Monthly Archives: October 2012

Austria and Switzerland Together

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Hello All,

For your enjoyment and leisurely read, we’ve combined our adventures into one easy to read bulletin of things we’ve done as the photos rather speak for themselves.

Austria Photo Journal
Switzerland Photo Journal

48 Hours In Austria:

– Sound of Music Tour
– City wandering
– Eating at an awesome veggie/vegan cafe
– Enjoyed the pouring rain

96 Hours in Switzerland:

-Arrived in the dark rain, missed the last bus to the hostel and took a taxi
-Woke up the next day to sun and mountains.
-Hung out with our roomies (Larissa and Alee).
-Cable car rides to the mountains (First and Manlichen).
-Hiked from Manlichen to Kleine Schleidegg.
-Watched the Swiss air force practice over the mountains.
-Repaired Sam’s duffel bag with super glue, duct table and a screw driver.
-Listened to the cowbells echo throughout the hills.
-Made delicious homemade meals at the hostel.
-Sunbathed and relaxed.

Overall this week was good and although it rained on us quite a bit it was nice to get out of the cities and into small towns where we could get some fresh mountain air in our lungs. We spent as much time as we could just out walking around, since we were in some of the most beautiful vistas ever. We also cooked and just relaxed at our hostel. Fall in mountain towns definitely moves at a very slow pace and so we had no problem just slowing down and enjoying the areas. Austria was a bit tough since it POURED the entire time, but we still got out and walked through the city a bunch in addition to our sound of music tour. Switzerland likewise had a bit of clouds and rain, but it also had sun and amazing sunsets, mountains and a nice picture book feel to it. It was very easy to fall into the lifestyle of the town and just wander, hike and stare up.

After our time there we left the hostel and headed to the train station. On the way Kailey got to play interpreter between an elderly Swiss woman and a group of Taiwanese tourists. Kailey and the woman then proceeded to talk to each other about how she spoke German so well, and the interesting mix of tourists in the Swiss mountains (p.c. for why there are so many Asian nationalities represented). We arrived in Milan that evening and found some decent pizza. We got back to our hostel and fell asleep so we could wake up early the next morning and try to find Rae at the subway station near us. Until next time for our two week Italy recap unless something else happens along the way.

~ K. and Sam

The Heart Of Darkness

If you were to ask most travelers what their single greatest fear is on a trip it would probably universally be, losing a camera. Camera’s are a sacred thing while traveling, they are your way to document your experience so that no matter what you will always be able to remember. Photos are the easiest ways to call into clarity a memory from a trip past and for that reason are extremely important to anyone who takes a trip or documents a moment. A traveler’s worst nightmare is the loss or theft of a camera.

I got to experience that fear today. This morning when leaving Milan I made the incredibly stupid decision to clip my camera on to my backpack’s hip belt. Then we walked down the platform to the train, boarded the train, car number 7 and sat down. Upon sitting down, Kailey asked for the camera as she likes to document the taking off points of our aventures. I reached for the camera when a sinking feeling hit my stomach as I realized the hip belt was no longer attached and the camera was nowhere to be found. My heart began a mad dash for 1000 beats a minute as I frantically searched, the bag, the seat, the floor all the while the eyes of my wife were burning holes into my back as I panicked and said “the camera isn’t here.” I searched the car up and down and then down on to the platform, searching in vain for a camera that I knew in my heart was gone. Kailey searched all over as well including her own mad dash at 5 minutes to departure down the platform and back. I tried my best to mime and explain in English that we had lost our camera to the train assistant, but he just kind of laughed and said “no,” hinting to there is no way we were going to find it. Kailey was getting that particular look in her eyes that I know means trouble. “Hell hath no fury like my wife” I could sense the anger in her knowing full well that I deserved it since it was incredibly dumb to have put my camera on the belt loop. I arrived back at my seat and slumped down into my chair resigned to a fate where I had lost our camera, the case, all of our memory cards, the back ups of our photos and one day of pictures in Milan. Thankful at least that we have the pictures we had up through Switzerland downloaded on the Ipad already.

