Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Trip to Budapest 27.10.2009 - 02.11.2009

We had such a fantastic trip to Budapest this past weekend. We enjoyed exploring another town and learned a lot about the culture. Some of the things we observed while visiting Hungary: primary languages are Magyar, English, German (in that order), chain smokers everywhere just like the rest of Europe, the Danube is a cleaner river than we observed the Rhein to be, graffiti is everywhere but no one cleans it, it's a bit dirty like some streets in NYC, food options are excellent, they slather ketchup... yeah ketchup on a perfectly good piece of pizza, they came out of communism strong (it seems), people look a lot like Americans with a bit darker hair, they don't have Starbucks that we could see (while I'm sure there is one or more...), fun city culture, and the city felt very alive.

We took a walk across a few of the Danube River bridges and I fell in love with the view. There are some photos below, but unfortunately, I was a few minutes too late to capture the really exceptional light with the background. Between Buda & Pest (which is the bigger side), there is an island where they have very active people running about on the track, etc. We saw more "activity" from the Hungarians than in any other country so far.

We left the airport and experienced our first Hungarian commuter train. We were excited for it being less than 2 Euro each to travel, but not-so-excited when we stepped foot on the train that was obviously run down. We also had a couple weird "stare downs" from a couple local people. Anyway, everything does look scarier in the dark. When we took the same route back at the end of our trip in the daylight, it was a whole different experience. Also, we could've taken a cab... but since we were being cheap, we may as well have deserved such a run-down train! Can you tell I'm "trying" to smile here?

Here's a photo of Parliament. Since Budapest the the capitol (and very well the only well-known city in Hungary), and it has such buildings because of their title. Definitely pretty! 

On Friday morning, we headed for a walk to the "Buda" side, across the Danube River.

The Danube River

Views of Parliament from the Danube River bridge.

We made our way up some steps (by some I mean, A LOT) and were able to capture some views from the Schloss (palace). Here you see The Danube River looking over at the Pest side (where our hotel, and most hotels, are).

Here's my attempt to be artistic. We were standing in what looked like the top of a castle dome (try and picture it...) and there were 5 cut-out windows through the stone. I took a photo through each of them because I thought it would show it as a panoramic image... well, sort of. Here's what I got:

Here's me forcing Ray into a photo even though you can barely see him. :)

Here's what appeared to be some "ruins" at the Schloss. Much of this area was destroyed and rebuilt. This could be an area of the destruction. There was almost nothing to assist in learning... no posters, plaques, etc.

Ray working his photo-op experience and I'm in the background.

More views of the Danube River

Schloss photos... this one I'm in the distance.

A different view...


It's my personal duty (this one's for the Rohde family) to drink a beer from each town we visit in a new country. I like to try local drinks (since I sure am not as interested in trying local food being a vegetarian and all...) and here's the Hungarian beer: Soproni. On a scale of 1-5, I'd give it a 3.5. It was just okay... I've had better.

I just don't remember... we were tired and Ray was being a diligent photographer.

It may be hard to read, but that says California Coffee Company! We didn't actually eat/drink there since we'd just had lunch, but we noticed they served bagels. Bagels are popular in America, but not so much here in Europe. As a matter of fact, they make sure to label the stale, hard bagels you find in stores here as "American" because they have a weak presence here. Maybe putting "American" on them is a trick to get me to purchase them. You rarely find bagels, and when you do, they aren't the same. Like this place, for example. The hole in the center of the bagel had a diameter of about 3 inches! It was the funniest looking thing! And yes, that is a pumpkin! Halloween is an adopted holiday here... although we saw no one dressed up.

I loved these views. This is what I saw on the first night there and continued to appreciate the beauty. While the architecture on either side is just "okay" compared to other parts of Europe we've seen with amazing churches, castles, and palaces, I still thought this was breathtaking.

Graffiti was EVERYWHERE. It was a bit sad because it wasn't cleaned off beautiful buildings, wooden structures/cabinets... but at the same time, it's a big city. Just like many U.S. cities, it's hard to control. 

