The Ones You Can’t Google

I went to Schönbrunn Palace today, one of the most important cultural monuments in the country, a former imperial summer residence. The palace is massive, greater than any I’d ever seen, and the gardens, you could get lost in them for hours. Beyond the main area of flowers, trees (like woods?) stretched in either direction. You could wander the stony paths all day. I spent three hours there.

My camera, however, didn’t. It died almost as soon as I got there. For a moment, I was ticked. Annoyed at myself. Then I realized this is probably one of the most photographed places in the world, anyone can see it online, and I’m going to spend the next two hours walking the gardens of an Austrian Palace just by myself, no technology but for maybe some Nat King Cole playing in my earphones.

For looking like the typical camera-toting tourist, I burn my camera battery on the most non-touristy things. I hope one or two of these moments catch your interest.

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Scenes from Vienna

Oh Vienna, you’re beautiful.

I walked all day yesterday, and most of this morning. I’m back at the hostel resting before another cruise around town. Did I say I was going to Bratislava? Wrong. Don’t listen to my plans until I show up in a new country. Night train to Krakow, Poland tonight… Enjoying many glorious days and nights in a hostel that includes breakfast, dinner and unlimited tea and coffee. My Vienna hostel… Not so much. Not at all, actually. But I guess that makes me venture out, if spend even more.

Yesterday’s route (imagine today I left my hostel and walked an hour the exact opposite direction):

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So anyone worried I don’t get out and see enough… I walked that big straight stretch, up and down, three times yesterday. And I don’t draw the side streets I wander up and down as well.

Vienna is lovely, if a little sleepy. Not much going on after 8:30p.m.

Kunthist. Museum

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Hofburg

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Parliament

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Rathaus

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Schönbrunn Palace

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And more…

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Grin and Bear Hug It

I get off the train in every new city giggling. It’s generally followed by a “What the heck am I doing in (city, country)?”

Giggle giggle giggle. Get on city bus to hostel. Get lost. Giggle.

I’m in a fantastic mood. Maybe I’ll buy lottery tickets today.

I took the train to Vienna, Austria today. It’s absolutely gorgeous everywhere you look. The architecture, the roads, the parks, the people. I’m here one night but coming back. My hostel is at capacity tomorrow, so why not slip over to Bratislava, Slovakia for a day or two? Back in time for the Vienna Boys Choir at Sunday mass and a night at the opera.

While walking, I take pictures of pretty things. You all know this by now.

But here’s a story you don’t get everyday.

I’m in the neighborhood with everything, it seems. The Hofburg Palace, State Opera, Burg Theatre, City Hall, Parliament, the university and the Museums quarter. Seen below, I snapped a shot of the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien.

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Pretty, right? Maybe I’ll ask someone to take my picture. Andrea taught me well when we traveled. Offer to take a couple’s photo, they’ll take yours in return. Or just smile, ask and say please.

I saw two middle-aged Asian men with cameras. The sole reason to make the admittedly vague ethnic description is to stress the mile-high language barrier between us. I motioned me + museum + camera, and got this picture.

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Yeah! I offer to take a picture of them, pointing my finger back and forth at the two of them.

Not a word of English being said, but heads are being nodded, two fingers are held up.

I’m still speaking English as though it’s going to help, reaching for their cameras. Not getting them.

Sure! I’ll take a picture of the two of you! that’s not what they’re saying

Both of your cameras? Of course! wrong, still wrong, you suck at this game

Two photos? Vertical and horizontal? Gotcha covered. no, nope, not that.

OHHHH!!! …you’ve got to be kidding me.

We never spoke a word, we never exchanged names… But we shared this moment. On three different cameras.

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I’m sending it out as my Christmas card this year: “Holiday Greetings from Nae and This Guy”

Maybe I resemble someone famous.

I wonder who.

Never Too Much

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Budapest, Hungary – Parliament

On a first date this summer – said like someone who had multiple first dates this summer – I said I write a lot. He said “Really? What’s your form” (or maybe it was forum, either way).

“I blog.”

Said it. Immediately felt like a huge dweeb. Does that even count?

“I write poems, too. I kinda have a knack for rhyming.”

Yeah, you could be the second coming of Dr. Seuss, Nae, you’re still not doing yourself any favors here.

But my, oh my, yesterday was a nice surprise. Hello everybody! 1,163 hits yesterday, dozens of comments, so much love (Never Too Much – great Luther song). The previous record was 252 – the day I posted the Steve the Saz series. Pretty sure that was just Ryan rereading about his spontaneous (and utterly unmailable) string instrument Grand Bazaar gift… Now worst-blown Christmas “surprise” ever.

Side note, wrote a bunch of postcards in Romania. Stamped them. Forgot to send them. Left the country. Bought postage again in Hungary.

I should just refrain from trying to mail anything.

I’m currently on a train to Vienna, Austria – city thirteen and country seven of this backpacking journey of mine. Steve got a suitcase thrown on his neck today. He looks okay, I hope he sounds okay. He’s going to make a great wall decoration someday. Merry Christmas!

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I went back to the love fence yesterday to read names and dates. My favorites aren’t the professionally engraved ones, but the locks that look like someone took a pocketknife, or the key itself, and wrote their initials. Spontaneous. “You feelin’ in love today? Aw, babe, me too! Let’s do this.”

