Sunday, April 24, 2011

Germany, Day 4


Wake up and check out of the hostel. Kelsey and I wanted to shop; unfortunately we had one debby-downer who is currently driving me crazy. I didn’t get any German souvenirs yet, so hopefully he’ll back off in Munich and quit complaining.

Headed for Salzburg. It’s supposed to be a two and a half hour trip, which we somehow stretched to eight hours. I almost shot someone. I drove the whole way; I love driving through the mountains but our resident backseat drivers made me want to drive off a mountainside. It was scenic, but when we pulled over at 4pm for lunch I was ready for some alone time.

Fortunately I found a fantastic place for our lunch; it was a cute park with lots of lush grass and sun to sleep in. While they slept I took off for a walk through the park.

Found fantastic views of a castle and made new friends—they were maybe 5 and 6 years old. I was wandering through the woods and stopped to admire their fort. They ran up and started speaking to me in German. I shook my head, put my hand on my chest, and said, “English”. The little blonde boy looked to his friend then to me and said, “lkjadkd” and the other said “oadkjtbj”. Their names—how cute! I laughed and said, “Nein nein, Michelle”. They smiled and started speaking German again. I waved goodbye, pointing to their fort and giving a thumbs up (universal, no?). They shouted “Tank-jew, and Bahee-bahee” = “Thank-you, bye-bye”. Adorable overload.

Got into Salzburg pretty late. We scored a snazzy hotel for cheap—opening week prices. We have a huge room and friendly receptionists. My favorite is this super enthusiastic guy from Munich. After we wandered around Salzburg looking for a cheap place for dinner, without a map and ignoring the receptionist’s recommendation, until we settled on the one and only McDonald’s. Oh well. Tomorrow will be better, and hopefully not include a date with a BigMac.

Germany, Día 3


Breakfast search—apparently no stores are open on Sundays in Germany either. However, people eat ice cream here all the time! The only stores open were ice cream stores—not even the bakeries were open. We finally found one that sold waffles—and kaffe. Delicious.

Later we went to the Neuschwanstein castle. The tour was totally worth it. I cannot describe how absolutely fantastic the castle was. The outside is literally exactly how every Disney castle looks; the inside was even more incredible. Every wall was covered in rich colored paintings—my favorite kinds too: realistic with horses and woods and pale girls. The castle was narrower than it looked. The wood was dark and rich and intricately carved Unfortunately pictures weren’t allowed inside, but I’ll grab a few off of Google to throw in here.

Afterwards we walked a ways to a suspension bridge to snatch some awesome pictures of the castle:

Later we went back to the room. I can’t remember what we did until dinner. Since people are bargain shopping for meals we ended up getting pizza-ehh. But it was Hawaiian so that’s okay. What made it worth it were the men working the shop. I love the people here! Hahaha Italian Germans—and extremely politically incorrect. Christie is half-Mexican, so it’s hard to pick out her ethnicity. The owner asked in his broken English if she was Asian and when she said no he promptly showed her how Asian eyes go and called her ChingChangChong—Konichiwa. So funny. We saw him later at the bar we went to; I smiled and said hi, and he came over and Asian bowed to Christie. Priceless.

View out of the window of Thorne Hall:

The lake on the right is where we took pictures from the day before. We hiked over the farthest mountain on the right up to the yellow castle in between the lakes:

After the bar we wandered back to the hotel. On the way we ran into a 1Euro ice cream place. The Romanian guy there was hilarious. Sarcastic, sassy, and ice cream-savvy. Recommended banana ice cream—absolutely fantastic. I was skeptical at first, but glad I listened to him.

The smaller castle:

Germany, Day 2


First Full Day in Fussen.

Wake up at nine. Best night of sleep since Lisbon, but I literally felt like I had slept for 2 days. An all-nighter at the airport really makes your body appreciate sleep. Apparently I spooned Kelsey; I just really like spooning, I can’t help it. Besides it was cold in the room.

Anyways wake up and walk into town. Original plan was to go to a bakery, but then we saw our new friend, Netto, and went there instead. Bought a yogurt and coffee for breakfast—yum!—and pretzel bread, Dijon mustard, ham and cheese for a lunch sandwich. I love pretzel bread. I would move here just for the pretzel bread. The views and temperature don’t hurt either. Or the fact that everyone thinks we’re German anyways. It’s nice to blend in! I’m home!

