Sunday, March 28, 2010

A lost camera found by all of The Gambia

This will be a little post about a trip we made to Banjul to see the markets in the capital :)  

The green taxis are 'tourist taxis', which insure the tourist and not just the locals like the yellow taxis.  I sort of thought it was a bit of a rip-off since they generally made you pay a bit more (so maybe 4 dollars instead of 2), but then they actually do have a point - after the first day I left my camera in a green taxi apparently, and didn't realize until the next morning.  When we left that morning to go see if we could shake hands with some crocodiles I told the taxi people, and they called the taxi I had been in (I had Abdoulie's business card along with SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE'S business cards, everyone wants you to call them and they will help you later, more money for them! sometimes the business cards were other people's cards, but with numbers and names crossed out and written in pen elsewhere)....

Lost train of thought there. So I had left my camera and reported it right? After I told taxi people, they called and Abdoulie came back later and checked his car and well, basically the next day the taxi controller who stood outside our resort came up to me, said 'hey, when you lose things, you come to me' then pulled my lovely camera out of his pocket, and I became the happiest person in the world :) :) :) BUT super weirdly for the rest of the trip random taxi drivers and tour guides would come up to me and tell me how they helped me find my camera, how nice of them, and so I thanked I feel AT LEAST 20 people for their very important help, and didn't give anyone money for helping me.  I also am still under the impression that the only people who were really involved was the driver, who I also say later and heartily thanked, the main taxi guy, and maybe the guy who called in the first place for me. Very strange very strange...

Correction.  This is no longer a post about the markets in Banjul.  Instead that will be tomorrow - apparently the time is changing tonight so I lose an hour and I have a biiig week ahead of me.  So posts of The Gambia and Senegal events will be more sporadic and spread out, which will be a nice break from horridly long posts like the London one.

Bonne nuit! :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Boss Lady goes to The Gambia!

I am completely in love with Africa/The Motherland, and was in love with it before I even went (the music, insane cultures, languages, animals, enticing danger...).  After finally seeing the 'real Africa' (have been to Morocco before but as everyone says, it's not 'Africa'), my love for the Motherland has been confirmed.  Here is why.

First let me tell you a little background knowledge on Africa, which I have read in a book that I have called 'Africa' (how many times can I say Africa I wonder...especially before it loses meaning as a word...).

So!  The continent of Africa itself is the oldest, and the deepest...remember when you see those little videos of how all the earth plates moved and were all together at the beginning, well, the piece that was Africa never ever moved.  Africa also has very few mountains, because unlike the other plates, it's not colliding with itself and wedging one plate over or under another - in fact Africa is EXPANDING, how weird is that! You can see the continent 'stretch marks' somewhere in Ethiopia I think...besides that and random information about giraffes I think I should probably go one with my Gambian tales, oh wait - another interesting point maybe to remember is that, yes we all know Africa in general is underdeveloped, often disease ridden, and just way behind the times, BUT we often fail to realize that for A REALLY LONG TIME people (yes like us dear Americans) went there to take the biggest and strongest MALES (leaders) and make them do menial tasks.   So yeah, didn't really help. :)  

Anyways after getting a visa and random injections and flying for about 8 hours with a stop in the Grand Canaries (which I had no idea was a part of SPAIN), we arrived in the warmth and haziness that is The Gambia on the west coast of Africa!  It was cheaper for us to arrive and not know where we'd say till we got there, and found out we were staying at Kombo Beach, this fancy resort which IRONICALLY I pretended was my address when I was filling out my visa, how coincidental is that!!

First thing besides the body odor we noticed was that EVERYONE wants to help you, everyone wants your money. You know how the 'I'm thinking Arbys' commercials have that hat above their head? It's like we had dollar signs above our heads.  And everyone saw that...constantly.  What else I have learned is that it would be really good to have planned to have lots of American one dollar bills with me...people definitely like those :)  It's in the movies too, and looks so different from ALL the foreign currency I have dealt with so far.  Am I becoming slightly sentimental about the American dollars? Yes.

Our resort was sweet with a free huge breakfast and nice pool, right on the beach too.  It was interesting how hazy everything was, it wasn't cloudy ever, it's just that the sky was never...clear or blue. Just this amazing African haze that to me was very fitting.  Don't know if it's different during the rainy season though.  A British guy I talked to told me that in The Gambia they play a game called 'spot the cloud.'  

Anyways the first day we really just walked around, got hassled by tons of people to take their tours and rent their bikes etc, also I was called 'Boss Lady' a lot, which will forever remain my favorite nickname I think...the ocean was lovely, the people are deeefinitely friendly, and we ended up meeting the coolest Gambian (part of the Jola tribe when we ate at his restaurant.  His name was Bobuka or something like that, we called him Bob, and he was the youngest in his family, which he then told us that everyone with his name is the youngest in their family :)  Very interesting, all the eldest children often have the same names too!

