The next chapter

The time has come, school is over and it is summer time. Something I would usually be ecstatic about, but in this case it means leaving sunny Spain, saying see ya later to my new friends and beginning a new chapter of life. As most of my friends were boarding planes back to Florida I was trading sangria, paella and the beach for chocolate, cheese and the alps; off to Schweiz, known to most of you as Switzerland. I was lucky enough to find a job as an au-pair for the summer. I didn’t know much about the country except there were big mountains, which is enough to draw me in. I have now learned there are 3 main languages here German, Italian and French; depending on what side of the country you are in. I live in Gais, in the canton of Appenzell and everyone speaks German. Unlike most au-pairs I do not live with the family. I actually live in “The Falcon” with 3 of the families interns for their company. So it is pretty awesome that I have fellow 20-something’s to hang out with here. A normal weekday in Gais consist of waking up around 7:45 (big change from Spain) and hopping on the 8:20 train for a 9 minute ride to the house of the family I am working with. The interns work at the house as well because the office is upstairs, the house is actually a restored factory. It is surrounded by goats, sheep and lots of mountains in sight. The baby is only 6 weeks so there isn`t much action coming from her except for feeding, sleeping, pooping and the occasional smile, but she is an amazing baby and so cute! After work if the weather is nice we walk and sometimes end up on top of a small mountain looking out over the whole town. It is amazing, within 15 minutes we can be in the clouds looking at the snowy alps that surround us. My first post-work run we ran up a mountain and then had a snow ball fight, because up high there is still snow! Come dinner time, we take turns cooking and since meat is super expensive and one of the guys is vegetarian we don’t cook any meat. Most of the food at the grocery stores are farm fresh. After that we usually watch a movie, which is nice because the amount of movies I have seen is very low. In the past 2 weeks I have watched more movies than I have all year. Having down time and going to bed at 12am rather than 4am on a daily basis is quite refreshing. gTpxnmC3-wW4ZLUgiqyVShmgEHtEjp1oMrZjuI8xnzo,6mV_5VT1er0aj8joOzfhWawGq5JLnQt8azpLGiXDPscSwitzerland is very different from Spain; the people, the food, the land. The things that stands out most to me so far is the punctuallity of the trains and people in Switzerland. Something that is completely different from Spain, and myself. I have always lived on what is known as Cuban time and being in Switzerland is going to really help me become more punctual (I hope ha-ha). A half-tax card was included in my au-pair gig which means that I get half off on all transportation in Switzerland. There is an additonal add on (glais 7) that is available for people 25 and under that allows us to travel for free from 7pm – 5am. I was advised to buy it so I did and it makes traveling around the country very convinent. Friday after work I hoped on a train and headed to Zurich, since it was after 7pm it didn’t cost me one Franc! I arrived in Zurich at about 8pm and met my couch surfing host, Hana and her friend Manu at the train station. We went to a cafe where a different band plays every Friday and had a beer when another girl who was staying at her house, Kristi, joined us. IMG_2600Hanna suggested we make our way to another place for music, Musikklub Mehrspur. Before even walking in the bar I could tell this place was right up my alley. We arrived during the set break and on stage I saw a few shiny, brass instruments, a bass guitar, a piano and drums. We had arrived at a jazz club and I was happy as ever to finally here some excellent music! A 6 piece band from Hungary hopped on stage and played for about an hour. They were pretty good, and jammed at the end and I finally got a drop of phunk, but not nearly enough to satisy my craving for the funk, haha.

View from Hana's neighborhood

View from Hana’s neighborhood

The next day Kristi and I explored Switzerland`s biggest city (still small by other countries standards) and wow I totally understand why it is ranked one of the top cities to live in in the world. Running through the city is a huge lake that is surrounded by endless mountains. There are docks, sail boats, kayakers and in the summer time swimmers occupying the waters. There are Sauna`s on docks surrounding the lake, as well as resturants and benches for picnics (which is how we spent a bit of our afternoon).

