. Hasta pronto!


So…In Vienna. Today was quite a nice day. I got up and went shoe shopping with Gabi and found (pretty immediately) two pairs of shoes that I felt made me look less American, which was the goal. One pair is for walking, the other is more dressy.

We came back to Gabi’s house to pick up Jonas and went into Vienna, the city part, driving in and then taking the metro from the edge of the city. We walked around the main part of the city, looking at the Cathedral in the middle of the city (St. Steven’s Cathedral) and the Hofburg, which is where the “winter residence” of the Emperors was and the current President’s office is. We also saw the National Library (which was beautiful) and the town hall, which I thought was a castle…There were lots of statues everywhere, and all of the buildings were just gorgeous. The city was more spread out than Prague though.

Jonas and I were hungry, so we stopped by this summer festival in front of the town hall where there was food from all different countries. I got some sweet dumplings—filled with nougat and AMAZING. Very yum. We also had this sparkling wine and fruit drink, one with strawberries, another with raspberries.

After looking around the city, Gabi took me to see the “Great Wheel” (that would be a ferris wheel). There was an amusement park, or at least between a fair and an amusement park. We went on one of the rides, which was fun and frightening because the way the seat or contraption to be in was made, it felt like you were free to just fall. But I didn’t and it was fun.

After the ride, we headed back to Gabi’s car and got some ice cream at this place that she had been talking about…dumpling ice cream. They had a bunch of other stuff too, and I decided to just try Jonas’ dumpling ice cream and get my own different kind of dessert…I got this praline and something sundae type things….basically ice cream with a huge thick layer of truffle chocolate sauce or something. It tasted like pudding and was amazing, especially with the hazelnut ice cream. It was also huge, so I definitely did not eat all of it. But it was delicious.

We went and looked at the summer house of the Empress, which was pretty, but I was exhausted. It was also on land with the oldest zoo in the world and I saw an adorable red squirrel that I was really excited about, and took a picture of.

We went home after the castle/summer house and I took a nice, well-needed nap. I woke up a while ago and ate some soup (broccoli?) and dumplings with mushroom sauce that Gabi’s mom made yesterday. It was really good…I had no idea I liked dumplings, but they’re quite delicious.

It was a good day, an excellent food day. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Jonas & Gabi, as well as Vienna (and Gabi’s adorable and sweet parents). As in Rome, Prague, and I’m sure everywhere else, I will leave feeling like I’ve only done a small portion of the things I could do, or want to do. Which is just how this trip goes. A whirlwind. Until Stuttgart–!

The rest of Prague

Today I was the most tired I have been the whole trip. My feet started hurting and I really just wanted to take a nap all day…not to start of complaining or anything…

Gabi, Jonas & I checked out of our hostel in the morning and went accross the Charles Bridge to see the small town of Prague, where there is a cute little old town and castle. We walked around, admired all the beauty of Prague and ate some lunch with a friend of Gabi’s at a bar where they have beer taps in the middle of all the tables…very cool. The food was good as well.

After lunch, we made our way back to the hostel to pick up our stuff and then took the metro (which was somewhat difficult, since we had to switch metros 2 times…) to meet Gabi’s dad, who drove us back to Vienna. We ate dinner and chatted with her parents, who are both very nice. Her dad speaks English more or less, and her mother tried (it was very cute). We had bread with meat and cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes, which was really just what I needed, and then some blueberry cake. THAT was awesome. Another full and crazy day.

I’m really glad to finally be in a house again, as in not in a hostel. Gabi’s house is very nice, and it’s just much more relaxing to have all of the cleanliness you’re used to…

After several discussions with many Americans and non-Americans alike about how important ones’ shoes are in identifying ones’ American-ness, as well as the painful state of my feet in Chacos, I am on a mission tomorrow morning with Gabi to find some walking shoes that will allow me to pass myself off as European. Gabi & Jonas told me (after a bit of pushing…) that I could perhaps be a Southern European (that would be Spain, Italy, etc), which is somewhat funny considering that I am German, Czech, Norweigan, English, French and Scots-Irish…but whatever. Evidently if you combine a lot of Northern looks you get Southern. The world is a crazy place; I wouldn’t be surprised. I think it’s quite convinient since I could just speak in Spanish, and perhaps people would believe I was from Spain…I’m sure Patricia would disagree. At the very least, I’d like people to have to question whether I am American. Also to have some more comfortable walking shoes. Or a change. Or something.

