Saturday, August 23, 2008

Adventures in Netherlands, Belgium and Beyond

I have to make this quick – I have my good buddy Tony D. here and we’ve got a few things to do today so here’s the short of my trip to Holland and Belgium:

Started off thinking I was going to sleep in the airport so I could catch my early morning plane – but last minute I figured out how to take night connections at 3 AM. So I do it but end up in an unfamiliar are and couldn’t find my transfer – and still ended up taking a cab to the airport that cost over half the price of my ticket…Oh well I’m going on vacation!

Fly to Holland and arrived - after a long morning – still earlier than I would want to wake up – and a little sick. But this was my vacation and a trip that I was looking forward to for too long!

So I wander around Amsterdam for like 5 hours, almost non stop walking since I didn’t want to stop to spend any money – tight budget for this trip. But I got to see a ton of Amsterdam – beautiful city. At like 1, I met up with this girl who showed me her favorite cafĂ© – one of the cooler I’ve ever been too – and then we went to a museum outside of town that her friend worked at. It was all about the change in politics and social structure and how architecture was the driving force in the change - SUPER interesting and something that most tourists would never see. Then we met up with her friend who worked there and got some traditional Dutch food and after talking for a while they said that every Wednesday – the day I happened to be there – they cook food together with another friend and they invited me to come…OKAY!

Her friend lived in a shipping container but it was actually temporary student housing – they had made a little village of apartment buildings from it. So unique.

Note: The weather throughout that day and the trip was so random – I always needed sunglasses, an umbrella and a jacket. Rain, heat, sun, threat of rain – it was nuts.

Then they walked me to the train station through their favorite part of Amsterdam and it was probably my favorite too – really nice and along the water…like most of the city.

That was my most action packed day – then I took a late train to Rotterdam and stayed with a guy for 5 days. I didn’t plan on staying that long but he was so nice and generous. Over the time that I was there we saw like 5 or 6 cities, a famous Dutch amusement park, the damn that closes the river Rein, a Dutch bath, and ate dinner with another family. (I know that description was a lot shorter than that of Amsterdam but this was just way to much to even try to lay out. An incredible person to stay with and some great talks about life and traveling.

Then I headed off to Belgium to see a friend I had made earlier this summer in Krakow, who then visited me in Prague. (These plane tickets for this trip cost less than my train tickets to Krakow.) So I got to Belgium and Thomas was still busy so I had some time to wander. That was nice to see Antwerp and I have to say is probably one of the most wonderful cities I have ever been too. Beautifully preserved architecture that isn’t perfect or fully restored, just left at this romantic state that took hundreds of years to achieve. Its not too big and not too small and I think some day there’s just enough room for me.

But seriously, HUGE beautiful church in the center right next to my favorite pub in Antwerp. Great little place that serves just about every beer that Belgium makes – that’s an overstatement but they have a lot. Having a beer with Thomas was like going to school – he knew so much about so many – and I loved hearing about them all while sampling a few a long the way. (Don’t worry family – remember I had a low budget – nothing out of hand). I got to meet a lot of his friends too and hang out at his… student housing type place – that will take an explanation in person – and we went to a free movie a long the river one night – part of a summer long festival called Summer of Antwerp. - - - - great city and a great time.

Over all a Great trip – and this is only a fraction of the stories. But I am headed home soon and you can all hear more in person. Keep checking this though – I might post once more before I get back and once I am back I will do something about those pictures I promised all summer – slow internet stopped me from doing that here – sorry.

So keep checkin’ in and I will talk to you all soon – I need to go show Tony all the highlights of the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No time to witty titles - Just read

Ok – so since last week… again not much has happened. At least not much that makes for lengthy stories – although it seems that I manage to turn any story into something lengthy.

I am sitting on a train right now and enjoying the trip back to Prague (don’t have internet but I am pre-writing this on my computer to save some time). I have been in Budejovice for the past 5 days or so doing pretty much nothing. It was great.

Most of my friends are traveling right now – nearly every Czech takes a minimum of 2 solid weeks of vacation each summer – national minimum is 4 weeks throughout the year. Wouldn’t that be nice? But my friends being gone gave me time to spend with some of my host families who did happen to be in town either right before or after their vacations abroad.