Flea Market

Flea Market

We stumbled upon a flea market where I found post cards from the 1920`s! There were all sorts of trinkets from pins, to jewlery, strange boxes and dolls. Think of a yard sale on some serious steroids. We had some lunch we brought by the lake and than ran into some really funny men that were having a day time bachelor party. They were collecting money for the groom and his brides honeymoon. Giving out beer and the groom was to perform tricks for tips. It was a pretty creative way to make a buc for the post wedding festivites. Surrounding Lake Zurich is tons of grass and parks, the city is bursting with spring time.

 

oJl3WtQbLEw1HfYmgZiZ2rxzoUi0GZhs_4E55kxdT3Q,7PSMhbudamlm0WUJ1q9whU1kg2YghXxUvIn3YQyLRGo Flowers of every color hung in the trees, blossomed from the ground and borded the picture perfect green grass. My friend Simson told me about free bike rentals in Zurich, so we made our way to the train station near glais 18 and rented bikes (20 franc deposit that you get back). We rode along side the lake and made our way to get another park. Kristi was headed to meet her friend in Lucerne, so I went with her to the train station, where a dance festival was going on… in the station, Zurch tanzt. It was pretty interesting and was the night got later the music got crazier. I headed back to Hana’s and had dinner with some of her friends. I decided to go home that night since it would be free with the glais 7.

The Seealpsee See = Lake in German

The Seealpsee
See = Lake in German

IMG_2860So I headed back and Sunday went on a hike to the Seealpsee. A lake about 4,000 feet high in the middle of the Alps. The water was pretty cold still so only one brave soul was in there, but come summer I am excited to finally swim, my inner fish is craving the water. Since the snow is melting right now, there were several water falls on the way up and surrounding the mountains that circuled the Seealpsee. The water was a breathetaking blue that held the reflection of the mountain perfectly.

 

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After exploring, I pulled out some sandwiches and had lunch next to the lake. Day 1, lunch next to a lake in the middle of the city. Day 2, lunch next to a lake in the middle of the alps; this is something I can certainly get used to. A few feet away from the lake was a tiny village that was built around rocks. The houses had rocks on the outside of them but were built in an extremely beautiful way that allowed the rocks to compliment the houses. So far, I am in love with this country and the ability to be in the mountains and city in the same weekend, same day if I really wanted.

Road trippin’ in Mallorca

Spending the majority of my life in Florida, I knew I always wanted to live near the water. Than after living in the mountains last summer, I found myself in a rut. I needed both! To my surprise, I found both on a beautiful Spanish island, Mallorca, in March. Mallorca is one of the 3 Balearic islands off the coast of Valencia. A few classmates and I flew into the capital of the island Palma de Mallorca on the 22nd of March. I was especially excited because I was meeting my best friend, Abby, here in paradise in a few hours! In the mean time Jacie and I rented a car, and it was just as easy as buying a pack of gum. We were ecstatic to be able to move around the island at ease, tiempo de la isla. We were headed to the airport to pick up Abby in our new car when we got a call.

Me: “We are coming to pick you up in the car!”

Abby: “I missed my flight and there are no flights until Sunday, I can´t come.”

This news was really disappointing, but luckily I was with my friend Jacie so I wasn´t alone. Our next problem was that we had already rented the car, and the cost that we thought was going to be split between 3 was now down to 2. We couldn´t do anything but embrace it, so that´s just what we did. Since it was already getting late we decided to stay around Palma and head out to the mountains the next day. If you are in Palma at night make your way to Ave de Argentina for the majority of the night life (which we did after we parked our car).

MA-2141

MA-2141

Our next destination was Sa´Calobra and no trip to the island is complete with out coming here. We began driving on MA-10 which is a coastal highway that stretches North to South on the West side of the island. On the left all you can see is miles and miles of ocean and to the right all that is in your view is the majestic Serra de Tramuntana mountain range that covers a majority of the West side of the island. In order to get over to Sa´Calobra we had to go over a mountain via MA-2141.