Please excuse the outfit (you don't even notice my t-shirt, right?). It is an amazing T-shirt my sister-in-law brought me from Korea, but I am also wearing it to dinner. Whatever... I will just pretend like I was trying to be "cultured" having Mexican food, in Hungary, with a Korean shirt on... when the real truth is that I just wanted to be comfortable and it was covered up by a jacket all day anyway. Except for, of course, this photo.

The lighting is poor (which also adds to the spookiness), but this is the train station. Ray and I both commented that when we stepped off the train, we felt like we had stepped back in time to the 40's or 50's. Until... you exit and see the Coca-Cola billboards, etc.

Check out that old, rusted, yellow sign. I have no idea what it is, but it's old!

That clock on the wall actually worked!

To keep warm and entertain ourselves at night, we headed into the mall. It started out to be small, but then we kept walking and it was enormous! It's fun to see how locals live and what they buy-- although we bought nothing here.

On Saturday, we took a tram, then bus to Memento Park-- a park that the Hungarians chose to drop off all the communism statues and symbols. While it's their history, they no longer wanted to pay tribute in a local area... so they shipped them far out of town (about 15 km) and about 40,000 (yeah, that's it!) visit every year-- and from our experience... just about everyone is American. We heard a small bit of German and NO Magyar while there.

This structure was interesting. It reminded us of Ray's Aunt Ceil. She's an artist and teacher (of clay primarily), so seeing hands formed into art triggered some of her art pieces in our memories. What's interesting though... is that these hands are plated with thin pieces of metal and the inside is not hollow, but stuffed with foam. That's what the yellow area is.  

Ray's grandfather, Papa, remembers being in Budapest and seeing a "red star" symbol. We searched for it, but we know that not all of the symbols have been kept. So, we attempted to capture what we did see and there are some stars in the mix.

This photo is for Papa. That's a red star in the center created by flowers. The park itself is poorly kept, but they did keep the center nice!

This is what was left under the hood of a Soviet car. These cars (more photos below) were the most affordable, but if you were lucky enough to order one, it would take a long time to get it.

During the month of October, they were allowing people to go inside Stalin's grandstand (where he gave famous speeches, etc.) It's not the real one, but a 1:1 replica. There are communist relics, statue forms, flags, etc. inside. The real Stalin statue was torn down by the people and broken at his knees. Now, only his boots (again, replica) are left over to show the people as a reminder of the fall of an era. Here's what it looked like.

The Grandstand replica + boots as it stands today.

After our bus and tram rides (and some amazing pizza), we headed through an area towards the center of town and saw this fun photo opportunity. Even more funny is that I had to jump in order to "fit" my head into the correct dimensions. My feet may look like they're touching the ground, but they definitely are in mid-flight.

I appreciate the architect of this building for entertaining me.

I give more details in the journal entry for this day, but this was not the highlight... although I'm glad we did it. Visiting the Széchenyi bath was very expensive, and while the architecture is pretty, the pools aren't too well kept, we had to rent towels and bathing suits (I know, ick), and we sat in very large pools with a bunch of strangers who were questionably clean. This place gets great reviews and Ray's aunt Ceil also recommended it to us. It's the thing "to do" when in Hungary. There are a bunch all around the city to visit. This one is about 100 years old (only... some are way older).

Check out Ray's jazzy suit. Luckily, mine is mostly hidden. :)

After leaving the mineral pools, we headed through the park and snapped a photo of "Heroes Park" where others had the same idea. Lots of photo-taking action.

Is this not the most gorgeous interior of a McDonald's you've ever seen? (Check out the ceiling if you're not convinced) I felt like we were sitting in a fancy cafe... and it was a cafe, just a McCafe. Ray's doing his German hausaufgabe. If you ask him, he'll be embarrassed that I snapped a photo with his hat on backwards. ;)

We felt the need to redeem ourselves from the first train ride. Okay, so really, we didn't expect this train to be so nice, but it was. Brand spanking new, actually. Ray thought it was only fair to capture the photo of the pristine quality since our first experience was less than pleasant. There, we've been redeemed.

Finally, a bit of sad news we came home to in Neuenrade. Yes, that's right. The gelato Eiscafe directly next door to our apartment is closed for the season. I guess I'll just have to keep buying the amazing goods at the grocery store instead. And by amazing, I mean AMAZING.