I think I will just have to write more later after I study some Danish, there is so much to tell....maybe another one tonight :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Corrections #1 (Just in case there will be more in the future)

So apparently London Bridge is in Arizona and Tower Bridge is the tacky one! Haha, makes more sense since it looks like towers, and hey I wasn't too off in the way I used to picture London Bridge after all! Pa enlightened me on this subject tonight, at first I thought it couldn't be true because I definitely remember a map saying 'London Bridge' but, I suppose the Tower Bridge is now the main bridge in London...anyways, sorry about that :)

Anyways, I am armed with a visa, yellow fever antibodies, and hepatitis A antibodies for tomorrow when I enter The Gambia :) And I just heard strange screaming outside....But as I will be getting up in about 3 hours (why am I constantly traveling like this...maybe it's like big kid Christmas and I just get far far far too excited...), and catching the airport-headed train at 5 40ish AM so I'd better get some sleep. :) Hopefully I'll be able to write a little bit while I'm there, I'm assuming there will be computers along with the monkeys and hippos? Ooh well when I think about it like that I am no longer so sure...

Hello WARMTH!!!

London, the Land of Sun :)

Well! I've been back for about a week ... more than a week! How very sad :( Luckily I still have all my memory cells in place so can finally divulge the tales of my travels here, so let us begin... (just realized this truly is easier when you just get back, I'll remember that next time haha)

SO! First of all maybe you want a little idea of what happened the night before we left? It's pretty amusing really; Marcella and I went to some party quite far away in the city really, with the end result of a missed train, a cab, being vomited on in the Metro (the Metro people were just getting on too to the disgusting area we were still in as we were getting off and I was so worried March would get a ticket), walking home in the freezing cold in a dress and thankfully my kind neighbors coat and carrying my putrid smelling coat in a ball in front of me, convincing March she should shower, and then staying up forever doing my nasty washing :):) Haha, always an adventure though :)

Somehow we managed to wake up again for our early EasyJet flight, once again amazing flight, especially when we got the emergency exit row seats (is that what you call it? why do I feel like there is another term for those seats)...I will say this, EasyJet would not be good super-long distance because it's pretty cramped, my knees touch the normal-place seats so it was good to have a little more room this time. And what does one think when surrounded by people with British accents asking you if you want a drink or a pen for random papers we had to fill out? One thinks of Harry Potter I reckon...I thought about Harry Potter WAY TOO MUCH, especially when someone tells me what platform I need to take to get a train to London from Gatwick (we flew to Gatwick, cheaper that way)...

Sorry to get on a tangent here but this just stuck me as an important/sad memory - Recently (maybe this summer) on a flight in the US there was an elderly lady with white hair sitting in the emergency exit row and the flight attend lady was sooo rude to her, trying to convince her she couldn't lift open the door and she should move the the lady wanted to stay there and said she could do it, and the whole plane was really quiet and awkward feeling as this woman was being hassled, and eventually they made her move even and she was really sad about it. Granted she was super frail and timid looking, so just a very awkward situation really, because maybe the flight attendant had to do that but it just seemed...ahh, it seems like a memory better repressed. Yet now I have to share the awkwardness...

On another note I have a hole in the top of my sock and I feel poor :(

SO BACK TO LONDON. Well, the getting there part, the quick Gatwick express which took us promptly to London within 30 minutes...good train that one, and got to see London and the outskirts waking up, such pretty quaint houses in Europe, I really love imaging living in almost every building I pass in general so it's ultimate fun overseas...Not as many colored doors that Ireland boasted however.

OH - We also purchased and Oyster card on the plane, and I think it was a bit over 20 pounds, we had to pay a bit for the card itself (which is rechargeable and never expires), and 20 pounds of transit money on it (which is given at a discounted rate when you use a card and not buy individual tickets) SO, I recommend that to everyone. I think I still have maybe two rides left too next time I'm caught up in the bustle of London.

Anyways, get to Victoria station and walk out to try to figure out where we're at and it was just very pretty, just exactly what I would think London should look like except it was cleaner, you know how you compare (well I do) everything to how it looks in the movies? And London is always cramped and slightly dusty (ok...OLD London movies by I have a really bad concept of time), anyways, I was amazed with out clean everything was and just...nice! So we went straight to the closest British pub with our bags to get some chips (french fries) and I tried this strange British thing called...Ploughman's something, it was good, just cheese and pickle-relish and some other veggies. Interesting though. Then we went back to the station to try out the Underground system and GOODNESS what STEEP escalators they have there! I swear if you fell...everyone would die! And you would die the most! Very freaky but really awesome, often when leaving the CPH undergound metro you take two escalators to get to the top, I wis
h they'd just get one huge steep one so I can add a little more fright to my life everyday haha...The underground here went really fast, UNUSUALLY fast I think, and was really timely and it's also really hot down there. ALSO I forgot the next Olympics will be in London in 2012 (I guess they are not planning on the world ending in 2012), but basically this means that lots of lines were sometimes down for repairs since London's doing a lot of sprucing up apparently for the world to see later :) fair enough, I liked taking the red double-decker buses anyways and ALWAYS sitting on top.

