Tuesday, June 30, 2009

YourEuropeBasedSon Part One

So following the footsteps of my mother I took lots of pictures of the different foods I ate while traveling. The pictures are in reverse order of the countries we visited.

Belgium waffles in Brussels.

My first Kebab in Berlin, pretty sure I had one of these for three meals straight. They are that good.

Staple of my diet while traveling. Gummy bears and apple soda.

Really good sausage in Prague, if only they would have had the buns from Vienna...

Polish donuts, recommended to us by the Priest that bailed us out, and Mountain Dew. First place I saw it in all of Europe.

Hungarian goulash. Really good.

Traditional Hungarian meal of beef on top of dumplings, it was the first real substantial meal we had eaten in several days. It felt so good to be filled with something besides gummy bears and street food.

Gummy bears and soda at the Vienna Opera house while seeing Aida.

Bratwursts in Vienna. The buns they use there are both ingenious and way good. They stick the bun on a metal spike and put the ketchup and sausage inside to keep it from spilling.

Apple Strudel in Vienna

We were sure to sample lots of chocolate in Switzerland.

Didn't have any cheese in Switzerland but we still took a picture next to the sign.

Plum gelato in Italy was amazing.

Mike will have to correct my spelling but these fontanellas de aqua in saved us. It was so hot and bottled water was extremely expensive.

Chicken Parmesan in Rome. Way good!

Real Italian pizza was amazing.

Arancino in Rome. They are these little fried balls with rice, cheese, meat, and tomato sauce in them. We bought them as snacks whenever we were hungry. You could buy them in all of the little pizza shops that were all over.

I know that none of it looks as good as what my mom make, but it was a really cool part about traveling all over was to be able to get to know the different cultures through what they eat. I am now in Cambridge and the British food is not all that bad, as long as you have lots of salt to go with it. We are having a formal dinner tonight so I will take pictures and post them tomorrow so that you can see this amazing place I am now living in.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Amsterdam and Brussels


Amsterdam has been one of my favorite cities so far, and no not because of the legalized marijuana and the red light district. I had never really seen pictures of what Amsterdam looks like, so I had no real idea of what to expect. I was surprised at how beautiful the city is when I got here. So many very cool looking buildings running along canal streets, it is very similar to Venice in that aspect. We went to the Anne Frank house which was a very cool experience, they had a cool exhibit there regarding freedom of speech, press, religion etc. Then we just walked the city, saw the Van Gogh museum, the Rembrandt house, and walked through a very cool park. More than anything about Amsterdam I just really enjoyed walked the streets and experiencing the city. We then took a night train to Brussels.

Brussels -

We got into Brussels around one and again to save money decided to crash on the benches in the train station. At around two in the morning police men yelling in French came and woke all of my homeless friends and I up, so I figured they were closing the station as they had done in Venice. Not until I was outside did someone who spoke a little english tell me that if you had a ticket you could stay inside, by then all the doors were locked leaving me outside for the next few hours. Something I learned on this trip is that you meet some of the coolest people sittin outside of European train stations in the middle of the night. I talked with two girls from Lituiania for the next couple hours. It was interesting to hear from them about what things are like in their country and hear the questions they had about america. We also bonded over our mutual love for Arvydas Sabonis. When the train station opened back up we went inside to get some waffles and use the internet. The internet was pretty much worthless though because of how slow it was and French keyboards are way different than what I was used to. We then waited for our train back to England. I am now in Cambridge and it is absolutely amazing. I really am living at Hogwarts. The campus is unbelievable. I love walking into the college where there are lines of visitors trying to get in, and I just walk by the porters and flash my pass. Classes start tonight and we leave for Scotland this weekend, so it will be a very exciting week. I will try and take some pictures of the college tonight and post them tomorrow, also I will work on my first installment of youreuropebasedson (My mom's website is yourhomebasedmom.com) later today. Following in the footsteps of my mom I took pictures of all of my favorite foods I sampled while travelling that I will share later. Here are some pics from Amsterdam.

One of the any canals in Amsterdam

Beautiful Amsterdam

My bed and roommate in Brussels

Belgium Waffles for breakfast

Harry Potter and I go to the same train station to get to school, no big deal.


Berlin day 1 -

For those of you who do not know my area of study is World War II so I am very excited to be in Berlin. I have read about most of all of the historically significant places in Berlin before, being able to see them first hand opened up a whole n
ew perspective. When we first got to Berlin we went straight to the city center and started seeing the sights. We saw the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag, and many other memorials and buildings. We finish the night by going up to the roof of the Reichstag (German Parliament building) and watched the sun set over Berlin and the glass dome on top light up. We then explored the city some more and I got my first Kebab, it was love at first sight. We then took the subway back to our hotel, and we were the only one's on the subway without a beer in hand. One guy got on without a beer and started talking to us, but after rolling a ciggerette he pulled one out of his bag and popped it open. After declining several invitations to go bar-hopping we headed back to the hotel for a much needed nights sleep.