After getting a map from the tourist center, we decide to hike to the Cinderella castle, the Neuschwanstein castle. So without a watch and with lunch packed, we take of on our epic journey. (We also found this sweet german sweets store. They’re these balls of goodness called “schneeballen”. Look them up. I didn’t get one, but I took a bite. Mmm, will have to describe them tomorrow. Also, the store had a sign in “American”: “Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear!” hahahahaha)

While Ryan slept, Kelsey and I decided to go exploring. Christie joined us too. It looks exactly like Beauty and the Beast’s forest—we were literally walking through a Disney movie. Well we got all of a quarter mile before we ventured off the path. There was this rock really close to the path that looked perfect for sitting, but then we got to that rock and there was one a little bit higher, that looked even better. And so on for a few rocks, and then we decide, why not climb this mountain side to sit on top of the cliff? And up we go.

It only took us a solid 10 minutes to realize this was probably not our smartest idea, but the goal was still so enticing. Up and up we go, crawling on hands and knees sideways up this hill at greater than a 50 degree incline. Mind you this hill is covered in a layer of leafs about six inches deep and under that wet, mossy earth. I don’t have cleats. I have everyday running shoes. There were times when I slipped and Christie literally two-handed my cheeks and pushed my butt back up the hill. So we get to the bottom of the cliff.

So close, thirty more feet up this crazy mountain side and we’re there. After several slides down and mud all over, we’re getting to the top. Kelsey crawls up first. I saw the light when one of her loose rocks flew inches from my face. I took one step closer and the second my shoe hit the wet rock I knew this was my last stop. So Christie passed me. Kelsey has a life moment when she slips and slides down the wet rock on her butt for awhile. Okay, she’s done. She laughs one of those laughs you laugh right after you realize you’re not dead. The hyperventilating/relief laugh. Haha.

Christie presses forward. I start directing Kelsey down. Christie finally caves. Now to get down. We all look down. Straight down. We’ve probably climbed 150 feet or more up this slippery mountain side that has absolutely zero grips and few trees. So what do I do? I pick a tree about 20 feet down, sit on my butt and slide. Not too scary. Pick another tree about 30 feet down. Sit on my butt and slide. Starting to get fun. And so it continues until we’re back on the hiking path, covered in mud but totally exhilarated with plenty of new quotes.

Catch up with Ryan and continue our hike. Hike up another mountain until we get to one with an up close and personal view of the two castles. Perfect place for a lunch break. Delish. Walk home, take a wrong turn that ended up working out and walked on some weird Christian pathway. There were three crosses that marked a stunning view of Fussen. Later there was an opening with a small shrine to Mary, a cross with a snake and another rock statue of Jesus carrying the cross. Very appropriate for Easter week!

Once we get into town we go back to Netto for dinner. Grab some grub and book it home—it’s almost five and I haven’t peed since I woke up. Pee then grab the car. Head towards the mountains. After a few misturns, finally find the perfect worn down road that heads straight into the Alps. Up we go in our cute station wagon Audi. At some point we pull over and walk up a creek. Find the perfect spot. We spend an hour or two finding wood and kindling while watching the sunset. Our little gorge turned golden and rosy as the rays came through. An amazing sunset.

Ryan starts the fire right as the sun goes down and all warmth goes away. We’re on the rocks on the dry half of the creek bed. BONFIRE IN THE BAVARIAN ALPS. It’s perfect, honestly. They roasted Brats on the fire and drank amazing German beers and I ate my fresh lettuce and cherry tomatoes. And we chilled. Talked and laughed and enjoyed our fire in the German forest. Even though it was around 40 degrees out, our huge fire kept us toasty warm

The moon gave us a fright though. All of a sudden our valley was filled with bright streams of light. We all thought a car had pulled up near ours. I go down to investigate. No one. Look behind me—brightest full moon I’ve ever seen. Incredible. Stay with our fire til midnight. Clean up, put it out, and walk by the light of the moon down the mountain to our car. Drive home, singing “She’ll be coming down the mountain” and “John Jacob Jingleheimerschmitt”. Arrive, write everything down. Say my prayers. Go to bed :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Germany, Day One

So I was finally smart about my blogging-I wrote down the day's activities at the end of each night. So you'll get a super in-depth view of my trip to Germany. PS I'm moving there.


