Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home at Last

Last day in Berlin
Free at last free at last! Ok, not completely. We are living at home with the parents and while we don't have the repressive curfew or dress code, it is odd to bum money off of them and live with their way of life again. On the plus side- free room and board! That means a lot after a year of poverty in Berlin and 3o some days of living on the lamb across Europe. Thanks p's!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Big day approaches....

Finally after over a little more than a year, Ebe and I will be returning triumphantly from abraod in 24 hours! The past month has been one of the most amazing experiences in both of our lives, but we'll be happy to see our sprint through Europe come to an end and finally touch foot on American soil and see all our friends and family.

For most of you it's been over a year since were able to see you, but have no fear... the time is almost here for our reunion. We've met many wonderful people here in Germany (and all of Europe!) and have seen some wonderful things, but in the long run, there's nothing better than waking up in your home with your family and friends not for away.

So, a big thank you to everyone who helped us and supported us on our trip, and also a big thank you for all the nice people we met while here in Europe and making the transition to the "German" life a little bit easier. See you all in one day Washingtonians!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

more to comment on!

Bucharest vacation home (that should be about 200 euros right?)
British sleeping in parks for weeks
domestic abuse (romania...what more is there to say)
Police chase outside Eiffel Tower (complete with key chains)
Moulon Rouge prices!
chattin with sailors on a train (trip from belgium to amsterdam- did you know new york is biggest port in the world? we didn't)
drinking with Spanish speaking friends (and one mexican!)
so many stories! can't wait to hear yours too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

remind us to tell you about....

Angry German hiker and child (strollers are evil)
Pooping on a fortress (everyone should try it)
Hammer pants on a train (emotional frenchmen have the best taste)
Amazing "complete meal deals" (not a thing like spag)
Friends on boats, hostels, and trains

Girl with helmet rain coat and painted teens (crazy french)
Fat, whiny Americans - Rick Steves book in hand (not us for once)
...and other good times

Chasing Evers - Marseille, Perpignan & Escape to Bordeaux

As I type this, I am sitting in an internet cafe in Bordeaux, France, a place we never expected of visiting on our little whirl-wind tour of Europe. How did we end up in Bordeaux you ask? Well my little friend, let me explain.

After leaving the Cinque Terre, we were headed to Marseille to meet up with my high school/college buddy Sean Evers. He has family in Marseille, and we all thought it would be fun to get together and kick it in the south of France. It got off to a bad start as we arrived late to Marseille without a place to stay. Now I don't know if you've heard, but Marseille is one of the roughest towns in all of France, and isn't exactly the place you want to be rolling into town at night withough an idea of where to go... luckily Evers, being the stand up guy he is, picked us up from the station, and after a little French direction lesson from the GPS, we were dropped off at a hostel.

The next day's plan was to explore a bit of Marseille, and then hop back on the train down to south-western France and meet up with Evers and a few other peeps in the Catalonian town of Perpignan. Ebe and I explored Marseille, and saw what would be a recurring theme throughout our stay in France so far... a carousel. After having walked around Marseille for a few hours with my bag, I began to smell like a local if you know what I mean. I felt bad for the people near us on the train which we were about to bord.

Halfway to Perpignan my phone finally gets a text message from Evers telling us that unfortunately we wouldn't be able to stay with them in their family's beach house... shit. Now we were beginning to question our decision of following Monsieuer Evers almost to the border of Spain.

In the end we probably spent under an hour with him. It was pretty much the perfect storm. It really was no-one's fault, just a big misfortune of events. But hey, we got to see some really cool towns in the process, and that's why I'm here writing this blog in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux has been a surprisingly fun town. Lodging is quite cheap, and there is certainly all the wine you can drink... if we only had the money! The city is really beautiful, with wonderful gardens and amazing architecture around every corner. Ebe and I even splurged today and had a three-course lunch. Among the things we had were escargot (yes, snails), lots of duck, and creme brulee... yum. One more night here in Bordeaux and then it's off on the TVG (one of the fastest trains outside of Japan) to the City of Lights... gay (and I mean really gay) ol' Paris!

(end note on Bordeaux: we stayed in a lovely family run hotel that had an incident in the room next to us. As in, there was a suicide in the room next to us sometime in the last week. Ian wisely didn't tell me what the tag said until we were about to leave. Talk about a hang over!)

More highlights of our trip through Europe
and more of our favorite spots in France

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Favorite European Beaches

Not the Bette Midler kind, the good kind (ok- the movie actually has some merit). In my quest for making the most of every summer, I have a desperate need to search out great beaches. And slowly, so slowly,  Ian and I are becoming connoisseurs of beach life.


Kusadasi, Turkey

Garbage in the water could not keep us away from these turquoise waves after getting sick off Romanian water and no water in Istanbul. We jumped in for a quick swim before boarding the ferry for Greece and I don't think I've ever been more refreshed.