Wild sheep

Wild sheep

We saw dozens of wild goats, sheep and even a huge ram casually grazing on the side of the road. Unlike deer that are common road kill in America, these animals stayed on the grass and in the rocks, just observing the people passing through. The traffic that comes through this road is minimal, just tour busses and the occasional bunch thrill seekers like our selves. This was the most intense road I have ever seen, literally winding through the mountains and at some parts this two-way road would randomly turn into one lane. Infinite applause to Jacie for driving this road like a champ! I didn´t take this video, but here is one I found of the road we were on for Sa´Calobra.

cFWUy2gQFm7zxmpjkCLLhF3F_9vHJ2xWohpK9QtYKW4S-FmjjSwjTt_DEkqquWjesmscXjgzSqUfxFGsfdx438_zps31f2ef16We made our way to the main beach in Sa’Calobra unexpectedly, by following a sign that read “Torrent de Pareis.” The beach was amazing, discreetly tucked in between two huge cliffs where the Torrent de Pareis reaches the sea. The water was crystal clear and a deep turquoise blue that reminded me of the stones typical to the jewelry sold in New Mexico. After we walked along the water, we went exploring in the huge canyons that accompany the torrent and the valley in front of the ocean for miles. We were walking through shrubbery in between the canyons for about 10 minutes and were a little confused as to why there was no trail, but it had to be a hike, there was a sign that said 6 hours long, so we continued, in hope of a sign of another hiker or something to assure us we were headed down the right direction. 9S7pcVFhSepdkStRpWMEkczT8MG-MZ7tA2eN3_82AZYBZfCcfQnXEbi1uYbGZq0sJSt-5jR_GYMePvGeKjmzDc_zps20ce14c7Than we ran into a huge pool of water surrounded by dozens of boulders. As we continued to walk more natural pools of water appeared. It was a bit to cold to swim but we saw people in wet suits earlier who had been swimming all day!  I felt that I had been magically teleported back to the times when dinosaurs ruled the land. All that was surrounding us were rocks, more rocks, and water. Climbing, splashing and staring in awe is what consumed the majority of our day. Unexpected beauty delivered by nature, yet again. After our hike we needed to fuel up our car before it got dark, running out of gas on the dark MA-2141 was not how we would have wanted to end such a glorious day. 893899_10151538000427692_1234008909_o

So we skipped sunset on the beach and headed to civilization, we began heading up the MA-2141 and as we were doing this the sun was beginning to set. Colors of purple and orange filled the sky as the sun began to fall behind the enormous mountain moving along with us as we cruised along the mountain side. We finally made our way to Inca and got gas, but of course that came with obstacles. I inserted my handy visa into the pay station and waited a few minutes before we began to pump. Little did I know, after 3 minutes the payment becomes invalid, which I would later find out. So we asked the men next to us if they could give us a hand, and these men ended up helping us figure out what was going on with the gas. They had lived on the island their whole life and we began to chat, after we said we were from Florida the man told us his girlfriend was from Tampa, small world, because that is where Jacie and I are from. He was thrilled and was even more eager to talk to us and give us some local tips about the island.

Cap de Formentor

Cap de Formentor

After the gas was pumped we said good-bye and that we were going to have some dinner, they laughed at the idea of having dinner so early (it was 7) but said they were headed to a place where we could eat much better food than we were about to. Being food fanatics, we hopped in our car and followed them to a small restaurant Ca`s Puput in Mancor de la Vall, a pueblo we would have never run into with out these guys. We walked into the restaurant and our new friends greeted the man behind the counter in a way that made me believe they were long time friends. He asked what we would like to eat and we responded with what ever a local would get. The food was amazing, we ate Costillas de Cordero (lamb ribs) which were so tender they fell right off the bone. For dessert we had a traditional Mallorcan treat, Cardinal, which is a light, white cake that is very fluffy in the middle and tasted a bit like marshmallows. The majority of our conversations took place in Spanish and at one point they were speaking English and we were speaking Spanish, for practice. The culture exchange just from being at this restaurant for a few hours was through the roof. We got to laugh with local kids and joke around with, which was quite entertaining.

