A fairy finds her castle – Neuschwanstein Castle in Munich, Germany

Backpacking Through Europe: How i Spent my Summer Vacation

A three-week backpacking trip through Europe.

Okay, so I don’t really expect anyone to read all of this, but you should, because my last three weeks backpacking through Europe fucking rocked my socks off. I loved traveling so much and never wanted to return. So ladies and gentleman, here it is, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation: A Picture Book”:


6-22-06 The Plane

I used to tell MattH that maybe some day I’d make it to Europe. I’d have to only go to English speaking countries. And I’d have to take a boat for fear of flying. And there I was, on a plane to Munich, Germany. Alina and I made Joe watch the lost dog movie, I cried, he watched without a soundtrack. They fed us dinner at 10pm and breakfast at 2am. We played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire but totally sucked because it was the British version.

At the layover in Zurich a guy walked past me and said “pardon moi.” I fell in love. We had to take a bus from the terminal to the plane. Crazy. I got a stamp on my first passport!


6-23-06 Munich, Germany

OK, so Munich totally fucking rocks!!! I never thought I’d say this, but I doubt I’d have enjoyed it so much without World Cup “football” going on. It was nuts. Alina, Joe, and I met up with John and his friends Alex and Peter at Hofbrauhaus, which is this big famous beer hall, for dinner and drinks. I got some delicious roast pork with dumplings and saurkraut and drank a liter of beer (granted it took me all night to finish one beer while everyone else had two or three).


I finished a liter of beer at Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany


The food was great but the atmosphere was amazing. It was so crowded in people dressed up in their country’s jerseys and singing their “fight songs” and yelling their cheers. What amazed me the most was that there was virtually no animosity between the countries, everyone seemed to be cheering for everyone. Spectacular.

Since that bar didn’t have a TV we then walked to another bar to watch a World Cup game. We had to stand up outside to watch it. I chatted with a Canadian named Andrew but not for long as the game ended and we parted ways.

Alina decided to head back to the hotel to rest and the rest of us went to this club called The Atomic Café. This band called The Duel was playing. They were semi-punk and kind of good but unfortunately only had three more songs in their set once we got there. But then they started playing really good music. I danced with the crazy and smarmy looking German guy for a bit. And then danced around like crazy the rest of the night.


6-24-06 Munich, Germany

We headed off to Englischer Garten to see, well, gardens. The first thing we saw were naked men. They were swimming. They were old and not hot. The gardens were really nice, lots of grass and trees and waterfall like things.

Afterwards we headed off to the city center again. We went to the top of Neues Rathaus to get a nice view of the city then hopped on public transport to the Olympic Center to watch the game. Unfortunately the train stopped two stops from there and kicked everyone off because the place was too full. We walked the rest of the way anyways but it was, in fact, too full so we ended up watching the game at some pizza place. Germany won! Yay team!

We then headed back to the hotel to pick up Isla who had arrived during the game and then back out to another restaurant to watch another game. Unfortunately the restaurant was too crowded to we could watch the game but not eat and I hadn’t eaten all day. So, Alina, Joe, Isla, and I went off to get food at a supermarket in the basement of a department store and then sat and watched the game on the screens in the store window until halftime when we returned to John, Alex, and Peter at the restaurant.

Afterwards we walked around a bit and while stopping to get a pretzel Joe and I started talking to some random German guys who offered up some of their snuff which is tobacco that you sniff up in your nose. We both tried some. It tingled in my nose. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip.


Val takes snuff from a stranger in Munich, Germany


We then found this bar called Mara’s or something like that where I got a radler which is like half beer and half lemon soda and all delicious.


Alina, Isla, Me and some Radlers in Munich, Germany


Some random notes on Munich: I couldn’t figure out how to flush toilets for the life of me. All the payphones are pink. The police cars are mostly Volkswagons, some BMWs, and a few Fords.


6-25-06 Munich, Germany

Went to Neuschwanstein Castle, otherwise known as the Cinderella Castle.

We took an entirely too long train and walked up a hill to get there. It was really pretty from the outside and pretty on the inside, but, since the guy who made it never actually used it (he died before it was finished) it seemed too new and also looked too much like a movie set. He did have a room that he made to look like a cave. That was pretty cool. Isla and I agreed that it would make a nice shower room.

After more long trains, we were back in town and went out to dinner at that same pretty outdoor place where we watched the game the previous night, but since we arrived between games, it was empty. Unfortunately, soon after ordering my trout and Prosecco it started to rain pretty heavily. Luckily, we were able to pull our chairs under the covered sidewalk and eat there. I actually really like it outside when it’s raining, so it was all perfect to me. After dinner we walked around for a bit before heading back to the hotel for a good sleep before our early train in the morning.







