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‘Europe 2012’ Category

  1. But Mummy….I like MUSHY peas!

    July 21, 2012 by Blake Knight

    Well, people.  Sorry for the long delay for the last installation in our European adventure blog post.  I am writing this from our new apartment in Santa Monica, which I will tell you about eventually – but not today!  Today you get to hear about our last few days of Europe.

    This is where we left off.

    After our busy day scuba diving and eating the entire contents of the ocean, we planned to relax for the next day.  First on our agenda was a trip up the mountain via cable car for what was promised to be “the best view in Dubrovnik” (by the end of the trip, we had basically seen the old town from essentially every angle humanly possible – there were a lot of “best views of Dubrovnik.”)  This mountain top was actually under siege during the 1990 war, when the Serbian army bombed down on Dubrovnik from up on the top before being forced down.  Our guide book assured us that the mountain had been declared “land mine free,” so we decided to risk the journey up AND ALSO to NOT stay on the marked paths.  We are such rebels.

    Blake is contemplatively taking his life into his own hands.

    As promised, the view was amazing.  We bought a couple of beers at the top of the mountain, and hung out up there for a while watching little tiny kayakers (tiny because we were up so high, not literally tiny) paddle their way around Lokrum, the closest island in the distance.

    Still being contemplative. But in a safe place.

    With no real plans on our agenda and no desire to go back to our hotel room (which might win an award for tiniest hotel room of all time), we decided that WE wanted to be one of the tiny kayakers and quickly found a “sunset” kayak tour to take.

    Kayaking always seems like a good idea until you are actually paddling those things around and your arms attempt a mutiny, leaving you to be a little armless worm-person.

    We left at 4:30 on the smooth side of the island (between the island and Dubrovnik) and were amused by a Scottish girl and Chilean guy fought non-stop, each paddling in different directions while barking instructions at one another in accented English.  These people had just met at the hostel they were both staying out, and I think my favorite type of fights to watch are those between two strangers.  The kayak tour began with a stop at a cave, where they gave us sub sandwiches (which surprisingly weren’t mushy.  Score!) and allowed us to swim and snorkel.

    After an hour or so, we continued our route towards the other side of the island.  At this point, our two guides announced, “If there is anyone who feels like they won’t be able to make it around the island, one of us is heading back now.  You can meet the rest of the group for the “wine sunset” at the shore.”  After staring bullets at the Scottish girl and Chilean guy who apparently didn’t not understand the concept of “paddling in the same direction” as well as a family of three in which only the dad seemed to be capable of paddling at all, the guide finally said (in an awesomely Croatian way), “Ok.  You two kayaks.  You can’t go.  You are bad.  Make it dangerous for everyone and slow us down.”  So we left them.  I felt a little bad, but mostly for myself.  I liked the two that continually argued.  It reminded me of a reality show. Paddling on the other side was hard.  The waves were big.  My arms are little.  But we made it!  So, I am counting it a success.

    YAY! My arms’ mutiny attempt was a FAILURE!

    After our wine sunset celebration (let’s be honest – it was a glass of wine in a plastic cup.  There was very little celebrating we were exhausted, so we went back to the world’s tiniest hotel room and slept for approximately one billion years. We had planned to wake up early the next day to walk the town walls before both the sun became unbearably shiny and the hoards of cruise ship tourist descended on the town.  But, that is not what happened.  Instead, we slept until 11:00, and started on the walk at approximately the hottest time humanly possible to be in a completely exposed, completely sunny wall.

    Luckily, there were no crowds of people.  No one but us would risk dying of heat exhaustion.

    A cruise ship. Coming to our little town to ruin EVERYTHING.

    After surveying the city from every possible angle and somehow making it around its entirety, we decided that we very much deserved at least 20 beers, so we headed back to our favorite bar stuck to the rocks of the ocean, Buza Bar, where several people were making the life threatening decision to jump off really high cliffs into the ocean below.  After a few beers, I decided to join them.  Although not from the tallest cliff, I am not THAT crazy.

    Imagine that’s me.

    Blake joined me after a little bit, and we discovered the awesomeness of swimming in the Adriatic.  I don’t know if it is a saltier ocean or what, but we figured out that you only had to kick your legs one time when you were breathing out to stay afloat.  It was awesome!  The laziest swimming ever!

    Blake “swimming.”

    We hung out in the water, turning into little prunes before heading back into town for EuroCup watching and preparing for our the next day’s trip to Mostar, Bosnia. It had always been on our agenda to go to Mostar while in Dubrovnik, but we had hoped to be able to share a private driver or a small tour rather than be one of my arch nemesi, giant tour group people.  It didn’t look that was going to be possible until the very last minute, when we booked a tour with a smaller agency who travels in 8 passenger vans rather than humongous busses.  When we met the van the next morning (early, so very early), I did about 15 happy dances to discover that there were only FOUR of us on the day’s tour.  Hooray!  Blake, myself, an Israeli guy named Edward, and our little bundle of Argentinian personality, Ana.  Ana was approximately 60 and had more energy in her little toe than I had in my entire body.  ME!  I have a lot energy!  She had about 8999990 times more!  It was AMAZING.

    Yes, she is wearing some sort of disposable hat contraption.

    Ana also spoke no English and only Spanish and Italian, which was helpful on a Bosnian tour through a Croatian company.  I have no idea what possessed her to sign of for a tour knowing she wouldn’t be able to understand any of it, but I don’t think many people understand Ana’s decisions.  She is a bundle of impulses. The 3 hour bus ride to Mostar was interrupted by three small stops.  The first one was to some Roman ruins in a town near Dubrovnik, which was mostly boring with the exception of Ana’s antics.  She ran around demanding, “FOTO!  FOTO!” and snapping pictures of Blake and I (it’s amusing to think of Blake and I featured in a stranger’s photo album), climbing on the ruins, and swinging on a conveniently placed swing set.  The next stop was to a town featuring ruins of an old mosque, which Ana, Edward, and I climbed to the top (Blake stayed at the bottom.  Like a chump).  I posed for more pictures, and we headed off to our third stop – a village that exists as a tourist destination thanks to some wily children who “saw” an “apparation” of the “Virgin Mary” (quotation marks on purpose).  The town is seriously one giant souvenir shop featuring anything humanly possible with a giant screen print of the Virgin Mary front and center.  As cheesy and fake as it seemed to me, old Edward asked to be left in the town and picked up on our way back through (completely missing Mostar) so he could make the super hot (it was SO HOT) hike up to “Apparation Hill” and pray.  So, I’m probably going to hell. It was only Blake, myself, and old Crazy Ana left for Mostar.

    Yup. Who knew Mostar looked like this!?!?

    The town had a large, diverse population, which had historically lived pretty peacefully before the wars in the 90’s.  The town consisted of Bosnians (Muslims), Serbians (Orthodox Catholics), and Croatians (Catholics), divided into two main areas by a river.  When the break-up of Yugoslavia happened, the Bosnians and Croatians fought the Serbians together – until one day when they decided to just start fighting one another (this is all paraphrasing).  The fighting was pretty horrific, so the town still has a lot of war-torn buildings and general atmosphere.

    This is only about 2 blocks off the main drag.

    Our guide took us through the “rougher” area and into the toursity center of town, featuring The Old Bridge (which had been destroyed during the war and rebuilt using the same technology (or rather lack of technology) as it had been built originally), an amazing market, and a mosque before leaving us for “free time!”

    I fit right in.

    Blake and I quickly found a place to eat some delicious little chavaps (like little sausages, roughly the size of your finger and stuffed with deliciousness) and then wandered through the rest of town, buying some souvenirs and tiny nectarines.

    Our journey back to Dubrovnik was mostly uneventful due to the fact that I slept the entire way.  I guess Blake will have to opine on any excitement that occurred.  We ate dinner at an AMAZING restaurant (I finally got some mussels!  It was a mission of mine after seeing one million mussel farms on the drive to Mostar) and packed up our stuff for our flight to London the next day. Our next morning, we found a place to eat an early lunch and sat right next to a hilarious British group consisting of two couples and their small children.  One of the children, a boy about 4 years old named Thomas, was hilariously precocious and weird – uttering the titular phrase “But Mummy!  I like MUSHY peas!” in an awesomely British accent upon being offered chick-peas.  I wanted to let him know that mushy peas are mostly disgusting, but I didn’t want to break his little mushy-pea-loving heart, so I stayed silent (although laughing hysterically.  It was funny.)  Our flight to London was pretty boring, and we checked into our hotel (Ramada!  Yeah!), ate dinner while watching more EuroCup, before going to sleep early. The next day (our last day overseas), we cried a few tears, got on a surprisingly tiny plane, and flew to Boston.  Our trip over.  It was sad.

    SOOOOOO SAAAAAAAAD

    But we were also excited to get out to LA (spoiler – it’s awesome) and start real life.  I guess this was our last long trip (although I said that last time, and look at us!)  I would highly recommend it to anyone.  Go.  For a long time.  Not for a short time.  It’s amazing.  Especially if you have someone amazing to go with.  I know.  Gag.  But it’s true! And on that note – THE END.

    Goodbye for now!


  2. Hrvatska = Croatia. Who knew.

    June 19, 2012 by Blake Knight

    Before boarding our overnight train to Split, we had about two and a half hours to kill in Zagreb. The sun was setting, so we stored our bags in a locker at the train station and headed out into town to see what we could see. As we neared the main square, we hear the recognizable thumping of Bon Jovi. No real surprise here as every freaking radio station, bar, band, or iPod seems to have 80’s and 90’s American rock playing, but this particular Bon has the reverb of a live band on a large stage. We turn the corner and BAM! We are smacked in the face with yet another festival going on, this one seeming to be for the EuroCup as hinted at by the large soccer balls, flat screen TVs, and Croatian banners.

