Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter wonderland: GARMISCH!

The whirlwind continues.  I left Saarbrucken on the 27th, shared ride, headed to Munich.  From there I took the train to Garmisch.. Another step in the huge adventure.   Garmisch was great!!  It almost felt like home, despite the language and the German flair.  I went to my couch that I was going to be staying on, met Andy, my host, a guy from Latvia working as a ski instructor here in Garmisch, and then got in contact w/my cousin, Kathryn!  She had been there for the past two weeks  visiting her boyfriend who is living/working at the American resort, Edelweisse. 
It was excellent, where I was staying was just meters away from a bar they knew of.   So, Andy and I headed there to meet up, I was so psyched to see Kathryn in Germany!!!!!!!   A familiar face! Family!    On the way to the bar, I heard American being spoken behind us, and I could have sworn I heard my cousin, so, I stopped and waited for them to get closer, and said, “Kathryn?!”   Uhhh, here in Garmisch, I very soon learned, there are tons of Americans, and none of these girls who sounded exactly like Kathryn were her.  Went to the bar, and Kathryn and her bf, Marc showed up!! It was awesome to see her, we hung out for a bit, and planned to go skiing together the next day.
 Skiing reminds me of home.  No matter what mountain I’m on, I know what I’m doing, and it feels great.  The next day, bright and early, (this was actually the earliest I’ve woken up on my entire trip-the sun was not even up!)  7:30am, picked up Kathryn and Marc and headed to the Mnt.  Marc was great and hooked us up w/equipment and passes, amazing guy.  It was awesome, because Garmisch has some sort of American Army barracks and they have a specific American lodge, I was in a mini-America!! EVERYONE in there was American, it was actually really weird.  They even took American cash!  Hard cold American green.  Spent the entire morning going up and down the slopes on amazing snow.
going up the Gondola, first run of the day!!

Almost looks like Steamboat down in the valley!
 The crowds weren’t too bad and the snow was great, except for the giant sheets of ice you had to avoid in the center of some runs.  I love skiing.  I had forgotten how much I truly enjoy it, and I’m sure the fact that it brought up memories of my own mountain at home had something to do with it. 
We met up w/Andy for lunch- and planned to meet up after his next lesson. It was nice being able to ski w/ a local who knew the mountain, and showed us lots of good stuff, it was funny, he was really impressed by my technique, thank you, Dad!  I now know exactly what it’s like to be a tourist. You spend all day on the mountain, and by the end-entirely exhausted.   Needed a nap after that very long day.  Met up w/Kathryn and Marc for dinner at this cute little German place, it was awesome to hear consistent American English! 
That night, Gregor came down to meet up, and Kathryn and Marc were heading in, so Gregor, Andy and I checked out the nightlife of Garmisch.  Hahaha, it just so happened to be American night at this bar, Peaches!  They accepted American money for all drinks!  The bad part was, this bar was the kind of American bar that I avoid in the States.  We had a great time anyways. 
American breakfast the next morning of greasy cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon, with bread, bc they don’t do toast in Europe.  Another day up on the gorgeous mountain!!  I loved it, yet again.  A little sore from the day before, but would really feel it by the end of this day!  Gregor and I went up and explored the mountain, found some interesting runs and saw AMAZING views, as you would expect in the Alps.   We ended up doing a lot of hiking too, when we didn’t realize where we were going and ended up making to the highest point but once you got back down, you had to take a little hike out, or wait in a super long line for a short palma ride.  …We got our workout for the week. 

We were in the clouds!

I looked a little ridiculous due to the over-size snow clothes my couchsurfing host let me borrow, bc I didn't have any!

