Monday, July 18, 2011

The Netherlands

Since we covered 4 cities in 5 days in Holland (I still don't get the 2 names, but for confusion I use them both too) I decided to put it all as one long post...the grand finale of eurotrip 2011. Here we go.

Rotterdam: we left Germany at 645am to save money, but also so we could have a full day exploring the little port town of Rotterdam. We booked a reallyyyyyy cheap hostel (basically a warehouse with about 200 beds) and just went with it. Overall Rotterdam was good. There isn't much tourism there, but we got the self guided walking tour pamphlet from the tourist office and just started exploring. I did enjoy the environment. The people in the Netherlands are all very care free, laid back, get your stuff done and enjoy life kind of people. Rotterdam definitely gave off that vibe. It was a start to seeing the overwhelming number of bicycles this country has. The bikes have their own little roads, with little bike lights and everything. I thoughts Rotterdam was very pretty, we saw all the famous buildings, walked through the Saturday market (where you get your food, underwear and bed linen all in one place), we spent some tome in the really nice 6 story library they had there...definitely lost in electronic checkers to Courtney..and just kind of got a feel for the harbor town. I will say that the weirdest thing I noticed in Rotterdam (and the rest of Holland) are the street corner urinals. I don't know if that's what they're really called, but that's what they are.  Once in a while you'll see this round thing basically broken up in 3 segments by little walls. And in each of the 3 openings there is a urinal...yes, like you walk down the street, look to your left, and see a man peeing. We did see a few men using them, and I will admit it was quite odd. In general though, it's a very quaint and quite town, with what is supposed to be an excellent nightlife. I could see how people could enjoy just lounging on couches by the water in the evening, with nothing to do but enjoy each others company. One 5 hours of walking we saw 2 pharmacies (everywhere else you see one about every corner)..both of which were closed. And, I really needed drugs for my nose, so that was no fun at all. Other downside, we expected food to be pretty cheap in this country, and it definitely was not. We ended up eating McDonalds for lunch and KFC for dinner, only after walking around for an hour seeing that even the "inexpensive" food is 10-15 euros. Up side, McDonalds had rolo mcflurries. Yum.

Den Haag: we left Rotterdam early to hit up Den Haag and see the famous Madurodam there on the way to Noordwijik. We arrive, store our luggage and start our walk to find the place. The guy at the bus station thought we were crazy when we asked if we could just walk from there and not take the tram...little did he know a 30 minute walk was a breeze at this point. Den Haag is kind of the political area of Holland, not much really going on there, but one day they decided to build this place. From their website, "For almost 60 years Madurodam has been the smallest city in the Netherlands. Canals, gabled houses and all kinds of other typical Dutch scenes: the miniature city offers you the highlights of the Netherlands on a scale 1:25." I had no idea it was actually dedicated to a young man that was died in the holocaust, and the history behind it's beginning made me enjoy it that much more. Again from their website, "Mr. and Mrs. Maduro from Willemstad, Curacao were eager to erect a monument in honor of their only son George, who died from typhus as a prisoner in Dachau in February 1945. For his heroic deeds in the first days of the war he posthumously received the Military Order of William I. Before the war, George J.L. Maduro had been a law student in the city of Leiden. After they met Mrs. Boon-van der Starp, Mr. and Mrs. Maduro decided to donate a sum of money for the construction of a miniature city as a monument in commemoration of their son, instead of erecting a regular monument."

And is it a monument...the place is amazing. Everything works, it all looks so real, you really feel like a giant looking over the city as daily life goes on. I took a ton of was just all so exciting. And, the best part was that with the descriptions of each thing you feel like you get to see every major monument in Holland all in one day (we even saw stuff we had just seen full scale in Rotterdam). We also got to see a neat video on the history of the Netherlands as it relates to water. Most of the country is actually below sea level just a bit, so they have spent a lot of time and effort basically making it a livable place.

Noordwijik: we get to Noordwijik that afternoon. It's an adorable little beach town (so small we had to take a bus), and was our relaxation point yet again. First though, we had to find a bar to watch the US/Brazil game! We asked and were told there was a little sports bar on the beach, so we went and found it. Unfortunately, it took them a while to figure out the channel and get it all going, so we missed the first 25 minutes...fortunately, we didn't miss much! I'm sure everyone reading this has seen the game, if you haven't, we may have to put our friendship on hold until you do. This was the game when Court really took a turn to being a US Women's National Team fan! There was screaming, high fiving, I think a few tears... As the goal in the 122 minute was scored we both screamed, Courtney flew up, throwing her chair backwards, and the entire bar came to watch the tv. It was unreal. For something like that to happen, it just speaks so much as to why I love this sport. After that game we were both on such a soccer high that we went back to our room and started watching videos and reading all about it. Over the next 24 hours we became serious USWNT twitter stalkers, I watched so many videos I can't even count was awesome. Not to mention the fact that we spent the whole next day just lounging on the beach, napping. We even cooked am amazing was just a top notch 24 hours. I must share one of my favorite quotes.. We were walking back from the supermarket with our dinner supplies, and I said "hey, let's watch the sunset tonight" to which Courtney responds "at 11pm..sure" and it was almost that late....I got a picture with my watch and the sun setting in the background at 10pm. I loved it though, you have so much daylight to enjoy and get as much in as possible

Amsterdam: our last two days were spent in Amsterdam. Our plan was to get there and find our way out to a national park a little outside the city and have a picnic and ride the bikes all around the place. Well, unfortunately that didn't happen. It was gonna be pretty difficult and time consuming to get there and it was already 11 by the time we got to our hostel. So, instead we just decided to enjoy the day in Amsterdam and do the Heineken Experience. Basically they've taken the old Heineken brewery and turned it into a history on the beer, the people that brew it and how and why they do everything. It was actually quite interesting, from what I remember of the anheuser brewery tour in St. Louis this one was a lot more detailed. They had all the old brewing tanks open to look inside and videos on how the whole process works in each tank. It was a nice change from a museum style thing that's for sure. After that we headed back to just hang out at our hostel that night, knowing we would be doing the red light district tour and heading into the heart of Amsterdam the next night. Our second day, and final day in Europe was pretty busy. We spent the first 3 hours on one of the free walking tours and got a nice bit of history in the city and its past. I actually liked the city as a whole. The dutch people are very much of the mindset "if you're nice, and you're not hurting anything...we like you." It's really just a very laid back atmosphere. Everyone's riding their bikes around, sitting in the parks just lounging a tourist you really do not feel at all uncomfortable or unwelcome. Our guide did a great job of explaining the history of the dutch people as it relates to all the canals, why everything is there, why the houses are all leaning forward and backwards, why the houses are so narrow, why the old Jewish district looks nothing like the rest of the town... and so on and so forth.

