Looking Back, Facing Forward — Wrapping Up Around the World


Everywhere, minus NYC, that we consider part of our adventure.

It’s been two months since we arrived back in the states from our whirlwind adventure and, boy, does coming home feel good! I’ve been asked by many to finish up my blog posts and a few have lamented my lack of updates toward the end. Apologies for that! The faster we moved the less I was drawn toward writing as it was most important to soak up every last little drop of Europe. Pairing that with our lovely, yet slowed down community focused time in Scotland, and we just couldn’t be drawn into the computer long enough.

Brussels square selfie

Now, we have plenty of quiet time to reflect on our trip abroad and share stories from the road. We also have time to admire souvenirs, tear up over pictures, and crunch some numbers.

Here’s a recap of the journey by the numbers:

345 Days on the road
27 Countries visited
12.6 Days average spent in each country
52 Cities visited 

28 Flights taken
5 Overnight Trains and Buses slept in
65 Beds slept in
1 Hospital stay
2 Work Exchanges
51 ATM Withdrawls
40 Museum visits

$95.01 Dollars per day spent on average

$32,493.42 Spent in total between the two of us

Our trip wasn’t undertaken as a way to showcase all the achievements we accomplished. We don’t do this to earn a “Participation Trophy” in the World Travelers Club. Rather, I’m providing these figures as a different way to visualize the adventure.

Buddhist wisdom

Our original budget was 30K between us, which we gave ourselves 10% +/- wiggle room, figuring we’d be on the plus side of that equation. We are pretty proud of ourselves for not going drastically over budget. It did mean we didn’t treat (most) of the trip like a vacation, and we missed many, many places and activities. In exchange, we mastered the art of settling and being flexible, along with being even more grateful for the little things. Neither of us have been ones to keep a budget at home, so this was a good lesson in long-term financing, which is useful when you’re trying to decide do you want the latte or to save for the mortgage payment?

Indonesian bills

Only once did we leave any accommodation during the entire trip. In Austria, we escaped our Airbnb due to it being a completely unlivable situation. Think of a place crawling with dirt, people, cats, and bong residue. Leaving granted us a pass to say, “Screw it!” and splurge on a nice hotel in Vienna. The bathrobes, free Viennese chocolates, and half priced drinks at the bar made up for the stress of the last place.  Overall, despite a few outstanding grimey spots,  every one of our accommodations were livable and many were beyond comfortable, moving into downright luxurious for the price we paid. On average, factoring in just days away/total spent on accommodations, we spent about $25 per day to sleep somewhere at night throughout the entire trip.

Kochi, India, street art

Monetarily,  when you take in the costs of living a normal life, you most likely spent more in the past year than Jason and I did by the simple nature of living in America. Between rent, your car payment, social activities, student loans… It all adds up and you don’t even realize where the money goes. Please know, I’m not saying this is therefore feasible for all/anyone to take on this kind of trip. Most people cannot drop everything and go. Almost everyone has or has had suffocating student loans to contend with.  You have outstanding obligations that means a great deal to you, keeping you where you are. For all of your reasons why this is infeasible to you, Jason and I have our reasons why this was achievable for us. No judgement either way.

We didn’t stay in any castles on our trip, but aren’t they just lovely to look at? In Ireland.

The two questions I get most often are:

  1. What’s your favorite place?
  2. Would you do it again?

First off, I completely understand the first question because it’s a great conversation starter. Jason hates it when I ask him about “favorites”; he doesn’t really believe in that concept. Favoriting something can devalue the wider scope of what you’re considering.  However, after answering this dozens of times, I can tell you my go to answer is Rome. It was stunning. We were only there a few days, so we never got bored and we hardly slept. We met a fun Canadian traveler by the parthenon late one night and shared a random bottle of wine. Our Airbnb was basically a quirky closet sized room with a bathroom for $60 per night, but the host was warm and Korean and the place was clean and comfy. We said thank you to him in Korean, which felt good. When we came and left our flights were at odd hours, so we stayed at a literal B&B by the airport where an Italian grandmother talked our ears off and did her best to get us to understand her. We got a hug from her in the end! In Rome, the food is Italian, need I say more? For anyone who wants to make their first trip to Europe an accessible one I recommend Rome. Even if you get a menu completely in Italian you’ll probably be able to order because the words are so common to us and the people were all very kind to us silly tourists. The history, the architecture, the atmosphere. It’s all there. Go to Rome.