6-26-06 Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken was simply breathtaking.

We were just surrounded by mountains that towered over us. We picked up Scott and got to our hostel, “Backpackers Villa” which was actually pretty nice. We walked around looking for a place to eat dinner and watch the Italy “football” game. Someone told us that past the train tracks and two rivers we’d find a big outdoor screen with food stands. We found the screen but they didn’t have much in the way of food and while the restaurants around it looked empty they said they were full. Isla really wanted to watch the game and I really wanted a good “Swiss” meal as we’d only be there one night and also because I’d watched entirely too much sports for my taste already. We finally had it so me, Alina, and Scott would go find dinner and Isla and Joe would stay and watch the game. We found a nice little place around the corner and then everyone decided to go (Isla could still run around every few minutes to check to score and such). Alina and I shared some Hunter’s fondue which had cheese and mushrooms, YUMMY.


Swiss fondue in Interlaken, Switzerland


We finished our meal and Italy won their game, so we went off exploring.

We missed the way around the tracks we were supposed to go, so we ended up walking completely off the path. We eventually found our way back to the path and walked for a while. The mountains were gorgeous, the water was clear, the cows were mooing, the slugs were slugging, etc., etc.


6-27-06 Interlaken, Switzerland

Woke up bright and early to go up into the mountains. We took a train up to the spot we wanted. We got onto the right train, but the wrong part of it. Apparently after one stop the train split into 2 to go different ways. Fortunately, we figured this out in time and we able to run to the part of the train we needed to be on.

There is no way to describe standing there in the mountains with peaks all around you.

Pictures can’t possibly do it justice. Just wow. It was so amazing and so beautiful.

At the end of the path we took we went into this waterfall. It was going into the mountains. You had to pay to go in to see it, but it was well worth it. It was really cold but just watching and hearing the water coming through was awesome.

I definitely want to go back to Switzerland some day, do more hiking, more sightseeing, some canyoning maybe. Crazy thoughts from a girl afraid of heights.

Alas, that was all the time we had in Interlaken. I searched and searched but never found the Interlakeness Monster. 🙁 I did see a flag with a picture of a bear lizard though.

We hopped on a train where I taught Alina the joys of biting the heads off of gummy bears and switching them around.







6-27-06 – 6-29-06 Venice

Gelato Count: 9

Yes, a day and a half in Venice and I managed to eat 9 gelatos: Strawberry (2), Peach, Coffee, Berry, Cherry, Grape, Orange, Coconut. I liked grape the best, especially since you just can’t find grape flavored ice cream in the states.

We got to Venice kind of late and by the time we found our hotel, Casa Peron, it was even later. Yeah, it is quite easy to get lost in Venice, and I’m not talking about the views. The sidewalks are tiny and many are just alleyways and there are many canals. There are no cars so no streets. After several wrong turns, several stops looking at our map, and people giving us directions, we finally arrived.

Stepping out of the train we caught our first glimpse of the Grand Canal. It was everything I could dream of definitely grander than the one in Vegas. After checking into our hotel, we went to dinner at a little place with cute colored lanterns on the canal.

They had the best gnocchi my mouth has ever had the pleasure of tasting and good house wine as well. This guy kept coming around with roses and we told JoeJoe that he had to buy one for each of us girls: his girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, and his future girlfriend. Alas, we got no flowers.

We wandered around a bit watching water and cute little buildings and stopped for gelato twice before calling it a night.

The next day we woke up early to go to Piazza San Marco. We got to see the parrot that seemingly owned the hotel.


Val meets a parrot at Casa Peron in Venice, Italy


We wove through tourists, bridges, glass shops, and gelato stands before making it to our destination. The piazza was gorgeous and seemed much more “authentic” and real than the castle in Munich. There is so much attention to detail and there seemed to be carvings and definition in every nook and cranny. Like, the inside of fireplaces had artwork in them. So cool.

Later in the day we took a gondola ride through the canals.


A gondola ride inVenice, Italy


Expensive and touristy and short true, but completely necessary. It was nice and relaxing and beautiful to sit in the gondola, and funny to think of how many other peoples’ vacation photos we were in.

We then got more gelato, went to a bar, then got more gelato before taking a walk to find dinner. We had some tortellini and pizza near the water. Another rose guy came by and JoeJoe caved and bought us all flowers, red for Alina and Isla, and Pink for me. Yay!