Berlin Day 2 -

We woke up this morning and headed out t
o Potsdam. Potsdam is a town about a half hour outside of Berlin where Fredrick the Great had a few palaces built. It is also where the potsdam conference was held, this is where Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt met to decide the fate of post WWII Europe. It was beautiful, we took some pictures and wandered around a little while. I also brought the total of the number of imperical palace gardens I've peed in up to three. I'm still unwilling to pay to go to the bathroom!

After Potsdam we headed back to Berlin to go on a walking tour. Our guide was a cool guy from the Czech Republic. It was cool to get further insight on the places we were seeing. Crazy coincidence is that on the day Micheal Jackson died we went and saw the balcony he dangled his baby off of. Outside the hotel there were pe
ople singing Micheal Jackson songs with a kareoke machines in honor of his death. I am now in Cambridge so I am going to post some pictures. For pictures from the first part of the trip you can check out my facebook page where I will post more of them.

The infamous balcony the day Micheal Jackson died

The Sans Souci Palace in Potsdam

The New Palace in Potsdam

The Brandenburg Gate from atop the Reichstag at night

The Reichstag at night

Checkpoint Charlie

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Section of the Berlin Wall

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vienna day 5 cont. -

So when we got to Vienna it was pouring down rain, we had been so lucky with the weather up until this point. Rome, Venice, and Switzerland had been absolutelz beautiful. The first place we checked out was the Hapsburg palace, we took a guided tour of the rooms and it was very impressive. We then walked aroud the grounds out back and took some pictures before taking the subway to the town center to buy some umbrellas. Unfortunately all of the museums were closed since it was Mondaz, so we walked around the city and took some picture by some very cool churches and buildings. After figuring out the cities subway system to keep dry we went and stood in line for opera tickets. Yea I know Im not much of an opera guy, but if you stand in line an hour and a half before the show you can get tickets for 3 euros (the cheapest seats are 170 euros) that let you stand at the top of the theater. Since it is known as the best opera house in the world, and it was pouring rain outside, we decided to check it out. After getting our tickets you run upstairs to mark your spot by wrapping your program around the banister they provide for you to lean on. After that we ran to a nearby subway restaurant to use the hand dryer in its bathroom to dry our socks and shoes. Again I cant emphasize how much I appreciate american restaurants. Then we bought our second weinerscnitzel of the day. Favorite thing I have eaten so far. I will have to post pictures but the way they prepare it is awesome. They take a small loaf of bread and cut off one end of it and then put it on a metal spike. They then put the ketchup inside the bread and put the sausage in, makes it way easy to eat because you dont have to worry about it spilling all over, plus the bread is way good too. We then bought snacks to sneak into the opera and had to run back to the opera house to make it in time. Im pretty sure there are many people who have gotten a kick out of two American kids running crazily all over Europe. There are lots of undergroud walkways in many of these cities and so there are not alway crosswalks where you want them. Because of the walkways very few people jaywalk, except for Brian and I. Instead of finding the underground walkways we just play frogger through the cars, making it pretty clear to everyone else that we are not from around here.

Budapest day 6 -

Budapest has been my favorite city by far. It is beautiful, good food, and has a different feel than the other cities we have visited. All of the other cities we have visited are more tourist oriented, Budapest is not. This gives it a much more original, authentic feel. Some people have told us that Budapest is the new Prague, that they believe within a few years Budapest will be the new cool place to visit in Eastern Europe as Prague is now. The Parliament building in Budapest is amazing, my favorite building so far up to this point. We then walked along the Danube and crossed Budapests famous chain bridge. We then climbed castle hill and checked out the sites. I bought some Hungarian goulash and ate it at this little cafe on top of a hill overlooking the city. For dinner we ate at a little restaurant and had a really good meal. It was this beef served on top of some dumplings, best meal so far. It was good to eat something real and filling after living off of gummy bears, sausages, and soda for the last week! We then got on a night train to Prague, or so we thought...

