Memories of Heidelberg

A song I like today.

On my train into Munich yesterday, I shared a car compartment with one woman. We didn’t speak until we were pulling into the Munich main station, when she asked how long my journey is. We talked for a moment and she asked if I’d been to Heidelberg. I told her I’d never heard of Heidelberg. She seemed shocked and told me lots of tourists go there. “Lots of Japanese people go there.” I told her I’d look at the map and maybe go! Thanks!

She probably thought I was just BS’ing her. At the time, I was wondering if I was, too.

I took the 9:43 train to Heidelberg this morning. Why not.

Turns out it is right next door to Karlsruhe, where I had potential to meet a friend’s friend (it might not work out). Also very close to Strasbourg, where I am definitely meeting a friend from college on Thursday. Heidelberg was exactly where I needed to be. Thank you lady, and thank you universe.

Heidelberg. Just your average small-medium city with it’s own castle. It also has the longest pedestrian shopping street in all of Germany.

No idea what the plan is for tomorrow. Maybe I’ll stay here longer.

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Come and knock on our door…

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Don’t ask us for layers. We won’t.

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Is it just me or is he pulling away?

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If you insist.

The Process.

92 posts
29 trains
27 hotels/hostels
25 cities
13 countries
6 planes
5 overnight trains
4 buses (1 overnight)
3 children’s books written
3 bottles of face wash lost
0 bedbug bites

…and 45 days to go.

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I got off the train today in Innsbruck, Austria. It’s too expensive to sleep there, so I planned to spend the day there and take a train up to Munich. My railpass makes decisions like that easy, plus somewhere back I realized I write most and see most on trains. It’s never wasted time.

When I arrived at the train station, the only free locker was as tall and thick as me. Not suitable for the backpack. Not suitable for storing anything but an upright body, really. I walked across the street and considered asking a nearby hotel if I could leave it for a couple hours. The one I found was a five star hotel and I was not confident enough in smiling really hard and asking what seemed like a ridiculous question.

So it came with me today.

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No big deal. Other backpackers keep saying how “small” my bag is – low 60s in liters rather than the typical 70-75. I feel sorry for the female backpackers that don’t have a butt that can double as a backpack shelf. Little in the middle but i got much back, and it’s so handy sometimes.

I saw this sticking out of the road today.

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I took this picture because, well, look at it. I was caught taking the picture by a group of tourists, who asked me if I knew what it was. Mortified, I told a bold-faced lie and said I was just testing my camera. They looked crestfallen.

“Oh… we were hoping you knew what it was, because we think it looks like a penis.”

I want to keep traveling forever.

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I just had my favorite Munich dinner and now I’m sitting in the Starbucks where I wrote the first children’s book. The barista has a bandaid over his eyebrow he didn’t have four days ago and I want to know the story.

Somewhere, this got less scary. A train station is becoming just a train station, follow the signs. When you arrive at the hostel, get your passport out. You can probably jaywalk this intersection. You can definitely use (insert chain restaurant) wifi without purchasing anything.

But the story for me is still about the process, and the process doesn’t always make it to the blog. You don’t always need to know the first thing I did in Innsbruck was buy a pack of gum, not for bad breath but to get change in coins for a locker.

The process. In between cities and landmarks and posed photos.

Like the woman on the train this morning. It’s not that we talked about travel, it’s that she started the conversation with “What have you gotten stolen so far?” and proceeded to tell me she’s gotten something stolen from her nearly everywhere. And yet she keeps traveling. And I just wanted to say ma’am, you’ve got to be doing something wrong.

And it’s not that I found the “apo bar” in Salzburg and, proud Alpha Phi Omega brother for three years that I am, I wanted to take a picture. It’s that I ended up with these pictures.

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And it’s not that I walked down the street today with a bright red backpack eating an ice cream cone for lunch, but that I was the tenth person in line and when it was my turn, an old man blatantly cut me before saying what I think was “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

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And it’s not that I took a bunch of funky pictures of my belongings in a public garden today. It’s that I unpacked my backpack, pouch by pouch, in a public garden. It’s that I sat on the ground in the leaves to get some shots.

