Friday, December 19, 2008


I've been keeping a little list of observations about my time here in Vienna in my Moleskin over the last few weeks. So I'm going to share them with you. Warning: this entry is quite long.

1. I adore being in German-speaking countries. I think it might be because I lived there for a few months when I was young. It's hard to describe, but (as Erin put it) I just sort of have an "itch" to be in this type of culture. I love that Germany/Austria/Switzerland have such a strong sense of culture and identity. I love the food, the language, the countries, etc. I'll have to come back soon.

2. I am amazed at how fast I made friends and how close I got to a couple of them in such a short amount of time. My friend Ms. Katherine Williamson and I had a conversation about this earlier in the year. That no one who hasn't studied abroad can truly understand how close you can get to someone in a semester. I leave tomorrow, and I can't stand the thought of leaving Nat and Polly. A little melodramatic, I know, but it's how I feel.

3. There are dogs everywhere here. Even more so than any other city in Europe that I've been in. These people bring their dogs EVERYWHERE, including restaurants, the H&M, the U-Bahn. And my (and Polly's) natural reaction is to start cooing and talking to the dogs. But no. That's not how the Viennese operate. They just glare at you as if your conversation with their dog is somehow harming them.

4. My American identity has changed so much by being here. On one hand, I am now completely positive that American can be a huge asshole sometimes. And am reminded of this everyday. On the other hand, I love my country more now than I ever have. I would never (and still don't) consider myself "patriotic" in your traditional sense. However, people's irrational hatred of America has led to the conclusion that it's not really that bad. I often want to scream at people, "If you don't like us, then stop eating our food, watching our movies, and listening to our music. Oh and have fun funding the UN. And Canadians suck, despite what you think." Speaking of which, I was mistaken for a Canadian on the U-Bahn the other day. It was weird. I don't look/speak/act like a Canadian. Granted the guy was homeless and completely drunk. At 2 PM.

5. I would say the number one thing that I will miss about Vienna (besides friends) is the cafes. For those of you who missed my earlier posts on the cafes, this is a very, very important part about Viennese culture. And an incredibly important part of my study abroad experience. Polly, Natalie, and I have spent countless hours (actually, I think we're up to 65) sitting in cafes. The great thing about a cafe is that you can order something small (like and espresso for a couple Euros) and then sit for hours. The waiter will never come up and bother you. I have had so many life changing conversations in cafes and have eaten absurd amounts of pastries.

6. One of the things that drew me to Vienna was its location in Europe. As some of you probably have guessed, I am minorly obsessed with Eastern Europe. Vienna is perfectly located between East and West. I can get to Germany in an hour or Italy in 3 hours. But I can also get to Slovakia in an hour, the Czech Republic in 3, Hungary in 2, and Poland in 5.

7. My courses this semester have been really, really easy. Plus, GW doesn't transfer study abroad grades into your GPA. So as long as I get a C in all my classes, I'm fine. As much as I have loved this, I am also ready to go back to a challenging academic environment, where my effort, skills, and grades matter. I may regret saying this come January, but I really do want to be challenged again.

8. I love sausage. And about 2 months ago, while sitting at Cafe Hegelhof, I stumbled upon the best food in the world: bacon wrapped sausage with cheese inside and melted on top. If you EVER make it to Vienna, your life can be permanently altered by this substance.

9. "Make new friends, but keep the old..." While I have made some friend here that will permanently be in my life, this experience has also taught me how much I value my friends and family back home. I feel like people generally take the important people in their life for granted until they can't see them anymore. Being here has taught me how important my home friends, my GW friends, and my family, both in KC and DC, are to me.

10. One of the things I am really looking forward to when I get home is my cell phone. While I have a cell phone here, it doesn't do free (or cheap) calls and free texts like my phone at home does.

11. I love to travel. I always have. And as much as I've traveled here, I could travel again in a couple months, no problem. However, I am completely exhausted at this point. So I definitely need those couple of months off. :)

12. I feel that at this point in the list, I should mention Stephen. For those of you who don't know, Stephen is also studying abroad this semester, but he is in Klagenfurt, Austria, which is about 4 hours south of me by train. It's funny. Even though we're in a foreign country, I still got to see him more here than I do when I'm in DC.

13. This experience has also taught me the importance of money. While I am fully aware that it can't buy happiness, money certainly can go a long way to making your life more pleasant. On a side note, for the first time since I was about 16, I've been spending money without earning money. And it kills me. I cannot wait to have a job again!

14. I've been keeping a journal regularly here. I write in it every night. I figured that I would someday like to look back and able to read myself through this again. And I feel like it kept good track of the emotional changes I was going through. I would highly recommend it for anyone going through a major change in their life.

15. Vienna is not Paris, Rome, or London. It is not a sprawling metropolis with the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or the Colosseum. But I think that's why I love it. Vienna is subtle. You just don't get her til you've been here. Markus, my internship boss, told me a story once. He said that he had been in London for a few months working. When he came back to Vienna (it was a Sunday), he thought that there must have been a plague or something because the streets were so empty. People don't come to Vienna to fall in love, or to be at the base of modern civilization. Vienna is quiet and not showy at all. Which I love.

So those are some of my thoughts on life. I am leaving tomorrow to start my long journey home. Today will be spent in a cafe and eating a massive schnitzel with Polly and Natalie. Tomorrow night I'll be in Paris (with Erin!!!), the next night in New Jersey (with Amanda!!!), and finally home.

Thanks for reading my blog. I think I'll probably update once more after I'm home. I'll be seeing most of you soon!

Monday, December 15, 2008

T-Minus 5

I am wanting to do pretty much anything but study for my "Post Cold War European Security" final. And so I write a blog entry.

I am down to 5 days, 2 finals, and 1 paper until I leave Vienna. The paper is pretty much finished and the finals won't be terrible. Though the thought of doing an essay-style final for my "Central and Eastern European Economies" class makes me sick. I will survive though.

Nothing too crazy or exciting has happened to me since I last wrote. I went to see the Nutcracker at the Volksoper a couple days ago. We showed up to do the Student Rush (students get whatever seats are leftover for 10 Euros), only to discover that the whole ballet was sold out. But then some lady came up and sold us some other tickets for 12 Euro, so we got to see the show. Needless to say, it was very cool. And also full of obnoxious children.

Other than that, I've been passing my days going to the Christkindlmarkts, watching Sex and the City online, and doing last minute touristy things. I went on a tour of the parliament building a few days ago, which was very cool. It's a Greek-style building. I even got to see the huge parliament room that was used when Franz Josef first allowed the Hapsburg Empire to have a parliament. This is also the room that a young Hitler came to and watched the parliament proceedings. Everyone spoke in different languages (because they were from all over the empire) and no one understood each other. This is supposedly why Hitler was so fanatical about having everything be in German.

I have a lot more to do before I leave. In about an hour, I'm heading to the UN complex here in Vienna to go on a tour. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to see a practice of the Spanish Riding School (yay horsies!). I'm also going to go the Succession building. For you art history people, this is the building that was built for member of the Successionist movement (jugendstil) in 1899. This movement included Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner, Adolph Loos, Gustav Mahler, Schiele, etc. And since I'm in love with Jugendstiel, I figure I should go see it.

Thursday and Friday will be spent packing. My stupid flight from Vienna to Paris will only allow me 20 kg (45 lbs) TOTAL, so I get to give away about half my stuff. Oh well. I needed to purge anyway.