Now you might be reading this and say, “Wow that’s not so bad only one day of photos lost.” You are right it’s not terrible, it wasn’t the end of the world. It just felt like it. I had used that camera across New Zealand, all through camping trips, hikes, adventures with Kailey. It was a gift from my parents a couple years back and had served me, and now us well as a basic digital point and shoot. It represented quite a few adventures and it’s loss would mean a huge bump in the road for our trip. We would of course be able to buy a new one in Venice, at a high cost no doubt, but the knowledge that I had lost something so crucial to the trip, with such a stupid reason was going to eat at me for quite some time.

Kailey and I spent the next 2 hours in relative silence, her glare and few cordial words saying quite enough. My attempts at pretending to be asleep were not really fooling anyone. Rae was lucky enough to get to be around for all this, Day 2 for her! YAY! I ran through a million scenarios in my head where: the conductor found the camera; a kind passenger turns in the found camera; I remember I put it somewhere… not a single one came to fruition. I had finally accepted the fate of a new camera in Venice, and myself under a self induced cloud of shame never to emerge again. It was a lousy day, and I saw nothing but lousy hours filling the foreseeable future.

We arrived at Venice Mestre (one stop before our own) and a large number of passengers started to file out, Kailey and Rae began packing up as we were uncertain if this was our stop or not.

Life is a funny thing, you hope and hope for events to take place and rarely if ever do they. You imagine a million ways for things to go right and they always go wrong. You tell yourself that you can’t appreciate the sweet without the sour. You read stories on Facebook about kind people doing kind things and wonder if they are true. Then one day as you sit having lost a camera full of 5 weeks of pictures and the potential of another 7 weeks more, a woman walks past you carrying a case. A camera case that looks familiar, one that somehow inexplicably catches your eye randomly as you look up at just the right moment. Your camera, your camera case!!!! You instantly forgo any attempt at language and simply state “THAT’S MINE” (channeling your inner 2 year old) grab the case and watch as light suddenly reenters your world as the silver Lumix comes sliding out of the case full of photos, and the clear plastic cases of 4 memory cards peek out of their pocket. There are a million reasons that I shouldn’t have gotten the camera back. The woman was at the other end of the car, she should have just gotten off at that end and not walked all they way past me. She had no real reason to be carrying the camera openly in her hand as she wasn’t exactly looking to return it to anyone (I’m assuming this, but the train attendant had come and gone at least 5 times before this moment, including just before the woman reached us. Any attempt at return had passed). I am pretty confident I dropped it on the platform, the odds of the person finding it being on my car are low. I could go on, but you get the point. With the tension broke, and surprise mixed with shock amongst us all Kailey and Rae proceeded to joke about me “finding” my camera. I didn’t find the camera, that’s too kind to me. Deus Ex Machina seems to be the best description of how I got the camera back. At the last moment in the story an external force swooped in and delivered the camera to me….I don’t know where to direct my thanks, but thanks. I am forever grateful at how the events played out. Kailey may be carrying the camera for the duration of our trip.

-Sam

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DEUTSCHLAND!!!!!!

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YEP it was that awesome that it deserves to be called by it’s German name and it gets TWO photo journals Germany Part One and Germany Part Two!

For me Kailey, I was super excited to be going back to Germany to see family and more of the country. It also felt like returning to see an old friend as I had been there 10+ years ago on exchange. I have grown up knowing the language and speaking it a bit so I definitely felt like “I was coming home” in a way, especially after being in Brussels and France where I couldn’t communicate with anyone.

We arrived at 8:30am after taking the train from Nice back to Paris, then an overnight train from Paris to Stuttgart followed by the train from Stuttgart to Tubingen. It was a whirlwind train trip kind of like the Amazing Race show that began when we decided to go to the train station early to sort out some ticket time issues. Sam sorted them out by in a half hour of our arrival at the station to the point that he came running out of the ticket office saying “grab your bags we have to go NOW!” We ran through the station and got on a train to Paris with just minutes before it left. It turned out that it was good we got there early and that we were then put on an earlier train to Paris which meant that we would make all our connections then. So the journey began.

Niece–>;;Paris–>;;Stuttgart

In Paris we got on our overnight train thinking we had chairs to spend quality time in while we traveled. We carefully locked all of our belongings up and then boarded the train to find out that we were in a Sleeping car with a family from China. (See the end of the Nice blog for more information). In the end we were grateful to have a sleeping car that allowed us to sleep a bit on this long journey. 4:30am rolled around and we arrived in Stuttgart (the train lady woke us up) and we got off all blurry-eyed and realized it was freezing and foggy at this outdoor train station. BRRRRRRRRRR!!!! We were also greeted by many drunk men and women in lehderhosen and dirndels who had just left Oktoberfest (Wassen) in Stuttgart barefoot, singing, and all other forms of entertainment that you would expect from such festivities.