When we got to wherever we were going we were RIGHT OUTSIDE THE LONDON TOWER! Which I thought was going to be just a tower, but no, its this almost 1000 year old castle type thing I think with all sorts of towers in it, but normal castle towers and not like...THE WILLIS TOWER. Heh heh, what a great name for a tower, I'm STILL celebrating that in my mind. So we looked at that and then went off to walk to our doing this we WALKED ACROSS THE LONDON BRIDGE!! Oh and from the London Tower viewing platform we could see London's 'Gherkin' building looming beautiful in the distance. Really lovely how everything is just so close though I think :)

Let me say a little something about the London Bridge...we all sing about it falling over as kids and I don't really know why, and generally when I think about a bridge I picture the Golden Gate Bridge (regardless of the fact that I have never even seen that other than from an airplane), and so I pictured red metal. However, the London Bridge is more like some tacky castle...the concrete etc. of the bridge is beautiful yes, and appropriate for London's monarchical history I think, but the metal girders or whatever one would call them were the tackiest things we'd really ever seen....Painted bright blue and white and the metal railings also all blue and white...with such an ancient pretty stone background....I don't know. Maybe if I had seen pictures before of it I would've just accepted it but Marcella and I both had never really thought about what it would look like before and were equally shocked. Was more interesting this way of course! And we had a beautiful walk across it in the SUNSHINE, because it never rained or was even OVERCAST on us while we were in London (Yeah yeah we are just lucky, or maybe everyone's just too much of a downer about London's amazing weather, that'd be a much more interesting truth). I'd like to say that the London Bridge grew on me as well but in fact it didn't, though I like it for its strangeness. :)

Our hostel was alright once we found it, and definitely every in London seems super friendly as we had to ask a bunch of locals and even a bartender how to find it exactly, since when I was printed off our booking confirmation which I saw from the email had the address on it, my printer managed to ONLY leave off the address part which had been right in the middle of all the information too....Anyways we got a bus and the nice people (EAVESDROPPERS! Totally fine though I'm one too by accident), anyways the nice ladies on the bus told us when to get off because they heard us say where we were going when we were at the front of the bus! So we checked in through the overly complicated gate system, got our room which was very hard to open (sometimes we had to go get a different key, I still don't understand what was up with that door), and then got on our merry little way around London :)

I feel like I wrote so much about Berlin that I should break this trip up differently...and just put the things I saw more and not the nonsense ramblings that come so naturally about food and conversations and let's see if I can manage that. But first a word for the wise - (is that a phrase? do you need to tell the wise more words?) - anyways the YHA Youth Hostel is alright but it is no St. Christopher's (which didn't have room for us). Lots of kids stay at a YHA and they charge you an extra 10 pound fee just to join their society for you to even stay there, which is sort of a rip. However the breakfast is AMAZING. Hot and English and just GOOD. Which maybe explains why we saw more large people in London than well, in CPH for example haha..

Anyways, a list of things we saw and did, sort of in order :)

~Ate at amazing Asian restaurant in Camden (though we didn't realize we were there until a day later haha, it was an accidental wandering when we had meant to go there before we began our journey anyways)

~I managed to lose my Oyster card within about 4 hours of first using it, then after digging through my pockets again and again and looking around, I backtracked and there it was! No one had even picked it up! And it looked so fresh and new and full of pounds...lucky me!

~Get directions from the nicest man working at the hostel who outlined good stops to get off at and how to get to a bus stop we were looking for (And extra point here - black people having British accents are somehow my favorite. I suddenly also feel like watching a Guy Ritchie film...he likes British accents too..)

~Have a nice walk along Canada Water and picture myself living in London because all the houses are just so quaint! Marcella also pointed out that if she was a bird, she would be the retarded bird we watched for a bit struggle to get into the water and walk and just do anything. She says some very amusing things my crazy flatmate...

~Walk and shop down Oxford Street. Sometimes it is just nice to indulge in the girl's fascination with shopping and clothes and new things and deals...very refreshing and affordable too, yay TopShop!

