David Paparelli's Blog

Matthew 19:26

Between Two Lakes and in the Swiss Alps

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What can I say about Paris? One thing I can say for sure is I will have to go back. It was not my favorite city, it is probably not even in the top ten, but there is so much to see and I did not go in any buildings except restaurants and the place I was staying. My two days in Paris were spent relaxing, enjoying a comfortable bed, and recovering.

I stayed with a girl named Tiffany from Marietta who was gracious enough to let me stay in a bedroom she had available. She was incredibly nice and I could not have been more comfortable. The day I got in from Munich I dropped my stuff at her apartment and she took me to see the Eiffel Tower. Just like Big Ben, this overused icon did not disappoint. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail because everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like, but I will say that it is gigantic. The kind of gigantic that I, being slightly afraid of heights, got a little uneasy just looking up at it. The crepes we got on our walk to the base eased whatever concerns I had and we moved to the park on the other side. We sat and looked at the enormous tower for an hour and then we had to get back to the apartment for dinner.

For dinner we ate Pizza. I have to say I enjoyed the company more than the food. While we ate our pizza we watched the Germany/Spain game. Germany put up a good fight but Spain proved they were the best in the tournament. After the game I had a decision to make. Should I go to The Netherlands or to Spain to watch the World Cup Final? I decided The Netherlands were closer so I would try and get a train the next day.

Along with getting a train, Tiffany drew a great sketch of paris on a scrap piece of paper and showed me walking tour I could take. I walked all over paris. I saw all of the main sites and made it to Gare Du Nord to book my train. The line for Eurail passes was not very long so I queued up.

I thought I got lucky. There was a short line in a train station! I overlooked the fact that there was a large group of young Asians in front of me. They took up both windows and commenced to plan their entire trip with the incredibly annoyed attendants. One thing I learned from watching the Asians run back and forth between windows with their train schedules was that it was going to be very hard to get out of Paris.

As I walked up to the window I could not tell who was more annoyed, the attendant or me. Even after having gone through thirty minutes of pain, the attendant was very helpful. I asked him if I could get to Rotterdam. He said no. I asked him if I could get to Amsterdam. He said no. I asked him if I could get anywhere in Spain. He said absolutely not. Desperate, I asked him if there was any major city I could get to outside of France tomorrow. He told me southern France was impossible to get to, but Zurich was a possibility. Without hesitation I booked my ticket to Zurich.

So that was Paris. A view of the Eiffel Tower, a long walk, some wine, a crepe, and Italian food. That was good enough for me. I will have to go back.

When I got back to the apartment from the train station I started looking at hostels in Interlaken and booked one. The plan was to take my train to Zurich, immediately head to Interlaken, and then day trip around the Swiss Alps for the next few days. So what actually happened?

On my way to Zurich the next day I realized that I did not book the night I was getting into Interlaken but the next night. Well, I was not going to show up in a small town in the middle of Switzerland without a place to stay so I ran around zurich trying to find a place. After going to a couple places I got to a hotel at 11:45 at night and was able to find a room. Luckily, the front desk was open forty-five minutes later than they were supposed to be. I wanted some familiar food after a day like that so I went out for a late dinner.

I found a Mexican restaurant amongst the sausages and beer. This may not be a surprise to anyone but Swiss Mexican food is terrible and expensive. Disappointed and exhausted I went to sleep.

The next day I was determined to get to the Swiss Alps. That is what I was looking forward to about Switzerland and I went to the train station in the morning to make sure I got to Interlaken that day. I saw that I could get to Ibach on the way to Interlaken and I jumped on a train to the small town. Ibach is where Swiss army knives are made. So before I got into the Alps I took a train to Schweiz. From Schweiz it is a twenty minute walk into downtown Ibach. I don’t think I have ever seen two towns this small. I am not really sure why they are considered two different towns but I’m sure it is historically significant. I saw the Victorionix company, bought a knife, and got back on the train.

Before I got to Interlaken, my train went winding around lakes and through mountains. The train ride was amazing. I hate to say it, but Switzerland rivals Colorado. Actually, it probably beats Colorado in terms of beauty, just not skiing. The entire country is lakes running into mountains and rivers falling off glaciers. Interlaken was the same way. I went to bed that night surrounded by mountains.

