Dear Barcelona roommates,

Posted on 2/27/2012

When I signed up for this hostel with its "mixed rooms" I assumed I would have both and females in my room. I assure you I did not sign up to be the bed filler for a group of 7 in an 8 person room. Why the hostel chose to put a lone girl with a group of 7 men I am not quite sure... I will be sure to mention it in my review, though.
To start out positive, I appreciate how quiet you are in the mornings when I get ready you all lay passed out on top of your covers sweating out booze until I feel like of it were possible to get drunk by alcohol saturated air, I would be getting tipsy.
However, to be honest it is your room entrance that leaves something to desire, and I do not mean to nag... But I don't think it's necessary to come in with your iPhone playing the annoying "I'm sexy and I know it" song at 4 am. (also your liberal use of axe body spray is not sexy-though clearly you don't know it- and when my eyes start to burn because you have sprayed so much, that's a problem.)
It's not that I don't think you're probably an awesome group of guys. It's just that I need my beauty sleep...and you apparently only came to Barcelona to get drunk, sober up, repeat for five days. I came to Barcelona to look at modern art and think "I could have done that. I just need a wealthy patron and I could totally be the next Gaudi. Who do I know that's rich, gullible and has bad taste that I could design rediculous things for? It's not to late in my life to change careers..."
I just think, at this time in our lives, our proprieties are different. Neither of us are right or wrong... except your use of axe body spray. That is very wrong.

Paris: my formal apology

Posted on 2/26/2012

The first time I went to Paris I was 16, with my Dad and Micah and I HATED IT. I swore never, never to return...then realized I wanted to go back to the louvre ...and also Micah and I opted to go to h&m instead of notre dame... So I then swore to only go back ONE MORE TIME for those two specific things. And after that, I would never return!
Frankfurt and Paris are conveniently connected via the ICE train (high speed train) so I booked my ticket, and braced myself to hate the city and people. I mentally prepared myself, reminding myself that the Louvre was worth it! And notre dame, too (actually I was underwhelmed by both honestly but that's for another blog post).
Sometimes it's amazing to be wrong. I LOVED PARIS. It is so cliche, I can't believe it but I fell in LOVE with Paris. The people were so nice it was almost unreal- people went out of their way and even would look things up on their smartphones to find things out. I would ask one person a question and other people would stop to help! Seriously!
So this post is a formal apology to Paris. Maybe you have changed, maybe I have changed, maybe we have both changed. I am sorry for everytime I referred to you as "dirty," "rude" or "stinky." (or all three in one sentence.) I promise to only refer to you as "amazing," "kind" and "beautiful" from now on. I love you now and I am so glad we were able to start over fresh. xoxo
Me in Paris at 16. God bless bad haircuts, & no there is no justification or reason for why I (practically) shaved my head...I went in for a trim with my shoulder length hair and came out with this. It looks kind of mullet-like here, but it was more a buzz cut then anything else. I was was much more confident at 16, now when I go in for a trim I freak out and only get like an inch trimmed off (Ashley can attest to this!) . It's super boring and one length. I need to be this brave again... Well maybe not THIS brave. But I could use a new haircut.

What is 7 miles long, and lasts five hours?...a fasching parade!

Posted on 2/20/2012

Whew... just when I thought I could not possibly handle MORE Fasching, I went on a ten hour Fasching binge today. Monday is THE Fasching day though, so I dragged my butt outa bed and headed over the Mainz (the next town over) with Will and Stephanie -two of Josh's friends and now my friends, too!! :) --to watch the parade. Josh (sadly) had to work and met up with us later. Mainz is actually one of the biggest Fasching celebrating cities in Germany, and I can not POSSIBLY imagine any city doing anything bigger then what Mainz did. The parade was FIVE HOURS LONG. No, I am not not joking FIVE. Like one, two, three, four FIVE HOURS. I swear in America parades last like 40 minutes...I even googled it for comparison and the biggest US parade that I could think (the Macy's Day Parade) lasts 2 to 3 hours. And that's a national, televised parade... this isn't even nationally televised on the same level as the Macy's Day Parade (I don't think). Needless to say, we watched about two hours and moved on, but the parade itself stretches SEVEN MILES. I mean, I never even imagined a parade that big existed anywhere.