~Make our way to the Maple Arch (to be honest I have no idea why this arch was there so we, being tourists, got a photo with it haha) where we entered Hyde Park where there is 'Speakers Corner' and we wanted to see the people giving free speeches there on Sunday mornings, and SADLY it was a stupid angry black American standing on an American flag and just ... full of crap, calling the Europeans second class Americans and then saying how he studied law in all these fancy places and worked with London Parliament, and here is is drinking at 10 am and being a general ass (pardon my profanity but sometimes you just have to use the correct word you know? hehe)

~Went to the CAMDEN MARKETS, maybe one of my favorite parts of the trips, where we saw sooooooo many awesome things and shops and had so many food samples, finally settling on some type of French food that was very different and well, French I guess, who knows really I haven't ever tried their cuisine other than the occasional crepe...I could spend sooooo much time at the Camden Markets and I recommend going to anyone who goes to London, just a lovely time and so many crazy and interesting people! They also sell a TON of the most intensely gothic clothes yet I didn't see people dressed like that often, maybe I smartly and accidentally avoided all the right areas! :)

~Realized that London is really into Lions and statues of them, they sort of have them everywhere, and then later realizing that a Lion is one of the animals on the crest. And by the way does anyone else have trouble with always thinking of the cowardly lion when they see statues of lions? I don't think this happens to me when I see a real lion, because when I see one of those I am always in a zoo (so far), and I always am just wanting it to move or walk towards me or roar, however statues make me think of wizard of oz...oh what has the media done to me!

~Did ultimate bargain shopping in a 99 pence shop :) Also realized that I don't think the UK uses shillings anymore...just pence. I always quite liked the idea of a shilling, so maybe I'm just wrong and I didn't understand the pence thing :)

~Walk to Buckingham Palace...SOOO amazingly huge. Those poor guards out front too, walking all funky whenever they even get the chance to move around. This Palace was actually really beautiful and so was the gate and fountain and park around it...very fancy for the Queen! Haha I still find it sort of amusing that...monarchies in these ultimately civilized countries still just seems so...I don't know...unnecessary? I can understand it's tradition and maybe they need someone's face for their currency...haha...Just amuses me to imagine the US with a king because I CAN'T! Guess you just have to grow up with it to even ... imagine it's normal. It just seems so fairytale-esque to me. ALSO, I am very confused as to why everywhere surrounding the large area leading right up to the palace and around the big fountain was surrounded with flags alternating between South Africa and the UK. Is it really just for the World Cup as my friend Mahmoud suggested? I cannot think of a reason...

~All the London taxis are really sweet looking and everyone should know this. Also there are far too many red phone booths with no one using them and they are all so close together. Very weird London, very weird. I do enjoy different thing though :)

~Walked to the Big Ben WHICH IS SO MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL AND IMPRESSIVE THAN I HAD THOUGHT IT WOULD BE, and then also my friend Ben let me know that Big Ben is the name of the bell inside and not the tower surrounding it, but oh well, I'm calling it that just so people know I'm not talking about a bell I can't see :) Big Ben seemed very connected to the Houses of Parliament, and this is by far one of my favorite buildings in the WORLD. On a sunny day it is just...just breathtaking. The type of building you can just stare at, and would love walking past everyday.

~Found a random stern faced guard to stand creepishly close to in order to get a creepish photo, I definitely wish I could just break all rules all the time and tickle the guards. But then they might...shoot me :(

~Walked to Westminster Abbey which was not just one giant building like I thought but quiet a few. However I could not break through the giant doors apparently and enter, and no one else seemed to know how, I think they lock them on Sundays, and as it was cold we moved on across the Thames...

~To the London Eye! What a giant ferris wheel thing! We didn't go up in it, though they don't seem to rock like normal ferris wheels and ohhhh I just remember going up in them with Kirk and Kyle who'd just rock and rock and I wanted to cry ahhh so frightening, haha I was SUCH a little wimp :) But this thing looks just crazy, and apparently Brisbane in OZ has a Brisbane Eye too :) Haha, I love when cities blatantly copy each other :)

~Tried to see Alice in Wonderland at the Imax there since we knew it was very close to the London Eye and well I am a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and not only has Marcelle never seen it, she's never seen a 3-D movie, so while trying to figure out how to enter this mysterious building by walking along it around this tiny unfriendly-for-humans sidewalk, we realized the entrance must be from underground...only to get there and find out it was sold out for the next two weeks haha...

~Ran into the London film festival then as we were looking for a place to eat so went there and saw a Georgia film, which was, hands down, the WEIRDEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. I have now managed to see the weird side of the film festival deal, I think I had slight nightmares about it (and day-mares about it). It was crazy because everyone else was like 'wow WHAT IN THE WORLD', and no one even clapped when it was over, we just felt relieved, it was was called 'The Color of Pomegranates' in case anyone is interested in googling one of the scariest things in the world.