I woke up finally in Interlaken. I went down to the front desk to ask what I should do for my less than two days in town. Both girls behind the desk told me I have to go canyoning. I booked the 12:30 canyoning trip for that day and asked what I should do until then. One of them suggested that I take a nearby train to the top of a mountain. I went out and found the train she was talking about.

The train took a near vertical route almost to the top of a great mountain to hike around. Thinking I was incredibly close to the top I decided I would hike the rest of the way up the mountain. Forty-five minutes later I realized it was going to be tough getting to my canyoning appointment. The top of the mountain gave a great view of the town and the surrounding areas. It helped me understand why the town was called Interlaken (between two lakes). I could only enjoy the view for a few minutes before I had to hustle back down to the train. When I got to the train tracks I looked at the schedule and saw that I had missed the train by five minutes. The next train was after my canyoning appointment. Well, I had seen the mountain and thought I must be around halfway down it. I thought if I ran I would be able to make my appointment.

I ran for about an hour before I made it back to the hostel. I got there around the same time I would have if I would have taken the train. The girl at the front desk called my canyoning company and was able to get me rescheduled for 3:00 that day. This was probably a good thing because my legs were not up for canyoning after this run. I sat down in the lobby and waited until 3:00.

3:00 came quickly and I struggled to stand up. I got outside with some effort. The tour guide pulled up in a big empty van to tell me that I was the only one on the tour and he could not take me up as just one. Our only option was to reschedule for the next day. This was fine as long as I made it back for my train leaving for Rome at noon.

In the morning my legs felt a lot better and I was ready to go. The van came, picked me up, and we were off. Canyoning, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like. You put on a wetsuit, life vest and a helmet and walk through a canyon. Besides walking I also jumped off waterfalls, went down natural watersides, zip lined into the river, and repelled into the canyon. It all seemed incredibly dangerous but they told us no one has ever been severely injured. There is probably a big difference in what they tell you and what has actually happened. None the less, it was a great time and I made it to my train a little more sore than the day before.

The entire day I was happily hobbling through train stations to get to Rome. It is insane that you can be canyoning in the Swiss Alps in the morning and eating ravioli and drinking red wine in Rome by dinner. I was going to Rome so early so I could meet my brother the next morning at the airport. He is joining me for ten days of my trip and it has been great so far.

 

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Written by davidpaparelli

July 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Europe

Too Much Pork

with 2 comments

The day me and the Brazilians got into Munich the hostel would not let us check in until three in the afternoon. We got to the hostel around 7:00 am so we had some time to kill. We decided to go on a tour of the city. The problem was the tour wasn’t for four hours. I crashed on the couch in the lobby and went to sleep.

I woke up a couple hours later and saw that one of my friends had fallen asleep as well and the other was complaining about not being tired. It was an hour before the tour and we had to leave to make it. My unconscious Brazilian friend painfully got up and we struggled towards the hauptbahnhoff. We made it to the Glockenspiel where the tour kicked off.

This tour turned out to be an awful idea. Walking around for four hours on a hot day and listening to history are both things I do not like to do when I am tired. Half way through the tour and after little debate, we left the tour. The Brazilians and I gladly found the metro to head back to the hostel.

We still could not check in. Germany was playing in the quarterfinals of the world cup soon and we were told that if we wanted to watch it in a biergarten we needed to go early. We left for a nearby biergarten frustrated. Biergartens are definitely unique to Germany. They only sell beers by the liter and their menu consists of five or six pork dishes with different types of potatoes. Well that’s pretty much all restaurants in Germany and not just in biergartens, but in the biergartens you become more aware of it I guess. The biergarten we went to was the Augustine Biergarten named after the Augustine Beer.

Getting there more than an hour before the game, we figured we would be able to find a seat in the giant outdoor restaurant. We could not find a seat anywhere and settled in on the floor in an area where we could barely see the tv. There were five thousand drunk and screaming Germans there to watch the game.

They sang the same four drinking songs over and over again one of which was the national anthem. Only the Germans could turn their national anthem into a drinking song. There were a lot of happy Germans by the end of the game and it wasn’t just the beer. Germany killed Argentina. Just as the game was ending, we were ready to get back to the hostel so we did not stick around.

Finally, we could check in and take a shower. It had been two days since any of us had showered and there was nothing better. I took a shower, read some, and then quickly fell asleep. My much needed sleep came to an end when a girl from Manchester came into the room. She accidentally woke me up and we talked for awhile.

