I have just graduated from Sonoma State University with a BA in Sociology. I have absolutely loved my time in wine country- it really doesn't get more beautiful than vineyards and endless green, but I am ready for the next adventure!

I am from the Bay Area and as much as I want to travel, I want to end up here later in life. I love that someone can go out for a different kind of ethnic food everyday of the week and still have endless options!

In July/August, I will be visiting one of my great friends in England where we will tour multiple castles, London, Paris, Paris Disneyland (we did meet at the Disney College Program anyway), and will be attending the 2012 LONDON OLYMPICS!

Click here for the official website for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort

In September, I will be working as a civilian employee for an American military base in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. I will be in the hotel indusutry working for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. They say my backyard will be the Alps. I have my hiking boots packed already.

Click here for the official website for the Disney College Program and Professional Internships

About two years ago I participated in the Disney College Program, working and living at Walt Disney World, Florida. It really started my love for traveling and throwing myself outside of my comfort zone. I highly recommend it to anyone who respects the Disney Company and wants to get their foot in the door or just wants a break from life- it was definitely both for me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Land of the Irish

All right then! Sorry for the lack of posting my avid readers, but when given two months left in Germany I would rather be going out for my usual Dunkleweizen (or two) with the mates instead of staring at a computer screen hoping the creative words would type themselves. But alas here I am back in the states with many many (too many) minutes to spare, so it's time to start reminiscing... go along on this adventure with me won't you?

I had a surprising three days off (turned out to be five days- ya for the low season) and I was thinking about a personal challenge that had yet to be hurdled. When traveling, I am really good at playing follow the leader, holding a map for others, and going with the flow. Can you say perfect Amazing Race participant? It was my time to lead me, myself, and I. I had been wanting to go to Krakow, Poland to see the extermination camp, Auschwitz. About two weeks before, I went to Dachau with my hotel tour. That night I booked my four day trip to Dublin, Ireland. Some day I would like to see Auschwitz, but for this solo trip I wanted to drink in merriment, not drinking in hope to become merry. Now is it cheating to book your first solo trip to an english speaking country? At first I would have said yes, but after trying to work with that accent I know say it's debatable.

So there I was boarding the plane by myself. I know what your thinking- was it boring? Well considering it was a Sunday night and it had been the opening weekend for Oktoberfest that apprently all Irish attended until the last second before boarding, boring is not quite the adjective I would use. I've never felt so sober in my life. And the great thing about the Irish (and drunk people) is that once they hear it's your first time in their country they truly want you to do all their top favorites. I suddenly had a piece of paper going around the plane of what I should see, eat, hear, and everything else left to your imagination. There may have been some unreadable scribbles, doodles from the distracted, and drool on that paper, but boy was I ready!

Now me being silly thought that a Sunday night would be a slow night for the bars. Wrong and wrong for so many reasons! One, this is Ireland we are talking about and two, they had just won a  match earlier that day (a great game I heard). So I reached my hostel, threw down my bags, put in my contacts, met fellow travelers, and went in search of Irish music! I went left, left, right, left, and so forth. Got terribly lost, but when you don't know where you're going are you really lost? Instead we stumbled upon a random, but local pub and realized we weren't lost at all. We were exactly where we should be. There was authentic music being played by the Irish themselves, people dancing with anyone and everyone, and it appeared we were hours behind on our drinking! I grew up with my dad playing Irish music on his mandolin, but I was still taken aback when I recognized some of the songs.... and I guess I surprised every other person in that bar.  Won me with the crowd though! It was one of my favorite traveling memories to date- a Guinness in my hand dancing every so often with Dublin's grandpas, and having flashbacks of my childhood and family back home.

So if you had read my previous blogs you are already going to know what I suggest you do in Dublin right? Look up the free walking tour! You can't be disappointed with something free (but remember the good tip at the end!), if anything you are going to learn one more thing than you knew before.. and with free walking tours times that by three hours and you should be good. 


After that we ended up at Trinity College, I suggest you go to their cafeteria and get a cheap five euro meal. It felt like I was in Harry Potter with the long hallway and such.. and well if that's not reason enough for you to go than I don't know what is. Then I took the tour of Trinity College (you learn the story of murder, weddings, and the exam process of Trinity- if you've graduated its fascinating if you haven't its just damn stressful) and then the Old Library. I felt like Belle with her grand library I just wanted to run around and climb up and down those staircases... as you can imagine that was illegal, so it was fun to at least look.

