Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paris- (One Year Later...)

Well ladies and gents- if you still read this (which I doubt you do because we are no longer traveling Europe and have been back for a year now!)...we are finally adding the Paris blog. Yes...we are a year too late. But I feel better finishing this blog even though I am writing to nobody (and I am bored at a summer job...way less cool than last summer). Better late then never, right?

Paris. Let's see if I can even remember. Paris a few words...beautiful, adventure-filled, emotional, FUN, fashionable, artistic, yummy, and BIG!

I am going to go through this by adjective since it was too long ago to remember the daily occurance of events:

Beautiful: The first thing I can think of is the Eiffel Tower. Of course. But not just the tower. The tower lit up at night. And the deep blue sky as its backdrop. Not black. But blue. Like it never fully got dark there. The tower also twinkles on the hour. Starting at 11 pm I think. Twinkles!!!! We spent a good deal of time in our *new* parisian dresses taking jumping pictures in front of it (of course!). Just dancing and romping around in the large field of people from all over the world, who were playing guitar, drinking wine, eating baguettes with cheese, and genuinely spending time with each other. No cell phones. No laptops. No iPads. Just spending time with people. It was wonderful.

And that is exactly what we did that night. Now for the "adventure-filled" and "FUN" parts. We met up with our new Scottish friends from Amsterdam (who I am proud to say we still keep in touch with and one of them actually came to VISIT Virginia Tech!). We also met some girls from Mexico. And we just laughed, played games, and talked. much so that we lost track of time. This was easy to do considering out surroundings and how much fun we were having...and how lively Europe is at night. But our train, unbeknownst to us, stopped running at midnight. Well we would have missed it no matter what anyways, because we didn't even get to the Eiffel until 11. So in hindsight, it was good we spent the majority of the time waiting for our *cough cough* 5 am train ride home having fun :) After a bit of uncertainty and a tiny freak out ...;)....we got home ( sunrise...a beautiful one at that). And slept it off. We talked it out over a *lovely* cup of french cappucino. And proceeded to the louvre...

Artistic: Luckily we all had similar feelings about the Louvre. See the big things and get going. So we saw the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Venus de Milo (all of which were beautiful). We also went to the Impressionist Museum which was filled with famous impressionist paintings. We then went to the L'Orangerie to see Monet's Water Lilies. That was a fabulous experience. Seeing those paintings the way they were meant to be presented, in an oval shaped room with the paintings engulfing you, was truly magical. So much detail and intention was placed into every brush stroke. And it was so obvious when we saw that first hand.

Back to beautiful...something else beautiful was the river. We took a river boat tour. I couldn't tell you the name of every building we saw but I can just tell you being on the river at dusk is a must in Paris. Especially when you go by the section of the river located by the university and you can see all the college students socializing and studying. And the Notre Dame...

The Notre Dame is fantastic. It does not dissapoint. Huge, majestic, and etherial, we spent a good amount of time marveling at the intricate carvings and sculptures around the outside, and the vibrant stained glass and relics on the inside. Around the corner from the Notre Dame was the Saint Chappelle. Only as big as one normal sized chapel, the entire church was stained glass. I mean from head to toe. And these windows told the story of the entire Bible from panel to panel. It was really unique.

We also took a side trip to Versailles. The castle and the grounds are ornate and huge. It was very cool and surreal to be in the place Marie Antoinette lived. And it was nice to see what a smaller town in France was like.

Finally for the beautiful part (I know I am overexhausting that adjective)... the Sacre Coeur. Oh man. All any of us wanted to do in there was pray. It wasn't the largest or most grand of the churches we saw..but it was beautiful. Something special about it. We prayed and thanked God for this wonderful trip and the people he created and the wondrous creations we were privileged enough to have seen over the past 6 weeks. We walked outside and the steps overlooked the entire city. We brought dinner (baguettes, fruits, cheeses) and just relaxed up there with the hundreds of other tourists, street performers, vagabonds :)

Yummy: I've touched on the fact that we acquired baguettes, cheeses, and cappucino's during our stay in Paris. But every meal we ate was delectable! I mean real keish, crepes (savory AND sweet), chocolate, lattes, pastries, bread....the french cuisine may not be the best meals wise but it is EXCELLENT in the breakfast and sweet department :) We ate one night at a cute little place in an adorable quaint neighborhood (off the beaten track and recommended by Rick Steves of course...the name of it escapes me now however.) Mmmmm. SO good!

Fashionable: Paris wouldn't have been Paris without shopping. Starting at the Champs Elysees and working our way down the many many stores...we window shopped at things out of our price range. But it was fun to see the infamous Prada stores in their home city. We witnessed the daily winding lines outside Louie Vuitton, gazed at designer watches and sunglasses, and finally, shopped for shoes :) Shoes! They are everywhere in Paris! And every girl you see is wearing a trendy set of heels. So we figured we had to splurge! We managed to find one store with a sale and we all got some Parisian heels to match our also newly acquired, Parisian dresses.