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It’s that I spent a good deal of the time just in socks. It’s that two students from Mexico thought what I was doing was great.

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It’s not that I spent my week writing children’s books. It’s that now I’m sitting here debating what clothes my characters wear and asking my family/friends/”creative team,” where every line there blurs, for their input. It’s the process.

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I’ve reached a point in my trip where I feel I did “it.” I set out to do what I wanted. By no means do I want to come home early, but I feel I achieved… Something. This summer I got asked what I wanted to get out of this trip, and I didn’t have a good, non-cliché answer. I want to see? I want to learn? I want to write… Maybe?

What did I want?

It’s not that I was walking down the street with my bright red backpack today feeling like a dweeby, dorky girl.

It’s that a nice looking man said something to me, and when I responded with “I’m sorry, I only speak English,” he replied, “You are a beautiful woman.” He continued down the road without another word.

Woman.

Well. You know, I think I wanted that.

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What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be? I wonder.

And mind me with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They’ll have to agree I have confidence in me

I’m about to drop so many Sound of Music lyrics in this post. For Erin, Ryan and all other friends who haven’t seen it, I’ve even linked what I’m referencing. You should probably click through, if not to appreciate the movie, to appreciate how much I appreciated this day.

Let’s start at the very beginning (at least, please click to the 5:20 point and watch for one minute)

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On the train to Salzburg yesterday, a girl stepped on the train, looked unsure, looked at me and said, “Ma’am, excuse me, do you speak English?” I think the term for what I did was chuckle. We were definitely the same age, and she was from Tennessee. She was mortified when I said I was from California. Ma’am. I don’t know if I just looked confident or haggard.

In my 6-bed mixed dorm, the three boys in there when I arrived were really sweet. They informed me the other two guys (do the math, it was awkward) were “strange.” Strange how? Little blonde French guy said “They just were weird. Like you could see it in their eyes.”

These boys were nervous. I told them I’d protect them. Then for the next hour, I watched them plan out their next two weeks (a school break) to the minute, telling them you’re debating Brussels and Prague? Hah! And if you’re thinking Brussels, go straight to Bruges. I’m speaking as if I hadn’t learned this six days ago, and they started referring to me as the “expert.” They were sweethearts.

Fast-forward. 4:30a.m. Somebody is rubbing my arm. Odd. Especially odd since I’m on the top bunk.

Oh, this must be one of the weird guys. Those boys called that one right.

“Hi!” he says.

“Hi.”

A pause, so I follow-up. “Are we just saying hi?”

“What’s your name?”

I never lie about that one. It’s too hard to remember when you’re sober, and he’s definitely not.

“Where are you from?”

“California.”

Sometimes I don’t make things up when I should.

“Are you single in Austria?”

As opposed to single in not Austria?

“No.”

“Someone in California?”

“Yes.”

I mean, sure. You can stop rubbing my arm now. I’m not a genie in a bottle, baby.

Blonde paranoid French kid is awake in the bottom bunk across the room. His eyes are darting around. I think he’s terrified he’s the awake male that will have to save the girl.

So I said goodnight. He said goodnight and kept staring.

“Okay pal. Goodnight.”

Twenty minutes later I felt a rub on the arm again, and patting on the bed. Whaaat.

Drunk, drunk Austrian accent – that’s right, Austrian in an Austrian hostel. Don’t get that much.

“I, I, can’t find my debit card! Did I leave it, I think I left it in your bed.”

Okay, now I just feel like a fancy prostitute.

“You didn’t. You really didn’t.”

“Are you sure?”

These bozos kept everyone up for the next two hours. This morning, eyes still glazed and with a really dopey grin, the other one told me “you have a really pretty smile.” Aw, gee. I still don’t like you.

As the 17-going-on-18 cute Nazi postman said, ““your life little girl is an empty page that men will want to write on.”

I walked around town this morning. It’s cute. It really is. But the problem I seem to have is that all the old town, historical charm is lost because, as touristy as it is, the prettiest sites are surrounded by the Gucci, Prada, etc. stores and I easily become disenchanted. I don’t know why that is. I’d wandered through town, knowing my Sound of Music tour was at 2:00, and just when I was thinking alright, my trip to Salzburg will be all about this tour… I found some steps.