She had just come from watching the game as well and seemed to be very talkative. She was fun to talk to but I had to cut her off because I was supposed to meet the Brazilians in the lobby to watch the next world cup match. I invited her along and she was happy to join me.

Thankfully, we watched the game in the lobby and not on the floor of a biergarten. I did not care too much about the result so I was only vaguely aware of what was going on on the tv. My time was spent talking to the girl from Manchester and the Brazilians. After the game ended the Brazilians smartly went to sleep and I went out without the girl from Manchester to find food.

I must admit I was exhausted. I think I got to a point in my exhaustion where it didn’t matter too much. Is there a point where you’re so tired you’re not tired anymore? That may (and probably does) make absolutely no sense. That is how felt going out to find food.

Everything was closing but we managed to find food at a pizza/kebab shop and then went and got drinks at an outdoor restaurant that was still open. We stayed out too late especially since I had to get up at 8:30 the next morning. Every morning in Munich I was in a different room in the hostel. This meant that every morning I had to wake up and check out and then check back in at 3:00. It was a brutal stay. The next morning was the first of a couple check outs.

I met up with the Brazilians the next day and that morning they were going to the BMW museum. This particular museum didn’t sound too interesting to me so I told them I would meet up with them later. That morning I hung around the hostel lobby and relaxed waiting for my friends to return. They came back and we went to the next stop on their itinerary.

The Alianz Stadium. This was our next stop. The stadium is where Bayern Muenchen plays. There are actually two teams from the area that play there and the entire exterior changes to either red or blue based on who is playing that night. When we went the stadium was white, which is the color the stadium stays if the national team is playing there. I’m not sure if this is a usual tourist attraction but it was a pretty cool trip.

When we got to the stadium we hopped on a tour. The tour we went on was in German because it was the only one available. When we got in the stadium, we sat down and tried to figure out what the tour guide was talking about. Our ears perked up when we heard an English tour on the other side of the field and we quickly switched. On the tour we saw the locker rooms, warm up facilities, team bench, and, of course, the gift shop. We left the bubbly looking stadium after the tour and headed back to the city.

We were finally going to do something I was really looking forward to. The three of us got off the metro and headed for the famous Hofbrauhaus for what the Brazilians called “beer time”. We did reluctantly get food with our beer. At this point I was getting really tired of pork. Germany serves fried pork, roasted pork, grilled pork, roasted pork that is then fried, and it goes on. Honestly, I don’t know how they can eat that all the time. Despite the food, Hofbrauhaus was enjoyable and afterwards we moved on.

The next day it was time for the Brazilians to leave. I had planned to stay one more day in Munich and asked at the hostel if they had any availability. Unfortunately, they did not and I got the same response from the three other hostels I went to. Thinking I would be sleeping outside, I went to the train station as a last result. There happened to be a sleeper to Paris available. I called the one person I knew of in Paris and was able to get a place to stay for two nights. So Paris it was.

I said goodbye to the Brazilians after one more beer time and thanked them for letting me tag along for so long. They thanked me too for spending their entire trip with them. I had a great time with these guys and was sad to leave them. Knowing a little more Portuguese and glad to have a place to sleep I got on the train to Paris.

Written by davidpaparelli

July 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Europe

Schloss Schoenbrunn Summer Palace

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I spent my time in Vienna with the two Englishmen, the Brazilians and some Americans. The night I got into Vienna I met a group of Americans. My braves hat has done wonders introducing me to people and it was once again successful in Vienna. A girl approached me in the bar and asked if I was from Atlanta. Our conversation led to her introducing me to her friends. Her friends were a brother and sister from Fortworth. I had a great time that night and they invited me along the next day to see Vienna.

The Brits were already in Vienna and I felt a little bad leaving them, but I knew that they would not get up until noon so I figured I could get something done in the morning while they were sleeping. They obviously did not mind. So the Americans left the hostel early while the English slept in.

The group wanted to go to Schloss Schoenbrunn (the Hapsburg summer palace) and that sounded good to me. I am glad I went. This was one of the best parts of my trip. The Palace has a garden attached to it that must go on for a couple square miles. This would be a heck of a backyard. The gardens are indescribable but I’ll give it my best shot.