Emotional: Now...we had one loss over the 6 week trip. It didn't happen until the last city, but that almost made it worse. We lost Tricia's camera. We think it got pick-pocketed. Now.. we're lucky thats the only thing we had stolen...and that Christie and Nicole had enough pictures to share...but it was still really sad and frustrating. But...we had just the cure!

With our new outfits at hand we decided to put them to good use. We found very affordable tickets to Les Miserables at the main theater in Paris. So we got dolled up, had dinner, and went to the theater! This took place on our very last night. If you have never seen Les Mis...go see it. It tugs at your heart strings in all the right ways. And it has everything. Beautiful music, first of all. But love, death, war, action, sacrifice, humor...oh it's so fantastic! We sobbed when it ended. All of us. I mean SOBBED. And when we walked outside, gazing over the river and reminiscing over the past 6 weeks...we sobbed even more. We pinky-promised to never forget this trip. And to return together someday.

It was the *perfect* ending to an even more perfect trip.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


After a 13 hour day on trains, we finally arrived in Amsterdam! Because of the obviously long day, we crashed around midnight as soon as we got to our room.

We woke up the next morning and, you guessed it, went on another free walking tour. We took it through the same organization that we did in Prague and Berlin. Its called New Europe Tours. They were actually started by a college graduate a little while back. They are great so we highly recommend them to anyone else who decides to do the backpacking thing.

The tour took us around pretty much the entire city. To our surprise Amsterdam is also a city on water, a lot like Venice. They proudly boast, however, that Amsterdam is better because the canals dont smell in the summer time like they can in Venice. This is because they actually drain them every 3 days which is pretty impressive. Even so, a swim is not recommended. We learned there is a lot of public peeing in this city haha. But it is still pretty! The buildings tilt
like in Venice because of the sinking ground. Some of them also lean forward. But that is architecturally strategic. It was done to be able to lift heavy things outside the building and not hit the building when Amsterdam was a huge merchant and naval trading city. The buildings also look different than any other European city we have seen. Stay tuned to facebook for pictures. But the city definitely has its oan unique personality. We liked it a lot.

On the tour we saw the red light district briefly and learned about the legal prostitution in the city. We saw the Old Church and the New Church. We saw the old main square where they used to execute public beheadings. We saw the Jewish Quarter, which now looks different than any other part of the city because the buildings were designed by architecture students and are way more modern. This is because the entire Jewish Quarter was demolished during the war because people had to cut down their houses for firewood to keep warm in the winter.

We took a break at the Coffee Company, the local coffee chain there. We also stopped and had some free cheese tasting. It was yummyyyy. We then leatned about the hash...of course. There is a marijuana and hash museum which we heard a bit about. We learned about the coffee houses, which is where you can legally purchase and smoke weed, or eat a "space cake" if you so desire.

On the tour we made friends with 2 scottish guys. The tour guide took us to watch the World Cup game at a large bar slash theater called Boom Chicago. Being the lucky girls we are, Holland was playing and we were once again in the home country during one of their football games! (yes i said football...correct!) It was nuts of course because Holland won. The entire place was packed and in the national colors of orange and black. Hup Holland hup! We had a late lunch during the game. It was a sausage and mashed potatoes dish that was a Dutch commodity, along with some Dutch beer. The shape of it was very suggestive I might add. You will see in the pictures haha.

After a quick pit stop at the hostel we headed to have try some pancakes, which Holland is fa,ous for. Mmmm they were good. We then went back to Boom Chicago to see a comedy show. The performers were American but the theater is apparently a cool thing to do in Amsterdam. It was pretty much like Whose Line Is It Anyway...a bunch of improv. It was really funny! We then met the Scottish guys for some beers and went out to some bars and dancing with them in Leidsplein, a big square. It was a good time!

The next day we woke up and went to the Van Gogh ,useum. We saw a lot of his famous paintings and read about his life. We then grabbed a nice relaxing lunch at a restaurant along the water before heading to the Anne Frank House.

Anne Frank was such a surreal experience. Remembering reading the book and visualizing the "secret annex" which Anne and her family hid in, and then being in the actual house, was just crazy. One of the things that really got to us was seeing the pencil marks on the wall where Anne's parents marked the children's heights as they grew. You can also see the pictures Anne put up in her bedroom to decorate it. It is crazy that 8 people lived in there for years and they hardly ever said a word. They had to walk up those creaky, narrow wooden stairs and try not to make any sounds for fear of being discovered. Then hearing about how her father, Otto was the only one to survive and how hard he searched for his family and then how he made himself get through Anne's diary. He fought to save the house and publish the book....he made such a good thing out of something terrible. He is truly a hero. Now Anne's book is translated into 65 languages around the world, second only to the Bible. It was a truly moving experience.