    Every day we festival-in’

    We listened to the band play some Roy Orbison and Aretha Franklin, watched some footie, ate the Croatian version of funnel cake (seriously, it’s funnel cake, but in ball form.  And none of that wimpy “powdered” sugar stuff.  No sir.  These fried dough balls were covered with straight sugar.  Good for the diabetics among us) and did a quick spin around the square before heading back for to catch our train.

    Go Hrvatska!

    Funnel cake balls. All the funnel without the mess!

    And of course tons of meat options

    We arrived in Dubrovnik and caught a bus to Old Town (the original town within the city walls) where we were staying. While beautiful, it turns out to get most anywhere in there it is required to walk up at least 50 stairs. And of course to get to our apartment it was 67 (don’t worry, Kristi counted). Not too fun with our 40lb bags on our backs but we needed the workout after having nothing but pork and beer for the past few weeks. We parked our stuff and headed out to explore, passing tons of cats (there were hundreds of roaming cats throughout the city), somehow ending up at this amazing place called Buza Bar that sits just outside the wall on the rocks leading down to the Adriatic. I say somehow, but really we just followed a few hand painted signs that said “Cold Drinks.” Like moths to a flame. The view was amazing and we knew this would be a spot we would return to during our stay (a few times, it turns out). We ended the night with a local wine tasting at D’Vino, where we sampled three local red wines (one of which was described as “for the ladies” and accompanied with a wink) and ate a plate full of Dalmation Coast ham, sausages, and cheeses.

    Not a bad view

    The next day was June 13th. And if that date doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are obviously not in this marriage. That date officially marked our three year anniversary, and what better thing to do on your anniversary than sit on a secluded beach in Croatia and do absolutely nothing. And that is what we did.

    We read about a small secluded area called Saint Jacob’s beach that was about a 30 minute walk from Old Town near an old monastery.  We “decided” to take the long way, and found ourselves way above the beach near an abandoned hotel.  However, this particular abandoned hotel had beach access to St. Jacob’s beach, so we followed the pathway past the empty pool and haunted looking dining room and found ourselves at a small beach.  With sand(ish!) There were only a handful of people there coming and going throughout the day and there was even a little cabana where you could get food and beer. In other words, perfect.

    I went all the way to Croatia to find that flower.

    There is a beach back there…

    See! Beach!

    We (along with a group of English people sitting near us) also watched this guy try and try and try to do a back flip. It took him about an hour of this – plus some gentle making-fun-of-to-his-face by Kristi – to finally give up.

    We spent the whole day there before trekking back into town and heading for a celebration dinner at a fantastic seafood place called Restaro Dubrovnik.  Upon the waiter’s suggestion, Kristi ordered an entire sea bass – which turned out to be cooked in a salt block.  It was delivered to our table still its little salt coffin, and the waiter took a literal CHISEL and CHISELED that little beast out.  I on the other hand had monkfish medallions, sans chiseling. (I just did a Google image search for monkfish and, good lord, that is one ugly beast. One delightfully tasty ugly beast.) We also discovered the surprising deliciousness of strawberries, ice cream, and peppercorn.  Who knew?

    On that special day each year, we show our love for each other through proper posture.

    The next day was June 14th. And if that date doesn’t mean anything to you, then you obviously did not schedule a full day of scuba diving on that day. It had been three years since we had scuba’d (on our honeymoon in Anguilla) so we took a little refresher course in the morning. You know, so we wouldn’t die. The plan for the morning was to shore dive (with about 5 other people), do some refresher stuff under water, and then see a small cave in an ocean wall. We got through the refresher stuff, although a little rougher on me because my awesomely mannish beard kept ruining the seal on my goggles and they kept filling up with water (a foresight into the troubles of the afternoon dive). I had anticipated this being a problem and tried to do a quick trim the morning-of; the problem with that however is that I a) only remembered 5 minutes before we left and b) only had a straight razor, which is great for the removal of hair but very much not ideal for the shortening of hair. The result? Patchy-mustache-full-beard-Blake.  And that Blake apparently doesn’t enjoy scuba diving as much as the clean shaven Blake.

    Either way, we got through the refresher and were descending the wall to the top of the cave, when all the sudden our dive master shoots up and tells us all to follow him to the top (through angry motioning). Apparently one of group members – an older Swedish guy – decided it was time for him to surface for some reason and thus make us all have to surface. The dive master was mostly pissed at him for doing that (rightfully so), especially when we were so close to the entrance of the cave, and we ended up having to slowly make our way back to shore without seeing too much action. The entire group beforehand had talked about all going out for a boat dive later on that afternoon, but after that show the dive master told the Swede that for safety concerns he couldn’t come with us (Seriously, don’t mess with Croatians when it comes to safety.  Multiple times on this leg of our trip, we watched an inept tourist get told “No.  It is not safe for you.  You have no skill.  You stay behind.”  They do NOT mince words, that is for sure).  Bummer, but at least we were still able to go.

    There is nothing more sexy than a full body wetsuit.  Or that mustache.

    So after lunch we gathered back up, took the scariest boat ride ever out to a small remote island (scary in that it was very rough waters and we were all sitting on the edges of a small zodiac boat), and prepared for our second dive. Besides having one freak out moment by yours truly (the never ending water-filled goggle-beard battle under water got to me; but at least I didn’t surface and make us turn back), the dive was fantastic. We saw many starfish, a million little eels popping their eel-heads out, an octopus (kind of made me sad about eating his brother the day before), a creepy rock fish, and approximately 500 sea-cucumbers, went through a cave where we had to fit through tiny spots eventually coming out on the other side of the island, and ended in the “boat mish-mash.” During the recent war in Croatia, Dubrovnik was bombed and many ships were destroyed in the harbor, so they took them all out to a few spots around the islands and sunk them; now scuba-diving tourists can check them out on their excursions. They weren’t the large ships we saw in Anguilla, but they were still neat to see. The dive master took a lot of photos during the dive and we bought a CD with all of the pics, but this computer doesn’t have a disc drive so you will just have to wait to see the underwater action shots.

    This is not us, but this is probably what the pictures will look like once we download them.

    Oh, and the whole dive center loved Kristi. Mainly due to her not really showing any knowledge of how to set up her tank and equipment (she cut herself, she snapped her sunglasses in half when the tank made a loud popping noise, she put the vest on backwards) but showing everyone else up when it came to handling herself underwater. The dive master made comments about how he was worried about her at first, but that she does fantastic under water. He also said, in a thick Croatian accent, “She’s like a child!” adding “You know, in a good way.” when she would get excited about things such as getting in the backseat of a car. I know man. I know.

    That night we celebrated Patchy Beard and Child Diver with what turned out to be probably our top dinner all trip at a place called Lady Pipi. I could show you a picture of the fountain that gave the restaurant its name, but this is a family blog. There is nothing lost in the translation, so let your imagination take it from there. However, the food was amazing. We ordered the “seafood platter for two” and received a “seafood platter for a family of 4-6.”  Our plate came stacked with whole fish, tuna steaks, mussels, giant shrimps (that somehow had arms? Really, little arms were sticking out), octopus, and the most delicious squid you can imagine.  Oh, there were some vegetables in there too.  Everything was cooked in an outside oven on a vine-covered terrace.  Delicious.

    Footnote: I really wanted to call this post “Isn’t it Dubrovnik, Don’t You Think? I Little Tooooo Dubrovnik. And, Yeah, I Really Do Think.” But I wasn’t sure if the Alanis Morissette “Ironic” reference would take.

    Random Picture Alert!

    This was one of one million cats. And a guard cat at that!


  3. Slovenia, Home of All Things Beautiful (And One Really Annoying Girl, But She Doesn’t Really Count)

    June 16, 2012 by Kristi Knight

    Our train left the from the worst train station in all of Europe.  Seriously, we had a nine hour train ride ahead of us, so we planned to buy a couple of things to eat from the train station for the duration.  However, unless we wanted to eat some E. Coli kebabs or some sort of “pizza” that looked like what a pizza might look like if its parents were cousins, our choices were limited.  We settled for a couple of biscuits, diet cokes, and some ice cream bars.  Lunch/Dinner of champions right there.

    Just imagine various versions of this picture. For nine hours. With no food.

    The train ride itself started off uneventful.  With the exception of some train nerds who jumped out at every stop to take pictures of various trains, we rode in our own little cabin in peace.  However, when we crossed the border into Slovenia, it was like a volcano filled with beautifulness exploded all over the place.

    Yes, this is exactly what it looked like for the last 2 hours. A beautiful beauty-fest.

    Part of Slovenia is located in the “Julian Alps,” and the train ride to Ljubljana hugs the mountains.  Because of all the rain (sigh), everything was super green with low hanging fog and a river.  Thinking we might have entered an alternative universe, Blake and I stared out the window for the last 2 hours of the train.

    Blake pondering existence.

    However, we discovered we were still on Earth when we arrived in Ljubljana, and after a mostly uneventful trek to our hotel, we found a pizza place and proceeded to eat the entire large pie (I ate my half!  That’s unheard of!)

    Blake giving me the old, “I am so happy that I am about to eat this entire pizza. Oh. You’re there too? Well hi, Kristi” face

    Before this trip, I had not heard much about Slovenia, and that’s just craziness.  It feels sorta undiscovered, with a lack of giant tour groups chattering away and blocking your way towards everything.  Ljubljana has restaurants and umbrellas flanking a river that runs through town, and it is all very romantic.

    See! Romantic! Blake and I just started making out immediately (not true)

    Most riverside restaurants had the 2012 Euro Cup playing on giant tvs outside, so we found one near our hotel, bought some gelato, and watched the end of the match before heading back to our hotel.

    I was only paying attention 25% of the time. No surprise there.