Joe treats his ladies to roses in Venice, Italy


We then went to see the Piazza at night then headed home. We let the boys lead and just kept getting lost and lost. It was wonderful. We then stopped at a bar for limoncello, Alina got her seventh gelato, but I was too full so I fell behind to only six.

The next morning we went to the Basilica di San Marco which is a large beautiful church. It was really sad to see people had carved their names and such inside. I mean, it’s a church! We then went souvenir shopping and stopped for more gelato (I got two scoops at one place to catch up to Alina) so we ended our time in Venice with having had 9 gelatos.







6-29-06 Florence, Italy

Our first night in Florence was amazing. We arrived at our hostel and settled ourselves in. It was pretty IKEA cute but was three floors up and had no air conditioning and the “private shower” we had was just a standing shower in the room.

Isla’s mom was staying in Florence so we went to meet her and then went to the loft she was renting. It was so pretty. Tall planked ceiling and arches. Ah. She fed us wine and lots of fruit. Yum.

We then walked around, rubbed this boar thing…


Rub the boar for luck in Florence, Italy


… and saw the fake David in the real place (the real David was moved indoors somewhere else).

We then hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a gorgeous view of the city.

We stopped at a restaurant there for non-stop wine, appetizers, and lots of pasta. One of the things was a really good pasta/seafood dish which was yummy but… more on that later. On our way home we stopped for more gelato (11) and settled into bed for the night.


6-30-06 Florence, Italy

Woke up queasy. Went and threw up. Ate a little toast for breakfast. Threw up again. Went to go sit in line at the Academia to see David. Sat in line a bit before Alina and I went to find drinks. I threw up in the drink places bathroom and decided that as much as I didn’t want to miss anything, I should go back to the hostel. I then spent the entire day sleeping and throwing up. Here is a picture of what I saw in Florence that day while the others saw Davis and Uffizi and ate yummy food:


Food poisoning in Florence, Italy


That is the mattress above me. We figured it was probably food poisoning from a bad clam the night before. Bad clam 🙁 No one else got sick, but it only takes one.


7-1-06 Florence, Italy

Woke up feeling a little out of it but much better. Yay for 15 hours of sleep. The hostel lady baked chocolate cake with ball bearings (OK, little edible silver balls) for breakfast. YUMMY! I always feel well enough to eat cake. We then hit the streets for some shopping, the Duomo, and this bridge with expensive jewelry shops where Alina and I picked out engagement rings. We decided against Pisa and made a mad dash for a train to Rome.







7-1-06 Rome

Joe, on the way to the hotel: “If this is the most lost we get on this trip then we haven’t been to Venice.”

We arrived in Rome and checked into our swanky little hotel. We decided to spend the night in and relax with some pizza and wine (Sprite for me because I still wasn’t 100%). Joe and Scott went out to go get the pizzas Isla, Alina, and I stayed behind to take showers and look for anything watchable on the television. We found that we could order three pornos in Enlgish for only 10.33Euros, but alas no one else wanted to order it. So, we settled on some random game show that we couldn’t really understand because it was in Italian. Joe and Scott arrived back, they managed to stop at a casino and forget my Sprite on the way. Joe went out and bought me some and I felt bad about it but he said he wanted some soda for himself anyways. We finally got to eat and not watch porn and that was our first night in Rome.


7-2-06 Rome

The hotel had a free breakfast. They had coffee that was a really weird color really dark and grayish and it was still dark after I ordered cream and the sugar didn’t really melt in it. It was good.

We took a subway over to Circus Maximus where horses ran around in the past but not now. We spent a good portion of the day walking around Palatine Hill walking around the ruins.

It’s awesome that a lot of it is open and you can actually touch it and also that they have flowers and orange trees and such growing there so its like old life against new. I kept accidentally kicking rocks and got scared that I was going to disrupt the space-time continuum because that’s what happens when you move things in the past.

After that we went to the Coliseum, which is this big round place.

At one point while posing for pictures JoeJoe accidentally dropped his water bottle off of the top of it. Luckily on our way out we found it laying on the ground. JoeJoe was happy.

After that we went to Monumento A Vittorio Emanuele which had fountains and the tomb of the unknown soldier and statues.

At one point when Isla was meeting Italians in the visitors office I found a postcard with a statue of children drinking out of a bear in it. I decided I needed to find that bear even though Scott insisted it was a wolf. I never found the bear but after that kept finding lots of souvenir places with statues and key chains and such with the bear on it.

We next went to Nero’s Palace, but it was closed for renovation so we went to find Santa Maria Maggiore instead. It was a beautiful church with lots of mini-churches inside. I decided I want to get married there but since I only have like 12 relatives I need to find a man with a huge family to fill it up.