Needing a bit of a pick-me-up we hunted down some sushi for dinner! We had a craving. We then wandered around and took pictures of the sunset over the canals...which by the way doesnt happen until about 1030 pm. We went back to pack and turn in early to catch a 5:50 am train to Paris! Bonjourrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

Stay tuned for updates about our last stop. Crazy! We are getting really excited to see everyone though. Miss you all!

Nicole, Tricia, Christie

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Wheels are turning in Copenhagen!

Once we were finished in the bustling capital city of Germany known as Berlin, we headed on up to Denmark! We got on a 10 hour night train to Copenhagen so that we could safely arrive there in the morning!
Upon arrival, we were overtaken by the change of pace from pidgeons to seagulls. As well as the lovely old medieval architecture. But we had to shuffle onto a tram to get to our hostel and unload all of our belongings before adventuring further into the city. We dropped off our stuff and headed out the door to grab a delightful cup of Joe and a pastery before starting a day of sight-seeing. When we first started walking and came along a huge vigil that was in honor of Michael Jackson. It took us a few seconds to realized that is was a year since his death, and that it widely affected everyone in the world, not just USA. We then moved along and walked down some street alleys and looked into a few stores before being overwhelmed by some price tags.

Copenhagen was a city that was very chic, boho, and indie all that same time. It was QUITE expensive too. Needless to say, we drooled at an infamous number of things that we saw, wanted to buy (of course, we're girls) but a.) couldn't afford it and b.) we're backpackin' man! we can't bring all of that jank along! we rough it! But anyways, if you want an adorable place to shop, no matter the price, Copenhagen is the place to blow the big bucks.

We finished up what girls do best and then decided to stroll down the water on our way back to the hostel for a little R and R (you see, sometimes its not soo easy to the most relaxing sleep on night trains, so we needed a little pick me up nap). Once rengergized, we headed to Tivoli!!! Tivoli is a 19th Century themepark that is what Walk Disney based his theme park, Disneyworld on. Ohh yea, you heard me right. But we are not fools! We know the prices of theme park food, so we decided to splurge and grabe a China box of chinese food before going in! We think ahead. So we scarfed down our meals and then headed in. We saw so many shows, from ballet to seeing on orchestra tap their toes to their music. There was also a live rock band performance. It was really cool. We walked the theme park and got ice cream before heading out and deciding to crash early.

The next day, we spoiled ourselves and slept in. We got up and got another pastery and cup of coffee (sort of becoming a habit), and then decided to rent bikes! Copenhagen is all flat, so it is flooded with bikers. There are are separate bike lanes and stoplights for bikers, so we rented bikes for 6 hours and biked around the city. We were able to easily access the city this way. We stopped in and crusied through the Kings Gardens first. We then pedaled our bikes over to Nyhaven, the old navy port where we sat over the ledge where Christie and I got Thai food and Nicole got a hotdog! We then wanted to just bike all around the city, so we saw many sights like the Palaces and Christianshavn's Island. We also were able to watch a World Cup game on the waterside on a huge projector! We have been spoiled. But after returning our bikes, we realized that biking really is the way to go.

Headed for Amsterdam the day of the 27th by 3 trains that lasted 14.5 hours. But more to come when we talk about Amsterdam.

But as for now,

we love you. miss you. can't wait to see you while when we get home, but still are happy to be in Europe and don't want to leave!

Tricia, Nicole, and Christie

Friday, June 25, 2010

Berlin: City of bears and walking man lights!


So we just got to Copenhagen after a night train from Berlin. We had a nice ride on our first 6 person sleeper car. It was actually pretty comfortable!

Berlin was a great experience. It was cool to go back to a different part of Germany and compare the 2. Berlin was definitely a lot different than Munich. Much less "German" culture, aka liederhosen, bavarian music, beer halls and beer gardens, but a lot more city. But the history there is fascinating. And every corner you turn there is a story behind it.

When we arrived in Berlin it was late so we just walked around the corner to grab some kebabs- our new personal favorite snacks- and went to bed. Apparently kebabs are like the most popular fast food in Europe. And boy they are tasty! These ones had peanut sauce and hummus! mmmm.

Anyways...we woke up the next morning to take a free walking tour. These free walking tours are definitely the best intro to the city. Just a word of advice to anyone doing something like this in the future. The tour took us through all the sites in Berlin. We saw the Brandenburg Gate ,which is the cities major symbol. Across from it is the hotel Michael Jackson dangled his baby from. Who knew! We saw the site of major Nazi marches, buildings, and their headquarters. Of these sites we saw the building where they filmed a major scene in Valkerie to recreate history only a few years ago, and we saw the spot where Hitler's bunker used to be. This is also the spot he died at. Now its simply a crappy parking lot. Very fitting.

We of course saw the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. This was the main crossover point between West and East Germany during communist times. They have replicas of signs and gates to give people a feel of what the checkpoint looked like. They also have panels with info all about the Berlin Wall. We read about people's attempted escapes, both successful and failed. We read about the amount of deaths at the wall, memorials to victims of it, the GDR's methods of restriction during communist times, and the fall of the wall, which was actually an accident! It is so crazy that this happened when we were alive. We were babies, but still. It doesn't feel like that recent. But I am sure to our parents who are reading this they remember everything.

