Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Small World!!!



I ran into a guy at the Santorini hostel who was also traveling alone. After talking awhile we realized that his freshman year roommate was a guy I knew from high school! And my graduating class was only 130… so pretty small high school.

Later in Santorini, I was buying a gyro, the usual. (I ate so many gyro while I was in the Greek islands I’m surprised they weren’t coming out of my ears!) As I was walking in, I heard “Chrissy?”. I looked up and it took me about 30 seconds for the gears to turn and realize how I knew the two girls standing before of me. It was Jamie Winter and Lily Hoff from Steamboat Springs High School! They were both doing semester at sea! Who would have guess?!

When I didn’t think I could meet anymore people that knew my people, the rule of five strikes again! The owner of the dive shop in Mykonos got his masters certification with the person who certified me in California! They were good friends who lost contact with time so I was given a business card to pass along.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Traveling


As I’m ending this chapter of my life and about to start a new one, I think about what I’ve been through and the memories I have made. Europeans are very different compared to Americans. For the most part, they are a lot more environmentally friendly. Families only own one car, the houses and apartments are smaller, and people use public transportation everyday. There is deposit on bottles and everything is recycled or reused. The food consists mostly of bread, cheese, meat, and butter. Oh the German’s love their butter. When they eat, they take their time. They talk in between bites, and the waiter never brings the check until the customers ask. In the US, eating is a chore. You’re in, you’re out, and the check is on the table before you finish. If you stay after you’re done, it’s often times looked down upon. Here, people are not as stressed, and they “prost” before every drink. There’s a German saying that only pigs drink by themselves (it rhymes in German). People really enjoy each others' company. One bad thing is that mineral water is all they drink and tap is unheard of. It would also be nice to see more water fountains and not have to pay for every restroom. 

Through my journeys, the biggest thing I have learned is: people are people. Despite these differences, everyone still has friends and family, wants to be loved and respected, cares for others, and enjoys having fun. Some people have a harder time expressing their needs and feelings, but in the scheme of things, we all are the same. Yes, some go to college and others don’t. Yes, some receive the Nobel Peace Prize while others beg on the streets. Some are born into money, some make it, and some never have it. When anyone looks at someone as “different” they do not understand that we are all the same; they have not traveled. Although an individual can’t change the world on their own, they can make small changes which have endless potential. Next time you hear or see prejudice, say something; do something. If you think it is ok to discriminate, then you need to travel. Some can gain this perspective without leaving their hometown and some travel the world and still don’t learn this lesson. All in all, people are people. They gossip and hurt one another. They care and they save lives. This happens everywhere so don’t take the bad to heart and remember the good forever. Everyone has their story; don’t judge before you know it. 

Time never stops and life keeps moving. Missing the past is unavoidable, but look forward for the future and live in the present. People come and go. You will stay in contact with some and never see others again. Some will immensely impact your life. Always have an open mind; you can learn something from anyone. When you are caught in a bad, sad, or frustrating moment, remember life goes on. When you are scared to do something, think about worst case scenario and consider the idea “then what?”. For example, if you want to move to Hawaii to but are nervous, the worst case scenario is that you don’t get a job or don’t find somewhere to live. Then what? You move back to where you came from, start work again, and life goes on. Another example is that you’re scared to tell your parents about an expensive speeding ticket. Worst case scenario, they get mad and make you pay for your own insurance. Then what? Your parents won’t stay mad forever and you start saving money to pay for the insurance, life goes on.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Wonderful Land of Mykonos

Hello from Mykonos with all the beautiful people!    I couch surfed here and stayed with the whole dive shop! The scuba diving shop in Paradise Beach is run by 5 guys that work together and all live together. I met them at the shop, laid out for awhile and then we when to Tropicana Club which is a whopping 10 feet away. Talk about people watching! This island is known for the  gay party scene and looking around I had no idea who was gay and who was straight; they all spend so much time trying to look good! This club was a day party so we were back at the house and out cold by midnight. The next day was just another day at the office. I took David’s (my host) scooter around the island. I explored the town of Mykonos which is VERY easy to get lost in. The downtown streets were designed to twist around and create a maze to confuse the pirates.


