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And you know what Mother Abbess sang. Climb every mountain…

You’ll notice I didn’t link. That is the most boring part of the movie.

I climbed. I found. I found way better than ground level.

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I’m failing to be selective when it comes to photos. This is the greatest autumn I have ever seen.

Side thought. The day in Munich I wanted to sit in a cafe and write all day, it rained. Sound of Music tour day, it was 55 degrees and sunny. Was there a parade going on below me in Salzburg when I reached the top of the fort? You bet.

Feeling awesome about Salzburg now, I looked at my watch and realized I was officially running late for the tour and did not know how to get down from the massive fortress. Luckily, following the logic that downhill paths would work, I made it!

Oh Sound of Music tour. You were a budget buster, and so worth every minute. For four hours, I heard bad jokes, good trivia, went through the sites in Salzburg, and then forty minutes out to… The hills that are alive with the sound of music. With the movie’s soundtrack playing.

I loved EVERY MINUTE.

This is the lake and backyard of the Von Trapp residence. Notice you never see that house in the movie, they used a different building for the house. The scenes where Maria and Captain Von Trapp are talking to each other? Dialogue was shot separately, miles apart. This is where they wear curtains and fall out of the boat!

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The following needs no introduction. Except that my favorite, favorite scene takes place in the gazebo, and it is not the scene with the teens. I love love. Plus, this scene has my favorite line.

Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.

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We stopped off for a beautiful scenic spot in the hills. The only reason I post this picture of myself is not because it captures the scenery, not because its flattering of me, but because this is the last of a string of photos this father took of me, none of which I knew he was taking because he kept asking me questions and thus I kept talking.

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We even made it to the church where Maria and Captain got married. Yes they got married at the abbey… But the interior of the church was here.

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It was a fun, beautiful day. I didn’t want to bury my favorite photo of the day. It’s in the previous post… A couple and their dog. It seemed like a moment captured most people wouldn’t mind having.

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All for tonight. So long, farewell.

Oh, YouTube. You’re brilliant sometimes.

Salzburg, Austria, where the hills are alive with the sound of my giggling.

You seize the day and we’ll season your fries.

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Even vegetarians. Even though we think you’re weird.

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Don’t worry. We took these pictures before they knew our intentions.

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Dine and die.

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It’s always a good time in Ritchie’s room.

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Spend your money here and we’ll feel more secure.

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Have your own pick, or you can try one of ours.

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We all know she was your favorite Golden Girl.

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Not just anybody… No, not you. Keep walking.

I’m in Salzburg, Austria. Train Füssen to Munich then Munich to here, and I am in a quirky little productive not-for-blog writing mood. Not much to post now. Tomorrow, I’m being hugely unoriginal, and going on the four hour air-conditioned SOUND OF MUSIC BUS TOUR!!!

If you haven’t seen The Sound of Music, I’m hugely flattered, surprised and confused as to how you’ve found your way to this blog.

Watch this, because I’m about to spoil it for you in multiple definitions of the word.

I am twenty-two
(I just turned twenty-two)
Without makeup it’s hard to believe
Locals I meet, they tell me I’m neat
And humbly…
I freakin’ agree!

I am twenty-two
(I just turned twenty-two)
With statues I can’t not pose
Laundry and showers, smelling like flowers
What do I know of those?

Totally unemployed am I
When I get home next time
Ill go interview, my biggest skill?
“Just look how well I rhyme!”

I need someones older and smarter
Telling me what to do
But until then, only until then
I’ll just blog… to you.

With love, from Salzburg.

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Choose Your Own (Fairytale) Adventure

I am quite a happy little lady this week. I’m feeling on top of the world, which is in fact somewhat like where I found this little ladybug. I’m living a fairytale.

That is if fairytale princesses wore backpacks instead of ball gowns.

If fairytale princesses stopped cleaning stepmothers’ houses and stopped ever feeling quite clean themselves.

If fairytale princesses swapped cottages and seven dwarves for mixed dorms and seven men all named Snory.

