Change of Scenery

I drove up from Arizona to Washington these past few days. Along the way I met up with old friends, stayed in some fun cities, and slowly watched the scenery outside the car change.

It’s old hat at this point to draw the parallels between slowly changing scenery and the changes in ones life but I did find it very interesting how different and startling that change was. The trip began in the hot, hot, hot deserts of Arizona – a place that I find very beautiful – and slowly changed as we approached the Inland Empire of California and the cities that came with it. Eventually, lush farmland pasted by and was replaced with more cities – San Jose and San Francisco – before reaching to the jagged mountains of Northern California and Southern Oregon, a very foreign sight to a flat-lander like myself. Then the stunning green of Central Oregon and Washington – another odd image for my desert rat eyes – which I will be calling home for a short time.

The vastly different landscapes are so odd to think back on. How can one roll into the next in such a short time without there being a break for the scenery to be rearranged for the next environment? How do all these starkly different but stunningly beautiful worlds exist within a 25 hour drive of each other?

If I wasn’t a college educated lass I would have half a mind to believe small gnomes and woodland creatures are hard at work behind the scenes re-arranging things to suit their whims. As it is, even with the college education it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe it could be real… maybe.

Knowing that there is a world that exists between the desert and sprawling cities intrigues me, as does the idea the somewhere there is a land between farmland and mountain. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously been aware of this in-between land, just the knowledge of it makes me wonder what it’s like to live between two distinct environments inhabiting certain traits of both. What does this gray area look like? Who lives there? Do they consider themselves city-folk or mountain dweller?

I know that there isn’t a conscious realization of this change and that the technical definition of the in-between land I imagine doesn’t exist in reality but I would love to see the city-dwelling mountain man (though, I feel like he/she might look like a flannel loving-hipster and I can’t decide if I’m a fan yet or not). The people that thrive in the margin.

Now the world has stopped spinning and I’m off the road for more than a night. Sitting still is sometimes the hardest speed to travel by. Still, if nothing else, it means that I can study the environment around me and know that it’s not going to change too much any time soon.

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Boxes, boxes everywhere

I’m in the prolonged process of moving out of my apartment and it’s so stressful. This isn’t my first rodeo, I’ve been in a constant state of moving between apartments, cities, and countries for the past few years and am used to packing up my few belongings, throwing them in the back of my car (and the truck of my brother), driving across down, and uploading.

This time, though, it’s not a quick and frantic move. Instead I’ve been packing up boxes and labeling them for either my parent’s house or directly up to Washington then moving them to my folks’ to be slightly unpacked or not depending on their destination.

It’s a nightmare. A giant headache. An absolute mess.

I look forward to being able to unpack boxes and settle back into normalcy, until then, I will suffer through the stress of living in a chaotic apartment, half packed and half not.

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What’s Next?

I always seem to return to this space whenever I’m approaching a big change in my life and the recent up tick in blogging activity is simply because of another adjustment for me. This is my way of documenting and commenting on what’s happening.

So what exactly is happening? Well, I’m graduating college tomorrow (*gulp*), beginning a new internship, and MOVING. Yep, I will no longer be based in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona – I will be in green Washington.

While I’m very excited for the change, and for not being in Arizona during the miserable, triple digit summer months, I can’t help but be nervous about moving. The unknown has always scared and excited me. I’m a firm believer that people should know and expose themselves to fear and uncertainty – so much can be learned in pushing yourself into an unknown environment – but I still am a planner at the end of the day and not knowing what I’m walking into scares me. Try as I may, I will always struggle with uncertainty… but that’s OK so long as I continue to push myself.

What’s next is a good question to which I have no answer, but I will try to be as accepting to this lack of answer and unknown as I can be. I know ignoring the palm sweat enduring anxiety this change accompanies will not help so I will instead try to acknowledge and accept whatever is to come.

6 Days in Southern Germany – Part 2

Day 3:

Saturday. I woke up to a rush of messages on my phone… it was the morning after the attack in Paris. My friends in Prague and around Europe were all in shock trying to find out what happened and making sure that those we knew in the city were safe.

My heart goes out to all those affected both my this attack in Paris and the other attacks that happened around the world the days leading up to this. Fortunately, everyone I knew was safe and accounted for.

I didn’t have much time to process everything – which was probably a blessing at the time – since I had a train to catch Munich bound.

