Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring Break and Salzburg

*Please take the time to read the previous  posts after this post.


My apologies for the very delayed post,

 I am sure that you all have been dying to hear about my spring break travels :)


I’d like to start my explanation of the trip by talking about the weather.  From the day that we

 left little ol Feltwell, UK to the day that we returned to Stansted Airport, Colin and I barely saw a cloud.  The weather was absolutely amazing and by far the best that we have ran into thus far.  The days averaged about 70 degrees F and got as high as 77 degrees at times.


We hopped from Salzburg, Austria to Munich and Dachau, Germany then to Nurnberg, Rotenberg, and Mainz/Oppenheim to finish the trip visiting my mother’s great

 Germany family.


Usually when I write these travel updates it is in th

e middle of a busy week and feels a bit

 forced.  To your misfortune, this usually produces a pretty lack luster blog post.  In an attempt to avoid boring you all to death, I am going to try and keep some constants for each leg of the trip.  These will be the following: Transportation, Favorite Beve

rage, Favorite Food (may have

 multiple entries), hostel/hotel accommodations, Favorite sight(s), and most often used expression/word in English or German.  I will try to keep each post short and sweet and

 include a bunch of pictures. Enjoy.


PS- I am posting each stop on the trip to encourage multiple postings of comments.  Make sure you read all the way down to the last post of the Spring Break trip!




Transportation:  Flew into Salzburg airport via RyanAir and caught 2 buses to our hostel.


Favorite Beverage: Stiegl- It’s an Austrian lager that set itself apart from the usual lager style beers that each country usually sports (Heineken, Budweiser, Corona, whatever) due to its distinctive nutty aftertaste.  Good stuff manard.

Favorite Food:  I am sorry to say that we did not

 get to explore any traditional Austrian food.  In a close second place is the meal that we had at a Mediterranean restaurant with mine being a cheese tortellini dish with mushroom sauce a


 uncooked spinach thrown right in.  However I am proud to say that the winner is a Kebap from a street vendor.  These Doner Kebaps (like a Gyro, but spicy and….different) are sold in every city that I have been to thus far in Europe and have proved to be a staple of my traveling diet.



The Jufa hostel.  A gigantic hostel that included real eggs in its included breakfast (unheard of in the hostel world).  Great services and okay location with an incredible view of the fortress.


Favorite Sights:

1.)  The Sound of Music bus tour.  On this tour I got the opportunity to witness the locations of one of my mothers favorite movies ever.  The locations were the Mirabelle gardens where part of the famous “Do Ray Me” song is shot, the gazebo where the famous “16 going on 17” sequence was shot, both of the houses that were the Von Trap family mannor, some of the Austrian lakes and

countryside that are included throughout the movie, and the cathedral where Maria and the Captain get married.  These were a few of my favorite things.

2.)   The Festung Hoersalzburg (The Fortress over Salzburg).  Let me tell you that this giant fortress/castle cannot be escaped anywhere you go in Salzburg.  It is the gorgeous and enormous protector of the city and hold an incredible sight.  Long hike up, fun funicular ride down, audio guide through the major parts, and a medieval museum.  The most amazing view of my entire week were from the very top tower of the fortress.  Salzburg is an incredibly beautiful city from above and below.


Most often used word:

Wolfgang.  1-because Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was from Salzburg (we skipped his birthplace/museum….don’t be mad!).  2- because our sound of music tour guide’s name was Wolfgang, and 3- because one of the beautiful lakes that we visited was named Wolfgang (after Mozart as well).

Munich and Dachau

Transportation:  Took a train from Salzburg to Munich using the Bayern Ticket, a ticket costing 27 Euros and good for up to 5 people for unlimited travel in the Bayern (Bavarian) region of Germany for 1 day.


Favorite Beverage: This is a hard one.  The most drinks of the week were consumed here.  Probably the traditional Bavarian Lager that we

 enjoyed in the Augustiner Biergarten.  They just kept flowing and pack a surprising punch (enough to put us to bed at 6 pm).


Favorite food:  Currywerst and pommes frites.  Though not a traditional dish, it was delicious.  It is a very large brat that is doused in a curry-ketchup type condiment.  Served with great French fries and accompanies a Hofbrauhouse beer very well!


Accomodations:  The wombat youth hostel in Munich.  Great location.  Out of the sketchy parts of town, about 100 yards from the central train station and a couple blocks to the nearest bier garten.  More of a party atmosphere than other hostels, but very clean and the best service that we received all week.  Breakfast not included.


Favorite sights:

1.)   Augustiner Biergarten.  Turned us from “lets go have a beer at a near by beer garten while we wait to check into our hostel” to “Dude, what happened? 

Did we crash at 6 pm last night?  How did we get back to the hostel?”

2.)   Dachau.  Not light-hearted as the rest of the entire trip, but possibly the most

 important and touching experience of the week.  We took a small group private tour to the

 Concentration camp just outside Munich.  I

 mentioned how incredible the weather was for us earlier.  It was hot this day, very sunny.  I

n my eyes, the sun usually brings out the beauty in everything.  More vibrant colors, clarity, and a positive tone to everything.  Well all I could think about while I was at Dachau is that even in the

 beautiful sun, the entire place was grey, colorle

ss, and depressing.  The tour guide was very smart

 and had a cool approach to the entire controversial situation.  He was open to address contrasting views and enjoyed bringing those different thoughts into the group conversation.  