Spend the night in Málaga Airport; we all shared a tiny cubbie. Literally, we got all of our luggage plus four people into this little nook in the wall that was maybe 5’x5’x5’ (See pic). Freezing, so we didn’t get much sleep but the night went by fast, so good overall. Our flight took off at 630am; we arrived in Memmingem around 930. Rented a sweet car—how it worked out in our favor I don’t know. I asked for an automatic shift that could fit four people's luggage. We’re driving an AUDI. Hot and bothered. I have always wanted to drive one. And I drove it on the autobon. Fast. Real fast. Crazy fast..

Before I scare my parents, we’ll move on to Lindau, our first stop in Germany.

Pause, back up, rewind to before the autobon. There’s a grocery chain named Netto, which we four of Team America like to call “Neat-o” because it has an awesome fresh bakery and discount on all grocery items. The grocery stores are kicking here!!! Germany knows what’s up! So many delicious items that you can’t find in Spain or the US for that matter. Ugh, drooling. Literally. Also, Dad, this one’s for you. I asked for a kaffe, mit milch. They understood, and I got my coffee with milk. I don’t know what I would have done without my German lessons from you.

Lindau—well after getting there in record time (thank you autobon+Audi) we cross the bridge and go into the “Old Town”, which is an island that goes out into a stunning lake. Walked around town and took plenty of pictures, stared in awe at the Alps across the lake. Decided that some day I’d live in Germany. Weren’t there for very long as there wasn’t much to do, but it was so pretty. Really quaint and could not get over the lake+mountains+sun+island combo. Oh, we saw the original wall too, which was pretty sweet.

Lindau (Painted churches):

Lindau (Lighthouse):

Get back in the car, stop listening to our very polite British GPS woman and take off down a road that looks super windy on our old-school map. Best decision ever—so beautiful. We drove slow, pissed off some Germans driving with a purpose, and enjoyed the views. Our all-nighter caught up quick so we pulled over and walked into the woods.

We ate our trail mix and all went our separate ways to find a place to take a nap. I slept in a sun spot in the middle of the woods, but it got a little overcast later and the cold woke me up. Walked over and found Kelsey. She was looking over a drop off. Valley dressed in pines and blooming trees, and church bells floating in off the wind. Christie woke up and joined us “Nature is all over me”; had to wake up Ryan eventually because we were freezing and he was still out.

Drive into Fussen, check into our hostel which is super nice! Kelsey and I share a bed and Ryan and Christie have a bunk bed. There are kiddie designs on the wall and a hilarious picture from Sea World. Go Shamu—you’re in Germany!

Later we just walked around town. Found a pretty park, took pictures, window shopped. Ate Turkish Kebab Crepes for dinner which were fantastic.

Team America conquers Füssen
Füssen's river banks:
Fussen by night
Fussen sunset over the riverbanks & Bavarian Alps

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Hey guys, just checking in with you all real quick before my big adventure this weekend:
I'm going to Africa!
Maruécos (Morocco)
I'm really excited, but I don't know what to wear ... decisions, decisions.

That's about all I've got for this one. Haha. Oh and that it's freaky steamy here. I literally was soaked walking to and from class. The morning wasn't too bad (I ran a 10k!) but once the sun hits those streets it's awful. Over 95 today walking to class. And there's no breeze. I'm like a vampire running from shady side of the street to the other shady side of the street.

I was so hot today that I spent time contemplating the best metaphor.

What fries?
-An egg on pavement. But I'm much too sweaty and wet to be an egg.

What roasts?
-The tomatoes Manoli had in the oven the other day! But, this is too quick, and I don't combust into a squishy red mess under the Sevillana sun. It's a much slower, painful process...

Okay, what melts?
-Ice melts, but too quickly and too easily.
-Chocolate melts, but that's just gross. And so unpleasant! Have you ever been excited to eat a candy bar, open it up, and then realize that it's hard after melting? So sad.
-Ice cream melts. It's a slow process. Slow and sad. Oozing down the side of the cone one runaway streak at a time. When it finally drips onto the pavement, the sun scorches it into the pavement. The ice cream disappears into a path of dripped, baked, sweaty droplets on the sidewalk. Ice cream melts how I melt.

See you in Africa, Sun!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Regurgitate (arrrgh! piratas!)

Quick, let me write a post before I forget all the cool stuff I just learned!