Unfortunately, I missed my first train and had to wait in a coffee shop until the next train. Sipping on filter coffee (huzzah! I rarely find plain, American coffee in Europe) I caught up to speed on the situation in Paris and prayed for those affected. It was amazing how quickly social media sites responded and stories of bravery surfaced. I remember one of Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore sheltering guests and it hit me that just a few weeks ago I had wandered through those very shelves that protected people now.

My train arrived and I was able to relax and refocus. I arrived in Munich just in time for my free walking tour.

I’m a big fan of these free walking tours, they’re such a great way to get a brief overview of the city and understand a bit about the city. After the tour I wandered around the Residenz a bit and the garden outside.

Late that night I was finally able to check in to my room, drop my backpack, and eat some much needed food.

Day 4:

Sunday! After wandering around for most of yesterday with my backpack I needed a little extra time to sleep in before heading back out to the city.

Once I was finally moving I headed to Dachau Concentration Camp. Seeing it in light of the recent attacks it was interesting to see how far we’ve come in some respects and how much we still have to go.

I reflected some on Dachau on the train ride back to Munich.. there was a lot to process. I’m glad I got an audio guide. Moving at my own speed is really important to me and I wouldn’t want a tour or travel companion causing me to rush in areas I wanted more time.

Back in Munich I got an early dinner and did a little more walking around the city. I chose to briefly visit the University area and check on a second-hand, English bookstore! I love finding bookstores in every city I visit and collecting books or bookmarks if my suitcase is already full.

Day 5:

Off to another day trip, this time – Neuschwanstein Castle! Getting to Fussen (the city closest to the castle), walking up to the castle, taking the tour, walking back, and taking the train back to Munich is a full day. It probably took 8 or 9 hours but I did enjoy seeing the castle and going on a little walk through the alps.

I realized that I preferred to view the castle from the outside on a walk instead of from the tour on the inside. Regardless, I would still recommend going on the tour through some of the rooms in the castle and having the history and symbolism explained.

Tired, I went to a grocery store in Munich and picked up food for dinner and snacks.

Day 6:

Last day in Munich and on this short trip. I was down to just 5€ left and I was determined not to withdraw any more money since I was leaving later that day. I ended up getting a cappuccino and bagel for breakfast and hoped that, and the granola bar I got the previous night, would be enough to keep me full until I got back to Prague around 4pm.

Somehow I made it back to Prague without dying of hunger, though the first thing I did after getting back to my dorms was buy groceries.

Overall, Southern Germany is beautiful, the people are so welcoming, and I loved my time there! I’m glad that I went alone because there were several days that I moved way slower than usual and I wouldn’t want someone waiting on me. Conversely, there were several times that I moved incredibly quickly or skipped things that I didn’t feel like seeing and I wouldn’t have done that if I was traveling with someone.

All in all, a very successful and fun trip!

6 Days in Southern Germany – Part 1

Day 1:

After finishing my afternoon classes on Thursday I hopped on a bus headed for Germany! Only a few hours later I got off in the town of Regensburg – a small town along the Danube river where I planned on spending a day.

I checked in with were I would be staying and headed back out to wander the city a little and find some dinner. Sadly, most of the good restaurants were filled with other diners so I settled for a kabob. Each kabob I’ve had varies by country to country so, in a way, I think kabobs are a decent way to understand the flavor of a town or region.

After a long day of classes, travel, and wandering I fell asleep as soon as I returned to my room.

Day 2:

I hit the town bright and early Friday morning. There are 2 reasons I wanted to visit Regensburg: the town and the river.

First, the town. Due to being right along the Danube river and essential for trade routes, Regensburg became a significant economic powerhouse in the Medieval Ages and at one time being a free imperial city minting their own currency. Later it was the capital of the Bavarian region due to being the cultural and economic center of what is now southern Germany. Recently, the town center was marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The river… the Danube river is one of my all time favorite rivers! During much of the Roman Empire it was the de-facto border between Roman troops and the Germanic and Slavic tribes. Later it also became the main highway for trade connecting major settlements together. By many it’s considered to be the heart of Europe and runs through 10 countries and 4 capital cities (Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade). It formed empires and connected lands and people that would normally never have such a direct link otherwise.

I’ve technically seen it in Vienna and again in Budapest but I never felt like I really was able to experience the river. Modern Regensburg is sprawled across both banks of the river and along three islands making is an ideal place to sit and appreciate the water.

Spurned onward by that bit of history and my nerdy love of this river I was excited to start the morning by taking a long walk along both river banks and along the islands. The morning was a little cold and foggy but I was not deterred and appreciated every minute of it.

