On the road again…literally

Hi friends! Sorry for the delayed post, but it’s been a hectic week and I did not have my Sunday binge of wifi like I usually do.

This past weekend, we took a road trip with our boss across Germany and slightly over the border of the Czech Republic. Why would five of us cram into a tiny (and I mean tiny) car and drive four and a half hours? What better reason that to shop…

Cheb is where the market is. I don’t mean fish and meat and cheese, I mean all things from scarves to watches to purses. I have already experienced the Souks in Marrakech, Morocco, (BTW if you ever get the chance, GO TO MOROCCO!) so I was prepared for the type of bargaining and behavior that would occur at the market. It was pretty similar, but let’s just say it was a little bit more sketchy here.

We would be walking along the center aisle and in their broken English, people would ask what we were looking for. They would whisper ideas or suggestions, and if we showed interest, they became very secretive. They would turn their heads left and right, then say, “come come,” and hurry us down a narrow hallway behind a blue tarp to a door unseen by the public. They would then let us into a tiny, cramped room where all the real goodies are. The longer we spent in each room, the more the price would go down. It was slightly awesome. Once we completed purchases, they told us to “keep quiet” and ask “how much you pay?” to suggest that we not advertise what little we spent on [insert item here].

After we were plenty frozen (the market is outdoors) and ready for our next adventure, we hopped back in the car and shortly after, stopped for gas. Now I normally wouldn’t include this portion in my story, but an important member of the family was added at this gas stop. His name is Roary (hehe) and he is a (stuffed) lion. He is dressed in an adorable German outfit and he’s even wearing a hat. I was reluctant at first, but he’s now my godson and you will see him featured in future adventures. Roary goes everywhere now.

After driving for about four hours until we got to our destination: Füssen. It is a quaint town that just happens to have two enormous castles up above the town. No big deal. After we checked into our hotel, we walked around the town to find something to eat. The shops and little streets were picturesque, holding character and beautiful architecture in every direction. We finally settled on a warm and inviting authentic German restaurant.

Exhausted from a long day of mostly driving, we headed back to our hotel to soak up the limited amount of time where we had wifi at the touch of a button. Most of us caught up on communicating with friends and family back home before crashing for the night. We needed our beauty sleep if we were going to wake up as royalty.

Well, we didn’t wake up as royalty, but we did wake up to 3 inches of snow with no signs of stopping. I shouldn’t complain, because I’m from Iowa and I’m used to waking up to flash ‘floods’ of snow, 10+ inches. But I’ve gotten used to hardly any snow and more mild temperatures. I’m being spoiled, I know. (Sorry Iowans, I don’t miss the weather!)

We ate breakfast in our hotel before heading up the hill to the castle. It snowed most of the day, but it was worth it. The castle we visited is called Neuschwanstein and it was where the King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, reined from. Next to Neuschwanstein is another castle, just as immense and grandiose, but it was his childhood home. Because every child needs a childhood castle, and a castle for adulthood. Duh.

Given the occasion, we treated ourselves like royalty and took a horse carriage ride up the mountain. It was peaceful and we didn’t have to climb the giant, slippery hills in the snow.

King Ludwig II was very involved with the planning and architecture of the castle, which is impressive considering he could have just said what he wanted and thy will be done. He worked first hand with designers to create his perfect sanctuary. Unfortunately, only 1/3 of the castle was completed before his death in 1886. When he died, so did the work on the castle.

Perhaps the most unfortunate room that had not been completed was the throne room. We toured this immaculate room, complete with a 2,000 pound chandelier and 2 million tiles on the floor, and beautiful tapestries and artwork consuming every angle of every wall. The theme of his throne room was religion, evident with a large portrait of Jesus Christ himself above where the throne would have been. The only thing missing from the throne room? The throne. The guide stated that, because there was no royalty after King Ludwig, there was no reason to continue building a throne.

We then toured his bed chamber, complete with a beautiful reading chair, as he loved to read, and his own vestibule to pray in. The theme of this room was Tristan and Isolde, an interesting choice as the story is quite tragic.