They are separated out into sections by enormous walls made out of trees and bushes. Wandering along the walls of the garden we came across fountains and beautiful flower arrangements. I’m not sure you can call them flower arrangements when the flowers are organized on such a large scale but, I guess, for lack of a better term, I’ll go with it. The flowers were arranged with every imaginable color in every imaginable design. There was a free flowing nature to the gardens but at the same time they had a strict conformity in terms of lines, shapes, and detail. After walking through the gardens for the better part of the day we came across a large fountain that was at the bottom of an enormous hill.

We started climbing the hill. The climb was exhausting in the ninety degree temperatures that the sun was beating us with. As we walked up we started realizing that it was completely worth it. None of us knew what to expect and the surprise made it even better.

The view from the top of the hill was of the gardens running up to the palace and the palace fading into the backdrop of the entire city of Vienna. The gardens looked like colorful carpets from so high up and the palace was towering over them. Once we got to a certain point on the hill we started to see that beyond the palace was the entire city. This view was better than the view of London from the eye, better than the view of Prague from the castle, and even better than the view of Pest from Buda castle. I think the word breathtaking is overused but it fits this moment perfectly. We spent a couple hours on top of the hill and then reluctantly headed down.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the city we had just seen so much of. We did not see too much before we headed back to the hostel to relax and clean up. That night the Brazilians came into Vienna, the English were reved up to party, and it was the Americans last night in the city. The combination of these events lead to a great time and a miserable next day.

All of us invited people we had met out and the group neared thirty people. I had told the Brazilian guys and the Brits so much about each other I was excited that they finally met. Every individual in the group was a hero (to borrow a word from my English friends) so collectively you can only imagine the result.

The next day I went outwith the Brits and their new American friends. They wanted to go to the gardens after hearing so much about them from me and I was not going to complain. I was looking forward to going back. The second experience was just as good as my original one. I met up with the Brazilians later on and decided to follow them to Munich. I booked my spot on the sleeper and my hostel and I was ready to go.

I reluctantly said goodbye to my two English friends and they left for London. I watched the Uruguay vs. Ghana soccer game with the Brazilians and we got ready to go to Munich. That night we got on the sleeper from Wien to Muenchen.

This was a pretty stupid sleeper to book. In fact, I am incredibly confused why the Brazilians decided to take this train. The train ride from vienna to munich is only three or four hours. Sleeper trains usually extend their trips to get into the destination city at a reasonable time, but in this situation the train ride could only be extended to six hours. This gave us about five hours of sleep on a train and got us into Munich at six in the morning. Overall, a terrible idea. I actually got laughed at when I told a German girl in Austria that I was taking a sleeper to Munich. We got off the train a little dreary and had a long day in Munich ahead of us.

Written by davidpaparelli

July 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

Posted in Europe

Boa Noite Budapest

with 4 comments

I am on the train to Vienna right now. A few questions are running through my head as I write this. How did this happen when Vienna wasn’t even close to making my list of cities? Where am I going to stay when I get in the city? Is this a ridiculous move on my trip? Will Dantes be able to get any sort of satisfaction in killing Danglars and Fernand? Well, I think I can answer all of those questions except the last one (I’ll have to finish the book I’m reading to answer that one).

The Brazilian guys I met in Prague told me to send them a message when I got in so we could meet up for the soccer game. I sent them a message well before I got in with my arrival time. With the game about to start and no reply I had to go with a group of people from the hostel to watch the game. The group was lead by one of the people working at the hostel. In the group were two Americans from the Air force Academy and two Londoners. All having recently graduated from university, we had a lot to talk about.

We walked into an outdoor bar of another hostel. It was absolutely packed and we were late to the game so we had trouble getting a view of the tv. Nothing was right about this game. I was late, when I arrived we were already down one goal, and I couldn’t see for a good part of the game. With all this having gone wrong it was only appropriate that we lost the game as well and were eliminated from the World Cup. Disappointed, I bought a hamburger and hung out with the Englishmen and Air force graduates.

Man, what an entertaining group. They all had great stories and great personalities. One of the Englishmen was in a fraternity (not sure what the word is in England) at his uni. This experience yielded some hilarious stories. Even better, since the air force grads were swapping stories with this Englishmen, it almost became a competition to which organization had worse hazing. The Englishmen came pretty close to taking the top spot, but how do you beat the Air Force Academy? I don’t think its possible. It was entertaining watching him get close though.

