Thursday, November 19, 2009

After a series of trains that took us to semi-unplanned destinations, Sophie and I are now happily in Barcelona, enjoying good weather in a beautiful city. Tonight we will be taking a night ferry to Mallorca, which is an island off the coast. We´ll be staying there for a handful of days with a friend of Sophie´s before returning to Spain and taking a night train to Rennes, France.

Our last days in Prague were filled with good food and great company and before we realized it, we were out of time and on the train out. We left on the 17th, which is the day that the Czech Republic celebrates its independence from Soviet rule, which makes 2009 the 20 year anniversary of said independence. Before we left we got to see the thousands of Czech people take to the street in celebration and we also watched a bit of an outdoor choir performance. It would have been fun to stay and see the festivities, but we had a LONG journey from Prague to Barcelona and no time to spare.

Our original plan took us up to Paris and back down to Spain; a dumb course on paper but the fastest route thanks to the high speed trains. When we tried to book our reservations we found that the train was full so we had to scramble for another option. The ticket lady helped and plotted a new course that took about the same amount of time but stopped in Milan before Barcelona; giving us opportunity to spend a bit of time in Italy. I´m not going to complain about having a layover in Italy, and it was fun to be there.

After tonight though, we will have been travelling for 3 nights straight either on night trains or ferries, so I´m really looking forward to the shower I´ll be taking tomorrow (hopefully).

Monday, November 16, 2009

A quick update to say that Sophie and I are safely and happily in Prague right now. We arrived yesterday morning, did a bit of walking around, then met up with Sophie's friend who works at the American embassy. He showed us around and introduced us to a few other people living in Prague, before we all headed to a restaurant for some traditional Czech food. Everyone ended up getting the same thing; pig knee. It's basically a giant plate of ham for two people, with a side of saurkraut and horseradish. Tasty stuff!

Today we're going on a free walking tour before heading out for a brewery tour. We have little time here and lots to do so that's all for now!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Update (with PICTURES!!)

Despite having very good access to a computer for over a week, I have been very reluctant to sort through pictures and coordinate a blog post; but I can't procrastinate any longer!

At the moment we're in Belgium, staying with a friend from Concordia who lives in Jurbise, near the NATO base. We just came from a week at my cousin Anna's in Aphoven, Germany near the base in Geilenkirchen, so we are getting some great time on various military bases around Europe.

I had an excellent time with cousin Anna, husband Tony, and kids Kaylee and Cassie and the time went by too fast. It was great to finally meet Tony in person and see where they've been living in Germany (though I just found out they'll be moving to Texas in a few months!). We spent a lot of time eating all sorts of baked goods provided by "adopted mom" Anna, and even had some real home-cooked meals! We carved pumpkins for Halloween, visited the school, went to a chocolate factory, a brewery, a castle, and participated in a St. Martin's parade (which celebrates kids and involves walking at night with homemade lanterns).

Here's the whole gang at the chocolate factory!

Similar to the Four Corners in the States, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands all meet up in one spot. An easy game of Twister is all it takes to be in all three at once!

Between the sightseeing and the tourist destinations, the sessions of Rock Band and the baked goods, it was nice just being with family and feeling at home even while across an ocean. I can't thank Tony and Anna enough for sharing their time with us and showing us around; I would have been happy just hanging around the house with the family doing nothing out of the ordinary. It was sad to leave and I look forward to seeing them all again soon.

Going back in time a bit, before arriving to Anna's I was in Brasov, Romania. In order to get to Germany I had to take a long series of trains, including one overnight train. I should have known it was going to be a rough trek when my first train showed up half an hour late. We then stopped for an unusually long time at the border, but things were looking up when the Romanian man across from me offered me food. And by food I mean cured ham in a plastic baggie. I graciously cut a piece off with his well-worn (read: crusty) pocket knife and tried to hand it back, but he refused and pointed to my backpack, intending for me to keep the entire thing. Speaking no Romanian and not wanting to offend, I thanked him and stuffed the salty, smelly block of meat into my bag...

Continuing on, we made it into Hungary to be greeted by a Hungarian train strike. Thankfully international trains were (slowly) allowed through, though we did make one prolonged stop to let a news crew interview passengers and crew about the strike. Long story short, I was 6 hours late for my connecting train in Vienna. Once there I plotted a new route on another series of trains, which also came late. I was forced to take a second night train and finally arrived at the station to meet cousin Anna.

This is Brasov, as seen from their very tasteful Hollywood-esque mountain-top sign. This is also where I accidentally fell asleep while trying to journal.

Also, I think Brasov could use a little help with its town slogan. A little confidence couldn't hurt, Brasov!

Before Romania was Budapest, and it's about time I get some pictures up from that too...

Hungary was in the midst of a national holiday, so there were plenty of demonstrations and displays around town. The picture on top shows some good old fashioned interprative dance atop a tank. The bottom picture is my hostel in Budapest, or rather, my hostel between two floors of dance studio. I slept in the room with the red door with a blue sign in the window.

The coolest thing I did in Budapest had to be cave diving with this motley crew from our hostel.

Unfortunately I don't have any decent photos of the riverside at night, but Budapest is also pretty during the day!