Due to the weather, the bridge behind the castle was closed unfortunately. This bridge is a small hike from the castle itself, but offers picturesque photo opportunities and a beautiful view of the castle. Just another reason why I need to get back there again someday real soon.

We met up with our group and took a horse carriage ride back down the mountain. We browsed some of the shops and continued on our way, leaving the adorable town of Füssen and Neuschwanstein behind. It was about 4 hours back home, so we settled into Hugo (the nickname for our boss’s car) and ventured home.

I always say that it can’t be considered a road trip if you don’t get lost at least once. Good thing Hugo made sure of that. We ran into a traffic jam on the way back, and the GPS system decided to take us to another traffic jam. After programming Hugo yet again, he led us in a circle right back to the original traffic jam. Thanks a lot Hugo.

We made it home safe and sound and utterly exhausted. Being cramped in a very small European car for 4+ hours is not ideal, but the weekend and those it was shared with made it worth it. Road trips are the epitome for making memories.

Stay tuned for my post about Empanada-making night with my co-workers! Yum!

-K

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Mexican Food and Breakup Juice

Coming to you midweek is a new feeling for me, but I had to share some laughs and memories I won’t soon forget from our co-worker gathering on Tuesday.

Us interns all work at separate centers, but we all came together with teachers from my and Karina’s center to learn how to make empanadas. I’m not usually a fan of Mexican food, but homemade Mexican food that you helped make tastes a whole lot better.

Empanadas are basically tortillas wrapped around seasoned meat and fried. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. There’s a method to the madness, and it took me a couple tries to ‘perfect’ the empanada-making. Those of us who helped make them loved them, but my co-worker who specializes in them said she wouldn’t even take them home to her husband…her polite way of saying they weren’t good but she admired our effort. To each their own, because they were damn good. I might be biased though…

Perhaps the best part of the night was when our coworker shared her recipe for what she called “Breakup Juice.” I’m sure you can all guess what kind of juice this is, but that’s not the best part. It’s all in how you make it.

She shared with us that it got its name because of a douche bag ex-boyfriend. When they broke up, she was obviously sad and angry, but she used it to her own advantage. Atta girl. The recipe basically calls for:

-whatever alcohol you have in your house

-whatever fruit you have in your house

-a few choice wines

-a large pitcher

-an even larger knife

-your best girlfriends

I’m sure you can pull it all together now, but she talked about how she took the biggest knife she had and all the fruit in her house and just started hacking at it until it was in small enough pieces (taking out the anger in a productive way). She then soaked the fruit in whatever alcohol she had in her house, letting it soak for a couple hours while she went out and bought red wine (getting out of the house and focusing on something other than your current situation). When she came back, she mixed all the ingredients together to form sangria, aka Breakup Juice (creating something delicious out of a bad situation). By the time you and your girlfriends got halfway through that pitcher, douchy ex-boyfriends didn’t matter, right? (aka having all your girlfriends tell you that they secretly hated him but they love you anyway and you’re SO much better without him) RIGHT. Preach it girl.

She then shared with us that now that she is happily married, the name has been changed to hold a more positive connotation. I’m all about versatility. I can definitely tell you that if all I bring home from Germany are memories and photos, I will definitely be bringing home the recipe for Breakup Juice. Bonus? You don’t have to go through a breakup to enjoy the juice…it’s just a win-win situation all around.

The night was filled with laughs and jokes, and it was a very comfortable atmosphere. I originally thought that being with co-workers outside of work would be a little awkward and uncomfortable, but it was enjoyable and something to look forward to in the middle of the week.

Now we’re all looking forward to BERLIN. We head out tonight right after work. We will be celebrating one of our fellow interns, Sarah’s, 21st birthday on Saturday. Like we needed an additional reason to go to Berlin…

Another place, another treasure, another star on the map of where I’ve been. Another reason to be so grateful for this experience.

Stay tuned to hear about Berlin!

Happy Friday!

-K

Helau from Fasching!

My weekend didn’t end after Venice. Fortunately, we had Monday off due to President’s Day, so it allowed us to fit in a day trip to Mainz, Germany, where we dressed up crazily (or at least attempted to) and tried to fit in at a glorified carnival/Halloween celebration. It is Germany’s version of “Carnival.”