After our tour we waiting in line to get into the Anne Frank House... and I am sure glad that we did. No pictures are allowed in the house, but I can say without a doubt that this is a place that everyone should visit at some point. It was very eye opening, and in my mind was more intense than Dachau. Part of that, I'm sure, is because I've never read her diary, and up until this trip my knowledge of the history of WWII and the holocaust is very minimal and all just from history books...which do not do this stuff justice. The fact that we saw this house on our last day is also probably one of the reasons it has stuck with me so strongly. It really makes you look at your life and realize how lucky you are, and that we really don't have much to complain about (or at least I don't). There were two moments that struck me and have staid with me, the first was reading from reading the many quotes they have up on the walls of the house. Having never read Anne Frank's Diary, reading some of these excerpts made  you see what an overly mature young lady this child was. No child should lose their innocence at such a young age. This girl had thoughts of an old woman, granted she also had thoughts of just wanting to go outside and play and ride her bike in the streets, but she really had more insight than I feel like I do as a 23 year old. The second moment that struck me, and literally left me speechless, was turning the corner into one of the next rooms to see a blown up picture. It was a vertical picture about as tall as an average room, and proportionally wide...and the picture was placed in the spot it was taken. Luckily it was as easy to find as googling "otto frank" so I'm going to put it in here... but it won't do the picture justice. As I turned the corner I had just read about how this man, a father a husband and an amazing friend, had returned home to Amsterdam after surviving Auschwitz only to learn that his entire family and the friends that were in hiding with him had all been killed or died in a concentration camp. The picture was taken sometime after the war, for some reason I feel like it was pretty late after, in the 1960's... needless to say, as I turned the corner and saw this picture, the tears just started rolling. It's really a hard thing to explain in words, but I'll say again, if you are near the Anne Frank House, you must go in. In one hour your life will be changed.

Onto more happy things.... the US/France game and our red light district tour. Unfortunately this tour we really both wanted to go on, to get a better understanding of really what the red light district is all about and the history behind it, and really just gain a better understanding of that side of Amsterdam, started during half time of the US/France game. So we watched the first half in the train station (got lucky and found a little sports bar), and then I got text updates during the rest of the game (thanks Matt and Mom!). And we sure cheered quietly to ourselves when we got the text that the US had won and would be playing in the final!

Anyways, the red light district tour. If you want to get an idea of how different something can be, especially compared to how we do it here in America.... this is a good tour. It was a surprisingly calm area, and to hear the history on how it all became the way it is today, and why it did... it actually makes a little more sense to me. I may not agree with it all, but the fact that this city took something that is causing so many problems in other places and made it into a safe regulated thing is kind of interesting. Amsterdam is surprisingly the 5th safest city in the world. You don't have drug dealers or pimps running around shooting people. As you're walking down the street (sometimes with your jaw dropped) passing a drug store here or a half naked woman there... you're also passing a lot of police officers. And when you hear about all of this, and as you walk (still in shock at some points) it becomes a little bit easier to understand why Amsterdam has chosen to do it this way. I may not agree with it all, but it dose seem to work for them. It's a different culture, that is FOR SURE...and, the best part is, if you have zero interest in that, and basically want to see Amsterdam while sort of "ignoring" that whole side of it.. you pretty much can. The red light district takes up a small part of what is a very beautiful city.

Well, that my friends has been Eurotrip 2011.... we did have one more fun adventure at 2:30am getting to the airport... we were told to go to this one bus stop, which ended up being the wrong bus stop, and an hour later we just hailed a cab to take us 30 minutes to the airport. But, considering that's the only time we had to suck it up and get a cab, I would say we did pretty well.

We're safe, we learned a lot, we (or at least I) put on some pounds, we ate and drank and danced and cheered and ran and laughed... and here we are. It was everything I could have imagined and then some, the trip of a lifetime. I've already started doing some research on what I want to do next... but for now, it will be a while until another blog post makes it's way up here, my bank account needs to recover.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cologne (Koln), Germany

So I can officially say that we have not had a bad day in Germany. It's an amazing place. But before I get to that I have to quickly cover our 2 night stay in Cologne.

We arrived, and after a siesta, started chatting with our roommates (all girls dorm, Woot!). We ended up getting lucky again and had some really awesome dorm mates that we spent our time here with. We decoded to run to the grocery store simce we have a kitchen again and grab stuff for baked potatoes. Why? Well, because we have been craving bakes potatoes since we saw a stand at Versailles...and we finally had the opportunity to make one. So we did, and it was awesome..and we met a pretty laid back guy inn the kitchen and all decided to go check out the big beer hall, Gaffel am Dom. The big beer here is Kolsch, and apparently to be called that it has to be brewed within a certain radius of the big Dom here, and this place was literally right outside of it. So we grabbed two of our roommates and all headed over there. A cool unique thing in cologne is that they serve the beer in these little 0.2 liter glasses, and they just keep bringing them until you say stop. And, of course Courtney loved these little glasses, so she pulled out the southern charm and somehow got our waiter to give her one for free (more souvenirs!). Anyways, we hung out there for a bit and then walked along the river and found another little place that we stopped in for one more little beer before making our way back to the hostle....but not without a quick stop at McDonalds for a 1 euro cheeseburger. I know, I know...I've eaten more McDonalds in Europe (twice) than I have in a few years..but, when I Europe....

We had one day to tour around, and there isn't much to cologne other than really great gothic and Romanesque architecture and then a couple museums...and as 5 girls...we decided on the chocolate museum. It was AWESOME, and if you know me, you may know I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but I do have my moments, and this was one of them. I had to get a few things from the chocolate shop (after free neeeeeddd more). 

After all that sugar we all decided we needed real food. So we walked on the water and found a great little place with lunch specials. The best way to try the local food is to go at lunch and find a lunch special that looks good. We ate at a place with an average meal being 15-20 euro, and all had amazing schnitzel mit pommes and salat..and a beer because it's cheaper than water...for 8 euros.  

After lunch serious the Dom. This cathedral is the biggest one in Germany, the Mt. Everest of cathedrals. It was the highest structure in Europe until the Eiffel Tower was built. It's pretty much the heart and soul (and main tourist draw) of cologne. It was one of the only structures to avoid getting bombed in the war, and thank goodness it did. It has countless huge stained glass windows covering all sides, and the height of the ceilings makes you feel like a little ant running around inside. We just walked through and enjoyed it all for a good 20 minutes.

Other than that, there aren't too many "famous" structures or interestg sights (we also just kind of lazily walked around for the day as a big group of girls). So, we decided to walk down the big shopping row and check out all the stuff. It was all relatively inexpensive, and we all ended up getting something. I left a little early because my cough and cold or allergy or whatever it is has come back to bite me in the ass, and at this point was just ready for a nap. 

We just finished our evening off with frozen pizza, and are all about to just hang out and pack up. Our train for Rotterdam leaves at 645, and it's a good 25 minute walk, so it will be an early night to bed. Everyone keep your fingers crossed I don't have pneumonia or something crazy.. I figure when I get home in 6 days I'll just go to the doctor and tell him I've been sick in Europe for 3 weeks. 

