No snow, but that's okay, because Silvester is tonight!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is it freezing?  Yes.  Snowing?  No.

Eva (our new roommate/new favorite person) told us it had been snowing constantly these past few months but that it stopped the morning we arrived.  But that's okay, because tonight is Silvester!! (New Year's Eve).

Yesterday morning I went to Merkur and bought us a few treats for breakfast.  Caroline used to buy these drinks for us there -- 'vegetable shots' -- that consist of pressed fruits/vegetables with no sugar added.  If you take 2 a day, it equals your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, or something crazy like that.  They're kind of expensive, so we stopped buying them as the semester progressed and we began to care less and less about things like our daily intake of fruits and vegetables, but I brought 6 of them home for us yesterday!  Alpen milk was also on the grocery list, as well as the rosinen bread that Caroline and I consumed so much of last year.  I've been known to consume an entire loaf in one sitting, but we don't have to get into that...

We then spent a few hours at Europark (the mall), shopping at Zara and the 2 H&M's there (because one isn't enough).  We grabbed a late lunch at Indigo afterwards and spent the rest of the night walking around the Altstadt, which is so beautiful and wintry right now, snow or no snow.

Happy Silvester, it's sure to be a magical night!

Reyna and O'Malley's (first things first)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reyna Kebap is a little Turkish hole-in-the-wall, and it's so, so delicious.  It was a staple of ours last semester.  Some of the girls from our school still email Reyna, if that tells you anything about our obsession.  I ordered a pizza -- yes, a large pizza, just for myself -- and Lindsay ordered a kebap.  It tasted just as good as we remembered, if not better.  After we ate, there was really only one place to go... O'Malley's.

We crossed the Salzach and headed down Rudolfsaki to our version of Central Perk: the coziest, most special Irish pub in the history of Irish pubs.  I always used to say that I could walk into that pub at any time of day and find at least one person I knew.  As we walked in, an Oasis song was playing (typical) and I couldn't help but smile so widely.  Our 3 favorite bartenders were working and they remembered us, and even started playing Galway Girl (one of "our" songs) upon realizing we were there.

We were both pretty jet-lagged, so we drank a Snakebite (one of "our" drinks) and decided to head home to rest up for our morning plans: trips to Merkur and Europark.  We couldn't wait to go to sleep, but not before we met Eva!  She was home when we made it back and was so unbelievably hospitable and sweet.  She only further proving true my theory that Bavarians are the best!

We are just so overwhelmed and happy to be back; Salzburg is beautiful in the winter (when is it not?), and I can't wait to ring in the New Year in our favorite city on earth!

Nothing has changed, and everything has changed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our flight to Munich was fine, and compared to our flight to Amsterdam, it felt like a walk in the park.  Lindsay managed (again) to talk her neighbor into switching seats with me and we ate what seemed like our 7th airline meal of the day (we love eating) (even if it's airplane food).  When we landed in Munich, deja vu began to set in.  We landed in the same terminal that I landed in earlier this year when I first moved to Salzburg, and as we waited to collect our bags from the very same carousel, I replayed the scene in my head: meeting Tim for the first time, meeting Ingrid, meeting Andreas... The nostalgia was real.

We hopped on the S8 from the airport, transferred to the Munich Haupbahnhof, stepped off in Freilassing, and then headed onward to Salzburg.  We took that Bayern route more times than I can count this past semester, and the nostalgia just kept building with each familiar stop.  So when an adorable German/Austrian young woman smiled at me a couple of times on the train -- a seemingly knowing smile -- I didn't give it too much thought, as my thoughts were focused on the fact that we were about to be in Salzburg, and very little else.

As soon as we stepped off the train at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, my first thought was, "I'm sorry, what?!"  Apparently,  in the short time since we've been gone, Salzburg decided to go and change a lot of things, the train station being one of them.  We found the Tabak Trafik (in a new location!), bought our bus passes, and jumped on the #3 bus, heading toward IK.  Oh, and of course I bought 10 euros of Guthaben to add to my A1 phone.  Riding the bus, it was like we had never left, and I recited the bus stops in my head along with the "bus stop woman" on the loudspeaker: "Nächster Halt, Rathaus.... Mozartsteg...Äußerer Stein..... Justizgebäude.... Akademiestraße..... Fastauergaße... Josefiau.... Herrnau....and finally, Polizeidirektion!  At least all the bus stops stayed the same.  Lord knows how I would have reacted if that had changed.