After shoes, we plan on looking around Vienna and maybe going to a spa…which would be lovely, I’ll be the first to say. We shall see.

I bought a plane ticket to Stuttgart for Saturday morning so I will be skipping Munich and getting to see a smaller and less well-known place in Germany. Plus Daniel :-). I’m getting more and more excited about the rest of my trip and seeing everyone else. The price of the Euro…still not so happy about. But I think I’ve made it through the more expensive part of my trip (hostels, getting around on my own, etc), so hopefully things will be a bit less from this point on (hopefully being the operative word…).

I miss everyone and hope you are all doing well. Let me know how you are doing!!

Familiar Faces

It’s been a while–things have been a bit crazy. I arrived in Prague yesterday around 5pm with little difficulty. My last bit in Rome was not particularly great–I got up and wanted to go to the Colisseum, so I checked out of the hostel, locked my bags up at the train station, and headed over to the Colisseum. But the ticket line was so long that I ended up having to leave and go over to the train station before I’d gotten to go to the Colisseum, the Roman Forum or Palentine Hill. So…I took the train back to the airport, etc etc. Gabi & Jonas picked me up from the airport and it was SO NICE to see people I know. We took a train and metro back to the center of Prague and checked into our hostel here, which was sooo much nicer than the Rome hostel. There are like, sheets that go over the blankets, and even though it’s a bit old, it’s nice.

I like Prague…we walked around the old city today and shopped, ate lunch, etc. Last night we met up with my friend, Matt, and the group of people he is in Europe with. We went to a couple different bars…it was fun, and very cool to see Matt & friends over here…kind of crazy for sure.

Tomorrow, we’re going to see Charles’ Bridge + a CASTLE!! It’s gorgeous, from what I’ve seen so far. In the afternoon, Gabi’s dad will drive us back to Vienna, where we’ll spend the night, and then I’m still trying to figure out when I’m going to Germany. Plans have changed a little…I think I might go over to Stuttgart to visit Daniel and then going to catch my flight out of Munich Monday morning. I’m still working it out exactly what I’m doing…

Thoughts on Europe–I like it, but it’s not really exactly what I expected. I’m not even sure what I expected anyway. But it’s pretty, and the cities are so cool and old…I think Prague is more beautiful than Rome, but the Czech definitely makes things different than being surounded by Italian because I cannot understand it at all (hardly). Let’s just say I’m super glad I’m with Gabi. Although I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t speak English. More than anything, it’s nice to see Gabi and Jonas, and I’m so looking forward to seeing everyone else. I think it will also be cool to meet peoples’ parents…definitely different than what I’ve been doing so far, and in a good way I think. Though I am glad I’ve had the opportunity to stay in hostels too, because I think it’s a pretty essential part of the Europe traveling experience…

I’m really exhausted, I think still from walking around the Vatican (and those 551 steps), and then walking yesterday and today around Prague. I think tonight we’re gonna lay low and basically just relax. I need to wash some clothes, and maybe even take a nap…? That would be nice.

I’ve had a lot of fun though hanging out with Gabi and Jonas, making fun of the way they say “creps” (which sounds JUST like “crap” with a German accent…), which we’ve eaten twice already…we found this restaurant that has AWESOME creps…Today Gabi got a raspberry one, Jonas got a strawberry and vanilla ice cream one, and I got a chocolate and coconut crep (does it have an s?). Anyway, they were all incredible.

So far, the best things have been seing my friends and not having a real schedule. I’ve done a lot, but I’ve also tried to not MAKE myself do anything. Especially because I know that there is just too much to do, and if I try to do it all, I will fail and be way more exhausted. So I’m doing what I can without stressing myself out. It’s been good. Well I’m off to wash things…Much love to all!

The Vatican

So…LOTS of stuff has happened since I wrote last. I met 4 people who are staying in the hostel I’m in and we just hung out, talked, and ended up going out to an Irish bar just a few feet from our hostel. We played cards, drank a few beers…it was nice. Two of them were from Reno, Nevada, the other two from Portland, Oregon, so I’m all by myself in my East coast-ness. But they are all pretty cool. The Reno kids left this morning, but Kjirsten and James, from Portland, were here today and were planning on going to the Vatican, as was I, so we went together.