My Roman love.

Would we do it again? Would I do it again? No. Not like this. Not ever again. Will I travel again? As soon as I’m able.  I’m already trying to figure out how to visit friends in distant states. But, this long term, hop from city-to-city on a tight budget that leaves you wanting to do and see more while forcing you to move – move – move isn’t what I want. I’d love to spend a few months working on a farm, then travel a little, then work somewhere else for a bit, then travel, etc. Jason and I are already dreaming of a trip out West, and we’ve talked about how super cool it would be to get work visas for New Zealand or Australia and work there for a year. We’re ready to go back to the UK and Ireland and rent a car to see the countryside and not rely on expensive buses. We both want to travel, we’re both energized by it, but not anything like this ever again.

From my favorite museum — Globes Museum in Vienna

By the trip’s end Jason was ready to go home and I was reluctant to leave. He was drained, tired, and craving routine. I was loving Europe, but my body and mind were telling each other different stories. My anxiety was reaching epic proportions. I had several panic attacks throughout the trip. I contended with racing heart beats and difficulty breathing. During the final three weeks of our trip I was ill with a persistent cough that wouldn’t respond to over-the-counter treatment. Travel wore me down, even when I wouldn’t admit to it.

Tired, in Barcelona, but happy

Now we’re settling in, seeking work, processing the adventure, and planning our wedding. How’s the adjustment going? Like everything else the answer isn’t simple. Jason is living in Harrisburg, PA, with his parents and I’m in Pasadena, MD, so we’re apart, which makes wedding planning extra hard. I’m putting in a new job application every other day and not having great successes getting interviews. It’s a patience process, which I’m not great at. With all my extra time I’d love to get into a hobby, but the best I’ve done is pick up a few library books. Seeing Lindsey and baby Charlie each week has been good for the three of us, I think. It’s amazing how quickly newborns grow and change! Overall, I’m a little stir crazed already, so let’s hang out!

The question I wish more people would ask me is: What’s your biggest lesson overall?  It’s a personal question, so I don’t fault their reluctance to ask, but I want to share my thoughts anyway. Here’s the thing: People are people. While we feel more comfortable covering them in labels, shrouding them in stereotypes, and finding whatever creative ways we can to make them an “other”, they’re still the same as us underneath. At the end of the day, people want to be with their families, work hard, feel useful, and be happy. It’s not complicated. There are exceptions, but this is the rule. When I think about all the “isms” we have it makes me weepy. When I see someone transcend their cultural norms to treat someone outside their group as they would their own kin, I become even more weepy, but in a much healthier way. It’s a tough world, everyone struggles. Be kind.

Another lesson I learned is, even in places we consider 3rd world or impoverished, technology abounds. People are on their smart phones. Skyscrapers and office parks are all over the place. Remote villages aside, a city is a city. That means there are hardly any pristine parcels of land where the wildlife roams unabated. It’s mostly a fantasy. This fact also jolts me into knowing climate change is real, because the human impact is far greater than we can see in our daily lives, but extrapolate it the world over and intensify it for these less advanced countries and we’ve got some real problems. Witnessing how humans can carelessly interact with their environments kills me and makes me want to do something to fix it, but I don’t know what.

My final lesson is a reaffirmation of what I already know: family and friends are the glue that keeps me together. I love Jason, clearly I do, but it isn’t healthy to isolate yourself with your partner for so long. You can’t take a step back and breath. You are forced to work together when you really don’t care for the other person, which can help in some aspects of conflict resolution, but in the end I believe we need social support structures to keep all of our relationships fresh and healthy. So, while I’d love to live in a far off land, I think I’d go crazy. Some people can do it, I can do it for a time, but in the long term I need a community in which we can mutually care for one another.

Sun is setting, transition is here, we’re ready for what comes in the next year.