~Had more amazing Thai food at this fancy fancy place with this little boy womanizer waiter who was pretty worthless but the food was so good it did not matter :) Plus we were NOT in Georgia so once again, everything was good :)

~Walked all the way to the Tower of London from our hostel on another nice sunny morning and saw a guy buffering the wooden banister...(is that what you call the thing you put your hand on? I feel like I don't know what a banister is anymore!!! Ahh! Is my brain melting!?) Anyways...he was buffering this wooden..thing you normally put your hands on on the London Bridge. And I wondered, if they keep doing that how long before nothing is left and then they have to get new ...things... and how old is this? From the beginning? So then I touched it just in case they were super old and precious :)

~Took a semi-guided tour of the Tower of London...saw where people had their heads chopped of. It was overpriced but it was educational and very cool to be in it :) Also seeing the crown jewels was RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING. High security too. Seeing torture devices and where the block and ax for the head chopping was not so amazing, more like, my stomach twisted and then I felt guilty for being so intrigued...ALSO, there used to be a moat around this tower of London (naturally), but apparently it ended up being the largest outdoors toilet soooo it is now just grass :)

~Mazed my way through the city trying to find the Gherkin (which I kept calling the Egg because come on, a pickle is all bumpy...why is a pickle all bumpy???), which was more difficult then one would imagine because other buildings block the view, and therefore ended up seeing business London around lunch, which was so brisk, crisp, professional, and they don't wear coats over their suits whats up with that! But when BOOM there it was, and I was a happy person :)

~Pretended I would be grown up and go into a coffee shop while we tried to figure out where the St. Patrick's Cathedral was from where we were at, and ended up with the most amazing hot chocolate and lemon cheesecake...oh wouldn't that be nice right now!

~Saw the beautiful and HUGE St. Patrick's Cathedral, you seriously cannot even fit that thing in a photo...and it had been on fire during the great fire of London too1

~Sort of accidentally wondered into the Museum of London which is still wasn't that impressive, especially since what we wanted to see most was about the Black Plague and the great fire and that part was the smallest of all! But still good, thankfully they had recommended donations and so we donated...the smallest coins :) Hey we are poor students!

~Went into the Portrait Gallery of London which is free and AMAZING, and right on Trafalgar Square which is so pretty, you can see Big Ben in the background, and anyways seeing all of these famous portraits is actually...really really awesome. And getting to read more about them too. King Henry VIII was SUCH a player, and ironically in his portraits his crotchal region was always super emphasized...tsk tsk. I also took photos in there and after a LONG TIME was attacked because apparently it wasn't allowed...but I still have them. My life of crime continues!

~Had a great wander around, got an amazing little notebook that I now use to write down my greatest wish or desire every day on one line (as you can tell I RAMBLE too much to make a daily diary type thing feasible, I've tried and fail and one line is I think my only option), and got some fish and chips and...PEAS? whats up with that London...

~Went to see Alice and Wonderland 3D! :):):) It was amaaaazing, Tim Burton is so delightfully weird. And then we went home because we had to leave early the next morning, and so kindly our Hostel gave us breakfast to go on our walk and train ride back home :)

So that is London in a sunny nutshell and now I will upload photos. Sorry it took me so long to update this but I thought maybe I wouldn't ramble so much if I waited a few day, however this does not prove to be the case at all. So now, I give up :) My next trip will be updated much more promptly...

Monday, March 15, 2010

You know how sometimes you end up watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch all night?

....instead of making a London blog post? Yeah...I'm sure you do, therefore you understand why I still haven't made it :) But it is on my list of things to do today - in capital letters even! I just did some massive shopping...way too much shopping I'm slightly much food! At least I ... wait I have on idea where you get shopping carts in Bilka (It's apparently not Bilkas, which I have been/still am calling it...don't know why!) Anyways I can only buy as much as I can carry so I was very happy the rice was unavailable! Too much weight I am a week person!

So while I'm ABOUT to put my food away, thought I would mention a few things to future long term travelers...


I happened to have maybe 4 when I got here, or just 3 leftover and thought 'oh I'll take those just in case, no sense in them staying at Purdue.' Well I am already on my last one as of tomorrow - never know when you're going to need a random visa to enter another random country!

There was something else...Hmm...I don't know, but Sabrina the Teenage Witch is an awesome show. Somehow i just ended up thinking about it and then my friend showed me a link for it online and basically...awesome night! I used to be SO into that show, and now I still am but I can't tell how much of it is just sentimental. But now I will go put away groceries!

Did I manage to fool everyone in Bilka and other random shops I visited that I was Danish? Yes. I now even mix up saying 'Tak' with 'Tak for det' (thanks for that), and sometimes I say 'Selv tak' when they say tak first...means 'thanks back'...oh yeah. Definitely turning Danish over here :)

Another point to make - The Danes really like their healthy popcorn, its either basically fat/goodness free or slightly salted. Do I miss 'Extra ultimate movie theatre butter'? Yes. Will I need to start some sort of fitness plan when I return home? Definitely.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ooooh Denmark I love thee...

