Monday, February 22, 2010

Je suis allé à Paris pour une journée

So here's the thing. I was supposed to go to Paris for a weekend to stay with two couchsurfers, but when I got to Frankfurt to change trains every single one going to Paris was booked until the next day, thus I ended up in Berlin instead. However, as my next HelpX was in southern France and I didn't want to be on the train for 16 hours, it made sense to stay the night so I posted on couchsurfing the night before I was to be in Paris and scored a place to sleep. You see, couchsurfing has an "emergency" forum for each major city where you post "omgzzzz I'm going to be here tomorrow and I have nowhere to sleeeeep!!!" and then mostly creepy people answer and some not creepy people as well. Luckily, I found the latter when Alix offered to host me for one night (on a Monday, too!). It was the first time I was actually hosted by anyone, and it was a great experience!

Alix lives in Montmartre, which is a cool little area that is basically a giant hill, so I got a lot of exercise lugging my suitcase that day. Right down the road from her flat is Sacré-Coeur, pictured above.

You can even see the Eiffel Tower from the hill!

Apparently these Space Invaders are all over Paris and they get points based on how big they are and where they're located. Pretty neat!

I've been to Paris once before two years ago, but it was with my parents and maybe one of the more stressful times of my life. Needless to say, we didn't go to Moulin Rouge, which is the red light district of Paris. Now I've seen it!

Alix cooked us an amazing dinner of Ratatouille with mashed potatoes, red wine and a pear pie for dessert. Mmmmmm. Best host ever.

The next morning before I caught my train to Toulouse, we literally walked across the entirety of Paris. No joke, we walked the equivalent of 15 metro stops or something. It was good though as I was only there about 24 hours. In any case, Paris wins for coolest metro entrance decorations.

Louvre Pyramid. I forgot to increase the shutter speed on my camera, also. It was very sunny that day, but not THAT sunny. Oops.

Paris really reminds me of Prague. I heard someone say that Prague is the Paris of Central Europe in terms of big, romantic cities. I agree.

And that, my friends, was my brief foray back to Paris! I'm sad I don't have any pictures of Alix, but it was a mad rush my last day as I almost missed my train (again). My last hour was spent rushing on the metro, running up steps and trying not to keel over due to the ridiculous weight of my suitcase as we attempted to get from Paris Montparnasse, to Montmartre and across to Paris Austeritz in one hour. Somehow, we made it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Schluchtenscheisseren (February 7-12th)

After less than two hours of sleep, I was definitely not up to anything crazy for my first night in Prague. I talked to Andrea and Viktor for a bit and then headed to Shakespeare to catch up with the rest of my friends. I finally tried the hot pear juice, which I’d meant to do my entire 5 months in Prague, met New Nicole and somehow managed to stay up until midnight or so. The next day was my birthday, so I slept in and then met up with more friends for Mexican food and margaritas at Cantina in Mala Strana. I’ve been craving Mexican food, so it was definitely nice. After dinner, a lot of people went home because they had work the next day, so Miriam, Sara, Josh and I hit up Bukowski’s. Viktor gave me a couple free drinks for my birthday which was awesome and we chilled for a bit. On the way home, we bumped into another group of people, one whose birthday was ALSO that day (go figure), who let us into Blind Eye, which was open illegally for some reason.

Birthday drink!

After only two nights back in Prague, it was back on the train to Vienna this time to see Lizbee. My first night I met her awesome friends and got treated to delicious homemade curry. It was cool to see her and crazy to be around someone from Tyler again. The next day we had a wander around Vienna, which is very pretty and looks similar to Prague, ate amazing falafel where Lizbee, Molly, Kayleigh and I talked about sex for at least an hour and a half. Then Lizbee and I got some BonBons and were off to the Wien Museum to see an exhibit called “Madness and Modernity” and wander around the rest of the exhibits until we both reached the point of sensory overload. Next was Naschmarkt, which was basically my version of heaven. Tons of different types of hummus, olives, vegetables, falafel, bread, dried fruits, spices and candies going on for a long block between metro stations. Freaking amazing. I procured a vegetable that looked like a spiky alien, apparently called a Romanesca, that we cooked for dinner with rice (it was good!).

Lizbee's flatmate's cat, Hecate. It was the weirdest/cutest cat ever.

Cathedral? Or something. Pretty!

The mystery vegetable that is a Romanesca

My last day I wandered around by myself because Lizbee was sick, bought pens, ate vegan “Chicken Cordon Bleu” and had coffee at a little vegetarian restaurant and went back to Naschmarkt to buy more snacks and spices for the train ride the next day. At night we went to this amazing Nepalese place called Yak & Yeti that had all-you-could-eat dumplings for 12 euro and it was also mind-blowingly good. We sat in this cool room in the back where you had to take your shoes off and sit on the floor on all these rugs and pillows. Mmmmm.