    In Budapest, Blake and I discovered that the only real way to get from Ljubljana to Dubrovnik was via an overnight train.  We attempted to buy tickets online, but were thwarted at every turn.  However, after arriving in Slovenia, we tried at the train station and were able to get the sleeper car (Woo!  I have grown to love sleeper cars) fairly easily and were gearing up for a fight with our hotel about cancelling the last night’s reservation in Ljubljana.  BUT!  Despite the hotel attendant’s surly demeanor, we had no real problem.  Success!

    Because our time in Slovenia had been cut a little short, we decided to take a day trip to Lake Bled on our full day and spend the next day exploring Ljubljana before catching our train to Croatia.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is Lake Bled, international home of prettiness.

    Lake Bled was beyond beautiful.  We sauntered around the3.5 mile path around the lake at a leisurely one mile per hour pace (there were a LOT of pictures taken.)

    Seriously, we took approximately 70800000 pictures.

    Apparently the Junior Euro Rowing Championship was happening while we were there, so we spent some time watching some really fit teenagers row themselves across the lake.

    “That rowing sure looks difficult, I think I will just continue putting my entire upper body in the water.” – Swan

    We spent the time chanting “USA! USA! USA!” until we realized that the USA wasn’t competing (no we didn’t.)  Seriously, how does one get into rowing?  It looks so painful.  Plus, how do you not get motion sick, riding backwards the whole time?  The world wants to know.

    These are the fittest people you have ever seen. Have you ever tried a rowing machine?? Exactly.  PLUS!  They are immune to motion sickness.

    We finally reached little boats called pletnas that are similar to gondolas in Italy, if gondolas had about 18 people in each one (but still only one rower.)  Apparently all the pletnas on the lake are owned by one family who passes down the little boats from generation to generation.  At the end of each day, the boat rowers combine all their money into one pot and split it amongst the rest of the cartel.

    You spend the walk circling this island, so actually stepping foot on it becomes a necessity – boat rowing mafia be damned.

    Because Blake and I only comprise of 1/9 of the required boatload, we sat around and waited until a tour bus of Germans (much to Blake’s delight.  He LOVES Germans) emptied out into one of the pletnas, and Blake and I scooted on behind them.

    Our pletna rower. Dude had the strongest forearms the world has ever seen.

    The pletna took us to a teensy tinsy island with a church, a café, and some bathrooms.

    Oh and stairs. I had a one-man race to the top (Blake did NOT go when I yelled GO. Typical). It took me 30 seconds. I was very proud of that and then promptly fell over.

    We walked around for 30 minutes daring each other to jump in the water (neither of us did) before scooching back on the boat with our German friends and heading back.  We spent the rest of the boat ride attempting to decipher the German happening around us (Blake – “They said ‘five.’  They are definitely talking about the number ‘five.’”)

    Listening to Blake “translate” the Germans.

    After our little boating adventure, we decided to up the “life or death” ante, and found a ski lift and luge combination further down the path.

    Chair lifting our way to death.

    The top of the chair lift was beautiful and the luge ride was appropriately death-defying (Got to love getting instructions on how to accelerate and brake in another language.  It adds another whole level of risk).

    At the top!

     

    We lived!

    PLUS!  There were just some sheep hanging out on the luge ride’s path!  I wanted to hop out and pet them, but Blake assured me that was frowned upon.

    We finally reached the end of the path and found a lake-side restaurant to have some dinner (we were SO HUNGRY.  And by we, I mean the one of us who hadn’t been eating multiple Cliff’s bars because his “blood sugar is low.”  A likely excuse.)

    Basically our two favorite things – sitting near something pretty and drinking a beer.

    Our bus ride back to Ljubljana introduced us to the most annoying girl of all time.  We spent the majority of the ride eavesdropping on her conversation with her “boyfriend” (quote used because I am not sure he would agree with the “boyfriend” title), which wasn’t that necessary because she had apparently never been taught the difference between her inside voice and her outside voice.  This wonder of womanhood loved the following – talking in baby voice, eying me suspiciously while in the middle of making out with her “boyfriend,” repeating inane phrases like “I am SO happy!” and “I feel like we have gotten so much closer” and “Did you know Beyonce is part French?”, as well as turning COMPLETELY around (the better to stare at me) and make out with her “boyfriend” constantly – complete with “kissing” noises and much to his consternation.  Blake and I stared determinedly ahead for the 1.5 hour ride back and then made fun of her as soon as we exited the bus.  We still enjoy staring at one another and saying, “I am SO happy!” in a tiny baby voice from time to time.  Try it. It’s fun.

    We ate some more gelato back in town and watched some more Euro Cup before heading back up to our hotel.

    Our next day in Ljubljana was mostly uneventful.  They city is low key, so we walked around the square, found a market where we bought some strawberries, and took the funicular up to the (boring) castle.

    All those trees were blocking our view. How rude.

    After walking around for a while, we went back to the market and bought some cherries (from the most honest farmer of all time – not speaking the language, I handed him 4 euros [the cost of a kilo worth of cherries] and he filled the bag up.  He weighed it and then handed me half my money back – I would never have known the difference either way – the bag looked pretty full to me!)  We also found a vending machine where you could buy a plastic milk container and fill it with however much fresh, raw milk you wanted for only 1 euro for a liter.

    A vending machine just for milk?? Insanity! Also, notice my umbrella. Mr. Rain Cloud IS BACK!

    Curious, we tried out ½ a liter first, and after our initial taste went back and bought an entire other liter.  It was basically the best thing ever created in the entire world.

    Who knew this would be so delicious???

    We found a bench and dined on cherries and raw milk.

    Blake was LOVING this little snack.

    We’ll see what our stomachs have to say about this a little later, but our taste buds were happy.  Even more awesomely – I found a wool shop full of knitted socks, hats, scarves, sweaters, AND Slovenian wool/yarn!  I celebrated by buying some yarn (the best way to celebrate things, in my opinion).

    I AM SO HAPPY!

    Of course, it wouldn’t be this Europe trip without some rain, so we took refuge in a McDonald’s before finding an amazing restaurant (named As – this is important later) for dinner.   Our waiter suggested Blake order the burger, which was labeled as the “As Burger” in the menu (say it to yourself).  So Blake did.  He ordered an “ass burger.”  Luckily, our waiter was awesome and after laughing with me for a solid 30 seconds, he gently corrected Blake’s pronunciation.  Ace burger.  Not Ass burger.  Once that was settled, we ordered an amazing strawberry cake (Kristi – “When you say strawberry cake, what do you mean? “  Waiter – “Well.  Strawberries.  In Cake?  And on cake?  Strawberry cake.”) and ate ourselves silly.

    Yup. This is a strawberry cake.

    We are now on a train to Zagreb (after which we catch a train to Split and then bus to Dubrovnik, whew) and let me tell you – Slovenia is flaunting her beauty on the way out as well, that little minx.

    Oh, you are so foxy.

    And finally – random picture time:

    Identify the above: Artwork? Petrified turd? Giant penis?


  4. Come on, Pest!

    June 13, 2012 by Blake Knight

    We arrived in Budapest only two hours late after missing our first train, and after a little confusion trying to buy 72-hour metro passes (Really Budpest? You just put a guy out in front of your urine-smelling train stations with a sign that says “Tickets” and expect us to believe this guy is legit?) made it straight to our apartment.

    Despite the red carpet treatment at the train station, Budapest turns out to be a really cool town. Our landlady, Dora, could not have been more grandma-y and overly nice, and our apartment had all the luxuries we could have asked for (air conditioning and a washer WITH DRYER [sort of]). Starving, we headed out to explore our area which turned out to be a pretty cool part of town with some amazing food options. We ended up at a fairly nice restaurant eating traditional Hungarian cuisine: pork knuckle (me) and goose (Kristi), paired with some local wine.

    Still wanting to explore we took off and ended up crossing the awesome Liberty Bridge in to Buda and found ourselves in the biggest wind storm of our lives. Is wind storm a thing? There wasn’t rain, so I think that negates the storm part. Whatever. It was freaking windy.

    Wiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnndddd!!!

    Liberty Bridge

    The next morning we did a (surprise!) Rick Steves walking tour around Pest. The highlights of which included a Postal Museum (didn’t go in, but supposedly it is neat), the State Opera House (we will come back to this), old subways that were initially made for horses and buggies, Heroes’ Square, City Park, and,of course, we found a place called Sugar! that had superheroes everywhere (with great names like “Steve”) and also had a variety of rice puddings (!) and toppings to choose from – who has every heard of such a delicious thing!

    Just for Greg

    Heroes' Square

     

    There was also an awesome market

    Sugar!

    Hilarious super hero descriptions. Pretty sure something got lost in the translations. (Click to view larger)

    We also toured, my favorite, the House of Terror. This museum is located in a building that housed both the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (their Nazi special forces) and communist AVH (their Soviet KGB secret police), and was the site of many tortures and executions. The museum is wonderfully artfully done and drenches of doom and symbolism. It shows side-by-side stories of how the Hungarians were controlled by both extremist groups, blurring the lines (sometimes a little too much so) between what happened during both regimes. For example, one room is a locker room with two uniforms – Nazi and Soviet – spinning in a circle in the middle of the room with looping video of real soldiers when they took off the former and jumped right into the latter. We couldn’t take pictures in the museum, but I managed to sneak a few.

    DUM DUM DUMMMM

    Pig lard maze

    Hall of Lights

    That night we had made plans to meet up with Richie and Stefanie Auter (the Aggie friends) at their apartment and grab dinner. They met us with Palinka (at first I thought they said “Paul Anka” which was confusing but got me excited; who doesn’t like to start the night with “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”), which turns out to be a traditional shot akin to moonshine taken pretty much throughout dinner, and we headed to stuff ourselves full of goulash. Kristi and I also got in our dog fix by playing with their schnauzer and poodle. I think they were surprised when we wanted to go with them to walk the dogs to the park. We miss Porky and Chopper, and have been surprised by the amount of Yorkies we have seen this trip. No Chihuahuas though. Sorry, Chop.