And here's what I've been writing about this week:

Dienstag 27.10.2009 (day 43)

Ah, just bit into a Snickers. Delicious all over the world. Usual morning leisure. I headed out to buy some thank-you cards I’ve been meaning to send out since my birthday. Life is a bit more slow-paced here… and it appears I’m taking that philosophy seriously. Ha! Back home I prepared lunch for us, leftover chili and salad. Then, off to work we went. As we got back into the car, we noticed a parking ticket! We were only at home for 30 minutes and parked in a zone that allowed 2 hour parking! Well, turns out, you’re supposed to have a small plastic placard for your car that tells what time you parked so that the ticket person will be able to count 2 hours from your placard. It’s an interesting system, but perhaps unnecessary? Anyhow, the ticket was for 5 Euro. We’ve never seen a ticket with such a low price. It was mostly a ticket reminding us to get our hands on one of those blue placards. That’s on the list. Work was fine. I spent some time blogging and working on some other items as Ray worked away and had a meeting with a customer. I also got smart today. Since there’s no country music to be heard (not even Taylor Swift!) here, I’ve missed it for 1.5 months. I started streaming it on low volume at work. At 4 in the afternoon, I get the Los Angeles Go Country morning show! It’s pretty funny. Good music nonetheless. But… I can’t win any more tickets since we’re not in LA anymore! It’s okay… I guess our lives are pretty exciting. Dinner tonight: pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes. I need to use these fresh veggies up before we head out for the next 5 days. It was delicious! We also had to pack for a couple days in Frankfurt then our trip to Budapest!

Mittwoch 28.10.2009 (day 44)

This morning we both had to get up early. It’s been so nice getting up leisurely and doing my own thing for a few hours everyday. But, today we both had to get moving so we could take the 2 hour trek to Frankfurt. It was super foggy this morning and fog just hovers over everything that is remotely warm. It looks a bit spooky, just in time for Halloween! I will honestly admit sleeping in the car. I’ll blame that on not having sunglasses and eye sensitivity. Since my eyes had to close, they just decided to sleep too. Ha! Arriving at the company, Ray had a training to get up to speed. This is just the beginning of many trainings, certainly. I had some time to work on German homework and do some writing and Internet searching. While helping Ray with setting up the projector (he knows how, I was just interested), I became a tiny bit sad because I love technology… and I love teaching with it. I left such amazing goods behind at my former school. I hope they’re being used for kids… and not just sometimes but all-day-long. I also have found a gold mine on the Internet. It’s just so nice to relate to people… which is why I keep a blog… which is also why I read complete stranger’s blogs. People love learning about other people and relating to them. Well, I found that there are other American women who have moved (temp. or perm.) to Germany for husband jobs. While ours is super temporary compared to many of theirs, I totally enjoyed reading about their similar learning experiences. One girl is about my age and a teacher of 4 or 5 years! Hey, that’s me too! I also have been able to connect with one family from last year’s class that I really loved. They’re such a great group of people (that’s you Tinti family!) and it just adds to yet another reason why I love teaching. It’s such a personal job and it’s all about building relationships and learning about each other. I get to do that ALL day! How could any other job be better than that? Needless to say, I love this opportunity and I hope it just enriches my ability to teach. I will be more well-rounded… and I will get a job in Chicago when we return. There’s my power of positive thinking again. Okay, so off task. We checked into our hotel just a kilometer or two down the road after work. It’s such a great, quaint hotel and it’s very German. There’s a pizzeria right next door. As I type this, I stare at the sign and see the chefs preparing a bunch of fresh pizzas. So cool. German hotels are different. I’d argue European hotels are altogether, but I’m still too new to make a judgement. While Americans don’t really care that their hotel has an attached restaurant, Germans won’t even consider staying overnight in a hotel without one—or a good one, at that! I like this hotel so much, that I hope we can stay here a bit longer… and we’ll be back next week, in fact. Free wifi also sends me over the edge of happiness. You bloggers out there know what I’m talking about! We met a couple other people for dinner and headed to a restaurant in Bad Homburg—a brewery. The men had schnitzel from regions here in Germany… and I had a few things… including French Onion soup. I like this soup, but like it in Germany SO much. They don’t use beef stock, so I can eat it! The only place that makes it with veggie stock is Trader Joe’s in the U.S. and it isn’t too good. Anyway, I digress… their FO soup was made with beer and absolutely delectable. We had great conversation, a great dinner, and back to the great hotel. Superb day!