I almost was able to dive with the guys, but I missed the 1:00 dive and the later one was for more experience people. You have to save something for next time! I’ll just have to wait for the Great Barrier Reef to put my gear on… tough life!

That night was just one more evening at Tropicana. For these boys it’s the same old schedule just a different date. This one included some night swimming! The water here is so clear and warm. It’s unbelievable! 



I’m now on the ferry to Athens and then off to Melbourne!

Travel Tip:

Whenever you are flying out of a big city, save the site seeing for that city for the last few days of your trip. For example, I should have gone to the Greek Islands as soon as I got there and then explore Athens the couple days before I was flying out so I was already in the city. I was extremely nervous that something would happen to the ferry causing it would be more late than normal and I would miss my flight! Everything worked out well, but it was worrying that could have easily been avoided.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A night in Paros


I decided to save some money and hop on the slow ferry from Santorini to Paros... not worth it! The ferry was cool because you were outside, but not that cool for 8 hours! Of course it was late, just like every other public transportation in Greece. I switched seats at least 25 times to find a comfy one which turned out to be impossible. Due to the high winds people were getting sick left and right! All the bathroom stalls where taken and thankfully the rocking put me to sleep instead of a sick state. 


Two nights in Paros! AWESOME! This island is a lot less touristy than Santorini. As soon as I got to the hostel (which was so chaotic with the owner and her child running around sporadically), I left to rent a scooter. My only objective was to get lost and explore the back roads. Back at the hostel, I met some Australians and my roommates. We all enjoyed a few beers on the rooftop and then hit the Dubliner. Here we had dance offs and shared stories.



The next day we hit the beach for a bit and then my friend and I went to the other side of the island to learn how to windsurf! It is SO much harder than I expected, but still a lot of fun. I went from not being able to stand on the board to being able to go forward, backwards, and turning around. I hope this isn’t my last windsurfing experience!



Off to Mykonos!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Island of love...


Santorini. The first 5 hours I was there I had already seen two weddings!

Wow, this is the most English I have heard so far! It’s a beautiful island, but damn, there’s a lot of tourists! I stayed at Cavelands Hostel which was absolutely beautiful! There was a pool and roof top hang out. I loved it! After checking in the first day, I went to lunch at a local restaurant. We went to the same place I had asked for directions earlier. After lunch, I asked the owner where I could find an ATM. Instead of simple directions, he hopped me on the back of his dirt bike and took me there! I have never been so scared! These people are CRAZY drivers. I yi yi, survived that one!

At about 5 pm, we started our 3 hour adventure from our hostel (25 minutes away from Fira) to Oia. Oia is the “postcard” area of Santorini. The hike took you along the coast through little towns. There were awesome views in every direction! The best sight occurred when we were on our last hill leading up to a church. When we approached the top, we had a view of Oia with the sea behind it. We trekked into the town and bought beers to enjoy the famous Santorini sunset.





The next day was a lazy day. I enjoyed myself by the pool, explored a little in Fira, watched the sunset and ate dinner in Oia. We were a group of eight from the hostel and did that make me grateful to be traveling on my own (or at least with only a few ppl earlier)! We were losing people left and right; it was complete chaos!


Well shit. This morning I missed my bus. I was there on time, but there was confusion between which bus and I ended up just getting a taxi. 10 Euros and a good conversation was a small price to pay in the scheme of things. The taxi driver asked if I was from Australia and I had to ask why he picked aussi land. He told me he normally doesn’t see Americans traveling alone. I felt very independent. Before I stated Greece, I thought it would be hard to find others to hang out with, but almost everyone at our hostel was traveling alone too.

No one drinks tap water here. The tap is very salty and you can tell it after doing laundry. Your clothes are crunchy! Not even the locals will drink it. Instead they use cistern and catch rainwater.

I have found that I really enjoy couchsurfing when you are with someone. That way if the host is busy, you have someone to do activities with. Though, traveling alone, I prefer hostels because it’s so easy to meet people who are doing the same thing. This hostel had a great environment, and I made connections with so many people.

