Thursday, October 7, 2010

Frankfurt! Day 2 (Heidelburg)

Train rides, cool towns and a castle. Worst possible day for my camera to run out of battery.

Nonetheless, we got up early, ate corn flakes with Suzy and Carlos, and got on the train to Heidelburg.

All the announcements on the train were made in German, so over the course of just over an hour, Kevin and I had ignored everything being said. "And for the young lady in the front, we've reached our final destination, Heidelburg." What a welcome! Kevin must have looked a lot less clueless than me when the guy came around to check tickets.

It was cold and rainy, but we made our way through the weather into Old Towne where a festival was going on. The 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest had just opened the previous weekend in Munich, so every town in Germany was celebrating, including Heidelburg. The best way I can put it was that it was a German Arts, Beats and Eats. A few stages, a bunch of food, and instead of Art, lots of beer. That's just how they roll.

We kept walking through until we reached a cobblestone path leading up to the castle.
The rain had stopped, so we were dry, but everything had the just-after-rain look. You know, the deep greenness that makes it seem like the foliage is taking over.

The thing with the Heidelburg Castle is that it's partly renovated and partly falling apart. There's a museum of pharmacy inside, and a grand courtyard that is nice as well as a couple connecting areas that were restored. Then there are the parts of the castle surrounded by scaffolding, which are in the process of being made over. And THEN there are the ruins -- the stuff we can climb on!
Taken after Kevin put my camera in his armpit to warm it up and coerce it into taking another picture despite the battery being 99% dead.
But it's not so adventurous because there's an actual path that has been worn away from the thousands of people with a similar idea.

We wandered around quite a bit and instantly wished we had more time here to see other castles. The Rhine in Germany (google it) is riddled with castles all over. Unfortunately we'd just have to make due with our few hours at this one, in this laid back German college town.

Like all young adventurers, we eventually got hungry and left the castle in search of some more starchy, gravy-covered German fare. However, since it was only 3 in the afternoon, our options were limited (Seriously Europe, why don't you eat dinner until 7pm??). We ended up at a Spaghetti place -- not an Italian place, a spaghetti place. Lucky for us the man in charge spoke English. Unlucky for us, the food was gross.

We wandered around the festival for a while, listening to music here and there, popping into t-shirt stores and gummy bear shoppes packed full of happy customers. Probably the coolest thing for me about Germany was people watching and seeing that I looked just like them. I'm at least 75% German, but for some reason I thought I didn't really look it, looking more like my mom's willowy, fair skinned side of the family and less like my dad's tall, sturdy, darker haired & complected 100% German side. But there I was, in my motherland, tall with high cheek bones and squinty eyes just like everyone else. Pretty cool!

The sun came out toward the evening, setting on the castle. It was beautiful, but you'll have to take my word for it because at that point there was no hope in getting another picture out of my exhausted camera. We took the train back to Frankfurt, getting in a few games of Yahtzee en route. Stopped at the grocery store to pick up some granola bars for the plan ride home, and then back to the apartment for sleeeeeeep.

While Suzey was giving us a speed tour of the city on Friday, we were making mental notes of where we wanted to come back for shoes, clothes, etc. So we were pretty excited for getting up on Sunday and shopping on our last day.

But...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Frankfurt! Day 1

Flight #5: Venice to Frankfurt-Hahn

Our flight out of Italy was far calmer than the one a few days ago coming into Rome. And we were able to get a free shuttle to the hotel upon arrival (11:30pm) to avoid any possible hitchhiking. It was rainy and cold, but after the hotness of Rome, we were ready to put on extra layers and wear our coats.

We woke up fresh and ready to get to the city. Our airport/hotel was located a little less than two hours west of Frankfurt-Main, so we had to take a bus first thing in the morning to meet the elderly Suzy and Carlos (our hosts for these three days) at the Main airport. After buying the bus tickets, we had a snack and chilled out on a covered porch enjoying the rainy weather.

About 10 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave we figured it was time to head over and wait for it. What we found was a crowd of people pushing and shoving in the rain trying to cram onto said bus.

What?? Seriously?

About 20 people were left, including us. Next bus arrives in a half hour. Okay, no problem. Now we know we need to stand out be ready.