Next up we went to the Spanish Steps which were, um, steps.

My night in Rome consisted of one of the better dates I’ve ever had. I mean, he bought me the most expensive meal anyone has ever bought me. We went to see a Roman fountain. And then we went back to a hotel room together…

JK it wasn’t a date.

Joe wanted to take Alina out alone, and Isla found herself an Italian man, so Scott and I were left to our own devices. So, we went to find a restaurant and ended up at this outdoor pod thing that a lot of the places have. Basically its an offshoot of a restaurant outside but is encased in glass windows. We split a bottle of house white which meant that I had a glass and Scott drank the rest. I had yummy cream of mushroom soup, and lamb chops, and potatoes. Yum. Scott picked up the check and I felt guilty because no real date has ever bought me a meal that expensive (the soup alone was 11 euros) and here a fake date was picking it up.

We then went to find Triton Fountain which was only a few blocks away.


Val and Scott at Triton Fountain in Rome, Italy


We spent the rest of the night in the hotel bar then went up to the hotel room together. Because we were traveling together and sharing the room.


7-3-06 Rome

Scott, Joe, and I went to the Forum where there were lots of ruins.

Then we went to Villa Borghese, which is a big park with ancient statues, ancient trees, and ancient ducks.

We followed signs for the “Casina de Raphaelo” which we could only assume was a teenage mutant ninja turtles casino. We never found a casino there but we did find a turtle. And a rather large duck.

I asked Joe if the trees were ancient Roman. He said yes and that one of them was Caesar’s. I asked which one. He said it didn’t really matter. So I took a picture of a tree.

At lunch we stopped by a café by the zoo. While Joe was away from the table a birdy tried to steal his pizza. Silly birdy. Then Joe broke his Crik Crok and we headed back to the hotel. There I figured out that bidets are the perfect vehicle for washing your feet.

At night we went to see the Trevi Fountain. It was one of those things where you’re walking down a normal street, turn the corner and POW, there it is.

It was huge and glistening and gorgeous. Isla and I emptied our change into it.

One coin is to ensure that you return to Rome. Coin two is to find love in Rome. Coin 3 is that you will marry in Rome. I threw in three coins but was secretly wishing for other such things.

After they pried me away from the Trevi we went to the Pantheon which was a big dome with a hole cut out of the top.

We then found a cute place for a good Italian dinner, mmm eggplant ravioli. The dinner was delicious but I made an ass out of myself at the end of it. I had my back to most of the restaurant so I didn’t really see much of anything and I wasn’t paying attention. The guy came at the end to take my credit card and I gave it to him. Now I looked at him and was a bit hesitant because everyone who was working there was wearing a uniform and this guy was just in khakis and a polo. He took my card, walked towards the street (we were outside), kind of pauses and looks both ways, then starts walking really fast. I kind of freaked out and thought that I just gave my card to some random guy who was going to take off with it so I stood up and knocked over my chair and yelled but by that time he was walking towards the kitchen. Apparently everyone else at the table had seen him earlier. Alina agreed though that it looked suspicious. So my credit card wasn’t stolen and all was good.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped for gelato and for one more time at the Trevi to make one more wish, just in case.


7-4-06 Rome

It’s the Fourth of July and no one in Europe cares. 🙁 No fireworks this year for me. We saw Isla off as she left us and headed back to Florence. And then there were four. The rest of us went off to the Vatican. That is where the Pope lives. The church was really beautiful and there were a lot of dead popes there.

I saw a tomb that said “Val” on it. 🙁 I’m dead. We walked up to the Copula. It took going up 551 steps.

Joe: There are 551 steps to the top, but there’s a slide to get down.
Me: Is it a slip n slide? With holy water?
Joe: No. You can take a parachute.
Me: A holy parachute?
Joe: That’s a detrimental idea.

It was well worth the climb for the views of Rome.

Next it was on to the Sistine Chapel. We had to walk through the whole museum to see it, which was interesting, but we didn’t really have time to see it. The artwork in the Sistine Chapel was amazing although I’ll admit that I always thought it was its own separate building and imagined it to be much bigger.


Sistene Chapel in Rome, Italy

We then walked by the Trevi one last time, stopped for pizza one last time, and stopped for Gelato one last time.

We then made it to the train (Joe with little time to spare) and found out that there was no food available on the train whatsoever. What’s with that? It was a sleep car so that meant no food until morning. They gave us a bottle of water at least. That’s something. The bottle said it had diuretic effects which means it makes you have to pee. Duh.