There are SO MANY PICTURES in this post. But I really did pick and choose. I think showing any less would not be doing the parade justice (and remember I only saw like 1/3rd of it!!!) so here ya go-
Pretty typical kid costume... adorable, right?

These are traditional fasching parade costumes

Some of the floats just did not make any sense to me at all. Like this one, for example.

Apparently (for some unknown reason) dressing up colonial was REALLY, REALLY popular. It seemed like every other group was dressed like this (minus the adorable fake dogs).

Mainz is a big wine making region, so lots of the floats were wine themed

Captain America! This kid was adorable, and later got really sad for some reason

Sad Captain America.

The floats threw out kettle corn instead of (or with) candy! :)

Annddd DONE. Seriously... (as I am sure you can tell) it was like the parade that would never end. But it was really cool and I am glad I got the chance to see something so awesome in action! Whew, I officially don't need to go to a parade again for at least three-five years! :)

After the parade we went to a dance club that was pretty fun: there was lots of American music that our group got pretty into including B. Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls... & classics like the macarania and YMCA. It was funny that when the YMCA came on and we all did the little YMCA dance, NO GERMANS DID IT! At all. Not one. Apparently Germans never learned that dance?... Someone said it's because their alphabet is different or something, but I don't know... new mission: bring the YMCA to Germany!! :)
Overall, Fasching was a great time and I am so glad that I was able to experience it. It's definitely about one million times better then any Halloween festival I have ever been too... sadly. Maybe I just need to go to better Halloween parties or something, but I kind of doubt anything could top this five day extravaganza!

Solo Anna (my next trip)

Posted on 2/19/2012

Since I am down one travel partner, but still wanting to travel I realized I would have to suck it up, and start traveling on my own. I really wanted to go to either Egypt or Tibsili, Georgia (I have a friend living there) but both those got vetoed. My Mom told me if I went to Egypt she would kill me, and I talked to a guy from Georgia who told me if I went to Tibsili, I might as well go to Baghdad... so I decided to try for plan C which is:
Basically a funky loop of Frankfurt, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Marrakesh, Morocco, then back to Frankfurt! I will be traveling for about 2 and a half weeks, and will update with all my pictures and things when I am back safe & sound in Wiesbaden. Wish me luck! I am actually pretty nervous to be traveling all alone for my first time ever! :)

German playground & more Fasching :)

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Josh and I went on a little walk yesterday at the park near his house. It was totally an Oregon weather day, and ended up being pretty awesome. We found a park that was pretty much amazing, it even had a zip line! German parks are so much cooler then American ones.
The playground had lots of cool things-that twisty rope thing was really hard! I couldn't do it (but Josh couldn't either). And on the other side of the rocket slide was a mini rock wall.
There were also carvings:
And there were little rope courses over the stream-
Talk about things that would NEVER happen in America. I don't know why it is but in Germany there are way more things you could get hurt on in public places that would not fly in America. It's awesome, and makes me feel bad for all the American kids that get sub-par parks when these German ones are so much better and more creative... and just when I was like "this is amaazzzinnng" there was one last little suprise:
AN IN-GROUND TRAMPOLINE. These German kids really are lucky, I'm totally jealous.

All and all it was a really beautiful day and we had a great time! Then we went & walked around downtown Wiesbaden and Josh bought a pair of baby blue chinos :)

We also went out to Fasching again last night,  here are my two favorite pictures. And yes, same costume, different day, that's how Fasching rolls :) Also, I never thought Josh and I really looked that much alike till I came here. Now I think we totally look SO alike, it's crazy!
For my Mom, she really wanted a picture of us hugging :) Love ya Mom! xo