On our tour we also saw the site where the students of the university in Berlin had to burn all the books the government had banned. We saw a war memorial and the university where Einstein studied. We also saw the Holocaust Memorial. This memorial is very different than anything else we have seen. It's not obvious what it is alluding to at all. Its just hundreds of stone blocks, all different sizes. You can walk through it and evaluate what it means for yourself. Some people play hide and seek in it because people disappear and reappear in front of your eyes beacause of all the blocks. Our tour guide said she saw that as conveying its sense of hope, that people can still play in something that signifies such a terrible part of history. There is an exhibition underground which we toured a few days later. It was incredibly intense. It had diary entries of 15 actual victims. It had a room about a select number of actual families that were affected. It talked about a few of the concentration camps. It was almost too much for us.

After our tour we went back to the hostel to rest up for a pub crawl! Thats right...we had to do at least one. And Berlin was the place to do it. This city never sleeps. We had a good group of people to meet up with from a neighboring hostel that we met on the tour. Two of the girls we actually had met in Prague on our tour there! So we hung out with them, some Australian guys, and some guys from UVA (again!) and partied and danced the night away.

The next day we went to the German History Museum. We read more in depth about WW2 and the Holocaust and the Commuist times. We then went to look more closely at Checkpoint Charlie and had lunch at Einsteins Cafe! The next day we looked at the Holocaust memorial that I described before, but more in depth. Afterwards we tried to go look at the Topography of Terror-the site where the Nazi headquarters were. But it was beginning to be overload. We were feeling overwhelmed and upset about all the holocaust stuff we have been hearing about. So we decided we needed something happy. Luckily, Berlin houses one of the best and biggest chocolate stores in the world!

We headed to the chocolate store for some happy chocolate time :) We got DELICIOUS chocolate mousse desserts and coffees with ice cream. MMMMM. After taking pictures with a ton of the Berlin bears around town (kind of like the hokie birds around blacksburg...the bear is the symbol of Berlin), we grabbed dinner at a Thai restaurant which Christie had been hardcore craving. We then headed to the main square by the Brandenburg Gate to watch Germany vs Ghana in the WORLD CUP!

Let me just say it was NUTSSSSS. We couldnt even see down the whole street until they showed it on tv. We were among millions upon millions of Germans crowding the streets watching the game. We didnt get there until halftime. But we were there when Germany scored. We actually couldnt stand there the whole time because it was too crowded. So we ran up the street to a cafe to watch. And Germany wonnn!!! Deutschlandddd! People filled the streets after the game going crazy. After long days and nights we turned in early before catching our train to Copenhagen the following evening.

Okay I wrote a lot of this out of order because it was hard to remember. But you get the general idea!

Love and miss you guys. We are definitely feeling the wariness of travelling in this last week. But we are seeing amazing things and can't wait share it with you in person!

Nicole, Chrisite, Tricia

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Czech us out!

You know you want too! ;)

So, as you savy readers might guess, this post is about our last stop, Prague, in the Czech Republic! And let me just say first... WOW. We loved this city! I know for me personally, it's on my top three list. For one, Prague is incredibly gorgeous. It was one of the only European cities that was essentially untouched by WWII. So all of the buildings and monuments are super old, built in medeival times and onwards. Secondly, Prague is chock full of great history and facinating stories of people, events, and empires that rose and fell in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe.

Prague has actually only been the capital of it's own country for 20 years, since the fall of the Iron Curtain and communism. Before then, it was under the rule of emperors, Nazis, and communists. It's one of those cities that kind of just got passed around between occupying entities. Before the first world war, Prague was part of the Austrian Hungarian empire, ruled over by the Hapsburgs. After they were forced to abdicate the throne upon losing WWI, the first Czechloslovakian democracy was formed, very briefly, until the country was occupied by Nazis in WWII. At the end of WWII, the citizens of Prague decided that they finally wanted to be in charge of their own city. The city of Prague actually liberated itself when it got word that the American troops were only one day away, and they rose up against the occupying Nazi troops and engaged in a battle that lasted through the night for two days. When the Prague citizens found out that the Americans weren't going to be able to come to their aid as they were expecting (due to the division among responsibility and the claims on countries agreed on by the Allies), they finished off the Nazi occupation on their own, with the help of some Soviet SS soldiers who thought it might be better to get out of the city before the Soviets came and captured these traitors of communism. So the next day, when the Soviets arrived to "liberate" Prague, the job was already done! The happy and victorious Czechs tried to explain to the Soviets that no, in fact, they did not need "liberation", but to no avail. The Soviets stayed, made themselves at home in the city, and several years later Prague became part of the communist side of the Iron Curtain. This communist rule continued until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when finally protests by the citizens were able to push the communists out of the city. The Czech Republic reclaimed its nationality and its capital in 1990, and has been a democratic country (with capitalism in full boom) ever since.

