Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A couple weekends ago, Meredith and I spent the weekend in our home country of Holland and surounding areas. It was a nice change to relax and focus on school- it has been a lot tougher than expected- and to rest from the exhausting life we've been living for the past month. In one day, we visited Rotterdam, Hoek van Holland and Amsterdam. Rotterdam and Hoek van Holland weren't anything special. It was neat to see other parts of the Netherlands, but, I wasn't very impressed.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, was beautiful once again. I enjoyed my first dutch pancake, apple cinnamon to be exact! It was delicious!! Before leaving I'd like to have another one. We walked through the red light district which was just plain sad (but still entertaining). It was still daylight so it wasn't as dirty as I would expect it to be during the late hours, but there were still girls selling themselves through windows. Sure, we think, it's Amsterdam.. there's supposed to be prostitutes in every corner, but in reality, these girls are still real humans and must have gone through some crazy times to end up where they are today. Sad.

On Sunday, Meredith and I took a train ride to Antwerp, Belgium to visit the Mode Museum of Fashion. The city was very clean but the weather was cold! I don't think I've EVER had to wear long jeans and a jacket in the middle of June in my life!

Do you ever smell something, hear a song, or taste a food that takes you back to a certain place? A thought that kept passing through my mind was Thanksgiving time.. The feeling of autumn surrounded me and took over my thoughts. It was cold outside, but I refused to wear warmer clothes because it's summer time! This is a recurring event in November when the weather begins to turn cold and I hold out until I end up getting sick from wearing shorts and t-shirts in freezing weather. Nevertheless, it made me realize how much I love that time of year. Lots of time with the family, a feeling of renewal comes about because of the changing weather, and stress starts to roll away as another year comes to an end. I've always answered Christmas to the question, "What's your favorite holiday?" without hesitation. Thanksgiving is my favorite time. It brings a feeling of peace, warmth, and brings together family and friends. Who could ask for more?

Yes, it's a random thought, but "Thanksgiving" was a constant feeling or thought throughout the whole week of cold weather we experienced... in the middle of June!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vienna Waits for You


First sleeper train experience. Reminded me of the scene in Anastasia when they are in the "cabins" inside the train. Slept in the train overnight: 8 hour train ride to Salzburg.

We changed clothes, brushed our teeth, and tidied up in the train station "WC." We definitely got our .50 euro worth of that bathroom.

The Sound of Music Tour- Great opportunity to tour the city of Salzburg and tour a small town outside the town called Mondsee where the wedding scene in the movie took place and tasted some wonderful apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce and ice cream. Danced around the Mirabel gardens where the "Do Re Me" song was filmed and posed on the infamous "I'm am 16 going on 17" gazebo.

Then we headed to the Mozart museum which at first brought about a bit of disappointment but ended up being really neat. Lots of old instruments including an old violin and piano he used during his younger years.

Great shopping and a historical walk through the Getreidegasse where the birthplace of Mozart was also located.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

We hopped on another train from Salzburg to Vienna where we realized we had hit the jackpot with our hotel! The room on average cost about 280 euro a night and we booked it for 55! (14 euro each). So how do you fit 9 girls in 2 double rooms? It can happen...

At dinner I experienced my first schnitzel (because my stomach has finally adjusted) and was very impressed!

The next morning we walked through Vienna in the hottest weather we've experienced in Europe so far to the Hofburg Palace where the Hapsburgs ruled for over 600 years. We participated in 3 museums: The Silver Collection (who knew a family could have so many dishes??), Sisi Museum (Empress Elisabeth), and the Kaiser Apartments. When waiting on everyone to get through the museum, we sat on the edge of a fountain and watched a rally. Apparently in Austria when a couple is divorced, the wife always receives custody of the children. This group was protesting for the right to go through the proper process to allow fathers the chance to have custody as well.

More shopping!! This time, I only window shopped, which was still good enough for me.

One of my favorite moments in Vienna is waiting to take the train from the shopping center back to the hotel. We had an hour until the next train ran so we sat outside and watched a storm roll in-- one of my absolute favorite types of weather; the calm before the storm and watching the dark clouds take over the sky and give the world a two-toned horizon. After the storm, the weather become so much more enjoyable, thus making the trip even better.