I'll probably update once more before I leave and again once I get home. If I ever make it home...

See you soon!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vienna by the Numbers

Cities visited since July: 21

Countries visited since July: 10

Hours spent on trains (excluding backpacking trip): 119

Commercial-sized jars of Nutella consumed: 8

Hours spent in cafes with Polly and Natalie: 59

Times sick: 2

German spoken: Too much and not enough

English spoken: Too much and not enough

Textbooks bought: 0 (yay!)

Euros spent: About 4,000 (Ew.)

Euros I have for the next 2 weeks: 20 (Ew.)

Visits to the doctor: 2

Internships completed: 1

Trampoline classes: 10

Trips to the ballet: 2

Trips to Christkindlmarkts: 3

Packages of Rösti consumed: 5

Liters of Sturm consumed: About 3

Balls attended: 1

Weekends in Klagenfurt: 3

Amount I missed my people at home: 6.2 kg (that's a lot of missing:))

Heurigers visited: 2

Nights spent hiding from packs of dogs in Romania: 4

Seasons of "The Office" watched: 4.5

Seasons of "Sex and the City" watched: 5 (working on 6 right now)

Meals at McDonalds: about a zillion more than I ever had in the U.S.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Grand Tour of Austria

So this week was a little difficult for me. All of my home/GW friends were talking about going home for a few days. My family was getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. And I was stuck in Austria. Where the main holiday of this time of year is Krampus, a period of time in which the young men dress up like the devil and run around whipping small children (click here) Anyway, it involves no turkey.

However, since my program has about 150 American students in it, IES was kind enough to put on a Thanksgiving dinner for us. So they bussed us out to Baden to a 300 year old Heuriger. We got all the traditional Thanksgiving food with apple streudel for dessert. They had to throw something Austrian in there. And since we're in Austria, they had to throw wine into that mix. It was really nice and yummy, but still just wasn't the same.

The next day, Polly, Natalie, and I headed off for our Grand Tour of Austria. This involved seeing Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck in 3 days and 2 nights. Linz was cool, though nothing to write home about. We did see the biggest cathedral in Austria, which can seat over 20,000 people! Salzburg was much more entertaining. We went on the "Sound of Music" tour. All of the outdoor scenes for the SoM were filmed on location in Salzburg. So we got to see the gazebo (I am 16 going on 17), the two palaces they used for the Von Trapp house, the abbey, and the mountains that they all ran through. Interesting fact: When the Von Trapps were supposedly escaping over the mountains into Switzerland, they were in fact on a mountain that would lead them right into Germany. Switzerland is about 300 miles from Salzburg. lol. It was also a cool tour because it allowed us views of the mountains and the city that we never would've seen on our own. The next day was Innsbruck, a city famous for its gorgeous mountains and that is hosted the Olympics twice in 12 years. It was a very, very pretty city, in the sense that there were gigantic Alps everywhere. But the city itself is built in a way that makes it obvious that most of the building were built in preparation for the Olympics. Which were in the 60s and 70s. But it was still nice. Unfortunately, Polly and I were both pretty sick the whole weekend, so our evenings were spent in the hostels just talking. Still nice though.

To see pics from this trip, click here.

So I go home in less than 3 weeks. My emotions are going to be very jumbled for the rest of my stay here.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ich bin dankbar für...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Ugh. I really wish I could home with my family and friends! I don't think I'm quite ready to come back for good yet, but I want to come home for a week, go back to Vienna for 3, and then go home for good. If only it wouldn't cost me a zillion dollars to do that.

I am getting a Thanksgiving Dinner though! For the low price of 5.50, I get bussed out to Baden (about an hour away) to a 300 year old Heuriger (basically a beergarten) and stuffed with American Thanksgiving style food. Though I am suspicious of any Thanksgiving food made by an Austrian. Atleast I'll be with friends on Thanksgiving!

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and eat a whole bunch of American made Thanksgiving food for me!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Time for my weekly update!

In trampoline class on Wednesday I did my first successful front hand spring! And I have perfected my front flip to the point that I not longer fear that I am going to fall off the trampoline or land on my head every time I do it. My teacher even told me that I am "modestly gifted". Not sure it that's a compliment or not. Whatever. I'll take it. :)

Besides that, my week has been pretty routine. The IES Chicago people came to visit Vienna, so I got to meet with them for breakfast and tell them everything I did and didn't like about the program. And in my Cultural Heritage of Austria class, we took a trip to the Naturhistorische Museum (for those of you whose German is minimal, that's the Natural History Museum). And since the dad of the one of the guys who works for IES is a geologist there, we got to go places you don't normally go. Like we got to go to the roof of the museum, which provides an incredible view of all of Vienna. Super cool!

I spent this weekend in Zürich, Switzerland. Stephen and I went to visit Ben, a former foreign exchange student of mine. It was really neat. We took an overnight train there (the 7th overnight train I've taken in Europe). That Friday, we all sort of just chilled around Zürich and ate a really, really delicious Swiss dinner. On Saturday, we took trains through all of the Italian part of Switzerland. For those unfamiliar with Switzerland, the Swiss have 3 distinct cultures-- German, French, and Italian. It was quite odd, because we were in a "german-speaking" country, but everyone spoke Italian where we were. Anyway, it was absolutely gorgeous. The alps were everywhere, and we got to visit a couple of castles. AND. We got to go to the dam where the James Bond stunt guy bungee jumped in 007 Goldeneye. For those of you who play the video game (Dad!), it's the dam he jumps off of at the end of the first level. It was so cool! We had to take a scary bus up the mountains and hike down a cliff to get there. It was dark by the time we got there. And we missed the last bus down, so we had to hitch a ride with a local to get back to the train station. It was an adventure! On Sunday, we took a really beautiful boat ride through Zürich lake. And we saw "Burn After Reading", which was incredibly weird. And then I took my 8th overnight train of the trip back to Vienna and got in a couple hours ago. And now I'll be in a cafe for a few hours catching up with friends.

For those of you who get Thanksgiving Break (not I!), I would love to Skype with people! Let me know when you have a free afternoon. I'll be gone Friday through Sunday, but before that would be sweet!

To see pictures of Switzerland, click here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alphabeat, Balls, and Christkindlmarkts

Gröss Gott!

A few interesting things have happened since I posted last.

First, I'll tell you about my ball experience. Polly, Natalie, and I had grand plans to curl our hair, which were quickly thwarted once we realized how expensive curlers are. So we did our hair in our own way, did our makeup, and put on our fancy dresses. It took us about 4 hours to get ready, though to be fair most of that time was spent dancing around the apartment to Alphabeat (click here), Rihanna, and other pop music. Classic. Anyway, then a couple of other friends came over, we each had a glass of our 2 Euro champagne (classy, I know), and headed off. I think we may be the only people in Vienna who would take the tram to a ball. But hey! we're poor college kids. The ball was located in the Imperial Palace of the Hapsburg Empire. Needless to say, it was absolutely beautiful. And everyone was in their ball gowns and tuxedos. And apparently, everyone in Vienna is born knowing how to waltz. I can't really describe the experience, it's one of those things you just have to experience. If you ever make it to Vienna, go during the ball season (Jan-March) and bring your dancing shoes!

