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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 37, 38, 39, 40- March 25-28 First stop on the big trip...Barcelona

Day 37
After a bus from Vienna to Bratislava, then a flight from Bratislava to Gerona, and then another bus from Gerona to Barcelona, we are finally there!!!! Finally on my trip!! We walk around for a while trying to find our hostel, which is located right on the beach, winding through narrow streets with clothes and plants hanging from the balconies. This is it. This is Spain. Pretty sweet. So we check in, go and get some dinner at a restaurant, and then......... go to bed. haha. it was 11:30 and it was a long day of traveling. We have three full days so it wasn't a big deal.

Day 38

Ben and I wake up around 8:15 and go and eat breakfast, overlooking the sunrise over the Mediterranean. We are off to explore Barcelona. We start with the old part of town. Winding through its narrow streets, going into little shops, and soaking in the fast paced life of Barcelona. After this exploring we go to a hill on the outskirts of town. We climbed that and went to an old palace which was now a museum. Looked at the gardens with its waterfalls, then went to an old village. This isn't actually an old village. It was built in the 20's for a World Fair that was made to resemble different architecture throughout the country of Spain. It was probably 3 to 6 acres of really cool architecture. Very interesting. After that we walked back down the hill, went to the hostel to take a nap, and got ready to go out with one of Ben's friends that was currently living in Barcelona. We went to a small bar, ordered a pitcher of mojito for each of us, and had a great time in the upstairs of that bar. After that we tried to go to another bar, but it was closed so we just went home and slept.

Day 39-Gaudi Day

We wake up, get breakfast, and head out to see some amazing architecture by Gaudi. First we go and see Sangrada Familia, the church he started, but never finished and is still being built today. It is the most eclectic church I have ever seen. So many things going on you don’t even know where to start. It was really cool. The amount of detail and planning that went into building this church is unimaginable. After taking some pictures there we head to see a couple of the houses he made. They were really expensive to go into, but we saw the outside at least. Then we went to a supermarket, got some food for lunch and went to the park Gaudi designed. After walking through some forested areas, we reach a bridge that Gaudi made. It is so hard to explain this bridge. It looked like something from Lord of the Rings. You will just have to look it up for yourself readers, but it was AMAZING. We ate lunch here looking over Barcelona, then went to a plaza he made that was full of people selling things, musicians, and people just having a good time. After that we looked at a couple more buildings he made and climbed to a peak of the park and got a great view of the city down below. That night we went out with Ben’s friend again and went to a large bar, which reminded me of the place I went to in Salzburg, but Spanish instead of German. Anyway after a few beers, a kebab, we went and got a couple more beers at an illegal bar. Since the bars all close at 2, we had to go to one, that you had to knock on the metal door; they open a slit and then let you in. It was interesting. After that we went home and went to sleep.

Day 40

Today we went up to Mont Juic again, this time to see the Castle and the Olympic stadium. We climbed up the hill and made our way to the castle. There was a concert inside the main walls. We think it was to raise money for Chile, but we weren’t sure. Either way we explore the castle watch the concert for a while, then look at some of the Olympic things. After this we went back to the hostel and slept on the beach a little. It was a long day and night the day before. That night we went and looked at a building that they have lit up blue and red, took some pictures, then walked to the Sagrada Familia, took some pictures and then went to sleep. Tomorrow we leave for Valencia. I can’t wait!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 36-March 24-Good-Bye Vienna, I Hardly Knew You

