In Transit
Sawasdee (trans.: "Hello") from the Bangkok airport! I'm waiting for my connecting flight to Hanoi and found cheap internet. Having capitalized on the "luxury" of many a cheap flight on Southwest Airlines in the States, I wasn't really prepared for the comparatively lavish Thai Airways. The flight attendants are so kind; everything they say is followed by "please." "Would you like coffee, please?" "Would you like a hot towel, please?" And their English is superb, barely a hint of an accent. I could only imagine how nice business class must be.

I checked the weather for Hanoi before I left Prague:

35 (Celsius) with 94% humidity

94%?!?!?! I might as well just wear my swim suit and forget anything made out of denim. I'll have to draw on my days surviving on the top floor of FARC during the hot and humid Missouri August as preparation for the hot and humid S.E. Asia. At least this time I won't have to get all kitted out in preparation for sorority recruitment parties. Trekking across campus from dorm to Greek Town trying to look cute and refreshed was futile. I think I'll avoid the make-up this time; it'll probably just come sliding off my face.


New Pics
This isn't all of the recent cities I've visited. Hopefully I'll get to update the albums later, including my most recent pics of Prague. Tonight I'm sleeping (?) in the airport to be ready for my 6 am flight. Next stop: Vietnam!


Czech Republic


Slovak Republic


The More You Know...
The trains in Eastern Europe don't have conventional waste disposal systems. You "flush" right out onto the tracks. I nearly freaked out when I pressed the lever to flush and saw the trap open to reveal the ground whizzing beneath. And that is why it's actually illegal to use the toilettes at a stop. Ick!

I've made it to Budapest. Bratislava was nothing to write home about (except I wrote home to tell them that). The tour ends tomorrow. I've actually gotten used to group travel, but it'll be nice to have a few days on my own. Headed back to Prague tomorrow on an overnight train. Whee!


I think I came down with a mild case of the flu the day we visited this, the largest Nazi death camp. I found that to be somewhat appropriate, as my stomach pain was a constant reminder that the souls that walked those grounds before me not only experienced sickness, but in their sickness were pushed into horrors beyond imagination. I didn't bring my camera with me into the camp. I'm sure I could have captured many dramatic pictures, but I couldn't handle the thought of having to look through it all again. One visit is enough.

Krakow / Krakof
I wish I had more time in this city. Actually, I wish I had more time in most of the cities I visit. Fortunately, I'm seeing this trip as a sampling of places I'd like to visit again. When I return (there is no "if") I will soak up the city some more. For now, it's time to head back into the sun (yay! finally!) and find a place on the main square where I can enjoy a glass (bottle?) of wine.


Grouping It
I've found I travel quite differently while in a group. It's nice to not have to worry about the details like where I'm staying for the night or how to navigate my way to the train station, but I've found I've become less aware of my surroundings. I've been in Prague for a day and a half now and even despite the fact that we spent the afternoon on a quick trip to a small town outside, I think that I'd have a better sense of where I am in the city if I were forced to figure it all out for myself. That's typical of group travel, I'm sure, so I'm going to have to make a more conscious effort to learn my way around because I think I enjoy a city more when I know how the streets and metros and buildings all connect and intersect.

The group dynamics are interesting; everyone is either mid-30s, mid-60s or me. There are two other graphic/magazine designers in our group of 8, amazingly. We've had great discussions of typography, poster illustrations and graphic symbolism -- not to mention all the hints and tips we've shared about getting the most out of our cameras. All this and we're in Prague -- a mecca for Art Nouveau! As I told Jana, it's fantastic to be in a city that values lovely signage.

That Which Has Become My Most-Uttered Phrase of My Trip

"That's interesting..."

Simon pointed out that I said it often (in comparison to Sarah, who apparently uses the almost interchangable "That's funny...") and now I've noticed that I say it all the time. I won't appologize for my seemingly bland vocabulary, though, because it's true. It's all interesting.


Adverture Fooding
While I was staying with Megan and Jon, I borrowed a book called A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain, an NYC chef. He wrote about his quest to find the 'perfect' meal by traveling the world to eat food as the locals eat it. After reading about his adventures -- including trying a deadly poisonous fish in Japan -- I figured the least I could do would be to try the local specialty at least once in each city/country I visit. Thist has meant not only absolutely fabulous Belgian waffles in Brussels and Brugge, but also black pudding (cooked sheep's blood) in Scotland. And you know what? I'd gladly take the black pudding many times more before I'll eat cooked cabbage in the Czech Republic.

Updated Album
My Munich album has been updated with the final pics. Haven't had the chance to upload pictures from Austria or the one's I've taken in Cesky Krumlov. Those'll come in a few days, I'm sure.



Here Goes...
I'm meeting up with my first small group tour in about 15 minutes here in Vienna. I'm admitedly a bit nervous about this. After doing the solo travel thing for more than a month, having to keep up with a group almost sounds like work. I hope they're cool, because I'm stuck with them for the next two weeks.

More Pics
Eventually I'll get around to uploading the rest of my Munich pictures and tell a few more stories from the city. I also have Salzburg to share as well. More TK!




Staying dry
It's raining outside on the day I was planning to spend sunning myself in the Englisher Garten. So instead, I'm catching up on all the photos I've neglected to post. See below.