As I was standing there, two women wandered over. They spoke English and were trying to guess the significance. I explained the story I’d heard the previous day and they asked if my name was on there somewhere. I thought about choosing a random lock and making a story, but the first one I glanced at wouldn’t do. I’d never pass for a Yvonne. I said no, no, and besides, I just got here.

It turns out these two women are here for a women’s conference being held at the palace, and they are both speakers. In fact, the woman I’m speaking to the most is from Washington, D.C., and is speaking about career development.

Bells are going off in this public relations/political science/unemployed brain. Career develop ME! I can love D.C!

The conversation didn’t go that direction, but it was a pleasant couple minutes. While she didn’t offer me a job (go figure!) she thanked me for the explanation and said goodbye.

“And I do hope you find love soon.”

Well, I appreciate that. Job is a job. It’ll happen.

As the four wise men once said, “love is all you need.”

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Sweet Dreams in Budapest

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Gotta love the “always-blurry-taken-by-a-stranger-just-to-prove-I-was-there” photo.

One backpacking skill I lack is the nerve to go out alone and grab a drink with locals. Of course, that wasn’t high on my skills list at home either. So, as many of the days go, walk, think, eat giant ice cream cones. Walk across some bridges.

And then come home and find out I’m on the WordPress homepage, and thousands will read yesterday’s post by the time I wake up tomorrow for my train to Vienna. Not a bad day for this 22-year-old.

Life is beautiful.

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Ellipses and (ink)

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Margaret Island, a 2.5km long island in the Danube River between the Buda and Pest sides

Walk and think.
Walk and think.
Got the energy.
Slept a wink.
Walk and think.
Straight line away.
No time to be back.
So I walk and think.
Get Ray Charles stuck in head.
I can see clearly now.
Sing along.
Skip and think.
Look for water.
Hydrate well.
Walk and drink.
Spill on shirt.
Get embarrassed.
Cheeks turn pink.
Walk and think.
Find Hungary’s làngos.
Deep fried pizza dough.
Sour cream and cheese.
Sit by fountain.
Eat, won’t shrink.
Favorite Beatles tune plays.
Carefully reroute to find it.
How ironic If I Fell.
Listen and think.
Think about Now.
I hate these sandals.
Purple and plastic.
Sore walk and think.
Think about Future.
Here in a blink.
Walk and think.
Got no roadmap.
Going on instinct.
(Oh enough with the parallels)
Not Now.
Stop that. Don’t think.
Take a photo of a duck.
Make eye contact, make offer.
Take a couple’s photo.
Smile, can’t wink.

Walk and think.

Walk and think.

Walk and think.

Take the journal out.
Put it in ink.

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Part Two: And all the rest.

One: I have only a small idea who reads this blog, but apparently about fifty people do. If you’re not someone I’ve talked to daily, or weekly, or recently, please shoot me a message. The blog is barely interactive, and I’d rather life stories be shared both ways… So let me know what is up! I’m equally, if not sometimes homesick and therefore moreso, interested in what is going on in your lives.

Two: Here is the open apology to my parents for last year’s introduction to backpacking, wouldn’t it be nice to go through Spain and Italy, France and Germany. “So we think she’s in Budapest, last week she was in Bucharest… Yesterday Dracula’s castle… Two weeks ago she was in Serbia. Yeah… We don’t really know.”

Broke my sandal today.

It was tragic. Not only have they been in nine countries, not only had I worn them forty straight days and I’d never had an inkling of pain or blister, but these were the sandals made in “The Poet’s” workshop in Athens, Greece, in July 2009, my foot measured, shape traced, and the leather strap holes in the base cut to perfect fit. Not by The Poet, but by his daughter.

Tragedy. I’m not ready to part with them. I started rerouting my trip to go back to Greece – how many days can I go barefoot? – before deciding it was going to get cold soon anyway… Tape will work in the meantime.

Luckily, I carry tape and my journal with me everywhere. Not that anything gets taped in the journal in a timely fashion – it collects for about three weeks until the writing in the journal doesn’t match the things next to it, and the receipts are halfway illegible by the time they get posted…

Spain/Turkey

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Serbia

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Brasov

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…but point is I had tape in my bag. And yes, there’s actually writing in the journal, too. But no one gets to see those gems. The journal came in handy one day… Jacob made me the Starbucks shrinky-dink bookmark two or three years ago while I was at school. On the bus coming back from the fortress near Plovdiv, Bulgaria, an English couple I’d struck up conversation with said “You’re American? Aw so you must be struggling, the coffee here is crap. I bet you really miss Starbucks.”

Well let me just whip out my journal and show you.

Now I’m the taped-shoe, no-hairdryer or makeup, long-haired, spandex wearing, instrument carrying backpacker.

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And that’s the way it ought to be.

Want to know what else is in my bag? A boatload of foreign coins I can’t use at the moment.

Euro

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Bulgaria lev

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Romanian lei

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Turkish lira

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Serbian dinar

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Every once in awhile, the post is less about what I did today and more “here’s what it really looks like.” Well, I barely know what I look like, I spend about four seconds a day in the mirror. So you guys see me about as much as I do.

That said, I get silly on my long walks somedays, and take quirky photos. Of birds, of other people, of reflections and shadows. Take a peek, see you again here soon.

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