Thanks for following along on the adventure. It was a pleasure to have you join us on our journey. Hope to see you soon!

Roman street art

Chapter ended. Book complete.  

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Spin Again! — Traveling from Ireland to Back Home


Let’s continue on our journey through Western Europe. You are now arriving in Dublin, Ireland! Please keep your seatbelts fastened until the aircraft has come to a complete stop. We hope you enjoyed your flight. Welcome to Ireland!

Ireland, every inch of Ireland, is an overflowing flower pot.

All the streets, in all the towns we went in Ireland, embrace the rains and plant vibrantly colored flowers on buildings, sidewalks, and in every nook and cranny they can, just to brighten up your day. But, no matter how vibrant, all the beautiful flowers in the world couldn’t compare to seeing my mom and Aunt Monica for the first time in 10 months! Before Jason and I left we made a plan to meet with my mom in Ireland sometime in 2017. In February, it was decided we’d do a week long tour from Dublin to Shannon with Aunt Monica, our resident photographer and ever cheerful compadre. Ireland, unlike Germany, is a place where I really do hold heritage and it was fun to see my mom’s maiden name in various locations throughout the country.

The tour was jam packed and we always felt like we were on the move, so I’m very grateful we schedule a day before and after to chill out together before moving on. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher was a check off the old bucket list, as was having a Guinness and listening to Irish music in a poorly lit pub. Dirty old town. It’s amazing how much of one country you can see in a little more than a week. Next time, we’ll move at our own pace, and revisit all little spots we fell in love with.

The cliffs, the cliffs are calling…

Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is home.

Life on the farm

Before leaving Ireland I was feeling pretty stressed out. We’d been traveling for so bloody long and felt drained, lonely, and done. In December of 2016, a women in Scotland reached out to us on WorkAway and asked if we’d like to stay with them over the summer of 2017. We were in the process of looking for a place to work/live in Australia, so work-trade was already top of mind. I reviewed the profile and thought it felt like a great fit for us, so I said yes and we planned the entirety of our time in Europe around being in Scotland for mid-July through early August. As the time approached to do our WorkAway I felt very resistant to going, but we’d made a commitment so go we went.

Harry and Raffles — Donkey friends

After spending two days in Glasgow, mostly getting Jason a raincoat, we took a bus up the Scottish countryside all the way to the tip top of the country, by the North Sea. There, we were greeted by Mike, one of our hosts for the next three weeks. Him and Rosie have a smallholding operation with a variety of animals, garden products, and lots of land to manage. They share the property with Rosie’s dad, a charming and energetic 90 something year old man with early stages Alzheimer’s, and their four dogs: Jasper, Maddie, Sprout, and Ruby. There’s also Raffles and Harry, the donkeys, Tino and Emily, the unique sheep, and Huey, Dewy, and Lewy, the more common sheep, plus a boatload of chickens.

Top Left: went to a county fair that had a car show as part of it. Top right: Took Jason to a scotch distillery for his birthday and this is the view from the distillery door. Bottom left: squinty selfie on the beach of the North Sea. Bottom right: well groomed horse from the fair.

Rosie and Mike provided more than just a place to stay and meals to eat during our Scottish days — they became lifelong friends of Jason and myself. They love having a big group of people around their table for meals, sharing stories and jokes. They love to joke and Mike has the best sense of humor. Generally, they have four WorkAways at a time living in their home. This meant, for Jason and I, that we met four new friends from the world over in addition to our hosts. Jodie is an early 50’s “retired” dentist from Colorado, traveling with a mission to care for animals and see the world. Vicki is a nurse from Australia who had been living in the UK for years, and decided she needed a break, so she quit her job and started working on the farm. Laura is training to be a vet and is a spunky Spaniard. She was looking to improve her English skills and so was Steffi, a German economist turned school teacher. These last two came at the same time and formed a tight bond, which Jason and I enjoyed being part of as well.

Left: Jazzy J the terrier standing guard. Top Right: My poor cake. Bottom Right: A walk in the woods.