When we got back to the hostel I finally received a message from my Brazilian friends. They were sorry they couldn’t make it and asked if we could meet up later on. I responded yes, of course. They never responded back. I hung out with the Englishmen the next day because the Brazilians were not responding. We spent the day eating, looking at the largest church in Budapest, and watching soccer. England played Germany in, what was called, payback for 1966.

It was getting close to game time and we had not found a spot to watch the game. None of us knew any bars in the area except for the one we were at the night before so we rushed to the outdoor bar. England lost by three goals. My friends were not surprised, but still decided to drown their sorrows as any good Englishmen would. Somehow we managed to have a better time this night than the last.

The whole night they were trying to convince me to go to Bratislava with them in the morning. The only thing holding me in Budapest was the Brazilian girls I met in Prague told me they wanted to meet up the next day. We had not made any firm plans so I told the Brits that if plans were not made by the morning I would get on the train to Bratislava. When we got home I checked my message and the Brazilians had told me where to meet them and given me their number. As much as I hated to say it, I would have to call that firm plans.

After shouts of “bros before hoes”, cursing, and a handshake the Londoners got on the train to Bratislava without me. Before they left, I promised them I would meet them in Vienna. The bromance (their words not mine) was not over yet. We still had Vienna to look forward to. The boys left me and I left to meet the ladies.

The Brazilian girls and I were meeting at Buda Castle. Some frustration for both parties finally led to us finding each other. We headed for the Cathedral in the center of the Castle from the National Museum where we met. To our right was a beautiful view of Pest so we decided to go take a look. We took pictures and while we were admiring the view I got slapped on the back. I stepped to the side, looked back, and heard a shout in my ear. “Brazil! ” The noise brought a smile to my face. I had just, coincidentally, run into the two Brazilian guys from Budapest! I introduced all of my Brazilian friends and we made for the cathedral again.

I was catching up with one of the Brazilian guys and he told me they were headed to Vienna. They would be staying at the same hostel in the same room as the English guys. It was settled. There was no way I was going to miss Vienna. The room at the hostel only holds six people and five of the spots were taken up by me and my friends. This should make for a great time. The rest of the day we spent looking at the castle and walking around the city.

Since I watched the English game with Englishmen I guess it was only fitting that I watch the Brazil game with Brazilians. That night Brazil played Chile. All my Brazilian friends and I went to the park and watched the game on a huge screen. The atmosphere was filled with songs and beer. Brazil won and I spent the rest of the night celebrating with a Brazilian flag wrapped around me.

Today, I was able to relax after a couple hectic and fun filled days. I woke up, paid the hostel to do my laundry, and went to the famous baths. I got to the baths and got a massage then went to the pool and just relaxed. I was torn away from the warm water because Vienna was calling me. The train is just pulling into Vienna and that is where I will end this post.

Written by davidpaparelli

June 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Europe

Brazilians Everywhere

with one comment

My first day in Prague I slept. I arrived to the hostel too early to check in and decided not to go out and explore the city. The fifteen hour train ride and the little sleep I got on the trip had exhausted me. The wait to check in went quickly because the hostel had a bar and restaurant in it with wifi.

I checked in and finally got to my room. I walked into the room and the window shudders automatically opened and the lights came on showing me clean beds supporting comforters and giant pillows. Since I had stayed in one or two pretty bad hostels I was incredibly happy to find such a comfortable room. I picked my bed and went to sleep.

At around 6:00 pm I woke up to two Brazilians entering the room. They introduced themselves and we talked about our plans for the next day. I did not have plans so I did not have much to talk about. They were going to Prague Castle and that sounded much more exciting than what I had planned. I asked them if I could come along and they happily agreed.

The next day we walked across the Charles Bridge and up the hill to Prague castle. The castle was enormous and yet there wasn’t much to see. The Vitus Cathedral, in the center of the castle, is the most recognizable part of the castle from a distance so not knowing what to do we headed for the large gothic tower.

The line to get into the cathedral was thirty minutes long, but we had to see it so we waited. The exterior of the gothic church was intimidating to say the least. It is dressed in statues with horrified expressions, gargoyles, and dark jagged edges. Thankfully the interior was a little more welcoming.