Now if I had a proper vacation in Ireland I would be able to do so much more (aka Cliffs of Moher and such), but I decided on the Giant's Causeway. They either believe that these stone hexagonal shapes were created by a volcanic eruption or a Giant's way of crossing into another Giant's land. Take your pick. I thought it was fascinating, but it was a rather hard place when you don't have the correct footwear. Just wear sneakers, that's my advice for you. Lots of cracked, uneven hexagon towers plus silly flats equals not so fun, slippery workout for Debra but amusing people watching for other tourists I'm sure. You're welcome fellow tourists, you're welcome.

And of course we are missing one very important part of Dublin- the alcohol! There is both the Jameson Distillery or the Guinness Brewery.. I chose Guinness because 1. It's me and my dad's favorite drink and 2. A couple shots of Jameson is an early goodnight for me. It is a great tour-unfortunately, you don't actually get to see the beer being made, but you do see the process through an interactive museum. One of the best museums I have ever been through and I'm not entirely biased because of the subject matter. You then get a choice of learning how to pour the perfect pint or get a free pint at their bar, which is a 360 degree view of Dublin. I have poured many many many beers for during this Germany adventure, so I went straight to being waited on and gazing out to the gorgeous view. Guess what? It was foggy that one day, but to be fair it was 10am. Oh dear.

All in all when in Dublin go to the bars! Not just for the tasty beer and spirits, but to experience the music. There is not a lot of authentic music being played during the weekdays, but don't let that stop you! Go to the touristy ones, enjoy paying for overpriced beer, and enjoy some Ho Hey, Galway Girl, and Don't Stop Believing with that Irish accent. You can't go wrong.

And then when you are all done with Dublin and if you're really lucky your friends will be waiting for you at the Munich train station, dirndle in hand, and ready to go out and celebrate Oktoberfest. I fully understand that these 13 months are not real life.

Always throw yourself outside of your comfort zone, you never know what could happen, it could be good or it could be bad but at least you don't have the feeling of regret. What I've realized is that people your whole life are going to tell you that the world is a scary and dangerous place. But if you look closely its because those people never left their comfort zone and don't even know the beauty of this world. Never let other people's fear develop into your own.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arbeit Macht Frei- Dachau

"Despite everything I believe that people are really good at heart" Anne Frank

As a cashier for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, I am very lucky to be able to have so much guest ineraction and ask about their daily adventures. If I'm stuck working believe me I want to hear about how great your day was. After tours they all look exhausted, yet extremely happy except for one bunch every Sunday. This was the tour for Dachau concentration camp. After a few Sundays I understood the tour schedule, saw this group, showed them exactly where the dessert was, and prescribed them a Disney movie and a hug before bed.

My avid readers (my mama and grandma) know from one of my first posts, my bucket list for life, but for those who don't (everyone else), visiting a concentration camp was a top priority for me. I visited Anne Frank's house when I was 14 and then took a Holocaust and Genocide class in college. So for a weekend off and only six weeks left in Garmisch I had to kick my bucket list into high gear. Two days off. One day at Dachau. One day in Salzburg doing the Sound of Music bike tour. Can I just say that I am so glad I did it in that order.

America and Europe display sights and show history in extremely different ways. I believe in America things are roped off and explained without pictures or movies thus keeping a physical and emotional distance for visitors. In Europe, you are there. Physically, mentally, emotionally there. As a breif introduction Dachau was one of the first concentration camps opened in 1933. It is unknown how many lives were suffered and lost at Dachau.

As you enter, there is a gate that states "Arbeit Macht Frei,"  meaning "work makes you free," which is a sarcastic, sick comment because Dachau was known for working people to death. The first thing you will notice is how clean the bunkers, prison, and everything is. This is how the camp was run. Everything had to be spotless. Many were driven mad by the fear of loosing a button on one's uniform, the bed not perfectly made, or a cigarette butt dropped by one's bed. This would lead one to public humiliation, sent to the prison, or even killed.

In this picture is the prison for Dachau. The
difference that you don't see is this prison was used once more after WWII. This time they decided to put in the windows you see today to make it a little more bearable. They also realized many rooms were made soundproof as so the neighbors of Dachau could not hear the screams. No words.