I've been totally slacking on keeping this up; seems like when I go on a trip I know I will have to do a massive blog and so I put it off, therefore I have been putting off my London blog for a week now... :( It is coming RIGHT after this one I am DETERMINED to do it tonight :)

Just a quick update on whats been going on in lovely CPH - I'm still hardcore learning Danish, need to study it a lot because its ridiculously difficult...Danish culture course is also getting very interesting, especially the last lecture which discussed Greece's problems and if the EU is really a good idea or not. It was especially made interesting when the European kids in the class asked questions and such, saying what they thought about their countries in the EU or why Denmark isn't part of it sort of...All sounds really complicated really. And what is embarrassing to admit is that, regardless of the fact that I love the world and the countries, people, food, cultures, sooo much, I do NOT understand things like..economics or how currency fluctuates or countries go bankrupt when you hear in the US were trillions in debt...I just do NOT understand it. I try to, but when I think about it for awhile everything just makes less sense. Basically do not ask me economic questions. :) I don't even think I like economics haha...

Remember the show cops? that has been on recently, and I enjoy a good little house in the prairie before I go to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays :) other than that I'm just enjoying my time over here, completely, and about to do some Paris planning as I'm going there with Mom, her husband, and Lexi at the end of the month...I love playing tour guide!!

Think that's really it before I come back and do a large London blog...still meeting lots of wonderful people here and loving my apartment etc. Had a big night last night with some Australians, a Scottish girl and a Norwegian, and ended up really meeting all of our lovely neighbors too.

Anyone is welcome to come visit still... :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lengthy Tales of My German Experience...

Allow me to just go ahead and apologize for this long. I know it will be because I plan on doing all for days in one go. Haha :)

So to begin - Marcella and I totally planned on going to bed early the night before our flight, but as we are chatty individuals we ended up staying up till about 3 am, and woke up at 5...haha...but hey, when you're so excited for a trip sometimes it really doesn't matter if you're sleepy or not, because your excitement just turns into pure energy...until you crash haha.

So, flew EasyJet, which for the record I LOVE, very cheap and just...yeah. Easy. When we got to Berlin we did exactly what is the best thing to do - NOT figure out things by yourself, you ask someone who knows. It saves you so much time! I love information desks. As were were (mistake!) couchsurfing, we had a random destination we needed to get to and a lady gave us a map of the underground Bahn thing (there were S Bahns and U Bahns, no idea what Bahn means), and we bought a day pass for transportation (6.50 euro each I think) and started our way to this place, which was fairly successful! Sadly NEITHER of our phone works, I think I may need to unlock mine in other countries or allow it to roam, a Hungarian guy in my Danish Culture course was telling me anyways we weren't able to figure out how to buzz into the apartment we were going to stay in for free, so we made out way down to this petrol station to ask if there was a phone nearby, and this is where we had our first...'Oh wow people don't know English here really' experience...But! We asked the guy where a phone was and he just...kept motioning and saying things in German, and we'd pretend we knew what he was talking about, and keep asking him to repeat it, but it was amusing because he was speaking German and we were speaking English, thank goodness we have hands because I really couldn't have gone far in Germany without using hand motions, haha...and then we walked out and both had no idea where he said...and there was literally a telephone booth pretty much IN the petrol station haha...and he was laughing at us from the window. So! we called this guy Jakob, figured out how to buzz in...and he really seemed nice at first, we put our bags in where he said we would sleep, this really big complicated couch, and gave us these maps and stuff talking about the different tours, and also invited us to go out with him that night and we told him we were actually going to need to crash later but alright, we'd be up for hanging out a bit...

Anyways this guy was a chef so worked late, so we had this deal where when we wanted to go back to the flat we'd have to buzz his family that lived on the 2nd floor of the same building and they'd let us in, so yeah, we weren't too freaked out or anything just yet :) We went to go on the free Berlin walking tour, but wanted a coffee first haha, and then (I was the navigator for this trip, which how surprising is that, everyone knows I'm useless at knowing directions and where I'm at...I got lost driving to Sarah's house once!, but I'm seriously good now after my trip to Ireland it's awesome)...anyways, I sort of made us miss the tour because I sent us down the wrong metro ways constantly...whoops! Simple mistake though I swear! Marcella is wonderful she didn't care at all...needless to say we sort of missed the free walking tour, but then we saw Bradenburg Gate, walked around and read historical signs, and just enjoyed wandering around Berlin for a bit, sorted out our museum pass we wanted to get (9 euros for 3 days entrance to about 60 museums, its a sweet deal we got our money's worth for sure), and...saw a lot of fancy cars in windows? Oh, and food is cheap here, so another reason we may have missed that walking tour was because there was this amazing CHEAP kebab place right outside the entrance and being hungry...easy choice to make to get one :) SOOOO Delicious too!!

