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Friday, August 21, 2009

POLSKA


Pictures from Swidnica, Karpacz and Wroclaw

Click here to view slideshow

Thursday, August 13, 2009

PRAGUE


Prague is an absolutely beautiful city. The most striking thing for me is the detail and ornamentation of everything around the city. From immense cathedrals with tedious and detailed mosaics to statue-esque street lights, everything in Praha is wrapped in artistic beauty.









Stairwell up St Nicholas's Cathedral














To be quite frank, I don't find the Czech's at all nice. Once out to dinner, I found our waitress roll our eyes at us on two occasions when trying to order. Even when I tried to speak some Czech they seemed less inclined to help. Perhaps they could hear my Polish accent. Some of my relatives really dislike the Czechs. I guess the feeling is mutual.

Despite all that, I would say that of the 3 1/2 stops I've had, Praha is my favorite. The beautiful city and great nightlife made it difficult to leave this morning. (2pm feels like morning when your out till sunrise everynight)

Here are some more pictures from day 2 when I took a guided tour of the western half of the city including the Castle Palace.











Castle guards. You can punch them in the face and they're not allowed to move.



The entire hostel system is great for early 20 something city hoppers. Dorm style rooms and bar/common areas make it absurdly easy to make friends. I feel like an amateur only staying for 3 weeks. I've met people from all over traveling Europe for as long as 4 months. Aussies are the most populous bunch, but there are many kids from all over Europe, all speaking amazing English (except the French).

I met two awesome girls from Chile, Dani and Maca. A Swiss guy staying in our room the second night left Dani a weird little present.

GERMANY

After seeing Amsterdam I took a train through Germany to eventually get to Prague. Originally I wanted to see Munich (since then everyone has been telling me I've really missed out) but the trains there were all booked and it turns out I didn't really have time anyway. Here's some stuff I wrote while traveling through.

"The train travel here is refreshingly casual and relaxing. Something I'm more than pleased to have after a few days in Amsterdam. You can pretty much sit where you please. A train ticket from there to Prague allows me to travel at my leisure taking trains when I see fit. If I miss my first train, I can grab the next one 2 hours later. The train stops every half hour or so and I suppose I can get off anywhere for a lunch break or some sight seeing. Unfortunately there is so much to see and so little time to do it in.

From what I've spotted out the window between naps, the landscape is slowly changing from the uber-flat low grassfields of Holland to the rolling hills to what will eventually be the beer-clad mountains of Bavaria. I've just decided to stop in Nuremburg tonight. Images of "Beerfest" and St. Pauli Girls are too much for this beer snob to resist. The lady over the intercom just informed me that we are approaching Frankfurt, the last stop for this train..."

"So as it turns out I have no choice but to stay in Nuremburg tonight. There were 2 stops in Frankfurt and of cource I chose the wrong one. Probalby better of that way because now I have time to see some of Frankfurt, get lunch and use the internet."

"I just snuck on a local train back to the other train station. I got off and had to run and almost missed the train to Nuremburg, which would have stranded me here in Frankfurt for another day. Just as the train departs a lady comes and askes me for a ticket. I reach into my pocket... and nothing. I look through my bag but its nowhere. The lady starts yelling in German, asking for a ticket, and eventually accusing me of not having a ticket. 5 minutes later I find it, with a smirk on my face, "see, I had a ticket afterall". She was less than pleased."

"Just now it hits me that this train also goes through both train stations in Frankfurt. All that hassle for nothing."


Nuremburg


More Nuremburg


Germans are weird.


So I spent one night in Nuremburg, pretty uneventful. I walked around town and got dinner. With my dinner I got a "Bionade", what I thought was a german beer I never tried before. Turns out it was a soft drink. The hostel was very nice, I even had my own room. But, the people were kind of lame and noone went out so I stayed in. I never even drank a beer in Nuremburg.

The next day I got on the morning train to Prague. Halarity did ensue.

"While the Germans seem strict and timely at first (the train conductor apologized profusely for being 7 minutes behind schedule), after a bit of conversation (and beer) they are quite laid-back and fun loving"

"If you ever get the opportunity I highly recommend following around a German bachelor party. The group livened up my train right from PG to PSSC. Bar-tour style matching burgundy shirts, traditional pants, and crates of German lager brought me back to many a Vermont bus trip. To top it all off the namesake of the party bore a pink bunny outfit with 2 posterior holes that revealed a thong and a supple canvas for signatures. The rest of the shirts said, in English, "Hey bunnies, watchout for the wasted pink one. Last day in freedom" (say it to yourself with a german accent). My biggest regret was not taking a picture, but I did finally down a few German beers.

AMSTERDAM

Some stuff I wrote down while in Germany.