There was a cell (this photo) used in the prison.. except that this was used for punishment as the "standing cell." Really this cell was divided into four individual cells 70cm by 70cm. This would make it so the prisoners would and could only stand. No sitting, no fresh air, barely any food or water, all up to three days. No words.

I am a people person. I like to people watch and it was heartbreaking to see Dachau, but also interesting to see how people cope with this overload of emotion. There was this part of camp with a concrete line, some grass, and then an electrical fence surrounding the camp. We were told that once a prisoner stepped over that concrete line onto the grass it was assumed that they were trying to escape or committing suicide, so the guards from the towers above had full permission to shoot. So with our tour it was interesting how people interacted with this line: some people casually walked over the line, some couldn't walk over the line- they walked around to where there was no grass, one man ran across,  and others hesitated before crossing. You are so immersed in this horrific time period and place  of torture while putting yourself in the mindset of these people who were in survival mode, I actually caught myself hesitating and looking at the guard tower as if looking to see if someone was still there watching my move. It was one of the weirdest and most outlandish moments in my life.

Next was the crematorium. Dachau set up a gas chamber that was designed to kill 150 people within 20 minutes by exposing them to lethal gases in a enclosed space. This was never actually used for mass murder, but there have been accounts of smaller groups of people killed within that room. Again, America with the roping off and no pictures. I actually stood in that room. It is an unreal moment when you realize that you are standing in the exact room where so much horror happened. Random but there was also a guest bathroom open to visitors right next to this room. I couldn't use it for the life of me. The crematorium was right next to the room. Each stove could hold up to three bodies.

We were then told to go along this path. Me being naive thought it would be a rememberance path with memorials. Nope. It was the firing range. Again, immersed physically, mentally, and emotionally. Just walked right up to the wall. I could do nothing but stare at it for a solid five minutes. No words.

I have seen many Holocaust memorials and now Dachau that one thing I will say is that people are so beautifully creative to show their respect and honor those lives that have been taken away during this time period. My favorite so far is the  Holocaust memorial in Budapest with the shoes (refer to the Lucky 13 post), so simple yet so powerful. Dachau has a bell that is rung every day at 3pm because that was the time that Dachau was liberated. There is also a Jewish memorial in that you walk into this cavelike place, it gets really dark, and then at the end at the very top there is a spot open to the sky. So there was darkness and then light. So simple yet so powerful.

There is a museum that goes through the entire time line of the war, Dachau, and the many many troubles after the war. It is dense. A must do in Dachau, but brace yourself. Again, pictures and videos everywhere. The medical experiments, the living conditions, the mass graves- it's all there.  As horrific as this was I would not trade this experience for anything. It is something anyone and everyone must see. What I was very impressed with was that 9th graders in Bavaria have to visit Dachau and German military personnel trying to move up in the job ladder must visit as well. It is not swept under the rug as if to forget the past, but more a gruesome, terrible lesson that must never be repeated.

I have to say that this trip makes your firmly believe in the sayings "it's all good" and "pick your battles, this is not one of them." Just know that if you go on a trip like this and then go back to "normal life" the next day, hear someone complain about something non-important, you will have the strongest urge to smack them. Don't do it. This trip puts life in perspective for you. So many lives were taken and destroyed before they could even truly live. Don't wait, make your dreams a reality not just a constant thought, tell the people who have changed your life for the better whether large or small that your life would not have been the same without them, tell the people important to you that you love them, and always live life to the fullest. Don't wait.

I apologize if this has completely brought you down, but just remember this: Within this terror we must remember the love and care those people showed one another whether family, friends, or complete strangers. Lives were saved because of the kindness and bravery one showed upon another in such a hellish time. There will always be good even when surrounded by evil, so here is Anne Frank's quote once again:

"Despite everything I believe that people are really good at heart" Anne Frank

There will always be good even when surrounded by evil. 

So the quote of the blog post. I have loved this quote for so long. Jimi Hendrix is one with words and I think it's perfect for this post. And with that I thank you for letting me share this difficult trip and I prescribe to you: ice cream, a Disney movie, and a hug. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sail Away Captain!