It is now a perfect time to talk about my new boyfriend. I met him on this trip and I love him. He lives in JoeJoe’s pocket and his name is Lingo. Hehe. Joe has this pocket translator thing that I love because it has phrases in it that with a push of a button I can make it say out loud in a variety of languages. It tells me many wonderful compliments so I have named him my boyfriend. For instance:

English: “I have never met such a sexy girl as you.”
German: “Ich have noch nie so ein attraktives nacchen wie dich geltoffen.”
French: “Je n’ai jamais noncontre une fille ausse sexy que vous.”
Italian: “Non ho ma incontrato una regazza sensual come te.”

Ah. I love my boyfriend.







7-5-06 Vienna

Vienna started out waking up on a train and then walking an hour out of our way towards nothing because we were thinking we were at a different train station than we really were. Oops. We finally made it to our hostel, Wombats but were too early to really check in anyways so we ditched our luggage and went out sightseeing with our “Hood’s annotated guide to Vienna,” a book with lots of postits from MattH (who studied abroad there) about what to see and do in Vienna.

First Stop: Vienna University where Hood studied abroad. After a quick walk through Freud Park (Me: be careful not to slip.) we found our ultimate destination: THE PATERNOSTER!

Basically a paternoster is an elevator. It just had continuous open compartments that you step into and out of when it reaches your floor. When it gets to the top, it goes sideways, makes a loop and comes back down. It is awesome to ride.

After prying ourselves away from the paternoster it was on to Michaeliskirche Crypt, which Hood had described as the “Best Crypt in Town.” The church it was in was small but pretty and had a huge organ. We were led down below the church where there were rows of creepy old coffins and layers of bones. Those people who had money were in the coffins. Those who did not were the bones.A couple of the bodies were left open to see. They were mummified and still wearing clothes and such. Creepy.

Next we stopped for a little snack of Austrian pastry: Sachertorte and apfel studel. Yum. Then it was off to Stephansdom, a huge gothic cathedral.

We took an elevator to the top (no 551 stairs here) to see the city.

Next it was some quick views of the Shubert and Strauss monuments at Stadtpark and the opera house before heading back to Wombats to officially check in, go to our room, and finally take showers.

The hostel was really nice. It was only about a year old and everything is new and it was hardwood floors.

Once refreshed, Joe, Scott, and I went down to the hostel bar. Yup, our hostel had its own bar. I sipped on some white wine and begged Scott to let me try one of his cigars.

That night we went in search of a place called Centimter for dinner, another Hood suggestion. We got there…and it was completely empty. It was probably a combination of us getting there really late plus them not having a tv while a World Cup game was on. We all got beers and shared one “Scheibtruhe Mist” aka the Wheelbarrow. That’s right, they brought out a WHEELBARROW FULL OF FOOD!


A wheelbarrow full of food in Vienna, Austria


There was a layer of fries topped with two finds of pork surrounded by three types of spaetzel things topped with sausages. WOW. Between the four of us (including Scott) we came close but couldn’t even finish it all.


7-6-06 Vienna

Went to see Schonbrunn Palace. It’s a big yellow castle with a bunch of gaudily decorated rooms.

We had these headsets for an audio tour which were freakin hilarious. It seemed like the people who were talking would always just stop mid-thought and we’d all pause, pick up the receiver thing and kind of stare at it for a second with our heads cocked because we were a bit confused. It would also sometimes tell us to go to “the room after next” which thoroughly confused us. It would also sometimes give us the exact same information in consecutive rooms. For instance, did you know that Marie Antoinette was beheaded during the French Revolution? Also at one point they said they were going to play the actual voice of this king, but then they played like 2 words and stopped. Odd.

After our lovely tour of the castle we walked the grounds a bit and climbed to the top of yet another building. It was a gazebo-like thing. On the top of a hill so we were able to get nice views of the castle and Vienna. Next stop was a big maze made of hedges that you get lost in. Me and Alina totally kicked the guys asses.


The girls win the maze in Vienna, Austria


Our final castle stop was a struedel-making demonstration. Basically we waited in line for 25 minutes for a five minute demonstration and a piece of free struedel. But it was damn good struedel.

After castling, it was off to Naschmarkt which is a big market with restaurants and fruit stands and meats. Hood told us to go there to get a doner. It was yummy, yummy, yummy.


Eating doners at Naschmarkt in Vienna, Austria


Next we set off to find the Secession Building, a big famous building that’s which with a gold ball on the top of it. We were trying to figure out which way to go on the map when Alina looked up and said “Oh, that’s it.” We looked up saw it and moved on.

Next we went to Hofburg Palace. We found a big pretty building that looked like it did in the guidebook but was missing a big horse statue and a couple other statues. Turns out we were at the back. So, we walked to the front. It was big and pretty and palacesque. Yay.