In other news, my three year anniversary with Stephen was on the 13th. Too bad we were too poor to be able to travel to see each other! Oh well.

I also go to go to my first Christkindlmarkt (Literal translation: Christ child market). I went to the one at the Rathaus (translation: city hall) and it was really, really neat. There were little wooden huts set up all over, decorated with light and ornaments and selling everything Christmas-y: ornaments, roasted chestnuts, advent calendars, candles, and their famous nativity scenes. They also sell Glühwein, a delicious hot, spiced wine. The one at the Rathaus is the most commercial of them all, so I look forward to visiting some of the other dozens of more authentic Christkindlmarkts throughout the city. Note: I think most of people's gifts will be coming from these markts.

I'm going to Zürich this weekend to visit Ben. Should be a lot of fun! The weekend after that, Polly, Natalie, and I are going to go on a "Grand Tour of Austria". This is a replacement for Istanbul, because I couldn't afford it. Anyway, we're going to be going to Linz, Salzburg (location of the Sound of Music), and Innsbruck. I'm really, really excited about it!

I had a realization this morning as I was getting on the U Bahn. Vienna is finally feeling like my third home. I could actually imagine myself living here for an extended period of time and really enjoying it. Funny how I start to feel that way a month before I have to leave.

I am way super poor right now. To blame: 1) Me. 2) The Euro. 3) My loan giving me $2000 less than requested. Everyone should hope/pray that I can make it to December 20th on PB&Js! :)

I am missing you all more than you know. I am really looking forward to seeing people again. If you have a couple of extra minutes, shoot me an e-mail letting me know how you are! My e-mail address is

Bis Später!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Of Elections.... and Emily

So it seems to be trendy to tell you all how the elections were from my temporary home. In a nutshell, it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had! I went to a bar where the Democrats Abroad were hosting a election watching party. It was completely packed with mostly Americans, but a few Austrians thrown in there. We had to stay up all night, since Obama's acceptance speech didn't happen until 7 AM. With the help of a lot of Red Bull (an Austrian company, strangely enough), I actually managed to stay up all night with no problem. For those of you who know me and my sleeping habits, you know how amazing that is! During his acceptance speech, Polly and I cried all over each other. Partly because it was an incredible speech, and partly because we hadn't slept in 24 hours. It was great.

Em is here this weekend! She's been here since Saturday and will be here through Wednesday, which is awesome because it's such a long visit. We've had enough time for her to see all the sights of Vienna AND have enough time to chill and talk, sometimes with my Vienna friends, sometimes alone. It's been great. :)

Next Saturday night, I get to go to a Viennese Ball in the Imperial Palace of the Hapsburg Empire. We've been spending the last week trying to get together the required goods for it (gown, shoes, bag, curling iron, etc.). I am super excited for it! The weekend after that I'm visiting Ben in Zurich.

It's really weird. I leave in less than 6 weeks. I feel like I just got settled in to this city, this language, this way of life. These next few weeks are going to FLY by! I'm very conflicted. On one hand, I am super excited to go home again. I miss so many people so much, and I NEED some American food and some free refills. On the other hand, I really am loving my time here in Vienna. I will miss the city and the food (I'll have to learn to make schnitzel and knödel in the US). More to the point, I have a couple of friends here that it will kill me to leave. Ugh. All in all though, I feel that I will be ready to be home when the time comes. Unfortunately, it is going to take me 4 flights and 3 days to get home.

On a closing note, Christmas is coming to Vienna and it is really cool. They have the Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) popping up everywhere and the people are switching from Sturm (unfermented wine) to Glühwein (hot, spiced wine). I am starting to get into the Christmas spirit! :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ich bin ein Hamburger

As you know, Stephen and I just got back from Hamburg, Germany. I was there visiting Janne (former foreign exchange student of ours) and Barbara (his mom). Erin and I stayed there for a couple of months in the summer of 2000. It was really a good time. We got to go all over Hamburg (the port, Michaelis Kirche, Reeperbahn, etc.), go on a boat ride, and spend a lot of quality time catching up with old friends. This has made me very excited to go visit Ben in Zurich in 3 weeks.

To see pics from Hamburg, click here.

Let's see. What else can I tell you about this last week that will be minorly entertaining to you? I had midterms this last week. I did well on all but my International Business exam. Hope I atleast passed it. Thank god my grades while abroad don't transfer into my GPA at GW!

Halloween also went down. Me and my friends all got dressed up and went out on the town. It was fun b/c while European have heard of Halloween, they don't actually celebrate it. So we got stared at a lot.

I also did a successful (in that I didn't break my neck) back flip thingy at trampoline class. This week, I'll try a real front flip.

I registered for classes today at GW. The last time I will ever do that. I will be taking German 10, Business German, International Organizations, The New Testament, The History of Two Germanys and the Cold War, and a jogging class.

These next few days should be pretty fun. Tonight, I am going to an all night election party with the Vienna chapter of the "Democrats Abroad". Yay free food and CNN! Em is coming on Saturday and will be here until Wednesday. Yay!

Hope that was at least slightly entertaining...

Monday, October 27, 2008

"If I lived in Europe and had a son, he would be in the Vienna Boys Choir. Then he wouldn't turn into Eurotrash."

So this last week has been pretty intense. Although this week is the true midterm week, I had 2 presentations, 2 papers, one written test (in German), one oral exam, and one normal test within the last week. Which means that this week, I don't have very much to do. Plus, we have no regular classes. :)

This last weekend, Stephen was here in Vienna. We went to see the Vienna Philharmonic, which was very neat. They played modern music, so it was very interesting to listen to. Though we did encounter a very, very rule old Austrian man there. Big surprise. We also went to see the Vienna Boys Choir yesterday morning, bright and early. The VBC has been around since the Hapsburgs created it in the 1400s. It still performs every Sunday during mass in the Hapsburgkapelle. They were (needless to say) absolutely INCREDIBLE. They are all these adorable little boys who can sing higher (and louder) than your average soprano. It was a very cool experience.

This last week, I went with one of my classes to see the National Bibliothek (library), which was also founded by the Hapburgs. It was absolutely one of the most gorgeous buildings I have ever been in. And it's actually a functioning library! We also went and saw Karlskirche (beautiful example of Baroque architecture) and the Kaiserkript, where the bodies of the Hapburgs are (their hearts are elsewhere).

In other news, I almost broke like every bone in my body in trampoline this week. Specifically, my neck/face. I am really afraid of doing backflips, and we're learning how to do these sort of half backflip things. Anyway, I keep bailing out halfway through. My teacher assured me before my last try that we were right done the street from the hospital. And then I proceeded to land on my head. It was not good. I'm fine though. I was pretty sore for a few days, though. Don't worry, mom! I'm being safe! :)

This weekend, Stephen and I are going to visit Janne and Barbara in Hamburg. Should be a fun trip!

To see pictures of various things in this post, click here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Austrian vs. American Culture Week

Sorry that it's been awhile since I've updated. Nothing too exciting has happened, but I will tell you what has. This week has been an interesting mix of Austria and America.

On Monday, I went and saw Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). This is an opera that was written by Mozart and premiered right here in Austria with Mozart as the conductor. I went to the Volksoper to see it. At this particular opera house, if you are a student they will sell you the best seats in the house that are left over for 10 Euros. So Polly, Natalie, and I got box seats right by the stage for 10 Euros! It was very cool.