The best thing that one can do while working in hospitality is go some place where people are hospitable to you... and if that means stepping aboard a cruise ship well so be it. To be completely honest, this was my first big trip on this 13 month adventure... which means this was back in Jan... which means that I am eight months too late with this blog post. So sue me "better late than never" is a wonderful and very much used saying in my life. Cleaning my room. Doing the dishes. Blog posts. Better late than never.

When a group of girls decide to have a week away from real life, booking a cruise in the middle of Jan is the way to go. Cheap cheap cheap! Of course it will be raining and freezing most of the time, but so be it. Also choosing a cruise line that may have recently had a shipwreck and stranded some people in the ocean will get you a GREAT deal! Our beautiful, but dreary cruise went to Rome and Genoa, Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Tunis, Tunisia; and Palermo, Sicily. Even though they were all amazing stops my favorites were Barcelona, Rome and Tunisia, so let's stick with those shall we?

Rome, Italy- It is funny what you remember and what you don't of one of your first trips after seeing 15 other countries, even more cities, and countless other international famous landmarks. I wrote St. Ignatious- so beautiful took my breath away. I'm not doubting that it did... I just don't remember the church. However, ask me about the Church our Savior of Spilled Blood in Russia and I could talk your ear off. I really don't mean to brag, this is just me sharing I swear. Anyways, there is a fantastic night time free walking tour that meets by the Spanish Steps (some of us may have gotten the movie poster, Roman Holiday right by those steps... a lifetime purchase I assure you) and tells you a whole lot about this beautiful place called Rome. And if you go to Rome during Christmas time, there will be a Christmas tree right in front of the steps, so really it blocks the entire view. Not cool Christmas, not cool. Saw the church with John the Baptist's head (something to write home about), Piazza Colonna which is actually a person's tomb, no one can did more than 3 feet deep in Rome without archeologists just in case they find something or someone historical, Queen Margaret buried in the pantheon was the one responsible for the marghertta pizza (bless that woman), etc. Such good info for the small price of a tip. Do it.

Also walked over (actually may have been the metro) to the Colosseum. Absolutely stunning. Huge, extravagant, takes your breath away... still talking about the Colosseum thank you very much. Also walked around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The French, they really go all out. So huge to walk around and so many steps! One of my favorite pictures taken thus far was on the Tomb of the Unknown soldier (well not actually on, but definitely on those steps). We then took the metro (or walked) to the Vatican City to see the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Of course the one day that we are there... the Vatican museum and church was closed... how does that work?
 Concerning the Vatican, I do have to say that I was there 11 years ago.. and google images full screen it is pretty top notch, so pick your battles. However, I will always remember St. Peter's Basilica. Gold. Colored Marble. Columns. Everywhere. Google images full screen does not do it justice! There is a Mary and Jesus statue by Michelangelo which is so elegant and the workmanship is impeccable. Sometimes I wish I took Art History in college.. I might be able to tell you all more than.. well it was made out of marble.

Last stop: Trevi Fountain! I can't tell you what I wished for when you traditionally throw a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain....but I can tell you that the gelato wasn't good... thanks a lot Disney not all your wishes do come true. So Rome- you can be there as long as you like you will always only scratch the surface. Don't get frustrated your just never going to see it all.

Cruise: All you can eat food 24/7. All you can eat fancy food- almost 24/7. Getting bumped up to a balcony room- great. Even though it rained almost everyday- still great. Having someone ask if YOU are loving your vacation- best moments ever. No matter what they say everyone needs a little TLC. .. and if that includes all you can eat desserts it's an automatic win over.

Barcelona, Spain!

I remember loving it 11 years ago and what do you know I loved it again 11 years later! It helps that it was a beautiful day and one of our friends on the trip had just been to this city, so she knew exactly what to do in out eight hour time slot in Spain. Segrada Familia, one of the weirdest but refreshing experiences/churches I've seen. Gaudi started this church, but had planned for it to take longer than his time frame (aka his life) and have had others add their own way of architectural perspective to this church. We did not go inside, but just the outside I wish I had a tour. It looks 50% Gothic block like, 50% sand castle, 100% intriguing. We then bargained for a cheap taxi ride to the Gaudi park. Definitely reccomend this! Mosaics everywhere, a column space to get lost in, a fantastic view of the park and city, and little walking paths that take you who knows where. Fun for kids fun for us adults who act like kids.