    The next afternoon we met back up with Stefanie to tour the State Opera House. Apparently they modeled this after the one in Vienna but were directed to make it smaller – so instead they opted to make it nicer inside. I don’t know if I can attest to that, but the view from a box seat was amazing. We also got a little concert by one of the singers.

    State Opera House lobby

    After that long, exhausting tour (30 minutes) we decided we deserved a treat and needed to hit up the baths. Now, Kristi and I experienced the whole European bath thing last summer in Germany (albeit separately). She went to the nicer one and I went to the bigger one, both enjoyed it and both got a little out of our comfort zones (read: nude) but it was a fun experience. The most important thing is to know when going to some random European bath house is understanding what you are getting yourself in to before you go (read: nude or not). So we had done our homework and knew that the place we were going to, Széchenyi Thermal Bath (the largest medicinal bath in Europe), was 1) pretty much a large public pool with natural hot springs (same as the other baths we had been to) and 2) full of large Hungarians in speedos (at least here they had the speedos). Many people think all Europeans are skinny, tan people with a penchant for smoking. The second two are mostly true, but they are all definitely not skinny. Not by a long shot. However, they all love to act like it by lounging around in their super tan leathery skin in small bikini briefs while smoking and play chess. Ahh, culture. Speaking of culture, one small pool was full of large, old dudes in their speedos seemingly passed out belly-up with limbs outstretched in yellow-tinted water. They told us the color and smell (yes, smell) were from the sulphate of the natural hot springs. Whatever, man; we weren’t getting near that one.

    After few confusing minutes of making sure we were going to the right area of the bath (read: not nude) and trying to find where to rent towels, we finally were able to kick back and get in. Even with fountain streams pelting you in the head (we had to try it after seeing countless Hungarian chubbos standing there letting pressurized water hit them) and surprising jets that would appear out of nowhere, it was a fun, relaxing afternoon.

    Don't look too closely

    We then met up with Richie, who, like a sucker, had to work all day, at one of their favorite places reminding them of home – Arriba’s Taqueria. Don’t judge. It was one of the best dinners we’ve had, complete with Freebird’s style burritos, Negra Modelo, and liters of hot sauce. It was amazing.

    After spending the last two days in Pest, we decided to make it over to Buda to see what the other side of the Danube had to offer. We toured the castle, checked out Fisherman’s Bastion, did some park sitting, and walked along the river. I guess it is here that I should point out that historically Budapest has always been an attractor for mean people attacking and bombing it, so many of the sights are relatively new by European standards (but still old by American standards). But there was one year in particular that it seems 90% of the city was built for, and it was all for show. It was the Millennial Celebration in 1896. Every time we start to read about some castle or cool building or park, it all starts with “Built for the Millennial Celebration.” That must have been one heck of a year, and makes you wonder what was there before this big shindig. Apparently not much. (This also led us to wonder what ever happened to the World’s Fair. So many major landmarks – Eiffel Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle, and also the first hot dog, iced tea, Ferris Wheel, and ice cream cone – were all built specifically to show off how awesome each town was. It seems pretty cool, but what happened to it? Have we stopped building giant landmarks whose sole purpose is to show how great you are?)

    Overlooking Pest

    Fisherman's Bastion

    The Bastion Artified

    Did I forget to mention how stupid hot it was?

    We then made a bee line over to Pest to seek out some ex-socialist shoes we had read about. Back in the day, the only somewhat fashionable sneaker that people in Hungary could get their hands on were called Tisza Cipo. When the regime folded the market was flooded with Nike and Adidas, and nobody wanted the non-Western branded shoe anymore. In 2003, someone revived the brand to its former glory, being handmade and only available in limited runs in Hungary (or, if their web store is up [I haven’t seen it up yet], through their website with I’m assuming big time shipping to the US). And they look pretty awesome. So we went and each bought a pair as working souvenirs and to give our other shoes a break. If anyone wants to go into business to start bringing these kicks to the US, I want in on it.

    Being our last night in Budapest, we met up once again with Richie and Stefanie for dinner and drinks. They took us to a fantastic wine bar near St. Stephen’s Basilica for some local Hungarian wine, which turns out is great. And due to the lack of an open-container law you could buy a bottle, put a deposit down on some glasses, and head over to the church steps and soak the night in with lots of other locals. It was the perfect night to end our Budapest adventure, and a big shout out to the Auters for making us feel welcome and showing us around the local hot spots. And of course for the Mexican food.

    I think this is the only picture we got of all four of us

     Random last picture:

    This guy was passed out with backpack on and cell phone on the ground. At 9:30AM.


  5. Vienna, You Are The Best! Vikram, You Are The Worst!

    June 11, 2012 by Kristi Knight

    Our second night train was pretty much the same as the first.  You are mostly sleeping, but every stop is accompanied by the loud screeching of the brakes.  Basically, it’s the best sleep of your life.  Our train arrived at Vienna at 6:00 am.  We quickly found our hotel (it was attached to the mall which was attached to the train station), and I met my new sworn enemy – Vikram, the hotel night attendant (or as I later saw his actual title – “night audit.”)  In a word, Vikram sucked.  He took one look at our disheveled state (WE WERE ON A NIGHT TRAIN, JERK-FACE) and our giant backpacks and apparently put us squarely in the “vagabond” box.  Before we even had a chance to give our names for our reservations, he offered, “Sorry we are completely full for the night, reservations only.”  Taken aback, we explained to a much nicer hotel attendant that we did indeed have reservations, and Vikram offered only an impotent glare at our NOT VAGABOND selves.  (This is not the last we will see of Vikram.  Vikram, The Evil.)  Because it was so early, we were not able to check in, so we left our bags in the luggage room and set off to see Vienna.  Wearing the clothes we had worn to bed AND the day before.

    This is what Vienna looks like at 6:00 am - empty.

    The town was almost deserted, so we wandered down the main shopping boulevard, eventually finding our way to the Opera House.  We followed our way through yet ANOTHER Rick Steve’s walking tour, seeing the Café Sacher (home of the Sacher torte), the plague column, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the Palace grounds (among other things that I have already forgotten).

    St. Stephen's Cathedral and my friend - Mr. Rain Cloud

    We also discovered that apparently the city does not actually start bustling until 10:00am.  Important to know if you are like me, and try to kill tour groups using only your eyeballs.  My own personal rain cloud had a little delay in following us from Krakow, but by 9:00 it had found us and renewed its personal life goal to ruin our vacation.  Luckily, it was thwarted once again!  Ha!  We have umbrellas!

    Good try, Mr. Rain Cloud, but how could I not have fun in front of a carousel? It's impossible.

    There was some sort of festival happening around St. Stephen’s Cathedral with tons of little kiosks (but Medieval seeming, and therefore cooler) set up – selling everything from bratwurst and beer, wine, hand carved ornaments, to just about every other awesome thing on the sun.

    We seem to have missed the "poncho" memo.

    We stuck around, umbrellas in hand, to watch some poor unfortunate ensemble band play – dressed in (I assume) authentic Viennese costumes of some sort (there was definitely velvet) while being drenched in the rain.

    I am pretty sure these people were miserable.

    So we decided to head on into St. Stephen’s to avoid the fate of the band (water-soakness), and what did we inside? Some sort of awesome light show going on! We have no idea if the church is always like this or if it was just for some event going on, but they had covered up the stained glass windows with colored film so that the entire church was awash in splashes of color.

    Tie-dyed cathedral

    Eventually, we decided we were hungry and found our way to a suggested cafeteria thingy (official name) selling little finger sandwiches of indecipherable ingredients.  We pointed at about 12 and had ourselves a good old fashioned sandwich-off, of which the hard-boiled egg on top of some sort of pickle relish was declared the winner.

    We have no idea what we were eating. Except hard boiled egg. We could guess that much.

    Full of little ‘wiches we headed off to the Haus der Musik, an interactive music museum.  I am pretty sure this museum is aimed at the 10 – 12 year old set, but my husband is mostly a 12 year old so I had a feeling he would enjoy it (I had previously been to this museum in 2004 with my brother – another 12 year old at heart).  Turns out, I was right!  We spent most of the afternoon with Blake playing with all the various music exhibits (the museum takes you through a very scientific explanation of sound using little Children Museum type interactive displays)

    Blake is loving this way more than a 30 year old should.

    and making multiple “symphonies” using dice or the spelling of your name.

    Our AMAZING dice symphony

    We were finally able to check into our hotel at this point, so we made the 2.5km hike back to the hotel and were able to get keys to our room (NO VIKRAM IN SIGHT). We showered and took a nap before heading back to St. Stephen’s to have some of that delicious bratwurst, potatoes, and beer that we saw earlier (And cotton candy, OF COURSE.)

    Blake and beer - his favorite thing

     

    Kristi and cotton candy - her favorite thing. Don't worry, both a wily 2 year old and 60 year old grabbed for my cotton candy. Luckily I have cat like reflexes where cotton candy is concerned.

    After a few hours, we made our way back to the hotel and settled in for the best sleep of our life.

    Best sleep?  Yes, best sleep.  You see, this specific hotel was part of a German chain, similar to an upscale Holiday Inn.  Therefore, our hotel room’s window was on the 5th floor and opened up to a courtyard – NOT to a night-club.  We were also, for the first time ever, not surrounded by random hostels with guests on the street until 5:00 am.  MOST IMPORTANTLY!  We were not in the immediate vicinity of a European garbage truck, which I am convinced empty out the garbage each morning by picking up the canisters, and then FLINGING them around the alley way for a good 5 minutes before moving on to the next block.  Without these distractions, Blake and I (let’s not lie here, I am the only one of this twosome who would even stir if a garbage truck picked one of US up and flung US around the alley way) slept until the grand hour of 11:00.