That night, the 9 of us girls (Traci, Meredith, Amy, Tiffany, Erin, Cheniese, Brittany, Lindsey and I) explored the "Bermuda Triangle" for Cheniese's birthday. We began our night in a club called "The Lounge" that was in the basement of a beautiful building. It was fairly empty when we arrived and they were playing great music! From there, we found a hole in the wall pub with ladies in lederhausen and converse shoes dancing to oldies music. One song later, the ladies were dancing on a pole to a "Grease" medley. After that, we knew that it was going to be a good night. We made lots of Austrian friends and ganged up with a small bachelorette party (the ladies in the funny dresses) and they led us to a local night club full of Austrian natives.

The walk to the club was more fun than the club itself. They made us sing a 'Texas' song to which we bursted out with "the stars at night are big and bright---- Deep in the heart of Texas!!" We also chanted "Oh When the Saints" down the streets of Vienna. I have lots of great videos!

At the club there was more great music: Cotton Eye Joe, Macarena, and Sweet Home Alabama.

We got home just in time to see the sun rise (it rises VERY early; 4am) which was gorgeous!

Most of the group left the next morning, but Meredith, Traci and I stayed around to enjoy another day of sightseeing. We walked through the Belvedere Gardens (the Belvedere holds the famous painting "The Kiss," but we decided not to go on another tour) then headed off the the Prater Fair!

The Prater Fair holds the world famous Vienna Ferris Wheel that was built in 1897. While we didn't ride the wheel, we walked through the carnival and rode on a tall swing ride that allowed us to overlook the whole city. Then we took a break in front of the fair to soak up the fun and admire the old ferris wheel.

My favorite place of the whole trip: Schonbrunn Palace; the Hapsburgs summer residence. This is where we had fun in the maze gardens and hiked up the hill to the Gloriette Terrace to once again view the whole city. So beautiful, quiet, and humbling to realize how small you are in comparison to this historical and romantic city. We took that moment to slow down...

Slow down, you crazy child
you're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

But you know that when the truth is told..
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even
Get halfway through
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Miss List

Not as much of a "miss" list as a list of small things we really appreciate having back home. Of course the top of the list consists of all our family, friends and pets. These follow:

1. Not having to pay to go to the bathroom.
2. Free water
3. Mexican food! ..On the Border, specifically
4. Food, in general- knowing what we're eating
5. English!
6. Big beds and sheets on them
7. Street signs
8. Air conditioning
9. Knowing which way to look before crossing the street

More to come. Just a few we've come up with so far.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8 Countries, 5 Days

Maastricht Group Trip

The group trip started off chaotically for Bonnie and I. The night before our departure, I decided to set my alarm... not knowing until later it was for 7:15PM, not AM. At 7:50am, Jean woke us up in a panic telling us that we were late for the bus- we were supposed to be on the bus around 7:40AM. None of our bags were packed since we had planned to do so in the morning. I grabbed the stack of laundry sitting on my bed, threw in some makeup, toothbrush and moisturizer, picked up m fanny pack and was out the door. Luckily, Mama Jean had thrown in my liquids bag I took to Ireland. We didn't cause any delays in the trip so I figure it's a laughable situation. This should somewhat explain my clothing selection for the week and my rough appearance the first day (my makeup remained underneath the bus all day).

The whole first day was spent traveling through Germany. We made a stop at the intersection of the Rhine River and the ??? River. It was neat to see the differences the two rivers had as far as coloring is concerned. This was followed by a lovely boat cruise down the Rhine from Boppard to St. Goar where we saw over 5 castles, many vineyards, and classic German architecture.

Residenz Palace in Wurzburg: The palace we toured was gorgeous! The detail in the decor was unbelievable. No one is really sure what the palace was used for, but it was interesting to witness the amount of time and money pt into one room. Plus, it's not only decorated to look nice; every painting, every animal, every color has a symbolic meaning. We took a walk through the garden of the palace then returned to the bus.

Rothenburg: This has to be the most adorable town in Germany. A wall to preserve the city’s original look surrounds the village. We stayed in a hotel that has been active since 1380 called Roter Hahn (or Red Hen). It had a homey feel that was nothing like the typical hotel.

The next morning we walked across the street to the Criminal Museum: so cool!! yet, terrible. It's hard to imagine that people actually tortured other people in these horrible ways. Stretching limbs, dunking caged people into the water, chopping off hands, etc. Our favorite part was the mask display. Apparently, those who were wild, talkative, gossipy, pig-like and more had to wear a heavy, metal mask to display their bad personality trait(s). Bonnie and I chose which ones we would've had to wear if we lived during that time period. It was a common thing to have to wear one and it was a form of entertainment for everyone in the town.. I' sure it was fun until you or a family member were the ones being punished.