We then went back to the hostel with a plan to do laundry and go to this music thing. Well, the laundry room was full and the music thing wasn’t really live so we went to the hostel bar again to do some drinking. Alina kept trying to get me to go pick up some guys but it’s not something I really know how to do and I’m all giggly and shy and don’t talk, so she set off to pick up men on her own, despite the fact that she had a boyfriend who was in the other room. Hehe. Anyways, a while later Joe comes back looking for her, I tell him that she’s off picking up guys so he goes off to find her. He comes back a few minutes later and says she wants me to come over to where she is. She’s talking to this Canadian guy Jason. So, they are talking and I’m being all quiet and he says that we need to go to Budapest so he goes off to get his camera to show us his pictures because he’s like me and takes way too many. Alina, being all subtle waits for the moment he walks back in to run off to get me some more wine.So we look at his pictures while the rest of my group is sitting to the side behind us. He asks what our groups relationship is and I tell him that Alina and Joe are dating and we’re all friends from college and he says something about how he figured with four people we were all coupled off. He asks if I have a boyfriend waiting for me back home. I say Nope.


Val and Jason at Wombat's in Vienna, Austria


After a little more talking and a little more picture sharing he asked me if I wanted to take a walk. So, we hit the streets of Vienna with no particular destination in mind.

He is from Canada. He is studying some bio thing. He was supposed to go to Europe with his girlfriend, but they broke up and he went himself. He was staying in the room across from mine. He is in Europe from May until September. He wants to do the same Around the World travel thing Joe wants to do.

We head towards a park but it turns out to just be a park but its maybe at some sort of aquatic like place.

So we keep walking and he says something like “You can say something any time you want,” because I don’t tend to talk much if I don’t know you that well and even though I’m trying to talk. He’s been to Chicago and liked it but thinks a lot of people here talk like their on the Jerry Springer show which he had previously thought was just an act. He had a thing against cities that are dirty.

We eventually ended up at what I think was Maria Theresa Square which had museums on either side, a large statue in the middle and some little fountains. We sat and talked and walked around a bit. Then he asked my name again because he thought it started with a V and thought it might be Vicki. Its OK because I had either Alex or Jason in my head and guessed Alex. Oh well. Anyways, blahblahblah, he puts his arm around me because its getting cold and more blahblahblahblah…


On our way back to the hostel I make fun of his accent because he says “eh” a lot and I started putting “eh” at the end of my sentences but he said I was doing it wrong, eh. He also had the “aboot” thing going on.

Some quotes from the next day:

“You know how Alina’s book said that it’s illegal in Vienna to walk on the grass? Yeah, there are a lot worse things you can do on the grass. Just saying.”

“I didn’t do anything illegal in Vienna that wouldn’t have also been illegal in America.”

Joe: “Just think of it this way, you didn’t do anything Isla wouldn’t have done.” (which was a take off on me always telling them not to do anything I wouldn’t do, which is always followed by them saying “whoohoo!”)







7-7-06 Prague

So, yeah, after spending five minutes walking down the block I want to move to Prague. It is so beautiful and so quaint and all of the buildings look as if they could tell a wonderful story.

We took off for some mild sightseeing. Saw the Tyn Church. Stopped to watch the Astronomical Clock, which is a big 24 hour clock that is based around the Sun revolving around the earth and at the top of the hour these characters come out and move around.

Next was dinner at Restaurace Pivovarsky Dum which Alina had found in one of her books. YUMMY. I had sour cherry beer, garlic soup, duck, bread dumplings, potato dumplings, breaded mushrooms, and some fruit dumplings.


Val eats duck at Restaurace Pivovarsky Dum in Prague, Czech Republic


With tip the total of our meal came to 1,600 crowns. It feels awesome to drop that much money on a meal when really its like under $20 a person. And actually the currency confuses the hell out of me.

After the meal we walked towards the river to see the “Fred and Ginger” building, which is a really cool building that looks like 2 buildings dancing, then walked down the river to see the bridge and castle by night.


7-8-06 Prague

Woke up early to go to Pražský hrad or Prague Castle. It was really pretty and actually more like a little village. At the gates they had men in powder blue uniforms who guard the place. I saw them blink though so they are actually real. They did those funny changing of the guards rituals too. Our first stop there was St. Vitus Cathedral.

Another church to cross off the list. Not the prettiest one, but pretty all the same. Under the church were some crypts that weren’t as exciting as the Austrian ones. No bones. We also walked many more steps to the top.

Next we went to the Powder Tower. They had a little artillery museum that I found boring. I did however find a wax statue that I thought looked like Joe.