    The nice hotel attendant (NOT VIKRAM) had told us about a laundry place down the street, and based on the smell of Blake’s back-pack – a visit was 100% necessary.  We found the place easily and settled in for a nice 2 hours of laundry (celebrating the soap smell the whole time – laundry done in the sink does not smell like soap.  It just smells a little less like sweat.)

    Hooray for soap!

    After that marathon, we walked back to the main part of town and toured the Hapsburg’s Imperial Apartments, the Silver Collection, and the Sisi Museum.  The tickets are sold as a group, and you are forced to tour the Silver Collection first.  Which, first of all, it’s not even silver!  It’s a bunch of plates!  SO MANY PLATES.  (Blake’s comment – “Have these people never heard of a garage sale??”)

    Is boredom properly reflected in our eyeballs? It should be.

    By the time you get to the actual Imperial Apartment, you are 75% Hapsburg-ed out.    Nonetheless, the apartments are fancy, as royal apartments are wont to be.

    Having our fill of history, we decided to instead partake in some culture – eating pastries and drinking wine (my kind of culture, right there).

    If I had to estimate the numerical level of deliciousness represented by this ice cream sundae, I would have to conservatively put it at one bagajillion million.

    We had already eaten delicious sundaes and apple strudels, and were heading out to start on the “wine” portion of our culture tour, when we ran into Raleigh and Rob – two of Blake’s friends from Vanderbilt. (Man, they are everywhere!)

    Not pictured - non-Vandy grads (Me!)

    After a mini-reunion, we made our way out of Vienne central and onto the hillside for some traditional wine gardens.  Vienna is known for these gardens, which sprung up during the Hapsburg rule because of a tax quirk allowing wineries to sell the most recent vintage tax free (apparently tax loopholes were invented along with fire.)  They are usually accompanied with a traditional buffet of random meats, cheeses, lards, and other such things sold by the weight.

    Yes, it is as idyllic as this picture looks.

    We settled into a table, ordered wine (by the ½ liter), and filled our plates with cheese and meats.  Eventually, a Viennese couple sat down next to us (Martin and Martina – easy to remember!), and we struck up a conversation.  They recommended several dinner places and traditional foods (brains, anyone?) before Blake and I eventually had our fill of wine and headed back down the hill.

    Friends everywhere!!

    It was back at the hotel that The Evil Vikram showed his face again.  This particular hotel had free wifi in the lobby only.  You had to pay one euro for wifi in your room.  As we went back to our hotel room, we realized that our lights were not working in our room and that we also needed to pay for wifi for that day.  Unfortunately for us, VIKRAM was working the counter.  Completely ignoring our first request (WORKING LIGHTS – JEEZ, MAN), he offered us wifi for the low price of five euros.  Confused, Blake informed him that NOT ONLY does our receipt from the previous day say one euro – their website actually says one euro for wifi as well.  BUT VIKRAM WILL NOT BE DENIED.  I am pretty sure the argument lasted 30 – 45 minutes, with other guests speaking up on our behalf.  He was only convinced AFTER the porter he sent up to check the lights in our room (he didn’t believe us) reported back that we were indeed light-less.  He offered us one euro wifi as an apology, completely ignoring Blake’s request for the possibility of moving rooms (this was not the first time this had happened – other hotel attendants OFFERED us new rooms.  But not Vikram.  Not Vikram at all.)

    The next day, we planned to go out to a pool Martin and Martina had recommended the night before, but my dear friend, Mr. Rain Cloud, ruined that plan and we started our day at Naschmarkt – walking through stall after stall of vegetables, fruits, hummus, and olives.

    Sometimes, we get so overwhelmed with choices - we end up with nothing. This was one of those times.

    It was raining again (of course), so we found a little covered restaurant, ate lunch, and planned the rest of the day.  We had bought combined tickets for Schonbrunn Palace, so we headed out that direction for more royal bedroom touring (in the rain) before heading back to our quiet, clean hotel (sans Vikram) for a nap/rain escaping.

    Sigh. Mr. Rain Cloud, what did I ever do to you? Why won't you leave me alone?

     

    On an unrelated note - I would like a bed this giant. I probably wouldn't even be able to hear Blake's snoring from my wing of the bed!

    We woke up with barely enough time to buy cheap, standing room early tickets for that night’s opera, Tosca.  Unfortunately for us, we were literally 1 minute after curtain rise, and tickets were sold out.  However, the ticket seller informed us that we could wait until the end of Act I and buy even CHEAPER standing room tickets at another counter.  We waited the 45 minutes at Starbucks and then SUCCESS!  We had tickets!

    Are you kidding me? I half expected people to be wearing powdered wigs (I was HOPING people would be wearing powdered wigs)

    We wandered around the opera house for a while, found some comfortable standing spots and watched the entirety of Act 2 (we only planned on staying for 10 minutes or so – it was that awesome – but not awesome enough to stay for the third act… somewhere in the middle of the two awesomes.)

    Just try not to start humming The Phantom of the Opera. It's impossible!

    We grabbed a delicious late dinner of Wiener Schnitzel and Spargle (asparagus) pasta, before heading to bed and preparing for our train to Budapest the next day.

    We had a little bit of time to kill before our 2:00 pm train, so we rode the awesome free bikes Vienna has on every street corner to phil, a fantastic coffee shop/book store.

    Please notice how high up this seat is. I barely reached the pedals.

     

    Of course Blake looks way cooler on his bike. WHY DOES HE ALWAYS DO THAT??

     

    This place is great. We also ordered a breakfast platter filled with enough food for the both of us for the day.

    We hung out there for awhile, before heading off early to our train (never too prepared).  We saw a train marked “Budapest” when we arrived, and like two big dummies – we boarded.  Despite the fact that our train was not scheduled to leave for another 20 minutes.  We quickly realized our mistake when this train started moving right along, with the next stop labeled “Salzburg.”  Apparently this train was LEAVING from Budapest.  Which means it was travelling West.  Not East.  And also, Salzburg is 3 hours away.  Luckily for us, this train stopped at another Vienna train station before heading into the countryside, so we took off in a dead sprint (or as much of a sprint as possible with giant back packs on) back to the subway, hoping we could still make our train.  We showed up at the correct train station and correct platform, huffing and puffing, just in time to see our train leave.  Sadly, our tickets were not transferrable, so we had to buy all new tickets for a train 2 hours later.  BUT WE WERE NOT TRICKED AGAIN and we were able to make it to Budapest.

    Good-bye, Vienna!

     

    I think I am just going to start adding random pictures to the bottom of all my posts.


  6. I mean Poles as in the people, not the object

    June 10, 2012 by Blake Knight

    Even though the train made multiple stops that always woke us up, the private cabin in the overnight train was definitely the way to go. Plus with an overnight train you basically get two extra full days in each town, as opposed to knocking out one whole day just traveling, AND don’t have to pay for a hotel room. We are definitely making a mental note of this for future vacations.

    That being said, we arrived in Krakow (or Cracow as they translate it in English) at 6AM and couldn’t meet the lady to let us into our apartment until 8. So we found a park nearby and watched the Polish people wake up and head to work.

    Sidebar: This trip we have opted for staying in apartments most of our trip. After doing much research on hotels, hostels, etc., we found that it is just as cheap, if not cheaper, to get a small apartment. We tested this theory last summer in Brussels and it worked out great. You get a full kitchen and more space to spread out, but most importantly you usually get a WASHER AND DRYER. (Or at least a washer… turns out Europeans don’t believe in quick-drying your clothes.)

    It's the little things...

    We got checked in with our landlady Natalia, ate breakfast at a small, awesome place called Café Camelot, and went exploring. Our place ended up being on a popular street known for its coffee shops, jazz, and places where students held secret meetings during communist days. And it also apparently was where people got late night kebabs and yelled until 4 A.M. (but that’s a different story).

    As usual, we busted out the Rick Steves walking tours and made our way around town hitting the highlights: the Main Market Square, Cloth Hall, the old city walls, this awesome head statue, and finally up to Wawel Castle.

    There's a Kristi inside!

    There's a Kristi inside Cloth Hall, too!

    Main Market Square, sans Kristi.

    The many domes of Wawel Cathedral

    One thing we were amazed (read: annoyed) by was the amount of school kids – from elementary school to college – touring the city with their teachers. I usually expect to see giant clumps of Americans, Asians, and English, and curse them under my breath as they block every path and ruin every picture and ask stupid questions and rock their fanny packs with Old Navy 4th of July t-shirts. But I don’t expect giant groups of school kids, somewhat doing the same thing. It threw me off and I wasn’t sure how to react, so I went with indifference. At least they were there to learn (and probably hook up, as high schoolers are wont to do on excursions). At first we thought it was maybe some sort of holiday because the littlest kids were dressed as they were working at Medieval Times in all sorts of costumes and carrying banners. But Natalia said there wasn’t anything going on, so we assume that is just how they do field trips.

    The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah

    And these groups were swarming the castle. So we held back while they all piled into the cathedral – which turns out is pretty much the Westminster Abbey of Poland – just to find out that when we finally went up to the entrance, they had stopped letting people in one minute before. Stupid kids. So we walked around the castle a little and as it turns out that according to a couple sources one corner is the location of one of the seven chakra points on the globe. Apparently the seven chakra points on the body correspond with seven sacred stones the Hindu deity Shiva flung across the earth as a gift to mankind, landing in Rome, Mecca, Delhi, Delphi, Jerusalem, Velehrad, and Wawel Hill in Krakow, specifically the northwestern corner of the castle’s courtyard. People from all over the globe travel to this exact spot to sit for hours and take in the energy. (Notice the dirt on the walls from everyone chakra-sitting.) And it turns out the castle people HATE this because they have done everything they can within reason to block people from the corner without being rude. There was even a guy standing close-ish by who started to come over and ask us something while we were taking pictures, but we used all of our built up chakra energy and bolted before he knew what hit him.