In March, one of Caroline's friends came back to Salzburg from the semester before, just to visit.  I went with Caroline to pick her up from the airport, and as soon as she met us at baggage claim, she started talking about how nervous she was to come back.  I didn't understand it, and I couldn't related when, on the walk from the bus stop to IK, she kept saying, "I'm scared I might cry.  I'm nervous.  This is weird.  I don't know what to do."  But as Lindsay and I walked from the bus stop to IK, I suddenly 'got' it.  How many times had I made this walk with Caroline? (Always with Caroline.)  Walking toward our studentenheim with the backdrop of the snow-covered Alps gave me chills every single time.  So last night, walking toward IK with Lindsay, I couldn't help but express to her, "This is weird.  This is weird.  This is weird." about 100 times over.  

Also on the two-minute walk from the bus stop to IK, we crossed paths with the same young woman we had seen on the train ride.  She smiled at us again and this time we smiled back.  After she walked away, I said to Lindsay, "What a coincidence!  She lives in IK!"  

When we reached the IK buildings, I ran into the green building to grab Rikee's keys.  Rikee is our friend who so graciously left her room for us to share, since I don't have a room there anymore.  She is native Austrian, and lived in the blue building this past semester, which is how Caroline and I got to know (and love) her.  We were to stop by the green building to collect the keys from Claudia, a friend of Rikee's, as Rikee is spending the holiday in spain.  As soon as we stepped inside, the smell stopped me in my tracks.  I'm possibly the world's most smell-oriented person, in that every memory is connected with a smell, so as soon as I walked into the green building, I 'smelled' so many memories.  Laundry memories!  Vending machine memories!  Heimbar memories!  

Claudia was so nice -- she had waited there for us all night -- and happily handed the keys over to me.  We then ran on over to the yellow building, where Rikee lives, to get into 'our' new room.  Rikee had told me she has a roommate -- a girl named Eva who is on Erasmus from Germany.  When we walked into Rikee's room, I peeked into Eva's room to introduce myself.  She wasn't there, but when Lindsay saw her backpack sitting on the floor, she gasped.  "Jennifer, it's the girl from the train!  The one we just saw leaving IK!"  Apparently, Lindsay had noticed her backpack on the train ride in (I guess I had been too busy contemplating all the current similarities between me and the characters from LOST when they return to the island).  But what are the odds that that girl would be our new roommate??  I always say that Salzburg is the smallest town... maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. 

We started unpacking, and charged my A1 phone so I could load the minutes.  As we settled in, we realized we were starving.  We walked back to the bus stop (it was about 20:00 at this point) and crossed the street to use the Bankomat (protocol for passing time if the bus isn't coming for awhile) to withdraw our money for dinner.  We discussed our options for dinner and knew there was only one place we could go: Reyna.

And that explains the happiness you see in these photos.  You'd be this happy, too, if you were about to eat at Reyna Kebab for the first time in months...

To be cont'd!

Merry Christmas! Now back to Salzburg we go.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's somewhat fitting that Lindsay was the last person I said goodbye to in Paris, and then the first person to reunite with me in Salzburg.  We met up in Memphis and there, boarded a plane to Amsterdam.  That flight would normally not be worth mentioning, but for the fact that on that flight, we sat between the 2 most ridiculous people on the plane and maybe on the planet.

We were not initially seated together, but Lindsay rectified that within moments of taking our seats.  I was at the front of the plane, she was at the back.  As soon as I sat down in my window seat, however, I hear my name being called and I turn around to find Lindsay waving me towards the back of the plane.  Apparently, the young man who was seated next to her never even made it to his seat; as soon as she saw that he was moving in her general direction, she said, "Hey!  Wanna sit up front and trade seats with my friend?"  He didn't speak English, but he complied.  God bless him.

So that's how Lindsay and I found ourselves sitting in the middle row of the plane between 2 Dutch women (one of the left of Lindsay and one on the right of me).  Before take-off, the cabin was filled with conversation (let's note: airplanes are not libraries!), and Lindsay and I talked amongst ourselves, still so happy to be reunited and bursting with eagerness to get back to Europe.  Apparently, the woman to Lindsay's left had never been on a plane before (maybe she sailed to the USA on a silent ship?) and became visibly annoyed with the fact that we were conversing with one another.  Not only was she turning in her seat to glare at anyone making a peep, but at one point, she leaned over to Lindsay and I, and in broken English, said to no one in particular, "THEY TALK SO LOUD."  She rolled her eyes and I fake-smiled passive aggressively while Lindsay offered a sincere apology.  The woman's reply: "You're sorry....HA!"  When we heard her mutter under her breath some some of generalization about Americans, the English language, and our collective desire to take over the world, I decided to unzip my hoodie, revealing beneath it my vintage 1976 Olympic Game Team USA commemorative t-shirt.