Jason celebrated his birthday while we were in Scotland and I made him a terrible cake. Now that I’m obsessed with the Great British Bake Off I’m even more embarrassed with myself! No one seemed to mind though and the tacos Jason and I made together were a smashing hit! Rosie and I formed a tight bond. We have some unique  similarities and she is so exceptional at being a great listener and asker of important questions. I miss her very much.

While I’d love to tell you more about our time in Scotland, I’ll wrap it up with a little musing that sums up how it felt to go:

It’s a great honor to be heartbroken
It’s a privilege to give your heart away
To love without limits
To give while knowing it’s over too soon
A blessing and a curse

We were so lucky to have so many rainbows

Barcelona, Spain, is architecture alive.

The details that lace the building take my breath away. While I have no religion, being here makes me want to run my hands along the doorways and pray.

Barcelona is a stamped out grid shaped city, which you can clearly see from above, but in the streets it doesn’t feel as sterile as that sounds. In fact, one particular architect helped shape much of Barcelona’s unique structure, Gaudi. Inspired by both God and nature, Gaudi’s work is still under construction today at La Sagrada Familia, a church that will take 145 years in total to construct. We didn’t think we’d be able to visit after stopping by on Thursday and being told tickets weren’t available till Sunday, but we were able to grab two and step inside this masterpiece.

Sangria after La Sagrada Familia

Tapas — every meal should be tapas. Small, sharable, bite-sized snacks eaten with an alcoholic beverage. They’re everywhere in Barcelona. Other enviable cultural traits include relaxed work and sleeping schedules. Siestas are real and alive in Spain, making for a happier populous. Having a beach in the city isn’t too shabby either. It was Jason and my first topless beach experience and, my goodness, was it eye-opening!

Top Left: gothic church. Bottom Left: meat snack! Top Right: leg of ham. There’s a ham museum in Barcelona, so they take this very seriously. Top Middle: Auto garage door. Most garage doors are painted with murals, so this is a common sight. Bottom Right: dragon in a church

Barcelona has the world’s greatest street art, in my humble opinion. As you have most likely noticed, it’s a hobby of mine to photograph street art in every city I go. The caliber and abundance of Barcelona’s street art is rivaled by none other.

I could do a post completely dedicated to street art.

As most of you know, Barcelona suffered a tragic terrorist attack four days after we left. What you most likely didn’t know is the day after the attacks La Rambla, where the attacker plowed his car into a group of people, overflowed with even more individuals that ever thought possible. La Rambla is the main tourist street in Barcelona and they did not let terrorism win after the deadly attack took place. My heart goes out to Spain.

Arc de Triomphe in Barcelona (not Paris)

Bordeaux, France, is rosé.

Top Left: Beautiful lighting at night. Top Right: Grapes are a way of life and a clothing choice. Bottom Left: narrow alleyways. Bottom Right: French dining is the best dining

Bordeaux is a place I felt necessary to visit so that I could learn to better appreciate wine. I realize saying this is akin to saying, “I went to the bakery to appreciate cookies and cakes.” Unless you’re broken, you should appreciate some cookies and cakes and, unless my tastebuds don’t work, I’ll appreciate wine in Bordeaux. While red wine isn’t my thing, rosé is! In the states, rosé seems to be a lesser wine, but not so in most of Europe and especially not in France. God bless the French, for all of their wines range from perfectly palatable to downright mind blowing.

Pink to red and to the head!

Bordeaux isn’t solely about wine, it’s also about food. French food. Do you know who created fine dining? The French. Hate them for whatever jealous reasons you may have, but the French know how to eat, drink, and be alive. While not every meal was the greatest, we did have some unbelievable food throughout France. Like mussels and escargot and pork belly and steak tartar… Sadly, because we went in August, the best restaurants were closed so their chefs could go on vacation. Good for them, poor for us, but that just gives us yet another reason to return.

Top: Who doesn’t love a carousel? Bottom left: these naked man statues were all over the place. Bottom Right: Our first two bottles of vino

We found a great cooperative space in Bordeaux. It had workspaces for various professions, from offices to auto mechanics, and included a restaurant and art space. There was an art installation about cruelty to animals that really hit home. All of the street art here was strikingly well done! Heaven!

