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Archive for June, 2000

Privet!  (That’s Hello in Russian)

The last time I e-mailed I was in Salzburg. Right after I got off the Internet, I met up with my now good friend Wendy.  We had planned to find Wiener schnitzel for dinner. It was tasty but I prefer bratwurst if given a choice…

That day was gorgeous and sunny, I was concerned about getting sunburned, it was so clear and hot out.  Needless to say, getting rained on was the farthest thing from my mind…

As such, I did not have my trusty “Waterproof-Breathable” Jacket from MEC that I and many other Vancouverites own. It was stuck back at the hostel. Anyhow, I left the Internet cafe, and Wendy and I went for dinner. We had a great evening with another girl from Wendy’s hostel hanging out and chatting after dinner. It was about 10:30p when I started to make my way back ‘home’. During dinner it had clouded over fairly quickly, but wasn’t raining, which is good since I didn’t have my jacket.

But, once I got on the bus this deluge of rain came down.  It was so heavy that the rain coming in through the open sunroof on the bus had a steady stream of water coming down (reminded me of the rain seen in cartoons — I’m not exaggerating!). Unfortunately it didn’t stop all night, so after getting off the bus, I had to walk… no pardon me… swim back to the hostel for about 20 min (including one wrong turn). I was totally drenched my shoes are still damp.

I was fortunate though, the hostel wasn’t busy, and so I had a dorm to myself. It was useful since I could spread all my stuff out all over the place… Even things in my money belt were soaked!

I’ve learned one thing as a result of that evening, my waterproof shoes are waterproof, but not when you have to go swimming in them! I still refuse to cart my waterproof jacket around on days when it’s 35C outside!

Leaving Salzburg I headed to Vienna, where I spent three nights.  What a gorgeous town.  I spent one day visiting the Hapsburg’s palace in Vienna.  They had this display of their china (does anyone need that much china??????), their “apartments” (larger than any normal persons house), and their treasury.  The second day there, I went back to the palace so that I could watch the Lippizzans train at the Spanish Riding School.  It was absolutely stunning!  After visiting the school, I spent the rest of the day walking around seeing what the city was like.  While walking around I found an English bookstore, so I bought a new book to read, since I’d long since finished the ones that I had.

Next I headed to Budapest, where on the train I met up with a person who worked with one of the hostels in the city (supposedly hostelling internationally recognized). So, she arranged for a ride to the hostel for me.  Since it was full, they took me to this other hostel but it was so disgusting that I doubt that it really is HI recognized.  The entire building should be torn down!  I borrowed a telephone card and phoned another hostel to make sure it had space and headed there.  As I walked to the metro station, the woman selling tickets wouldn’t sell me one, because the bills that were give to me from the ATM machine were too big (about the equivalent of $30cdn) and she couldn’t give me change.  At this point I broke down and took my first (and hopefully only — but the trip’s not over yet) taxi of this trip.

The hostel I stayed at was very funky, incense was burning all the time, the walls were not your standard beige, but yellow, blue, green and one of the walls in my dorm room had a jungle scene with Tarzan (I guess). I shared a room with four guys, all of them nice, though co-ed dorms are not my preference.  The night I got there, there was this huge party for one of the staff (birthday), so I hung out and met people until they moved the party to a bar at which point I crashed.

The big highlight for me in Budapest (though the sights were great too!) was visiting a thermal bath. It was so relaxing! It took away a lot of the stress of dragging my pack around Europe. I also got a massage for about 20 min (total cost: $10, including the massage!).

Budapest was also my departure point for my second to last stop on my trip. I got on a train and headed to Kiev, to visit my good friend Alison.

The train ride was alright, 25 hours long, but alright.  I was sharing a coupe with a woman named Tanya (I have no idea how to spell it properly, she’s Russian, but it’s pronounced this way). She spoke no English, and didn’t seem to realize that just repeating herself wont help me understand. We eventually learned to communicate by sign language and had a few conversations that way.  She was really nice, and helpful, and she was generous with her food too (though I was well stocked).  The other person I met on the train was Lisa, an answer to prayer! She was 20-something Ukrainian, and fluent in English! We had some great conversations about the Ukraine versus Canada, and about the academic situation (she teaches at a university in southern Ukraine) in the two countries.  It was also great because she helped me through customs (I think I was a novelty, the customs officer seemed to like me too), so there were no problems.