Travel Tip #?
If you have the means to do so, a smart phone, iPad, iPod, act. always take a picture of the bus or ferry schedule. It is so handy to have that with you and to look at it later! Though in Greece, the buses don’t always run by the schedule so you just have to hope things work out.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Athens… the LA of Greece





The Greeks, heat, and thinking do not mix well. It is Greek mentality to take your time, contemplate for awhile, and even talk slowly. They like to take their time with decisions, but they always have no worries. They sleep in late and when it is hot, they lay around in bed or they go to the beach, nothing else. The streets looked empty and some shops even closed so the owner could be by the sea. They take their time, and hate to be rushed.

It is blistering temperatures and yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far. It was so hot that the acropolis closed early! In this heat, I still managed to see the Unknown Soldier, the Parthenon, eat at a genuine Greek restaurant, and do a little shopping. It was the first day of the sale season so there were good prices everywhere! I got shirts for 5 Euros and shoes for 8! Now I don’t have to hit the clubs in my Birkenstocks ; )




Finally you can get tap water! At every restaurant or bar, they bring you tap water and free chips at bars and free desert or fruit at restaurants. Most of the toilets are free too and water is cheap (only 50 cents)! This is quite a pleasant change from the rest of Europe.

The Greek view of the crisis: Things are not safe anymore. People use to sleep with their doors unlocked, now you would be crazy not to lock them. The city center is FILLED with beggars. These are all immigrants that are looking to get into the rest of the EU but are unsuccessful and no longer have enough money to go home. Most Greeks think the rest of the world portrays the crisis as something a lot worse than it is. Though, things have gotten a lot cheaper. The jails are full and the druggies just shoot up on the streets. One Greek told me that the biggest problem is the hospital system. If you need medical attention, you must be flown to Athens or Crete.

Rules mean nothing. Stop signs are just suggestions and you would never get a ticket for running it. My host even went the wrong way on an oneway and parked in the opposite direction of every other car. If you want to park for a second, just throw on your flashers, kind of pull over, and “no worries, things are good”.

Stray dogs are everywhere! Today we met one and named him buddy! 



Travel Tip:

Watch out, the acropolis museum is closed on Mondays!!

Chrissy, Marilyn, and Franzi back in action!


The three musketeers reunited in Nuremberg. Franzi, Marilyn, and I were ready to destroy the town.  We had a wonderful time filled with many laughs. It was nice to relax and stay in one place for a few days. Franzi had school on Wednesday so Marilyn and I bought almost everything in LUSH and got face masks. We then brought our shopping frenzy to Birkenstocks and each got a pair. They are half the price in Germany! We enjoyed the classic Nuremberg Bratwurst while reminiscing. The next day we were went with Franzi to school and enjoyed a bottle of wine in the park while she was studiously in class. On Thursday night, we hit the town and met loads of people from all over the country. We danced until the sun rose! 



I am so lucky to have found such great friends as these two girls! : ) For now, I have their travel buddies with me (two owls). Until next time girls! 






Travel Tip:


Before your travels, get a fake student id from an European college or at least get an id that says your under 18. This will save you A LOT  of money!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Back in Germany!


I have found that the Germans are some of the friendliest people and are always willing to help. I’ve even had people approach me as I looked confused at the train station to ask if I needed help. Germany is also the most similar to the US and easy to relate to. The language has been the easiest for me to pick up (although I still know very little) and to understand.

This host was the most like Keegan and I. He was fun, enthusiastic, and very friendly. He picked us up at the train station and we headed to the Tallest Man on Earth concert. This is a singer/songwriter we knew from the states and it just so happens that our host, Pascal, likes he a lot and won free tickets! It was a great outdoor concert.



Munich is such a green city with huge parks and trees everywhere. Our host brought us around the city and even though he had only been in Bolvaria since April, he did a great job showing us the famous sites. One of the coolest scenes was the endless wave. Ever day, rain or shine, surfers come to show off their skill on the river wave under the bridge. Famous surfers like Kelly Slator have even surfed in Munich. We drifted through the English Gardens and passed by the groups of people laying out. On one side people are clothed and on the other, people are naked. It was quite hilarious to see a nude area in the dead center of the city! We got lunch at the beer garden and Keegan enjoyed his first liter beer while we had our first currywurst.