Climax co-op space

Paris, France, is pure romance.

A postcard from Paris. To you, with love, from me.

Ending our trip in Paris always felt like the right decision. Cities the entire world over want to be Paris. They sell memorabilia that resembles Paris. People wear hats and shirts with Paris sparkled all over them, with no regard to whether the wearer has visited or not. Nowhere comes close to the fan fair Paris gets. It’s the most iconic city in the world, with NYC following close behind. We had to visit. Plus, Paris had the best flight deal home, so it won by default.

Paris is a city you have to cram everything into because there are endless possibilities. While we were only in Paris four days, one of which was our travel day back to the US so we did nothing but get lunch, we kept busy. We visited the Louvre, the Catacombs, Notre-Dame, Moulin Rouge, Père Lachaise, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysee, and of course, the Eiffel Tower. All in three days.

Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die… But instead of saying all of your goodbyes…

My one request for Paris was the Catacombs. Paris has miles of hidden underground tunnels connecting the streets of the ancient city.  A portion of these tunnels are home to millions of skeletal remains. These skeletons are arranged in delicate patterns, honoring the dead, and serving as a tour of a different time. The walls of the catacombs are lined with bible verses and French phrases and poetry, which I couldn’t read very well but could feel their sentiments of mourning and revere. In a similar vein, Jason wanted to see Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise cemetery, since it has that rockstar appeal. In fact, several famous people are buried here and many of the gravesites are intricately decorated, making for a great walking spot.

Various tombs at Père Lachaise. The Egyptian looking one is Oscar Wilde’s.

We spent seven hours in total in the Louvre, a museum I was ambivalent about going to at first. Who doesn’t want to go to the Louvre?! My main concern is I didn’t care about the Mona Lisa (Ah. Shocking!). It’s fine, but it’s a great deal of hype. Jason put it best, “It’s a nice painting.” In reality, the Louvre is far more than a single painting. It’s art from all over the world and in our seven hours we only saw about 20% of the museum. 10/10 would go again and try to see another 20% or so.

We did it! Bink!

While it seems like we couldn’t fit anything else into our time in Paris, we were able to check one more box off of our collective bucket lists. After visiting the Eiffel tower, Jason insisted we head to Champs-Elysee, the main shopping street of Paris. As we walked, his palms were very sweaty. We were trying to check in for our flight back home and I wasn’t sure if he was nervous about that or something else… After a few moments Jason tells me we’re going ring shopping. OK, let’s do this!

How beautiful is that tower? Never gets old.

When you’ve been with someone for 4.5 years, you don’t just get engaged on a whim. At least, Jason and I don’t. We spend months/years talking about it, deciding what our lives will look like, and ensuring we both have a place in our hearts and homes for one another.  So, after about an hour of completely unsuccessful ring shopping, something we’d actually never done before, I told him let’s try at home. Ring shopping is something that I now see often happens over weeks, not minutes. We’re both loathful shoppers, so the whole process drained us, but we gave it the old college try.

Locks. None is Jason and mine. That’s OK by us.

Later that night, after drinking my first real glass of champagne and dining on French bread paired with cured meats and cheeses, we were walking along the waterfront gazing up at the Eiffel Tower as it brilliantly sparkled. Jason takes the ring I wear everyday from my finger, ensures he sets the lighting just right, drops to one knee, and asks me to marry him. I said yes.

The happy couple earlier that day

The next day we headed home. Home to America at least. We flew into NYC first and met up with Jason’s parents. These two adorable people rented us a hotel room, brought us celebratory bubbly, fully equipped with glasses and ice, and bought us pizza. While we were away, Jason’s mother made a chainlink out of paper that marked the date and number of days we were away. It has 342 links in total, one for each day we were gone. They’re some of the most kind and thoughtful people in the world.

That’s it. I have one more final recap to post, then the blog comes to a close. I hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did!

When one door closes, you know what they say…. Take a picture if it’s a nice looking door!

 

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Spinning the Globe — Going from Vienna to Amsterdam


Spin me!