The paintings and the statues on the inside were colorful and their expressions were more joyful and less terrifying. The cathedral itself was a little strange. It was built over a period of more than five hundred years and you could certainly tell. I felt like I had just walked into the Russian doll of churches. There was a church inside of a church inside of a church. The whole thing was open air, but you could see each specific church and the different architectural styles and statues within the large building. There is even a couple statues of people in twentieth century suits because the building was finished in the 1900’s and the architects felt like they needed to commemorate themselves. It was interesting to see five hundred years of progress even though Vitus is not the most beautiful cathedral in Europe.

After the Vitus Cathedral we explored the rest of the castle grounds. We saw the changing of the guard and bought tickets to see ‘the story of Prague Castle exhibit’, the old royal palace, and the convent. It was good that we bought tickets to the exhibit because a large part of the royal palace was taken up by the exhibit. If we did not go to the exhibit we would have missed a lot of the royal palace. This wouldn’t have been too bad because the palace wasn’t much to see.

The palace wasn’t very large and only had a few rooms. I was looking forward to the exhibit because I do not know very much Czech history and I figured this would catch me up. After having spent five days in Prague I can say that I still don’t know very much Czech history. I read through the Exhibit, saw pictures, watched a movie, and saw animations and the history is so confusing and hectic I could barely remember any of it. Next to the old royal palace is the convent so naturally we headed into it.

I told you in my last post that I was going to avoid national galleries and try and do other things. Well Prague Castle was in the ‘other things’ category. When we entered the convent, I was horrified to find the national gallery. The convent houses the national gallery. The Brazilians and I briskly walked through most of it. I did stop to look at a few paintings. Most of the paintings were beautiful landscapes of old Bohemia. They showed what life was like and what the country used to be. It ended up being a good thing that we stumbled upon the gallery because I learned more about Czech history from these paintings than I did from anything else on the trip.

Once we were outside the national gallery we looked at each other and knew that it was time to leave Prague Castle. So after three hours, we moved down the hill, saw some of the gorgeous views of the city the castle had to offer and headed towards the hostel.

We had to get back to the hostel because the U.S. was playing Algeria soon. This game was going to decide if we were going to move to the next round of the world cup. The two Brazilians and I walked into a private room, apart of the hostels restaurant, to watch the game. The room was full of Americans ready to watch the U.S. win after such a long and unfair world cup so far. In additional time the team finally scored to make the final score 1-0. The room exploded! People started flipping tables and chairs, hugging, jumping up and down, and of course yelling at the top of their lungs. The owner had no idea what to do and neither did the American fans. We just won our group and were moving onto the second round!

I stayed at the bar for dinner and then watched the next world cup matches that decided who we would play next. I met a couple of Canadian girls who said they were doing the free walking tour of the city the next day and they offered for me to come along. So the next day I met up with them and we walked to the old town to begin our tour.

The walking tour was fantastic. The German tour guide was the perfect mixture of hilarious and informative. The tour was four hours and he managed to keep everyone interested the entire time. We saw the famous astronomical clock, several squares, the historical Jewish part of town, and the Charles Bridge. The history of Prague became a little more clear on this tour, but I would still call it unclear in my mind, just less unclear. The best part of the tour was the German’s emotional and sympathetic story about the Jewish Museum/Synagogue, which I was going to go to the next day. The tour finished and I left my two new Canadian friends.

I started walking along the river back to the hostel and I ran into a guy from Mexico City I met the night before. He was sitting on a bench, relaxing, and looking out at the river. After walking for four hours, this looked great and I joined him. Looking out on Prague Castle and Charles Bridge was almost as good as giving my legs a rest. Motivating myself to move, I got up and, again, headed back to the Hostel.

I was almost back in the hostel and I ran into the two Brazilians I hung out with the day before. This is how my entire time in Prague was. No matter where I went I would somehow run into someone I knew and through the people I knew I would meet more people. I think by the time I left the hostel I had met twenty people, probably ten of which were Brazilians. Anyway, I told the Brazilians I would meet up with them later too watch the football match and continued on to see if I could actually get back to my room.

The next morning my two Brazilian friends left for Budapest and I went to see the synagogue the German tour guide talked so passionately about. He was right when he said that it was the one thing everyone should see in Prague. The synagogue is now a museum and it pays tribute to the Czech Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. This was the most heart wrenching holocaust museum I had ever been to.