Visited the Archivo de Indias, (Archive of the Indias-which coincidently is the Archive of Central/South America, as when it was first encountered by the Spaniards they believe they'd found India). I didn't know what to expect other than old documents, but I thought I was very cool. They had a pirate exhibit!! Some cool facts:
  • The French became jealous of the Spanish when the Spanish began to acquire all of "its" riches from the Americas. It therefore declared itself an enemy. Many pirates attacking Spanish ships were French.
  • The French pirates posed a major threat pirating ships both as they arrived back in Spain and as they left the Americas. Also, not only did they attack the ships but also the cities/towns themselves. Many times when pirating the towns they would sneak in during the early hours of the morning (2/3am) and first take the campana-the bell. That way the alarm could not be raised. Pretty smart for a bunch of riftraft!
  • In order to defend against the pirates, a king (I think Ferdinand something or other, I'll have to check) decided to change the way ships left for voyages. Instead of it being random, he decided to have one date in the summer and one in the winter in which the ships could both leave Spain and the Americas. No ships were to travel at any other time. In this way, the pirates could not live off waiting for ships. Also, the Spanish ships traveled together, and in doing so could afford to pay for a military guard. Safety in numbers!
  • I'm currently eating my favorite lunch ever-stuffed eggplant. It's fantastic and utterly distracting. You should be jealous.
  • Piercing of the cartilage began in European culture with the pirates. Every time a pirate would round Cape Horn, the tip of South America, he would get a piercing. Pirates with the most earrings in their cartilages earned the most respect.
  • This one the translation is a little rough: When coming back into the channel entering Spain, a Dutch ship blocked the passage. The convoy of Spanish ships, confused as Holland was not declared an enemy, paused and turned around. However, because they were laden with so much gold and silver when they turned they touched the bottom and were stranded. The Dutch, in smaller, lighter boats, came in circled and took the precious metals and went straight back to Holland. Funny part? Most Spanish have never heard this story-the Spanish captain was incarcerated for five years then decapitated. The Dutch however, have many songs of the tale and to this day children sing them in school and adults in bars. It's the country's version of David and Goliath!
We learned a lot more about the history involved; I found it very interesting. The Archivo de Indias contains nearly all of the original letters, correspondences, documents throughout its history. It's an incredible collection. The documents involving piracy were only the beginning. I saw letters today that were written in the 1400s. 1400s-thats more than five hundred years old! Dang. The ink is turned a brownish red and has faded a lot, but it's still cool to think about seeing someone's actual handwriting and their thoughts from the late fifteenth century.

I find it very interesting how my brain functions here in Spain. First of all, as I translate in my head less and less Spanglish is becoming increasing common. I think it's because I'm speaking without thinking. Therefore, on filler words or at the middle/end of sentences I'll randomly switch to the opposite language without noticing.

Even weirder is how I remember things. Everything enters in Spanish, and I understand it now without conscientiously translating it. However, when I look back on an event, it's all in English. Sometimes a word will stick out in Spanish, either because it's something that doesn't translate vocabulary or is connecting with an idea I don't have a word for in English or because it was a word that I didn't understand immediately.

For example, hearing the lecture today I realized I can semi zone-out and still capture all of the information in Spanish-no need to focus intently to understand, just like English!! Yet when I sat down to write this, everything spilled out in English. Random words stuck out, such as campana (which I already knew but don't hear often) or the part I had to intently focus on to understand-this I remember in Spanish.

Our brains are so cool--they work in mysterious ways!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Hello dear friends!

Well today was a good day. I got up at 830 to go meet friends from the barn for a paseo through Sevilla. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!

We met at el Parque del Alamillo. We saddled up, all dressed in a mix of our finest: some wore the traditional Spanish outfits, either the traje corto (jacket&pants) o the traje amazona (jacket&long skirt), and others a la inglesa, an "English" style wear most anything goes. Since I own neither here in Spain I wore my riding boots and a Ralph Lauren white button down shirt tucked into khaki pants. Quite the picture with my bright bay steed, Neptuno.

My friends and I, along with over 100 other horse and rider duos lined up along the park. It was amazing. I've never seen so many people dressed in the traditional gear-it was so pretty. Most were Andalusian horses, but like the horse I was riding their were also Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, and Andy-crosses thrown in the mix. At 11am sharp we took off, all 100+ of us for a walk through Sevilla.

Around 1130am it begins to rain.

We pass through all parts of Sevilla, moving in a long loop through the city. We pass my school CIEE, the Catedral, the Plaza de España, and the Torre de Oro. We put smiles on the face on all the bystanders and put some serious frowns on those stuck in the traffic jams we caused. All the while the rain keeps on coming. And this is no mild rain--it's pouring.