A little while later we were finally on the train to Tubingen getting warm and sitting in our own four seats enjoying the space. I am pretty sure I slept most of the 1hr trek (see Sam’s sleeping pictures) and Sam just relaxed and warmed up. We were welcomed with hugs and hello’s from my Uncle Mark and Aunt Susanne upon our early Sunday morning arrival to town. I was really excited to be there. We went back to their house, got the grand tour of their place, had an amazing Breakfast, then proceeded to sleep for the next couple of hours.

We stayed with my Aunt and Uncle the entire week and had our own little apartment like place in the basement of their house. After sleeping/not sleeping in hostel beds and using hostel showers this was a rather luxurious stay for us. It was also super nice to be surrounded by family, have warm home cooked meals, and to have people to talk with. We overall had a wonderful stay at the Genther-Bailer Gasthaus and part of us both didn’t want to leave. So what did we do for 8 days?

We began our stay with a tour of their neighborhood followed by a movie night (Red) with the family. We then went to bed and slept in, in our own space… IT WAS SO NICE!

Monday was our special tour of Tubingen by our native tour guide Susanne (in german pronounced Sooos-anne-ah) and my uncle. I secretly think it was also to see how alert we were as we were left to roam the town on our own a few days later… While in Tubingen we also had to see their castle of course and walk along the Neckar River which runs through town.

Note: that throughout this entire stay we had amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner and most of it was home cooked.

Tuesday brought the arrival of my cousin Sebastian (Basti), his girlfriend Anja and their dog Missy. Sam, Uncle Mark and I went to school with Susanne (she’s a science and geography teacher at the hauptschule) for the morning which Sam enjoyed seeing the German education system and school. We even got to talk to the students in English about where we were from and our backgrounds. They were shy teenagers, but I think they enjoyed having us around for the few hours we were there. They were learning cell biology… I was a little rusty, but Sam jumped right in! After returning home, having a quick lunch Basti and Anja joined us on a trip to the town next door Hechingen to see my favorite castle Hohenzollen (still privately owned) and to have a special tour of the restored Synagogue. As for the castle see the pictures and you can see why I am such a big fan of it. It is not huge, but perfectly perched atop a high hill with spectacular views. It also has all the typical castle necessities: draw bridge, towers, prison cells, chapels, ballrooms etc. The Synagogue was a special treat to tour as my Aunt and Uncle knew the people who had the keys to it. It had been destroyed in the Night of Broken Glass, but then in the late 80s a few motivated citizens (not necessarily Jewish) in town got together and raised enough money to restore it to its exact state before the war. It was a pretty neat thing to see the pictures of what happened to the temple that night and then to look around and see the work that had been done to bring it back. The organizers even went so far as to research and find all the surviving families from the area and invite them back to see the reopening of the temple. The coolest part about visiting the synagogue was that it was a special thing that unless you knew people you would never get the chance to learn about it. It is not in any guidebooks as far as we know and there would be no chance of us ever getting this opportunity if it were not for the fact that uncle Mark and aunt Susanne happen to know people and were willing to see if they were willing to let us look around.

On Wednesday we woke up and headed out to do some high bog hiking before walking around Baden-Baden and then to back to France to see Strasbourg. On the way to the high bogs we happened to drive past a stand advertising pumpkins for sale. Well we certainly weren’t going to pass up this opportunity and quickly pulled over, picked out some pumpkins to carve for Halloween of course , then continued on to the high bogs.

Even though it was a cloudy day hiking up to the high bogs was still really cool and it was interesting to see some of the German countryside and nature up close. The walk was really nice and soon we were back on the road towards Baden-Baden, a famous town for its thermal baths. We got to stroll around Baden-Baden for a bit, mingling with the “pretty” people, since apparently that is where all the really rich and famous (and Obama stops by) go to relax and escape. We saw the famous spa that was built on the geothermal pools before deciding to head off to Strasbourg for some evening walking and meal. Strasbourg was a really interesting city with some very typical German architecture even though it was in France (you can put two and two together I bet). After a great time walking around, having a good dinner and then heading late back to Tubingen we fell asleep rather quickly that evening.