What I loved about this experience was that people young and old celebrated with equally as much gusto. Locals had it easy–they had these things stored in their closets for months in preparation. Most had on full-body suits to keep them warm, but Sarah and I just had to work with what we had. Like I said, we tried.

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We got on the train about 9 am to find people were already highly intoxicated. Let me reiterate that it was people of all ages, making the ride enjoyable because we had our own personal entertainment. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on the bus was going to the same place and they all were dressed up. It reminded me of Halloween, but more glorified, more conservative, and more received by people of all ages.

Each train stop added 50+ people and there was no extra room. Standing room only, it was hard to even make it in the door. Luckily we only had one train transfer, leaving minimal times to squeeze our way past drunken ladybugs and women who failed at attempting to be a mermaid, but somehow their alcohol made it easier to accept.

We missed a connecting train due to the delay of the previous train, but no fear, just follow the crowd looking like they were part of a movie cast or a carnival. This was also the case when we got there. Sarah and I didn’t look at a single map or ask for directions at all, we followed the crowd and listened for the parade noise and got to where we needed to be.

We arrived in Mainz about 11 am or so, and the parade was in full swing at this point. The parade was still in full swing when we left town around 4 pm. It was an ongoing loop, perhaps for fear of missing a single float, or a single yell of “helau.” “Helau” is basically pronounced as “hello,” so Sarah and I assumed they were just really obnoxious about saying hi to everyone in the crowd. It turns out that “helau” is a greeting, but it is used to greet fools and jesters at a carnival. Perfect.

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Fasching or other Carnival events are celebrated from January 7 until Ash Wednesday. It is a pre-Lenten celebration whose duration depends on when Easter falls each year. Because it is celebrated predominantly in Catholic religions, I found it interesting when I read that Carnival or Fasching is celebrated so long to drive away evil and winter (they’re one in the same, aren’t they?) spirits who arrived at the opening of hell on earth. The people of this time made fun of the spirits by dressing up in costume, and it resides today as “Fasching.” I’m sure that’s why everyone still celebrates it today…

Like any great parade, they threw out candy and numerous other items. Haribo gummies are the staple here, so the streets were lined with empty packages and packages of customized “Karneval” gummies for the holiday. One thing was a little odd about the German parade, though–the adults were grabbing for the candy just as much as the kids. It was a funny sight seeing middle-aged men trying to hold steady a beer in one hand while reaching for candy in the air with the other.

It was freezing cold that day, so it was less than ideal to spend the entire day outside. Since Sarah and I didn’t have fur body tiger suits to keep us warm, we called it a day fairly early. We didn’t feel like we were missing out on much, considering the parade was STILL going when we left and marchers were still hollering “helau.” We were also still exhausted from our Venice trip that we elected to get a good night’s sleep before the work week.

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I loved the long weekend, but I equally loved the shorter work week. Tomorrow is already Friday! This weekend will be a bit more relaxed and laid back. We are gearing up for two solid months of heavy travel after next weekend.

Bring it on, Europe, I can sleep when I’m dead!

-K

The Most Beautiful City in the World: Carnivale in Venice

So this weekend has been pretty big as far as my bucket list goes. I visited Venice, Italy, on Saturday and it was nothing short of beautiful and amazing. The picturesque views are just like what you see on TV. It was breathtaking. As a city built on water, rumors say it doesn’t have much of a lifespan left, so I’m glad I could witness its beauty before it is unable to be seen.

I was a little skeptical about the timing. My friends and family know how much I hate the “holiday” of Valentine’s Day. So going to one of the most romantic cities in the world on Valentine’s Day didn’t sound all that appealing, but it didn’t stop me. It helped that their annual Carnivale festival was going on during this time. Carnivale is like Mardis Gras in the United States and is specific to Venice. People dress up in intricate costumes and masks, many spend weeks or months preparing their costumes for this event. Coupled with outrageous dress are entertainment venues in St. Marco Square on a big stage. Needless to say, it was so awesome to see that and be a part of it while we were there.