He told the story form the prisoners point of view and was very well educated on the war, the camp and the lives of the prisoners.  Biggest impact:  Seeing the industrialization of mass murder.  From the labeling of the gas chamber as a “decontamination shower” meant to kill 150 people at a time, to the industrial coal burning ovens to cremate many, many bodies at once.  The official number of individual 

killed here is 35,000 (not including MANY factors and numbers probably doubling that number) this camp was not known as a “extermination camp” like Auschwitz but rather a “work camp.”  A really powerful experience that got my cheap ass to buy the 15 euro museum book with all of the displays and pictures of the museum in it.

3.)   Hofbrauhouse.  Famous biergarten, bier hall, and restaurant from Germany’s history.  Hitler made speeches here before he rose to power.  Cool place, but we had to move on rather quickly to make it before dark to the

4.)   English Gardens.  2 times as big as central park, it goes on forever.  A bunch of young people barbequing and sunbathing, and the occasional naked old dude sunbathing.  At the end of the park was the

5.)   Chinese Biergarten.  Underneath a giant Pagota, this was our favorite atmosphere in a biergarten that we found.  Good food, great beer, and friendly drunk people.


Most often used Words:


“ein Mahs Bier hier, Bitte”- one more liter of bier, please.


Transportation: We arrived in Nurnberg by train from Munich.  There was a fatality on the train tracks and almost all trains were cancelled on this route.  We caught the last one out (after boarding 2 cancelled trains) and it

 happened to be a high speed train and got us there much faster than the other two would have (oh yeah, we caught it with 1 minute to spare before departure).


Favorite Beverage:  Following a tip from my cooperating teacher we went to a Mexican

 restaurant called Enchiladas and got Margaritas at half price during happy hour. (Steve- of course I ordered a banana Margarita in honor of you!)


Favorite Food:  Although the Nurnberger Sausage was good, and the Bratwerst from the Easter Market was the best Werst that I had all week, the winner is the Beer battered Mushrooms drizzled in a spicy Garlic Cream sauce.  SO GOOD!


Accommodations: We stayed in a hostel that was IN the stable of an old castle.  We were actually inside the friggin castle.  The view was exceptional, great outlook over the down town of Nurnberg.


Favorite Sights:

1.)   Easter Market in the downtown market.  Cool vendors, great food, nice atmosphere.

2.)   German National Museum.  Great history of Germany and awesome Knight and Midievil


3.)   Irish Bar on water- again by suggestion of my cooperating teacher.

4.)   View from Hostel and adjacent castle.

5.)   BarFusser- another cool Bier Hall with a fun atmosphere.

6.)   Globe- the oldest known spherical interpretation of the earth.


Most commonly used Words:

“holy crap, is this where we are staying?”- I know its not in German, but Colin and I kept saying this.  We couldn’t believe the location of our hostel.

Rotenberg ob der Tauber

Transportation: 2 trains from Nurnberg to Rotenberg and a sunny walk into town.


Favorite beverage:  Spatlese white wine that accompanied the dinner that I had in the restaurant below 

our bed and breakfast.  Crisp, sweet white wine.  Great with Goulash, sausage and sourkraut.


Favorite food:

  Surprisingly not the Goulash, sausage and kraut meal.  Colin and I stopped for lunch at a sunny restaurant and cafĂ© and I ordered the daily special which was schnitzel, salad, and fries.  The Schnitzel was delicious.


Accommodations:  Colin and I decided to splurge a little and get a bed and breakfast in

 Rotenberg.  It was actually the Mayor’s mansion when Rotenberg 

was at its height in the 13th century or so.  Very cool place and sweet little old German lady’s provided great service.


Favorite Sights:


1.)   Walking around the wall of the walled-in city.  The head clearance was low, about 6 feet 6 inches, and had me ducking from time to time.  Colin, a 6 foot 7 inch man, was fit to be tied.  Check out the great picture of him hunched over while walking in the wall.

2.)   The crime and punishment museum.  That’s right, an entire

 museum devoted to

 instruments of torture.  Note: the executioner’s axes.  The one on the bottom is Turkish.

3.)   The Castle Gardens.  At the sight of the original castle, now lie beautiful g

ardens just starting to hit their spring stride.  The payoff at t

he end of the gardens is a view of the

 Tauber river and a beautiful German countryside and

 accompanying valley.  Gorgeous.

4.)   The Night Watc

hman Tour.  This 8 pm tour consisted of a 45 year old dude in a black cloak, an axe, and a lantern escorting dozens of Americans around the main square and stopping every 5 minutes to point out some small nuance on a building that related to Rotenberg’s rich history.  I don’t know why I’m trying to make fun of him- I totally enjoyed it.  He was corny, made bad jokes, and I ate it up.  Learned a lot about the history of Rotenberg and was happy to drop 5 Euros in his hat in the end. 