Since this is a relatively short post, I want to share a quote I came to love recently. It's from a Mumford and Sons song entitled "Awake My Soul":

 "in these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die; And the way you invest your love, you invest your life"

This line popped out at me as o was on a train on the way to Berlin, and I've listened to the song a few more times since then just to get a feel for it and figure out why I love the line so much. I think it describes basically what we are all trying to do with our lives. And throughout the stages of life you figure out what you love and enjoy and want from your time here, and invest yourself in it, hopefully to the fullest. If you love something, and want something, pit your whole self into it, and you'll get a lot more than you could ever imagine in return (at least thats my experience). Anyways, I'm off, I hope you enjoyed the quote as much as I did. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Berlin, Germany / Women's World Cup Game

So Berlin means swamp town, and it's pretty much a lot of water and a big town.. Which for us meant we got to stay on a hostel boat. Plus, being that it was a boat we got a "cabin" (still not our own bathroom or shower) all to ourselves for 3 days. This is great because it means we don't have to pad lock our stuff up every time we leave. It also means we so read out a little more than normal, and packing when we got home from the game at 1 AM last night (for our 8AM train) means that I put my Berlin map (with all the specific names of the sights and a few notes) In my souvenir bag (which is getting quite big, I think I'll be purchasing a cheap small hand bag to carry everything home)... So, I'm just gonna list some of the things I enjoyed (or I find funny and/or interesting):

-Ampelmann: you probably don't know, because I sure had never heard of him, but Ampelmann is the little green man that let's you cross the street (he is red too, but I'm partial to the green one...not only does he let you go, but he is cuter). Anyways, when we got into Germany we started noticing the different ones, and in Berlin it became obvious that these specific little guys are the best. They even haven their own store (dont worry, we got Ampelmann souvenirs). Not only are they just awesome for being just what they are, but they pretty much represent the trip. As we have moved along we have had to figure out the proper way to cross the street everywhere. For instance, in most of Italy you just go. The car isn't stopping unless you're in the road (eye contact is a must, though). But, Ampelmann makes it easy (also, the fact that crossing on red will get you a pedestrian ticket).. You just wait for the cute green guy. Only disadvantage thus far, there is no yellow when it turns red you run the rest of the way.. And if it's already red, you wait

-Paris plaza and the famous arch way (remember, lack of names..): first, there are all kinds of people there for tourist. From a big group of guys break dancing to yoda and Mickey mouse...if you want to have someone force you to give them money after you get a picture, this is the place to go. Also, this plaza is home to the famous aldar hotel (name?) aka the place the king of pop (yes, Mr. Jackson) dangled his child over the railing.

-I've actually known this but can't remember if I wrote it. Germany is a baby. It didn't actually become "Germany" until 1871 (95 years after we did in 1776!) just a fun fact...

-we walked over to Hitlers bunker (that place where he killed himself), well, it waste there. It's a crappy gravel parking lot where people take their dogs to poop. Apparently there are two reasons for this, first, to keep the neo Nazis from creating some sort of sick shrine. Second, because who the hell cares about Hitler and wants to "memorialize" this place.

-Hitler was married on April 29th...the same day as William and Kate

-I mentioned it in the Munich post, but in Berlin one of their big 
monuments is this giant (football field or bigger) area with all different sized cement rectangles that go up as high as about 15 feet. It's the perpetrators of war memorial to the Jews (or something like that) and apparently is meant to be locked at and taken to mean whatever you want it to. Our guide gave us a few ideas of what it could represent and they all made sense. You feel small and lost walking through, like they must have felt. It resembles a grave in Prague that has a significance I can't recall right now... And a few others. But, after seeing them both, I'm definitely more a fan of the 122 small memorials in Munich. Mostly, because of what I'll say next, but also because it makes you actually care about it, and you learn something by looking up what the small memorials mean.

-I've decided there are two things I can't stand in Europe. First, beggars. Don't get me wrong, I feel bad for every homeless, foodless, poor, etc. Person I see...but in Europe, they are everywhere...and it may be an ignorant opinion, but in my opinion, at least some of these people could do something else to find enough money to feed themselves. Anyways, I've gotten a little more stern when I just say "no!" to them... Cause after being asked the 100th time for money, I'm kind of over it...and, ironically, if you say no in the native language they immediately walk away..... Number two, tourists at memorials. That may sound strange, but let me explain. Tourists are there to run around laughing trying to take in the "culture" ..which I do too, but at memorials it doesn't stop. They take their pictures posing in front of these places, they run around joking... The beach is made for little jumpy pictures of you in front it...not the Berlin Wall. In my opinion (again, all mine), these places are to learn about why they are there, reflect on that, decide for yourself how you feel about it and take it from there in terms of what you are going to do with the insight you got out of it... I just want to smack these people (not always kids, either, and when they are I want to smack their parents for not teaching them some sort of respect). To me, it would be like walking up to the Vietnam Wall and taking a picture of you smiling, two thumbs up, with it in the background. If you don't see something wrong with that we can chat later and I can explain it a little clearer. 

-our guide told us about a book that sounded interesting, in English it translates as "The Life of The Others" ... About East Berlin and all the secret police and stuff that was going on. As you go through all these tours and hear overwhelming amounts of information, every now and then subjects will peak your interest more than others.. I think the German history so far has been some of the most interesting (and terrible at the same time).. And I definitely want to continue learning about it when we leave.

-I didn't know too much about the Berlin Wall before coming here.. So brief history lesson. It was built overnight on August 13, 1961, to split east and west Berlin (the details behind why I still want to find out a little more detail in). It was actually two walls, a small wall before the large one gave way to what is known as the death strip. It was full if mines, barbed wire, guard dogs, and in shooting distance of several guard towers... There are a lot of famous stories about people trying to escape, and one of the most famous was an 18 year old boy, who in the 70's got into the death strip, his friend got over the big wall, and as he was trying he was shot down. As people on the other side yelled at the guards to do something they watched him bleed to death over the next hour. If you didn't notice it, this was in the 70's.... It just blows my mind that this sort of segregation and hatefulness was going on then (and until 1989 in this case).. But then I realize that stuff like this is going on all over the world today, we just may not be aware of it. It's sickening to think that someone can dislike someone so much for something that has nothing to do with the person they are, I cant even imagine wishing that sort if thing in someone let alone being part of it. 

-another place that was destroyed and never re built was the SS guard and Gestapo headquarters. It's now home to a museum sort of thing called topography of terror. Unfortunately, like many things, we didn't have time to see it. I guess I can add that to things I can't stand about Europe...there is just too much to do.. And not enough time to do it

-we saw check point Charlie...aka the replica for tourist.. We heard a story or two.. I didn't get much out of it.

-our nerdy selves have been trying to remember the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit so that we had some sort of idea about the weather, we finally remembered it and figured it out as we were walking after our snack break. 

-also, this is when we learned that sharf in German means hot/spicy.. We needed to know for our plan to find amazing and cheap Thai food...which we never actually found, but luckily found pretty good Indian instead. 

-Ikea is Swedish.. After the soccer game last night this may be the only thing I like about the Swedish (joke, kind of....)