The 100,000 names of the Holocaust victims lace the walls of the synagogue. When you see the walls the number of people killed is no longer just a number. I started to read the names and where the people were from and they became real people to me. I was no longer able to distance myself from the event. If seeing the names wasn’t enough, the museum also contains a gallery of art made by children in concentration camps. The children were encouraged to draw by the older Jews as a form of therapy. Most of the pictures were not of Nazi’s or Terezin (the concentration camp), but they were of their homes and old lives that they would never return to. Holocaust museums have always contained a powerful message, but this one, in particular, had a powerful delivery. Somber and reflective, I once again walked back to the hostel.

I walked up to my room and found the two girls that replaced the two Brazilian guys. I asked them where they were from and, sure enough, they were from Brazil. Well I had such a good time with all the other Brazilians I met I figured why stop now. They invited me to get some food with them and I ended up hanging out with them the rest of the night.

Today, I said good bye to my newer Brazilian friends, knowing that I would probably see both sets of Brazilian friends again in Budapest, and hopped on a train to Budapest. It has been a gorgeous train ride so far, taking me past fields of flowers, mediaeval castles, and old towns. When I started writing this lengthy post I actually felt kind of bad that I was not enjoying the view. After seeing how long this post became I realize that it is good I took the time. If I would have waited another day I think I would have had to publish it as a novel. Well, if you made it this far you are probably one of the few. I hope this one was worth it and thanks for reading.

Written by davidpaparelli

June 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Europe

The Royal Wedding

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Well, I made it to the royal wedding. Not the actually wedding, I would not be staying in a hostel if I was invited, but the festivities. I use the word festivities because that is what the Swedish government called it. The festivities during the day consisted of sitting or standing outside for several hours waiting for the wedding to end and the new prince and princess to make a lap around the city. I was not sure when the wedding was supposed to end so I waited and waited and waited some more. I was sitting on the lake right outside the National Museum facing the Royal Palace. I gave up after a few hours and found a large screen to watch the wedding on. They were just getting to their vows.

The prince and princess were successfully married, left the church and got into their carriage. I rushed back to my spot to see if I could get a good view. The seat was taken, but the view was the same. I probably should not have sat there for three hours waiting to see the over publicized caravan because I was able to get the same view by just walking up. So I got to my spot and the waiting began again.

Once again I waited and waited and waited. What seemed like two hours later the couple got off their carriage and onto a boat to see the city by water. All of a sudden the battle ship across the lake, which I thought was a museum and is apparently a working ship, started blasting off its cannons. Victoria and Daniel rounded the corner and started waving to the thousands of people waiting for them. I successfully saw the couple and took some pictures. They entered the palace and I left feeling a little disappointed.

Seemed like a waste of a day to me, but all the women in the waiting audience loved it. The Germans, especially, were extremely excited. I personally did not understand the whole thing. The people of Sweden did not seem happy about the wedding and so it became a festival for tourists. Coming to Sweden I thought that it would be for the people of Sweden, but like I said before, the wedding ended up being for the Germans I think. I needed to cheer my self up after the wasted day so I went to a real smorgasbord.

In going to one I found out what it is. A smorgasbord is a five course meal starting with a cold section, then deli meat and cheese, then fruits and bread, then hot foods, and finally desert. It is served like a buffet. My smorgasbord included raw fish, shrimp, pot roast, potatoes, reindeer deli meat, Swedish meatballs and some great deserts. It was incredibly expensive but if you are in Stockholm it is worth doing. A little happier and a lot poorer I went back to the navy vessel I called home.

When I got back to my room I started talking to two German girls about the wedding. They were just as ecstatic about it as the rest of the German population. They had bought post cards, mugs, and stolen flowers. Unlike me, they had a great time. Both girls invited me to the night time events and we agreed to meet up in a couple hours. This gave me time to watch some soccer and them time to buy more memorabilia.

We met up and they had invited an Australian girl as well. So we all left for the free concert Stockholm was having in Gustav Square. The concert was three D.J.’s and the only one I knew was Basement Jax but I had a good time. It was definitely an experience. I had finally found where all the Swedes were who were not at the wedding. The rowdy crowd kept me thinking that this is probably not what King Gustav had in mind for his memorial. Being at the concert, I was up late enough to see the sunset and the sunrise.

This was one of the coolest and most surreal parts of my trip. The sun set in Stockholm at 1:00 and it rose at 2:00. The sun does not actually fully set. Twilight becomes dusk and the evening fades to the morning. It was great to see and hard to describe. I made it to bed by 2:30 and fell asleep immediately.