I finished by long walk – more of an excavation – around lunch time so I stopped at a relatively touristy restaurant that’s credited as the first fast-food restaurant… ever. Their specialty? A roll with two brat, the best mustard you’ve ever had, and sauerkraut. I had 2.

Re-energized, I headed over the St. Peter’s cathedral and appreciated the mostly original stain glass and arched ceilings.

I spent the rest of the day walking through the Medieval part of the city exploring little shops and odd alleyways so narrow I could barely walk through with my bag!

I closed the day with a typical Bavarian meal and a beer sampler which taught me that I’m not a huge fan of wheat beers.

 

 

Budapest

Personally, Budapest was one of the highest ranked cities on my personal list of places to visit before coming to Europe mainly because of all the years of history neatly built into the city. It’s perfectly positioned on the Danube River which means that people have been living there for thousands of years – the first documented settlement dates back to Celtic times.

My short few days in the city were not enough to see it all and, unfortunately for the little historian inside of me, I wasn’t able to plan it or take the people in my large group (think 22 people wandering around the city) to some of the historical site I wanted to see, I’ll have to save it for the next time I’m in Budapest.

What we did get to see and spend time around included….

  • The Jewish District
  • The Great Synagogue
  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  • Andrassy Avenue
  • Stephan’s Basilica
  • Chain Bridge
  • Hungarian Parliament
  • Buda Castle
  • Fisherman’s Bastion

All in all, it was a good trip but since we were in a large group we moved very slowly but it was nice to take our time at each place.

While there, we were able to do a night club/pub crawl through the Jewish District and I was blown away at how the streets come to life – it’s interesting to see the city during the day and night.

Also, during this trip I was shocked at how many homeless and displaced people we saw during our stay. There were people posted at all the major metro stations and gates making sure that everyone was buying tickets and that nothing was happening that wasn’t supposed to happen. The impact of the refuge crisis is still seen in the city. That said, I never felt unsafe during my entire time in the city.

I did listen to “Budapest” by George Ezra several times before arriving in the city and the entire time I was there I couldn’t get the song out of my mind. It’s been running on-loop ever since and I don’t know if I can ever listen to it again!

Toulouse + a short time in Paris

This weekend was more relaxing than most; instead of running around a city trying to cram as much in as possible I was able to spend a relatively quiet weekend with a friend, Camille, in Toulouse.

Toulouse isn’t a city that would regularly be on my travel bucket list but it’s the fourth largest city in France and whenever I mention to one of my French classmates that I know someone in the city I can see their opinion of me rise just a bit and respect grow.

Toulouse isn’t what I think of as a tourist town – there’s a few cathedrals, some museums, and some good shopping but if you were to pull up the Toulouse Wikipedia page and search for the word “tour” or “tourism” you probably wouldn’t find much, which is fine when your main purpose to visit a place isn’t to be a tourist.

I arrived after a short layover in Brussels (3 hours short, enough time to get sick of their airport but still pick up some chocolates) and met up with Camille by baggage claim.

We took the tram to her apartment and then headed back out for some food.

The weekend was rather uneventful so I’ve decided to compile a list with the highlights:

  1. There is a restaurant that makes a great hamburger.
  2. The two rules I perceived of rugby: always pass backwards and the French team has to lose miserably.
  3. While I always find a bookstore in every city few are so large they take up 3 different buildings on the same street.
  4. Whenever you try to make a recipe you found on Facebook or Pinterest it never comes out as it should have.
  5. Sometimes, lazy and cloudy Sundays are the best Sundays.
  6. Overnight trains are not for sleeping – they are for listening to every history podcast you downloaded beforehand.

Adding to that last point a bit, I took an overnight train from Toulouse to Paris and spent a day (a whopping 7 hours) wandering the city. I couldn’t find a cheap or relatively short flight out of Toulouse and opted to take a train to Paris then fly out from there.

Paris is nice. It’s pretty and there’s a lot there to see and do. 7 hours clearly wasn’t enough but I felt like I understand now what I want to see when I go back.

Plus, I was able to have breakfast in front of the Eiffel Tower with no one there – that overnight train arrived at 7am so I had the run of the city for a while before the tourists showed up. Also was able to wander around the grounds of the Louvre, take a short walking tour of some of the city center, and see Notre-Dame. I ended the day going from bookstore to bookstore and eating a nice meal before heading to Orly for my flight back to Prague!

You may note that this post doesn’t have any pictures. That is due to the fact my phone was stolen in Krakow and I don’t have a camera so until my new/old phone arrives these posts might lack visuals – please don’t blame me, blame whoever decided to take my phone!