Tag Archives: Germany

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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.

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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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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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Halfway There… And what have we learned.

It’s 6:30p.m. in Berlin. I’m at a little pizza place looking out at a major intersection. It’s one of those intersections where underneath, just down a flight of stairs, you find an entire city, complete with a hairdresser, bar, pawn shop, McDonald’s and certified Apple reseller. I like taking the underground route across these intersections just to see if I end up on the right corner when I surface. It’s 50-50.

I’d have gone somewhere more German(?) for dinner, but I hobbled to get here as it is. Two months in, cold weather setting in, my body is finally saying alright, dummy, relax. My right knee started hurting two days ago and I see some sort of brace coming in the future. Imagine that happens when you spend all day, everyday, walking. Eleven hours, yesterday, to be precise. In addition, the urge to be adventurous was curbed today when I woke with a sore throat. I’d guess my two rebellious nights of being a drinking lightweight followed by a third night Skyping until 3:30a.m. did me in. I’m not complaining, as long as I don’t lose my voice. No one wants to Skype someone who just talks in whisper. I’ve met that person. You don’t want to talk to her in person, either.

Today and tomorrow are quiet days. Today’s big adventure was laundry. It involved getting admonished by two people, one who thought I cut the line (I’d been there twenty minutes) and the lady at the register when I asked for my change in change. “NO.” Tomorrow, I’ll go to Amsterdam on an early train, arriving midday. Maybe I’ll find some cure to my knee aches there. Heh heh heh. Yay? Nae?

Good gosh, I love brownies.

But for now, where are we, halfway done.

I started this trip thinking I could do it. I knew I wouldn’t die.

Excuse me while I knock on wood…

The sounds of “Have you seen Taken?” “Alone, four months, really?” echoed. I packed my bag relying on the core group of people who believed I could do it, some more confident than I.

But then you get over here, and everybody is doing the exact same thing. Alone. For just as long. For longer. The longer trips are always Australians, at least 80% of the time. Word is there are 22 million Australians and 2 million are on holiday.

The Americans you meet are mostly on shorter trips. Nine out of ten are from California. Not just my observation – my Canadian roommate told me the same this morning. She told me to say I’m from New York, it’ll make me more interesting. She and I also celebrated mounted shower heads together. You appreciate funny things here.

Andrea and I walked through a park in Istanbul one day toward where we thought there’d be an exit. A group of adults followed us. We ended up… Not… at an exit. The adults revealed they weren’t only following close behind us, but actually following us. “You looked like two Turkish girls going home. We thought you knew where to go.” It was there I realized I could at least appear to know what I was doing.

What doesn’t get written happens to be some of the most stimulating, frustrating, challenging aspects of the trip. Nothing so hard it’s complain worthy – arriving in a new city at 6:30a.m. and figuring out the metro system. Learning a new hello, goodbye, sorry, thank you every six days. Spending a morning asking strangers, “Excuse me, laundromat?” and pointing to the left and (or) right. Introducing yourself to five new people, at least, per day. Janae. Janae. No that’s ok, It’s Janae. “Ooh.” Moments later, meh, Janet’s close enough.

Halfway through. Probably halfway through this post, as well.

I like walking in straight lines, map away, just to see what I see. I like avoiding public transportation at all costs, including knees, because I have no need to be anywhere faster than the time it takes to walk to it. I like that Erin described how far away the restaurant we were going to was by saying “Google says it’s a 22 minute walk.”

I like trying new foods, everywhere. Especially the places with no English menu. Pork Hungarian Style? Yes, I’ll have that. Can I have “that puff pastry that has that something in it” Thank you. I love that the best, greatest version of “Hallelujah” I’ve ever heard was in a Berlin market, by a performer on the street with his guitar, as I sat munching on a gözleme. Didn’t know what was in it, it just looked good. Wikipedia just told me it’s traditional Turkish cuisine. Oh.

I’ve enjoyed traveling without makeup, hairdryer, flat-iron. Society makes girls feel uncomfortable, unfinished, without them. I certainly don’t go without at home. But my tired eyes, oddly curled hair, teenage-like complexion have made plenty of friends. I wish everyone, like so many backpackers, were so open to making friends with personalities first. You know that first time you let the new guy see you in sweatpants? “Man, I hope you dig this as much as my six inch heels, we’re gonna be able to spend a hell of a lot more time together.” My new friends meet me one notch above sweatpants mode. Most of them, anyway.

I love that Erin gave me a haircut in the hostel bathroom the other night. Cheers to finding the girl who cuts her own hair, and her friends’ hair, the week I was looking for a cheap haircut. For free. I was really loving my pony-tail long hair. We’re back above the shoulder now, and I’m just as excited. We rid my length of three inches of what had once been bleached/dyed/box-colored/murdered blonde hair. It was pure wire, dead dead dead, at this point. I think that’s almost the last of it… Sixteen months since the big brunette change, five months since the last of any color dye… Now I think we’re good to grow.