If instead of talking animal friends, fairytale princesses had string instruments named Steve who died at Austrian train stations a third of the way into the story.

If fairytale princesses found boys Charming and said, “Boy, I’ll see your happily ever after and raise you happily ever after five months.”

It’s like I said to someone today –
When I can’t play with my friends, I just play with my words.

Munich was a good place to be for me, but different than all the others. I saw the sites, I ate the sausages from the market under the maypole, I drank beer from (a restaurant nearby) the Haüfbrauhaus, and I spent time in the parks… But so much of my time there, I didn’t feel like I’d come to Munich to visit a new city. Instead, I settled in easily and started writing, hardly phased by the new surroundings at all. I walked rainy streets, sat on statues and tucked myself away in the corners of coffee shops. It was like I was anywhere, and I was comfortable.

So to shock the system, I set out to find castles.

And you thought I was just being grossly sentimental with all the fairytale talk. I’m just telling it like it is.

I arrived in Füssen last night. The online directions given by the hostel said “Follow the signs.” Sure. That would have been so much bleeping easier if it weren’t dark out.

I’d checked the weather before traveling to Füssen to ensure I’d have good weather to see the castle that had inspired Walt Disney. I saw the picture of the sun. Unfortunately, as previously covered, my German isn’t that good, and this morning I woke up in a cloud. Being the smart Southern California girl that I am, I know this coastal fog layer will burn off around 1. Never mind that we’re in Germany.

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I’d read a week ago in Rick Steves that to get to the castles… Something about 3km away… Buses or you can walk. Well, I have time. I can walk 3km. I check a map posted in the middle of the old town. The castles are that way. That way with an arrow off the map. I can handle that. Hey look, the sky and the street are the same color.

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I start walking that way and there are no signs pointing to the castles anywhere, but I figure I’m in Europe where castles are a dime a dozen. Signs would make them look special or something. It’d be so easy to find the giant castle on the mountain without this fog. It’s beginning to mist so I start keeping track of options I can backtrack to should it start to rain. My favorite one was “under that bridge.”

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About 2km into walking, I still can’t see past four houses ahead and I turn around. There is no point in getting to the castles in this weather. Maybe later, maybe tomorrow. I have time. I return to my hostel. It’s 10:30a.m. and I’m a 5k into my day.

Two hours later, the sun is peeking through. I set out again, this time to catch the bus to the castles. Note that it is now the fourth time I’m walking down my hostel’s street but the first time I can see it, thus the smartest exclamation to ever cross my lips: “Hey! A mountain!”

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The bus went ten minutes and five kilometers the direction opposite that of my morning route. Arriving at the base of the mountain, I remembered what Rick Steves said. “Once you get to the mountain, something about 3km, something about bus up the hill.”

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The sign says it’s an hour walk to get to the best view of the main castle. A minute on an inclined treadmill and I hate life, but I don’t want to take the bus. 20 minutes later, I’m walking uphill bent forward, in case shortening myself would decrease wind resistance. Seven years of NASCAR watching didn’t teach me nothing, folks.

I made it to the bridge. Complete with mountains behind me, valleys and lakes ahead of me, a waterfall falling below me. A beautiful castle was in front of me.

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It was really foggy. If that was the best view I’d get of the castle, I wouldn’t complain, but I had time so I had an important life decision to make.

Do I stay on the bridge to wait for the clouds to move away from the castle? Or do I follow that unmarked dirt trail?

I followed the trail uphill, and when the trail seemed to end without notice, I passed “Do not leave the trail” signs, followed a retired couple from Colorado and climbed the hill, using roots of hundreds-year-old trees to pull myself up.

And would you look at where I found myself.

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Happy little ladybug, yes, I am. Also, the winter hat and t-shirt look is 100% acceptable after walking uphill forty minutes in weather in which you can see your breath.

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I stayed up there for as long as I could and I had my journal out to write a story, but now alone, I feared another fog layer coming in and obscuring the footholds I’d need to get down. Being the responsible person I am, and the slightly morbid weirdo I am, I took a photo in case I fell off the cliff, so the people who found me knew where I last was, and more importantly, where I was intending to go.