Donnerstag 29.10.2009 (day 45)

Early rise for the newlyweds (we can still claim that, I think) today! We were meeting another RL guy for breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 7:00. I mentioned yesterday that Germans like their hotel/restaurants combinations. I have witnessed for the first time, why. There is a full-spread breakfast waiting for you at the wee hours of the morning. Cereals, juices, teas, coffee, many types of bread, many types of meat (packaged and otherwise), danishes, fruit, fruit salad, granola, and the list can go on. For a small, non-chain hotel, it’s a serious stock they’ve collected. Needless to say, we were well-fed this morning… but way earlier than we normally eat. We got to work around 7:45 (gasp: that hasn’t been me since June when I was still teaching!). It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if we hadn’t stayed up using the free wifi the night before in our hotel. Love love love it. While Ray was being a good trainee, I was being informed by another guy that a 24-year-old guy that works for the company here has been found dead. Man, what a hard thing to hear. We don’t know details. It’s just hard to hear that from a relatively small company. You are used to seeing the same (few) people everyday and this is just a surprise. Around lunch time, Ray and I used the GPS to take us to a restaurant—through many detours and getting lost and frustrated for 45 minutes—that wasn’t even there. And mind you, the restaurant was a mere 5 km away = 3.2 miles. 45 minutes. Great. Fine. We went to Toom grocery store and picked up some pretzels and microwaveable meals instead. Back to work and guess what… no Mikrowelle. Lunch then consisted of pretzels, bananas, and some other snacks I managed to scrounge from the car. We left just before 2:00 on our journey to the Cologne airport again. When we arrived at the Cologne airport, there were tons of parking spots. Two weeks ago (our Vienna trip), we arrived at relatively the same time on the same day and there were 80 spots left. Today, over 3,000. Students have a 2 week fall break here and we’re presuming that their families select this time to take vacations. We decided to grab some food at Burger King before heading to our gate. Since it is an airport, there is limited food supply. I thought I’d be brave and do as a fellow veggie told me… just order a hamburger without meat. Okay, that’s easy enough, right? I mean, they do it at In ‘n’ Out, Five Guys, and Fatburger… they can do it at Burger King, right? Well, when in Germany language is also a factor. So, it took us about 5 whole minutes to relay what we wanted (and mind you, veggie options are often a rip-off. I pay the same price as meat options, minus the most expensive ingredient!). Anyway, it was exactly what I wanted when we got it. I guess I can say it was worth the pain. Sometimes just French fries just doesn’t cut it. Our plane boarded 30 minutes late, at exactly the time we were meant to take off. Regardless, it was a pretty nice flight. I picked us for the exit row (more leg room)—I’m following my mother-in-law’s path in life with selecting my seats wisely. Having traveled a lot lately, I’m getting pretty good. Any more advice is always helpful. The guy next to us was Spanish, which I found interesting since he was boarding a plane from Germany to Hungary, on a German airline. Our flight was great. We arrived, and figured out the money situation (first country we had to change from the Euro!) and found ourselves to the train. I have to say… it was pretty sketchy. Graffiti is not a welcome sight, nor are people staring straight at you with no expression. The train looked to be about 50 years+ old, but got us there in one piece to the city center. We exited the train to a train station that felt like we were living in 1950. We felt it hadn’t changed a bit, actually. It was a little scary, but a little exciting. No particular person seemed sketchy to us (except the staring guy)… and they actually looked a lot like Americans with a different fashion sense. But the old age of buildings and the wear-and-tear made it seem a little dangerous. We walked a bit and found our hotel easily. We can see the train station from it! We checked in, dropped our baggage (which we’re getting really good at packing light) and headed for a walk. Man, what a beautiful city. We walked about 6 blocks towards the Danube River and decided to walk across it. I’d say it was at least ½ mile, if not longer across the bridge. It was a pretty striking view with the gorgeous structures in the distance with light shining in all the flattering places and small cruise boats casually wading. It’s exciting being in our first full non-German country. It’s either Hungarian, or English. It’s intriguing. So far, great experience. I can’t wait to explore more of this great country tomorrow.