Two months in, I’ve rediscovered my love for writing. Not this blog, but real, edited, solid writing. I’m trying harder than I have in a long time. I’m addicted to sunsets and sunrises, poetry and photography.

I’m aware and happy seeing new isn’t getting old, even if the new isn’t always good. Used to seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets all over the big cities here, last night I saw two sleeping men huddled together for warmth. It made me think twice today as I thought to whine about dropping two nights hostel budget for a new iPad charger to replace my dud one. If only all life problems got solved on the fourth floor of Media Markt.

Most importantly, the past two months have proven two things I would’ve previously thought contradicted each other.

I can really get by, get around, on my own. This independence business is a lot of fun and constantly spontaneous. I didn’t book where I was sleeping today until noon. Same yesterday. It’s a pretty neat feeling. It may make moving somewhere busy a requirement – gotta keep moving. Keep walking. Keep seeing. New York City, you’re looking great right now.

But wow. I think more this week, maybe it’s just more each week, I appreciate missing home, people both coasts called home interchangeably, as much as I do. Not homesick, crying in bed, unhappy. Happy homesick. Thankful I have someones to miss, people to love. Just the people matter – I’d stay living off items in the bag if I just had a roof over my head. So many travelers are doing just fine here, because where else would they be? It’s nice to miss as much as I do. It’s not easy – Goodness, sometimes it’s really not – but that’s a good problem to have. And a great thing to get back to, in two more months.

And the blend of those is what the first two months have been about. Experiencing and sharing, and the grown appreciation of sharing an experience. You can see a lot if you’re by yourself. Less bathroom breaks. But you’ll never do the greatest experiences justice in the story. At least, I won’t, and that’s supposed to be my gig, right? Even if it’s just one person out of the world’s seven billion, someone you met an hour ago or ten years ago… You have that person to “Remember when” with over email, the phone, or in person as you are sharing the latest and greatest experience.

Those are the thoughts, two months in.

Halfway through.

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Halfway There… So what have we seen?

As if you can recap 79 posts and 2 months in a single one. My blog hit 10,000 views last night. THANKS EVERYONE!

50%. Today is day 61 of 121 days in Europe. Halfway to home. Sitting on the rooftop terrace of a Berlin hostel, spending the morning (eh, early afternoon) doing laundry. Very necessary.

Wasn’t it just yesterday I bought my bag?

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The quick recap: 10 countries, 17 cities, 18 different hostels/hotels
Spain – Barcelona, Madrid
Turkey – Istanbul, Goreme, Ankara
Bulgaria – Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo
Serbia – Belgrade
Romania – Bucharest, Brasov
Hungary – Budapest
Austria – Vienna
Poland – Krakow, and a bit of Warsaw accidentally
Czech Republic – Prague
Germany – Just Berlin… So far.

I realize I can never recap this adequately. That’s why I keep the blog as I go… But let’s give this a shot, if just to trigger memories of the bigger stories.

Spain
In Spain, I discovered my love for cava. I learned not to overestimate my ability to speak Spanish (mmm boquerones!), I giggled at my birthday massage. And most importantly, I learned… I guess I already knew this… I appreciated, loved my daily coffees and dinners, and breakfasts and lunches, with Dad.

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Turkey
Andrea and I had an amazing reunion. We ate kebab everyday. We snuck up on the roof of a closed restaurant for the most amazing sunrise, and I spent the day conquering a fear of heights. And of course, we bought a string instrument for a friend back home. And then we learned the cost of postage. Finally, we mastered the cave stretch.

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Bulgaria
Restaurants called Happy make you happy. Playing chess with Andrea becomes routine, and a blast. I learned long walks take you to beautiful places. Also, always take water with you as you climb a fortress solo.

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Serbia
Stay away from Fabio-esque characters, even if you’re impressed he can open your beer bottle with his teeth. Also, everything comes in pastry form. Took long train rides. Found more forts. They’re beautiful.

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Romania
Entered first country without Dad or Andrea. Conquered big city anxiety – that was a cranky day. Lapped the city repeatedly. Had first solo experience of putting the map away and just… Going. Entered Dracula’s Castle.

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Hungary
Fell in love with bridges and love locks.

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Austria
These recaps are getting shorter as we go… Took a picture with this guy!

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Poland
Had to say goodbye to Steve the string instrument after an unfortunate fall. He was good to me. Loved every bit of Krakow, and then an hour away, saw Auschwitz.

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Czech Republic
Found my next home. Found Erin. Found the Lennon Wall.

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Germany
Sticking with Erin. Walking past history everywhere… I’m still in Berlin, click back to yesterday.

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Blogging this made me tired. Did anyone actually make it to the bottom?

A real halfway reflection later. For now, my laundry is done – Time to finally start this day in Berlin!