Monday, April 18, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cinque Terre

Monterosso (the northernmost town)

Vernazza (the town where we stayed)

Boats on the Vernazza harbor

Cornliglia (from the hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia)


Riomaggiore (from Manarola)


European Lessons Learned: Part 1

Thing #1) Good customer service is not a priority in Prague. Especially in restaurants. (Note: This does not, however, apply to the Mosaic House. That place is awesome and everyone was quite friendly.)

Thing #2) The paper $50 Czech note is obsolete. Do not try to use it in a restaurant. Even if it is your first day in the country and you didn't know better. Even if it only became obsolete a week ago. If you do, in fact, try to use it, you might find out more about Thing #1.

Thing #3) There are many, many beautiful places to see in Europe.

Thing #4) Milan is not one of them. Especially the part by the train station at night. Or during the day for that matter.

Thing #5) Be sure to arrive in Vienna, Austria with Euro in hand. If not, you will have be able to find your way to the city center to change money, as apparently this is the only location in the entire city to do so.

Thing #6) European banks are never actually open.

Thing #7) If you are female and you would like to fit in, you should bring spandex pants. Lots and lots of them.

Thing #8) You might also want to sport a mullet. Especially in Prague.

Thing #9) When they tell you that a certain Cinque Terre hiking trail is closed to due landslide, they weren't actually kidding. You will, in fact, find a large, impassable landslide along the way. (However, you will also find one stretch of amazingly beautiful trail that is completely open in the process, which will make your efforts worth it anyway.)

Thing #10) They take security very seriously in the Amsterdam airport. Like ridiculously, irritatingly, very slow and inefficiently seriously.

Thing #11) You will have to repeatedly dump out your water bottles as part of the security process on the journey from Prague to Atlanta. Thing #10 will have something to do with this.

(Disclaimer: The "Part 1" title of this post does not actually guarantee that subsequent posts on the subject will actually ever occur.)

Back Home

I am back home in Loganville. Sorry that the blog posts did not continue - our internet opportunities were sparse for the rest of the trip. But, don't worry! I have lots more pictures to share! Approximately 818 in all, but since very few of you would actually be interested in every detail, I will stick to the highlights. Lots more posts to come!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

European Birthday Extravaganza - Days 2 and 3

We are having so much fun! Day 2 started with yummy breakfast at Mosaic House with AJ's friend David. From there, we headed out on a "free" walking tour of Prague. They make sure to tell you often that it is free, but they do appreciate tips in proportion to how good you feel the tour is. We hung in with our eclectic tour guide for about half of the tour before we decided to make a discrete exit in favor of finding some lunch. Lunch was a bit of an adventure…we'll just say that our waitress didn't exactly love us (we think it was because we ordered water and split a pizza). We paid our bill with a paper 50 Czech note, which had been given to us somewhere, but apparently became obsolete about a week ago. This added to her dislike for us. Fortunately, a friendly patron sitting nearby helped us out and we made a quick exit. From there, we continued our own tour up to the Prague Castle. This turned out to actually be a really beautiful old cathedral which looks down over much of the city. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the views were amazing. Prague is really a lovely city - you should come if you have the chance! We spent the evening with David and some of his family and friends at a party at his house. It was really fun to meet some really great people and find that the world really is small. The apartment had its own beautiful views of the city to enjoy from the roof as an added bonus.

This morning, on my 30th birthday, we got up early and ate breakfast before heading to the train station to catch a train to Vienna. After walking very quickly though the city with our packs and all of our things, we made it onto the train with about 3 minutes to spare. The train ride was super fun. It was my first ever train ride and the countryside was really pretty along the way. When we arrived in Vienna, though, we had our first we-are-American-girls-who-don't-know-the-language-and-don't-know-how-things-work-here moments. We got off the train and realized that we would need to find somewhere to exchange dollars into Euro in order to get a subway ticket (Czech Republic has their own currency, so we had only changed money into Czech at this point). We looked around and didn't find anywhere to change money, so we asked a couple of people and found out that there was, in fact, nowhere to do so without taking punblic transportation. Which, of course, we didn't have Euro to buy a ticket for... Luckily, I saw a Visa sign on the ticket machine, and we were able to use a credit card to buy the tickets. We thought that would be the end of our money problems, but we were wrong. Apparently, there is only one area of Vienna (the city center) where you can exchange money. Since we weren't near there and became tired of walking in circles with our heavy packs, we eventually opted for finding an ATM and paying the associated fees to draw money out in Euro. Whew... We checked into our hostel, which is a really cute, lively place called Hostel Ruthensteiner and then headed to the center to see some of the sites and find some food. As we walked around, it seemed as though we were walking in the middle of a bog American city like New York or Chicago. There were lots of big buildings and lots of fancy shopping. The only difference was the occasional castle or cathedral mixed in. I experienced schnitzel (the chicken variety) for lunch. I also had some very yummy Happy Birthday gelato! After my first day here in Vienna, I would say that I enjoyed Prague more, but we still have another day to explore Vienna yet, so we'll see!

overlooking Prague

in front of Prague Castle

on the train

Happy Birthday to me!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

European Birthday Extravaganza - Day 1

We're here! This morning my roommate AJ and I landed safely in Prague after an 8-ish hour overnight flight. We flew from Atlanta to NYC and then across the ocean directly to Prague. Our trip did get off to an interesting start though, when we were ready to leave from JFK and the pilot announced that the airport had been shut down to all flights. A little while later, he announced that we should all look to the right out of the plane windows to see why we had been delayed. I looked up to see Air Force One taxi by next to our plane. It seems that President Obama was also headed out of JFK at that time. Eventually, we did get to leave and our flight ended up being quicker than it was supposed to be, so we landed a little earlier than scheduled into Prague. We successfully navigated the public transit system to arrive at the hostel without incident. From there, we had lunch with AJ's friends who run the hostel where we are staying (which is amazing, by the way, and if you are ever in Prague you should check out the Mosaic House). Then we decided to walk down to one of the old cathedrals that has a park around it in a location where you can look down on much of the city. It is beautiful here! The buildings are amazing, and it is a really beautiful city. From there, we walked around a good bit more, found some yummy gelato, walked some more, saw the square, walked some more, and saw the Charles bridge before heading back to the hostel. We accidentally fell asleep for a little while before waking up to go find some dinner at a really cute place where we sat on the rooftop garden. And now we are back here to settle in for the night after a really great first day!

I wanted to share a couple of pictures, but discovered that I left the camera cord at home for the camera that we used today. So, you'll have to settle for a few that I stole from the internet of a couple of the sights from today:

What our room at Mosaic House looks like

Famous clock tower in Old Town Square

The Charles Bridge