Oh, the places you'll go

Oh, the places you'll go
Crete

Jamminnnn'

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chapter 28: Europe Living

Life...

... is a plethora of adjectives right now. Boring isn't really one of them. Even at work, I always know the means to my end. It's on to the next city, exploring the next castle, hiking the next trail or mountain, seeing the sights this beautiful planet has to offer. Feeling extremely grateful for the privilege to do so along the way. Although it is a privilege, I have to sacrifice many comforts in life in order to travel as much as I'd like to at this point in life. With these sacrifices, I have realized that not many people get the opportunity to travel so abundantly and I remember that this opportunity is once in a life time and the benefits of doing so and fulfilling life goals will stick with me for life. Having said that, I am taking full advantage. I am going everywhere possible. My goal to start this chapter in life was 25 countries, I have since reevaluated to 20 countries. I am at 11, I may hit more or less than 20, who knows.

Other items included on my Euro bucket list (no particular order):

-Drive a car...Check
-Visit 40 cities
-St. Pats in Ireland...Check
-The Venetian Carnivale (2018)
-Run with the bulls...(Most likely not)
-Visit the D-day memorial in Normandy...Check
-Eat everything...In progress
-Paraglide or Skydive in the mountains
-Hike 5-10 mountains...In Progress
-See orcas or the northern lights in Norway or Sweden
-Oktoberfest
-3 day hike from Hutte to Hutte in Switzerland Alps...Soon
-Not get locked up abroad...In progress
-Drunkenly argue with a German about how America is the best country in the world to the point he cusses me out in Deutsche  ... Searching

One thing that wasn't on my bucket list at all was getting robbed at knife point in Budapest. I'll have to tell you about this in person sometime because it is a little embarrassing and could have been avoided. (Don't worry Mom, I'm alive). Sometimes I venture off on my own and I meet amazing people and have these wild nights that are like movie scenes, and then an outlier situation like this happens, but it is still movie scene worthy. 

Ok, so far I have hit 11 countries:

Germany
Austria
France
Belgium
Netherlands
Portugal
Ireland
Slovenia
Hungary
Slovakia
Greece

I won't make this too long for you to read, so I will jump into it.

Austria:

Schönbrunn palace 
I have visited Innsbruck and Vienna. Very different cities. Innsbruck is a little underrated mountain town on the border of Germany and Austria. It is a nice day trip away from where we live and they have a lot to offer in terms of fests, beer, and scenery. Vienna is the cafe shop capital of the world and I cafe hopped one day. I was told to stop by a cafe called "Phil", short for Philosophy. The reason for this is all the books you can read for free while you're there. I killed several hours reading a book about why WWI started before I got on with my day. I did the other touristy things, but also explored random back alleys that usual tourists stay away from. This was an excellent way to see things some may never see, such as the flat where Wolfgang Mozart died. Interesting, right? After seeing all of this and exploring cafes, I hopped a train to Schönbrunn and saw the palace that has a zoo on the grounds. Absolutely fascinating. The elites of the time really liked to show off how everyone's fealty was paying off for the good of society! However pretentious, nonetheless stunning architecture.

France:

Omaha Beach
I did a road trip through France with 4 wonderful young women. We explored northern France and Paris. We got the honor of visiting the WWII memorial at Omaha Beach and saw thousands of graves designated for young men that fought and died so I could take a picture of it post it on Instagram. Ok, well not really, but they did die for the concept of freedom and I felt absolutely humbled to be experiencing an area that was a pivotal point in history for the world.

Frolicking in Fougeres
We also explored the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey. This abbey is incredible architecture and would have made it impossible for anyone to infiltrate from land or sea. It's no wonder it is rather pristine from the day it was built. Must see!

Mont-Saint-Michel







I can't remember the name of the town we stayed in, but it was relatively close to the abbey. Alicia, who turned 25, made Ratatouille for us one night and we all drank wine into the wee hours of the night and enjoyed each other's company.  

We had to head back to Paris so we did a cider distillery tour in the Calvados area and climbed in giant barrels and had a grand ole time before we headed back to Paris and partied the night away. But not before we stopped in a quaint French town called Fougeres. This is a small town untouched by the war and completely unknown to normal tourists. France was a good time.
Dutch Canals




Belgium:

Don't tell the Germans, but Belgium has better beer. There I said it.

Belgium Beer
I did a road trip with a delightful young woman named Meghan. We left from Amsterdam. We visited Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. Antwerp and Ghent were only for a day and we saw the main points. We saw Bruges for 2 nights and one day we did our own pub crawl we made up as we went along. We had a different beer at each one and drunkenly stumbled around Bruges. Along our pub crawl, we stumbled across a chocolate place and the way the Dutch do their hot chocolate is by sticking chocolate on a stick and giving you steaming milk, as you dip the chocolate it melts slowly and you have a wonderful cup of awesomeness. What geniuses! We also got to see the "Madonna and Child" sculpture that is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that made it out of Italy, guess the Dutch just wanted to keep it.