Similarly to my experiences yesterday, I was fairly unimpressed. There was a lot of pretty art, but it became sort of redundant after a while. First we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, which had a long line but it went pretty quickly. We climbed all 551 steps of the Cupola to see St. Peter’s Basilica from high above. There was also a gorgeous view from up so high. Then there were the 551 steps down…and we looked at the Basilica for a while, which was pretty incredible.

We quickly walked through the Pope’s tomb, which was anticlimactic except for Pope John Paul II’s tomb, where a bunch of people were paying their respects. After that we went to the Sistine Chapel, which you have to pay and go through a huuuuge museum to get to. So I got to see all of the Roman statues of men who are missing their essential male parts, thanks to one of the past Popes who decided that there was too much nakedness in the Vatican and ordered an artist to go around with a chisel and cut off all of the male anatomy. Some got lucky and only got covered with a fig leaf, but the majority look like Ken dolls.

After the Sistine chapel, we went back to our hostel, stopping to eat some pizza and gelato, as well as going by the Coliseum to see if it was open (it was not). And now we’re hanging out, talking to the Spanish guy who’s in the hostel. Despite sleeping well last night, I’m still exhausted and today did not help. I am aching everywhere, but it’s awesome. Tomorrow I’ll go to the Coliseum, Forum, and Palentine Hill (?) and then I’m off to the Czech Republic! So a big day. Love to all in the States!


I definitely feel like I lost a day….I’m exhausted…I mean, I only traveled thousands of miles and walked the streets of Rome in the past 24 hours. I also feel like I’ve been sweating since I got to Rome…the airport didn’t have air conditioning, then neither does my hostel. I stopped in at a museum, and they had air conditioning coming out of this vent. I definitely stood there for a minute…it was lovely. But otherwise I’m extremely sweaty and gross, and I really do not like that.

So the trip went pretty much without a hitch. I did a lot of Sudoku—I was in the airport for about 3 full hours, plus 1.5 at RDU. I think I did over 20 of the easy ones. I also watched the National Treasure sequel, which was satisfactorily entertaining. I tried to sleep for a while, and it should have been more successful since I had two seats to myself (which was, I admit fully, really nice).

Everything since the airplane has been overwhelming, sweaty and exhausting. Not that that’s all bad. I checked into my hostel at around 12pm (I expected to get here at 10am…). The trip here was a bit crazy. I got off the plane and attempted to find an ATM so that I wouldn’t have to pay $1.73 per Euro for the money I needed to pay my hostel and just have money…but eventually, after running around the un-air conditioned airport meet-up area with my huge backpack on trying 3 different ATMs that were only local or not working, I gave in. Then I had to figure out how to get into town, and I didn’t exactly, how do I put this, know which air port I flew into. I had a feeling…and I was correct. But one of them is big and easy to get to town from, despite being farther away than the smaller one. So I flew into the big on and just had to take a train into the center of town, where I had directions to my hostel from.

But I made it, somehow, got my ticket (realizing that there was an ATM right next to the ticket-selling booth….I was only minorly pissed), and then managed to find my way to my hostel with my backpack on my back, sweating gallons…I checked in, but they have a lock-out for cleaning from 11am-4pm. Which is good, because it will make me get out, wake up, etc. So I had to leave immediately, which sucked today because it would have been really nice to have just like a 2 hour nap. But I left on a mission to find some food. The girl who I checked in with at the hostel said there was a place right next door, and sort of stupidly I followed her advice because it was an expensive lunch, especially for what it was.

Appropriately, I got pizza. Just mozzarella and eggplant…it was pretty decent. I ate the entire thing. And it was about 10”, though the crust was really really thin, admittedly. While I was enjoying my pizza, I noticed that a rat kept coming and trying to get closer to me, but then would get scared and run away (I was eating outside…Rome’s not THAT ghetto….I hope…). It kind of creeped me out at first, but then I sort of enjoyed having another being to interact with…I didn’t talk to anyone on the plane (no one was really near me…) and most people I’d seen in Rome didn’t really speak English.