The airline offered a really fun movie selection with an interactive menu where each individual passenger chooses what they want to watch on their own screen.  We lined up Inglorious Basterds and 500 Days of Summer in our queues (seen them both, love/like them both respectively), but before we pressed "play", decided to use the bathroom.  By using the bathroom at the same time, we figured we would annoy our seat-neighbors less by preventing them from getting out of their seats twice; nobody likes to be the person making everyone in their aisle unbuckle, shift around, stand up, etc.  Well, that was a false assumption if I ever made one.  We deliberated for about 30 seconds which aisle we should use and which 'neighbor' we should bother.  Considering how outrageous our last experience with Dutch Lady No. 1 was, we opted for the aisle to my right.  I turned to the woman and asked very politely, "I'm so sorry, but would you mind if we used the bathroom?"  Normal question, right?  I mean, some people wouldn't ask -- they'd just unbuckle their seat belts and raise their eyebrows at you until you move out of their way.  She didn't appear to understand right away, but based on our body language, realized we wanted to step around her.  Not only did she look extremely annoyed, but she took 30-60 seconds unbuckling her seat belt in slooooow motion, another 30 seconds to put away her book and fold her blanket, and then another 30 seconds to store both items neatly beneath her seat.  I thanked her about 7 times (she glared at me in response), and then we repeated the same charade when we returned from the bathroom a few minutes later.  

Later during the flight, Lindsay's neighbor decided to store all of her trash in Lindsay's seat, while my neighbor, Dutch Lady No. 2, elbowed me no less than 7 times, coughed and sneezed in my direction repeatedly, and pushed my elbow off the arm rest each time I rested it there.  Wondering if she would understand me if I said to her in German, "Honey, I paid just as much for this plane ticket as you did" -- and cursing myself for not knowing how to say that to her in Dutch -- I ultimately resigned myself to keeping my mouth shut, in the interest of everyone around us.

In conclusion, it was the longest nine hours of my life.

Our flight to Munich was much, much better.  Otherwise, I might have swam back home and never looked back.  

More to come.

Home for now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home for now with this little puppy to greet me.  

Loving Oklahoma in the fall, and loving OSU, and my friends and family.

But also loving the fact that Lindsay and I will be back in Salzburg in less than two months. :)

See you soon, Austria.  Don't change too much while we're gone.

Goodbye (for now), Salzburg.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's time to go home and get my ducks in a row (e.g. sort out how I'm going to graduate with my bachelors with a degree from my home university and also continue to live here), but it's not easy to leave.  I have an interview with the Embassy in late November and I'll be back in Salzburg after Christmas, but regardless, Salzburg, as I knew it when I fell in love with it, will never really be the same.  Caroline, Kayla, Lindsay, Tim, Sergi, Roman -- all the people who played an integral role in the magic that has been these past several months are no longer here and it's teaching me that it's more about the people than the place.

I wandered through the city this evening -- wearing my Uni. Salzburg hoodie, of course, and enjoying the cool breeze --  and I said goodbye to the city as I know it, in my own way, alone.  I took a video (a screenshot of which is included in this post) while walking across the Mozart Fußbrücke and felt like Kathleen Kelly when she's putting up ornaments and "missing [her] mother so much it hurts."  It really is the people, more so than the place.

But I do love the place.  I really, really love the place.

Tears in Paris

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

After Brussels, I Chunneled back to Paris to meet up with Lindsay. The weather was 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) and we were in heaven.  I had little to no money at this point, though, and spent the last of it on a Nutella crepe while walking to the Eiffel Tower with Lindsay one night.  I'm not sure how it happened -- I didn't even trip or fall -- but I somehow dropped the Nutella crepe on the ground.  And I did not have enough money to buy another one.  Is that not the worst thing you've ever heard?  Talk about traumatic...

Speaking of actual trauma, though, maybe someday I'll tell the story about trying to meet up with Lindsay at the hotel around midnight, on the night I Chunneled in from Brussels, and how I was followed by a strange man while wandering the streets of Paris alone, lost and looking for the hotel.

On second thought, I would like to keep living here and if my mom hears that story, she might organize a family intervention and bring me home.  So I'll keep that story to myself... for now...

7 pictures/facts about our trip to Brussels

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1.  Jenny and I took the Chunnel from Paris to Brussels.  I love the Chunnel.  If I could travel everyone via the Chunnel, I would, but, you know, that's not exactly possible.  Thanks a lot, geography.