Freitag 30.10.2009 (day 46)

We love our long weekend vacations. We sleep in (like today) and wander around in beautiful countries. Our hotel (three stars, but impressive!) offers breakfast, so we headed to grab some. Good selection again. We’re staying on the Pest side of the Danube but we set out to explore the Buda side today also. The first place we visited was the Parliament building. Since Budapest is their capitol, it’s the equivalent of the capitol building. We crossed the bridge over to Buda and explored a castle and the inner walls. We had to climb some intense steps, but saved some cash and got a decent workout. Love the multitasking. We headed back over the Danube by bridge and walked around a big shopping district. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant overlooking the Danube. The weather was amazing today which allowed us to sit outside. It was a tiny bit cool still, but they provided blankets. I also tried a Hungarian beer, Soproni. Ray read online that we should watch our receipts, because foreigners (as in any country), are often taken advantage of—well, glad we checked. I noticed they charged us for two beers when I only had one. I choose to believe they weren’t trying to be dishonest and that is was an honest mistake. We headed back to the hotel for about an hour and then headed back out for another short adventure. We walked halfway across one of the many Danube bridges (again) and took some awesome photos during dusk, then stepped onto the Margaret Island that is in the middle of the Danube. It’s 1.4 miles long and 550 yards wide. There’s a synthetic rubber running trail along the water and it’s awesome. Add one more cool point for this place! Once we got a good feel of the island, we headed back to the Pest side for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Iguana. Yes, I said Mexican food. It was actually quite good! There were almost too many spices, but we weren’t complaining. Ray had a margarita and they sure don’t mess around with the alcohol here. Beers or otherwise, the alcohol content is significantly stronger. After a delicious meal and lots of walking today, we headed back to the hotel… but at a leisurely pace. We found ourselves through indoor markets where it’s clear the locals shop, and finally a mall; a very large mall. We walked in to see a water feature on our right that was donated to the Hungarian people from Canada. It was to be their “Niagara Falls”—and this water feature was really high, shot intense amounts of water, and was awesome. As you walk further into the mall, it opens up. It’s like a long, scalene triangle. We entered at the peak, but it fanned out as you walked further. It was also 4 stories high complete with lots of delicious food and a TGI Fridays. So far, we love Budapest. We aren’t sure we can claim “Hungary” because we won’t leave the main hub and booming capitol… but we love this place. The food is good, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s beautiful. I love the Danube and all the gorgeous features that were built hundreds of years ago. The bridges are lit up at night and the city shines. While the structures aren’t as shockingly beautiful as those in Dresden, Germany, we have felt so great here. I guess it’s because more people speak English than German (other than their own language, Magyar) and there are so many amazing amenities. Having a great time!

Samstag 31.10.2009 (day 47)