Tuesday, we went to a TGI Friday's that we found a few blocks from school. I had a huge cheeseburger and fries and an order of fried mac & cheese. SO good! It was funny though. I was in an American restaurant with American food, so I felt like I should have a huge refillable Coke in front of me. But apparently that's not how it works in Austrian TGIF's. Anyway, I was actually sick to my stomach for the next two days. I think it's because my European-ized stomach can't handle all the fried food anymore. I will need to remedy this.

On Thursday, we found the Austrian version of a Chipolte. I know, I know. Incredible!

This weekend was pretty uneventful. I pretty much just bummed. I spent a few hours in a cafe on Friday, did absolutely nothing on Saturday, and studied all day Sunday. Again, pretty uneventful.

This coming up week, I have a bunch of tests, papers and presentations, thought the week after this is technically midterm week. During that week, I have no normal classes and only one exam, so I will get to do a lot of Vienna exploration. Stephen is coming this weekend, which I am way excited about. We are going to see the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Boy's Choir, which will be awesome.

Also, I just discovered that I will get to go to a ball in November! Vienna is one of the last places in the world to still have balls. I'll be going to one on November 15th in the Hofburg palace, which is the palace where the Hapsburg royal family lived. I even get to wear a ball gown! I am super excited. If you click here and then click on the ballfotos '07 link, you can see pictures of it from last year.

Note to fellow travel bloggers: Update! On my list of people's blogs I read, the last person who updated did so 7 days ago. I want to know what's going on!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Of Sausage, Beer, and Castles

I just got back from a weekend in Munich, Germany with Stephen, Polly, and Natalie. Let me just tell you, Munich is one of the coolest cities I have ever been in. I'd never been to Bavaria (southern Germany) before, so this was new for me. Munich is a fascinating mix between the Northern Germany that I love so much and the Austria that I've been loving more recently. The food is absolutely incredible, even life changing. :) Then again, sausage and potato salad are two of my favorite foods.

Anyway, we got in late Friday night, so we just bummed around our hostel, which is the nicest hostel I've been in yet. On Saturday, we got up and went on our own walking tour of Munich, including the Rathaus, Frauenkirche, and a bunch of cool churches. That afternoon/evening we spent in the Hofbräuhaus, which is the main and most famous brewery restaurant thing in Munich. It was so incredible! The food was traditional Bavarian food, the beer was their famous brew served in 1 liter steins, the music was live by a traditional Bavarian band, and the wait staff wore lederhosen and dirndels. I stole one of the "masses" which are the gigantic steins, which I am very excited about.

The next day, we decided to take an unplanned day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle on the German/Austrian border which is about 2 hours from Munich. Neuschwanstein is one of the most visited attractions in all of Europe, with over 6,000 visitors per day. This castle is the huge white one on a cliff that you see in all the ads for Germany. It's the one that Disney based Cinderella's castle off of, and the one that's in their logo. It was a pretty long, steep walk to the top, but it was truly breathtaking. Like the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu, this is one of those things that pictures really can't capture.

In short, I would recommend visiting Munich. I went a little postcard happy while I was there, so many of you will be receiving one. To see pictures click here.

I miss you people. I really do.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I want IHOP...

As I write this post, I am on my way back to Vienna from Klagenfurt. It was a good weekend, with the highlights being a pub crawl with all the international students, watching Edward Scissorhands, and an American breakfast. A couple of Stephen’s friends whipped up some eggs, bacon, and American style pancakes. All with syrup that an American brought from home last semester and left. Delicious.

So I had my first trampoline class on Wednesday. It was GREAT. Polly and I are taking it together. We’re in the beginner’s class, so we’re starting with the basics but with the proper technique. So far, I can jump really high, land on my butt, and tuck, pike, and puck. It’s great because it’s in German, and the instructor told me that, since I wanted to learn German he would speak no English the whole class. Which is amusing, because Polly doesn’t speak German, so I sit there and translate what I can while she’s jumping on a trampoline. It’s really quite entertaining. It’s also cool because the class is made up of all Austrian college students, so we’ve met some cool natives.

I also went on an outing with my Cultural Heritage of Austria class on Wednesday. We went and saw the Roman ruins of Vindabona, the Roman fort here before Vienna. I also saw the oldest church in Austria, the second oldest painting in Austria, and a lot of pretty buildings. I’m really excited to be going to see all of this stuff!

I’ve pretty much gotten my travel plans for the rest of the semester figured out. I will going to Munich (this weekend), Hamburg (to visit Janne and Barbara), Zurich (to visit Ben), Salzburg (yay Sound of Music tour!), and, god willing, Istanbul over Thanksgiving break. And Stephen and Em will both be visiting. And maybe Veronica. I’ve got a crazy schedule, but I love it!

Random thoughts for the week:

-Youth in Austria (and all of Europe for that matter) are for the most part obnoxious punks. It’s seriously a whole culture here that breeds little jerks. They start drinking at 14 or 15, yell cusswords and insults at strangers, spit on old and/or homeless people, and are all around irritating. I can’t stand them.

-My roommates and I have gone through 4 of the commercial size jugs of Nutella so far. I am such an addict.

-I am becoming slightly obsessed with Baroque architecture. It’s absolutely everywhere here in Vienna.

-Polly added it up, and she, Natalie, and I have spent about 17 hours in Viennese cafes thus far. Our goal is make it add up to a week. :)

-I really love reading other people’s travel blogs. I get to experience Nairobi, Cairo, Australia Paris, Klagenfurt, Copenhagen, etc. without having to leave my bedroom!

-When you take students from America (drinking age 21) and put them in Europe (drinking age 16), people turn into major alcoholics. And go clubbing and drinking like every night of the week. It’s really, really irritating. I feel so abnormal when I want to stay home or go somewhere non-alcohol related. Fortunately, I’ve found some people that will do that with me. But the whole culture of American students drinking all the time is really frustrating.

-Tina Fey is hot. Especially when she’s making fun of Palin.

That’s all for now! Sorry it’s so long!

To see pictures click here!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Doctors, Elections, and Ballets

Random updates!

So last week I went to the doctor. I was feeling sick and tired all the time. Let me tell you something. The Austrian (and I assume any socialist country's) health care system is weird. And freakishly efficient. It was a bit difficult to navigate almost exclusively in German, but it worked. I had to get blood drawn, which sucked, but the results were ready the next morning. Basically, I am iron deficient and have a virus or infection of sorts. So I have iron pills and antibiotics. Check this out: Both of those prescriptions together WITHOUT insurance were 20 Euros. I love reaping the benefits of socialism without paying taxes. :)

In other news, the Austrians had their elections yesterday. It's really interesting, because you hear so much more about the American election here than the Austrian one. College age students here are much more excited about Obama than any of their presidential candidates. And most of them know more about it than I do. I knew of several Austrian college students staying up til 3 AM to watch the debates. I went to sleep. Don't worry though. I am sending in my absentee ballot. I have to cancel out my Republican roommate.

Yesterday, a couple of friends and I went to the Hofburg palace and to see a ballet. The Hofburg is where the Habsburgs lived. Needless to say it is freaking massive. Before we got to the Hofburg, we found this ancient church that had a fleamarket in it. It was so awesome and soooo cheap. It was amazing. After the Hofburg, we went to see Onegin, which is a ballet. If you are willing to stand in a long line for a couple of hours, you can get standing room tickets to any opera or ballet for 4 Euros. Very cool.

