Saturday, March 28, 2015

Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam is a living city. It's unassumingly lovely, chock full of intriguing nooks and watering holes for the artistically-minded. I wouldn't have guessed it before going, but it was definitely my favorite city on the trip. I mentioned this in some previous posts, but while a lot of cities we visited are postcard pretty, they feel almost unreal in their touristy glamour. Amsterdam is not like that; real people are going about their day, and if you get in the way while ogling some attraction, you'll get hit by a bike. It's refreshing and very real. And since it was my favorite place, I have a lot to say about it. Settle in for a long one.

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FOOD


I ate a lot of pretty things in Amsterdam. My standard joke became that even though I was presented with such increased legality, my drug of choice was still cheese.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2 Nights in London.

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After two weeks tramping through Eastern Europe, it was incredible to be back in a place where we could read the street signs. And when we got off our bus at Victoria Coach Station, I didn't need a map. I just knew where we were, thanks to my time studying abroad. It was one of the best and most surreal feelings of my life.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Cats.

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I'm going to take a brief break from the travel updates to brag about my Spring Break. This past week, the snow melted and the sun came out, and I got to sleep and watch half a season of Parks and Rec. I spent the first couple of days up at the farm and it was so pleasant that even the compost pail looked pretty.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

48 Hours in Bruges.

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I hated the movie. Let's just get that out in the open. I didn't think it was funny, and I did the the violence was gratuitous and weird. Granted, I was a sophomore in high school when I watched it so maybe my feelings would change if I watched it again, but I was not going to Bruges with the mind to trace Colin Farrell's footsteps.

I mentioned before how I think walking tours are great. Nerdy and touristy, but also really helpful to kind of shake hands with a city and get oriented before you start wandering around blindly on your own. So when K and I arrived for our 48 hours in Bruges after another overnight bus, and it was raining and cold, we still decided to brave it out and take the tour. OH MAN. What a simultaneously great and terrible idea. We were frozen and crabby by the halfway mark, and skipped out on the end, but we also got the most comedic mileage out of this tour guide than from anything else on the trip. This guy was a character. A Real Character. (Eh?) His style was basically swearing, sex jokes, talking about the movie, and lies about architecture that he then followed up by a "Just kidding!" and moved on to the next location. But he did tell us about the place to get the best chocolate in town, so kudos there. At the time, we didn't feel too bad not giving him a tip, but then we proceeded to run into him a couple more times before we left. Bruges is small, you guys.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kutná Hora.

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Full disclosure: I kind of like morbid things. Of course it kind of depends on the situation, but if I can get a little macabre in my day, so much the better. When K and I were planning our trip last fall, I found some info on this chapel called The Sedlec Ossuary, or the Bone Church, because the entire thing was decorated in human bones. Whaaat? I immediately used this information as a discussion post for one of my history classes, and researched how to get there when we arrived in the Czech Republic.

The Bone Church has a pretty cool history. In the 13th century, a monk from Sedlec went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and brought back a small jar of dirt which he sprinkled on the cemetery ground. After news of this got around, people from all over wanted to be buried there, as they'd officially be counted as laid to rest in holy ground. The plagues hit, and the cemetery had to be expanded and expanded again, with bodies being buried in layers on top of one another. There just wasn't enough room. Finally, many of the bones were removed and placed in the basement of the chapel, where they stayed until 1870 when the Schwarzenburg family, who now owned the land, hired a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint to arrange the bones artistically. He ran with that instruction, and now the ossuary is an oddity all on its own.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Prague.

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We spent a week in Prague, making it the longest leg of the trip, and also the place we stopped over Christmas. It's also home to the nicest and cheapest hostel I've ever stayed in. We had painted ceilings, heated floors, and hairdryers in the bathroom for about $15 a night. It was crazy.

Since we were there such a comparatively long time, it's hard to know where to even begin with a "city guide." Instead, I'll just mention some of the places and things that burn the brightest in my memory. I have to say, get yourself a city map and do the touristy things. Check out the Astronomical Clock, walk around the Jewish Quarter, explore St. Vitus and the castle. Taking a walking tour might not seem thrilling at first, but I've found that it's a good way to orient yourself to a city, learn where things are and a little history about the place. It's a good foundation to start your exploring on. Prague's Old Town might actually be the most touristy place I've ever been, and every day a slew of companies doing free walking tours depart from Old Town Square. We did the Sandeman's tour, the company with the red umbrella, and really enjoyed it. But you don't need me to tell you about the big obvious things, so let me tell you about the little ones we did.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Warsaw.

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Poland was kind of an accident in our travel plans: we were going from Vilnius to Prague and the cheapest way was to bus with a stop in Warsaw. We spend about 16 hours in the city, bookended by two overnight buses, so this was definitely our most difficult day of travel. We were kind of dirty and cold, but we saw so many beautiful things that we didn't regret our choice.

We did end up hanging around in the train station for a chunk of the dark hours, but when we ventured out we found some gems. The first place we headed was my favorite: Lazienki Park. It's a huge stretch of greenery in the center of the city, interspersed with ponds and statues and little footbridges. It even houses a palace and an art gallery. I was genuinely amazed, and felt like I was wandering around in Narnia, helped along a bit by the faun lampposts. My favorite favorite was this open air theatre we stumbled across, built to look like a classical ruin. You can't entirely tell from the picture, but it was in the lagoon. It was separated from the seats by a narrow strip of water. I was nearly salivating at the thought of performing there on warm summer nights, surrounded by the swans and stars. Ugh! So cool!
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