All you can eat dumplings. Best everrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Myself and a sick Lizbee

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Berlin, Germany: Part II (February 1st-7th)

Well, you saw the places I visited, now for what I actually did! I wasn’t even supposed to go to Berlin, but instead, to Stuttgart to visit Amy at her flat. Last minute change in plans and I ended up there for a week! I checked into the Raise a Little Smile hostel in Friedrichshain for the first 4 nights. With less than 18 beds at the time, it was sort of like hanging out at a friend’s house, which ended up being awesome. For too much of the time, I admit, I sat in the kitchen eating instant tomato soup (my new favorite variety of travel food) and sat on the internet. It was okay though, because I had a lot of planning to do for the section of my trip in Spain, hostels to book, trains to figure out, etc.

I came to Berlin alone, so my first night was a bit lonely and I was afraid the rest of my week would me more of the same. I was definitely wrong. By the end of my week, all of my 10 euros of credit on my phone was gone! My first night I got very lost trying to find a vegan fast food restaurant called Yoyo’s food world in Friedrichshain, but ended up getting lost for at least 30 minutes and taking the tram illegally. Tuesday morning I meant to catch the Alternative Berlin tour, but ended up missing it, so I wandered around by myself for awhile instead and hit up this massive second-hand shop called Humana where I got a pair of jeans for 8 euro. Then it got too cold and started snowing (the theme of my life lately). At night I went out for delicious Mexican food with Gray, Esther and Linus. Gray, from England and Esther from Germany own the hostel and Linus works there. I think that night we played a rousing game of Dutch Blitz, which I pretty much can never get enough of.

Wednesday I finally made it to the Alternative Berlin tour, which was amazing (you can read my last post for more on it). At night I met up with a guy from Berlin from couchsurfing named Patryk, his friend and another girl named Sarah from Malaysia whose currently living in Moscow. He took us to a Volksküchen, translated “People’s Kitchen”, where I got a three course vegan meal for 2.50 euro. Basically, the night before, they go to the grocery store and boy whatever’s cheapest and then whip up a meal. Everyone eats the same thing, but you get appetizer, meal and dessert for super cheap. There’s a website at, where you can search for Volksküchen based on what day it is in Berlin. The night we went I had some type of broccoli cream soup, potatoes with beans and veggies and apple-almond something delicious. It was awesome.

Patryk's friend, Patryk and Sarah at the Volksküche

Afterwards the guy who took us to dinner wanted to go home, so Sarah and I wandered over to a pace called Winerei, where a couchsurfing meet-up was taking place. This was also a really cool concept. You go pay 2 euro and get a glass. After that you drink as much wine as you want from all the bottles on the table. At the end you pay as much as you think it was worth, or as much as you have, and give back the glass. Thus, I had about 5 glasses of wine for 4 euro. Win.

Sarah and I

Couchsurfers at Winerei meetup

Thursday I went on a mission to buy jeans since my others that I wore all the time developed a giant hole in the crotch. This mission I succeeded, 49 euro light and a couple hours later, although the blue dye in them is still turning me blue now. That morning I had talked to Linus about this Anti-Pub crawl that goes to some weird bars in Berlin so after a delicious dinner with everyone from the hostel me and two American girls from the hostel met up with Linus and another Australian guy from the hostel named Gavin at the first pub, Yesterday Bar, around 9:30pm.

There was a good variety of places. The first was 60s, 70s and 80s themed. The next was a goth club that used to be owned by Rammstein where Marilyn Manson apparently frequents in Berlin, an place called the King Kong Club, which was cool, an absinth bar (yes, I got to light it on fire and everything!) a place called Dr. Pong’s where the entire room plays ping-pong with each other while walking around the table and last, an indie-electro club called Magnet, that was super fun. By the end of the night, around 3-4am or so, Linus, Gavin and I were the only ones left we could find, so we went home together, trying not to die on the ice and passed the fuck out.

Linus , Geraldine and Gavin

There were the stamps for the pub crawl, obnoxiously large, but sort of hilarious.

Thursday Amy arrived in Berlin to move into her new flat, so I checked out of the hostel and headed over. I was a jerk and missed most of the moving, however. We went out with two of her friends from Stuttgart for delicious Vietnamese food and then to a really cool super queer bar called Silver Future in Neukölln, the area of Berlin where Amy lives.

My last full day I met up with Sarah again to go to the medical museum and see weird shit. Then we tried to go to an Irish bar to see a rugby game with some other people from couchsurfing, but it was too full so we ended up just wandering around Tacheles again and going to a bar/café called Zapata. We met up with the other couchsurfers after the game and all went for dinner together in Friedrichshain—to a place that had like 800 types of burgers, fries and sauces (and vegan ones!). It was sort of like Local Burger, for all of my readers from Northampton. After dinner I went up to their flat with Sarah for some tea and biscuits, then caught the U-Bahn back to Amy’s to go with them to sushi and head out for the night.

At the burger place for dinner

First Amy, her friends and I went out to a bar for a couple beers and then headed to this party at a club. It was a big lesbian night at this club, in a warehouse, called Female Attacken and it was amazing. It’s also where I met Marlen, which is the reason I ended up in Berlin again a week later, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We danced until 7:30am, tried to go to another club that was just closing and then got some drunk munchies as the sun came up. By the time Amy and I got back to hers it was completely bright out and I had to get up in an hour and a half to catch a 5+ hour train back to Prague. I was definitely tired the next day, but it was worth it.