This was a good weekend for me. I finally feel at home in Vienna.

That's all I have for you right now! I'm going to Klagenfurt this weekend to see Stephen which should be fun. I'll get to meet all of his friends from all over the world. Yay!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Warning: This Post May Be Boring

So I've been inspired by Veronica's post to tell you about my everyday life. It may be boring, but I think it is necessary information. I've pretty much only been posting about my travels!

Right now I'm still in the process of getting acquainted with my surroundings. I know it's been a month (wow!) but I'm still figuring out where to eat, buy office supplies, drink coffee, etc. You forget how much time it takes to really get those things down! I'm still trying to figure out the main streets, where they are, what's on them, etc.

Everyday I wake up around 8:30 (including today, which was unfortunate because I had a class at 8 AM). I go through the normal passive aggressive rush to shower before three other roommates get to it. I usually have some fruit for breakfast (the grapes here are delicious-straight from Italy!) and check my e-mail. It takes me about 35 minutes to get to the IES Center from my apartment. I walk about 5 minutes to the Strassebahn (streetcar) which takes about 10 minutes to get me to the U-Bahn stop. About 10 minutes on the U-Bahn and another 5 minute walk will get me to the IES Center.

Now that classes have started, I've gotten into the swing of things a little more. I have a routine and I know the people in my classes. Since I'm taking mostly business and german courses, I pretty much end up with the same people in all my classes.

Thought: Austrian teaching styles are very different from the U.S. And they may drive me crazy. They're very unorganized (no slides) and they just sort of ramble for an hour and a half. It's really difficult to take notes. And they generally ramble about things completely unrelated to the class. Like my Post-Cold War European Security professor rambled about how Austria was the first "victim" of Hitler. Which is a) untrue and b) not Post-Cold War. It gets old.

Almost everyday, I eat a chocolate pastry for lunch. It's really all I need to make me happy. The Polish lady that owns it always greets me in the traditional Austrian way ("Gross Gott!"), automatically gets my pastry for me, speaks only German to me (yay!), and says "Tscheuss Papa" when I leave. I think Papa must mean something else in colloquial Austrian German. It's fun though.

I also usually end up in a Viennese Cafe at the end of the day, with a couple of friends. Vienna was truly built around coffeehouses, and they continue to be a very important hang out place for the Viennese. I love them. I'm not even a huge coffee person. But their "Kleine Brauners" (small browns- basically yummy espresso) are great and they always have cheap, yummy pastries. My favorite so far is Apfel Strudel doused in warm vanilla sauce. Yummmm. I also really enjoy just going and talking to my friends. I feel like it's been awhile since I've just gone somewhere for the sole purpose of talking to people. Viennese Cafes seem to bring out the best in people's conversational abilities.

On the weekends, I usually travel. But when I don't, sometimes people will go to a club or a bar, which is very different than in the U.S. Here, people will drink one, maybe two, beers and just talk. It's a fun way to meet actual Austrians. I also am doing as much sightseeing as possible while I'm actually in Vienna on the weekends. This weekend, for example, I am going to the the Hofburg (the palace for the Habsburgs) and the Spanish Riding School, which is where they do dressage with the famous Lippizaner horses (click here). I'm also going to see a ballet on Sunday at the Staatoper, where you can get standing room tickets for 2 Euros. Yay!

Anyway, that's pretty much how my days are being spent. Sorry if I bored you!

Oh and one more thing! I had my first (three and half hour long) session of Cultural Heritage of Austria. Thoughts: 1) It's in German and I can understand every word that she says! I feel like this is breakthrough for me and my German. I'm not even translating it into English in my head! It just makes sense. I'm very excited. 2) This class includes fieldtrips every week, which I am so excited about! I get to go to all of the museums, castles, operas, etc. for free! Yay!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bucharest Pictures!

Click here to see Bucharest pictures!

Friday, September 19, 2008

3rd World Europe

Greetings from Romania!

It's hard to even know where to start on this one.  So I will just go day-by-day and see where I end up.

Monday/Tuesday:  This was my epic journey from Klangenfurt, Austria to Bucharest, Romania.  It took a total of 25 hours to do it, but I made it!  The big train ride, from Vienna to Bucharest was 17 hours.  Fortunately, I got three seats in a row to myself, so I slept for about 14 hours of the trip.  It wasn't particularly comfortable, but it worked.  The really irritating part of it was that the Romanian border police, railway employees, etc. came through the train to look at our tickets/passports atleast 11 times that I counted.  In the middle of the night.  I never slept more than 30 minutes at a time before an angry Romanian police officer would blast open our door and demand our tickets.  My blood pressure was through the roof.  The particularly scary part about it was that they didn't speak English and seemed very confused as to what my rail pass is.  I had to hand over my passport every time, and I had visions of getting tossed in a Romanian prison.  But I survived.  Sharing my little compartment was a Bulgarian (I think) lady who spoke no English, but spoke German.  So we chatted for a while in German.  She told me that my German was better than a lot of Austrians she knew.  I think that's just because we were both non-native speakers and therefore could understand each other well.  It was fun.

Anyway, I got to Bucharest at about 2 PM.  And, as my Romanian train buddy had warned me about, there were dogs all over the place.  I saw at least a dozen dogs in packs on the way to my hostel!  Definitely decided to be inside before nightfall!  For the rest of Tuesday I basically just wandered around the area near my hostel and went grocery shopping

Wednesday-  I slept in til 12:30.  I'm on vacation! :)  I then went on my first sightseeing adventure in Bucharest.  I saw the place where the revolution of 1989 started (very cool!), the opera hall, and their parliament building, which is the 2nd largest government building in the world behind the Pentagon.  And then I ate Pizza Hut.  The evening, I watched 12 episodes of "The Office" on my laptop.  I <3>

Thursday-  I popped up at 6:00 AM to go catch a train.  I had decided the night before to take a day trip to Constanza, which is the 2nd largest city in Romania and a port city on the Black Sea.  I'm very glad I went, but I did spend a total of 9 hours on a train for about 3 hours in the actual city.  And those three hours were mainly spent lost.  Apparently, no one in Constanza sells a map.  So I didn't actually see any of the things I meant to see.  But I did get to see the Black Sea and I did get to wander around for a long time.  I did get a little lost trying to get back to the train station and tried asking someone how to get back.  Her Spanish/English and my English got it figured out. :)  The worst part about my day trip was that the train ride back was full, and since I didn't have reservation, I had to stand.  For 4 hours.  It sucked a lot.  And this old Romanian lady (think Babushka) came up to me and started rambling in Romanian, I told her I spoke English, she petted my hair several times, and then proceeded to stare at me for the next 2 and a half hours.  It was awkward.

Friday- Oh.  That's today!  I slept in til 11:30.  And I've been talking to this Aussie who has been backpacking for 5 months and will be for the next 3.  Crazy!   Anyway, today I will be visiting several churches and going the Lipiscani district.  Think: Gypsies selling cheap stuff.  Yay!

Thoughts on Romania:

1) In the outskirts of the cities, Romania is a third world country.  No water, no electricty, donkeys for transportation, starvation, disease, etc.  Slums with cardboard and corrugated metal.  It may not be as bad as Africa, but it's pretty damn bad.  And no on knows about it.