Well it has been over a month now that I have been in the beautiful city of Vienna. Now it is time for me to leave it behind. Not for good, but only for a good time. I am leaving tomorrow morning for Barcelona, spending a 14 days in Spain, 10 days in France, and 10 days in Morroco. A total of 34 days, traveling, living out of my backpack. This is it. Well kind of. After I get back I will stay around for a week, then I will head to Scotland for 9 days. Then I will be back for about 4 days and I will fly to Norway for a long weekend, to see the fjords. Then it is down to business for a little over three weeks. I have a quite a few classes in that time. I might go to Prague for a couple of days, maybe Innsbruck, but nothing big. Then I am done June 17th and off to the Tour Du Mont. I might have to schedule some exams for after I get back, but probably only one. Anyway, I will spend 8 days hiking through some of the most beautiful countryside of Italy, Switzerland, and France. Then off to London to pick up Whitney, look at some sites and then back to Vienna, maybe take an exam if I need to, but mostly spend every waking moment with Whitney catching up. Then my parents get here. I will then travel by RV, through Austria, Germany, a little bit of Switzerland, and a little bit of France, only to end in Venice, where my parents will go home and Whitney and I will continue, down the boot of Italy, across to Montenegro, then down Greece ending in Santorini. Then back to home for about a week, then back to Purdue. Sounds long and crazy. I KNOW. It is going to be quite an experience, but I think I will want to just stay home for a while after words.......maybe not though. Some of you might be asking how I have SO much time here. I ask myself that sometimes too. I just got done with two out of my 9 classes I am taking here. I am taking the equivalent of 13 Purdue credit hours, but they have blocked classes, and after some hard research and scheduling I got my semester to have A LOT of free time. On top of that the classes here, the ones I have taken at least, are VERY easy. I just took a final for my first class. It consisted of 3 questions and I finished it in less than ten minutes. I did study a lot for it, but still. It's nice, to say the least. So ya, this is my next few months. I am going to see and experience more in these few months than I have probably in my entire life. It is going to be amazing, but I am still a little nervous about it. I miss home, my family, my friends, my dog, and mostly Whitney. On Monday it will be four years since we started dating. It sucks I will not be around to be there for that. It sucks I can't take Jacobi hunting, or to hunt tests, even though he always just messes around at those and doesn't hunt. It sucks I can't talk like Joe with my dad and just goof around with him, or go skiing with my mom this summer. These are all things that I miss. A lot. But I just have to keep moving so I don't think about it. I just can't wait for Whitney and my parents to come over and travel with me. As Christopher McCandless wrote in his book as he was dying in a bus in the middle of Alaska "Happiness only real when shared.". Now I am not trying to be dramatic with the whole dying thing, but I think that line was the most important line in his amazing life. He just trekked around meeting a lot of people and seeing a lot of things, but could never make a real bond with anyone. I sometimes think that I want do that, but there is no way I could. I want Whitney here, to share my experiences with. Someone to hug, hold, and kiss. Either way that is what is on my mind tonight. Tomorrow I will be to busy to think about it. I thought it would be good to let people see this side of it too. I want to do research in remote places in the future. The Andes, The Himalayas, but I want to have my family with me when I do this. I have to have someone to share my happiness with. OK so enough of this. I miss everybody, and I hope everything is going well in their lives without me. I am off to start the biggest adventure of my life so far, maybe the biggest one ever, who knows. I doubt it. haha. Hasta la vista.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Days 24, 25 and 26 March 12-14 Hungry for Hungary, BUDAPEST

Day 24

Almost a month in to my trip now. It is crazy how at home I am beginning to feel here. We went to Budapest this weekend and when we got back it felt so nice to hear german again and to recognize the street names. It is weird how fast one can adjust to a completely different lifestyle. Coming from a farm in the middle of nowhere to going to the middle of a large european city, with people from different cultures all around you all the time, and feeling at home. It is good. Anyway on to Budapest. We got on a bus, my first trip outside of Austria, I'm getting to be a big boy now. After a 3 and a half hour bus ride we arrive in Budapest, at 7:30pm. A soccer game had just gotten let out a bit before we got there and it really looked like a war zone. There was trash everywhere, police with riot shields patrolling the area, and it was just dark and grungy looking. Not a good way to start the trip. Anyway we got a train pass and went to go find a hostel. OOOOO wait let me back up. So you all remember Sam right? The one who broke both of her arms. Yeah she forgot her passport and they wouldn't let her on the bus with us, so she went back to get her passport and took a train and was going to call us when she got there. So now we try to go find our hostel. We try to call the hostel and realize our Austrian phones don't work in Budapest. Then we realize there is no way we are going to be able to get a hold of Sam. GREAT. A young Australian girl, coming in at about 9 o'clock, in a not incredibly safe city, after a big soccer game just got over, BY HERSELF, with no idea where to go. Good situation. So we go to the first hostel that we were planning on staying at and they are booked for the night and can't take 11 people. They call around and find one that is a few blocks down that we get in to. So we walk down the street, look around, and can't find this place at all. Nowhere to be found. We walk back and forth on this street for a while and finally see the number that it is. At this really old run down door. We think "this can't be it", so we walk around a bit more, but nothing, so we go back to the door and look at the little names of the people who live behind it and sure enough, Big Fish Hostel was on the list. So we ring them and they buzz us in. WE go up some old grungy stairs and I am thinking to myself that this is going to be a pretty shaty place. But when they opened the door it was actually very nice and clean. With two sleeping rooms, three bathrooms, and a kitchen. WE got settled in and went to go try and find Sam. As we are walking out the door we see Sam walk by the window. WHAT?!?!?! This girl is amazing. Here is her story. She got off the train and realized there was no reception. SOOO she found an internet cafe and found a conversation Ben and Vanessa were having about the place we were staying on Facebook. So she got the name of the place and got in a taxi and had him take her there. She asked the lady if a large group of english speaking people came in and she said no. Then as she was leaving, she said o wait a minute yes, they are at Big Fish now. So she went off to find us and was walking by looking for this place as we were walking out the door. For a girl with such bad luck, she seems to have the best bad luck you can get. Either way, it was a relief to have her back and know she was safe. So now we got ready to go out. We went to a bar called Szimpla, which was amazing it was just an old courtyard with little rooms on the side and they had these giant flame heater to heat it. The atmosphere was just really cool. After a few beers, a couple shots, and some great times, we go home and go to bed.