Amy and Susii

Me and Marlen

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Berlin ist arm, aber sexy. (Berlin is poor, but sexy.)

A bit of delayed post, but I had so many cool pictures from Berlin that I needed time to sort through them. I'm going to break this into two posts: One of places and street art and one of people and what I actually did. I have to say Berlin was probably my favorite city thus far. The picture above is the outside of Tacheles, which is a former department store which now houses a self-organized collective of artists on Oranienburger Straße.

I went on an "Alternative Tour" of Berlin and it was amazing. Basically we went to Tacheles, wandered around Berlin and looked at street art, went to the East Side Gallery (Berlin wall) and saw a few strange clubs and bars. This is me inside Tacheles.

Outside of Tacheles, I liked the girl with the backpack in the top right of the photo.

There were these barcodes all over the city. This one didn't work, but apparently if you take a clear picture and then hold it up to your webcam or something it will open a website and you can track who else has seen it.

Stencil Art by famous street artist Xoooox in Berlin.

These were inside some art gallery, but I don't remember the name of it. Oops!

Mande une poutine avec moi! (Eat a poutine with me!). This was in the archway of an independent movie theatre.

Also near the cinema. "I don't wanna be u're friend on Facebook". Ouch.

This was the best bathroom setup ever. Whenever the toilets didn't say "Damen" or "Herren" I never had any idea which bathroom I was supposed to go in. Usually I just peeked in to see if there were urinals and if there weren't, I figured I was safe. This made it pretty obvious though. The female equivalent was a lazy bit of lingerie.

Best street art ever. A drunk girl peeing. This was in a parking lot across from a squat.

The other side of the Berlin Wall. The following are paintings drawn on the reverse by the people on the East. They just completely restored everything and even contacted all 80-something artists who originally painting on it and had them make exact replicas of their work.

I'm not sure what the story behind this was, but they are definitely sexy babies. Weird.

This relates to the photo below, which is "Dreams" written out in post-its notes for people to write on.

This is near the bridge between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Across from this building they recently put up some big corporate buildings, so this is supposed to symbolize the employees being chained to the corporation.

On the bridge between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. They have sort of a rivalry. These two hands are playing rock, paper scissors between them all day and night. During the summer there's a big vegetable fight between the two sides on the bridge and during the winter a snowball fight.

Last, but not least, after you cross the bridge into Kreuzberg this is street art of a baby, made out of babies...eating a baby. It's pretty much the best thing I've ever seen in my life. I have about 8 billion more pictures of Berlin, but it would be ridiculous if I posted all of them. What an amazing city though, and it seems I may even go back in March!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bonn, Köln and Hannah!

On January 28th, Angelika drove me to Bremerhaven where I caught my first train to Bremen and then eventually went on to Bonn to see Hannah! It was strange and sad leaving the farm at first, but I eventually re-adjusted to civilization.

On Friday, we met up with Hannah's friend Catherine for her birthday with her friends and her Mom and then met up with her Dad later. We ended up at this random bar, where this creepy drunk guy you can see in the pictures tried to undress me. He spoke in rapid German about how happy he was that foreigners were mixing with the locals and bought all 8 of us our round of drinks even though we told him we were leaving right after. Oh, drunk people.

Hannah! We were trying really hard not to make eye contact or speak German near the drunk dude.

After, we walked over to Pawlow's (pronounced Pavlov's) which was much less sketchy and had an octopus coming out of the wall!

Some of our group.

The next day we went to Köln (Cologne) and saw the cathedral, it looks almost exactly like the one in Prague. One cool thing about traveling in Bonn and Köln is that if a friend has a transportation pass they can take guests for free with them on public transportation and regional trains after 7pm on weekdays and all weekend. Amazing! I didn't have to pay for any transportation at all the whole time!

I look tiny in front of that massive building.

A street in Köln, Germany loves American shops. There's Dunkin' Donuts, the Body Shop, Subway, etc. all on this one street.

A church and this statue of some guy. Mostly I only took a picture because somehow he only got snow on one side of him.

We went to a little vegan cafe called Signor Verde and they gave me a free little cup of soy cream because I spole horrible German.

Soy hot chocolate and soy cream. Mmmm! After wandering for awhile and a failed shopping attempt, we had dinner at a place called Habibi falafel, which may have been the 2nd best falafel I've ever had and we got free cinnamon tea! After falafel, we met up with Hannah's friends Claudia and Kristina and went to a lesbian club called Blue Lounge. Saying as we didn't even know the address when we left, I was super impressed that we managed to find it! Also, lesbians look the same everywhere. It's true.

When I got on the train to go home, it told me I couldn't smoke and I couldn't pick my nose. Damn. More importantly, while walking to the train station I face planted right in front of a tram, on my stomach, after tripping over my suitcase. Fail. I'm prett sure everyone on the tram was very much amused, however.