Even with very limited time in barcelona, one must always go for tapas (ours was Txa Pela). Little appetizers upon appetizers upon appetizers that then become a meal. Paired with sangria it is delectable. And for a cheap price why not try those foods that you would normally make a face at if you saw on a menu? Now saving the best for last- the market within La Rambla! La Rambla is this fun street to walk down with the tree branches hanging all over, souvenir shops every two stores, and even a pet shop on the street. Not sure I liked the rat section right there. Anyways, there is a food market that sells anything and everything (every part of an animal's body you can think of), chocolate, and.....drum roll please...
fruit juice/smoothies. May not sound amazing, but they are so good! Every type you can think of is available and only a euro! A bargain if I ever heard one. Now here is the secret: go at the end of the day when they will have to throw them out anyways. You pay for one and then they give you another as a gift. Buy two and they go crazy. Greatest. Thing. Ever. My first stomach ache from too much fruit juice. Was it worth it? Of course. My favorite was blackberry and coconut. I didn't even finish my five...do I still regret it to this day eight months later.. yes yes I do.

Last stop Tunis, Tunisia; AFRICA!

My first time in Africa.. this was a big day. We really didn't know what to do in this city, so we splurged and got the all day tour. A good decision to say the least. We were greeted with beating drums and men on camels. Welcome to Africa!
First, went to the Medina- Old Town. Blue and white everywhere. Blue doors, blue windows, blue everything. Also, like Morocco they would have prayers played on loud speakers (used to be from a man and now from a cassette I am told)  throughout the city several times during the day. I love that. Very well known for their perfumes, so naturally we were taken to the perfume shop and were sprayed with countless perfumes (we smelled good by the end of that tour I'm sure) and told how they were made. The famous one is Jasmine- the country's flower. Do I still regret that I didn't get one? Yes. Next the carpet shop! Saw a woman making a rug- from a stencil you may say. No no from memory I will tell you and yes it was perfect. A full carpet takes 6 months to make. More patience in the world those people have. The carpet store was in an old King's palace... sat on his bed no big deal. Went up to the top for a panorama view and it just struck me as funny that here we were in Old Town and clearly the buildings are  unlike any in America, yet the majority have satellite dishes. The old and the new mixed together.

We survived the Bazaar. So I have survived Tunisia's Bazaar, Morocco's Souks, Turkey's Bazaar, and New York City- I'd say that's quite the accomplishment. Next we went to Sidi Bou Said- the Santorini of Tunisia! All blue and white buildings with flowers growing all over the sides. Pretty perfect. Last stop- the Roman Ruins.  Is that the exact name... no, but eight months later I really couldn't tell you so hey the Roman Ruins! We walked through the ruins of an arena where they held gladiator fights... creepy. So different than the United States. The U.S. would have it all roped off and you could only see it from afar, here we took pictures standing where the animals would have been let out. No. Big. Deal.

A cruise is a great way to start traveling. You have a warm, safe bed to come home to, meals prepared for you with no dishes, and (not so free) entertainment aboard the ship! A great start to this journey, amazing company, and no work for a week- can't beat that! Five countries in nine days. Wowza this is not real life. And to think my next trip would be Morocco. 

Quote for the blog- this is a long one I fully realize. And to be completely, totally, 100% honest I haven't even seen this movie. Sorry Mr. Roth, but I do love the last three sentences. I hope you're happy and if not I hope you have the courage to change something to make it so. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mario Kart, Raki, and Snot- Greece

Ten months ago my family went to my grandparent's beach house for a final weekend together before I went off on my adventure. My father and I were looking up places to visit, he suggested a few things, and finally said, "Talk to the people around you. They will have better ideas than what we can possibly come up with." I smiled but secretly made a list of my own... where is that list now? I have no idea. What was on that list? Doesn't matter.  I have been to places I would never dreamed of (or embarrassingly knew of) visiting because we have such a great group of eclectic travelers here on the Edelweiss Program. Greece was never on my list, but when a friend asks if you want to go, the beach is involved, and it just happens to be on your birthday the correct and only answer is yes yes yes!

In ten years or so from now I may have the money to wine taste luxuriously through Italy or where ever, but for now I am on the budget friendly tour of Europe. So flying from Munich to Crete, Greece via Ryanair is where its at. Good ol' Ryanair. Like I said a strict budget.  So to Crete we went!