Hello followers! Last I left you we were in Hungary, sharing how Budapest wasn’t exactly as we’d expected. I don’t want to skip any of our journey, so let me share a word or two about each of the other European countries we spent time in during the past few months.

Vienna, Austria, is a sculpted masterpiece.

It’s in the top 5 most beautiful cities in the world for me

It’s as if the city streets themselves are a museum in Vienna. Details on the sculptures around the city are vibrant and create a story in your mind, capturing more than a stagnant moment. While here, Jason and I indulged in currywurst from street carts and ate apple strudel in memory of my dad. Viennese coffee has whipped cream on top, in case you wanted to know what indulgence tastes like.  Nearly next to our hotel was a 50 tap craft beer bar that almost featured Flying Dog (they were out when we were there). While hanging by the bar we saw a guy wearing a Capitals sports team hat. Jason asked which sport the Capitals are and he said hockey. Fun! The US and Czech Republic seem to have the same idea for great team names. Ha! Travel magic.

One of the world’s oldest amusement parks

Vienna has one of the oldest amusement parks in the world and, while we didn’t ride any rides or play any games, it was a treat just to walk through this treasure. It was made in the days of World’s Fairs. Why don’t we do those anymore? Le Sigh.

Other Viennese activities including strolling by Freud and Mozart’s homes and going to a museum completely dedicated to globes of the world. It We only stayed a few days, with an entire evening spent mulling over whether we leave our shitty Airbnb or not, but that just meant we got to have a beer at an adorable bar and played “Let’s learn English!” with our bartender. She said/motioned that she had something that would make us more comfortable. What it was, we weren’t sure, but when she finally brought it out for us we told her it was a “seat cushion”. She laughed, waved her hand, and said that wasn’t a word she’d be remembering. I don’t blame her, how often do you use the words “seat cushion”? She was adorable and the bar was Native American themed, so all was right in the world.

Fried and fatty food delights! Apple streusel, pork schnitzel, and chicken cordon blue.

Krakow, Poland, is a craft beer lover’s haven.

Panorama of Europe’s largest square

Krakow is a city we weren’t sure about. We thought we’d have to choose between here and Vienna, but the stars aligned and we were able to go to both! Krakow has a booming craft beer scene that we absolutely did not expect. They love the microbrew culture far more than any other country we went to, minus possibly Belgium, but the feel here is different than there regardless. The town square in Krakow is the largest in Europe and, my goodness, if you want to feel like you’re in an old European city you get that fully there. We made it a point to have pierogies several times, but we never drank any Polish vodka. Probably better that way!

We met up a friend from home and had an amazing night with Craig while he was on his Eastern European tour. It was so nice to see a familiar face. Most people think you come to Krakow to jump off and go to Auschwitz. There’s so much more here than a concentration camp. It has multiple layers of history and beauty. Krakow is an underrated destination that I’d love to visit again.

Prague, Czech Republic, lives up to the hype.

Beautiful blue Prague skies

This artsy, busy, quirky city still manages to be fairly affordable. Our Airbnb was the pinnacle of charming, although getting in the right room was an adventure! After a 6 hour train from Krakow we made our way through downtown to a tram that we just could not figure out how to purchase tickets for. That left us walking with our packs in the heat up a tall hill for miles until we found our apartment building. When we walked up a women who spoke only a few English words said, “Where are you from?” We said, “We have an Airbnb.” She said, “Follow” and took us to an indescribably small apartment that didn’t remind me of any reservation we’d made. After a few minutes I said to Jason, “This isn’t right! We have to find our host!” We connected to the apartment’s wifi and sent a quick message to our host who told me she was waiting outside. Great! We found her right away and checked into our perfect little abode. After learning the basics we devised a plan to get the keys to the other couple who must be wondering where their Airbnb host is. We walked out to the drive and, with perfect timing, a young British couple walks up looking for their apartment. I yelped, “Have we got a story for you!” and promptly showed them to their room. Jason and I were both a flutter with excitement, but neither of these two seemed to find the situation nearly as funny or entertaining as we did. Their loss! In the end everyone had what they paid for and we got a great travel story to share.