After dinner we met up with Marilyn and were off to Augsburg to meet her great aunt and uncle. It was nice to get out of the city and to stay in one place and chill. We were only here for two nights, but it was a wonderful break and now I’m ready to rock and roll! Our first dinner was the classic weisswurst with pretzels and sweet mustard.

After running some errands in the morning we saddled up our bikes and enjoyed the beautiful ride to the lake! It was about a 20 minute bike ride where we bike through fields with a great view of the German country side. The lake was crystal clear and had a wake boarding/water skiing line on one side. This was an interesting system. It was a pulley in a large circle that pulled wakeboards around and off jumps. A lot more environmentally friendly and less space was needed than with a boat. For dinner we had broad leaf garlic sauce on pasta and enjoyed the cool evening on the balcony.


Travel Tip # 5:
Always research the city you are going to… at least a little bit. If you read about it on Wikipedia, the sites will be a lot more interesting and cool than if you just see them with no background. The coolest sites to see are ones that you have read about in novels. So, if you have time to plan, start a book before your travels that takes place in where you are going.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The true city of lights


Once again, we have found ourselves in an absolutely beautiful city. Budapest looks a lot like Prague, but with more colors and the roofs have neater designs. The most beautiful buildings were the Parliament, the castle, the chain bridge, and St. Stephen Basilica. The Basilica was just recently restored, and when they were doing the last touch ups, they discovered a bomb from WWII that was hidden in the top tower. Specialists from all over Europe were hired to disable and remove the bomb. Wow, thank goodness the bomb was discovered before Keegan and I were caught in it’s ruble aftermath. The city at night is the most beautiful time. Everything is lit up and it is very romantic.

Budapest has a river running through it and one side is Buda while the other side is Pest. A long long time ago it was two different cities, but for almost ever it’s been considered one. Buda is the hilly side with the castle and where all the rich, older people live. Pest is the flat side with Parliament, the Basilica and all the embassies. This is the cheaper side where most family live. The Chain bridge connects the two.

Our hosts consisted of a mother and a daughter. They picked us up in a car which was the first time we had ridden in a car since we had been in Europe. They lived in a duplex where the mother’s brother lived in the other half and the grandparents lived in a house in the back. Once again, they were very hospitable!


It was around 40 degrees Celsius and we were sweating like pigs! It was quite a relief when they brought us site seeing in an air conditioned car. I was frantically rolling down the window, snapping photos, and rolling it back up to keep the air segregated. That night we ate like true Hungarians and had Paprika chicken and goulash. Then we bought Vodka and beer and sat on the steps of the Basilica to enjoy the night. The square was filled with people drinking and being merry!



The next day we were off for the famous thermal baths. We went to the oldest thermal bath in Pest and hopped in all the different pools excluding the 18 and 45 degrees Celsius baths. Some had so many minerals in the water that it took some strength to keep your arms underwater and your legs on the ground. There were three outside baths and the rest were inside. It was beautiful architecture! After soaking until our whole body was a prune, we explored a smaller castle on the Pest side and then headed to the Chain Bridge for sunset.

  
Travel Tip # 4
Watch out for those Hungarians! Our host told us how they will try to make a quick buck on anything and everything! Make sure you have discussed the price of a taxi ride with the driver before you commit to it. They will try to charge you 80 euros for a 10 euro trip! They will not let you get tap water at restaurants, but when they bring the bottled water it will already be uncapped because they refill them with tap water. ALWAYS specify what kind of wine you want because if you just say red wine, they will bring you the most expensive glass. Be careful and be wise!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Helllooooo Slovakia!



I'm on a boat, take a look at me! We decided to travel by boat instead of train or bus to Bratislava. It was a sight to see! You know you're in Europe when you see a guy casually drinking a beer on the 8:30 am boat.

Bratislava was,  well… Bratislava. It was cool, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Of course there was a city center with a castle, opera house, church, and so on. Our last host gave us a travel book, and so we was able to find something a little different. We rented bikes from our hostel, and biked 10 km to Devin’s Castle.   Devin’s Castle was destroyed in the 13th century and was never rebuilt. It is all ruins with contemporary art sporadically placed in the grass. We climb all over the ruins and took some cool photos : )



That night was ate some more raw meat; this has become a normal occurrence. We had cheese dumplings (which are nothing like what Americans call dumplings) and a plate of meats, cheeses, spread, banana peppers, and bread… of course bread!