The next day we wandered on our own after breakfast through Tubingen, visiting a tea shop that we really liked and a few other places that had piqued our interest a few days before. We made sure to print out our ballots before we left and exercised our constitutional rights and mailed out our ballots. We spent the afternoon wandering through the city, poking our heads into a lot of the really cool little shops that they had, including a wine store like none other I’ve ever seen (Sam is very jealous of that store). We even made a stop at the local brewery and tasted some of Tubingen’s finest brew. After tagging along on a house hunting mission (they are considering buying a new house in town somewhere) with uncle Mark, aunt Susanne and Basti we came back home, had another awesome meal and got down to the real business of pumpkin carving. We soon learned that this would be Basti’s first pumpkin carving! Kailey embraced the German atmosphere and carved a large castle on a hill. After a few critical mistakes, Sam ended up carving a large carnivorous fish that had eaten several smaller fish, this was not the plan at the beginning but somehow through a series of unfortunate cuts he wound up with a pretty good pumpkin. Mark and Susanne went with unique faces, and Basti took the traditional scary face route. The seeds were saved and washed for roasting the next day.

Friday was spent steeped in local Tubingen traditions. First in the morning, Mark, Basti, Kailey and Sam picked every apple from the small tree out front. However though this tree was small, it held a ton of apples. We filled at least 8 large boxes with apples, so most likely they will be enjoying apple pies, and moscht (sp? German hard cider) for many months to come. Then we all packed up, took a small keg of beer and went Punting (Stockarkarting) on the Neckar river. We were joined by several of Mark and Susanne’s retired teacher friends from Hechingen. Apparently word got out when we were in Hechingen the other day and the friends (including Herr Osterman who Kailey knew from growning up with german exchanges every other Spring) really wanted to visit us. We must be cool :-)! We had a great afternoon on the river relaxing and catching up with old friends. That night Basti and Anja went out to a comedy show, so we got to hang out with Missy and relax and talk with Mark and Susanne.

Saturday was a nice relaxed day where we woke up late, had a great breakfast and then made our way over to Stuttgart so that we could see it properly in the light of day, sans all the insane revelers coming back from the Wassen. We walked around the city again getting a great tour by our team of guides (uncle Mark, Aunt Susanne and Basti). Stopped for a great little meal at a Italian bistro on a corner that apparently if you own a nice car you are required to drive around upon arrival in the city. After a good meal we continued our walk by heading over to Susanne’s favorite coffee and cake shop, conveinently located in the department store that carries the latest in Lederhosen Haute Couture. After some coffee and cake it was Lederhosen and Dirndel time and we proceeded to become fully outfit in the German culture. Sam apparently looks quite the Bavarian Noble and will have to dress up for Oktoberfest at some point in the future to see how well he can blend in. Kailey was just missing her braids. We wrapped up the day with a little more shopping, Mark needed a good coat to survive the harsh approaching German winter. We Headed home for some good rest before the day of Football and Wassen arrived!

Sunday arrived and we eagerly awoke and prepared ourselves by packing up our bags and then getting ready for the football match and Wassen (Tubingen’s own Oktoberfest, think Munich minus all the tourists). We got dressed, drove out to a nearby tram stop and boarded the tram along with lots of other Stuttgart supporters and headed into the city. Once there we made for the Wassen and wandered through the huge carnival rides, stands, foods and people. Mark stopped to show off his arm by dominating a carnival game and winning a lovely stuffed Homer Simpson. Kailey was treated to a traditional German cookie in the shape of a heart that declared Sam’s love for her (It says: I love you). After that it was time for the beer tent. We arrived, found our seats and were soon greeted with 6 masses (sp?, think beer stein but this is the actual German word for the container) of beer. Kailey even spent some time tasting other’s beers, and marveling at the mass of people singing, dancing and generally spreading cheer! The group of Italians next to us were particularly cheerful. After our beers were finished, it was time to walk over to the stadium and take our spots as faithful supporters of Stuttgart. The game was really fun to watch and the Ultras (elite fan group) were in fine form and spent the whole game showing their happiness or displeasure with the events on the field. It was a close game, thanks to some fine mistakes by Stuttgart and it finally ended in a tie. We left the field and headed back to Tubingen, where Basti and Anja packed up and started the 5 hour drive back to their house in Halle (their university city) as Basti had school at 7:30am the next day. We stayed up talking and eating a late dinner for several hours before also heading down and falling asleep. We both went to sleep not wanting the next day to come since we were having such a great time and did not really want to return to our lives as poor backpackers always on the move.