Pano of Prague

The thing I love most about Prague is it’s a tied layer cake. With the coming of every historical era, Prague stacked building after building firmly on top of itself, giving a literal depth to this city. Our Airbnb was situated very closely to a large park with beautiful vistas, a weird art museum, and a woodland gay bar. Looking back on places like this, it’s hard to believe they exist, that I got to see them, and that I’m not still there still today!

That look when you find a random craft beer festival. We were just going to the farmer’s market! Thanks, Prague!

Berlin, Germany, is fresh.

Green beer! Berliner weisse and burgers.

Berlin is newer than many European cities and even newer than some in America. The sad truth is it was basically bombed to the ground during WWII. This tragedy laid the fodder for a progressive outcry and vibrant art scene. This was my second time in Germany, having went to Munich years ago, but first time in Berlin. Being in these places feels like going to separate countries. The contrast is like time traveling in some ways, as Munich wants to preserve that old world feel and Berlin couldn’t even if it tried. Even though it’s been proven wrong through ancestry reports, I grew up believing I had a deep German heritage. You can’t erase that thought from your childhood, or the memory of all those beer steins that lined your kitchen counters. Germany, now as much as ever, holds a special place in my heart. (We’re Norwegian, by the way!)

Being beer people, we did enjoy sampling the more traditional varieties of brews. German beer purity laws, Reinheitsgebot, are to be taken very seriously and have been existence since 1519. The law states that only water, barley and hops may be used to brew beer. How Berliner weiss (green beer above) came to be is another story. We didn’t find any big Munich style beer halls in Berlin, but we did find a few artsy spots and smaller breweries that tickled our fancy. Beer and BBQ, yes please!

Various works of art in Berlin. Top Left: from German Museum of Industry, Bottom Left: Native American nuclear street art. Top Right: punk JFK street art. Middle Right: artistic co-op. Bottom Right: Das Monsterkabinett

Brussels, Belgium, means business.

Brussels is where the European Union is headquartered and the whole city seems to have an aura of seriousness. Stupidly, Belgium wasn’t originally on our list, but after mapping out our European route we thought we had to go and drink some of the world’s greatest beers. So, we split our time between here and the Netherlands and dug into Belgium brews, chocolate, waffles, and fries. We didn’t realize how many of our favorite foods originated from Belgium until we were there! The Belgium waffles, made on the street, available for 1 Euro with powered sugar, was one of the best desserts I will ever eat. Gooey on the inside, but perfectly crispy on the outside and just the right amount of sweetness. Belgium beers are known for their high alcohol content, so it’s good to stuff yourself with bread products before copious amounts of sampling. While in Belgium it rained and rained and so we rested up, ate frozen pizza, and enjoyed our quiet Airbnb, knowing we had days and days of nonstop travels ahead of us.

Cantillon, an old lambic style brewery, located in a sketchy neighborhood, but producing some of the tastiest gueuze beer we’ve ever had.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is the best of Europe.

Postcard from Amsterdam, Vondelpark

Friendly, free, liberal, artistic, stunning architecture, people powered transportation, quirky, green, vibrant… I could do this all day. I’m in love with Amsterdam. The first time I went to Amsterdam it was a fucking disaster. I will not share details, but I was not in a good headspace and I it resulted in me having a terrible time. Truthfully though, I knew Amsterdam was, for me, an oyster with a pearl waiting to be cracked open and revealed. It was the absolute must see place on Jason’s list for Europe and, honestly, it was on mine too. Cheers to the power of second chances!

Amsterdam doesn’t judge what you do. If you choose to spend your day relaxing in Vondelpark, watching the people go by and admiring an array of birds and peoples, you surely can. If you fancy finding a sex worker and doing drugs all day, no problem, that’s your choice. If you want to take a canal boat ride and skip the sinfulness entirely, than by all means, right this way. Engaging in professional business transactions? Carry on. The Dutch are a glorious folk who embody a live and let live mentality. We felt we could find a home here and craved more time in this enchanting place. But, just around the bend was an even more fulfilling place for a whole other reason…. Read about it in the next blog post; coming soon!

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