Fabulous Fasching

Posted on 2/17/2012

I was lucky enough to be in Germany with Josh for Fashing (which actually last 5 days this weekend, and ends Monday). Fasching (also called Karnival in some places) is basically like German halloween, but with out all the skin tight costumes- it seems to be more about fun. I saw so many lady bugs, bunnys, etc - all dressed up in the giant animal costumes it was awesome! It's also fun because (it seems like to me) everyone gets really into it: young people, old people: everyone is dressed up and having a good time.
I had been dragging my feet all this week on getting a costume because I had decided I wanted to be a pilgrim and I didn't really know how to make that happen. But (like magic) I was talking to my brothers upstairs neighbor/ my friend Emma about it and she said "actually...I don't know if you know this about me or not, but I do historical reenactments on the weekends for fun" (how awesome is that?!) and pulled out a totally awesome revolutionary war outfit that I wore. It was perfect!
There will definetly be more Fasching posts, then I am leaving for Paris on Tuesday! Yay!! I am very excited (and somewhat nervous) to start my next trip... it will be the first time I am traveling "alone" - well kind of. I traveled alone in Korea, but had the amazing Kelly and Mark to stay with at nights. But it will definitely be my first time flying RyanAir, (which I have heard is quite the adventure in itself!) and my first time staying in hostels with out someone else. So it should get interesting! :)

Saying good bye to Joseph & hanging out in Wiesbaden

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Snow in Wiesbaden the day before Joseph left
Joseph and I were basically never apart for longer then like an hour for four weeks, so I kinda figured that I would be super ready for him to leave because I would be sick to death of him. But that was NOT the case at all. He was a great travel partner and I wish could have stayed with me till April, I think we would have had a great time. SADLY, however, he did have to leave and go back to work :( He left a week ago, exactly and I miss my partner in crime already!
Frankfurt Airport
 I really haven't been up to much exciting since then, I have just been relaxing out and planning my next trip (Paris, Barcelona, Madrid & Morocco).

PS I saw this quote recently and I have been thinking about it a lot. I think about the RMI every day and it hurts so bad. Having to return home early was of the most most painful things I have ever gone thru: even though in my head I know it was the right choice, my heart breaks about it daily. I am trying to not let it define or destroy me but letting it make me stronger is something that is going to take a lonnnggg time. xo

Let's talk about $$

Posted on 2/13/2012

I really feel that it's only fair -for my 2 followers:) -to talk a little about the money aspect of our trip. I think most people think Europe is super expensive which I think is kind of true/kind of not true... I mean, it just depends on what kind of experience you want to have. You can have a really expensive one, or a really inexpensive one: it's just like any other vacation anywhere in the world. Joseph and I decided we wanted to enjoy ourselves and not really make a strict budget, but leave ourselves open to what we wanted to do, which was the right choice for our trip (and we were lucky we had that kind of financial ability). Our #1 splurge was a really nice dinner at the Berlin 360* restaurant, but it was worth every penny. :)

I know that money is kind of one of those taboo topics, but I really think to try and pretend that I didn't think about money every day of the trip is just a big lie! I was always fretting about how much we were spending. Joseph had a better grip on the fact that we really weren't spending as much as I thought we were, I think. But obviously trips like the one we took are expensive and we could have bought a small car with the amount we spent! But instead we bought five cities and almost 3 weeks of great memories and experiences. Cheesy, but true, because that is priceless.

BUT, there are some things that just have to be said before starting with this:

(as far as $$ goes) this would not be possible if I
.... did not have my amazing brother who opened his home/entry way to me and lets me stay rent free for as long as I want, and often feeds me too :)
.... had not lived with my parents for two years, living with them saved me (at least) 500$ a month in rent that I didn't have to pay.* I lived with them for 2 years. That's a lot of rent money, right? I saved (most) of it, and now I am spending it. :) 
.... wanted the best of everything. The best place to stay, the best train, the best food, etc. I am happy with the middle of the road of everything (actually I am fine with whatever is cheapest so long as it's not totally disgusting). 

So in the interest of full blog disclosure --and I really debated if I should post this or not, but I figured I would be really curious about it if I was reading a blog like this, so I am going for it--

For the Vienna-Prague trip Joseph and I were traveling (away from Josh's apartment) a total of 20 (full days) and spent on average 83$ (US) a day each. This does not include our initial plane ticket to Frankfurt, but includes everything else- transportation, every place we stayed, all museums, all food, train, souvenirs... everything.