-there is a square in Berlin in which I found 3 things very interesting. First, the opera house is there, and it was the only building to be destroyed twice during WWII.. Because Hitler liked his opera, so when it was bombed in 1941 he rebuilt it, only to be bombed by the Americans again in 1945. Second, this is where Juristische Fakultat is, the place Einstein (and some other important people) taught before he  immigrated. Finally, it's where the Nazi book burning took place. Another part of history I've heard about once or twice but didn't get much out of. After learning more about the time period and the Nazi party it was obvious that it was to get rid of any outside thought, anything that was different or unique. Basically what that entire time was about. But, my favorite part is the little memorial there. It's underground, you look into this two foot by two foot semi opaque cover in the ground. And, if you look hard enough you see empty book shelves on the sides of the room. It's really quite meaningful, and yet so subtle. There is also a quote on the plaque near it that reads in English "what starts with burning books, ends with burning bodies" ...and this is a quote from a man in 1820... It's so true though, and the guy who said this obviously had the idea right. Attacking someone for being different, or thinking different or liking something you don't like, will lead to nothing good. Maybe it's because I read a lot into song quotes and find my own personal meanings to them that are so much bigger than they were ever meant to be, but that quote and the idea behind it speaks to everything in the world that is wrong. And it's what we try to teach out children from a very young age, just accept your "neighbor" for who they are... Color, religion, personal beliefs, sexual preferences... I really don't care, and if it was possible to get everyone on the same page, that in the end, that really doesn't matter.. We would live in the most peaceful world anyone could imagine. 

-alright, enough with the seriousness. The TV tower in Berlin, that big giant pole sticking up inn the middle with a silver disco ball on it, was built by some important guy...he was from east Berlin...and in my opinion it was him showing the other side that he has a bigger stick. It made me think of my obnoxious 18 year old neighbors in Auburn that all drive these huge, for no good reason, trucks...and the guy with the biggest truck just happens to be shorter than I am. Ironic? I'll let you decide. But, the people of Berlin so call it "Walters last erection"

-on the night the wall opened (with a drunken, underprepared mistake from the guy in charge) the people of east Berlin celebrated and one of the things they were welcomed to freedom with was a movie... The movie that night was Dirty Dancing... 

So, that was Berlin in a nutshell. We also went to a kind of hidden bar that night after Indian to watch the Germany vs. France game. It was crazy, we walk in this place and it's like a movie theatre with a bar in the back. It got extremely intense, lots of loud cheering, people standing and sitting and just all completely focused on this soccer game. It was spectacular, and a good warm up for the next night in Wolfsburg. 

Wolfsburg day trip:
Way back when Women's World Cup single game tickets went on sale, we got a ticket to the USA/Sweden game in Wolfsburg. Back then we really had no idea what our plan for Germany was.. So it was easy to kind of work it into the trip. Granted, until 5 days ago we didn't exactly have a plan.. We were going to keep going to cologne, but realized we would be stuck with our bags, then we looked for a hostel in Wolfsburg...only was booked. So then we finally got smart and realized it's only an hour outside if Berlin so we would just take a day trip. It worked well. We got up and got there at about 1030 (probably top early, because there isn't much in Wolfsburg unless you have an odd fascination with VW cars, or have time to see some neat science type museum there... Neither of which we qualified for)...we did however find the mall. And the cheap take out style Chinese food inside. And the pet store....and a few other places. Then when stuff finally started picking up at 2 we started having a little more fun. They had a big area for the pre game stuff, a stage, an American tent with giveaways, an electric bull... And a few other things. So, we hung out for a while and a few more boring Wolfsburg hours later finally got to head into the game! 

As I told Courtney, being at this game was tied for the most excited I've ever been to be at a sporting event. It only tied because every tine I said it was the top I kept remembering the national, I declare it a tie. Point is, just seeing the grass got me excited. I was like a kid in a candy shop, attached to a toy store...with no parents around. I was giddy. Then the goalkeepers stepped out of the tunnel to warm up...literally 100 yards from me I was watching Hope Solo warm up for this huge game... I literally was like a 15 year old girl with all my excitement. So, I took way too many pictures...them the tea, came out (Abby leading they way the entire warm up). It was crazy, and I've seen the US women play before, but between the environment and players on the field that I'm just completely in awe of, it was easily a highlight of the trip for me. 

And, by this point we all know how the game went.. I was also 100 yards away from the (crap) PK call and the free kick that even I am not sure how got in...the only bad part of live games is not a lot of replay. I'm glad I can watch it when I get back again, because as of now I'm convinced the referee had way too much influence on that game. I mean, I'm obviously biased, and I definitely thought we weren't playing to our full potential first half, but a few different calls (or calling some of the crap that the swedens did...they were very scrappy, a lot of dirty stuff off of the ball) and it would be a completely different game. But, that is why I love and hate this game. If one of those post balls would have snuck in... Or that PK not been called...we would be in a different position today. 

I am pretty excited, though, that we get the chance to take Brazil out now. I'm not impressed with them, and I would just love to see our girls take it to them. Plus, how sweet would a Germany/USA final be?!

My room temperature canned ravioli is getting cold, so this post is now over.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dresden, Germany

We added Dresden because when reading about it we found out it's called "the Florence of the north" ... Well, I'll just start out by saying if we want to see that part of Dresden, we will have to come back. 

The train ride here allowed us the opportunity to experience yet another moment to learn. We had to switch trains once, and figured that out pretty well. So after getting on the last train that was supposed to take 4 hours and head right to Dresden, we assumed we were good to go. So, obviously, we napped, and listened to music, and didn't really pay much attention. Next thing you know we are 2 hours into our ride and a German train man is yelling at us (waking Courtney and getting me out of my music induced coma). Apparently the train we were on was at its last stop, and the Dresden train was behind is (the same train, but only some of the cars were continuing to Dresden...something we have both read about but never seem). So, we hop up, throw all our stuff in our bags, and run off the train. As I get off the man is screaming at me to run 2 cars down, and we get on just in time for the train to depart. I honestly think the man had the train waiting for the dumb Americans that didn't know they were in the wrong car. But, we made it..just in time for the US vs. Columbia game.

Luckily our hostel had a TV this time (a tiny one, but it was still here). So, we didn't have to leave to watch the game. Obviously I enjoyed the game... And we even got to go at half time down the street to the grocery store to get frozen pizzas because we finally have a kitchen to use! Also, while watching the game I met two 17 year old guys (yes, they were 17 and traveling around... I was surprised too). Anyways, come to find out they are following the England Women's team around...because one of the kids moms is the doctor for the team... And they had just come from training with the team that morning. Ya, I was jealous too. Anyways, they told us about some big boxing match that night and they were meeting the friends and family of the England team to watch it. Well, that ended up not happening, and I'm fine with that because as 17 year old boys they turned out to be just as obnoxious as you would think. But, since we decided to ditch them it turned out well for us because we got an amazing doner kebab on the way home (they are everywhere, and always smell so good, and are cheap. Aka we love them). 