Whew! If you stayed awake during that exhaustive history lesson, you'll understand why Prague was so facinating! On our first day, we took a super-informative tour which gave us that whole rundown, while strolling through the streets and seeing the actual locations of the events I just described. We spent the rest of our first full day climbing up to the Prague castle, exploring that side of the city and catching some incredible views of the rest of Prague laid out below us. The evening before, we had explored the Old Town and the center square of Prague, which is quite touristy but still beautiful, and full of one of the wonderful facets of capitalism- great shopping! One of the things Prague is known for is Czech blown glass. Beautiful, vibrant colors blown in glass form platters, vases, bowls, and many decorative items like butterflies, fish, other animals, or even people (some caught in quite racy acts!).

After our long day of touring, we hit a local pub to watch the World Cup after enjoying some traditional Czech fare. We sampled some meat dishes, including roast lamb and a beef sirloin stew with dumplings. And of course, we took part in the Czech's greatest invention... beer!! Yes, folks, you can thank the Czechs for your evening festivities tonight. That night we hunted down some ice cream and took a walk in some light rain that beautified the city even more, if that was possible. We walked out onto the Charles Bridge to get some night shots and to take in the breathtaking image of Prague at night one last time.

The next day we spent exploring the Jewish Quarter, which was the Jewish ghetto during the years of oppression leading up to WWII and the Holocaust. We got to see the Jewish cementary, which was the only cemetary in the city where Jews were permitted to be buried for hundreds of years. Consequently, there are layers and layers of tombs which have settled into eerily rolling hills and jutting, lopsided tombstones. It was a surreal experience and a photographer's heaven. Connected to the cemetary is the Pinzer Synagogue, which contains the names of every Jew from Prague who was killed in the Holocaust. They cover the walls of the rooms of the synagogue in about size 14 font... and go on room after room. Talk about a moving sight... names of entire families are listed together, all with seperate birthdays, but identical dates indicating the last day they were known to be alive. It was quite chilling, actually. The names were painted over during the communist era, but the synagogue was restored after 1990 when the democractic government was formed.

Upstairs in the Pinzer Synagogue is a display of childrens' artwork. Normally this would be a happy exhibit, but these children were imprisoned in the concentration camp outside of Prague. The drawings were used as a sort of therapy to help the children cope with the horrors of daily life. Out of over 8,000 children imprisoned from Prague, only about 100 survived. Most of the artists whose work is contained in the exhibit died before they reached the age of 15.

After that morning, we needed a little pick-me-up, so we visited (for about the third time in 2 days) our favorite shop in Prague- Bohemian Bagel, an American owned bagel store that was a wonderful treat for our tastebuds!! Oh heaven, you are a bagel with Philadelphia cream cheese in Europe. I'm telling you all, you never know what you'll miss the most until you have to go without it for a month and a half.

That afternoon, after our bagel feast, we sadly said goodbye to one of the most beautiful and fun, energetic, and facinating places we have visited yet. Have no doubts, we will be back! We caught a train to Berlin last night, and are on to our next adventure, in a new city on a new day. But for now, ciao loved ones! Kisses from over the Atlantic!


We arrived in Bohemia Budapest via train. It was a whopping 20 minute walk from the train station to our hostel but we finally made it with a wide load backpack on. Upon arrival, we were reunited with our dear friend Amanda Nizam whom we will be traveling with for a few days. "Reunited and and it feels so good!" We washed up and took a little break before heading to an all you can eat hungarian buffet with our hostel. It was quite a spread if I do say so myself. Food from shark to pork in spices. Yum yum yum! But stuffing our faces and bellys with tradional style cuisine, we decided to burn it all off by taking a hike to the top of Citadel to see all of Budapest at night. It was beautiful. We even happened to walk by fireworks on the bridge. We got to see Parliment at night and other wonderful sights along the Danube River. We then trekked home and got ready for a day of sights.

The next day consisted of...rain. But that didnt stop us. We hit up a free walking tour that took us throughout the historical odds and ends of Budapest. We were able to hear about how communism died within Hungary, and saw many amazing sights like St. Stephens Basilica many historical statues and what the represent to the Hungarian culture. It was crazy to hear about how revolutionary Hungarys history was. After the tour, we had a tradional hungarian lunch with our tour guides and group and then headed over to the legendary Turkish baths, what have been recommended for quite some time on our trip.

We went to on of the more popular baths, called Szecheni in the park. It was fun the go in and out of these baths (pretty much like pools, dont get your minds wandering) that ranged from all different temperatures. We got caught in a whirlpool in one, and then could relax in a sauna right across the way. We hopped from pool to pool with friends we made from our tour as well as our hostel before heading out to see the end of the United States vs. Slovenia game.