2) Barely anyone here speaks English.  Which is difficult.

3) There are honest to God gypsies (politically correct: Roma) here.  Fascinating.

4) I have been such a bum at night here!  I have gotten through almost all of Season 3 of "The Office".  

5) Bucharest is unlike any European city I've seen.  It's really, really sad actually.  You can just tell that it was once an incredibly gorgeous city.  Until Ceausescu came through.  That man was freaking nuts!

6) Bucharest is dirty, kind of ugly, and very Eastern European.  But I like it.

7) It is very expensive to eat out here.  The majority of Romanians can never afford to eat out.  They can barely buy groceries.  But I am going to go to a Romanian restaurant for lunch and see what I can do.

That is all for now.  I'm sorry the post is so long!  I just haven't had anyone to talk to the whole time, so I needed to get it out of my system!

I head back to Vienna tomorrow.  Another 15 hour train ride.  Woo hoo!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rollercoasters are scary, but fun

I am writing to you all from Stephen's university in Klagenfurt, Austria.  Klagenfurt is the capital of the region of Corinthia (so Stephen is currently a Corinthian, ha) and is in southern Austria.  It is very close to the borders of Italy and Slovenia.  For example, Stephen can get to Venice faster than to Vienna.  It's a very interesting city that, though it is still very Austrian, also has all the signs translated into Italian and Slovenian.  I would say it is a little smaller than Indendence, MO but being a cultural center of southern Austria, it obviously is cooler than Independence.  A lot less meth too, I would imagine. :)

I will be leaving here tomorrow afternoon for my journey to Bucharest.  I will leave Klagenfurt at 1 PM and get to Bucharest at 2 PM.  The next day.  Oh dear.  I have 5 books, my DS, my iPod shuffle, my computer, and a pillow.  I really hope I can make it through this with my sanity.

Bucharest will also be a little tricky because I am by myself and I am a female.  This means I have to be in my hostel before it gets dark out.  Thank god the hostel has wi fi and I have my laptop!  If anyone wants to Skype, after dark in Romania would be a good time for me. :)

Before you go to study abroad, everyone and their mom tells you about the rollercoaster of emotions you will go through when going abroad.  For example, I have just finished up with the honeymoon phase.  It's interesting to see how true that rollercoaster analogy is.  Study abroad is hard on your emotions and is definitely an up and down thing.  Apparently re-entry into the US is equally difficult.  Definitely scary, but definitely fun.

I will update again during one of the long evenings in a hostel that I have ahead of me.  Wish me luck!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

I got back yesterday from a weekend trip to Budapest with Stephen.  In reference to the title of this post, Budapest is actually two cities named, you guessed it, Buda and Pest.  We stayed in Pest in a cute little hostel that was also very dirty.  We did not shower for the whole weekend.  Gross.

The exchange rate and buying power of the local currency was incredible.  There are 239 FT to every Euro.  To get into a museum it was 100 FT.  Crazy!  A meal was around 2 Euros and the metro was less than a Euro.  It was very refreshing to be in such a cheap place finally!

We managed to see so much in such a short weekend!  We got there via a 3 hour train ride on Friday night.  On Saturday, we went up Castle Hill where saw Matthias Church and an incredible view.  We also went to St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest church in Hungary.  It is also the location of St. Stephen's mummified right hand.  It was gross.  We also saw a cool Fransiscan Church.  At the end of the day, we went to the thermal baths in the main park of the city.  There were 4 thermal baths at various temperatures and a sauna inside and a huge pool outside. There were a bunch of old men playing chess on cork chessboards. Such an incredible experience.  Needless to say, I have seen enough old, fat Hungarians in speedos to last me a lifetime!  Stephen and I also got ticketed by the metro police because we only had a normal ticket, not a transfer ticket.  It was very irritating, but fortunately not very expensive.

The next morning we went to the Citadella, which is a 13th century castle at the top of a very huge hill.  It was really hard to climb up it!  But it was quite possibly the most incredible view I've ever seen.  However, like the Grand Canyon, I feel like pictures can never really capture the view.

All in all, Budapest is definitely a city I recommend everyone see!

To see pictures of Budapest click here.

I also put up pictures of my first couple of weeks in Vienna.  Click here.

P.S.- My address is Bethany Owens c/0 IES,  Johanessgasse 7 Vienna, Austria A-1010.  I like mail!  (No private carriers.  Just USPS or other national postal services.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pastries: My Impending Doom

So I'm sitting in the study lounge (aka ball room) waiting for Stephen to get here so that we can get on our train to Budapest!  I'm very excited, especially after discovering that I can get a massage in a thermal bath for the equivalent of $2.00.  Yay Eastern Europe!  Even entrance into museums is less than 1 Euro.  Incredible!

This week has absolutely flown by, which is good considering that the week before that lasted an eternity.  I've done some touristy things, such as seeing Hundertwasserhaus (click here) and going to the famous Cafe Sacher to eat Vienna's famous Sachertorte (delicious!). I also went to a Heuriger (click here) with my German class, which is a sort of traditional wine garden.  After most of the class left, 3 of us and the teacher sat around chatting with the owner who gave us some sturm on the way out, which is an Austrian wine that is unfermented.  Yum.

So I've been in Vienna for about a week, and I have some observations I would like to share:

1)  Vienna is the most freakishly clean city I have ever been in.  There's even less graffiti here.  The old Austrian women will literally yell at you if you put your feet on the U-Bahn seats.

2) The Austrian Stare.  So I thought it was bad when I went to DC.  Here, if you smile, they think you're hitting on them.  The Viennese will just stare at you in what would be considered a rude way in American.  It's a little disconcerting.

3) There are dogs everywhere.  Like ever third person you see has a dog.

4) Austrian German is not german at all.  It is truly, as my mom calls it, basterdized German.  I can't understand it for the life of me.

5) Think of everything you've ever heard about Austrian pastries.  Now multiply that by ten and you have reality.  I may gain 20 pounds here purely from the delicious chocolate crossiants down the street that I have eaten everyday I've been here. 

6) Vienna is the perfect mixture of the East and the West.  It is unlike any of the Western capitals we went to, and very, very different than Prague or Bratislava.  It's a truly fascinating mixture.

7) The Bratwurst stands here are to die for.  So are the schnitzel stands.

There really is more to say, but it's a Friday afternoon and I've have 15 hours worth of German this week.  I will come up with more later.  Tschuess!

Monday, September 1, 2008


So I returned yesterday from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.  Needless to say, it is a very, very different city than Vienna.

We (my three roommates and three other friends) took an airport shuttle to Bratislava, which took only 45 minutes.  It is incredible how different two cities that close together can be!  My German teacher says that legend has it that the only reason that Austria was west of the Iron Curtain was that the Austrian foreign minister could drink more vodka than the Russian foreign minister.  I guess the Slovaks can't hold their vodka.

We got off the bus at Novy Most, which is right by the center of Old Town, the only worthwhile part of Bratislava.  It is a truly beautiful area though!  It is full of historic buildings and cute little cafes.  We even got to look in on a traditional Slovak wedding!

After wandering around a bit, we decided to walk to our hostel, which was a university dorm that was converted to a hostel for the summer.  After walking FOREVER, we finally arrive to what can only be described as the place that "Hostel" was filmed.  For those of you who missed that piece of cinamanic art, this hostel was old, there were burn marks everywhere, communist symbols spray painted on walls, bugs, and nasty rooms and showers.  There were weird Slovak students lurking in the hallway.  Our room was literally in an area called "Blok J"!  It was a scary night.