The next morning I packed up because I was leaving Stockholm. I had time to do one thing before I left and I decided to go to the National Museum. I ate breakfast with the Australian and two Germans and then moved on to the Museum while the Germans stayed behind to mail wedding picture plastered postcards to their various family members.

The National Museum had a few Rembrandts in it and a feature on the royal family. I think I have started losing interest in National museums and need to do other things in cities. It was great to see some of the paintings, but I felt the energy sucked out of me right when I walked in. Well, I enjoyed what I could of the museum and headed to the train station.

I got on the train to Lund which lead to the overnight train to Berlin. The Berlin train was awesome. The train travels for an hour or so then enters a huge cargo ship. The cargo ship takes the train to Germany. Once on the ship you can get out of the train and the boat has great views, a buffet, a convenience store, and multiple tv’s. Its a great way to travel. I got to Berlin at six in the morning and absolutely exhausted I tried to find my train to Prague.

It was hard to sleep on the train to Germany because the train was powered down and the cabin became unbearably hot. I only slept for two hours and had to catch up on some sleep on the way to Prague. I found an empty cabin and passed out. Every time I woke up I found a new person in the cabin. I didn’t pay too much attention to them and went back to sleep. I made it to Prague and found the hostel without a problem.

I am really excited about this hostel. It is better than a lot of hotels I have stayed in and is cheaper than any hostel I have been to. Prague seems to be that way though. Everything is incredibly nice and incredibly cheap.

 

Written by davidpaparelli

June 22, 2010 at 8:25 am

Posted in Europe

I’m on a Boat

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I changed hostels in Stockholm yesterday because I wanted to give the famous Rygerfjord Hostel/Hotel a shot before I left. The hostel is a boat. It sits in the lake and offers great views of Stockholm along with a unique experience. The things I had read about Stockholm told me this was the place to stay.

On the way to Rygerfjord I had to stop and pick up my train tickets to Prague. I had a good cheap hostel already booked in Prague so I was praying that I could get a ticket that would get me there on Monday for my reservation. Everything worked out! I thought I would definitely be changing my hostel reservation based on train availability or times. The three trains I needed to get to Prague were all open. What a relief, but a part of me was disappointed because I would be leaving Stockholm in two days. The tickets were booked and the reservations were made and I was off to find the docked boat.

This must have been the easiest hostel to find. I knew the general area it was in and all I had to do was follow the water. I am in a twelve bed dorm and as you can imagine it is a little tight. It has been relatively comfortable so I can’t complain too much. My biggest complaint is that I keep hitting my head on everything. Windows, ceilings, plumbing pipes, shower heads, fire sprinklers, and the list goes on. If I make it out of here with only a minor concussion I will call this stay a success. With all this going on I have to say the view does not disappoint.

The left side of the boat faces Gamlastan (the historic center), the central line, city hall, and all the things that go along with them. I stayed up until almost 1 AM and saw the sunset. It remained light but I’m pretty sure the sun had set. I got to the hostel at around noon and had a general plan for that day.

I decided to give my bike card a try. Stockholm has city bike posts everywhere. To get access is really cheap and it is a quick and easy way to get around. They give you a card and you scan it at one of the posts, the machine will tell you which number bike to grab, you take it and you are on your way. You can return it to any of the city’s bike racks. Instead of public transportation or walking I thought this would be a good way to see the city.

I biked around four or five islands and managed to end up on Djurgarden. Djurgarden is the most touristed island in Stockholm and definitely the most beautiful. The entire island is a city park. There are a lucky few who live on the island, but there houses do not get in the way of the greenery or the views. I am going to try and get back to Djurgarden before I leave Stockholm to see the open air museum dominating the center of the island. I biked around this island and took some pictures before i had to head off to find a pub to watch the US soccer game.

What a game! We were down by two goals going into half time. Landon Donovan drove the team to an amazing come back and we should have won. Bad officiating cost us the game. Luckily, later on that night I watched the England game and they tied as well. So the USA has control of their own destiny in the next match against Algeria. Hope to get to the next round is remarkably still alive. Let’s not blow it.

The royal wedding is today. The princess of Sweden and her personal trainer are getting married and this event happens only every forty years so I should probably go join the festivities at Love Stockholm 2010. The updates will keep coming and I hope that my hostel in Prague has good wifi to make this possible.

Written by davidpaparelli

June 19, 2010 at 8:35 am

Posted in Europe