So how did we spend it? (All money in USD for the sake of my brain not exploding-they are not perfect conversions, but they are close):
Here are the two big ones-

Vienna= $0/ 4 nights -my brother kindly paid for the hotel (love ya Josh) 
Prague = $140/ 4 nights
Dresden= $80/ 2 nights
Berlin = $220/ 4 nights
Amsterdam = $320/ 4 nights (this killed me, BTW, but I think there was an IT convention when we were there or something)
TOTAL = $760 (or $380/each for a total of 18 nights about $19/night)
Was I happy with this? Well, my goal was $20 a night for us, so yes. BUT the only reason we got that was because Josh paid for the hotel in Vienna. We stayed in a mix of short-term apartment rentals, hostels and hotels. Still, $20/night per person is really pretty cheap. So no complaints.
  • This was a cool 21% of the total amount spent!
Transportation (single tickets on trains) 
Frankfurt- Vienna = $100
Vienna- Prague = $80
Prague- Dresden = $50
Dresden- Berlin = $78
Berlin- Amsterdam= $50 (...why was the longest trip by far the cheapest?! NO idea! This was an overnight train and it was so cheap. The train pricing makes exactly zero sense here.)
Amsterdam- Frankfurt= 80
    -other transportation:
Berlin card (5 days on Berlin subway) = $35
Amsterdam trains = $15
one Taxi (in Berlin) = $13 (each)
taxi's in Vienna = $40 (each)
TOTAL = $541 / each
Was I happy about this? Well, yes... and no. No because I wish I understood the train system here better, (and could have maybe gotten cheaper tickets) but I honestly don't understand it at all. Josh bought our Vienna tickets a month in advance and they were still more expensive then the comparable (length-wise) Berlin - Amsterdam train that we bough 4 days in advance and was half the price. It didn't seem to matter what the length, destination, or when we bought the ticket the prices were always a surprise -usually an expensive surprise! But on the other hand I am fine with it. I loved traveling by train I would not have traded that to deal with the hassle of an airport (even though at some points we probably could have flown for cheaper, once you added in the headache, the time/expense of getting to the airport, etc. I don't think it would have been worth it). 
  • and let's wave good-bye to 33% of the total amount spent!
Just lodging and transportation were 54% of the total amount we spent... crazy, right!? So how did we spend the rest? Food, museums... to the amount of around $40/day each. Really- not that much when you think about the fact that we are in Europe, on vacation (and that is really closer to about 33€ with the exchange rate).
And I think when you look at the money in this way, you can see that we did not (at all) go crazy spending. In fact, I am pretty impressed with our spending. 

So how did we save money?? We did everything that we wanted to do and never really said we wouldn't do something because it was too expensive. Except when I wanted to buy an apartment at Hofsburg Palace (which you can really do). Joseph had the veto on that one. 
Food: We went to nice dinners -when they were cheaappp (and delicious) in Prague, loved that exchange rate :) and ate at street vendors when it was expensive. Actually we were usually so busy we would eat just ate on more of a bruch/ dinner schedule. Or if we got breakfast it was just a coffee and a pastry for like 6€ total. We also would go to grocery stores and get granola bars that I carried around in my purse for cheap snacks.
We embraced free/cheap museums: Especially in Berlin a lot of museums were free (Stasi Museum, Museum of Terror, Reichstag Building) or you would pay a flat fee and get into a few museums (for example Museum Island in Berlin which was like 12€, but got us into a whole day of museums). Our most expensive museum was the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam which was something like 20€/each and was honestly pretty disappointing :(
We walked everywhere. (Except Berlin which was way too cold). I think that saved us some money, and was good exercise  for all the delicious food we ate, too :)

Yes, I want to faint when I realize the amount of money I spent/ have spent since I have been here/ will spend in the future. But this is truly a once in a life time experience, something that I am very, very lucky to have the opportunity to get to do. And well...I was saving my money for something special. This is my "something special": three months in Europe with my brother, something I will remember for the rest of my life. I can't think of anything that could actually mean more to me. So I consider every penny well-spent. 