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Crossing the bridge again, Guy #1 asked me to take his photo in front of the castle. As I was framing it, Guy #2 walking by asked if I wanted him to take “your picture together.” Oh, if I thought Guy #1 would understand my sense of humor… Not telling Guy #2 yes may be my first regret of the trip.

I got home, wrote for a bit, walked into the old town to look for dinner, and promptly left it to go ten minutes to regular town (where houses have satellites on the roof and you see gas stations) to a restaurant where locals speak German and babies cry gibberish. And that is where I wrote this post, all while eating a “funghi pizza” and drinking a Paulaner.

Fairytale day. Through sunset and beyond. Maybe I haven’t been looking up enough, but tonight even the stars seemed better than I’ve seen in years.

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Can You Hear Me Now? Good.

I know. Three days almost went by.

The journey from Brussels to Munich was, if painless and way better than the Oregon Trail, exhausting. I went to bed Saturday night beat. Munich is gorgeous. Simply beautiful. Unfortunately, I was tired cranky during my Sunday walking tour, and it was cold, so you have to take my word on Munich’s beauty because there are no pictures.

By the time the tour was over, it was late in the day. With no Munich friends yet (and I just can’t seem to replace Erin) I set out for dinner. I walked into a beer hall. Walked out. It looked like so much fun! And not the place I could handle sitting awkwardly by myself. I found a restaurant on a side street by the Haüfbrauhaus. It actually seemed to be filled with locals. It was a little nice for my budget, but right now I count anywhere with tables set with silverware to be nice. I figured I could hide myself away in the corner.

I got seated at a table set for three, right at the front door. I had to keep ducking eye contact with the table next to me – many a daydream ended in a fixed gaze with the one older woman facing my direction.

Dinner was fantastic – turkey schnitzel in a creamy mushroom sauce, spätzle, cranberry sauce, salad, and a Paulaner Original Hell beer. And this one, one beer got me feeling… quite good. Good enough I took a page in my journal to start writing whatever lines came to mind. It was a fun experiment, and I came up with one line I was determined to use in whatever I wrote next.

Yesterday, I was still in anti-tourist mode. I wanted to avoid the crowds and souvenirs. It is nothing against Munich – just a new phase of this trip? I “get” the overpriced cafes close to the center. I “get” what tourist menu means and I “get” that this awesome real life Disneyland is beautiful… But I love the real parts of the cities the best.

So I purposely spent the day skirting the nicest parts of the city, walking two to three streets further all the way around it. This is where you find the pharmacies, the grocery stores, the thrift stores, the post offices… I stopped at the pharmacy to answer important questions. “Is spülung conditioner? And is it leave-in or wash out? When the only English words on competing shampoo bottles are “Total Repair” and “Ultimate Repair,” which one wins? Is this soap or lotion? Is this face wash or acid?”

Then I found a massive secondhand English bookstore. The owner was very, very excited about how “we have just begun to serve coffees and teas if you would like one while you browse.” I know this because I heard him tell everyone that walked in the door for nearly an hour.

I made a beeline for the poetry and writing section. Ten minutes later, the stack was Screenwriting by Screenwriters, No Plot? No Problem!, How to Sell Your Nonfiction Book… and Then Write It, Penguin Classics’ Love Poems and Robert Creeley’s Mirrors.This is how you realize you want to be every type of writer ever.

Being the classy budget traveler that I am, I hid in the corner for half an hour skim reading everything. I realized the screenwriters book would be great someday after I’d seen the movies being referenced (for now, I only knew Ghost). No Plot? No Problem! had an entire section about finding “your magic pen,” which validated the ten minutes poor Erin watched me stare at a shelf in a Berlin Staples, making sure I was getting a black roller/gel pen of the proper weight. You all might not know this – I hate, with a passion, writing with ballpoint pens.

In the end, I left with a new old copy of Jack Keroac’s On the Road because I left my old new old copy in California accidentally and couldn’t wait to read it any longer. Mirrors got left behind because it was too few pages for so many euros. I loved the poem “Retrospect.” Three or four lines? I didn’t even have to skim it.