Netherlands:

This section is censored. Although I will say: if you ever go to Amsterdam, make sure it is on King's Day/Night. Woo!

Portugal:

Wine and walking. Met some Aussies here and explored the city and nightlife with them. I also met a young Spanish lady who invited me to the Canary Islands, might be taking her up on that soon. Porto is a very underrated and inexpensive city that should not be overlooked on a Euro trip.













Ireland:

Found Trump
I can't say enough good things about this country. I love it here. The people, the green, the beer, everything about this country is amazing to me. I made it here on St. Pats. We went to Galway for a wild and wet day. St. Pats is the time anyone should make it to Ireland. Dublin is full of tourists most of the time, so it is best to venture off to a different county. Typically, you can be safe to go west or southwest. I have heard northern Irelander's aren't as friendly to foreigners, but I had no problems in the west or southwest. Now, I will say, you should be aware of the subtle demeanor and personality of the Irish; they are usually thicker skinned and very sarcastic, but that means they expect you to give some banter in return. I have never met an Irishman that didn't ridicule me for something within the first 5 minutes of meeting me only to be impressed with the ease as to which I take it and give it in return. Once you realize this, you can get along with ease and have more fun in the Emerald Isle. I wrote an entire blog post on Ireland, feel free to go check it out if you want to know more




















Slovenia/Slovakia/Hungary:

I also did a road trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia and Lake Bled with Meghan. It was pretty cold at the time so we essentially skated on Lake Bled and enjoyed more indoor activities. I did a little day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia and saw an interesting castle ruin ground that would have been amazing to see if that a-hole Napoleon hadn't destroyed it for no reason. In Budapest, Hungary I had a good time walking around the city and exploring the main sights and a free walking tour. Unfortunately I did not make it to a thermal baths, so this gives me a good reason to go back in the future. I did get robbed here on my way back from the bars, I should've just taken a cab but I like walking places. I'm ok, but they made away with a few hundred euro. Ouch.
Devin Castle ruins




















Greece:

Greek Salad
My most recent solo trip was to Crete. It was a cheap flight for an impromptu trip that turned out to be quite a trip. I met some young doctors that will be practicing in London, along with a recent American grad and we ventured out to Matala to see some beaches one day, ended up getting a gyro and watching the sunset and heading back. The next day we essentially did the same thing but to a beach called Elafonisi. We stopped at a local Greek restaurant that was so inexpensive but rich in deliciousness and quantity of food. We called it a day after a few hours at the beach and eventually we said our goodbyes. I hope to go visit some new doctor friends in London in the near future. Greece is beautiful!


Gyro's and sunsets

Red Beach in Matala




















Plans coming up:


Ok, not much set in stone, well maybe a few things. I am going on a 3 day solo hiking trip through the Swiss alps at the end of the month. The goal is to start in the morning, hike to a hutte, stay over night, and do it again to the next hutte. You basically sleep on bunks next to hikers from around the world. I am very excited for this solo trip. Next, I am planning a trip to do some hiking and see some fjords in Norway in August. In September, my boys are coming to visit for about 2 weeks and we have a wild one planned. So far, the plan is to do some hiking, hit Oktoberfest, head to Barcelona, then Milan, then Copenhagen... I'll withhold the details for now ;) - October plans include heading to London and hopefully Dracula's castle in Romania for Halloween. This winter, I will be traveling less (def not stopping), and learning how to ski or snowboard as I save money for after Germany. In February, I hope to make my way to Kenya to see a friend doing a med project there and go on a safari. Then my contract will be up after that....But does that mean the adventure is over? Never.



This traveling bit is full of fun, learning experiences, and changes in individuals partaking in it. I would say I am getting much better at traveling since it is more of a hobby at this point in life. It is a hobby and a privilege. Most people would enjoy one or 2 big vacations a year, but I travel more for the challenge of it over the relaxation of it. I challenge myself to meet more people, try more foods, stay somewhere with less comfort and overall discover what else I am capable of. I enjoy surprising myself with new things I learn and new things I attempt to do (and most likely fail). I find that success comes from success over time, but it comes quicker from quick tries that turn into fails and eventually learning from the fail that eventually becomes success. Isn't life funny like that?

I thoroughly enjoy traveling anywhere and everywhere. Clearly. I am getting better at it and I have noticed that "vacation" brain" is a real thing with tourists I encounter. It is as if most people go on vacation and leave their brains at home. Observing this can be incredibly entertaining from afar, but incredibly aggravating from close up when it effects you. I can't say I have had vacation brain since I have become more aware of it, if ever. Don't be that person! Bring your brain on vacation.

And the show goes on...


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