Next was the Old Royal Palace. I dubbed it as my palace because it was pink. I like pink.

The inside wasn’t that big but it had a nice ballroom for me to waltz in.

The last stop at the castle was “Golden Lane,” which was a little street thing with old houses and one you could go into to see armor and such.

We left the castle to get some lunch. Mmm, I had some yummy beef in cream sauce with dumplings. Yum.

We went to an internet café where I got a mocha. The guy put chocolate pices at the bottom, filled it with steamed milk, then poured in the espresso. It was tasty.

At night we went to a marionette performance of Don Giovanni. The opera is odd because a large statue comes to life at the end. It was also weird because it was done with puppets and they could get away with a lot.


Don Giovanni – with (naked) puppets - in Prague, Czech Republic


Like at the end one of the puppeteers came out to hang them all up to make fun of the fact that the last song went on forever. It was funny. Ah, culture.

We then stopped by a bar to watch Germany and Portugal fight for third place in the World Cup. We arrived and the score was 0-0. In the 20 minutes we watched till the end, Germany scored 3 points and Portugal 1. Which is a really high score for “football.” We ordered pilsners. I had 3 sips of mine before handing it off to Scott. The bartender came by with Prague “medicine” that you were supposed to drink or else you’d never find good love or good sex. In other words he wanted to sell us more alcohol but sure as hell I’m not taking chances with my sex life.


7-9-06 Prague

Last day in Prague and only one more country to go. 🙁 We started off the day by going to the Tyn Church for mass. I haven’t been to church for so long that I’d forgotten all the little procedures. It didn’t help that it was all in Czech. It seemed that no one understood and so no one really knew when to stand or sit or kneel. I found a lot of the service disturbing. Not the service really but the audience. I saw a couple people sleeping. I saw a few people get up and leave after a bit. And only about a third of the people there got up for the eucharist.

After that it was a little shopping, a little eating, and a trek to the airport for our plane to Paris.

At the airport Joe gambled away the last of our crowns. The safety sheet in the airplane had a picture of what to do with your baby in an emergency. It showed a baby in this pod like thing that you zip up. I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. Tis odd tis odd.







7-9-06 Paris

We landed in Paris just as the France Italy final was beginning. We got to the hotel around halftime and bolted to a nearby bar to watch the game. Joe thought it was funny that I was so excited to watch the game. But we were in France as France was playing in the finals so damn straight did I want to see. Unfortunatly they lost…past overtime…in a kickoff. Afterwards we ran to find dinner and got overpriced sandwiches at some diner. The waiter totally kept forgetting about me and it took him 20 minutes after the rest got their sandwiches for me to get mine.


7-10-06 Paris

So Paris has always been a dream city to me. It’s the one place I had always hoped to go, and there I was. We started off the day at Notre Dame, which is a big famous cathedral that is beautiful inside and out.

We of course climbed up to the top of it stairs, stairs, stairs, to see the gargoils up close and the view. And what was waiting for me at the top? My first view of the Eiffel Tower! Ah Paris.

Then we hopped on a train to see the Eiffel Tower up close. A few steps off the train and we could see it! Then we got closer and closer and closer. Ah, what can I say? Amazing. Alina said that I was giddy all day. Hehe.

We waited in line to go to the top of it. We had a long wait in line so Alina and I went in search of crepes. Mmmm chocolate crepe. I then went off to buy a mini Eiffel tower for myself for a souvenir and some film since I was almost out (film cost me 10 euros a roll, ouch!) then went back to stand in line some more. Then it was up up up to the top, which was scary because I am afraid of heights and the floor seemed to move a lot when people walked. Scaary. But it was awesome all the same. Then it was down down down and out to the park area to take lots of pictures in front of it.

Next up was lunch where I ate a walnut salad, steak with béarnaise sauce, frites, and a fruit salad. Yum. The bathroom in the place was odd. You walked down the stairs and there were open urinals and a door to the toilet. Alina went in and as she was coming out some guy came in to use the urinal. Funfun.

Next was off to the Arc de Triumph. There was some ceremony going on but we didn’t know what it was for.

After that we went to another arch that was this building that could house all of Notre Dame. There was a Superman concert going on outside as a promotion for the movie coming out.

After that we went to the Louvre. Umm yeah. It was closed. Stupid guidebook telling us it was open late on Mondays. It was closed on Tuesdays too so we then had no chance of going inside. 🙁 No Mona Lisa for Val.


Sad the the Louvre is closed in Paris, France


Ah well, an excuse to return to Paris some day.

We walked for a while around a park and found some cool fountains.