Most commonly used words:

“They really did that?” Completely in reference to the torture museum.  Thumb screws, shame masks, drunk tanks, violin clamps, execution axes and mallets, and chastity belts.  The answer was “Yes, they really did do that!”

Pawellek Family

Transportation: a 3 hour train from Rotenberg.  Long ride, bad seats on the switch in Frankfurt, but great

 payoff when we arrived in Mainz.


Favorite Beverage: The Rose’ wine that was locally made in 

Oppenheim, the home town of the Pawellek family that hosted me for the day.  I don’t remember the name, but it was nice to have a couple glasses and attempt to communicate with some of the sweetest people you will ever meet.


Favorite food:  Toss-up.  While the Chinese buffet that Kurt took us to was

 very nice and filling, I think the elaborate ice cream that we enjoyed within the first 15 minutes of arriving in Mainz was the best.  My ice cream was banana with chocolate and orange syrup drizzled

 over it (secretly I wished that I ordered the caramelized walnut ice cream that Kurt and Colin ordered).


Accommodations:  A near by bed and Breakfast in Oppenheim.  I thought that I would be sleeping on the Pawellek’s floor, but they had reserved a very nice B&B for us, and told us just before bedtime.


Favorite Sights:

1.)   Kurt as I got off the train.  He walked right by us and we shared a look of “are you who I think you are?….I will wait 

until you acknowledge me first. “

2.)   The town of Mainz and the Rhine river.

3.)   The old castle ruins atop the hill in Oppenheim overlooking the city, river, and great church.

A few comments:

For those of you who don’t know what I was doing on my last day in Germany, I was visiting a 

German family that my mother befriended in the states about a year (or less) before she went to study abroad in Germany- the Pawellek’s.  They are a sweet family: Kurt (Father), Maria (mother), Juta (daughter), Clause (son-in-law), and Kurt’s great American friend Kit.  They were kind 

enough to pick Colin and I up at the train station, show us around, buy us ice cream, 

buy us dinner, provide a B&

B for us, and give us a ride to the airport about 1 hour and 30 minutes away the next morning.  That is a lot for a humble German family to do for some punk kid that they don’t even know.  Though language barriers provided quick communication, it did not stop us from getting the main point of our conversations across.  I understood enough to know that they are good people and the type of people that can and should be appreciated for their warmth, honesty, and kindness.  It was great to spend a day with a very authentic German family to finish our trip.  Danke Kurt and Maria!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Break Posts Soon To come

Well Spring break was a complete success! We had great weather, great food, great beer, exceptional hostels and B&B's, and meet some wonderful people. It is a busy week for me, I have a new batch of students, I have lesson plans, I will lock in Kale and I's travel plans (By tomorrow, cross fingers), send some packages out, finish my student teaching paperwork and requirements, work out, sleep, eat....you know breathe.

I promise that by friday I will have you all updated on my spring break travels.

My best to the west,

Your dork from the north. (well, northeast...I guess....its relative isn't it?)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Very Little Things

The Very Little Things

Lately I have been inspired by the very little things that make life beautiful. It is hard to explain, but now and again I will notice- no observe something happening and realize the rhythm with which the world works. I haven’t many examples, just a consistent observance of the pendulum of life. The hills and valleys. The rain and sun. The frustration and elation.

It is a funny thing to observe the momentum of life sway to one side, find its peak, and begin to reverse. You know when you have weathered the storm and you know when times cannot get any better. Each pole as important as it’s opposite.

The little things: a good day, a bad day. Inspired by a book or movie, distraught about the news. A surprise visit, a dreaded goodbye. A free meal, an overpriced coffee.

The very little things: noticing extended eye contact that says “how are you really doing?”, becoming acquainted with a person enough to give them a hug for the first time, the sun breaking free from the clouds, waking up to the daylight sneaking through the curtains, hearing a song and thinking of a specific time in your life, tripping over an uneven road, hearing from a friend that you thought was lost, losing a friend you thought was near, losing sleep, sleeping in.

I watched a movie lately that was very inspiring, a little too “motivational speaker-esk,” but touching none-the-less. It is called “The Secret” and talks about the laws of attraction. Your thoughts and feelings attract what the universe brings into your life. Negative thoughts, negative things. Positive thoughts, positive things. Thoughts become things. As I watched this movie I realized that I have been living at least a little of what this movie is expressing. I have generally had a very positive outlook on life and just expected things to work out…and you know what? They do! I catch a lot of crap from certain family members (not going to mention their names- Mark and Kale) about how “everything comes easy, you never have to work for anything…good things just happen to you” and some bewilderment as to why this is the way it is. The honest truth is ignorance and dumb luck. But dammit I have the same decision to make every morning as each other individual on this earth, “Is it going to be a good day, or a bad day?” and following the path of my amazing mother and grandfather I choose the former…well I try to anyways, and the intention is the most important part.

Do you want to know the secret? How each day can be easier? How each moment can be a satisfying and fulfilling experience?....me too! But until we find that out, I think it helps to appreciate the very little things that life springs upon us- good and bad- and gain something from each interaction.

Thoughts become things.


My Playlist