We took the bus to Venice and arrived just outside the city around 9:30. Considering Venice is an island city, we took a ferry to get to the actual city. The drive was long and uncomfortable, but the views upon arriving in the city were more than worth it. The water was surprisingly blue, considering the city’s sewage system is dumped right into the water.

What was nice about this trip is that my friends and I didn’t really have a travel agenda. We didn’t have a whole lot of things that we NEEDED to see, but rather just to experience as much of the city as possible in the short 10 hours that we had there. We spent our morning wandering St. Marco Square, which is the iconic square in Venice. This is where most of the people who were dressed up for Carnivale were wandering, and there was also a stage set up for the many entertainment acts that would occur throughout the day.

Eventually we wandered through the narrow, winding streets and came upon a hole in the wall restaurant with authentic Italian food. We had pizza and caprese salad and it was so amazing! After lunch, we made a sort of game plan for the rest of the day that included making it to Rialto Bridge and taking a gondola ride.

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We wandered for a bit longer and got some great photos on a bridge. Let me tell you that everywhere you look is a view that belongs on a postcard. I’ve never been to a city that is so beautiful in every direction, in every corner, like Venice was.

We were much luckier with water canals in Venice than we were in Amsterdam. Because Venice is an island city, there are no cars at all. Everything is transported by boat; the trash is removed from the island by boat, deliveries are delivered by boat, and to get from place to place, you guessed it, you go by boat. It was peaceful to be able to walk wherever we wanted without having to worry about car traffic. I also didn’t know that Venice is made up on different islands. The main island is where we were a majority of the day, but there are four other islands that compile Venice as a whole.

After snapping some photos, we got on the water taxi and just kind of rode it until we decided we wanted to get off. Stopping in the cutest greenhouse turned cafe, we took a quick break before wandering again. We suddenly realized that we were off the beaten path and had somehow ended up in a more residential area of Venice. It was very quiet, almost eerie. There were very few people out wandering, most in the square for Carnivale festivities or their siesta. Though they don’t have formal siestas like Spain, I found that many businesses closed around one or two in the afternoon and reopened in the evening.

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The thing about Venice is that you have to be prepared to get lost. The streets are winding and the maps are hard to follow. We definitely got lost in this residential area and more or less couldn’t find our way ‘out.’ But we wandered upon a beautiful church and another picturesque area where we snapped some photos. This whole getting lost was peaceful and allowed us to really open our eyes and experience Venice more as a city and less as a tourist attraction.

After a while, we made our way back to the water taxi. Unfortunately, we got on the wrong line and ended up taking the long way to the Rialto Bridge. But when you’re ‘lost’ in Venice and taxiing from island to island, you can’t really complain because it’s beautiful to see all aspects. After seeing Rialto Bridge and also encountering many more people who had outdone themselves for Carnivale, we made our way back to St. Marco square for a gondola ride.

This is what we had been waiting for all day. It was right around sunset when we set out and it was relaxing and beautiful. We went in some side canals, but also on the Grand Canal (the main canal). It was about a 40 minute ride and our driver was very entertaining. After the gondola ride, we didn’t have much time left in the city. We checked out the event stage and watched a few performances. After the performances, there was a random countdown from 10-0. It reminded me of New Years Eve in the States and the couples around us started kissing. Except for this moment, I had (thankfully) forgotten it was Valentine’s Day in the city.

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We arrived home about 8 am and all slept for about four hours. Spending 24 hours on a bus round trip is very uncomfortable, but, like I said, so worth it. What’s nice about this weekend is that we have Monday off due to the President’s Day holiday. It is our only three-day weekend while we’re here so we’re taking advantage of it by going to a small German town early Monday morning.

Like Carnivale in Venice or Mardis Gras in New Orleans, many places in Germany and nearby countries celebrate with Fasching. Tomorrow is Rose Monday, which is the main day and when all the parades take place. This festival also includes dressing up in absurd outfits; the crazier the better. So we are going to Cologne to experience this. I will be sure to share those experiences with you all as well.

Ciao, bella!