    YOU CAN'T CONTAIN THIS ENERGY!!!

    SUPER CHAKRA!!!

    So we made our way back down, stopping at the river to do some park sittin’, and headed to St. Francis’ Basilica, which was Pope John Paul II home church while he was archbishop of Krakow. This turned out to be one of the highlights of Krakow, painted in exuberant colors (apparently by two artists trying to out-do each other) and displaying a replica of the Shroud of Turin, which had apparently once touched the original shroud and was now considered holy itself. And we took a seat where the ol’ Pope himself used to sit for hours and pray.

    Faux Shroud

    The holy seat.

    The holy vending machine.

    Afterwards, we stopped at a place translated to “Milk Bar.” These were popular cafeterias back in communist times because they were subsidized and you could get good little bites for super cheap. They still continue the tradition today, and we piled up a plate of pirogis because we heard they were all the rave in Poland. Turns out, delicious.

    We ended the night with an amazing Polish dinner consisting of pork (of course) with figs in a wine sauce, potatoes (of course), lard bread, beer (of course), and some delicious cooked apple stuffed with cranberries. And all for super cheap. (Thanks tanking European economies!)

    The next day we headed to Auschwitz, about 1.5 hours away from Krakow. Two years ago I made Kristi go visit Dachau again when we were in Munich because I had not visited a concentration camp and that one was the template that all others followed. And when we planned this trip to Krakow, we knew that we needed to visit Auschwitz for obvious reasons. It is not that I enjoy going to these, all former concentration camps are always extremely difficult to walk through, but it is important to both memorialize the victims and remind people of the atrocities that went on there so history never repeats itself. I will not go into too much detail but will tell every person that if they are ever in the area, this is a memorial that you must go see for yourself. The only way I can put it was that it was extremely moving and more than a few times makes you weak at the knees.

    "Work Makes You Free"

    We got back to Krakow and followed some giant American guys around for a while (not on purpose) who turned out were basketball players from Virginia and some other US college. We never found out why they were there, but we assume it was for an exhibition. That or they were just there for the delicious kebabs (they ate so many kebabs). Oh, and we found a very American cupcake place so we had to stop.

    "Yum!" - Kristi

    "Yum!" - Blake

    As it turns out, Kristi has some college friends, Richie and Stefanie Auter (who are married, to each other), who live in Budapest and happened to be in Krakow for the weekend. So we met up with them for a few beers in the main square and they invited us to visit them when we got to Budapest. It was great meeting up with fellow Aggies and being able to carry a long conversation in English with other people. We then had to head back to the train station for another overnight train, this time to Vienna!

    Breaks through all language barriers.


  7. You Want a Meter of Beer? I’ll GIVE You a Meter of Beer.

    June 6, 2012 by Kristi Knight

    We woke up the next day with a plan to check out the Jewish sites of Prague.  Thinking we were just SO SMART (and following the advice of one Rick Steves), we avoided Saturday (Sabbath – duh), planning to do all the Jewish sites Sunday.  HOWEVER, there are approximately one million Jewish holidays I know nothing about (they celebrate Christmas, right?), and the entire Jewish quarter museums and synagogues were closed through Tuesday.

    I did, however, use Blake as a stepping stone to snap this sweet picture of the Jewish cemetary. Six feet walls can't stop me! Take that!

    We were disappointed, but quickly remembered plan B – attend beer festival.

    Blake was really hoping for a beer holster.

    Because the Czech Beer Festival was not in the center of town, Blake had carefully mapped out directions – subway stops and everything.  We exited the metro and found ourselves….well….not in a great part of town.  Our initial wanderings lead us to a highway ramp, at which point yours truly through a tiny (but adorable, of course) fit.  Consisting of – “I DON’T CARE IF THIS IS WHERE THE MAP SAYS TO GO – WE ARE OBVIOUSLY IN A BAD PART OF TOWN!”  Remembering that there was a McDonald’s (God bless McDonald’s and their free wifi) near the metro stop, we walked back to re-calibrate the GPS on Blake’s phone and the little blue dot miraculous jumped four streets over NOT over a busy highway (iPhone Google maps users – you know what I’m talking about – damn blue dot.)  We still seemed to be in a…um….”rough” part of town, but at least we were no longer walking on the side of a highway.  I would compare it to the Cotton Bowl area in Dallas.  A lot of shadiness and a lot of museums and a lot of convention centers.  We passed a tattoo exhibition AND some sort of Hells Angel Bohemia convention before we found a giant tent with “Czech Beer Festival” printed on the side.  Breathing a sigh of relief that we were not tattooed and dead, we entered.

    And I took this amazing picture. How could I resist?

    The festival consisted of three portions – one large tent with two sections each with two different types of traditional Czech beers sold by the liter and a smaller tent full of microbrews sold by the pint.

    YUM!

    Double Yum!!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    And you know all of the American Oktoberfests where everyone tries to be authentic with their lederhosen, pretzels, music, and dancing? Well this was the same thing, but actually authentic.

    Literally old men dancing some sort of Czech jig. Jig? Yes, the only possible word is "jig."

    We found a table and ordered up our first liter of beer (the beginning of several).

    Well, aren't you strong?

    After watching a group of Italian guys, all of whom were shirtless and all of whom had their pants/shorts riding so low that, well, let’s just say um… let’s not say anything, just use your imagination… get kicked out for general obnoxiousness, our friends from the previous night, Jessup and Michelle, showed up.

    Beer Fest Friends For Life (BFFFL)

    There were SEVERAL liters of beer,

    For some reason, I only got the meter of mojitas (hi Patty!), but you could get the same thing only with a liter of beer for every mojito (hi Greg!)

    along with several liters of goulash soup,

    Don't judge!

    consumed between the four of us and we somehow made it back to the main part of town around midnight. Let’s just say the trip back seemed a LOT less scary and a lot more fun for some reason, so we decided to keep it going for a nightcap. We also made some really healthy late-night decisions on street food, consuming both kebabs and fried cheese sandwiches (for some reason, I demanded mine be covered in ketchup – MISTAKE).

    Blake and I surprisingly woke up the next day feeling ok – so we decided to take a day trip to Kutna Hora, home of a cathedral entirely decorated out of bones.

    Do you think this is creepy? If not, please seek help.

    Our trip out there began innocuously enough,   but one of our party (hint – NOT ME) authoritatively demanded that we remain on the train at the Kutna Hora stop, despite the fact that we seemed to be the only people with this “insider info.”  We quickly realized our mistake after the ticket checker required us to buy yet another ticket for the next town ten minutes away.  We exited the train in the next town over and checked the schedule for the return train, discovering we had an entire two hours to kill, much to my delight (sarcasm). But as it turned out the town was actually mostly awesome and not nearly as tiny as its train station had us believe.  We seemed to be the only tourists in the entire town, so we wandered around for our two hours – eventually finding the one and only kolache of our trip (we had been searching for a while since Blake has been craving the Czech Stop kolaches in West for a few months now).

    Not quite as delicious as the ones in West, but a close second. It turns out you aren't actually supposed to fill kolache's with sausages and jalapenos....who knew!?

    We eventually made it back to Kutna Hora and the Bone Church.

    Ahhhhh! Creepy!

    It was apparently decorated using the mass graves from the 14th and 15th century plague victims, and, man, that must have been SOME plague.  I kinda felt sorry for the skulls at the back and bottom of the stacks.  I mean, if your bones are going to be used for decorations, I would at least want to be one of the main skulls front and center. Not some silly skull used for support at the bottom of a pyramid.

    That guy in the bottom left totally got a bum deal.

    Surprisingly we made it back to Prague with no directional mistakes, finding a great tea place thanks to my BFF, Rick.

    Yummmmmm, tea

    This was the beginning of what will turn out to be my own personal rain cloud (literally – there seems to be a rain cloud following us EVERYWHERE), so we hid from the rain for the remainder of the day before finding some delicious dinner and calling it an early night.

    The beginning of the week known as "Krist's Week of Perpetual Rain." It's a religious holiday.

    We had scheduled a night train for our trip to Krakow, so we had the entire day to hang out beforehand.  Now, our last night train experience can only be described as “the worst thing in the world and I never want to relive that night, dear LORD, never never never never,” so I was mostly apprehensive.

    Somebody thoughtfully spray painted a building expressing our number one "night train" concern.

    Before we left, Blake and I were VERY careful to book a PRIVATE sleeper car, but we were still unsure what to expect.  We spent the following day in Prague speculating as to various degrees of awfulness that awaited us.

    Deliberating how terrible our upcoming night train will be - while also gaining an appreciation for Turkish coffee. Two birds? One stone?

    Besides dreading the upcoming train, we primarily spent the day walking one million miles,

    The view. And a teensy tiny grapevine. And a handsome Blake (obviously the best thing about the picture)

    hitting up the castle district again and viewing the Museum of Miniatures, which is exactly what it sounds like.  A small museum full of miniatures.  And by miniatures, I hope you are thinking REAL tiny.  Like flea with horseshoes tiny. You had to use a microscope to view each piece of “art.” It was incredible.

    Look VERY closely

    We hit the park with the amazing view for some more park sitting/sleeping/reading,

    Park napping/sleeping/reading/cuddling

    before heading to Café Chocolate (that’s right) for some AMAZING hot chocolates and bruschetta varieties for dinner. Seriously, America, get it together.  From now on, if I order hot chocolate, I want something akin to chocolate sludge – NOT chocolate milk.