Apparently we were both tired because we went to sleep and I didn't roll over until 1030. Which turned out to be fine because the rain coming down strong. We still wanted to at least walk to the city center and see some of the sights, so we decided to fight the rain and hopefully get some touring in before it got too heavy. It started well, Courtney was our tour guide again and she was reading to us about the golden man and horse....then her map started degrading from the wetness. Well, about an hour later, 30 or so pictures, and some soaking wet tourist...we gave up. There was just no way we were going to really see anything (it was raining pretty hard at this point), so I out my camera in my dry bag, and we decided to head to the supermarket to get supplies to make a good dinner. 

the evening actually ended up rather enjoyable. A laid back relaxed evening was just perfect. We cooked goulash (beef tips, onions, mushrooms and this really good turns into kind of a stew) and made this amazing salad. And, to top it off it's been our cheapest day thus far. so we pigged out, watched Germany and The Marta show take down Norway, and just hung out in the lounge. The evening ended with Courtney searching for puppies in Auburn (she's getting a dog, finally, when we get back), eating way too many pieces of bread covered in Choco Duo (this stuff we first tried in Heidelberg, it's white and dark chocolate in a jar and is pretty amazing on a piece of toast), we drank tea and im watching Courtney play pick up sticks with some other backpackers right now. All in all, even without much touring, we've enjoyed our time here. 

Plus, after these last few days and hearing stories, I've decided one of the next trips is would love to make. Take my backpack, a tent, and myself (maybe a man for safety and other manly wilderness things) and make my way across southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.. Just seeing all the mountain ranges and hidden castles and all of that. We'll see, I definitely am already wanting to start planning another trip. This whole traveling thing is just infectious. 

Also, for those of you wondering (I hope all of you!)... I'm feeling a lot better. So hopefully that's the end of Europe hating me. I think shes grown to love me, actually. There is another slight problem though, I think all of my pants are slowly shrinking (because obviously I wouldn't be growing)...luckily I brought clothes that stretch a little... It must be the weather though, I just don't know what else would make my pants tighter. Oh well, Happy 4th of July, be proud to be anAmerican, I know I am. We will be supporting our colors strong here in just 2 days!! I'm sure everyone has the US vs. Sweden game on their calendars, but if not, add it now!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Munich, Germany

If you didn't know, Munich is known for two very important, and completely unrelated, things.. Beer and Hitler. While we were here we pretty much dove right into the culture and learned about those two things. It was the perfect mix of history, personal growth, meeting some great people, and drinking a little too much of that golden frothy stuff. Overall, I can almost say without a doubt that Munich has been my favorite stop thus far. It's an amazing city with some spectacular history that they have accepted and are growing from.

We arrived mid afternoon and immediately were told all about the tours they do, and what we needed to see and do. We decided to just start off full speed ahead, Munich style. So, after getting cleaned up we joined in on the beer hall crawl. If you don't know, a beer hall is a HUGE open (or closed) area full of singing, dancing, eating, beer drinking by the liter, women running around serving you in lederhosen, and really just a fun time. So, we did that, and we had a great time. The night started out with a group picture, and as we are all getting together you glance over and see one of the guys has decided to get completely naked. No idea why.. He ended up nearly kicked off the tour (highly obnoxious guy). Luckily, we did meet some really fun Australians (I think), had a good time, and other than a fun incident with a kid from Texas (or Florida not sure) who wouldn't shut up about FSU, him being such am awesome guy in law school (obviously better than everyone else)...he did the two things you never do to Courtney, one, call her a traitor to Alabama (if it hasn't been mentioned, she is a die hard, to the core, Alabama fan...she is at Auburn for school and nothing else, we've learned to just not talk about it). The second is call her stupid (or in this guys case a stupid idiot undergrad). I still don't understand why he decided he needed to even talk to us, but he did, and we ended up leaving the the last beer hall a little early with one of the guides because we were so annoyed with it all. But, minus those two guys (and the creepy guy that tried to hit on Courtney and ended up getting kicked off early cause he was just that outrageously creepy) we had an excellent start to Munich.

Our first full day we decided we wanted to take the tour out to Dachau, and I'm very glad we did. It's really difficult to explain the feeling there, and put into words how you feel as your tour guide is telling you stories for nearly 4 hours. Stories, that's what it seemed like he was telling us. Some of it was so outrageous I found it so hard to believe, it sounded as if he was just making it up. But, no, all true. I learned a lot about the general history of how the entire Nazi party and Hitler came to be, and was amazed at how much I didn't really know. A mix of not being told all of the details and me just not being interested when I studied about it in High School (history never really interested me, I'm such a hands on person and a very visual learner..reading about random dates and facts was always my least favorite thing to do). But, having someone tell it to you, like a story, as you're standing there just completely overwhelmed by everything he is saying to you but trying to take in every word..that's when it's interesting. It was an experience. Quick history lesson, because I didn't know all of this, and finding it all out makes you wonder to yourself what you would have done. Hitler was member 55 (they labeled it 555 because they started counting at 500 to make them look bigger) of the Nazi party (before it was actually that) and when he started in the early 1920's, had no followers. But, he was an excellent speaker, and in a time when one US dollar was equal to 4.3 trillion (or somewhere around there) German mark, and people were jobless, homeless, and starving to death.. It was easy to listen to a man who said he was going to fix it. And said what all the people thought, that WWI wasn't Germanys fault, and signing the treaty of Versailles, taking full blame and financial liability for the war, never should have happened. One of the most interesting things was the several times Hitler came very close to dying, 10 years before he came to be what we know him as today. At one march in Munich, his bodyguard dove on top of him, taking 11 bullets in the back, and none going through him. There is a lot more to the story, but I'm not here to give a terrible history lesson (terrible because I can't remember all the details sitting here on the train). Point is, with the state of the Country, and following the depression hitting Germany in 1932, it wasn't hard for hitler to gain followers (obviously at this point he wasn't telling them anything about concentration camps, gas chambers, etc). So, a couple more details later, he ends up in charge. And you think to yourself, if I was in that situation, would I be listening to him..and believing him, and wanting him to fix all of my countries problems? Because at this point he was pretty much just like a presidential candidate saying all the things you want to hear. 

As I'm sure everyone knows, this is when it all started. He converted an old artillery factory outside of Munich, in the small town of Dachau, to a place to "re-educate" those who did not follow his ways.. Aka all the political leaders and the followers that opposed him. It then turned into the Jews, gypsies and homosexuals (and hearing the criteria for "homosexual" was pretty interesting)... And eventually became what I thought of when I thought "concentration camp." but even then, if you opposed Hitler and tried to fight back, you were going into a camp. You didnt have to be a jew, and you definitely didn't have to be German (i had no idea how many countries had their people brought to these camps...could you imagine not even being able to speak the language? One of the first things these people were taught in whispers late at night was how to count to 25 in German.. So when they were getting basically whipped and having to count they would survive... Because if you lost count they started over...and you couldnt survive many more than 40 hits) So again, you wonder to yourself, would you just shut up and ignore what was going on... Would you raise your hand when told and follow Hitler? I have no idea what I would do.. But I also don't think that a lot of people outside of the camps realized how bad it was inside (I sure didn't, until 2 days ago). So a lot of questions were raised in my own of the biggest was how can people be so sick and deranged, that they can do these things to other human beings? I mean, thats part of the reason the gas chamber came about in the first place, they needed to make it as dehumanizing as possible, because even the SS guards were psychologically broken down. That's one of the biggest, and sickest, things we learned about. The countless ways to psychologically torture the prisoners. It started with a huge no smoking sign right after they have lost all of their possessions, or the coat hangers and shelves for stuff they didn't have. Even the pockets in their pants that they couldn't use unless they wanted to get beaten and possibly killed. It just went on and on, and our tour guide was as straight forward and raw as anyone could be. As I'm standing there tying to digest one thing he has just said he says something else...and you really just can't believe it.