Best Beach?
One of my best beach moments?

turkish beach

Samos, Greece 

Looking for a Greek island in the summer, Samos lay right in our path and we hoped it wouldn't be too touristy. It wasn't. We had this little rocky beach and blazing Greek sun all to ourselves.

Greek island

Syros, Greece

The capitol of the Cyclades, this island showed us what Greek loving is all about. We got into the city in the early morning and slept on a bench in anticipation of the sunrise and sand times. We rode a rickety bus to the far side of the island and received resort treatment for the first time - sand, surf, beach chairs, and drink brought right to your spot of shade. Why did we leave?

Greek Island

Cinque Terre, Italy

These fishing villages were made popular with American tourists by the great Rick Steves - possibly the worst things he's ever done. Alas - it is "discovered"...and yet. There is a magical nature that can help you forget the crowds. 

Hike the well maintained trails and earn a jump into the dip waters among the rocky outlets. You can jump in practically, everywhere with some places more popular gathering spots.  We resisted going back, but Ian's dad insisted we take him while in Italy and we are so glad he did.

Touristy Italy
Riomagiore, Cinque Terre

Procida, Italy 

Gallivanting around Naples with my 18-year-old nephew, we wanted to hit a beach so we headed out to the island of Procida. Less popular than it's sister island Capri, the beach was on fire, the lemons were the sourest, and the harbor was spectacular. Part of my love for Naples has to be for this small island. 

Italian Island Capri

Full post on Escape from Naples ~ Island of Procida

Polignano a Mare, Italy 

When people talk about the perfect Mediterranean beach I know I've been there. When we first moved to Berlin I picked up a terrible little writing job where I wrote city guides for small Italian towns with impossible to find information. The best thing I got from the job was the mention of Polignano a Mare. Caves lead from the rocky shore into the center of the city and the beaches are touched by perfectly translucent blue waters.

We were blinded by the whites of the buildings as we headed down to the beach and carved out our small space of sand. More of an Italian vacation spot - we were clearly the outsiders. We followed the locals to wander through the sea-slicked tunnels and up the rocks to cliff jump into the tropical grotto. Occasionally resting on submerged rocks, we felt the warmth of the sun on our face and we could watch neon fish dart by our limbs.

This place was magic.

Best beach in europe

There are still many, many places on our list to go...

Where We've Been, Where We're Going

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Eternal City: Rome

We are currently massaging our feet after a whirlwind run through Rome. We hadn't planned on vising, but train travel on our month-long travel free fall said otherwise - luckily. Because we loved Rome - of course we did. In retrospect, how could we not?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Polignano a Mare

We are in Italy! Our first stop is this beautiful cliff town, perched over the water with various grottoes along the coast. We went swimming in this little cove today that was so beautiful you could see all the way to the bottom even at 15 ft. Little tropical fish were swimming around us and a bunch of the local people were jumping from the surrounding cliffs.

cliff beach Italy

Polignano a Mare Italian beach

Now we are paying for it as we could hardly walk to get a slice of pizza and a gelato after our siesta. The price we pay...

Italian fountain square

grotto beach Italy

Add caption

 More pics of Polignano and the TRIP hit list

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Italia here we come!

So our whirl-wind tour of Greece has come to an end... well almost. We have another 2 hours and 50 minutes before catching a boat bound for Bari, Italy. Some of our stops in Greece included two nights in Samos, a night in Syros, about 20 minutes in Athens (yes, that's right, 20 minutes, while spending less than 1.60 Euro), and a night in Patras. The beaches in Samos and Syros were amazing, but our favorite has to be Kini, which is a tiny little beach about 10 km from Ermoupolis on Syros. Beautiful sandy beach, crystal clear blue water, and an amazing view of the harbour. Could Kini be the birth place of the bikini? I'd like to think so, but more likely not.

Greece has been more than amazing though. The people have been very kind, and the food has been amazing. Too bad we haven't felt the best, but it really has done little to damper this great experience. Let's hope Italy has as much to offer as Greece has had.
Patras, Greece

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vlad's revenge...or possibly Ataturk

We were warned. Don't drink the water. And we didn't...not much anyways. But it was so hot and we were so thirsty & everyone was doing it. So we had a couple sips of tap water in Romania and Turkey. Our last day in Istanbul we felt it. A lumbering of the stomach. An uncomfortable ache and occasional slicing cramp. Soon we were chained to the toilet.

We did the best we could and got along ok. We saw a little more of Istanbul, survived a 10 hour night-time bus ride, and sailed on into Greece feeling slightly better. We gave up today and went to the pharmacist for some blessed pills to make the pain go away, but most of the work has been done by the beauty of our surroundings in alleviating our suffering. Who can pay attention to a stomach cramp when there is a dolphin swimming alongside the ferry (yes really)? Who can feel sick when the teenager serving your meal on the Greek island of Samos tells you they can't serve the rabbit dish because the rabbit is still alive (complete with a finger across the throat depicting what would ave to be done to serve our meal)? Who can be ill when gazing into completely clear waters and watching the tiny fish swim beneath? In short, we are feeling much better.