We then headed back to the hostel to kick back, relax, make some pasta, have a little vino, and get ready for a fun night out with the friends in our hostel. Our hostel was quite small so we quickly became friends with everyone that was in it. But everyone was going out to experience the Budapest nightlife. We had made a stop or two before it had got kind of late, and being swayed by the thought that our train was leaving for Prague at 5:30 in the morning, we decided to call it a night. But not without a quick bite to eat. A traditional favorite, langos! It was quite delectible.

But anywhos, we called a cab to take us to the train station, to hop on a train, and wa-la we arrived in PRAHA!

Thats all we have for now folks, but keep reading!


Tricia, Christie, and Nicole

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The hillsss are alive with the sound of Vienna!

Hey all! How do you like our quick blogs? We are finally up to date! Yay for free internet.

Well we just arrived in Budapest after a wonderful time in Vienna. Vienna is a very classy town. While it is a bit of a contradiction to see the beautiful old buildings clashing with the light up trendy shops, it is very easy to imagine the in-crowd of the 18th century bustling in the streets. All of the street names and restaurants are related to music, especially composers like Mozart, Strauss, Haydn, etc. The city is known for the coffee shops. We had a few very tasty cups of coffee while we were there, I must say.

The first night we ventured out to find a wine bar. We ended up at another Augustiner, but way different than the beer halls in Munich. This was a wine cellar that used to be a monastery. It serves its own locally grown wine. Christie got a glass with her Viennese wienerschnitzel. Nicole got some Viennese dumplings, and Tricia solely ordered a Viennese apple strudel. Christie and Nicole split a topfenstrudel for dessert. It was delicioussss. We took the metro home to get a good nights rest for sight seeing in the morning.

We awoke to pouring rain. Lame. But we made the most of it. We went inside St Stephen's cathedral, which was gorgeous of course. This church has catacombs that encase the Hapsburg families intestines. Yummy! But no, sadly we did not see the royal innards. We then walked to the Hofburg Palace, and on the way stopped in the world famous Delem chocolate shop. Everything looked amazingggg and you could watch them bake. It was so hard not to buy everything.

We then took a tour of the Hofburg Palace, which took us through the royal families silver and dining collection, the Sisi museum, and the imperial apartments. The Sisi museum took us through Empress Elisabeth's interesting but very depressing life. But it was still very intriguing.

We went back to the hostel to cook some pasta on our own and get ready for our night the opera! We caught the metro early to the WORLD famous Vienna State Opera House. We paid 4 euro for standing room tickets right in the center aisle under the balcony on the first floor. We saw the premiere of Wagner's Tannhauser. As soon as the orchestra, comprised of members of the Vienna Philharmonic, started playing, we all had goosebumps. The sound was just amazing. And the singers did not disappoint. It was 3 acts, a total of 4 1/2 hours. And yes we stood the whole time. But it really wasn't that bad and DEFinitely worth 4 euros. The crowd went wild as the final curtain went down. It was so cool to watch opera with the people of Vienna. They were all ages and all types. And every single person was so well cultured and appreciative of their city's famous art form. It was a great experience.

The next morning we went to the Spanish Riding School. We saw the world class horses at their morning practice. They were beautiful! They did all sorts of dressage exercises. Christie exercised her knowledge on us, which was nice to understand the difficulty level of the tricks the horses and riders were practicing.

We topped the trip off with some pastries and headed to the train station. We will miss this classy town! Next stop-Budapest!

Love you all

Nicole, Christie, Tricia

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Munich... Prost!!!

Guten Tag!

We arrived in Munich on Sunday morning, after catching an eaaaaarly train from Interlaken with our two friends Scott and Kate from William & Mary. We checked into our hostel- the WOMBAT, oh yeah. We picked this one because we actually discovered that our UVA friends we met back in Nice (check out that post if you missed it) were going to be in Munich at the same time, and so we decided to book the same hostel.

After checking in, we were famished and in dire need of some authentic German beer and brats, with a side of HUGE pretzels. So we headed to one of the best beer halls in the city, Augustine Keller. They were the first Munich brewery and are still known as serving the best beer in the city! Our waitress was dressed up in traditional Bavarian clothing (just picture your mental image of a beer maid at Oktoberfest- that was her). We got all of the aforementioned food and I even tried sauerkraut for the first time! Hey, if you're gonna try it, it might as well be in the country that invented it. It actually was pretty good. The best thing about the food (even though I think by the end we had had about as much as we could handle) was that it all went so well with beer! We tried lots of different kinds... the regular lighter ale they serve everywhere, as well as a darker Weissebeir- a wheat beer with a really foamy head- that was my personal favorite.

Another awesome and unplanned timing of our visit- Germany played their first World Cup game on Sunday night. For those of you that saw it, it was sick, wasn't it? Imagine watching that team play that well in a German beer hall surrounded by Munich locals, wearing Germany colors with a German flag painted on your face. Well that's exactly what we were doing Sunday night! It was pretty surreal and awesome. We tried to watch the game at the famous Haufbrauhaus beer hall, but the only TV they had set up was in the beer garden and it was raining. (By the way, we have had our first slew of rainy days- a bummer, but pretty lucky that it's our first set of bad weather for the whole trip!) Any way, we ended up just going back to the place we had lunch, one of the 28 Augustine Keller beer halls in Munich. We picked up our German garb at a store on the way and a random German girl on the street painted flags on our faces! We piled into an upstairs room with lots of locals and a few brave Australians, with wooden tables in rows running perpendicular to a huge projection screen. And yes, the viewing did come complete with huge, liter-sized beer steins full of delicious German beer. Needless to say, it was an awesome experience.