It was great skiing on a different mountain besides CO, and a lot bigger than anything found on the East coast.  One run we went down was the steepest run I think I’ve ever seen.  And standing at the top, it looked as though it went straight down, a little intimidating at first, until you plunged into your first turn, then all you had to do was hit the push piles and control your speed.  But, the greatest part about this run, was the second time we did it.  I had to take a picture, even though I knew it wouldn’t capture the steepness of the slope, but I’d try.  And Gregor was sitting in the snow, I said, “Smile!” and he said, “Hey, watch this!”  as he turned so that his head was facing down the drop off and began sliding, I think he imagined he’d slide a foot.  Well, it was a little more than a foot, “OhhhhHHHHH~H~HHH  AHHHHHH!!!!!“  his eyes got big and down he went!!! On his back, head first downhill!!  It was the funniest thing I think I’ve seen in a while, I TRIED to take a picture, but not sure if I’d gotten it.  He stopped at the bottom of the run and said, “Yeah, it was fun for the first five seconds!”    I laughed my ass off.  It was great. 
Down he goes.  (it was super steep, nearly straight down, check out the angle of the trees!)
yummy Speckknoedel Suppe
Long day of skiing, then met up w/Kathryn and did a bit of Christmas/souvenir shopping.  Went back to Andy’s after scouring the grocery for Kasespaetzle.  Which is a traditional Bavarian meal, but this was the pre-packaged, just throw in a skillet version.  Tasty, but I’m sure not very healthy!  
All of us at the end of a great time in Garmisch!
Kathryn and I said our goodbyes and Gregor and I are now on a train back to Munich, ready to leave for the Alps-a cabin somewhere 2hrs away from Munich- tomorrow morning to spend the next 2 days w/a bunch of friends and celebrate the new year! 
Whoopee!!  Happy New Year…almost!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Journey to a Home for Christmas/MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Ride from Czech Republic to Germany

From Prague, I took a shared ride with two very nice women to Nuremberg where I had to request an emergency couchsurf request to a group on the site.  I was happily welcomed by about five people!  I responded immediately responded to the first person to welcome me into their home on such short notice.  I met up with Peter at a cafe and we went to his place to prepare dinner, because another CSer was going to be joining us from Bolzano, Italy(she was really great, and now i have a connection in Bolzano!)  Peter invited over another friend of his who had a couchsurfer as well, from Spain.  We all had a delicious dinner together, and then to sleep!
Unexpected meal w/couchsurfers

First person on the train!

Train ride to Saarbrucken from Nuremberg

Caught my train the next day to Saarbrucken!  Everything went smoothly, got into Saarbrucken about 5pm, met up w/Gregor, got a tour of his hometown.  And that night him and his friends were having their yearly Christmas dinner.  It was great, I got to meet lots of people he grew up with, we had this Swiss dish, Raclette and all of this took place in the tower of their church!  After dinner, we all moved up to the top of the tower which was pretty much a bar/dance floor and seating around.  Haha, who would've expected this in a church?!
Dinner w/Gregor's friends
The crazy church

Christmas market in Saarbrucken


The next day we headed to a small village nearby where Gregor's parents live now.   It was amazing to be at a real home!  Even if it wasn't my own, I was welcomed as if it were!  Gregor's parents were super friendly, despite the fact that they didn't speak any English, and I no Polish.  Interesting combination, but we've been making due, with Gregor as my translator!
We decorated the tree!
Finally got the chance to relax.   It was amazing.  That night we went to Gregor's grandparents house for Christmas Eve dinner.  I was able to meet them and his brother and his girlfriend.  The meal was incredible.  SO MUCH POLISH FOOD!   Twelve dishes, no less.  Many foods I had never had before, all fish except the meat peirogis. It was all so good, and I made sure to capture every bit of the meal with a picture!  We ate the feast, followed by at least 3 different desserts and then on to the gift giving!  Gregor's family was so incredibly sweet, I even had gifts for me under the tree!  Definitely did not expect it.  That is one thing I have really noticed being in Germany, hospitality and consideration.  Everyone is so giving, during any meal, you always serve everyone else before yourself.  I feel like this is missing in the States, it's become too much about yourself and getting what you need before helping others.
Anyways, dinner was great, the company was amazing, even though I didn't understand more than half the conversation, I still had a great time.
Only the beginning: Peirogis

part of the family

Today: More food.
We eat so much, I'm not sure what I'll look like after this holiday is over, maybe about ten pounds heavier, but ten pounds happier too!  Woke up around noon, to be greeted with a table full of all kinds of stuff!  Breads, meats, sausages/keilbasa, a potato salad-like dish, jellied meat, a pate of some good.  And then to finish it off, chocolate cake with a sour cherry center and coffee, and polish cheesecake.  Oh man.  And now we are waiting for the goose to cook, and at 7 will have another feast...after a nap.
Our Christmas day feast!

the sausages...mmm

The delicious chocolate cake to finish it off!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Praha, and attempting to get to Saarbrucken for x-mas!