The Trip - Itinerary, posts, pics, and insanity. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Istanbul - Big Danger!

Ebe and I were more than siked as we boarded one of the shittiest trains we've ever seen to Istanbul. The train was cramped, crowded, and unfortunately for us, we had two old Romanian broads in our cabin with us who decided to make it their own.

We eventually made it into another couchette (a cabin with 6 sleepers) with some Kiwi friends of ours, and thought the rest of the night would be nice and relaxing. After a stop in Bulgaria where a loud cackling woman from Cyprus joined our cabin, we were informed that we had to wait in the middle of nowhere for five hours until another train joined up with us from Serbia.

So instead of getting in to Istanbul today at 8:00 AM, we rolled into town at 1:00 PM and super tired. Unable to sleep during the night, I struck up a conversation with a Turkish man and his wife, who explained to me that "Istanbul, big danger." They then charaded out the gestures of drugs and pick pocketing... thanks for the advice!

And once we were in the city, a phrase we heard too much in the beautiful streets of Istanbul was "Spend money here please?" White people walking around must look like huge dollar signs to most vendors. Luckily it just makes Ebe and I feel popular. It's when they don't talk to us that we get down and depressed.

Unfortunately they do hawk out some nice things and we've taken the bait a few times... but for a much lower price! It's hard to believe how much lower we've bought some things with a little "haglin." It's the first place we've actually gotten mementos due to the price and the fact that everything is so frickin cool (look out for our mini-rug which will really tie the room together) and fez!

Much like Bucharest, Istanbul also has domestic animals gone wild... kittie cats! That's right folks, you can't walk around a corner here without seeing an adorable little kitty witty.... or one that's on it's last legs with mange.

Which brings us to our last topic... food (some guy joked with us that we could catch a cat to eat)! We've been eating tons of good stuff so far in Turkey, but alas no turkey. But to hell with turkey, because they have much better things to eat, such as: fresh fish sandwiches, misir (BBQ corn), kebabs, olives, feta, baklava, Turkish delight, and tons of other stuff we don't even know the name of. Hopefully our next destination treats us so well.

UPDATE from the future (May 17th, 2012)

We loved Istanbul. A lot. I was honored to write a guest post on Perking the Pansies about our experience in Turkey, but there is nothing like a picture.

Train to Istanbul

travel to Istanbul
Sleeping Car on the train
Visa to Turkey!
Istanbul pretzel vender

Mosque in Istanbul

Grand Bizarre spice

Istanbul Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

old Turkish woman
bird seed vender Istanbul

Istanbul pigeon

Apple tea in Istanbul

cat on the beach

We can be a bit squeamish about fish, but how could we not buy a fish sandwich with them catching the fish, grilling, and selling right on the water?

We got sick the next day. Although it was probably from water we drank in Romania...probably. We became best friends with the fancy toilet in the hostel.

And every other toilet in the city. It wasn't pretty.

Istanbul squat toilet.
Turkey requires military service from its citizens and as we embarked for the coast, several Turks were on their way to train. We felt extraordinarily lucky to be able to observe their celebrations in sending off their friends and family.

Turkish celebrations
Turkish celebrations

It was amazing. We loved it. Ian - when are we going back?

Full set of Istanbul photos and the trip hit list.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sighisoara - The birthplace of Dracula

Romanian train stop
Despite the terrible train ride, Romania has been amazing & we will be back. An unexpected and not entirely pleased delay of an overnight in Bucharest has turned out to be a lot of fun & we met a few people that will ride the same 20-hour train with us to Istanbul today. Yes- 20 hour. I guess we really do want to go to Istanbul. 

The hostel here has kittens that have been so much fun. Ian accuses me of being crazy cat lady, & I try to keep the cooing down, but everyone is playing with them.

Also, pics are coming up. Slowly and haltingly, pics of Sighsoara have started to appear. more to come as time & internet access allows.


Sighisoara was ramshackle, beautiful, rustic, exhilarating, and one of the most aline places I've ever been. On our whirlwind month trip between a year living in Berlin and returning home to Seattle, We didn't have the time to give it it's due here, but it deserves it.

Billed as the birthplace of Vlad Țepeș, also referred to as Vlad the Impaler or even more commonly as Dracula, this place is wonderfully remote. A tourist attraction for vampire seekers, the place is beautiful in it's on right and it's citizens just move around the hordes of visitors like bats in the night sky. 

Eastern Europe HostelAs we found with many off-the-path destinations and hostel living, you can make fast friends. We loved Nathan's Hostel & it's friendly manager Lummi and e were quickly surrounded by a group of random travelers. Ola, an Aussie on the road for years, an Austrian adventurer, and even a truck driver from London who summered in this strange city. Nathan's has a website, but it appears to be down. Anyone know if it's still around?

In the meantime - I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures....

Eastern European Church

Romanian beer

street Romania

Eastern European castle

Romanian dancing

Easter European stop

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008