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!