The adventure continues! Another great hotel breakfast this morning and off to explore the Memento Park—a park outside of Budapest (on the Buda side) that is on a crazy route high in the hills somewhere only a bus driver would be able to figure out. We walked about a mile or so to the bus route. Being the value shoppers that we are (and having all day to take our time), we figured that we could purchase day bus passes cheaper than they were selling to take us. We ended up saving about the equivalent of $10 (U.S.) by simply checking the bus schedules ourselves and not being ripped off by the tour people who were on every corner within a 5 block radius of this square. I’m proud, of course. We hopped on our first tram (above ground train) and that took us about 6 or 7 stops. Then, we waited a bit for another bus that took us about 20 minutes to crawl up this crazy hill, around turns I didn’t think buses should curve, and finally… a park full of former communist statues of sorts . A somewhat disappointing, but acceptable tourist park. There were about 20 statues/plaques, etc. that were all for viewing (with no English assistance, write-ups) in a relatively run-down park. Was it worth the $8 per person… not at this point. Until, we walked across to the area where there was the famous 1.1 statue that Stalin’s entire statue at one point stood. People were successful, as we all remember from photos/videos, in pulling the statue down at the knees. Now, the same pillar structure stands with an exact replica, leaving only the boots to show the history of communist falling in Hungary. They do a great job at remaining neutral, but it also seems that they came out quite strongly from this time in history. We feel that the people and culture here have done an extraordinary transformation. After seeing the Stalin boots, we were allowed to walk into the structure from behind and see some communist mementoes, badges, and other statues that are usually not open for the public to see. For some reason, it was allowed this month. We were also invited into a video and story room that provided us with the best information of all. Okay, so after it all, it was an adventure I guess I was satisfied paying $16 plus bus fare for. No red star though, Papa. We aren’t sure if they have everything in that park or if some had been destroyed, but the center of the park had a star cluster of red flowers and other structures had stars that were not red. We took some photos for viewing! We left on the bus again for another 20 minute ride down and stopped to grab food at Pizza Hut—but found out it was shut down. We hopped back on another train and found ourselves another Pizza Hut. It was amazingly good. I’m a fan of American pizza and I can’t help it. It was significantly cheaper (like ½ price) than our lunch at the pizza restaurant overlooking the Danube (I guess it did have a river view…) yesterday. Buttery goodness. I still think my favorite pizza (even against NY and Chicago pizza) is BJ’s pizza – but alas, there are none in Illinois. We finished our lunch at about 3:30—I know! Such a late lunch and we were hungry for sure. We headed back to the shopping district to pick up a Christmas ornament to add to our stash. So far we have ornaments from Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Tahiti, and New Zealand. We have so many to go! A fun tradition we’ve started. A few things we’ve noticed about Budapest: they don’t follow the German tradition of early closing hours as many places are even open 24 hours, they have ice in their drinks here—we hadn’t seen ice since Chicago before this, and there’s graffiti everywhere. It’s not that the areas are bad, but they seem more scary than they probably are because no one bothers to clean it. It seems like they’ve given up on it. It’s somewhat of a bummer too, because there’s tagging over everything; wood, metal, concrete… you name it. It makes these super old and beautiful buildings seem cheap. But if you can look past that, it still has charm. For dinner, we went authentic—Indian food. Ha. Okay, so not authentic, but delicious nonetheless. We had an entire meal with naan as an appetizer for $30 (U.S.) and the restaurant was fancy! Great second full day here in Budapest. Oh, and to end our day, we booked a trip to Venice for January for 100 Euro by plane. We love discount air in Europe. Happy Halloween!

Sonntag 01.11.2009 (day 48)

After another free and decent breakfast in our hotel, we set out to explore the Hungarian “baths” that are so famous. Some baths date back in history and others are around 100 years old. Regardless, there are about 10 in the city of Budapest spread all around. The baths are generally surrounded by beautiful architecture. Some are indoors, others outdoors. The one we chose was the most famous bath located in a park. The area was surrounded by street vendors selling mysterious pastries without packaging, and corn on the cob. I’ve decided against all street vendor food. I also should add that I was highly against visiting a bath where questionably clean people hang out for hours sweating. I also did not have a bathing suit and did quite possibly the most disgusting thing ever… rented a bathing suit. I wasn’t the only one. Both Ray and I got to experience the luxury of an expensive, rented swimsuit. The baths were just like huge jacuzzis, as you might imagine. I would argue that although famous and popular, it was overrated, a bit disgusting, and overpriced. We paid more for renting 2 suits, 2 towels, and spending 1.5 hours at the baths than we did for last night’s amazing Indian dinner experience (it was about $50). But… I will chalk it up to experience. We showered and returned the rented gear before heading out to check out Heroes Park. Truthfully, we just walked by, snapped a photo, and carried on. We carried on… all the way to the mall where we grabbed some lunch. I had an amazing Greek hummus and falafel pita and Ray opted for pizza at a chain here in Hungary, Don Pepe’s. We walked around the mall some more and noticed that not a single store was open (except food and the theatre). We’re convinced, though, that stores are usually open on Sunday – except today was a holiday, All Saints Day – because usually the whole mall would be closed otherwise. Instead, people were sitting all around the mall (since it was quiet) and reading on the various couches that were around. The mall felt sort of like a library! We did, however, think there was a luring pickpocket among the people who looked really sketchy. We headed out after to grab out luggage from our hotel and go grab some desserts at the McCafe—which by the way is really great, relatively inexpensive, and all the rage in Europe. They really have stepped it up and we’d rather hit that up than go to Starbucks! Not to mention, we saw not a single Starbucks in all of Hungary (although there are probably some). One brownie and a sundae later… we vegged out. We headed to the train station around 4 and caught a train to the airport. It was a much nicer train than the one that brought us to our hotel on Friday evening. And now, I sit here writing this in the Budapest airport awaiting our flight to Cologne, then the 1 hour drive to Neuenrade. Tomorrow is work, laundry, and packing! This week’s a busy one spending much of it back at the hotel/work in Frankfurt and heading to Amsterdam. Loved Budapest!