DAY 25

We get up and go to get some breakfast, but it was weird, because Budapest is mainly fast food. It felt like America. I didn't like it. We ate at Burger King and then started walking around the city. We found some cool churches and government buildings, then climbed a hill with an old World War II barricade on top. We looked around took some pictures and then came back down. Grabbed some chinese, at another none hungarian restaurant and went back for a nap before we went out again. We went back to Szimpla, I had a couple beers, but my stomach was hurting from something, so I went back and went to bed, but Ruth, a girl from Canada, rolled her ankle really badly and they had to carry her home on there backs. It was apparently a funny walk home.

DAY 26

HOT SPRINGS!!!!!!!!! So we went to the hot springs, the entire reason we came to Budapest. We got there and got into our bathing suits and headed in, to be very disappointed. It was like an old health spa back home, with fat guys, and it reeked of sulfur. But then we realized we were in the wrong place. So we walked around a little bit and found our way outside, to the coolest pool I have ever seen. Three of them. All at around 100 Degrees. It was SO much fun. They also had a circular pool with jets that made a really strong current that you could get into and go around. We had such a good time. after staying there for a couple of hours and getting into some very nice saunas, it was time to go home. So we got to the bus station went home and went to bed. I would recommend Budapest, but really only for the hot springs. The rest of the city is nice, but nothing spectacular. Now I have to start planning for my month long trip. CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 18- Skiing in the Alps March 6

So the Australians, Ben, and I decided to go skiing/snowboarding a couple hours south of Vienna. After getting packed and leaving my flat at 4:30 we get on the train and off we go. My first real European train ride. It was quite amazing watching the sunrise while we were weaving in and out of valleys with beautiful little towns, and mountains at their front door. It still amazes me how people live in places like this. I would just wake up every morning thinking how lucky of a person I was, while they get up and just go on their daily routine like they down live in a garden of eden. Either way it was an amazing view. We got to the end of the train ride and found the bus that would take us to the mountain. Well after a while we found the bus. It was a bit of an adventure in itself. We got to the slopes rented our gear and we were off. after a long ride on the ski lift we were half way up the mountain. Half way up and there was a spectacular view of the village down below and the mountains in the background. I took a few pictures and started to ski. After a few practice runs It was time to head to the top of the mountain, by this time it had started snowing so by the time we got up there the view of the whole area was crap. It kinda sucked, but at least I got some pictures half way up. we skied for a while, stopped and helped a couple of the Australians, who had never boarded before, skied some more, and so on and so forth. It was a great day, with skiing, eating in a restaurant high in the mountains, falling a few times in the terrain park, and having a good time with my great friends. At the end of the day we met up in the cafe at the bottom of the hill,only to realize we were missing two girls. One who had never boarded and the other who was trying to teach her. We called their phones and no one answered. Then a few minutes later we got a call back, telling us that Sam, the one who had never done this before had fallen and broken both of her arms. This was bad news, bad news bears. So we wait for her to get out of the hospital. She gets back with two arms, with fractures just above the wrists, two casts that she has to keep on for 4 weeks. She said it really didn't hurt, I think she was lying. Either way we hopped back on the train went home, took a shower, ate, and went straight to bed. GOOD DAY. VERY GOOD DAY.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 15- Sunrise Over Vienna March 3