As I'm sitting here going on and on I realize I'm rambling a bit. And it's because I have no way to explain what we learned and experienced there. It's something I think everyone needs to do. As our tour guide the next day shared a quote she loved with us: "the whole world is like a book, and those who do not travel only read one page" ....there is just so much to see and experience and learn. 

But that was that, and after a semi somber day we were ready for a siesta and another night in Munich. We decided to go to a beer hall for dinner because the night before the food looked so good. It was us and our new friend/room mate we met and did Dachau with and it was our big spending night on food. We all had our big beers, amazing meal (I had a sample platter with all kinds of amazing authentic Bavarian food..not even sure what it all was) and then even got dessert...yum! We then just headed back to the hostel for the night, met some very interesting guys road tripping down to the exit festival from England. They were pretty crazy, and ended up getting slightly obnoxious, so we went to bed when they headed out for the night. 

Our second full day we went on another free walking tour. We got really lucky and had a spectacular tour guide. This woman was spunky, witty, full of information, and very much loved sharing all of it. She began with "90% of the answers to questions on this tour will be beer" ..and she wasn't kidding. It was a mix of history of the city and it's love for beer, and then the history of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Again, learned a lot. More than I can share here. One of the most interesting things is how the city of Munich has decided do it's memorial to the people involved in that time period. Instead of having one huge monument, that often doesn't get seen for what it is, a place to remember those who died and a place to learn what happened and learn from it. Well, in Munich they have 122 small memorials. Sometimes you aren't even sure what they are. They are there to raise curiosity so that the person that sees them takes it upon themselves to figure out why it's there. we had two pointed out to us. The first was simply a little plaque looking thing that said something like "here stood so and so's building up until 1938" and when you look it up you find out that on the terrible evening on 1938 when nearly 12000 Jews (in munich alone) were taken from their homes in the middle of the night during crystal night (can't remember the German spelling, and apparently now it is not called that by the Germans). Anyways, a father and his 17 year old son were taken and sent to Dachau and the 17 year old would be beaten to his death there. The second monument, and my favorite was a small golden line in the street down a side road. It represents the side road people began turning down to avoid a plaque Hitler had out up just in front of this road with the 15 (plus 5) Nazis who had been killed in a march they did. There were 2 guards at the plaque, and if you didn't do the Nazi arm raise as you passed, you would be beaten and taken to Dachau. So, people avoided it. But, eventually it became obvious, so they out guards in this side street. And people knew this, and knew that if they were stopped going down that road when they could have gone straight they would be beaten, possibly killed there, if not sent off. So, the golden road that stopped in the middle of the road represented the end of the road for so many people who chose to stand up against Hitler and The Nazis. 

We also covered a lot more than just that. We got some very good, and entertaining, history. Did you know the current pope is Bavarian? Apparently Bavaria cares about two things...Beer and The Bible. Its the most Catholic region in Germany...and on Sunday the only thing you'll find open are the churches and beer halls. The pope also has his favorite beer shipped to the Vatican every month or two... It also happened to be our tour guides favorite beer. Also, a lot of the buildings are actually only about 40 years old, but they look a lot older. They look older because the people of Munich knew during WWII they would be bombed, so they took a lot of detailed pictures of the buildings. One of the churches we saw, has a cannon ball stuck in it from's there because a man knew it belonged there and when they found it he told them it was part of the original building, so they put it back in. Many random facts later and the tour was over. We ram back to the hostel (because it was freezing and lightly raining) for another siesta. 

Our last night we decided to go out with a few friends we made in our room. We had dinner and watched Murray lose to Nadal, them head to hofbrauhaus, one of the oldest and biggest beer halls in Munich. We had a blast, I ended up heading home after with one of the other girls and Court went out to the university area to check it out. One of the craziest things that happened was when I wasn't even there. Apparently on the way home at 3am there was a guy playing music in a plaza and he played a song they all knew and they tried to tip him. Well, he handed the money back and said he doesn't take money from Americans and thanked them for 1945. Think about it, if that's not moving I don't know what is. 

Munich has the lowest crime rate in all of Germany, and the streets are so pedestrian friendly, you feel completely safe walking around at night from hall to hall. It's tradition and history mixed with the new age. Who wouldn't love it? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Heidelburg, Germany

First, I forgot a story from our last night in Paris that I want to remember. Basically on the way back from the Eiffel tower we found a metro station, walked down, and there was nowhere to buy a ticke (all the other ones have kiosks). So, we walked right down the street to the next one, walk down, and still nothing. Since I see nothing and the exit door is open, I'm just like "come on, we are just gonna go" .. And I guess there is a sensor because I Starr walking through and as soon as I get in the door shuts and I literally run right into it... So, we didn't know what to do and are standing there discussing it as 2 older men (easily in their late 60's/70's) walk by and I guess the one notices us. He kind of eyes us and signals with his hand to we do, and he signals us closer, and as he swipes his card he moves really slowly, like a little shuffle, through the door so we can all get through. It made us both crack up for the rest of the night.

Anyways, Heidelburg...

We had heard how neat Heidelberg was and were already a little sad we only were going to be there for one night, but there wasn't much we could do about it (we have had to book all of our trains in hostels in Germany to make sure we don't get stuck somewhere or without a place to stay). So, we decided we would just make the best of it.

The day started early...train at 7 meant up to catch the metro at 530am..however, I was up at 230 (after being up till about 1) because of my unknown illness. So, it was already early, and we were just ready to get on the train and get to Heidelberg form the day. Then.. About 630 we hear over the speakers in the train station that our train has been cancelled. Ya, you can imagine the thoughts that an threw our head at thar point. So, after a good laugh, we went to find the ticket office. Luckily they have an English speaking counter and Courtney used her southern charm to get all the info. We had to catch a different train to another little town and get the regional train from there. So, we go find the platform we need (they told us to just bring the tickets we have and we would get seats there)... Well, we get there and there are several people yelling in German to the train official. After much confusion I walk up to one of the upset women and ask if she speaks English. Luckily, she does. She tells us that both our train and the train they told us to take instead are full so we have to stand or something, and apparently they were all Yelling that they should send another train and it's unsafe, etc. Well, Courtney and I just wanted to get to Heidelberg, so we just decided to get on and wing it. Luckily, as we get on a man and woman are speaking English.. Long story short he was her boyfriend and just dropping her off, and she lives in Heidelberg. Then, we all 3 found seats and spent the next 3 hour train ride, plus one hour wait in a random town, plus another hour to Heidelberg Talking and sharing stories and just having a grand time. She told us all about how their sister state is South Carolina so she went to Clemson for 2 years and USC for 1. We really just had a great conversation, talked about the interesting differences between the states and Europe, healthcare (she offered to go into a pharmacy with us to help me out), about Heidelburg and really all sorts of things. Then, we decoded we needed to meet up once she got off work that night to get drinks (her favorite place is the hard rock...which is the smallest most non hard rock hard rock cafe I've ever seen...and so cheap). So that was that.