-K

Laughs, Lights, and being Livid in London

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‘ello! (In my best British accent)

Before I start to recount the more than wonderful events I encountered in London, you all should know that we accomplished what you’re about to read in about 15 hours. Yes, we attempted to tackle London in 15 hours and I must say, we did a hell of a job succeeding at it. No, it did not go smoothly, but that’s half the fun. It’s also funny NOW as opposed to in the moment…I’m just glad we’re all still alive and breathing.

We left Germany at 11 pm Friday night and drove to Calais, France, where we got on the Chunnel. Everyone I’d talked to said they took a boat ferry from France across the water to England, but that was not the case for us. The Chunnel is an underground train that goes under the English Channel. One would think we would get off the charter bus and get onto the train, but much to our surprise this was not the case. Our bus driver simply drove the bus onto the Chunnel and we rode the 45 minutes in our bus in a subway that went underwater. Let that sink in. The experience was a little unnerving, but perhaps even more because we couldn’t see anything. We were sitting on our bus in a compartment with about two feet to spare on either side. Needless to say, there was no room for claustrophobia.

After we got across the water, we drove about two more hours to London. I slept most of the way and was more than ready to be done traveling when we got off the bus at 8:30 am on Saturday. I was with three other girls and we got right to it. Luckily, we had planned out what we wanted to see and planned our sightseeing based on proximity. We saw the furthest things first, then worked our way around the city.

We got our bearings together and purchased tickets. We purchased an all-day hop on/hop off bus pass. You know the big double-decker red buses you see in the movies? Yep, that was us. And even though it was cold, we sat on the top and it was awesome. This is the best idea we could have ever had and if you plan on going to London or any major city, I highly recommend you utilize this as your transportation. Not only did the bus provide us transportation to each place we wanted to go, but it also had either a tour guide or a recording telling about the history of different things as we were driving.

Our first stop was Baker Street. We snapped some quick photos of Sherlock Holmes’ house and proceeded to King’s Cross. What’s at King’s Cross, you ask? Every Harry Potter fan’s dream: Platform 9 3/4. We took the infamous photo pushing our carts into the invisible wall heading off to Hogwarts. If only it were true….

Next, we hopped back on the bus in hopes that we would make it to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guards. Unfortunately, the bus was late and we did not make it. Gotta love public transportation, but it has its downfalls. However, because we missed the ceremony I’m using it as an excuse to go back to London (as if I needed one).

We did end up at Buckingham Palace next. On our way there, we saw the high-end district where people like J.K. Rowling and Sean Connery have houses. As you can imagine, Buckingham Palace is enormous. I cannot even begin to imagine what the space is used for, but when you’re the Queen of an empire, who cares? The flag was proudly displayed symbolizing the Queen was in, but I think she must have forgot about our afternoon tea appointment. Damn.

We hopped back on the bus and headed toward Westminster where we saw the Parliament houses, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. We snapped some typical touristy photos and then found a cute little pub where we ate lunch. I’m not a fan of fish, but one of the girls we were with ordered Fish and Chips. No lie, it was an entire fish–enough to feed a small army.

After warming up a bit and figuring out the rest of our game plan, we got on the bus and headed to the Tower of London. The scenic route provided some spectacular views of the Westminster district and the city of London while crossing the River Thames on the beautiful Tower Bridge. Not to be confused with ‘London Bridge’, Tower Bridge is immaculate and painted a beautiful teal and navy blue in honor of the Queen. London Bridge is just a plain old bridge that could be found anywhere.

We toured Tower of London and saw where many were beheaded for their wrongdoings, such s Ann Boleyn. We also saw the Crown Jewels. If seeing those beautiful crowns and jewels didn’t make you want to be a King or Queen, you’re lying to yourself.

After the Tower of London, we warmed up with some coffee drinks and headed to the London Eye. Because it was a gloomy, cloudy day, we waited until night time so that we could see more of the city in it’s night time glamour.