Slovakia, Warsaw, Prague Day 7 -

So the train system in Budapest is not exactly the greatest. Nothing is labled clearly and few people speak english. We asked several workers and they all told us this train was going to Prague, also there were several people in our car who also believed thez were going to Prague, everyone was a little worried since nothing was really clear. We were in a car with a girl that we had stood next to at the opera in Vienna the day before, kind of a wierd coincidence. They got off in Bratislava and that is where we learned that our rail passes are no good in Slovakia so a very large unfriendly man made us pay 16 Euros for a train ticket. We then met our Finnish Lesbian friend who was on her way to Berlin for Europes biggest gay pride festival, made us excited to be in Berlin in a few days! She was also going to Prague first on her way and we had a lengthy discussion about american politics, universal health care, and gay marriage. Very interesting to hear her views of America, all based on what she sees on mtv for the most part. We all then fell asleep and woke up in Poland. The next few hours were really crazy. If it had not been for the Priest interpreting and helping us out we would have each had to pay 80 euros to get to prague. After that we had a little time to walk around downtown Warsaw and eat some Polish donuts that the Priest reccomended. I also bought a Mountain Dew, who would have thought the first place in europe i would see a mountain dew would be Poland? Well we are off to potsdam, ill write more later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Polish Miracle!

So we left last night on a night train to Prague, or so we thought. Everything in Hungary isnt labled very well and not very many people speak english. So after having that the train we were on was going to Prague confirmed by two train workers and the Finnish gothic lesbian we were on the train with we figured we were ok. We had an interesting conversation with our Finnish friend and then fell asleep (no spooning this time dont worry). We woke up to some guy banging on our door demanding to see our tickets, we show him our passes and he then tells us that they are not valid in this country. We asked him what country we were in, he replied "you are in Poland" and then just laughed. So we ended up in Warsaw pretty lost and confused, nobody speaks english here! So the lady at the counter told us it would be 80 euros each to get back to Prague, that is how much i was planning on spending the rest of the trip! We saw some guy in an ambercrombie and fitch shirt and we decided to ask for his help. He translated at the counter and got us tickets to the czech border, where our eurail passes will be valid again. Then he pulls out nearly 100$ out of his own pocket at pays for our tickets. He was a Catholic Priest from Washington DC visiting family in Poland, honestly the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I have never been so close to tears since in a very long time, and thats saying a lot coming from me. We are now about to board a train to Prague. One thing this trip has taught me for sure is that there are so many good people in this world.

Update from Budapest!

So right now I am in Budapest and am currently waiting to board a night train to Prague. These Eastern European keyboards are a little different than what Im used to so if anything is spelled wrong I blame it on that. Unfortunately I tried to upload some pictures but the computers here are not the greatest. So Ill start off where I finished off yesterday and see how far I get before my time runs out.

Venice Day 3 Continued -

So After the police kicked us out of the train station we started wandering around Venice trying to find a place to crash. We found a heated room with a bunch of vending machines in it that was open 24 hours, unfortunately two other homeless men had already beaten us there so we had to continue our search. You know that you are really roughing it when you are competing with homeless men for places to sleep. After wandering around Venice's many little passageways awhile longer we headed back to the train station where we met two other backpackers that were also waiting for the station to open. I thought that our trip was pretty cool but these two put us to shame. They had been wandering around Europe for the last two months without any real itinerary. They had just got back from a week or so travelling through Bosnia and Croatia, the pictures they showed us were absolutelz amazing. We ended up spending the rest of the night talking with them on the steps and took an early train with them to Milan. Our train to Milan was delayed so we ended up missing our connecting train to Zurich, so we had a couple extra hours to explore Milan. The highlight of Milan was the free public bathroom in McDonalds where I took my shirt off and took a bath from the waist up in the sink. It had already been nearly two days without a shower and i needed it!

Switzerland Day 4

We arrived in Zurich a few hours after leaving Milan, the train ride through the Alps was spectacular. I am definitely buying a house on a lake in Switzerland when I grow up. On one of our connecting trains before getting to Zurich we sat next to a cool young couple from Vancouver B.C. who was living on the border of Switzerland and Germanz for work. They gave us lots of advice about where to go and what to see, we are even facebook friends now! That has definitely been one of the best parts of this trip, meeting so many different people and hearing their stories and about where they are from. We then took off to Lucerne from Zurich, Lucerene is buy far the prettiest place we have seen so far. It is this amazing lake up in the alps. We climbed a hill next to it and took lots of cool pictures. There was lots of cool bridges crossing the river that ran into the lake also. After exploring Lucerne we headed back to Zurich and got some good Swiss chocolate and crashed at a Starbucks. I appreciate america so much more now, nothing like free bathrooms and wifi to make you feel at home! Im sure the people at starbucks didnt apprecaite two smelly americans taking up one of their tables, but nobody said anything so we stayed.