We made it there, only 2 hours late, and Diana took us to our hostel. We then headed up to the Heidelberg Castle, home of the German pharmacy museum! We also didn't have a map because they were out so just kind of started walking in the direction we needed to go. We finally found it and spent a good 2 hours there. We were huge nerds...taking pictures of all the stuff and finding all the history about our profession so interesting. As Courtney said "I took more pictures here than at the Louvre." 

After that, we headed to the walking/shopping district. Just all stores, pubs, cafes, etc and it's all walking only. It was fun, we saw a lot of cool shops. I'm excited that Cologne is near the end of our trip because the souvenir I like is somewhat fragile and heavy so I can grab it then. We went into 2 gummy bear stores (so good, so cheap), stopped to watch bits and pieces of the Sweden/Columbia game, and then headed back to clean up before finding somewhere to watch the US game. Unfortunately we got lost a little on the way back, so I didn't shower and left to find a place while Court got cleaned up (she isn't a big soccer fan, but I'm slowly converting her). I was a little worried because most of the places we saw were back I that walking district and it was about a 25 minute walk...with kick off in 15. Luckily just a block from our hostel I saw a place, and as I was walking through the beer garden to see if they had TVs I see 2 guys carrying a tv ask, and yes, it's for the game! So, I sat down, ordered a very cheap German beer, and thoroughly enjoyed the first half (minus the few near heart attacks). Courtney joined at half and I filled her in on all that had happened, we got some food (cheap...I loveeeeeee Germany) and watched US take control the second half! 

After the win I headed to clean up before we met Diana. She called, and we went and met her at Hard Rock. We each had 2 very good (and very cool looking...unfortunately we didn't bring our cameras) and again, cheap, drinks. Called it a night relatively early and headed back. 

Wednesday was just a get up, send a few post cards, explore a little more before catching the train day. Only sad moment...when I saw Hope Solo tweet that the USA women were headed to Heidelberg that afternoon. Very unfortunate, I wish they would have told us there plans sooner so I could plan my stalking accordingly. But, we had to leave. 

So far, Germany is just sweet. It's beautiful, laid back, American friendly, and full of soccer fans. Now if only Europe would stop trying to get me sick. I'm pretty sure it hates me and wants nothing to do with me. I'm a allergic (or something crazy) to the Mosquitos to where my bites form blister like things that are red and swollen a good 2 inch diameter circle around.. I have this unknown illness that is just a roller coster...during the day I rarely notice, but at nght and early morning I feel like I'm dying.. And now my eyes are messed up. Not sure if it's pink eye because it's not quite that bad, but definitely a little red, weird stuff oozing out on occasion, I wake up unable to open my eyes because of it... 

But, eurotrip doesn't stop so nether do I. Depending on how I feel while in Munich I may try figure out the doctor thing... I'm on day 8 of sickness (pretty sure I got whatever I have the last night we were  in Corfu) and a virus should start clearing up by now.. Luckily I finally got some sort of help at the pharmacy and got these Minty things you suck on.. It's a drug thats not in the US, but I looked it up.. It helps a bit with the symptoms plus I'm sure has some placebo effects on my symptoms. So, only time will tell. For now, I'm just ignoring it and wearing my sunglasses a lot (because I can't wear eye liner so I look like a 12 year old drug addict)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paris, France

So, we finally arrived...And within 30 minutes all of our fears disappeared. We had heard stories of unhelpful parisians and a metro that takes a day to master, so we came in a bit nervous, especially after the Milan experience. But, the metro is one of the easiest, most efficient things I've seen. Is always on time, running about every 3-5 minutes. You just figure out where youre starting, find your end point, and map a route. You'll never switch trains more than twice, and even then it's number and color coded. I don't know how people have a problem with it. 

Anyways, we got to out hostel, checked in, walked around to explore and find food, and then finally took showers, got ready and headed to The Louvre. My guide book said Friday night was great for first timers, less crowded, and we thought it was perfect. Luckily, we got in line to get in with a girl that told us on Friday nights it's free to everyone under 25... Yaaa! So we did the Louvre thing for free... We followed my guide book, hit the highlights (psyche and cupid, ramesses, Venus di Milo, St. Mary Magdalene, Michelangelo's dying slave, the Egyptian rooms, treasures from Mesopotamia, The Wedding Feast at Cana, and so many more.. I have notes in my guide and pictures but am too lazy to get up) saw Mona, and left. We got a good first timers experience, but according to my guide it would take someone 9 months to see the louvre in it's entirety (spending  about 10 seconds at each piece of art....not to mention the building is art itself). We completely skipped the second floor (thanks guidebook for telling me it's for experienced museum goers). 

Our tour guide Sunday said to us "you don't really feel like you're in Paris until you see the Eiffel Tower," and that's completely true. We had just left the Louvre and were walking down a beautiful garden, jardin des tuileries, when I glance over through the trees, tap Courtney, and we both stare in awe at whats in the distance. That was the first sitting. Easily love at first site. But, when you get closer to it, and realize its cant help but love everything about it. The Eiffel Tower has easily been my favorite monument thus far. What it means as the symbol of Paris, and really France as a whole, the history behind it and how hated it was in the beginning.. And just the environment around it (minus the annoying men continuously trying to sell souvenirs, wine, beer, champagne, cigarettes, etc.) we spent the evening there and got to see the spectacular light show twice. Every hour starting at 10 (because it doesn't get dark until 10) for 5 minutes (it was ten before Paris went green) it sparkles like the most amazing Christmas tree you could ever imagine. 

Saturday was Versailles day. it was spectacular. When you read "the grandest and most famous chateau in France" it's not an exaggeration. I'm really curious how mich the whole place much marble, gold, statues, etc.  We did the whole thing..It took 7 hours..but that's what our day was dedicated to. We got an audio guide tour of the chateau (highly recommend, you go at your own pace and learn so much.. It was really interesting hearing about what all they did there, it was like it's own little town). Favorite parts.. The fact that they had a room for people to watch them eat dinner, and a secret passage from the queens bedroom to the kings (where Mary Antoinette ran during the riots)... 
Point is, the place is spectacular.. The amount of time and money put into it is just outstanding. It's hard to describe, you go from room to room and hear about what went on there and the history behind it all (I took notes, and learned a lot, but again...too lazy). The most interesting part is the stories behind all the stuff. Everything has a reason it's there (mostly henrys selfish, stuck up ways...). And each piece of art has a story. It wouldn't have been nearly as outstanding had I not had a guide..and the audio guides are great because it's at your own pace and you can replay them. 

We spent the afternoon walking around the gardens (if we thought the chateau was big we had no idea..). Luckily we weren't in a rush and just made a day out of it, exploring the gardens and some of the other parts of the area. We made up our own fun stories about what went on and horses running through, and secret rendezvous.. It was quite entertaining... Plus Courtney fed and pet a swan  (and pet it...but I got to pretend to be a statue cause she couldn't get up in her dress). After, we ended the day at McDonalds... I had my first big Mac in probably 2 years... But the cheap "american" food with ICE cold diet coke was like heaven.