If you go to Greece I recommend Santorini, Mykanos, Athens, all those places, but this was my first time going to a beach in 10 months so Crete was just fine in my eyes. Really, this blog is going to be real short. Why? Because we were on the beach ALL THE TIME.. and I was perfectly okay with that. The first day we decided to take a quick boat ride to Gramvousa and Balos- which really turned into an hour bus ride, 30 euros, and an all day adventure. Not complaining just unexpected. This was great to grab a beer (vacation, it doesn't matter if you start drinking before 10am), talk, and just look out at the b-e-a-utiful water. In Garmisch, I have never seen so many different shades of green. In California, its beautiful, but hot and dry heat aka not much green. So Garmisch there is green everywhere, but in Greece it is teal and blues for the water. Its a lot like Hawaii, there is a different shade of blue every 10 feet of water. I will attempt to show you a picture, obviously it wont do justice... free crappy picture or just buy a ticket to Greece.. this shouldn't be a question! Gramvousa is this small island that has castle ruins at the top, so of course when you send a bunch of tourists on this tiny island with a time limit it is like a pilgrimage to the top. Or its like Mariokart- people passing each other, all in a sprint to the finish line, I wouldnt be surprised if I saw some banana peels thrown to trip us up! Anyways, it gives you a great view of the blues, but we remember why I was in Greece right? Well I'm pretty sure I sprinted to the top, threw myself off the top to the bottom, just to get to the beach part five minutes earlier than the others.

Moving on, Balos is this beautiful island, lagoon if you will with some pink sand, small waves (a mavericks surf competition will be held there any day now I'm sure), and in our case cloudy sky. Laying out was not so much fun, but still the beach! Like I said in Morocco it is not until you live in the mountains that you realize you were born for the beach. I'd like that quoted on pinterest now please. 

For a little bit of history we went to the Venetian Old Port at City
Center in Chania, Crete. A 45 min walk from our hotel along the
beaches. Hard life. You walk to the lighthouse, tour the touristy
 shops, and now lets get down to business... on a beach vacation you are going to do two major things the entire time... no not that. Lay out in the sun and eat. Lets be honest my traveling revolved around food.. and food only. Let's just say if I ever get lost from my group they can find me at the nearest cafe, restaurant, whatever. To me its experiencing the culture to others its stuffing your face.  Your choice. The seafood is absolutely amazing in Greece. Again Garmisch is inland when a goldfish is about as much seafood as you will ever see, so it was time to stock up! I highly recommend sharing with a friend the seafood platter. All the restaurants have this option. Squid, octopus, little fish, calamari, and more all with a slice of lemon. You have to do this! If anything you take a picture with the octopus tentacle. Profile picture for life. And if your at all like me and you like to play with your food this is great fun. I'm pretty sure that lunch lasted 2 hours too long.

   At the end of the meal sometimes they will give you a free dessert or even "better" a bottle of their Raki. To those who are Greek or Turkish I would say its a great cultural experience to those who are not my own opinion is that the stuff is vile. However, when one must take shots at 12pm one must simply rise to the occasion. However, when two of your friends tap out after one shot, the cultural experience gets tougher! Hard vacation. Get the one with honey that is much much much much much much much much much much much much  better. Everyone I met in the restaurant business where nothing short of the sweetest people ever. I'm sure it helped that we tipped, but everyone was so nice I cannot recommend Greece enough because of the people.  

Now my FAVORITE part of the trip. If you are in Chania, Crete you must go on Captain Nick's Aphrodite Glass Bottom Boat tour (look on tripadvisor- over a hundred ratings and all five star!). Captain Nick was so nice, funny, personable, and sincere. And a great way to kick up your feet, grab a beer (one is free on the 2 hour tour- reason enough right there to go!), and look at the scenery aka all the blue.. and then you will casually snorkel. He will snorkel with you looking for starfish and other sea creatures. So he calls us all over to this one area and he is holding something that just looks like a huge thing of brown snot. But suddenly the big bowl of snot has tentacles and starts moving around. Why yes he was just casually holding an octopus... well what does clever Debra say? Can I hold it? When your mom brings you up telling you to think before you speak I must have been napping during this one.. suddenly he is swimming toward me with a big bunch of snot! I stick my arm out and he latches the octopus onto my arm. I don't think the best writer in the world can describe this feeling. The octopus was gooey and slowly moving its tentacles up my arm onto my shoulder.
This is the part when I start squirming and screaming. Its like a gooey spider wrapping it's legs around you and just moving up. My reaction is like Ron's in the second Harry Potter. Nope nope not okay! Anyways you would think he would just grab the octopus off right? Well let me just say those tentacles with suction cups work! I think the octopus had a crush on me cause he WOULD NOT let go, Captain Nick had to peel all the tentacles off one by one. I'm sure I didn't help because I was trying to swim away while screaming the entire time. Welcome to the world little guy sorry for the rough awakening. Like I said those suction cups work, I had lines of hickeys all over my arm. Trying explaining that to the waiter at dinner afterward.