The next day we went to the top of a huge hill to go to the Bratislava castle, which was neat.  We caught an early bus back, because there really wasn't a whole lot left to do.

All in all, a nice trip, but not a place I would like to return to!

I think that Stephen and I may be heading to Budapest this weekend, which should be pretty interesting.  And I think that during the week break I get in a couple weeks, I will be going to Bucharest, Romania.  Yay Eastern Europe!

Pictures from Bratislava:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More pictures!

Here is Berlin for now.  I will be putting up Amsterdam, Brussels, and some Vienna stuff in a couple of days.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Of Italian Palaces...

I'm in Vienna!   I know, I know.  I'm finally here.   I got back from Mariazell yesterday.  My roommates and I moved into our apartment yesterday afternoon. It is absolutely incredible!  I am living in the 9th district, which is a residential area in the middle of the city. The apartment itself is huge and very, very nice.  Definitely the nicest apartment I will be in for a LONG time! We have a nice kitchen, a big living room, bathroom, two bedrooms, and tons of storage space.  If anyone wants to visit Vienna, I have two couches that turn into beds!  The area around our apartment is full of food, bars, stores, etc.  It's about a 5-7 minutes to the U-Bahn and about 10 minutes on the U-Bahn to the IES Center.

The IES Center is in a palace built a few hundred years ago by an Italian member of the Hapsburg Empire.  Yeah.  It really is a freaking palace. There is gold EVERYWHERE and even more marble.  There are statues and art all over.  I am learning in classrooms that used to be ballrooms.  I will put up pictures later.  It's in the 1st district, which is within walking distance of all of these incredible markets, opera houses, and theaters.  As you can tell, I am very excited about all of this.

I got to see Stephen yesterday for a few hours.  It was sooooo nice!

I'm going to Bratislava this weekend with a few girls.  Fun!  (For those of you who haven't taken Geography in a while, Bratislava is the capital or Slovakia.) Should be pretty interesting.

I had my first German class today.  I am in advanced German (5th level).  I will be having German 3 hours a day for the next 3 weeks, which sucks. But I feel like I am already getting so much better at my German.  My teacher is a late-20s woman who seems really cool.

Update me, people.  Seriously.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The moutains are outside my window...

Hello all!

Sorry I haven't had a chance to update in so long! I will update on Brussels later, as I don't have much time here.

I arrived in Vienna at 6 AM a couple of days ago. I slept in the train station and got woken up by an angry Austrian cop. Irritating. Anyway, I met up with all the IES people, checked my big bags, and got on a bus to go to orientation.

We are currently in Mariazell, which is a town in the Alps about 3 hours south of Vienna. It is an absolutely GORGEOUS place! It looks exactly like a small Swiss town should look. It has little cottages tucked in the mountains and ski slopes everywhere. I've basically been going to a bunch of lectures on Austrian culture, safety, etc. Apparently, if you smile at someone here, it's a romantic invitation. Eeks!

Yesterday, we went to an Alpen lake. It was way to cold to swim, but a few of the girls and I rented a boat and went around the lake. Words cannot describe the beauty! Though there were a lot of old men in speedy and old topless ladies. It's Europe, folks!

Today I get my rooming assignment and German class assignment. Should be good!

I am missing people, places, and food back home. I'm going a little crazy without Stephen, but I think I may see him tomorrow night. Yay! I hope that all my other study abroad people are having a good time as they are spread out all over the world!

I miss you all. Update me!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I put up pictures on Facebook.

For those of you without a Facebook, you can view them by clicking on the links below.






I will be putting up the rest soon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The city of pot, prostitutes....and cats?

We were just in Amsterdam. We were there for 2 nights, which is honesty all you really need in that city. We went on a tour and learned some very interesting things. There is so much more to Amsterdam than what you normally hear about! It was quite odd that there were "coffee shops" and places selling other types of drugs everywhere. On our tour, we saw so many prostitutes! Our hostel was right on the edge of the red light district, which made for an interesting view of things at night. Overall, an interesting city. There were bicycles EVERYWHERE. And they run pedestrians over without a second thought. There are also cats EVERYWHERE, apparently because there are mice everywhere.

Anyway, I am now in Brussels. We decided that this would be a relaxing place to spend the last few days. Veronica, Stephen, and I are here, Erin and Andrew are in Frankfurt, Jan is on a military base with her cousin, Ally is in Cali, and Em is in England. Crazy!

In four days I go to Paris for a night to pick up my luggage. Then it's off to Vienna!

I hope everyone is having a good end to their summers!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ich bin ein Berliner...

So we have made it to Berlin and have been here for the last couple of days. This city plays the fascinating role of being a truly international city while still maintaining its German charm.

We arrived from Prague late at night to a bus station, only to discover that the S bahn was not working in that area. So using Erin and I's German and Jan's excellent navigation skills we managed to get to our hostel an hour or so later. Let me tell you, wandering around Berlin with a 30 pound pack on your back is not a bunch of fun. We got to our hostel, found Veronica, and pretty promptly crashed. There were a couple of drunken Italian girls sharing our room, which is the first time we've shared a room this whole trip.

The next day, Erin, Andrew, Stephen, Jan, Veronica, Emily, and I went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is right outside of Berlin. Certainly a somber trip, but really interesting nonetheless. Appropriately, it started to drizzle about halfway through our audio tour. Through a series of events (no bus, broken U bahn, broken S bahn, etc.) it took us 4 hours to get back to the hostel. That evening we went to a biergarten, where I managed to choke down a Berliner Pilsner. At least my sausage and potato soup was good!

Yesterday, we went on a walking tour of Berlin. Totally worth my 10 Euros! It took four hours, but it would have taken us 2 days to do it on our own. We got to see Museum Island, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the longest portion of standing Berlin Wall. We also stood in the parking lot above Hitler's bunker where he killed himself at the end of the war. If you haven't seen "Downfall", you need to.

Last night, we went out to a Mexican food place for Ally's birthday. It was fantastic to have some good Mexican food!

Today we are going back to Reichstag to go in the glass dome and we're also going to Potsdamer Platz. Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam. After that, I think we've decided we're going to go to Brussels for a few days. My program starts in 8 days! :)

Thought on Berlin and Germany as a whole: I discovered as soon as I arrived that Germany feels soooo familiar to me. The buildings look normal to me, the food isn't weird to me, even the packaging on the chocolate seems so right. I think my 6th grade self is remembering this place. Interesting!

Friday, August 8, 2008

I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby....

So. Prague!

We arrived two days ago to our first and only Eastern European city. It's really an incredible, relatively cheap place. It's also been very interesting because it doesn't use a 'normal' alphabet, so communicating and reading stuff has been quite difficult. Yesterday, we had a traditional Czech meal (fried potato pockets filled with cheese and rice. Yum!) We also walked around old town Prague, which was beautiful. Today, we visited the Prague Palace, which had an incredible view of Prague. We also visited the Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock, and Wenceslas Square, location of the Velvet Revolution. Tonight we will be testing out the night life, which involves a techno club of sorts. Tomorrow, we'll be seeing the TV Tower, which is apparently a Communist relic that allows your to have a great view of the city. We will then be eating at the Subway we found in Old Town Prague. Yay American food!