We were waiting at the bus stop and were talking about how our day went so smoothly with no real issues and blah blah blah. Naturally, our luck changed for the worse. About 20 minutes after waiting, a bus came. There are different ‘lines’ identified by color and they run different routes. We didn’t get on this bus because we were waiting for a different line. After another 30 minutes of waiting, we were curious as to where the bus was because it was scheduled to have been there at least twice in the time we were waiting. We were freezing and our feet hurt and we were all getting a little hungry. Remember how I said we bought an all-day bus pass? Well, it turns out that the buses DON’T run 24 hours like our brochure said, but they stop around 8 pm. But it was only 7 when we wanted to get on the bus so someone had to have been playing tricks on us right? Nah, the buses decided to just stop running apparently. Also, we had been given a SUMMER 2014 pamphlet…it’s WINTER 2015. You can imagine our frustration.

We broke down and paid for a taxi. We had seen a Chipotle earlier on in our trip and thought we remembered where it was. So we directed the driver in the general direction because he (and NO ONE ELSE) knew where or what Chipotle even was….what a tragedy for them. Once we got close to where we thought it was, we got out of the cab and wandered for a while. Still unable to find it, we walked into a couple shops and asked for directions. I’ll cut to the chase–I’ve never been more excited to find something. It wasn’t about finding Chipotle necessarily at the end, but about condemning ourselves NOT crazy because we DID see that Chipotle and we were all too stubborn to just forget about it and get something else to eat. (By this time, maybe we were all a little crazy…)

We ate and attempted to get on another bus, a line that ran later at night. We were told we could pay by credit card, but that was not the case. So after talking to the driver and being so close to getting back to our destination and going home, we got off the bus and took the subway. The bus system hates us, clearly. Well ya know what, the feeling was mutual by the end of the day.

Our aching feet and exhausted bodies were so happy when we reached the bus. Instead of having time to kill, like we had planned, we had but 12 minutes to spare. All the time we thought we’d have was wasted on waiting and walking to buses that seemingly turned invisible without our knowing.

London was an experience I will never forget, and even the less than perfect moments I can now look back on with so many laughs.

Stay tuned for pictures!

-K

Living for the Weekend

I’m back!

What a week! It was our first full week of working in the centers and boy did it seem to crawl, yet fly by. The hours are long, but working with people who love what they do make it worth it. Also, knowing I was going to Amsterdam over the weekend helped me get through the week.

It was our first MWR trip (which is through the Army) and we left our base at 3 am Saturday morning. I didn’t sleep much before we left, about an hour or so, so that I could sleep on the bus. “Sleep” should be understood loosely because sleeping on a bus for 12 hours round trip can hardly be considered sleeping. However, I WENT TO AMSTERDAM.

We arrived about 10:30 am and hit the ground running. We had somewhat of a plan to follow, but many of you can understand that travel plans are rarely ever carried out precisely. What’s an adventure without getting a little lost?

We made our way to the giant wooden moccasin for the typical tourist picture. Along the way, we admired the beautiful canals and typical Dutch buildings that Amsterdam is famous for. The city was alive with tourists and locals wanting to soak up the sun (yes, I said sun) and 40 degree weather that Mother Nature so graciously blessed us with that day.

After we found the giant wooden moccasin, we made our way back to the canals and waited for the canal taxi, which we were taking to the “I Amsterdam” sign. However, we were a little confused about the scheduling and which canal taxi we were actually supposed to get on. After talking to a few people, we relocated and got on. After about 30 minutes of a tour around the canal, we began to get the feeling that we were on the wrong taxi and that we wouldn’t be getting to our destination anytime soon. We asked the driver, and he validated our fear. He said this was the tour canal and would be returning to where we got on, not making any stops along the way. He noticed our panicked faces and gave us a way out–he pulled over to the wall and said, “Okay, you hop off here.” We all kind of looked at each other until we realized he was serious, so we scrambled to the door and literally jumped onto the bridge as the boat was still in motion. Don’t worry, we made it look effortless while also giving the people in the boat some entertainment (the tour was a little dry anyway).

We walked most of the way to the sign laughing and wondering how on earth we were going to navigate our way back. After taking some pictures of the sign, we made our way to the Heineken Brewery. It was a self-guided tour about the history of the beer and the company. We also got to see cauldrons where it was actually being brewed and you could definitely smell the barley (it oddly smelled like french fries) and I even tasted the first part of the brewing process–water and barley. It was an interesting taste, but I prefer the finished product.