"I sit here on a train from Amsterdam to Prague, between naps and failed attempts at reading my brother's 12 yr old blog from when he traveled Europe. While earlier I could not stay awake to read more than a few pages (I swear its not boring), it has inspired me to start writing again after a brief hiatus."

"You are now entering the falcon's mouth. Amsterdam.

For those of you who haven't been there, its a place unlike any other. For those of you who have, its an experience you won't soon forget.


There are several things that stick out to me about Amsterdam. First, the city streets flow unlike any other. Bicyclists run the streets here, with cars yeilding to their greener bretheren. Several main roads fan out along a series of canals. In between are dozens of alleyways are shops packed like sardines and floods of tourists and coustomers migrating through all day long. The stores sell everything from Donners and terrible pizza (I bought a slice for 4 euro just to see it reheated in a microwave), to fashion and fine jewlery to infamously mind-altering chemicals or 15 minutes in heaven.


When wandering the streets for the first tim, let the roads take you. See something interesting and follow it. You will end up somewhere you've never been and eventually get spit out somewhere near the train station. From there you can b-line back to your original location. At night things get even more unusual when reddish ping lights dot the streets tempting all those who walk past. Significantly less attractive fellows also get involved offering other temptations, pharmacuticals if you will. Then at a certain hour, lets call it 2am, the bright lights go out, vendors close their doors, and quite quickly the customers follow suit. before you know it the streets are empty. Of the few characters that are left, many of them budget bicycle salesman, are harvesting their inventory of misplaced bicycles for tomorrow. Remember the flow of the streets from earlier. Try to force your way back in a straight line and you're bound to wander in circles.


In Amsterdam nothing is what it seems. Coffee shops don't sell coffee and clever names like Grasshopper hint at transactions taking place. When you enter a tiny store in an alley you quickly see how deep the room is, providing new products you never would have guessed (my favorite was a headshop that sold bottled water and snacks in the back). To me this is what makes Amsterdam such an interesting place. The more you poke and prod and stare, the more something new pops out at you and changes your perception.

The second day in town, I along with 2 friends I met in our hostel (Jeremy and Patrick), took a trip to the Van Gogh Museum. Its been ages since I've been to an art gallery, infact I cant even remember the last time I've been to one. It was amazing to say the least, and I can see how Amsterdam influenced Van Gogh as well as the gallery itsself.

Having taken several architectural design classes, the first thing I noticed was the layout of the space. Its amazing how once you pass security, there is not one sigh telling you where to go, but yet everyone goes to the same place and flows in the same direction.


The gallery loops around a central staircase, allowing the visitors to look at each painting one at a time for as indepth or as skimmingly as they please. I saw every painting, but only took the time to really look at several paintings. Just like the shops in Amsterdam, Van Gogh's paintings tell several stories.

I am by no means an artist or even a person who claims to know anything about art or art history, but I can see the talent in Van Gogh's work. My favorite piece is what I believe to be his self portrait. From afar, the painting looks extremely life(and almost photo)-like. When you look very closelyyou see tiny brush strokes of bright reds and blues and orange. Its like magnifying a computer screen and seeing the red, blue, and green lights that make a pixel and eventually an entire image.

My stay in Amsterdam was the first time in recent memory that I truely felt how unique and different a culture and their people are. It was a very unique experience. All the excitement kept me up pretty well so I'm ready ot move on and get some sleep."












Amsterdam Flag. Notice the XXX.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

HIGHLANDS


We took our trip in a badass purple Ford Fiesta which we picked up at the airport.


We even did 70mph (thats over 100kph!)


Should have gotten a less sporty car.


The Highlands. Makes me want to see Highlander.






Lots of the trees here are covered in moss. Similar to the Oregon Coast.








Gaelic is weird


The first night we stayed in Fort William which was quite a nice town. We had dinner there and I had Haggis for the first time, which was actually pretty good.


Our hotel room


And the sweet carpets in the hallway.
That night we went out to a few bars in the proper highland town. Beers were drank, men were yelling in thick Scottish accents and the woman were... well lets just say that beer goggles are a necessity. We met who we assumed to be the homecoming queen of the town high school. She was making out with her date who was passed out on the couch. At the end of the night she hurled him over her shoulder and hauled him home. It was great getting out of the big city of Edinburgh and experience a true small town in Scotland.

The next morning we got up and drove around scotland for a bit. We eventually ran into the city of Oban.

The city, with McCraig's tower at the top.


McCraig's Tower. I don't think they finished it.






Oban.


We hear its the seafood capital of Scotland, so where else to go but to a nice waterfront restaurant. There we got some seafood and I ate natural (raw) oysters for the first time.


The Scots love their Single Malt Island Whiskey. This one sells for 300 pounds.