Sunday was our free walking tour day. A company called New Europe does these tours out of several major cities in Europe, and they are all free, tips based on how good the guide is. So we went, and will definitely go in Germany. Our tour guide Tyler had a great mix of history and sarcasm. We started at St. Michel, right across from Notre-Dame. Highlights:

-point zero in front of Notre-Dame.. Where all measurements start in Paris...and if you touch the star with your foot you'll be back to Paris within 10 years (of course we went Monday and touched it)! 
-napoleon crowned himself at Notre-Dame...we also saw the painting depicting this in the louvre.. It's fun when things all fall into place and you feel like you're part of it all.
-the clitoris of Paris... Yes, that's what he said it was...right after he said Paris is a female and there is this triangle park at the center. He also said vajay-jay and all I could think about was Greys Anatomy
-we saw a Louis XIV statue and heard all about how he hated Paris and went to his fathers farm to build the most ridiculous place ever, along with all his important people... Also known as Versailles. He also fired his financial advisor in 1789 leading to a riot...aka the revolution. 
-end of Bourne Identity was shot here...when Matt Damon was standing behind the letters in the word Samaritaine..and then meets on the Pont Neuf bridge. We definitely saw the building and walked the bridge...again, feel like I need to re watch the movie.
-The Arts Bridge was next, famous for 2 things...well 3 if you consider it connects The Louvre and the Academy (home of the French language protectors). It is also where in Sex and The City Carrie is swept away by Mr. Big (shout out Caroline and Clara). Finally, it's one of the major bridges where people "lock your love".. Basically you get a lock, can write on it, and lock it to the bridge and toss the key over into the Seine. But...there is a secret lock cutter... So be careful, your love may be cut short (pun intended). 
-there was a statue on the corner of one of these bridges with king Henry IV (I believe, I get them confused a lot...) anyways, he was the cousin of the king that died (20 times removed but still). Point is, I remember learning about some guy that killed some king and got tied up and pulled apart in all 4 directions... Well, it was the guy that killed Mr. Henry here. Cause Henry was Protestant but eventually converted to Catholicism, and the Parisians grew to love him... So this guy that assassinated holm (the 6th attempt) bragged about it and basically turned himself in.. But everyone loved the king by this point so they got a little angry with this killer guy. Also... Even more fun story.. 400 years later (August 10, 2010) they had a star wars themed memory event thing.. Not sure but apparently you can google it.. And they out a blue light saber in the statues hand.
-Apparently if you could take the paintings down in The Louvre, a lot of them would have stamped swastikas on the back from when they were taken during WWII
-Louis XIV was king at 5... Also they guy outside The Louvre... Also the guy who didn't like Paris and build that crazy place called Versailles. 
-Napoleon was a stealer of art and kind of obsessed with his own glory. The obblisque (I think that's how it's spelled...the Egyptian tall thing at the same place (place de la Concorde) heads rolled and the guillotine was law.. Anyways, Napoleon liked it and took it.. It's other half (there are two that are supposed to be on the side of some monument in Egypt I think) is all alone... And it really looks funny in the middle of Paris. Napoleon also is the one that ordered the Arc De Triomphe built so he could ride under it when he returned from battle... But, oh poor guy, he died before it was finished and the first time he saw it he was being carried under at his funeral.

Our walking tour ended by 3 so we took the free tickets we got to Musee d'Orsay from our train station friends and went for free. MO is a lot smaller and easier to handle than a lot of the other ones I've been in. Opinion part starts now.. 
-Van Gogh is weird...his paintings get a little strange. Don't get me wrong, very interesting, but nothing like vie beer seem before. We are looking dlrward to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam to get a better feel for him.
-The Nabis, a group of painters that wanted to break from tradition and all this random stuff I read about... Both of us agree that there stuff is "wack" .. Literally, so,e weird, not aesthetically appealing, just terrible stuff (this is my opinion so I can say what I want)
-I really liked William Bouguereau.. Courtney did as well. His art is a little mythological, and you kind of get lost I'm the paintings. My favorite was L'Assaut and Courtney's was Dante et Virgile
-Monet is spectacular...easily my favorite artist (paintings) thus far. He did have one strange beach scene that really when you looked up close (not how his paintings should be viewed, I know) looks like he did it in 5 minutes and just threw some paint here and there. 

That evening, We were going to go do the Montmartre/red light district tour with Tyler and then go on the pub crawl....but then plans changed. We got there thinking it was 10 euro, and when you're on a budget 2 euro is a lot. So he charges me 12, I ask why and he says 10 is for students...well, since we were going to do the pub crawl we didn't bring our bags, and didn't have our student ids... So we got annoyed, got a refund, went back to the hostel...hung out with ourselves, read, and got in bed before 11. It was nice, actually, we got plenty of sleep and even though I woke up hacking up my left lung and some nastiness along with it... I felt ready for our last day in Paris.

Our last day was kind of do our own thing and get in what we haven't. We started with our own walking tour of Montmartre, which was literally up hill both ways (you get to the top, walk down stairs, and have to climb right back up another hill). Anyways, it was lead by my guidebook so we saw a few random places (where van Gogh lived for a few years with his brother). Highlight was Courtney mooning the people behind us when we were walking up to this statue and she steps on an air vent from the metro.... Dress went about over her head. At the top is also this great little plaza where a ton of artists are selling there paintings (as they paint these beautiful scenes of Paris), or drawing portraits of you on the spot. I fell in love with one painting. I very much like art that leaves just a little up to the imagination (Monet does this a lot), and doesn't necessarily have vivid or distinct lines or features. And, i am a huge fan of scenes over people... Well, this painting was just that. It was all different shades of blue, and when you stood back and looked it was the Paris skyline. had it been cheaper and had I a way to get it home I would have gotten it...but, alas, I did not. 

After that we headed to Notre-Dam to actually walk around and go inside. It was very interesting, obviously gothic, and the stained glass everywhere you turned was just beautiful. There are 3 10 meter in diameter circular stained glass pieces that just steal the show. But, we didn't get a guided tour so didn't really hear any of the stories behind the pieces (as I'm sure there are). We then walked a good 2 miles in 94 degree crazy Paris heat (normally it is not that hot, but apparently we are bringing the heat everywhere we go). We got to Champs-Elysees the famous shopping street leading up to the Arc. And it was just as outrageous as you would think... A line to get in Louis Vatton and Abercrombie, Prada, Dolce, fancy restaurants, Etc... And a 3 story Nike store, Nike Paris...the only store I ventured in. Unfortunately it was just as expensive as you would imagine too. So we just looked, and then went and saw the Arc, up close, and then it was time to finish Paris with a nice little picnic dinner (champagne included) on the grass in front of The Eiffel Tower. 

600ish pictures later, and Paris was a success...minus the fact that I'm getting more sick and now think I have pink eye....not sure what's going on really... I may get to experience first hand dealing with foreign healthcare...luckily I hear Germany has excellent healthcare.