2.  We stayed with Christie, who is a good family friend.  She not only graciously opened up her apartment to us, but showed us around town as soon as we arrived.

3.  Obviously, our first stop on the trip was a falafel restaurant.  Huge thanks to Jenny for tolerating my falafel addiction throughout this entire trip.  It could be worse, right?  I could be addicted to . . . BBQ?  Hard Rock Cafes?  Hot dogs?

4.  Sadly, this was Jenny's and my last night together, as she was preparing to return to the States.  I have no idea when I will see her again, but I already want her to visit me once (or twice) (or 100 times) more.

5.  The weather was unseasonably warm.  Too bad that I only had one clean pair of pants at this point, and they were drawstring 'lounge' pants at that (aka glorified pajama pants).  Fashion has not been my forte this trip.  Chalk it up to depression over the fact that I, too, will be heading back to the States in a couple of weeks!  But I'll be back in December, so I can handle this for now...

6.  Of course we had to try a Belgian waffle.  It wasn't my favorite treat, but I think that just means I need to come back to Brussels and try all the waffles until I find just the right one.

7.  The only picture we got of the three of us was a blurry one.  Again, all the more reason to revisit Christie in Brussels!

Dear Jenny, all of our travels together were so memorable and I'm so flattered that you worked so hard to raise the money to stay here and travel with me for so long!  I miss you already.

My favorite night in Paris

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Our best idea in Paris: to stop by a grocery store and pick up a baguette, a jar of orange-honey, a bunch of grapes, some brie, and a bottle of red wine (with plastic cups! can't forget the plastic cups!), and then lay out a blanket in front of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy our feast, drink our wine, and take in the Eiffel Tower as the sun went down.  But our best memory in Paris came en route to the Eiffel Tower after our trip to the grocery store: we were walking down a sidewalk in an abandoned alleyway (less sketchy than it sounds -- more, like, a side street that just happened to be uninhabited) when a mysterious door opened and a group of young French men poured out onto the sidewalk, gathering all around us.  A few of them grabbed me and a few of them grabbed Jenny (physically grabbed our arms, linked theirs with ours, etc.), laughing boisterously, singing loudly, and skipping along the sidewalk with us.  Let it be known that Jenny and I are both cautious, careful, and intuitive, and we don't carry personal myths around with us, believing that no harm can befall us.  All the same, our reaction to this very strange and somewhat surreal turn of events was to laugh hysterically -- so hard we could not speak.  We let them more or less carry us down the sidewalk toward the Eiffel Tower laughing and squealing and trying to get our wits about us when Jenny finally shoved them off of her, I shoved them off of me, and Jenny firmly announced: "And that's the end!"  They obliged, retreated back to the illusive door from which they came, and we continued on down to the Eiffel Tower wiping tears from our faces and asking to one another, "Did that just happen?"  It had just happened, and it was the precursor to one of the weirdest, most magical nights of the trip.

(And of course we got some ice cream for dessert).

5 Paris highlights (only 3 of which are food-related)

Monday, October 5, 2009

1.  Obviously, the most important thing we did in Paris was eat at LA's du Falafel: Lenny Kravtiz's favorite restaurant and mine too.  It's been called the world's best falafel and let me be clear -- I do not disagree.  I think it is better than Falafel King in Notting Hill but only a little.  Sadly, we only ate here just once... I could have eaten here every meal of the trip.  But it is Paris, and, ya know, there's more to see and do than just hang out with Lenny Kravtiz (.....he wasn't there, but we felt he was there in spirit).

2.  THIS PASTRY.  We stopped in a little bakery on a post-falafel jaunt and ohmygoodness, this pastry changed our lives.  It was sort of like baklava but more honey-based.  Someday I will be back and I will find it and learn more about its origins...the name of the bakery would be a good place to start.

3.  Reading Edie outside the Louvre while Jenny perused the museum.  And yes, we went to Etam beforehand and yes, I bought more clothes and no, I did not need them nor do I have a place to store them, but a blanket in the park with a good book is usually where I want to be (when I'm not eating falafel, that is), so that is all that matters.

4.  Touring the Latin Quarter.  This part of the trip actually involved little to no food!  Surprising, huh?

5.  NUTELLA CREPES.  I eat these wherever I am in the world (Cinque Terre, Brussels, London, Stillwater, OK), but I have this theory that they taste better in Paris and I think I'm right...

But the number 1 highlight is yet to come!
Okay, the number 2 highlight (nothing trumps the falafel).