I've enjoyed Prague, small city, cute, beautiful architecture.   I'm couchsurfing here, which has been great, with some cool kids, haven't done all that much because I'm exhausted!  Erg, now I have to get somewhere else!  This whole travel business is wearing.  I'm not sure how much more I can take... I need to slow it down and relax for a bit!

On the Charles Bridge
The Czech Republic is interesting, similar to Germany, but very different.  The money for one, confuses me so much!! 25 Koruna=1 Euro.  Jeesh.  You spend hundreds all the time, but it's still really cheap, which is great!  After a mini tour of the city, my couchsurfing host took me to a traditional bar to meet up w/a friend of his.  The place reminded me of all those old Greek tavernas filled w/old people smoking their pipes and drinking beer.  But here, everyone goes to these smokey bar/restaurants.  We had soup and traditional Czech pickled cheese.
The pub/bar/restaurant typical in CR

Czech Pickled Cheese

Yes, I know, sounds very strange.  But it's pretty good! Pickled Bree! yum.  Also, all of this and 2 beers for only about 6 bucks!
Tomorrow, I'm off at 2pm to Nuremberg, spend thee night, then to Munich, and then-hopefully-to Saarbrucken for Christmas!! I hope I make it in time!

along the river

Berlin, you are pretty cool

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas is coming!!

Wow, first year in my life I will be spending Christmas without my family!! At least, though, I will be with someones family-Gregor!  It will be interesting seeing how German's/Polish celebrate the holidays!
I will miss you Mom, Dad, and Chrissy, but will be home in February, I think! (We'll celebrate then)

Leipzig ---> BERLIN

Leipzig-cool building

Court house

Other friend-Gregor
Spent my last day in Leipzig and found this little city to be really cool, met up w/a guy I met in NY and got an entirely different view of the city. One that included the court house and some other major architecture.

Then was supposed to catch a shared ride to Berlin, but they never showed, so, luckily was able to catch a cheap train that only took an hour instead of three!
Berlin was snowing like crazy!  Got into the central station and then took a bus to the place we were to couchsurf.  We were staying w/a guy from Tennessee, Connor, and his German girlfriend, Julia.  They were awesome, very welcoming, had a cute little apartment and I got to talk with another American!
That first night, we went out for Curry Wurst-very interesting Berlin invention-just a sausage with curry flavored ketchup and curry powder all over it. ... mmm ?  It wasn't so bad, a little strange tho, one was enough for me!
Took it easy that night and then the next day we got up at the crack of noon to sightsee!  Saw some of the big stuff...The Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building (home of the German Parliment), another  Christmas Market, and lots of the city!
I was so excited to check out Berlin, I had heard soo much about the culture and city and could not wait to experience it myself!
First day in Berlin!!!

The Brandenburg Gate- of course w/a Chrismas tree
Germany is all about Christmas!! Way more than the U.S., there are decorations everywhere!!

The Brandenburg Gate

Christmas Market!

The Holocaust Memorial
Oh, we HAD to check out the Ritter Sport Chocolate store, you got to create your own chocolate bar!!

Julia, Connor, and Gregor-after our meal of homemade lasagna!

A shrine to the Hasslehoff, "The Hoff"

Pretty awesome band in club Magnet

We spent the first night going out w/some British friend's of Connor's.
Berlin is sweet!  We went out to some bars and clubs our second night, kinda reminded me of Brooklyn in the hipster style but with foreign vibes.