Travel Tip # 3: Always bring a small bag like a gym bag or backpack that is very easy to compact so you can put it in your backpack. This is very handy for day trips around the city and when you have to put your big bag under the bus or something, you can keep all of your valuables in it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vienna and the wonderful Honzo!


Not quite as unique architecture, but still beautiful! We have had one of the most generous host you could ever ask for. Honzo met us at the bus station baring gifts of apples, chocolate, and water. When we got to his place, we made us pasta for lunch and then we maneuvered on to the train to go swimming! Honzo took us north east to a local spot to swim in the river that runs through Vienna. It was soooo much fun! I really felt Austrian.  That night we met the other French couchsurfers and hit the bars to watch the football match. Spain defeated Italy and we continued our night by playing friendly games of pool (US vs. France vs. Austria). 


The next day, we all had a brilliant idea of renting bikes. We tromped down to a CITYBIKE station which are all over town. I first used my card and got a bike for only a euro. The others tried to get their bikes, but every card was denied so I was the lone ranger. We set a meeting spot in an hour and I was off to get lost in the city on a bike! I kept finding other bikers and just following them until I got bored. The craziest thing of all was on one ways there is a bike lane going in the opposite direction. Once again, it was a little scary. After my lone adventures, we all gawked at the university, the parliament building, the two museums, and many churches. As we all were 18 ; ) (born in ’93) we got into the naturalist history museum for a total of zero euros. We explored all the stuff animals and figured it was time for a beer.

We went to a microbrewery so Keegan could get his IPA he had been longing for. The two of us and the two French men all got different dishes and passed them around like a big family! That night we went with our host to the travelshack. THAT was a crazy scene! They are famous for their different shots and their multinational crowd.

The next day we were lucky enough to have Honzo bring us to Schonbrun. We raced through 3 different hedge mazes and walked around the beautiful estate.

We’re off to Bratislava!


Travel Tip # 3
Trains are more expensive than buses, but you will ALWAYS have a spot on the train, not the bus. We waited for a bus for an hour just to find out that it was packed and no spots left for us. We rushed over to the train station, paid a little extra and were on our way. The Eurail pass is a rip off!!! It is a lot cheaper for Europeans and you can defiantly buy the train individually for cheaper or fly RyanAir for long distance.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

B-E-A-UTIFUL Prague


Prague… I can only say wonderful things. Our visit was AMAZING! Prague is a beautiful city and all the old architecture is gorgeous. Our host Petra was very very nice and fun. The first night we were there, she took us to a restaurant for a pile of raw beef with a raw egg on top. You mix these two things together with some spices and sauces and then put it on garlic, butter bread. Surprising we didn’t get sick and it was extremely tasty. I was a little scared at first but soon the three of us had finished every the whole dish. Petra brought us to a few bars and nights clubs and we got to try all the local beers.

 The next day, Keegan and I explored the city center, went up in the bell tower for a gorgeous view, and walked to the castle. After all this walking all we wanted was a beer, so Keegan found a microbrewery. We walked in and EVERYONE knew we were tourist. It was a very local place and we were getting looks left and right, but thank goodness we got our beers and people stopped gawking! For lunch we stumbled upon a restaurant with a porch that overlooked Prague and some greenery with huge houses. It was one of the best views I’ve ever seen. The food was also delicious. We split a plate of Czech cheeses and a roasted chicken with mash potatoes. This was some of the best chicken I have ever had (next to Matt’s Cornish hens).

That night Keegan and I split a bottle of wine from Florence overlooking the city while the sun set. We later met up with Petra at a friend of hers and got to see a local house party. With only a few hours of sleep we caught the 8 am train to Vienna!

Travel Tip # 2: Always bring a coin purse! I forget how much everyone uses coins in Europe, especially in Prague with korunas. About 25 korunas is about 1 euro so it was pretty funny when our lunch was over 400!! (seems like a lot, but we’re really only talking about 16ish euros)