After seeing the beginning stages, we went on a 4D experience where it showed us the process of brewing the beer. We then got to taste the freshest beer, only 28 days old and had just finished the process. I’m not a huge beer drinker, but it was pretty dang fresh and pretty dang good.

After the tour, we did some more wandering before heading to the Anne Frank museum. This is the part I had been waiting for all day. Thankfully, we had talked to many people before heading to Amsterdam and every person assured us that we had better order our Anne Frank tickets ahead of time, otherwise we would be waiting in a very long line for hours to get in. They were right, and we are so lucky we followed their advice.

Walking through the house, reading quotes from Anne’s diary, and seeing actual preserved artifacts from the house is something I will never forget. How profound her writing was for someone so young; someone who had to grow up too fast and completely aware of how her world was falling apart around her.

Perhaps the craziest thing was the traffic. There were train lines in the middle of the road so at any point in time you could be in a taxi and on your left, a train would be flying by, and on your right bikes and mopeds could be passing you. Though there were stop lights, there didn’t seem to be any method to the madness when it came to traffic. Pedestrians seemed to ignore the walk/don’t walk signs and motorists sped through red lights. I was more afraid of being run over by a bike than a car…I thought for sure my obituary would read “DEATH BY BIKE…OR TRAIN” if I didn’t make it out of Amsterdam alive.

We left town about 8:00 pm and arrived home around 3 am. Needless to say, we slept long and hard and are using this snowy Sunday to recuperate. Up next, London!

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Week 1

Hallo!

It’s a snowy Monday afternoon and I have been fighting sleep all day. It was a fun first weekend in Germany. We took the train to Luxembourg for the day on Saturday. It was about a four hour train ride, but very scenic and beautiful, so it made the time go by pretty quick.

Luxembourg City was beautiful. It’s a city on a cliff basically, and there are small villages down below. It snowed heavily during most of the day, but somehow I didn’t mind it as much as I would if I were back home in Iowa. Funny how places and experiences and the people around you affect your perspective on things.

Because it was snowy, it was difficult to see a lot because it was pretty foggy. But we did go into the Notre Dame cathedral (not the main Notre Dame cathedral which is in France), and we also did some walking. It will be nice to return in the Spring and be able to see a bit more of the city.

The city was an even mix of Dutch, German, and French culture. I would go into stores and be greeted in German (Hallo), and thanked in French (Merci). I feel very fortunate that most European countries also speak English, because I now realize I will be going to countries that have multiple ‘main’ languages, and most of them I cannot communicate in. Which brings me to another point: how envious I am of European countries and how their children grow up learning multiple languages and eventually become fluent in them. What a relief it would be to be able to communicate with people outside of your homeland.

We slept in on Sunday and lounged around for the day, going to the cafe to connect to wifi, upload pictures, and plan our travel schedules. Because some of the trips are booked through our base, some of us have very strict schedules as far as travel goes. It’s weird that it would be ‘strict,’ but when you’re planning to do extensive travel, it is very important to be ahead of schedule. Buying train tickets or admission tickets to certain things can be much less expensive buying ahead of time. It was very overwhelming, researching up to five different routes or modes of transportation, all for one trip, to compare prices and estimated times of arrivals. I’m just glad the planning is (mostly) over, and all I have to do is go.

The base we live on is called Pulaski, which is an Army base. It is connected to Vogelweh Air Force base. It can be very confusing because there are about 10 military bases within twenty minutes of where we are. Our base is very small and minimal, something I had not expected. It was very interesting to go to Ramstein yesterday, which is the biggest base near us. It has a BX, which is basically a shopping mall, and a lot of restaurants and other things to do. It’s like a mini American city. It was nice to be somewhere a little bigger with a bit more to offer for entertainment; and it was nice getting off our base which sometimes feels deserted.

Today is the first day of our first full week at the CDCs. Our first full week of very long days and very short nights. It’s hard to imagine doing fun things on the week nights because everyone is so exhausted, but we’ve barely made a dent in exploring and experiencing Kaiserslautern or Landstuhl, let alone our bigger journeys.

Happy Monday!

-K