One thing about traveling to the Ukraine, we had to stop at the border for about 2 hours.  I’d been pre-warned about this but admittedly I didn’t completely believe what I’d been told.  The reason we stopped was not because of huge customs issues, but because the wheels on the train need to be changed.  This is because the tracks in the Ukraine (and I assume, in the other former soviet states) are wider than in Western Europe. So, we stop and they hoist the train cars up and replace the wheels before we continue on our Journey.  Go figure

Anyhow, I’m now in Kiev, where I’ll be for a while.  It’s a great city, though I haven’t done much sight seeing yet. Yesterday Alison and I spent the morning relaxing and then we went downtown to go shopping.  Shopping here is so cheap.  Even the most expensive stores in Kiev carry clothes that would be average prices at home (well, there probably are more expensive stores, but I’m talking places were most of the Canadian population could afford to shop).

Well, it’s time I head off.  Take Care everyone, and I’ll talk to you soon!

Poka,
Christina

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Grüsti…

That´s Swiss German for Greetings. There are tonnes of dialects that are so different they´re almost different languages. I don´t remember what the austrian version is (let alone spell it…I had someone spell Grüsti for me…).

Germany was great, I really enjoyed seeing the different cities and towns. I think last time I wrote I was in Berlin. What a fun city. I did a bike tour there too (I did one in Munich as well). I didn’t get to ride a bike as hilarious as the Shwinn from Munich, but the mountain bike was brand new and really nice… The bike tour took most of the day and we saw everything. The guide knew alot, and gave us lots of advice about what to do and where to go after the tour was over. It was interesting to see so many different sights around a city that was once divided. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two sides now, but there are a few differences (these are better explained by photos when I get home.). Most of the best things to do are on the East side of where the wall was, the best stores and the historical monuments.

Berlin is a very green city with tonnes of bike paths everywhere. One place to visit in Berlin that’s not advertised is this museum done by the government explaining Berlin and Germany’s history. I spent one morning there, and it was well worth it. It was hard to read about what happened as a result of Hitler, yet the museum and the tour guide presented it really well.

After leaving Berlin, I took a train to Heidelberg. It is such a cute town! I fell in love with the place. Of course Heidelberg has it´s castle and cobblestone streets — like many European Cities. Heidelberg is definitly on my list of places to live if given the chance…

I spent an evening in Heidelberg with a group of Americans, and we got talking about our trip plans. It´s interesting the different types of trips that people plan. I´ve met up with so many Americans who plan these huge whirlwind trips to many major ´touristy´cities that last for two or three weeks. I´ve also met up with Australians or New Zealanders who travel for a few years working their way around the world. I think I´m glad I´ve planned this trip the way I have; there´s too much to see to make a short trip worth it. At the same time, I´ll be glad not to have to live out of a 70 liter pack for longer than these two months.

After Heidelberg I made my way to Switzerland, but only for two nights. I spent my time in Lucerne (another city on my list of favorites). It´s the perfect town for the Swiss experience on a short time (IMHO). It´s as expensive as everywhere else (it costs the equivalent of 10$cdn for a 12″ sub…), on a gorgeous lake and surrounded by the alps. One my days there I spent up Mt Pilatus (7000 ft / 2132 m). I hiked part way up (I knew I should have done the Grouse Grind in Preparation…) and then caught the cable car the rest of the way up. I didn´t hike all the way because the top part requires ropes and harnesses (and experience). It was nice to get out of the city a bit. Once at the top I had a great view of the surrounding area. Apparently Mt. Pilatus gets it´s name from Pontius Pilate, who is –allegedly– buried somewhere on the mountain… (I don´t know the authenticity of the information, the legend of the place also includes Dragons…so I doubt it…).

I spent my time in Lucerne with Garrick and Michelle (mother and son). They´re originally from Michigan but have been living in Europe for the past 15 years (Michelle´s husband was in a chess tournament, so I didn´t meet him). It was so nice to be with people who understand the language of the area!

At the moment I´m in Salzburg. It´s a great town. I spent this morning visiting Mozart´s House. I managed to restrain myself from spending any money on CD´s… He had an interesting life, and I am amazed at how young he started composing (by the age of 7 apparently!). It impressed me because when I was his age I had to be convinced to practice (right Mom and Dad…).

Anyhow, I must head off. Tomorrow I´m probably going on a ´Sound of Music´ tour… Cheezy and touristy but they´re supposed to be fun! After that I´m heading to Vienna where I am determined to see the spanish riding school!

Take Care, everyone! Christina

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