Montag 02.11.2009 (day 49)

Another fine day here in Sauerland. That’s where we live—it’s really called that (as I think I’ve mentioned before). The weather’s pretty gloomy here on the regular so there’s reasonable truth behind the name. I love sleeping in. Knowing when you put your head down on a pillow that you don’t have to wake up to an alarm is just amazing. Ray headed off to a day at the office (per usual) and I made sure to keep the pillows warm. I haven’t had peanut butter in awhile, so peanut butter toast was definitely on the list for breakfast this morning. Laundry, dishes, and some tidying up came after as I prepared for my half day at the office. Since we’re gone so often on these fabulous trips around Europe (I know, I can hear the small violin now…), anything we buy needs to be eaten at a reasonably rapid pace. I threw together some pasta, veggies and chicken (for Ray, of course—I’m no convert) and some additional odds and ends for lunch. We were walking to the car when we noticed something sad… our beloved gelato restaurant next door appears to be closed for the rest of the year! I guess no one likes gelato in the winter? What’s wrong with them? Gasp! I hadn’t even tried it yet! Well, honestly, something was holding me back anyway. I live right next door and always have some sort of sorbet, gelato, or ice cream stocked. I haven’t had any reason to go next door for something I can eat in my PJ’s, on the couch, in our nicely heated apartment. So, I guess I’m not that heartbroken. And let’s be honest… I’m sort of a cheapskate sometimes. I can get it cheaper at the grocery store… and get more of it. I did the regular research at work and searched through what seemed to be 500 photos my friends had posted of their kids dressed up on Halloween. Sorry… here in Germany I saw ZERO of that. Not that they haven’t adopted the Americanized holiday, but just that we were in Budapest and well removed from any areas where trick-or-treaters would have been spotted. I did see some pumpkins and signs for parties. So I know there was some celebrating going on. We had German lessons for about 2 hours and dropped Sabine off at the train station at 18:00 because, as she put it, “It was raining cats and dogs” outside. She’s really quite exceptional with her English. And she speaks some Finnish. And some Latin. Man, and all I know is some broken Spanish und ein bisschen Deutsch. Sometimes I get excited about German because I really feel like I’m learning… and sometimes I’m excited to have days where there are no lessons. I just get frustrated that we’re not better at this. I mean, all it takes is some basic conjugation, memorization of word orders in sentences, and vocab., right? Ugh. Dinner was beloved burritos and some veggies… and of course apple pie with amazing ice cream. Ray did more work, I called Mom (who by the way said she went to W. Coast Choppers and did a notary for JJ himself), and got excited that my friend Todd sent me a Google Wave invite. I’m excited to get back into the technology geek mix. I do the regular tech stuff, but I’ve been feeling so out of the loop because I don’t really have any professional forum (parents, students, colleagues, grad school friends…) to use such fun devices. I guess there’s no hurt in becoming familiar so I can use it in the future for collaboration in teaching, etc. Off to pack for another week on the road in Frankfurt, then our trip up north to den Niederlanden.

Next week... Amsterdam!


Nik said... [Reply to comment]

Good job having the beer for us!Sad it was only a 3.5 but it's so great that you are trying so many new things!!! Super ick about the bathing suit. That Mcdonalds is so pretty-I didn't think one existed. Thanks for sharing all of your adventures. We miss you!!! too lazy to sign out of nik's profile but you know its me. :)