My favorite part of Munich

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Doing the Geschwister-Scholl "tour" at Uni. München is a must when in Munich, but first, please read the book, see the movie, do whatever you need to do to educate yourself about the story of Sophie Scholl and her brother.  It is so fascinating, and when you see the site for yourself at the university, goosebumps are inevitable.

I love Uni. Salzburg but imagine walking the halls of Uni. München and seeing these every day on your way to class? ^^ Crazy.  Maybe I should come here for my next degree...

5 photos and facts about our time in Munich.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1.  For once in our lives, we had a very uneventful and rather pleasant train ride!  Jenny read The Idiot, while I read Edie Sedgwick's bio.  I had finished Into the Wild in Italy, which wasn't bad (I'd already seen the movie) apart from being generally frustrating in terms of resolution (or lack thereof).  But Edie was gripping -- I couldn't put it down.

2.  One of our first stops: the Rathaus Glockenspiel, which is a must-see in Munich. The upside is that it's free, easy to find, and takes about two seconds of your time.

3.  Something I take all my visiting guests to do in Munich is the view from Peterskirche steeple.  Downside: you have to climb awhile and if heights are not your friend, prepare to be a little dizzy (I know from experience).  But the view is great.

4.  We stopped by the legendary Hofbräuhaus to get a half liter of beer, which was interesting in and of itself since both of us prefer wine.  Try as we might, beer just isn't our favorite.  But we tried the beer, split a pretzel, and observed an American girl with her family (one table over) chew on her hair for a total of 8 consecutive minutes, so that was fascinating.

Next stop: my favorite sight to see in all of Munich...

20 Interesting Things That Happened to Us in Budapest

Friday, September 25, 2009

1.  I decided to stop caring about my appearance, and just wear the same outfit every day.  It was liberating, and also gross.

2.  We stayed at Victor and Jake's -- a perfectly pleasant hostel, which seemed absolutely terrifying at first, due to the fact that the walls separating each room were not, in fact, walls, but really just partitions, so that (as I so reassuringly warned Jenny on our first night there as we were falling asleep) "if that 50-year-old man in the room next to us wanted to get into our room, he could easily just stand on his bed and jump right over."

3.  The exchange rate made us rich.

4.  No, really -- each of these water bottles cost us the equivalent of .24 USD.

5.  And because I was freezing, I bought this jacket at Spar (as in, the grocery store) for, I want to say, 1 USD?

6.  The metro sounds like a carnival ride, and because there was virtually no one in Budapest this time of year, we were often eerily alone as we rode it -- something both creepy and cool.

7.  We ate at McDonald's one morning while Rihanna's "Take a Bow" played on the speakers in the bathroom, and for that reason, that song was stuck in our heads for the rest. of. the trip -- something both annoying and cool.

8.  Jenny let me borrow her skirt to go to church on Sunday!

9.  But we couldn't find the church and ended up in this beautiful courtyard instead.  So we decided to go to a teahouse and get some tea.

10.  But we couldn't find the teahouse and ended up even more lost than before, so we ended up going back to the hostel in defeat.

11.  And then a bird POOPED IN MY HAIR while standing right here outside of the hostel and, for some reason, my reaction was to scream Jenny's name angrily 100 times in a row without stopping.  Luckily it didn't get on my Spar jacket.

12.  But all was well when we went to the baths, which was more or less the reason we went to Budapest in the first place.

13.  Fun fact: a trip to the baths means you don't have to shower at Victor and Jake's!  Because as pretty as the hostel was, there is a reason I'm not including a photo of the bathrooms...

14.  The only negative experience we had at the baths occurred when an elderly man with very wet hands swam over and offered to take a picture of us and then became visibly offended when we declined.

15.  I returned Jenny's favor of lending me her skirt by lending her my blue H&M jacket (Budapest really was chilly and we were ill-prepared), and realized it looks better on her, anyway!

 16.  We saw all the sights, including but not limited to: Parliament with a side of graffiti.

17.  The Danube River was pretty, but cold.

18.  So we decided to eat some falafel for dinner and call it a day.

19.  And then we remembered we have to eat a Milka bar after every meal (that's the rule), so we sat on a park bench and shared one while discussing what Jenny's bio would be in my wedding program.

20.  And then we made a post-dessert/pre-bedtime trip to Hero's Square, before returning to Victor and Jake's to continue contemplating the likelihood of men jumping over our walls.

Budapest, we like you.  'Love' might be too strong a word but I'm willing to give you another chance one day.  Just have the falafel ready, with a side of Milka bar.