By the time we're halfway I'm soaked to the bone. My I remind you of my oh so preppy outfit? That features I white button down? May I also remind you that while everyone in the traditional outfit has saddlebags packed with rain jackets, English tack does not have saddle bags/a place to store a jacket. So while the majority of the riders are wet but semi covered, here I am the only rubia in the whole parade, soaked. But on the bright side, it wasn't hot. So in my opinion, we had good weather.

We made it back to the trailers around 230. At this point the rain doesn't even bother me. One of the horses in our group decided to be a complete cabron about loading into the trailer. Took over an hour. In the meanwhile, people snapped photos of me and Neptuno, the two of us soaked standing content in the rain. A man with a TV camera focused on us for awhile, but I have no idea if it showed on TV.

Later, a little kid's horse rears, Neptuno spooks, and without a stud chain, gets loose. I jog off after him. The ground's wet, but hard. Until I hit the orchard. I take one step into the mud and I go down, sliding face first into humiliation. In front of a crowd of dry onlookers, down goes the rubia covered literally from head to foot in straight mud. Neptuno grazes contently not even 10 feet away. Well I'm ready to go home. I'm cold, wet, and muddy, and this horse with his 6 stalks of grass has eaten more than I have today.

I get home just after 4. "Manoli, mira como yo he venido a casa. Como yo vengo a casa!" She's speechless. First of all, this is a perfect recipe para estar resfriado. Second, she just spent all day scrubbing the floor. I tell her I'll strip out here in the staircase, but she rushes me in and helps me take off my clothes. I don't make too much of a mess. And finally got to defrost in the shower. For once, it was super hot. Caballos. What they do to you...


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jerez de la Frontera

The very first thing I did when I got to Spain was buy my ticket to the Spanish Royal Equestrian Show. The first thing. That's how excited I was to see this show.

It was awesome! Totally lived up to expectations.

My friend, Chiarra, and I woke up early and took the hour train ride from Sevilla to Jerez de la Frontera. We got off the train, walked out the door, looked left, looked right, and headed back inside to go get a tourist map. We made our way through town and had a lovely breakfast at a local cafe. Fresh squeezed orange juice? Why yes, I'd love a glass.

We walked roughly a hour half across the city to the beautiful Real Fundación. It's a walled center with iron gates and beautiful gardens inside.
We walked around a bit inside, watching a few Andalusians in the walker, a circular machine that allows the horses to walk in a circle without being together. They also had a few Prezwalski ponies, a very old breed.

The show itself was stunning. We had fantastic seats, second row on the corner near where the letter C would be (at the side of the "throne"-the best seat in the house). My favorite acts were the first act and the last.

The first act featured one man and his bay stallion in traditional doma vaquera clothing. The duo performed several series of movements with such lightness-it was breathtaking. His canter was super forward and willing and he had no trouble with his lateral work. It was as if he was floating.

The last act was the Carousel. The choreography was absolutely incredible. Every movement was perfectly precise-there literally was no room for error. The stallions work head to tail with inches in between each other; they pass through movements without any indication of a need to adjust their rhythm. It really was spectacular. One horse in particular caught everyone's eye. I've never seen a horse move so gracefully before. It was truly effortless; as if no rider was giving him cues and he was moving simply for the joy of it.

Other acts included a pass de deux, well choreographed and had one very cool move in which the two stallions pirouetted in towards each other. If one of the horses was but a step out of his pirouette they would have collided. There was also a carriage driving display: two teams of four (?) horses showed the two styles-Spanish traditional and the modern English. The turns they made were very tight. My now horsey friend was impressed; she like how they turned like a motorcycle, breaking in two instead of bending throughout. There was also an in-hand show which was very cool. I've seen better caprioles at Medieval Times though ;) All in all the show was very impressionable. Bought a few shirts at the gift shop afterwards.

Next we walked around the town. Went looking for their handcrafts show, but it was abandoned by the time we got there, seeing as it was around 2 and siesta time. Happened to bump into a Mexican restaurant as we meandered along. Fajitas, how I missed you! Not the best choice in hindsight given the virus I was fighting, but I can't say no to Mexican.

After lunch, Chiarra and I had about three hours until we had to catch a train. What is Jerez know for, aside from the horses? Bodegas (wineries) and sherry. But instead of going to a winery, what do we do? We go to the zoo. Duh.

We pretended to be the animals in the cages. As follows:
Chiarra: Flamenco flamingo
Me: Safari explorer

Chiarra: Elefante
Me: Mono!

Jerez de la Frontera:
Beautiful weather, beautiful shows, and beautiful company