For those of you who don’t know all the super specifics of my exchange the last time I lived here, I never actually lived in the city center, but always within the reach of city busses – and I am so happy. I always landed in one of the many small and romantic towns that plan themselves along the side roads that jut out from the main city. Mainly when I’m back now I stay in Doubravice with one of my host moms and her son. It’s on top of a hill and I can see most of the city from the balcony. Beautiful place to step out of the city and enjoy yourself for a while. I had a great time spending a lot of evenings with neighbors, cooking some of the best meat I have had in a long time (not your fault dad, locally-raised meat marinated for a day and then cooked over an open fire with friends and beer is tough to beat). It was nice just to relax.

Now I am headed back to Prague – a day later than anticipated since some friends I hadn’t been able to meet with yet just got back to town and talked me into skipping my train so we had more than an hour to spend together – an hour to compensate for three years of absence doesn’t quite cut it. Glad I stayed but a lot still to do in Prague today.

It’s my turn to clean the flat – hope that goes alright. Then a lot of things to prepare for my trip and I don’t even think that I’ll get to sleep in my own bed tonight. I took a 6AM flight to Holland tomorrow because it was so cheap – then I remembered that the metro doesn’t run that early and I don’t know if night busses can get me there and a taxi would cost as much as my plane ticket. It looks like I might just have to sleep at the airport so I can check in at 4 or 5. I’ve heard of people getting stuck at airports and having to sleep there but who starts their trip like that? This will be an interesting trip as a whole.

Like I said – I am good at turning a whole week of nothing into a whole lengthy post. Maybe I just naturally write proportionally to my height. But MAKE SURE to tune in for what’s up next week when I tell all about my Adventures in Netherlands, Belgium and Beyond.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Its good to be back

Still don’t know if anyone checks this anymore – I just seem to get worse and worse at updating. I have been busy but its not so many fantastic tales of near death experience or outrageous chance-happenings.

After the last time I wrote, I spent most of a fairly quiet week here in Prague. I found some great new places in my exploring and met some awesome new people who I really connected with. I love that. 2 of the people where from Idaho and they were so cool. They came to Prague for 2 days and stayed for a week. I tell everyone to do that but no one actually does – maybe that’s why I liked these people – they have good taste in location.

Then, I had been talking back and forth with some people in Ceske Budejovice where I used to live and thinking about when I’d go as if I’m so busy I could hardly get away – then I realized I’m being dumb and just went. I planned for about 3 days and stayed for almost a week.

This is possibly the highlight of my summer – By good fortune all my closest friends happened to be in Budejovice for the summer and I got to see almost all of them. Almost non-stop for the whole time I was there I just got to talk to them, catch up, see the band that some of them are in now, and see a number a places I attended as often as school. It was incredible and so little has changed – the city, the shops, the people. That could be taken as bad, but I can tell the people are wiser and they have changed some for the better, but the part of them that I love is still there as it was. I am so glad to still have these friends. I’ve been back in Prague for about 2 days and I am already heading back for a concert and some more time there. I can’t wait.

I also secured the plan for my good buddy Tony to come over for the last week that I am here – that will be a blast. I am going to drag him back south to Budejovice so he can see where I used to live the people there. Then we’ll spend some time in Cesky Krumlov (google that town – it’s worth it) and Prague.

You can only show so much in a 4x6 and only tell so much through blogs and stories, so I am glad that I finally have a friend as good as Tony coming that I can show and share this with. I am really looking forward to that. Its too bad that when caitlin was here we didnt have enough time to head down that way - I'd really like to share this with all my friends.

Lastly, by way of more good fortune, I bought plane tickets to Holland and home from Belgium. Best part is – the first time I looked I found them at a great price – I was going to pay about $50 each way. Then I left for a week and came back and they were almost double one way and triple the other. I didn’t know what to do! The next day I search again on the same site and they dropped them to about $40 each way – which means almost the whole ticket is “tax and fees” and my fare is about a dollar.

I’ll be traveling between the two over a course of a week. I made a friend in Krakow when I was there and then he came to see me in Prague – I am returning the favor by visiting him in Belgium, hopefully he’ll travel a bit with me Holland too. It’s good to have friends all over. Makes traveling much more exciting than the gawking at artfully crafted stone and cement.

Some good stories should come out of that trip. Hope you guys tune-in to hear about it later.