I ended up at the Englischer Garten. Bigger than Hyde Park, bigger than Central Park. I was in heaven. It’s a gorgeous fall day and the leaves are still on the trees. Dogs were out to play but it was hardly crowded at all. I laid down, with my dark chocolate bar because I’d forgotten to get lunch, and intended to read.

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And then I started writing. Based on that one line I’d come up with at dinner.

And I wrote. And I wrote.

And I left the park and spent over three hours at the Starbucks across from the Haüfbrauhaus, because I know the WC code is 6562 (who spends more money paying for restrooms than she does on water bottles or coffee? This girl)…

And I think I wrote something special. Funny enough, several edits later, that one dinner line that triggered it all has been edited out entirely.

I am very excited.

Fun story: When I was in Bruges last week, I stayed at two different hostels. The second one I checked in late and left early. The only contact I made with anyone was with my Korean roommates. Their English is poor and my Korean subpar but through miming I borrowed their hairdryer.

Last night, as I was up late writing in the Munich hostel lobby, I glanced up and two girls were staring at me, heads tilted, jaws dropped. “It’s you! It’s you! You asked for the hair dryer!”

And I wish I could tell you how now, but for three minutes last night I knew how to say “this is insane” in Korean.

Today I kept avoiding the city center. I kept writing. I kept walking. I ended up following a parade of people against higher taxes but pro-noise makers for most of its route. I almost treated myself to seeing Midnight in Paris again, but the little theater it’s playing at has the dubbed version and my German is almost as bad as my Korean.

Instead, I went back to my favorite restaurant, with my favorite waiter, except this time he sat me in the back corner.

Where I was very, very happy.

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It’s 2p.m., do YOU know where you’re sleeping tonight?

Working titles: Paris? I Prefer Trains; Two Hours in Luxembourg; Step Right Up and See How Flexible She Is; I Power Walked a Country… and So Can You; Livin’ La Vida Luxembourg; The Longest Story About a Day of Not Much; I Just Paparazzi’d A Nursing Home and Now I Feel Like an Asshole.

The plan for October 22, 2011:
1) Wake up, stretch, smile at life.
2) Catch the two hour train to Paris because I can!
3) Store backpack at train station.
4) Buy coffee at a cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower! I’ve been waiting for that.
5) Write poem. Write home. Roam.
6) Return to Eiffel Tower, watch sunset. Smile at life.
7) Beat the system, not pay weekend hostel costs… Take a night train to anywhere! Probably Munich!

It was going to be a great day. I felt so confident about this, I slept through the 8:24 train to take the 9:24 instead. At 9:00, I packed my bag and went to Brussels Central Station.

“Yes, you need a reservation. That will be 27 euro.”

But, but… I don’t, but… The point of Paris and night train was to avoid… Fantasies are crumbling. I’ve paid $30 for taxis from the Syracuse airport to a Syracuse apartment multiple times. 27 euros to Paris? I can’t.

“You can take a train to Lille first and it will only cost 8 euro.”

I’ve got nothing but time! Sure!

“The next train from Lille to Paris available leaves at 7:30p.m. You will arrive in Paris by 9.”

I don’t have that kind of time.

“Would you like to reserve?”

No, no… thanks… I have to go look at my map of the continent. I’ll be right back.

(five minutes later)

Do I need a reservation for the 9:37 to Luxembourg? No?

I’m going to Luxembourg!

What I will do when I get to Luxembourg (country number 13 of the trip!) I don’t know. I’ve heard it is pleasant. I also already know there is only one hostel there, which sits at the bottom of an insanely steep hill, and I don’t want to spend an entire day and night there just to sacrifice another day to travel by train tomorrow… But hey, those things can be figured out when I get to Luxembourg, right? Worst case, Luxembourg will be a good stop for lunch, right?

Thoughts of this train ride: Adele has a song called “Love Song.” It has the happiest darn lyrics, and it is the saddest sounding song. If I could write and sing a love song, it’d have trumpets. I’d be multitasking – I’d be singing while grinning.

Bet this makes you grin.

Highlight of this train ride: I saw a cow running!