Neuschwanstein Castle: Next we headed out of Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau to see a castle—but not just any castle, the one that inspired the Disney castle! Sure the castle was nice and pretty, but the scenery was definitely what made it something to be inspired by. It was built in the 1800’s, so fairly recently, on top of a hill surrounded by snow covered mountains and greenery with a small waterfall below and a lake behind. I also found out that this castle is featured in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” More facts

Austria: for such a pretty place, the people sure are ugly.. Since our group was only passing through for the night, I have reason to believe that we didn’t get to see the best parts of the country. It was more of a trip to be able to cross off our list. Once arriving, most people immediately went to the townsquare—Jean, Bonnie and I weren’t far behind, but we took a bit of a detour through the city. We hopped on the wrong bus and went out of the way about an hour until we finally ended up where we wanted to in the first place. We had some pizza downtown then headed back to the hotel. So typical of us to get lost!

Luckily, this weekend I will have the chance to go back to Austria and see Salzburg and Vienna! I wonder if the hills really are alive..? J

Switzerland: my favorite place so far! The most beautiful place I’ve ever been. My two favorite things: mountains and water. Switzerland has the best of both! We had the opportunity to sit by 2 lakes; both royal blue and so clear you could see to the bottom. Surrounding each were mountains; some covered in trees and hicking paths and some covered in snow. All in one place!!? That’s how I imagine heaven. We had lunch at the top of a mountain looking over the lake (Vitznau-Rigi Kaltbad, to be exact). Afterwards, a bunch of us went for a walk down a hill where a large cross was built into the ground. Such an amazing concept, I thought. I’m sure there are TONS of people that visit that exact spot every year, believers and nonbelievers. Why not set up a cross at the edge for everyone to reflect over His gorgeous creation and remember (or realize) we are all a part of His awesome creation and should appreciate these priceless gifts given to us.

That night, we stayed in Montreaux, Switzerland. Our hotel sat right on Lake Geneva and our balcony view included more mountains and the lake. In Vitznau our group had discussed how great it would be to jump in the lake rather than only being able to dip our feet in. Once we found out our destination for the night would be on another lake, jumping in was a must! So, after dinner, each of us showed up at a central dock on the lake and did just that! Jumped into the freezinggg cold Lake Geneva. So exhilarating! Definitely my favorite memory of the trip.

From here on out, nothing we did topped Switzerland. While I learned a lot of historical information and facts and experienced lots of different cultures, I don't have much to write about the other places since they were not AS enjoyable (plus, after riding a bus for over 2500km, things begin to run together and start to take a toll on our energy levels). So, the rest of this blog is basically to jot down small thoughts to be able to remember the places we went.

Chateau de Chillon: This castle, only 20 minutes from Montreaux, was by far the most interesting one of all that I have visited. This castle was so authentic and was full of so much history that it was hard to take it all in. It was really fun for us to run around the courtyards into the "keep" and pretend to be princesses and knights (as if we were 5 years old). Good times... Facts.

Another cruise from Chillon to Vevey followed the castle tour and was a refreshing break between all the bus riding and museum tours.

Vevey to Schaffhausen: We stood next to the Rhine Falls which is apparently the "Niagra Falls" of Europe. It was pretty neat to sit somewhat underneath the falls and once again was a refreshing break from the traveling.

The scenic drive through the Black Forest in Germany was very... green..? It began to rain as we drove through but the amount of trees surrounding us was more than I've ever seen. The trees are so thick that light cannot shine through-- I know understand why it's called the black forest. More.

Freiburg: the hotel we stayed in was not my favorite and the city was a lot dirtier than I had expected. The townsquare was nice and I wish we could have spent more time there. Since it was a Sunday night, Freiburg was an absolute ghost town. The shopping would have been awesome and if the weather were better we would've walked around a bit more. Maybe another day I'll get to revisit and my outlook will change, but for now, not in my top lists.

Verdun: (say it with a country accent and it's really fun!..) My first time to France! It's so intriguing how different the culture and architecture as soon as you cross the border into a new country. The weather was great and food was excellent! I'm so excited to go back to France later in this trip.

Bastogne, Belgium: I'm not a big history buff.. facts

Maastricht: It was sooooo great to come back "home" after traveling for days! The trip as a whole was overwhelming, but it was great getting to know all the people that we are living with, eating with, and traveling for the next couple of months! I feel like we have a fun and diverse group of people that will make (and already have made) this summer this best ever! :)