~ K. and Sam

We’ve been gone how long???

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A MONTH!!!! 10/10/2012

Well we find parts of this post hard to believe while others are easy to believe.

To Kailey thus far the trip seems like a big whirlwind adventure with definite moments of when are we going home… Moments have been surreal and others have been very concrete. I am still trying to wrap my head around being gone a month and all the places we have seen along with the things we have done. I think for a trip like this you can only be prepared to a certain level, then you kind of just have to fly by the seat of your pants and take everything as it is presented to you making the most out of what ever it is (including stinky moldy hostels). As for traveling with the man I married, it has been overall a good experience as I know that there is always someone there to protect me and watch my back. This doesn’t go without saying that we together have not had challenges where communication has ceased to exist and stubbornness along with lack of sleep gets in the way. We are both guilty there. It is also hard at times to land in a new place after reading about it and then with your time trying to decide what to do, especially with fall and winter creeping upon us. Overall I am grateful for this opportunity and for everything to have worked out thus far. I am also grateful for technology that has allowed us to more easily keep in contact with life back home and for me to be able to see my pets that I miss all the time. I know to some when we return it will be like we were not really gone that long, but to others it will seem like an eternity.

To Sam it’s been a realization. You spend your whole life dreaming of taking a trip around the world, you spend months and months planning and saving, and then one day you wake up in Iceland looking out on 4 months of travel. It’s hard to process, and fully envision what life will be like and the reality is ever-changing. Traveling alone for a month or so has been something I have done a few times in my life and was always an interesting experience. This is not like that, traveling with another person, a person you are married to is another experience entirely. It has thus far been one that while different then I imagined is none the less even better then I imagined. Things that I never did alone (like socialize easily, strike up conversations with every person, plant and animal, and generally find ways to end up off the beaten path thanks to a conversation) are commonplace. I think the first few places were a learning curve as we figured out the best course for our travel. We had never really gone to a place together before not knowing what we would do, or see when we got there. Planning on the fly TOGETHER was a very new challenge. So after a month I think we are getting better at it by the day, learning about each other in ways that rarely present themselves in the comfort of normal routines, and getting to have experiences that will be memories for us to look back on some day. It’s been a long, fast crazy month and I cannot wait to see what the next two will bring.

Overall though we are having a good time, minus Kailey’s current head cold and we’ve enjoyed the things we have seen and done and do not feel like we’ve missed out on anything.

We were asked by our Brazilan roomates tonight (Andre and Falco) what has been our favorite part thus far and besides our awesome family time in Germany at the Bailer-Genther Gasthaus, Iceland has been our favorite experience to date.

Our favorite meal:

Kailey: Les Crustaceans – Fish Soup (like red chowder), Sea-bass on roasted veggies and potatoes with a red wine sauce, and chocolate mousse.

Sam: Breizh Cafe – Gallette with asparagus, tomato, chorizo, cheese and sunny side up egg, local cider, and salted caramel pear crepe for dessert. All local, all sustainable, all delicious.

Our Favorite hostel (Mark and Susanne are disqualified for sheer awesomeness):

Kailey: Our House, Reykjavik Iceland

Sam: Our House, Reykjavik Iceland

Our Favorite Day:

Kailey: Our lazy beach day in Nice.

Sam: Going punting on the Neckar River in Tubingen.

Our Favorite Night:

Kailey: Carving pumpkins with my Germany family (Mark, Susanne and Basti) and Sam.

Sam: Going into Stuttgart for the Wassen (their Oktoberfest) and Football match.

Our Favorite Activity:

Kailey: Northern Lights Tour

Sam: Northern Lights Tour

Our Favorite Person(s) We Met:

Kailey: Tie between Erin from Canada, Emma from New Zealand and David from Oz.

Sam: The family from China on their way to Munich who shared their beer and chili sauce as well as invited me to visit them (and actually meant it).

Until another month passes,
~ K. and Sam