Bus pulls up, people rush out of the covered waiting area to the crowd, we dash to the opposite side and throw our packs underneath while everyone else tries to load theirs on the door side. We come back around and try to wedge our way to the front. Individuals ascend the steps into the presumably warm and dry coach, and it seems like most of the crowd is still stuck out in the rain when the driver announces that the bus is full. Including us. So we go and get our packs out of the storage bay and wait. Again.

Having missed the bus twice, we were not very forgiving when the third one showed up and it was time to wrestle through the crowd to get a seat. After stepping on elderly toes, elbowing small children and pushing past a couple wheelchairs and strollers, we made it into our bus seats feeling victorious.

In a couple hours we made it to the Frankfurt-Main airport, where we called Suzy and Carlos and told them we were hanging out in Terminal 2 Departures. She said (in her supremely delightful German accent) that she would see us in a few minutes, that she was taking the subway and would come pick us up.

Four hours, a few phone calls, and a miscommunication (Oh! You were at the AIRPORT, we thought you were at the TRAIN STATION) later, we were finally on our way to their apartment. Between landing at Frankfurt-Hahn the night before and actually setting our stuff down at the apartment, 17 hours had passed. Watching the clock tick away our first whole day in Germany was something of a bummer.

We went to a supermarket to pick up some food for the next couple days (Guess what's in the International "American" Section of a German grocery store: Campbell's Tomato Soup, Saltines, Kraft Mac&Cheese, Oreos and peanut butter), and then Suzy took us on a grand tour of Frankfurt. After seeing a few key places and identifying where the subways were, etc, she left Kevin and I on our own for the evening.

"I need a beer."
"Me too."
We sat down and got a real meal for basically the first time in 24 hours. I think we impressed the waitress. We were practically licking the plates. What did we eat? Something with meat and gravy and rice/french fries. Was it vegetarian? No (turkey...nothing crazy). Was it delicious? Yes. While France's desserts are unbeatable, I can't help but feel a strong affinity toward German comfort food.

It was a Friday night in the Manhattan of Germany. We walked the pedestrian-only streets and gazed up at fresh skyscrapers. Younger than me, indeed, they were younger than my shoes. Can't help but look at something that magnificent and envy a place so far from economic struggle.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Venice! Day 3

"Guess we should go see St. Mark's"

Last night after dinner I went out with a couple of the girls from the hostel for gelato while Kevin stayed back and talked it up with a couple guys from South America.

As we sat and ate in one of many courtyards, we talked about Venice. About the maze and the tourists (pots? kettles? black?). They went on to talk about their pursuits. Jenny was on an indefinitely long trip to Italy to find herself, her roots, who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do with her life. Master's degree in architecture from Virginia Tech and no prospects of a job any time soon.

Emily taking a tour of Italy for a month before starting her master's program in London. Art history. "This hostel is nothing like the one in Florence. I wanted the people there to design my home! It was beautiful and calm and they served us breakfast in the morning that was divine! This place is terrible. The people are gross and loud. I'm leaving tomorrow. I can't take losing another night of sleep to people stumbling in at 3am."

I know that every individual has his or her own reasons for traveling, and I think it occurred to me last night that mine is about seeing and being stunned. I want to be amazed by whatever presents itself. I was amazed at the man who woke up the entire room with his snoring on our first night here. I was amazed that people took pictures of dead popes at St. Peter's. I was amazed that we could walk around Paris in the dead of night and still feel completely safe. Whatever discomfort may come, so long as there's some part of me that goes, "No way!!" this trip is totally worth it.

After chatting for another hour or so, we went back to the hostel. Emily and Jenny went to bed and I went over and sat with Kevin in a crowd of people learning curse words in Spanish and Portuguese. Beverages were spilled, words (poorly pronounced) were shouted out the balcony window, and we all laughed loud and hard together.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In fact, we are home!

Yes, it's true. My updates are a bit behind ("Becka, omg, Hi! I thought you were in Venice!!"), but I will continue to post new ones for every day left of the trip. So just a handful more stories, pictures and videos!

Part of Kevin's Paris Open Mic

video