The next day, we got up and hit the streets of Munich for a guided walking tour through the old city. Fun fact: Most of Munich is only 60 years old. It was completely bombed out in WWII, because it was the capital of the Nazi movement. But Hitler loved the city so much that his subordinates were careful to meticulously photo-document the inside and outside of countless buildings so they could all be rebuilt after the war (which they assumed they would win). Well, win or lose, the photos have helped the people in Munich rebuild their city. They have deliberately built new buildings to look old, so you can get lost in the city and believe the whole time that you are walking in 200 year old streets, when in reality some of the cobblestones were hand-laid just last year.

See, I learned a lot on our tour! We also got to sample some more beer and brats. The brats were a little spicy for me and Nicole, but Tricia enjoyed them, and we all enjoyed our half-liter of beer at 11:30 am. That's how they do it in Munich! The average local drinks a liter and a half of beer per day. In fact, the city provides one liter of beer a day to all of the students living in their "perfect student" housing- you have to have the equivalent of a 4.0. That's one way to motivate students to study!

After our walking tour on Monday, we headed back to the hostel to meet up with Nate and Tyler (Arthur headed home to the States earlier this week), our friends from UVA/Nice. We all grabbed a free drink (voucher provided at check in) at the hostel bar, and also enjoyed the sweet happy hour from 6-7 pm before going out to the Haufbrauhaus (the most famous beer garden in Munich) for dinner. The Haufbrauhaus was actually one of the central meeting places for Hitler and his original Nazi supporters during the beginning of the socialist movement. There are Bavarian flags painted on the ceiling, but if you look closely you can tell that they actually cover up four swatstikas. But don't make any jokes about Munich's Nazi history- you can be arrested on the spot for doing the Nazi salute in public in Munich.

After checking out several beer halls, we headed back to the hostel bar then went on a hunt for kebabs at midnight! Yum :) To bed that night (an interesting night in our hostel dorm, but that's all I'll say about that), then up the next day to catch a tour of Dachau, one of the original concentration camps outside the city. This tour was incredibly sad, but really interesting and definitely a must-see if you're in the area. We weren't super excited, but we new it was necessary to check out such a pivitol part of our world's history. Seeing what human beings are capable of doing to each other only confirmed to me the reality that we face true evil in this world, but hearing the stories of solidarity amongst the prisoners of the camp renewed my hope in human beings and the stronger powers of good at work around us.

After we got back from that sobering tour, we hopped on a train to Vienna, Austria! That's where we are now, but I'll leave our adventures in this city for another time. For now, we love you all and we miss you terribly! A quick rundown of the things we miss from the States:
Tricia- my duvet, slippers, and watching movies
Nicole- a larger closet (scratch that, a closet.), cheap candy, and Frappacinos

And of course, all of you!!

Love you, bye for now!
Christie- hoodies, my puppy, and sleeping without earplugs

Extremists to the Extreme!!

Hey all you kooks! Hope you are keeping up with our blog and enjoying our latest news. We have been to quite a number of places in the past few days, but heres the low down on a very hardXcore and intense place called...INTERLAKEN, SWITZERLAND! (Rambo music!!)

We arrived late evening (dont know the day, we sort of forget the days on this trip) but walk into our hostel after 4 trains. We stopped into Luzern, Switzerland for the afternoon. We walked by some famous bridges that overlooked GORGEOUS, and I mean, gorgeous rivers overlooking the Alps. As well as walking by some famous Medieval walls.

After this pit stop, we arrived safe and sound to hear that we would be staying in a... yes, you didnt guess it, a 32 person bed dorm. You heard me right. We were roughin' it to the extreme in the Alps. We went all out and literally lived out of our backpacks for the first time. But we put our packs down, grabbed a burger and fries to eat provided by our hostel (the first American meal we´ve had on the trip) and met up with our William and Mary friends that we met in Rome that we found out were stalking us (not really, parents dont freak out). We hung out for the evening, met a few new faces in our hostel before hitting the sack for some outdoors adventure.

The next morning, we filled our bellys withs some grub provided from the hostel before taking a bus, and then two trains, and a gondola up to trail in the Alps that overlooked the Eiger, the Jungfrau, and the Monch. Oh my lanta, it was breathtaking. Dont worry, the pictures are our souvenirs. We hiked for a few hours throughout the alps in and out of snow patches in the midst of cold clouds. It was a gorgeous day to hike. the. alps. ¨Hi my name is _____ and I´m on an Alp!" We are greatly proud to say this phrase all day long. But anyways, after a day of hiking we went back for some lunch and treats, and then watched the start of the WORLD CUP!! HOOPAHH!! South Africa vs. Mexico, Go South Africa! (Sorry, Mexico, South Africa should have won) But we are in full World cup mode since we are in Europe, home of football.