In reference to the title of this post, I have seen 21 Iron Maiden T-shirts. In one day. It most be an Eastern European thing.

Tomorrow we take a 6 hour bus to Berlin, where we stay for 4 nights. Ich liebe Deutschland! It will be refreshing to be able to communicate with they locals in their native language.

Things I miss about America:

2) Air Conditioning
3) Driving
4) No service charges
5) TV
6) Cats
7) And of course the people

That is all for now. I'll try to update again in Berlin sometime!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Cat Named Amoré

I am writing this post from an internet cafe in Milan. We had a miscommunication on hostels, so we ended up having to book a night here in Milan. Crazy, huh? Since it is a very unexpected night and you have to get tickets 3 months in advance to see 'The Last Supper', we decided to spend today relaxing and recharging our batteries. Since we're about mid trip, we definitely can use it! We arrived around 11, ate Tex Mex for lunch (Yum!!), took a nap, and ate dinner at McDonald's. I am soooo sick of Italian food that I have certainly appreciated the break. Tomorrow afternoon, we are off to Prague!

Anyway, I still need to update you on our 3 days in Venice. Our room ended up being this little apartment in a small Italian village right outside of Venice. So quaint! There was a little pizzeria next door with the best pizza we've had yet! The owner was an incredible lady with a cat named Amoré (hence the title). The apartment was about 20 minutes away from Venice on a commuter train. Venice is GORGEOUS. You know that image in your head of cute little buildings with exposed brick and fading paint? They are actually there! The canals were also really cool. There are no cars or metro in Venice, so to get around you take water buses, which are so cool. We also went to Murano and Burano, the two islands off the coast of Venice that are known for their glass blowing and lace making respectively. Very neat.

As for overall thoughts, I've discovered that sunglasses and water bottles are absolutely vital for a trip like this. It has been boiling hot in all of Italy. Hopefully, it will get much cooler as we move farther north.

I've also made an important self-discovery. After this trip, I feel like you could drop me off in any major city in the world and I could figure out my way around. I've had to navigate countless metros, buses, water buses, walking routes, etc. I hope this skill sticks with me when I finally get to drive again!

The closer I get to study abroad, the more excited I get about it. I can't wait to be in a single location for more than 3 or 4 days.

So Prague is next. Then comes Berlin, where Veronica will be meeting us up. Then comes Amsterdam. After that, we have about 5 days that have yet to be planned. I think we may end up in southern Germany or Switzerland or something. We'll see!

Happy birthday, dad!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Et tu, Brute?

Alright. So. Rome.

I'm not sure where I can even start with this city. I believe I have developed a love hate relationship with this city. I love the ancient ruins (we've visited the Colleseum, Palentine Hill, the Roman Forum, etc.), the food is decent, and the architecture is incredible (Trevi Fountain, anyone?). However, Rome is third in my book out of the three cities we have visited thus far. I just have not liked the vibe of the city as much as I thought I would.

So far, I've had pizza once (gross), lasagna twice (yum), and gelato (yummy strawberry and mint chocolate chip) twice. The food, however, is interfering with my budget.

Our 'hotel' here has been an experience and a half. All 7 of us are in a room that would be small for two people. There is no air conditioning. There is a small fan. However, our window opens onto a loud street, which means we can either try to sleep to the sound of trams and vespas, or we can roast. Our bathroom (7 people with 1 bathroom is bad enough), is tiny, has a beday (sp?) which is odd, and has a shower that sprays everywhere but the shower basin. It is testing all of our patience.

So tonight we are going to see the Spanish Steps and that district of Rome. Tomorrow we are hitting up the Pantheon and the fountain of the four rivers. The next morning, we leave for Venice on a train.

Thanks for the comments! I like being kept in the loop. Keep it up!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When in Rome...

Alright, so Madrid was pretty sweet. It was a really lazy few days, which was a nice break from the frantic pace of Paris. The first full day we were there, we basically walked around and saw the big plazas- Plaza Mayor and Puerto del Sol- as well as the royal palace and cathedral. We also had some great tapas and sangria. The next day was quite lazy. We slept in, ate lunch, went to Parque del Retiro (like Central Park for Madrid) and slept some more. We slept so long that we couldn't even make it to the Prado! I know, I know. We're bad.

Anway, this 'morning' (3 AM), we woke up and hopped on a plane to Rome, which is where I am sitting right now. My initial reactions are that the pizza is not that good, but the city is pretty neat. We're sort of taking it easy today, because several of us seem to be getting sick and exhausted. So we'll be napping this afternoon and then we will be seeing some of the sights tonight.

This trip is making me more and more excited about study abroad. I can't wait to actually be in a city for more than a few days! Vienna will be incredible. I'm also glad that this trip is making it so my culture shock and jet lag will be long gone by the time I get there.

Living out of a backpack is getting to be easier and easier. It's still a little frustrating and at times very smelly, but I'm getting my system down.

I would really love to hear from people! Comment and tell me how life is going! I feel a little disconnected right now!

Monday, July 28, 2008

So the Trek Begins...

Sorry that it has been so long! There was no free internet in Paris and, being the cheap person that I am, I decided to wait for the free internet here in Madrid to post.

We all managed to make to Paris in one piece, though we lost 4 bags in the process and got two of us stuck in the Madrid airport for a day. In Paris, we managed to hit up the major sights, like the Eiffel Tower, Arce de Triumph and Notre Dame. We also had a bakery next to our hostel, so we had fresh crossaints and baguettes every morning. We left Paris Saturday night at 10 PM and took 3 trains and 20 hours to get to Madrid. So far we´ve had Tapas and we´re relaxing this morning. After I go back downstairs to our rooms, we will be heading out to see what Madrid has to offer.

In order not to bore you, I will attempt to do a little more than just give a play by play of what we´ve done, and will instead try to include some observations on my part. This trip has been such an experience in terms of independence and responsibilty. We have had to traverse language barriers like crazy. Less people speak English than we thought, and none of us can speak French. Many meals have involved pointing at some unknown item on the menu and using hand signals. We´ve been navigating foreign metros, and we´ve only gotten lost a few times. We´ve had to cancel hostel reservations, make new ones, fight with the hostel oweners to get money back, switch train schedules last minute, and all sorts of fun things like that. I´ve been learning so much about this end of the world and learning how to be responsible.

Another observation. All my clothes smell. A lot.

I will try to post again soon. I miss you all!

Friday, July 18, 2008

T Minus 4...3...2...1...

Hello all!

I have created this blog in order to have a means of communication while I'm abroad. For those of you who do not know, I will be studying abroad in Vienna, Austria and I will be spending the month before that backpacking through Europe with Erin, Andrew, Stephen, Jan, Emily, and Ally. We will be visiting Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Whew! We will be very tired, dirty, and hungry the whole time, but it should be the adventure of a lifetime!

We'll be leaving this Tuesday and starting the trip in Paris. The next four days will be full of preparations, packing (Haven't started yet. Eeeks!), goodbyes, and last minutes socializing. I've already eaten Outback for the last time for 5 months, I'm eating Mexican today, and I need to hit up Goodcents before I leave.

Please feel free to leave comments, tips, thoughts on posts or e-mail me at I will check/post as often as I can, depending on whether I have internet access in the hostel I'm at.