    We boarded our night train to see our fate for the next 8 hours. BUT wait! Hooray! It was kinda awesome!

    Look at this amazingness! Two beds??? And a sink??? WHAT???

    And we did little (ok huge) happy dances at the awesomeness that is a night train PRIVATE sleeping cabin (I can’t speak to the second class chairs, but I assume they were awfulness wrapped in terribleness).

    Dirty, but thankful that we have a bed.

     

    I couldn't logically fit this picture into the post, but COME ON! That bag? My body? EQUIVALENT!!! The bag is LITERALLY the same size as I am!!! No wonder my back hurts as badly as it does!


  8. Praha-ha-ha

    June 4, 2012 by Blake Knight

    So after our sensory overload at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed back to Dublin for one night before catching our flights the next morning. Pretty much a standard night (Guinness, food, and people), but we did have an awesome hotel for that one night that was in the heart of Temple Bar and looked out over the Liffey River. The next morning we turned in our rental car, without a scratch on it (we think), and said our goodbye’s to Katie and Rusty. It was great having them (one of them) on our trip and sad to see them (one of them) go, but it for us it was on to Prague to begin the biggest part of trip: Eastern Europe.

    We were able to find our hotel (and I use the term “hotel” loosely) relatively easy, thanks to the help of an American ex-pat, who lives with his wife near Prague.  Similarly to several “hotels” we stayed in during our last trip, our room definitely straddled the line between hostel and hotel.  A hOstel, if you will.  There were four beds in the room, with two twin beds made up and pushed together.  However, it was clean, so we were happy (if also unwilling to walk around barefoot.)  We set off into town, and soon found a recommended restaurant/beer hall.  We ordered traditional Czech cuisine: pork shoulder, dumplings, beer, and more pork. I am in love with Czech cuisine.  None of those pesky vegetables to deal with.  My plate was literally a slab of pork with a fork in it.

    We then headed over to the town square to see what was shaking. As it turns out, a traditional folk song and dance festival was shaking. So we grabbed a few beers from a nearby venue and took a front row seat because I’ve always wanted to see how other cultures do the Dougy. Imagine lots of people in lederhosen, plucking old wooden instruments, and dancing – and by dancing, I mean step-skipping arm-in-arm acting out story lines.

    My favorite was a bunch of hens (women) clucking around the stage being fought over by two roosters (men) cawing from either side of the stage. All with their arms under their armpits in traditional wing fashion.

    It was right before sunset, so we grabbed a couple sugar-covered ring thingies and headed over to what would be our nightly tradition, watching the sun set from the Charles Bridge.

    The next day we put on our walking shoes and headed out for a long, wandering trek throughout the city. One of the best parts of these is getting lost, which is inevitable, but if you are in the right frame of mind it can be a great way to discover parts of the city that you hadn’t planned on.

    We wandered around, eventually finding the Lennon Wall. Apparently after John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, this wall was spontaneously covered in memorial “All You Need Is Love” and “Imagine” graffiti. Each day it was covered up by the government and each night the paint would go back up until finally the government stopped trying. Now it is covered in graffiti ranging from the inspirational to the stupid (“Chuck wuz here”).

    We made our way up to the Prague Castle, walking through the gates that are obviously meant to scare away intruders, and around the cathedral and castle grounds.

    We then headed for the nearby monastery for some monastering and tasty homemade beers. We found ourselves at a table with a couple from Chicago, and noting the same taste in guide books (Rick Steves – what what!) quickly got into a conversation about our upcoming plans.  Having a mobile data plan, they were privy to all sorts of exciting stuff that we mostly knew nothing about – most importantly a Czech beer festival that was happening in town.  We decided to try to meet up the next day to check it out. But for now, full of trappist ale and exhausted from walking, we trekked up a hill (I know, it doesn’t make sense) towards a mini Eiffel Tower that they have to seek out a place with a great view of the town so we could relax. We both pulled out our Kindles with the high hopes of doing some reading, but both immediately passed out for a few hours.

    Waking up fully refreshed, we headed down to grab some food and head over to a tower at the end of the Charles Bridge where we saw you could pay a little to climb up to the top and watch the sunset. We assumed there would be a ton of people up there given the amazing view (and pack of tourists down below), but we found ourselves basically alone at the top for most of the time. We sat back, took in the view, and watched Prague from the best vantage point in town.  Both in terms of beauty and in weirdness (Beauty – self evident, Weirdness – Well, there are a lot of “stag” parties (bachelor parties) in Prague.  And they are all themed.  We were able to watch from our tower (that’s right – OUR tower) a stag party with a LMFAO theme make their way across the Charles Bridge.  It was as ridiculous as you are probably imaging.  They had guys dressed as all the main LMFAO suspects, including the robot head dude.  And they did the LMFAO running man style dance maybe 17 – 29 million times.)

    After our exciting sunset adventure, we headed back to the main square to buy some dinner from some stands set up in the area.  Having been warned of multiple cons, we were both pretty sure we had all the various ways we could be ripped off covered.  BUT WE DIDN’T!  We forgot about the old “sell you 5 pounds of roasted ham” con.  We are so naïve.  Kristi saw the roasting hams earlier that day, and had been talking about eating some for dinner all day.  Thinking it would be cheap, we moseyed on up, ordered a bratwurst (me) and ham (Kristi) and two beers.  After paying $25, and surveying the MASSIVE quantities of ham on Kristi’s plate, we figured out the ruse.  We’d been swine-dled (yeah, that’s right) because it turns out the price on the board was per 100kg.  Luckily, I have never met a 5 pound slab of pork I haven’t bested, so that ham went to good use (my belly).


  9. Oh You Want to Rent a Car? That’s Funny.

    June 1, 2012 by Kristi Knight

    Our next day we were supposed to rent a car and drive to the western coast of Ireland.  This happened.  But not without some strife.

     

    Interviewer – So, I hear that the plan had always been to rent a car and drive out to the west coast of Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher.  Did you guys attempt to rent the car in the US?

    Blake – Why would we do that?  That seems a little too easy.

    Interviewer – Well, some might say that it is easier to do things like “rent cars” when you have dependable internet access.

    Kristi – Last year, Blake successfully rented a car in Germany by simply walking up to a car rental place and asking for a car.  He got an awesome BMW for cheap.   I thought it would be similarly easy in Ireland.  We were wrong.

    Interviewer – Walk me through the rental process.

    Kristi – Well, the day before, we decided we should look into the entire rental car situation.  We stood on a sidewalk next to a pub, siphoning free wifi, and I booked an “economy car” with an “automatic transmission” for the (seeming to us at the time) ridiculous price of $80 for 2 days.  We were upset we didn’t get a better deal, but felt like we could at least be confident that we had a car lined up.  We were so young.

    Interviewer – So Blake, in your own words, walk me through what happened when you attempted to retrieve your pre-arranged rental car.

    Blake – Well, after walking around the airport for 30 minutes trying to find the rental car desk (we rented from National, but apparently we were supposed to know to find the EuroCar desk), standing in line for another 45 minutes at EuroCar, I finally get the keys to the car.  A glowing Nissan Micra.  Roughly the same size as Rusty.  I think to myself, “We can make this work.”  I get in and notice there are three pedals.  I comment to myself, “Huh.  That’s weird.”  We had previously debated whether the gas pedals were reversed similarly to the steering wheel reversal, so I didn’t think much of the extra pedal.

    Interviewer – Really?  That seem dumb.

    Blake – What?  The Irish are drunken crazies!

    Interviewer – Good point, continue.

    Blake – It’s at this point that I look down and see a gear shift and think, “Oh shit.”  The last time I drove a stick shift was also the very first time I drove a car.  I was 13.  On a ranch.  In West Texas.

    Interviewer – Kristi, what were you and Katie doing at this point?

    Kristi – Katie and I?  Well, I assume we were sitting on our luggage, twiddling our thumbs.

    Interviewer – How very helpful of you.

    Blake – Tell me about it.  So, I attempt to reverse out of the parking spot, stalling immediately.  Try again – stall.  One more attempt, one more stall and I have the following realization “Not only will I be driving on the wrong side of the road, but I will also be driving (mostly stalling) a manual transmission.  This will never work.”

    Interviewer – So, you attempt to rationalize with the rental car people.  What was their response?

    Blake – When I tried to argue with the people (remember, I had my confirmation for an automatic transmission) they told me, “What’s the problem?  You have full insurance.  Go out in the parking lot and figure it out!”  But imagine that said in a cheery voice, as if that is the most rationale response in the world.

    Interviewer – And you?

    Blake – Asked for my money back!

    Kristi – Katie and I then proved our worth by fanning out to other rental car lots, asking if they had any available automatic transmissions.  On our last lot, Katie found a helpful Budget Car employee who offered up one of two newly returned cars in the lot. And one of those was a large van, and both were for the low low price of one arm.  Or $350.  For two days.  Of course, not before he offered to take Blake out in one of the manual transmission cars and teach him how to drive it. You know, because we were getting full coverage insurance.  WHY IS THAT ALWAYS THEIR RESPONSE!?

    Blake – After a few tense minutes (it was a lot more than the already high $80 we were expecting) we loaded into our slightly larger Nissan “something only found in Ireland” model, frustrated and tense.  But we were heading to Galway, and once we hit the countryside all troubles were behind us and everyone in a good mood.

    End of Interview

     

    Blake driving on the wrong side of the car AND the wrong side of the road BUT WITH an automatic transmission.

    The Irish countryside was very green.  Like the greenest green anywhere.  We decided along the way that we were taking FULL ADVANTAGE of our rental car since we had spent approximately one billion dollars on it.  And then we were going to drive it off a cliff (without us in it of course).  That would show them and THEIR FULL COVERAGE.