When I got to the Luxembourg train station, I asked about a night train to Munich. They run everyday! Except not on Saturdays. I asked the very serious question, “So… are there any other good night trains to anywhere?” He shook his head. There is a 17:17p.m. train as the latest option, should I choose to go to Munich.

I have a rule. Figure out where you are sleeping that night by 2p.m.

I had gotten to Luxembourg at 1:15p.m and stored my bag with the luggage guy. I have mastered the art of finding free wifi – McDonalds, Starbucks… In this area, Quick Burger is the preferred option. It’s generally so crowded, I can slip through the door unnoticed and not be guilt-tripped into buying a Big Mac in exchange for Internet.

Bed search. Am I sleeping in Luxembourg? Looks like no. So, how about Strausbourg? One night one guest? Hostelworld.com says no results for the date you are looking. Try a different city or change dates requested. Hostelbookers.com responds the same. I’m pretty sure Hostels.com didn’t bother trying. What about little French towns like Nancy and Dijon? Nope. Fine. Munich, how are you doing? Oh you’re wide open. You’ve got plenty of space. You’re half a continent away, but you’ve got a bed.

I’ve been at this nearly half an hour already. To my side is a family from Ohio – parents and three young sons. I swear, I swear I will love my child, but either I was so cranky or I am the least maternal person on earth… The entire time Quick Burger’s painfully slow Internet was reinforcing how without bed I was, the mother was narrating to her other two sons, in a sing-songy Elmo voice, what the third son was doing, rotating, as each child did something spectacular, like eat an ice cream cone well. Or finish his fries.

Whatever. Cute. What was killing me was that she was talking to her husband in the same voice, just in case her kids cared about the charges at their hotel or how she feels eating at Quick Burger is a step up from McDonald’s because at least it’s local fast food. It was like she didn’t know him.

The whole time, I’m struggling. This can’t… it can’t be how she talks to him.

These children would not have been conceived.

It’s 1:55p.m. We’re doing this. 5:17 to Munich. It’ll be a great next couple days there.

No, wait, I’m not an idiot. Three connections of ten minutes or less? One is going to get screwed up, and I am not prepared to later deal with stranded in closed train station territory. 4:24 to Munich.

It’s 2. Let’s do this, Luxembourg.

I found a bus stop, looked at the map for the big, bold CENTRE and pointed myself that direction. Four minutes later, I was there! And golly Luxembourg is gorgeous. Im sure summer is pretty, but this month of European fall has been astounding. It has only rained five days my entire trip, and only once has it rained hard enough to squash plans. The other three became sunny within a few hours.

I cruised around Luxembourg. Park? Check. Cross a bridge? Check. See official government buildings? Check. Browse upscale shopping district next to nice church? Check.

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I found an awesome building. It was large, it had a gate, it had crests hanging on the gate.

I found the palace!

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I have no concept whatsoever what the Luxembourg government is, but it is obvious to me they have a king and queen. I get photog happy and took a bunch of pictures from all sorts of artsy angles, and then I notice the crowd walking the grounds. Slowly walking the grounds.

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I’d been stalking the nursing home.

This set me off laughing harder than I’ve ever laughed by myself at myself. I felt absurd. I decided it was time to get out of Luxembourg. I ran to the grocery store for water and snack options. My water always sparkles now – I only drink water and forms of coffee. It costs the same to make it fun water.

Highlight: That. Also getting told at Quick Burger I’d have to wait for my burger.

Oh, and I watched my reflection trip.

Boarding the train out of Luxembourg, I met four American college kids. They’re from three different schools in the United States but all are studying abroad in Germany together. I got some tips, shared some photos, made some friends! I’ve got more places to be in Germany!

Highlight: Finding out from Eric the train I was on would be traveling along a river with a bunch of castles, just around sunset.

Luxembourg to Trier. Trier to Koblenz. It was there my new friends and I split up – I was off to Frankfurt!

I had five minutes to catch my Frankfurt-Munich connection. I arrived twenty-five minutes late.

I quit. (stomps feet) I see a Marriott. I’m calling Mom and Dad.

Or not… Because at the end of the platform is a little machine that, when I press buttons, tells me it’s 20:41:53 and there’s a train to Mannheim at 20:50. Arriving in Mannheim at 21:28, I just have to catch the 21:32 to Munich!