We actually ended up meeting with the end of the free walking tour on accident, for a bit less than an hour perhaps, so just joined that, learned a lot of history...maybe too much history this guy was into giving us the SMALLEST TINIEST details about the German...peoples the past...but it was good...and then we ended up bailing before it ended since we didn't want to tip exactly since we weren't there for the whole thing...but yeah, ended up feeling the need to crash soon, wandered into this AMAZING market on our way home and on a search for alcohol (Jakob had told us we might need to get our own bottle cos he had been planning on going to a friends flatwarming party and we were invited to join), turns out we failed at finding a bottle shop and instead only FINALLY found a Netto (which they have here, just a small chain grocery place), and even there it was a small selection so we got something red that was less than 4 euro and had pictures of fruit on it and a decent alcohol percentage...and some juice, haha...

Then we went back and crashed big time and honestly hoped we'd not have to get up at all we were so tired, because we didn't go there to party all night, we went to Berlin to see awesome things and just...go out sure and met people but not...not when we are so tired and want to get up in the mornings to fill our days! Anyways, Jakob got home maybe around 11 and besides just being really rude and purposefully talking SUPER loudly walking in and out of the room until we had to stop pretending to sleep and wake up, then just, went on and on about how we had to go to these clubs and stuff, made us drinks with his little brother until maybe 1 am? or 2? and we were both hoping, ok, maybe that'll be good enough, we don't mind having a chat and learning about Germans and things, and finally was like 'ok now we go, don't you want to change, you're just going to wear that?' hahaha...and of course we were just going to wear our normal clothes, we brought backpacks, not party gear, the fools! haha...but yeah, the night was ok, but maybe Germans are just too touchy-feely for our taste and we are used to Americans and Australians who don't need to touch your arm while they are talking to you or your back or your leg or something, it truly may have been a cultural thing, but anyways, sometimes when you're just out of your comfort zone there's quite a bit you'd do to get back in it :)

And for the record we did try to stay at girl's couchsurfing residences, we had messaged about 6 or 7 people total, and the only people who had room were guys, so we just picked one, it didn't seem like a big deal to us as I have guy friends that host girls, we know girls who have stayed with guys, and it's not like either of us were traveling by ourselves, but needless to say staying with a guy EVER couchsurfing will not happen again, and honestly I might not ever even do it again, it'll be awhile before I get the shudder-when-I-think-about it out of my system haha. And I truly never knew that going out with the hosts whenever they want you too was so expected, as we both know people who just stay on the couch for free and do their own thing and it's great, but then I talked to someone who hosts and he said "It's not just a free couch." So, keep that in mind whenever you want to couchsurf! It's feel different when you're staying somewhere else for free, like you owe them and have to abide by what works out for them, where as with a hostel you do your own thing and it's just...haha, worth the money for sure! Least in this situation! So yeah....moving on...

We did try absinthe that night, which I mentioned I think while I was in Berlin, but it was about 70 proof? We didn't opt for the 80 proof one, and I'm pretty sure it was in my system until I was back home for a few days...that stuff...whew! I can't imagine ever trying to drink a stronger drink, and I'm SO glad we had snack mix at the bar we had it at, fancy snack mix yet, but just HAVE to ...have something with that I think, or maybe I'm just not living up to the German blood in me...

We also were taken to a gay bar at the end? Creepy. So creepy. What weird Germans. And you know what I will be happy never drinking again my life? Jager. Enough of that, it's never been delicious!

So, went home and passed out till maybe noonish the next day, which I mean since we got home after 7 am that's not too bad, though still ideally we'd be out and about by 9! But, oh well! Feeling a bit tired and slightly achy from the night before we both had half a chicken and some liquids at a really good and again cheap restaurant. Then we went on an alternative art tour then which was 10 euro and worth EVERY PENNY..hmm...they might not call them pennies...whatever! It was sooo amazing, about 4 or 5 hours long, we met cool people, we learned of a hostel we could escape too, we had amazing food and saw the Berlin Wall, were people squat still, and just soo much graffiti and such things...Germany is awesome and crazy basically, and wow to have put up a wall through everything, how nuts...

Then we went home and made up an elaborate lie about how I met people from Purdue, they had a hotel (obviously better than a couch so how could we not leave!) and how thanks so much for letting us stay there, here's our alcohol as a gift, and then RAN AWAY, feeling like we had just escaped prison...or death? Probably not how someone should feel after couchsurfing...we only lost 1 contact case and 1 phone charger in our rush too :) And it was worth it! It was also a free night, but then we had to buy alcohol so not really that free - Note to people hosting couchsurfers, if they say they don't want a drink so then you go order them one anyways so they have to drink it and then make them pay for it...Stop...just...just stop. That's cruel.