Vienna Day 5 -

Easily one of the funniest experiences of the trip so far was our night train from Zurich to Vienna. In the second class sleeper compartments there are six seats that can fold down to make a bed, so if you are lucky enough to get one to yourself you can have your own bed to sleep on. As soon as we borded the train Brian and I put our stuff away folded the bed out, turned off the light, and pretended to be asleep to try and deter anyone else from choosing our cabin. This worked like a charm until we stopped somewhere in Germany at about 1:ÓÓ in the morning. There was a knock on the cabin door and it opened all of a sudden. Im a little groggy when i first wake up so the door opening scared me and without thinking I almost kicked the guy coming in in the face. He said something in German that Im sure wasnt nice, and we unwillingly folded one of the seats up for him. Brian and I scooted over and continued sleeping on the other two unfolded seats. After sitting down for awhile the German man folded his two seats down and joined us, so there were pretty much three of us full grown men sleeping on what might be equivalent to a double mattress. It wouldnt have been two bad except Brian has a tendency to stick his butt out to the side when he sleeps pushing me uncomfortable close to the German man and Brians butt as well. I wasnt opposed to a little spooning action in Europe I just never thought it would be with Brian and some random German dude. The best part is when the guy first walked in Brian started laughing uncontrolable and I followed suit, that continued on for several minutes. Im pretty sure we freaked that guy out pretty good, I know for a fact that guy will never forget the night he spent in a sleeper car with two very smelly laughing face kicking american kids. Again I mention how bad the sleeper car smelled, I have no idea why after opening it that guy didnt just turn around and leave. Both Brian and I were on our third day without showering, that is the first thing we did once we got to Vienna. Well our train to Prague is about to leave so I will try and finish catching up sometime tomorrow, hopefully we get the car to ourself this time!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Update from Vienna

These past few days have been pretty crazy. We have had a lot of fun and a lot of both good and crazy experiences. Unfortunately I haven't been able to upload any pictures, the computers in Italy kept freezing on me and my hostel here in Vienna doesn't have any usb ports. So I figured as far as pictures go I´ll just upload a bunch of them to facebook once I can, but before I start forgetting things here is a little run-down of what we have done so far.

Rome Day 1

We woke up and left Jakes flat at 4:30 in the morning, surprisingly it was completely light outside when we were waiting for the bus to take us to the airport. We flew on Ryanair which is incredibly cheap, but you get what you pay for. The seats were very uncomfortable and do not recline, but I sat next to a lady from Argentina who I talked to for all two hours. It was fun to be able to practice my spanish a little bit. Our hostel in rome was really close to the train station so we went and dropped our stuff of there and then headed out to explore. We saw the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and several other really cool places before heading back to the hostel to shower and clean up. The bathroom in the hostel reminded me a lot of the mission, just not as nice. We then grabbed our books, bought some pizza, and went down by the colesium to eat dinner and catch up on some reading for school. We then went and got some gelato before heading back to go to bed. The room we were in was for three people and we met our roommated at three in the morning when he came in and offered us some wine, we declined and introduced ourselves. He was a pretty cool kid from Romania.

Rome Day 2

We had heard that you need to see Trevi Fountain and the Colesium early in the morning before anyone else gets there. So we grabbed the breakfasts that the hostel provided us with and took off to eat them next to the fountain. There was nobody there except for us and the guys vaccuming all of the coins of the bottom of the fountain. We then headed to the Vatican which was pretty incredible. I took a few pictures and a video inside the Sistene Chapel even though we werent supposed to. After the Sistene Chapel we ran into some girls who were from the BYU London study abroad program. Before heading back to the hostel to take a nap and clean up before dinner we checked out the Pantheon and a few other churches that were on the way. For dinner we went to this little restaurant where I had the best chicken parmesane of my life. After dinner we walked around this cool part of town eating gelato. That has been one of my most favorite parts of Rome, just walking through all of the cool little passageways everywhere seeing all the cool little stores, and we have done tons of walking, we walked over 20 miles today alone.