    We stopped at Killbeggan Distillery – the oldest licensed distillery in the world.  Or so they claim.  We walked through the distillery, learning all sorts of exciting things about whiskey but mostly taking pictures, and ended up at the whiskey tasting section.  Since I hate whiskey, Katie and Blake got TWICE the allotment.  After calming our frazzled nerves with a little bit of boozey booze, we headed back out on the road (don’t think too hard about it) and continued on our drive.

     

    That's an awful lot of whiskey!

    Galway turned out to be an Irish version of a resort town, with rocky beaches and tons of cute little bed and breakfasts on the coast. We found our B&B, checked in, and all previous frustrations melted away.  It was beautiful.  We picked a place to get some lunch, and after driving around for 30 minutes, obviously lost and mumbling “left, left, left” after every turn to make sure we were on the correct side of the road, Blake pulled up to the “restaurant.”  The parking situation in Galway is precarious at best.  There are multiple signs warning you about getting “booted,” and signs telling you to pay for your street spot between 9:30 – 6:30 pm – BUT THERE IS NO WHERE TO PAY.  Afraid to leave the car and have to pay EVEN MORE MONEY, we each took a turn walking to the restaurant and ordering food to go.  Cold quiches and soup.  We took our lackluster lunch back to our B&B where we knew parking was safe, and walked over to the nearest beach.  There is something deeply wrong about eating soup on a beach, while wrapped up in coats and blankets, but we persevered.

    Soup - the perfect beach food.

    The beach was beautiful, and full of awesome shells.  Don’t worry, I picked up a bunch.  OF COURSE I DID.

    That very white speck in the distance is me! Finding seashells!

    That night, we walked the city looking for another place to eat, stumbled upon some of the weirdest performance art I have ever seen (seriously, it was a man, sitting in a chair, with some unintelligible mumbling playing over a loudspeaker, stuffing an entire flower pot worth of soil and flowers in his  mouth.  And then he sat there.  This was the point upon which we left.)

    This was weird. Very weird.

    We ate some delicious seafood, and wondered to a bar known for their music, and listened to some Irish covers of American pop songs.  It was great.

    Three delicious types of beer.

    The next day we began the beautiful drive to along the coast to the Cliffs of Moher.  Because it was mostly a scenic day, and this post is already pretty wordy, I will just shut up already and show you the pictures.

    An old "castle." Except that it had been turned into a Medieval Times on steroids (you can have a "medieval" dinner here, complete with wenches)

    Fanore Beach - a destination found thanks to some Irish guys we met at No Name Bar. Worth the detour. Also, I stood in that spot for a while waiting for Blake to take this picture. Just a little "Behind the Music" for you.

    Hooray, Ireland!

     

    A tiny pub in Doolin where we ate Irish stew, seafood stew, and vegetable stew. The Irish love their stews, and I love the Irish.

     

    There was all sorts of prettiness along the drive. This is one picture out of about one hundred.

    The CLIFFS OF MOHER! Finally!

     

    Moher cliffs. (Get it?!)

     

    Katie did not stray close to the edge. Not at all.

     

    I, obviously, had the opposite problem.

     

    Cliffs of Moher kissing

     

    The meaning behind this sign is hazy...are we to worry that if we step on flames a bird will attack? Because that's what I decided it means.

     

    No diving!

     

    I forget the name of it, but I call it "Little Hut." Located in The Burren. Called the burren because it is most definitely burren.

     

    So smiley for all that nothingness around us.

     

    And lastly - just because it makes me laugh.

     

    WHEW.  I cannot tell you how long it took me to download all those pictures.  AND NOW I AM DONE!  HOOOOORAY!


  10. Rub-A-Dub-Dublin

    May 31, 2012 by Blake Knight

    Other than making it to our terminal as the plane was boarding, our flight to Dublin was uneventful. We even pretty much made it straight to our hotel, something that we have found typically comes with some sort of strife or frustration (recall the Glouchester Terrace incident).

    Arriving around lunch time and having retired Rusty and the gang to their quarters, we looked around, smelled the fresh Irish Spring air, grabbed our Lucky Charms, and made a bee line to the Guinness brewery.

    Now I have been on a number of brewery tours, both large and small. Actually, that’s a lie. Mostly small. They show you around, tell you about where they source their special hops, tell you about their different types of brew, and all end with a tasting. Always fun – it is beer after all – but fairly by the book. Guinness did this same process but blew it out to a magnificent, big budget level. The tour kicked off standing in “the world’s biggest pint glass” (basically their atrium) and with a person telling you the story behind the malty meal replacement and showing you the 9,000 year lease signed by Arthur Guiness enshrined in the floor. The rest of the tour is self-guided, but it takes you through each step of the beer making process and why Guinness is unique in a large multi-media presentation that is quite impressive and very well done.

    9,000 year lease. The landlord likes the tenants, but they are always drunk.

    After a few floors of this, you get to the interactive part. With your admission you get to either have a free pint up in their sky lounge or opt for “The Perfect Pour” experience where they teach you how to properly pour a pint. We of course opted for the latter. There is a science to this (that I think many of the bar tenders in the US tend to ignore and/or rush) that I won’t take you through, but you can click here to find out. Honestly, I’m not sure how much of this affects the final taste of the brew, but now I can stick my nose up at people that don’t do it properly and wave my greater-than-thou certificate in their face that proves I know how to make the perfect pour. (We each got one.)

    Good pour.

    Better pour.

     

    The Perfect Pour.

    I don’t know if it was just being in Ireland or the tour or simply trying Guinness again after accidentally grabbing one at a party in college, but, damn, it is tasty stuff. Not nearly as heavy as I remembered, and I have developed a whole new appreciation for it. (I’m not leaving my beloved Yazoo Pale, but it is a nice addition to the rotation.)

    After the brewery, we wandered about Dublin taking it all in and seeking out the best places to have a pint, eat some Irish delicacies (of which the locals will tell you there are none; they are mostly right), and most importantly listen to some live Irish music. If it had a banjo and foot stomping, we were in. After hitting up a few places (you can’t just stop at one, right?) we ended up at a great pub near Trinity College. Two guys were on stage rocking some traditional music mixed in with American covers (they love Johnny Cash over there). We struck up a conversation with the tables around us and sang the night away.

    Oh, and they also have this genius innovation – pour your own beer at your table! Just put in your credit card and it tracks how much you drink. You avoid the rush at the bar, you avoid having to tip, and you never have to leave your seat. Why is this not everywhere in the US?!

    The next day we went on a tour of Trinity College, led by cheeky graduate student, whose main attraction (and really the main attraction of Dublin) is the Book of Kells. The tour was actually pretty great, except when some random old lady on the tour ask the guide if the degree you earn there is good anywhere. Like it is some online course. It is the oldest, largest institution in Ireland lady. Really? Anyways. You learn a lot about the history of the area through the story of the college, and yours truly even answered a question correctly. I’m so smart.

    The tour ends with the Book of Kells, which I knew zero about before this trip but the tour guide did a great job of putting the book in the proper historical context and really showed a passion for its history, which of course really makes you internalize its significance. Again, you can read about it all here if you like, but just do not miss it if you are in Dublin. And even after that main attraction, you get a HUGE bonus by getting to go up into the “Long Hall.” As our guide said, “I know you’re here for the Book of Kells, but the Long Hall will blow your socks off. If you ever wanted a true Harry Potter Hogwart’s experience, get ready.” And he was 100% correct. I wanted to sit in that room all day long and peruse through the thousands of books, sockless. We couldn’t take pictures, but here’s a stolen internet pic.

    What did we do after the tour? Why a pub, of course. We stayed at one for a while until it closed. Like London, they also close early for stupid reasons. But Katie found a cool little place with a live funk band still open so we popped in. Now, for the purposes of the night’s account, it must be said that I was ready to head home. I was tired, had a headache, blah blah blah. But I didn’t say anything at this point and was happy to have one more pint before heading back (which is what I was planning on). However, at the bar two guys start talking with the girls and bought them beers. Normally, no big deal. Kristi is outgoing and friendly, and I am all for having some chump buy her a drink because she typically takes it, says the proper amount of conversation so as to not be rude before heading back to me. That or I come up and join in and we are all friends after a stomach punch (recall London). However, this night I was not in the mood and these Colin Farrell look-a-likes rubbed me the wrong way (maybe it was when they said they go to that bar to hit on the tourist girls). I can say something to Kristi, but Katie is single and I am 100% ok with her talking with whomever she wants. They stay at our table, the bar eventually closes, and I’m ready to finally head home. But Colin says he can get us in to a later-late-night spot and the girls want to go. I’m not feeling great at all, but don’t want to leave them alone with these guys so I begrudgingly head over with them. The place was as-expected (a club), and I sat down by myself playing with my phone while the girls had a great time dancing. (The Colins had gotten the idea by this point and moved on to other girls that didn’t have bearded, grumpy tired guys who didn’t want to dance with them.) We stay for a while and headed back around 2am.

    Again, another late start to our day due to the previous night’s events, but I’m feeling better and we head off. We do a couple of lackluster Rick Steve’s walking tours (we came to the conclusion that he doesn’t like the UK; his walking tours are way better in central/eastern Europe), and did a normal travel day just walking around and poking in and out of shops. Nothing too eventful, however it must be noted that this was a top food day. We grabbed lunch at a place called Crackbird (this would do amazingly well in Nashville) and dinner at its sister-restaurant, Skinflint. Both amazing.

    We then found a great bar called No Name Bar – apparently because for a long time it simply didn’t have a name, just a picture of a snail out front. Because we wanted to get up early in order to make it to Galway by early afternoon, we called it some-what of an early night. Which turned out to be good, because we had no idea the freaking ordeal we would be in for in the morning…