Losing Translation
Most of the Internet cafes I've been in have had PCs with English operating systems, despite their foreign keyboards. The one I'm in now is all configured in German. This proved to be quite the challenge when trying to use a DVD-burning program I'd never heard of, in a foreign language I don't really understand, on a platform (PC) that totally frustrates me.

Other adventures in German include trying to figure out just what's going on with this strike. Google Translation is quite helpful, though, and I think their clunky translation of the news says that all should go to plan tomorrow. I sure hope so...



More to come. My computer has jsut decided to revert to the era of dial-up slowness.


Thursday there is supposed to be a German rail strike.

Thursday I'm supposed to head to Salzburg.

This could be interesting.


Thoughts and Highlights from the Past Week+
(In bulleted format! Woo!)

+ I´m quite glad I got to see the Tour de France. It hit me that it´s just about the only completely free-to-watch competition that is the crowning challenge of a sport. Just about every other major sporting event is held in an arena or stadium and requires a ticket to enter. the only exceptions are maybe the Cambridge-Oxford boat races (and that´s not a big international competition), and the major marathons (Boston, New York, London, etc.), but there are several of those. The Tour de France is BIG. And our spot on the Champs Elysees to watch was prime.

+ Three days was definitely enough time for me in Paris. The weather was gray and drab, and as I stood at the top of Montmartre in front of Sacre Coeur that grayness and drabness seemed to be reflected in the very monochromatic city view.

+ This probablz also contributed greatly to my enjoyment of Amsterdam. I entered the city and it was lively and colorful and each building looked different from its neighbors. (That could have been partly because each building was leaning haphazardly into its neighbors.)

+ I did not actually partake in the local "delicacy" while in Amsterdam. Getting high by myself sounded to me more like a cry for help than a cultural experience, and most of the fellow travelers I met along the way were stoners there just to indulge. I´d rather be surrounded by like-minded friends than potheads if I´m going to test those waters.

+ Amsterdam was a very, very friendly city, but it´s the only city I´ve visited so far where I didn´t really make friends. I analyze this to be because most people head to Amsterdam with their little group of friends so they can all get high together rather than venture out on their own.

+ I was sitting in a cafe on the street in Amsterdam and a local guy came up trying to get me to come to some club party thing he was advertsing. He asked where I was from and I said Kansas, at which point he said, "Oh! You guys have a great football team, don´t you!" My first thought was, "Well, the Chiefs aren´t really that good, actually." But before I could say anything, he followed that with, "The Kansas State Wildcats, right?" I almost fell off my chair. I never knew anyone in Europe would have known anything about college football, but apparently this guy wanted to get away from Holland for a while and headed to California to play baseball for a small college, during which time he became a big college sports fan. I didn´t get the name of the school he attended because he was on to the next person he was trying to attract to his party.

+ After I met the Wildcat fan, I turned the street corner only to run into a Nike ad with a picture of Steve Nash! I nearly did a little dance right there in the street.

+ Bikes are awesome, although my butt the day after my bike tour was quite sore.

+ I´m now in Munich. This morning I went on a free walking tour of the city, and I´m headed in a few minutes to do another walking tour detailing the rise of the Third Reich in the city, then this evening I`m going to learn about "liquid bread" on a beer/brewery tour. Tomorrow I think I´m going to head out to the Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle Disneyland based the Cinderella castle on).

Not to Stereotype, But...Well, Yes, to Stereotype
I have found the following generalisations regarding cultural groups:

+ Americans can be easily spotted by our shoes, our baseball caps, and something about our faces. I can´t place it, but I have gotten pretty good at figuring out an American face. Maybe it´s the mish-mash of cultures that make our faces not have a distinct look and in that they become distinct. Woah, that´s getting a bit deep.

+ Germans speak very good English and when I´ve asked why, the common response is that they read books published in their original langage rather than translations. This has been the common answer I´ve received from several different Germans.

+ In playing a fun game I call "Name That Nationality" (whereby I have to try to pick the nationality of a passing tourist before I hear them speak) I have found an easy way to pick out North Africans, specifically Moroccans and Algerians: They´re the men who try to pick me up. My first week after leaving the UK I was approached by no less than 6 Algerians or Moroccans. No Frenchmen, no Dutch, and only one Belgian if you count Simon. :)

+ "Thank you" in the language of the country you´re visiting is the most important phrase to learn. "Dank ja wel" (sp?) was the only Dutch I learned and everytime I said it to a shopkeeper or restauranter, their face brightened and they looked at me with unbelief; like they were thinking, "Wow! She knows Dutch!"

+ Americans are not the only "ugly" tourists. We get a bad rap, and some tourists give good reason for that reputation, but I´ve seen just as many "ugly" tourists from all sorts of countries.

Pictures to come when I can find a place that actually lets me attache a USB cord and has software to let me view thumbnails. The console I´m currently on only lets me view the pictures full-size, and as I have nearly 2,000 pictures already, it would take my whole hour of Internet time to sort through and find a handful of good ones to share.


I Heart Amsterdam
It's official, I think this might be my favorite city so far. And no, it's not for the reasons many 20-somethings like this city. Although, it may have a lot to do with the weather finally being something other than cold and dreary. More TK.