After this, we washed up for some native dinner, which turns out that Switzerland is mighty expsensive. We shared some rostis and schnitzl with mushroom sauce, which broke the bank for us. We then headed back to watch another world cup game, hang out with some more people from our hostel and then check out the club at our hostel (yes, there was a club in the basement of our hostel. I know, legit. Unz. Unz. Unz. (base music) We pretty much brought down the house with our funky dance moves.)

The next day, we tried to be extreme like all the other extemists in our hostel. Those that were skydiving, canyoning, or rafting, but our money wouldnt allow for it. But we were able to get really intense with a challenging and elevated ropes course. Zip lines, walking on ropes and tight lines 60 feet in the air... don´t worry, we were safely harnessed in!

After this, we got some yum yum snacks like wraps and Thai food (since Switzerland is known for having an abundance of Thai and Asian food) and watched more World Cup! We got all ready and got our nook prepped for the USA vs. England game. After watching the intense and mentally challenging game, we went to rest up so we could head our for an early night train to Munich, Germany!

Well folks, thats all for now from Switzerland. If you want more, scroll up!

For now, ¨So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night!¨

With GREAT love,

Tricia, Nicole, and Christie

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rome, Florence, Venice..Arrivederci!

Hey all!

So sorry we haven't blogged in awhile. It is getting more and more difficult to find free internet.

We finished our week in Italy and are now in Interlaken, is beautiful here! But we will save that for the next blog.

Because so much happened in Italy this blog is just going to be a brief synopsis! (We are also intently watching the World Cup as we write haha)

We arrived in Rome at about 8 pm on Saturday night. We checked into the hostel, who gave us a free bottle of red wine as a welcoming gift (yeaaaa) and set out to find an Italiano dinner! We ate at a restaurant in front of the Pantheon. We all enjoyed different pastas and some white wine. We got some gelato at the Trevi Fountain and threw some coins in, hoping the myth about meaning we will return to Rome comes true! Tired from a long day of travelling we turned in early after dinner.

The next day we got up and went to the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. Seeing all of the ancient Roman ruins is so surreal. Everything is SO old and has such a great history behind it. But it was hotttt. We found some lunch at a wonderful place that served big, cold, refreshing salads. Mmmm. We checked out the Campo di Fiori and got some gelato and headed back to the hostel for a siesta. Man I am going to miss those siestas.

That evening we met a guy from NC State, now working in Northern Virginia. He introduced us to his friend from work who is a Hokie Alumni! We all took our free bottles of wine and headed over to the Spanish Steps to hang out. Afterwards we ate another grand Italian dinner in an alley way. We walked by the Trevi Fountain, all lit up at night, on the way to an Irish pub (I know not Italian at all) to wind down for the night.

The next morning we met up with our new friends to head to Vatican City. We shopped at a flea market in front of the Castel St. Angelo, shared a big mozzerella pizza for lunch, and headed to the museum. We toured the museum, ending with the breath taking Sistine Chapel. Afterwards we gazed in awe at the inside of St Peters Basilica. We then climbed the tiny stairway, all 325 steps, to the top to peer over the rooftops of Rome.

Tired from our day in Vatican City we turned in for another Siesta. That night we headed to dinner in the Piazza Navona and ate alongside street musicians, artists, and the bustling Italian atmosphere. We then headed to a bar in the Campo di Fiori and took advantage of the Ladies' Night specials :)

We had a blast in Rome! We then headed to Florence. We checked into our hostel and got lunch at an excellent local panini place, where we chatted with a guy from Florence for awhile about his city. We saw the Statue of David, which was huge and incredible. Every detail is carefully carved into a huge slab of marble. It was awesome. We then headed to the Duomo and stared up at its beautifully painted Dome. Finally it was time to shop. We caved and headed to Zara. We all got some dresses and skirts :) We had dinner at a restaurant by our hostel and then went back. We decided to check out our hostel's pool (yes it had a pool). We went for a swim in the COLOR CHANGING cool! We went to bed to rest up for our day of travelling to Venice!

After a couple trains and a ferry we finally arrived in the beautiful town on the water-Venice. Looking at the skyline was crazy because the tall skinny buildings are tilting because the city is legitimately sinking. But the water is beautiful. We took ourselves on a self guided tour on a slow boat that went all the way down the Grand Canal. We went under the famous Rialto bridge and got off at San Marco's. We walked around the square and stopped in some murano shops. We got dinner in an alleyway close to the square and then went to listen to the battling cafe orchestras in San Marco square. A perfectly Italian end to our perfectly Italian adventure!

We are now in Interlaken. Stay updated to hear about our adventures with the Swiss!

Nicole, Tricia, Christie