And I did it!!! I also pointed to what I thought was an Italian wrap. Ended up with a tuna wrap.

Mmm, train station tuna.

I arrived in Munich. My hostel tonight, checked in after midnight, cost me 24 euros. This better be a damn good free breakfast buffet, because I am loading up.

Tomorrow is a new day. Today wasn’t lost. I can’t complain about messed up international travel plans planned eight hours prior. Whatever. No matter what I do, everything is new.

I’m going to freak my family and friends out when I go home and major inconveniences don’t inconvenience me.

What Lassie? Timmy’s in the well?

The most stressful point of the day: Realizing I’d connected the dots between Frankfurt and Heidelberg instead of Frankfurt and Mannheim. I was doing so well.

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Big in Brussels

It was not love at first sight.

I’ll admit it now, it’s never going to be love. It was a decent first date. I ate well.

I got off the train at Brussels Noord, the north station closer to my hostel than Central Station. Take this exit, you enter the business district. Take that exit, you enter sketchville/not even fun red light district. I made the wrong turn. First impression: Brussels is ugly.

I could see a lot of tourists. A lot of ugly buildings. A lot of waffle shops. Plenty of expensive chocolate shops.

I was not enchanted, rather, I was pretty crabby. I certainly didn’t want to take any pictures, not even of the rather gorgeous town hall. The rest was pretty bad. I started playing a game to pass the time. Find The Cheapest Belgian Waffle (answer: Waffle Palace, one euro waffle with no toppings… which is how you eat it unless you’re a tourist).

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And then I got myself lost.

The entire day, I was aiming for the big city park, next to the big Central Station. It’s not a hard concept in the slightest. I could not get a grasp on pointing myself in the right direction. I zigged and zagged through Brussels.

Just after going down, and regretting that I’d gone down, a giant hill, I saw a glass elevator. Next glance made me realize I was near a rather prestigious looking building. I took the elevator up.

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I was at the nearly deserted Palais de Justice. There were three other tourists, and a man playing fetch with his dog in the halls of it.

Man, I want to play fetch with my dog in the halls of a regal courthouse.

Strike that. Man, I want a man who’ll play fetch with my dog in the halls of a regal courthouse.

Anyway. I was at this building with nearly no one else there, I had no business being there, and I enjoyed every minute. Up and down the stairs, up and down the halls… It was my own giant play place for ten minutes. Just one big empty building.

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And then I was off to find the giant park. I knew it was next to the train station and the cathedral.

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I found it! (pats self on back)

No, I didn’t. I found a medium-sized park next to a television station and a church.

I swear I don’t make this stuff up.

Whatever, I dig ponds and mediocre-sized parks, plus this park had the largest, angriest sounding birds I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo. Big, big freakin’ birds.

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But now, where the heck am I? I’m so sore from yesterday’s adventure, if you couldn’t have guessed that. I might have been a bit overzealous, what with fifteen miles of riding the first time I’d done it in six years. I looked at the map and realize I have officially crossed the city. I’m still a twenty minute walk away from Central Station, which, if you didn’t put together, is in the center.

I have nothing but time, but honestly… Once upon a ten months ago, I hated walking to class. “Only a couple miles walk” from home is always going to sound like a bitch.

I did it, I walked it, I ignored public transportation because that’s apparently what I do, and on the way, I finally saw everything I meant to see all day. The royal plaza, the grand park, the main market plaza, the cathedral. I saw them at the prettiest time of day, too, as it was just after sunset and getting dark.

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I maybe could like Brussels, after dark.

Jut like. But no one goes on a second date with someone they don’t like to look at in the daylight.

It’s mutual. Brussels doesn’t want to go on a second date with me either. I only had two and a half days in Belgium. It’s really hard to fit in a to-do list that includes Belgian beer, Belgian waffles, Belgian fries, and Belgian chocolate.

But because I’m a freakin’ champ, I did them all.

Twice.

On a final note, if someone tries to pickpocket me this week, they’ll find not much money but seven different bars of dark chocolate. It looks like Belgian Oompa Loompas set up shop in there.

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