Next was a great Parisian dinner at…McDonalds! We decided that a) Paris is expensive and b) it’s just kind of funny, so we went and got McDonalds for dinner. I got a Royal with cheese because you can’t get that in America. At least you can’t get it with that name.


Val eats McDonalds in Paris


Walking home we again walked past Notre Dame and sat outside for a bit watching fire breathers before heading back to the hotel.

Now, I managed to be a very efficient packer and use everything that I brought. The only thing that didn’t get any use was my bathing suit. So, I decided to put on my suit, fill up the bathtub, and go swimming.


Val swims in a hotel bathtub in Paris


Ah, it was very refreshing. Alina decided to join me so we both squeezed in. Good times, good times. Ah Paris.


7-11-06 Paris

I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I loveParis, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here

My last day in Paris, my last day in Europe. 🙁

We spent the day at Versailles. Another palace, another audio guide. As always the inside was beautiful. My favorite room was blue with flowery carvings and such on the walls. My audioguide told me that they put 42 coats of varnish on the wall, wiping it off inbetween. I will have to try that one on my walls.

The best part of the palace was the gardens. There were some gorgeous flowered areas with fountains and statues of angels.

There were also little lake like things where we could sit and soak our feet for a bit. Refreshing.

After wandering the gardens we spent some more time in the palace. I quite enjoyed the opera house and the hall of mitrrors but the boring audio guides and pushy crowds were kind of annoying.

After that we headed off to Marie Antoinette’s Estate which is a separate area with more gardens and little elaborate things such as the “Temple of Love” which was a naked angel statue in a gazebo, a farm, a little village, and a Rock.

All of Versailles was beautiful and it took up our entire day.

We finally left and saught out dinner. Yum Yum. We splurges on a semi-expensive bottle of red wine and each got three course meals. My appetizer was a goat cheese stuffed profiterole in tomato sauce. Joe and Alina had yummy escargot and Scott had some yummy oniony thing. Yum. All were simply delicious. Next onto the main course. Scott and I got boef bourgingnon. Alina had a really good lamb with au gratin potatoes. And Joe…Joe got Veal head and tongue. Yup. Then onto desserts. Joe and Scott got profiteroles, Alina got crème brulee, and I got a tarte au pommes. The entire meal was simply marvelous and a perfect last meal in Paris.

We went to stopped by the hotel to drop some stuff off and who walks in the door after us? Alina’s step-dad. He dropped into Paris for a few days and decided to surprise her.

Scott decided to call it a night and so Joe, Alina, Alina’s step dad and I went to do the one last thing I had to do in Europe…see the Eiffel tower at night.

We stepped off the train, turned a corner, and there is was, glowing.


We walked towards it, and under it, and back out to the park to watch and take pictures.

There were these cute guys playing “football” right near us and their ball kept coming close. At one point the kicked it right into my back so one of them came over and rubbed my back a bit. Another time they kicked it over the fence so one went to kick it back and it went right over my head so he went and rubbed my head. 🙂 Ah. Too bad it was my last night.

Anyways back to the Eiffel Tower. It was sitting there all glowing and perfect and then… at the stroke of midnight…it started to sparkle. Twinkling lights danced all around it. It was breathtaking. I saw a star above it and made one last wish on one last European star.

Alas, the sparkling stopped and we had to leave.





Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Heather
    July 15, 2006at9:15 am

    I’ll have to comment piece by piece if you want me to remember my witty banter, but for Germany:
    Back in peoria, my dad’s friend owns a restaurant called the Haufbrau, which is insanely authentically German. Authentically to the point that the German exchange students that are always infiltrating my high school are always impressed by its authenticity.
    Anyway, my dad’s friend Eddie is one of the most stereotypically irish irishmen that i will possibly ever meet. He’s also a fairly famous running coach. He coaches high school cross country and track but two of his runners have ran in the olympics the past two summer games.
    so let me recap. peoria also has a haufbrau house, it’s run by a crazy drunk irishman who is good at getting people to run fast.

  • Heather
    July 15, 2006at9:16 am

    ok, let me get this straight, on Unofficial, you were shocked because joe took pictures with cigarettes in his mouth, but in germany, its no big deal for him to snort tobacco?

  • Heather
    July 15, 2006at9:32 am

    So when I was in high school and went to france for four days, we did not get to go inside the louvre. we were instead supposed to take a bus that left from the louvre to go to versaille, the bus never came.
    so i have actually sat outside the louvre for four hours, but never gone inside. we did however see a one-toed pigeon(that’s a toe on one foot, and a stump for the other). we named him stumpy. he hobbled off into the sunset.

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