After exploring an old, maybe abandoned castle, that overlooks the city of Vienna and the Danube River on monday with Addison and Ben. Ben and I decided we should go back up there and watch the sunrise. It is the best view of the city I have found, with small towns below dotted between fields and fields of Vineyards. After talking to some other international students about it on monday night Vanessa and Sam, two girls from Australia, decided they would go with us. I looked up if the bus would take us up, but it didn't start running until 6:10, when the sunrise was at 6:34. So I found a bus that at least would take us to the bottom of the hill, but we had to climb the rest of the way up. So i told the group that we would have to leave our place at 5:00. They were still in, but I promised them breakfast too. SO.. I made some sausage and potatoes and Vanessa got some eggs. I also brought some apple strudel, orange juice, and some mandarins. After making the potatoes and sausage and putting it in the the fridge, I packed my backpack with pans, cups, forks, and all the essential eating supplies. I woke up at 4:30 and finished packing and got dressed. I went down and got Ben and now it was time to see if the girls made it. 5 comes around and they call Ben's number. They had been walking for 45 minutes, because they couldn't find a bus that was running that early, they were lost. But the good news was they were only 2 blocks down. I run down and get them and we are off. 10 minutes late but we are off. After a 30 minute bus ride and switching buses once we get there, but the sky is light and we still have to hike up to the top. It is a long hike, up some VERY steep inclines. I hiked the Grand Canyon and never hiked anything this steep. It was tuff, butt we had to hurry. So off we went. Pushing hard trying to beat the suns crest. Half way up se stop for a break and take a few pictures. Then we are off again. The girls did really well, even though they were wearing chucks and something looking like UGG boots. I was impressed. We can see the castle now. Maybe 2 more minutes. We start to walk faster when Sam yells "There it is!!" I turn around and see the tip of the sun coming up. We start to sprint. We get up there, get our cameras out and start taking shots. After the main part of the sunrise was over I start cooking our eggs and getting all of the other things out. We eat our food, while dangling our feet over an ancient castle wall, watching the sunrise over towns, vineyards, the river, and Vienna. An amazing experience to say the least. It was like we were the only people in the world at that moment. After finishing our breakfast and soaking everything up as much as we could, we start to hike down again on the other side of the hill we came up. We saw a herd of deer, which were much smaller than deer in America, some red squirrels, and some amazing views on our walk down through the woods, then the vineyards, and finally through Grinzing. We stopped there and went into a bakery to get pastries and coffee. I got juice, but eh. After that we went home an took naps. It was a really cool experience, with great views, and great people. I love doing things like that, that not many people have done. It was good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 10, 11, 12- Salzburg und Frankenmarkt- SCHNAPS!!!! February 26, 27, 28

Day 10- Schnaps

Addison, Ben, and I met Thomas at the Uni. at around 6 p.m and left for his house in Vienna to pick up his girlfriend. After the normal greetings and the here is my room, here is my kitchen, we were off. 3 hours later and some uncomfortable sleeping in a small Volkswagen Golf, we pull up to this large 3 story yellow house with a large barn connected to it. It was much bigger than I was expecting. I was anxious to see it in the morning in the day light. Instead we go in and meet the family. When I say family i mean it. With 4 sisters and 3 brothers, and some girlfriends over, it was quite a crowd. They were all very nice and welcoming. The mother was the best at english, and a couple of the sisters weren't bad either. The father spoke nein englisch. They had a huge platter of cold cuts, bread, and beer waiting for us. After a few beer and all of the meat was gone, they decided to bring out schnaps, plural. Clear schnaps, walnut schnaps, apricot schnaps, cherry schnaps, and my personal favorite, orange spice schnaps. It was quite and experience. The family made us feel right at home. I helped the youngest girl do her english homework and she helped me on my german. As the night went on the crowd dwindled down until it was the three american boys and three Austrian girls. One 14, one 16, and one 18. The 16 and 18 year old girls were the ones filling our schnaps glasses every time we turned our heads around for a second. Poof! They are magically full again. It was way to much schnaps. After a while the girls decided to make Eierspeis. Pretty much an omelet scrambled. Ben decided to go to bed while Addison and I stayed up and helped make this delicious 4 in the morning snack. After finishing the eggs, and a few more schnaps, it was time for us to go to sleep. Thank the lord. Those girls out drank us, hands down. It was terrible. We climbed to the third story and went to bed.

Day 11- The Alps, FINALLY!!