Venice Day 3

We left Rome early this morning and got into Venice around noon. We first went to St Marks plaza and checked out the cool old church that is there. After that we pretty much just wandered around for the next few hours. Venice is the perfect place to do that, it has so many cool little passageways and canals. It is a wierd walking through this tiny passagway and all of a sudden be walking between a Louis Vuitton and a Gucci store. We found a cool little store that made this really good merengue that we tried. Everything in Venice is pretty expensive, including going to the bathroom. So we had to decide between an extra scoop of gelato and taking a pee. We decided on the gelato and found some little side street to pee in. Also we did not want to pay for a hostel in Venice because we were leaving early to Swizterland the next day so we just camped out in the train station. At 2:ooam the police kicked us out. My time is about up so I will write about what happened after that tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


So after spending way too much time on an airplane and almost missing my connecting flight in Newark I made it safely into London this morning. After waiting over an hour to make it through immigration I met up with Brian and his friends from back home, Jake, who goes to school in London. We dropped our stuff off at Jake's flat, cleaned up, and then set off to explore London. After buying our oyster passes we took off to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, The Tower of London, Hyde Park, and Buckingham Palace. Considering both Brian and I had slept very little over the last day we were pretty tired, but we still opted to walk to the BYU London Center to meet up with Jake for some Indian Food and then a movie night activity with his singles ward. It has been a very long day and I will be leaving in four hours to catch a flight to Rome so I need to try and get some sleep, even though my body thinks it is 3:30 in the afternoon. Here are some pictures from today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My European Survival Kit

While planning for my backpacking trip I have started accumulating things that I think will be helpful as I attempt to see 10 countries in as many days. Here are some pictures of all of the things that will hopefully make my trip that much better.

First off is a new backpack from the Columbia employee store. Hopefully everything will fit...

In order to cut costs on food my diet for the next ten days will pretty much consist of these, a birthday present courtesy of little sister Tessa

To get from place to place we will be taking trains. Brian and I both bought Eurail passes which will allow us unlimited train travel for ten days. The price is very reasonable, but dont be fooled if you are planning on taking night or high speed trains you need to make reservations beforehand and there are additional fees. Here are our rail passes and reservations for the night trains we will be taking.

Also from the Columbia store are two pairs of lightwieght, quick drying travel shorts. These can be washed in the sink and will dry overnight. Also a new waterbottle, thanks Cali!

In addition to several adaptors and converters from the AAA store I found this helpful little portable Ipod/Phone charger while working at costco. For days where we will be taking night trains instead of staying in hostels these will make sure that we do not run out of battery power.

Other essentials that I will be bringing with me are a pillow case, hostels provide linens but their pillowcases are sewn into the sheets so having your own makes for a more comfortable nights sleep. Also maps and detailed street by street directions from google maps. I highly recommend this for anyone that is going to be traveling in a foregin country. All I did was make lists of all the places that we are going to visit in a country and entered them in and printed off directions to all the sights. I also bought a security belt where I can keep my passport, money, train passes, etc. A self charging flashlight, and a pair of box cutters. Ever since working at costco Ive realized that always having box cutters on you is very helpful, and if I get taken I will be able to cut myself out before they sell me as a sex slave in case Liam Neeson is busy. Lastly a little light reading.

Nothing like the history of the rise of Fascism and a little C.S. Lewis to make those long train rides pass by quickly. Well tomorrow is the big day and I can't wait to get out of here

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I feel like a fat kid on his way to Camp Hope!

Well since apparently blogging is in my blood I figured this summer would be the perfect time to start one. On June 16th I will be leaving for the rest of the summer to backpack around Europe and eventually end up at the University of Cambridge where I will be studying for a term in Kings College, home of the world famous King's College Choir. I have been to my fair share of choir concerts, but this will be the first time that I am actually excited to go see one. As a junior associate of King's College I will be able to bypass the lines and go to evensong whenever I like!

Above is a picture of where I will be living. When I look at pictures of the college I feel like I am going to Hogwarts. I will be living in buildings right next to King's Chapel (pictured above) and have been promised a room with a view of the River Cam! There will even be a boat docked outside that I can use to go punting whenever I like. I have been planning for this since last November when one of my history professors recommended I apply for the program, and I cannot believe that it is finally here! While I am there I will be taking three classes, one on how Europe transformed from a group of nation states at the beginning of the 20th century to the European Union, another on the relationship between the United States and England since the Revolutionary Way, and my third class will be a one on one supervision with Dr. Jonathan Steinberg. Dr. Steinberg is an expert on the Second World War and the Holocaust, I will meet with him weekly and he will give me different writing assignments which I will complete and critique with him in our weekly meetings.

For the two weeks before school starts I will be backpacking all over Europe with my good friend Brian Mickelsen. Brian and I met our freshman year at BYU when we lived on the same floor in Helaman Halls.

After arriving in London on the 17th we will spend the night at a friend of Brian's place, drop our stuff off there, and load up our backpacks as we take of for Rome. After Rome we will head to Venice, then Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and finally take a train back to London from Brussels Belgium. It will be a long crazy week and a half, but it will be an unforgettable adventure for sure.