So where am I...alternative art tour...oh the tour guide was an American who was UNUSUALLY COOL, and...ah! So then we went to St. Christopher's hostel which I think I called amazing earlier, had a bar at the bottom with amazing cheap food, and we were SO thankful that the first hostel we had had rooms...he even gave them to us at a discount (I think we looked relieved and slightly scared still), and yeah! We just stayed there that night! Had some delicious burgers and Carlsbergs, then met some Australians while we were eating who invited us to come join them before they went out that night, we decided we'd join them but go to bed while they went out, and in the end there was one kiwi, 3 Britons, 4 Australians and me pretending we are vegetables at 3 am. :) Good times....I especially loved when one of the bartenders joined us haha...

So day three we met those Americans who were on the alternative art tour at the German parliament building, the Reichstag, which was free, really pretty, and had this large glass dome on the top that you could see pretty much all of Berlin from (or so we felt), then we went to some markets, had a nice German sausage (these markets we just wandered into...that type of thing just happens you know, you're just walking, and then you're in the middle of craziness, it's nice), and hit up about three museums...not really any German history ones, to be honest they didn't seem keen on bragging about their history, we more just saw stuff like their ancient art and stuff that had been there but then when Berlin was bombed the art was damaged, things like that.

After the museums we went to try to find movie tickets as the Berlin film festival (60th year) was going on, and we didn't really care what we saw so long as it was good, turns out no one really knows about the film festival? But I guess there are a lot of people in Berlin so, maybe we just asked all the wrong ones. We did finally end up in the ticket office, where all of her presale tickets were sold out, so decided we'd try to see a movie at 9 called 'The Family Tree" (but in French), and went there, tickets were 3 euro each which is cheaper than at home and it was amaaaazzzzing!! So that was our last night in Berlin, very classy I thought. I just LOVE film festivals they never disappoint, and I found it extremely interesting that there was so much anti-German sentiment in the French's seriously just CRAZY being in Berlin, being in Germany even, just knowing that...not long ago pretty much everyone was insane....

On our last day we really wanted to see a Concentration Camp, Sachsenhausen, which we were told was a 'model' camp the Nazis built to model all the other concentration camps after, and while part of us thought, ohhh....just a model, so no the real deal, part of us was a little relieved because how sad would it be! Turns out it was a model but then it was also used and they killed way too many people there :( It was super creepy...especially when we got to the trenches and where people were gassed and stuff...this camp was farther away, still in Berlin but about an hour on a train, and ok, so this bad (my life of crime continues right? haha), but we sort of....didn't buy any more transportation passes after the first day, at first it was a mistake because we were really concerned with our running away plans, but then it turned into the fact that we couldn't be bothered and no one was checking, all the time people are just waltzing onto the trains and metros or whatever they are called, the S and U Bahn things, and playing music or standing with a paper ranting in German and looking at us all and I guess wanting money? Haha, it's so amusing having no idea what they are saying because then how COULD we give money to them you know?

Oh, but the amazing thing - we didn't think people were really checking tickets like they do here in Denmark quite often, yet when we were on the train and we left to go into the C zone of Berlin (most major parts are in the A and B zone), a man came on and was looking at everyone's tickets, and we were just like...Shizen! (is that right?) and pulled out our day pass from Friday that says FR on it, and just planned on feigning 'what we are confused tourists!' but this girl next to us didn't have the right ticket, or something else, I don't really know, it's all German, and then we were holding ours just totally scared we were going to have to argue and feign dumbness with this harsh looking German man, but he just looked at our tickets and nodded and walked on :) hahaha...we were slightly tempted (well at least I was) to get a ticket just for the way back since it'd only be a few euro probably, in case of us not getting that lucky, but turns out we remained lucky for the rest of the trip, we even restamped our day pass from Friday when we made our connecting bus trip to the airport :)

Other things we did the last day....stop at Charlie's checkpoint on the way back :), very nice, then go back and quickly pack/change shoes while the AWESOME hostel guys said they would give us two huge burgers, tons of fries, and two Carlsbergs for 10 euro total both of us to go, so yeah, soon as we were done we got that and made our way back, stopping and eating as much as possible the whole way back, SUCH an amazing happy day! :) Berlin was just a huge success really, and the couch surfing experience was just one more experience to learn from and NOT repeat haha, makes for an interesting story perhaps :):) The flight back was nice too, basically i loved everything about Berlin, the food and just ...SUCH old things, such....crazy history! I mean the Berlin wall was still up when I was even alive! Oh no maybe that means I'm old....

Oh, interesting side note - there were all these gypsies that came around asking for money for their children, holding a card explaining whatever eastern European country they came from, and pretty angry it seems when you just keep saying no... they just TARGETED Marcella and myself, but in the end we were good with saying no and looking straight forward. They always wanted money for their kids and stuff too, but later we heard there is something like a gypsy mafia and with a gypsy lord that gets all the money so the kids don't get anything anyways, nor the woman begging/speaking about 30 languages asking for money. What a sad, sad skill.

Anyways that's all for now :) I LOVE BERLIN! <3

this was a partially bombed awesome church outside the movie theatre...