I woke up around 10:00 and went to the balcony outside our room, only to be blown away by the view. In there front yard you can see the Alps. It was gorgeous. In the summer it will be even better, because all of the grass fields will have grown up that surround the area. I can't imagine waking up to that view every morning for your whole life. It seems like that would ruin the true splendor of what the eyes can see. the other guys woke up and we went downstairs for some breakfast. Once again the table was FULL of food. Rolls, cold cuts, jam, honey, cereal, donuts, and yoghurt. All for us to eat. We filled up and then went on a tour of a few dairy farms in the region. First was Thomas' farm. with 20 cows. It was a typical small farm, with two barns and a dairy room. We walked around took pictures, looked at the silage they use for feed, then went inside for some pizza. More Food. After that we went to another medium sized farm. One of Thomas' friends. It had 50 cows. We walked around and met the family. Another large family in an even larger house. we walked around their farm, they asked Thomas questions, he translate and we answered and he translated, and visa versa. After that we went to the biggest farm in the area. It had three robotic milking arm, which I had never seen, and 200 milking cows. It was quite an operation they had there. So after all of our tours we went back to the house for some black cherry cake. MORE FOOD. Then we were off to Salzburg. After a 40 minute drive we were there. We walked down the river with a large church and castle in the backdrop and into the old part of town. After walking through some narrow streets we make it to a large courtyard in front of the castle, it was gorgeous, but we had to keep moving so that we could watch the sunset over the mountains from the view of the castle. We climb and climb some more, go through some ancient gates and finally get in through the walls of the castle, after walking through the once vibrant streets, we find an opening to the outer southern ledge. We walk out to see one of the most amazing views I have ever seen. Hundreds of mountain peaks with the sun setting over them. It was an amazing piece of paradise. I really didn't want to leave even after the sun had set behind the peaks, but it was off to drink some more beer. Of course. We go to a monastery whose basement, for those of you who know Purdue, reminded me a lot of the basement of the union. We get some giant porcelain mugs wash them off in a small fountain and get some beer directly out of a freshly tapped wooden keg. After that we go and get some traditional Austrian food and go and sit in the large dining hall, filled with people, mostly men, young and old. Thomas told us that these old men had been coming here since there fathers brought them at a young age. It was really a cool experience to be part of such camaraderie that had been going on for ages. After finishing our beer and food, we head to an Irish Pub that Thomas recommends. We get to this pub and i am amazed by the inside. It felt like we were in a cave. They had these massive boulders stacked on top of each other to support the roof. It was really cool. They had a live band playing and after a few more beers, some jager, and some conversations with some of Thomas' friends that met us there, it was time to go home. Thomas drove us home and got some more cold cuts out for us to eat. We sat around the table talking, laughing, and just having a great time. I called Whitney on skype, which I also did the night of Schnaps, and introduced her to everyone. It was nice to have her there for a while even if it was through the computer. After finishing up with our early morning snack we said our goodnights and went to bed.

Day 12- Feels Like Home

We woke up at 10:00 again and went downstairs for breakfast. Thomas, who slept at his girlfriends house, wasn't there yet, and the father was out with some friends, so it was just us three boys and the women of the house. It was so amazing how well we fit in already in that family. We watched some cartoons with the youngest girl, then ate breakfast with all of them telling stories and laughing. Then the father came in and we had the mom translate and he joined in on our stories. After breakfast. The second oldest daughter, who can play, saxophone, clarinet, guitar, piano, and accordion, played us songs on all of her instruments. It was a very good feeling sharing it with a family I had met only a day and a half earlier. One of the brothers also came in, but he didn't speak english either, but he still tried to join in to our conversations, and I believe he and I could be really good friends if there wasn't such a language barrier. Either way Thomas got there and we went out to go to a tour a few miles away from his house to get a good view of the area. After a small hike through spruce forests we reach an 8 story tower on the top of a hill, with an amazing view of the mountains and a large lake at the bottom of the mountains. WE take some good pictures and head for the lake. Now I have seen some pretty clear lakes in my times in Wisconsin, but they had nothing on this lake. It was as if I was looking into the water in a Caribbean island. It was so clear and turquoise it was unbelievable. Thomas told us we will come back when it is warmer and go swimming in this lake. He told us on the other side there is a very famous area, where the snow peaked mountains, drop off into a steep cliff and run straight into the water. This place will be amazing when I take my parents and Whitney there. I really can't wait. After our visit we head back home. This weekend was one I will never forget. It was amazing to feel so comfortable with a new family, who we can't communicate that well with. And the views were just as great. It was a special time.