A great way to bring in one more year of my life- eat, lay out, and have an octopus climb up my arm. Where do you go with life after that? You can tell you should diagnose yourself with a case of wanderlust if you are writing a blog on a past adventure while taking short breaks and looking up flights for the next adventure. I will never be done! I cannot recommend Greece enough- so beautiful, the people are great, the food is delightful... just beware of that Raki it will sneak up on you!

You can always make more money, but you can't buy more time

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lucky 13

Visiting my  lucky 13th country on my 13 month adventure... lets just take a stab at how my trip to Budapest, Hungary started shall we? Put together a 2 1/2 hour late bur which pushed us back from a 10pm journey to starting at 12:30am, a person in front of me who thought it was all right to put their seat all the way back to my lap, and the police questioning me why I was still in Europe after 10 months of travel...yikes. Anyways after a disgusting amount of traveling we were in Budapest!

Let's count down the "lucky" 13 things you should do (and really just what I did) while visiting Budapest. These can all be done on a 33 hour limit.. there is some hustlin involved, but all good for the sake of traveling on a time limit. The last five are my favorite, but all are necessary. Lets start the count down!

15. Central Market Hall- What girl doesn't like where all the souvenirs are in one spot and what guy doesn't like where lots of food can be had in one place? This is a fun place to go and to get out of the heat for a little while. A place for postcards, mystery meat, and fresh squeezed orange juice!

14. Funicular- I have to admit that this was not such a big deal for me, but it is for most people. It is a cable car (hence why its not such a big deal for the girl from San Francisco) that will take you up to the Castle District. However, it saves many steps and gives you a beautiful view of the city. A beatiful view without the sweat and you can use the excuse that you're experiencing Budapest's history. Done deal.

13. Chain Bridge- Now because you are using the cable car to get up the hill you have to get your exercise somewhere right? The Chain Bridge connects both parts of Budapest....Buda and Pest. Didn't see that coming did you? Anyways, it is an easy 10 minute walk that provides great views of both sides of the cities.. the Parliament Building, the Royal Palace, and more all along the Danube River.

12. Go inside the Opera House- We just happened to go inside so we didn't see a performance, but the inside and outside is beautiful. When I have money later on I'm coming back to this world famous opera house to see a performance! You can take a tour... I would recommend it if you have more time than 33 hours.

11. Nighttime in Budapest- I was told to take a river cruise at night when all the lights are lit up on all the buildings throughout Buda and Pest. Well, we couldn't find the boats, so we just walked around Castle District at nighttime. I highly recommend doing one or the other at night to see all the lights and a different view of Budapest. Pictures don't do it justice.

10. Hosptial in the Rock- Confession I didn't actually do this one, but everyone was telling me I should have. Woops. it was a secret hospital that was built underneath the Buda Castle. Thank you visitbudapest.travel! If you go, take pics and tell me how it is!

9. Fisherman's Bastion- This is a terrace right by the Royal Palace/Buda Castle. To me, it looks like Gaudi came over to Budapest and made it himself. Or part of Candyland was built. Either one its a toss up. We went at night so it wasn't nearly as crowded, there is a restaurant, but I just recommend simply walking along and seeing the Parliament building right across. Great view!

8. City Park- You can walk through the park after seeing Heroe's Square (#6). There is a very cute castle, Vajdahunyad Castle. You can walk through and it's honestly like you've stepped into Fantasyland at Disney World, which you can all suspect that I loved. The park is very fun-you can rent paddle boats, get a beer, or just walk around. Perfect.