* I did pay my parents rent, kind of. I gave them a certain amount a month, but they kept it in an account for me, and I will use that money when I move out to pay for all those expenses. But that amount was still way less then I would have paid in rent/utilities had I not lived with my parents while I was in grad school.  

Amsterdam: walks and cheese stores

Posted on 2/10/2012

Aside from a few museums Amsterdam was really relaxing and we mostly just went on walks around the city and ate delicious good food. I took a billion pictures of the amazing buildings and Joseph probably wanted to kill me, but was nice and just let me be a crazy tourist...
The buildings are amazing and beautiful. 

This picture only LOOKS crooked. It's really the buildings! Cute right? (Unless the buildings like collapsed or something that would not be cute)

The park next to where we stayed 
Even the dogs were stylish--how cute are those little shoes?

And finally, we went to a cheese store! OMG the cheese was so good! I ate so much but I could not help myself... I got some for my Dad because I knew he would love it. I wish I could have boughten/ eaten the whole store.
After five days in Amsterdam, we headed back to Frankfurt. I was actually pretty ready to head back- we had been traveling for two weeks and six days -not that anyone was counting :) There was lots of dirty laundry- we had a washer/dryer in Prague, but mostly we did laundry in the sink... so yeah we needed a washer, stat! We had bought tickets back to Frankfurt for 6:30, but decided to go at 4:30 instead and were assured that it was fine. Yeah, it wasn't. We got booted off the train and had to wait for the next train at some random station in the middle of nowhere, then our train was delayed and we ended up getting back an hour later... it was kinda a nightmare. But honestly that was the worst thing that happened to us on the whole trip so I really can't complain too much!
We rolled back into Wiesbaden around 1am Tuesday morning and then it was over. :( I would love it do it all again... it was amazing, start to (admittedly somewhat rocky) finish.

Amsterdam: food and snow

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The next day we headed over to the Van Gogh Museum, which seems to be a pretty standard thing to do in Amsterdam. I will say I will not really that impressed with it. Yes, there were lots of Van Gogh paintings (and some by other famous painters too), but it was super expensive, so crowded and really loud (because it has an "open" floor plan, all the noise echoed I swear it was like being in a high school gymnasium). Maybe I was jaded because I had been to some really amazing, not crowded museums, but overall was unimpressed. Luckily lunch that day was amazing, so it sort of made things better.

While we were in the Van Gogh museum it started snowing hardcore:
But strangely it was still pretty warm out, about 100x better then Berlin, thankfully.
Note my adorable Amsterdam hat. One of the little puffs fell off though :(
Then as we walked back to our hotel we happened to walk by a grocery store that had a slanted roof- which about a billion kids were using for sledding! How awesome is that! And their sleds were so awesome, too-
How cute are those kids? It made ME want to sled...but we couldn't find a store to buy a sled at-unfortunately. 


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Amsterdam started off amazing, because our train ride was amazing! It was only around $50 each for us to go from Berlin to Amsterdam, and we had our own little booth to sleep in. It was totally great. What was NOT so totally great was the Amsterdam tram system. Confusing, much? The building is gorgeous but there are A lines, and B lines and 1-5 lines, and if you want a map or to ask a question you have to pay for it.... greeattt.
Amsterdam train station
So, after navigating that cluster of confusion... we I decided never to ride on it again (till we had to go back to the train station). So we walked around and obviously were super impressed by the delicacies that were offered:

Pop tarts, twinkies and apple jacks. That is what America has to offer the world in terms of food :)
But I guess even more interesting was all the wooden shoes
I officially found a pair of shoes that I can't love! My Mom will be so proud. I did however buy ONE wooden shoe (a little one) as a souvenir. It's pretty cute actually.

I was also obsessed with all the buildings (as usual). Seriously so cute...
This picture is so Amsterdam to me. Canals, and bikes. 
We also went to the Anne Frank Museum on our first day, which was really neat and maybe I cried a little bit... I always feel so bad for her Dad, Otto, who survived the war only to find out all his family had died. There was also a nice exhibition on Anne Frank's Mom, who gets somewhat of a bad rap in her diary. It was nice to see a different view of her.