After lunch I perused the Roman streets near my hostel, mostly looking at clothes shops, which all have sales…I have a feeling that they are always having a sale…though my guidebook (I got one in RDU…and I am sooo glad I did) said that they have big sales in mid-July. Anyway, I didn’t find anything too interesting…most of it was moderately expensive. Or at least not inexpensive. And considering the price of the Euro, not the right time to just shop for whatever. But they have TONS of linen, which just made me so happy. More interesting than any of the clothes was this bizarre dancing Mickey Mouse figurine that this guy had on the street. I don’t know how to really explain it…he had a boom box (yah, 90s!) sitting on the sidewalk and then next to it was a Mickey Mouse figurine, maybe 4 inches tall, dancing to the music, which was Indian, btw. For some reason, I thought it was really funny…

I sat down after the half-hearted shopping, trying to decide what to do. I looked at my guidebook and made a plan to walk to a few different sites that were nearby. I first went into a basilica (I think St Mary’s?) that was right in front of me, just for fun. It was GORGEOUS and massive. I continued on to the Palazzo Barberini, a palace in the more Northern part of the city that is now a museum. It was really quiet, pretty empty and beautiful. The staircases were wide and made of some kind of stone (granite? Marble? I dunno). There were lots of paintings, but the most incredible thing was this massive room with the entire ceiling painted. It was so good, and looked like it was 3-D, which I just thought was really awesome.

I continued on to the Spanish Steps, which were WAY less cool than I’d imagined. First of all until I went there, I was really doubting the whole Rome-is-hot-and-crowded all the time (well, the hot part…I got that) during the summer. Everything was pretty moderately occupied…but then I got to the Spanish steps and WOAH. SO many people. Lots of designer stores. Anyway, I headed back after that, stopped by the grocery store, and here we are. I’m about to shower (a very cold one) an take a nap, if the noise that keeps happening in the bathroom by my head doesn’t disturb me too much. Or the bird outside the window.

It’s really interesting, Rome really reminds me of Guanajuato in Mexico, or even more of Doloras Hidalgo. There’s something about the sloping cobblestone streets that is similar. It’s bizarre to almost understand things though—there are definitely things in Italian that I totally get, that are exactly the same as in Spanish. But then there are a lot of things that are totally different, notably the accent. But anyway, I’m going to talk to some of the people in my hostel who just woke up.

Leaving…on a jet plane!

Well, probably not. And I definitely DO know when I’ll be back again. But anyway…

I’m leaving today for Europe. And I really mean that, because I’m going to 7 different countries in 2 weeks. Crazy I know. So, here’s the plan:

Today, I fly up to Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, and hang out there for 4 hours, the fly out at 6pm (though I’m gonna try and think of it as 12am…) to Rome, Italy (Country Number 1). I will arrive there at around 3am Eastern time, 9am Italian time. So that’s when my day starts. I have a hostel booked, but I have NO idea what I’m doing…so who knows!

I’m gonna try and make it to the Vatican (Country #2) while I’m there…so that’s an easy extra country…I’ll be in Rome until Tuesday afternoon, when I’m flying out to Prague, Czech Republic (Country #3) to visit Gabi, the sweetest girl I’ve ever met. She’s from the Czech Republic, but after 2 days we’re going to where she lives now, Vienna, Austria (Country #4). While in Prague, though, I’m meeting up with a friend of mine (hopefully), Matt. We’ve known each other since 6th grade, and randomly discovered we’d be in or around Prague at exactly the same time.

I’ll only be in Vienna for a day, then take a train? or something on Friday to Munich, Germany (Country #5) to meet up with Jonas, who will be there for the summer, and Daniel, who’s coming allllll the way from Stuttgart to visit me :-D. I fly out of Munich Monday morning and into Alicante, Spain (Country #6)!!! There, I will see Patricia and visit her home town of Lorca (in Southern Spain, East coast). Hopefully I will have plenty of time on the beach to make up for not getting to go here in the States…I fly out of Alicante eeeearly Thursday morning to make my way up to Gothenburg, Sweden (Country #7) to see Hans!! I have no idea what we’re doing there. From there, I’m headed back to Chapel Hill for the last 3 weeks of my summer before moving to NYC.

I cannot WAIT to see all of my friends, plus all the new places. I hope that gives a good layout of my plan…I use the word “plan” lightly–my motto on this trip is to plan only what I need to, and let the rest fall into place. I’m sure you’ll hear about how that works out :-).

Well, I’m off to finish up my packing (I did most of it on THURSDAY, believe it or not–that’s WAY ahead of time in my world).

Much much love,