7. Walk through the Jewish Quarter- This is an important part of Budapest. There is the Great Synagogue that is the second biggest next to the one in New York. We didn't actually go in, but there is a touching memorial that you can see from outside of a willow tree out of what looks like barbed wire.  It has the names of all the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust (thank you again visitbudapest.travel). This is also where the ruin pubs are (more about that later), so it is a mix of different types of architecture, abandoned buildings, and lots of culture.

6. Walk along Andrassy Street to get to Heroe's Square- This is on the way to the Szechenyi Baths and is talked to be like walking in Paris. There is much history I am sure, but can you tell that the walking tour didn't go there cause I don't have any facts for you all? It is a very beautiful walk with many trees, different types of buildings, and the City Park at the end. A simple, yet a must thing to do while in Budapest.

5. Free Walking Tour- Who can say no to learning about the facts, history, famous people, and more while getting a workout for free? Lets be honest- no one. Being on a budget has pushed me to look for the things that have "free" written next to them, but these people work hard for their tips! Great information like did you know the person who made the Rubik's cube was from Hungary? Or to save a statue built in the Stalinist time period they simply put a white sheet, cut two holes for eyes, kept it there for a few days, and called it a symbol of freedom? Facts upon facts people! It's a history lesson mixed with some physical activity that leaves your precious money in your pocket. It doesn't get much better than that.

4. St. Stephen's Basilica- This is embarrassing, but I've become a bit of a church architecture snob. I know terrible terrible, but it's the truth. Well we stayed about 100 meters (said the hostel's brochure) from this basilica (Art Boutique Hostel- if you are ever in Budapest this is a great value for money, perfect location, and very nice staff). Anyways, this Basilica will not disappoint! Covered in marble and gold from top to bottom. It is actually not too old, 1900's, but it looks like the person who built St. Peter's in Rome just came right over to Budapest and built the St. Stephen's Basilica. Look at that cross country reference would ya? Actually sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Very worth looking at... and there is the dead hand of St. Stephen in the back. Dead hand and gold? Worth one euro if you ask me.

3. Ruin Pubs- These famous pubs can be found in the downtown part of Budapest and are pubs that were created out of abandoned buildings. So really the owners lucked out- they found a building that looked demolished, didn't have to decorate it, but simply put some chairs and alcohol in the space and called it done. I am told that this trend started about 10 years ago and have become extremely popular throughout that time. Usually when you see an abandoned building you stray away from it, but this time we were walking to them.

2. Szechenyi Baths- Oh the things that they would never allow in the United States. This is
 one of the most famous baths in Budapest and actually the biggest thermal bath in Europe. As said by wikipedia (our best friend) it was opened in 1913 and there are 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools. I am sure tha
t we looked like 5 year olds running around trying out all the pools! There was a sauna that got to 99 degrees Celsius (thats right 230 degrees Fahrenheit- don't you cook at that temperature?) and then an ice bath right next to it. I felt quite classy relaxing in a pool with a wealthy looking building behind me. The one thing I warn everyone before doing this is that you will be so relaxed and useless the rest of the day! Take a night cruise or something after that doesn't require walking.. or really moving for that matter.

1. Shoes on the Danube- My last year of college I took a History of the Holocaust and Other Genocides class. Needless to say I had a LOT of ice cream after the depressing class, but definitely one of the best classes I've ever taken. A wake up call indeed. Anyways there is a relatively new work of art (2005) as a memorial for the Holocaust in Budapest. In front of the Parliament there are bronze shoes all over the edge of the Danube. In Budapest 600,000 Jews were killed. Some were taken to the edge of the river and shot. They were forced to take off their shoes because that was what was considered valuable. I've been to Anne Franks, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., and many memorials, so I was relatively together with this one until I saw a pair of baby bronze shoes. I cannot imagine anything worse than being a parent and knowing there is nothing you can do to save not only yourself, but your own child. This memorial is so simple, yet one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. I cannot recommend it enough.

As always I say walk around! Who knows whom you will meet, what you will see, or stumble upon. So get lost cause who knows you may find this:

Okay quote time: If you want to do something stop thinking and dreaming about it, just do it already! Life only goes by faster the older you get. Even if it doesn't work or isn't what you thought it's always better to say "oh well" instead of wondering "what if." No regrets.