First sight of the day

First sight of the day

Our new friends insisted we spend the next day at the northern most point of the island, Cap de Formentor, we had no plans so we took their advice, said our good byes and headed North. The next morning we woke up before 9am and began to explore. We came to our first mirador (look out point) before any other tourist and watched the goats graze on the dew washed grass while looking out at the ocean. We could see a light house in the distance, so that was our next destination. We drove up another beautifully designed mountain road and made our way to the top where the light house was. The views here were phenomenal, we could see the road we just came up from and the land scape of the island.

lbcuvfMa3NKqs6PhVYZjHaAmeUvd83_CGe2FcL0HlUYPzJGzX35h7L4jI6DfHsPVlpoLBQEnZIbuw1jWFeZNx8_zps7395025dOn our way back down we stopped at a few cami de … which are different hiking trails off the side of the mountains. There were dozens of trails as we worked our way down the road. The one we went down led us down to a cliff overlooking the ocean and jet skiers in the distance. We went to a beach down the mountain, Playa de Formentor, which was completely surrounded by nature; pine trees, mountains, rocks. After we felt satisfied with our sights on the Formentor peninsula, we went to the neighboring peninsula, Alcùdia, and had lunch beach side in a port town. It was a pretty town but it was a bit to city for us, so we asked the waitress a recommendation for another beach nearby that she considered beautiful.

Photo by Jacie

Photo by Jacie

She said if we headed across the peninsula (just 10 minutes) we would end up at Mal Pas. So we did, we had tea at a restaurant that had a view that was like nothing I have ever seen, or imagined. It looked fake, like one of those back drops you take photos in front of on a cruise or something. Nothing but waves crashing in front of infinite mountains. The perfect combination of mountains and the sea! After we hung out there for quite some time, it was time for our final sunset of the weekend. We headed up a smaller mountain in Mal Pas and sat on a hill and watched the sunset. We knew this was the end to a surprising journey, we laughed and still tried to imagine how this was real life. The sky turned orange and the sun 536878_2941780279063_210771908_ndisappeared behind another mountain and all the was left was the ocean brushing up against the rugged mountains. The sound of waves crashing mixed quite well with the music of the Spanish club scene that was coming from a 90-year-old womans birthday party in a house just behind us. It was comical, viva la tierra, viva España, viva la vida. 

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BURN, BABY, BURN!

Since I was extremely silent on here for the month of March, I need to explain why!

  • The first 3 days of the month were spent in Prague
  • Than the beginning of March kicked off the festivities for Las Fallas festival, the main events being from March 14- March 19
  • Mallorca road trip March 22- 25
  • Barcelona school trip March 25 – 28

Mascletás

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Las Fallas official start of day 1

Until I knew I was moving to Valencia, I had no idea what Las Fallas was. Although no amount of words and pictures will be enough to justify these 5 days, I will certainly try my best. Starting on the first day of March Mascletás go off in the city center everyday at 2pm, these are day time fireworks that are louder than any noise I have ever heard, but it is beautiful and every day is in a different symphonic order. Plaza del Ayuntamiento is completely filled with people everyday until the Mascletás come to an end on the last day of Las Fallas, March 19. As each day gets closer to the end of the festival more and more people fill the streets surrounding the launch site in Plaza del Ayuntamiento and it actually feels like you are swimming in a sea of people, usually I am not one for huge crowds, but it is amazing seeing the plaza fill up more and more each day with people from all over town, the country and even the world! Than stopping to think, I live here!

Espectáculo de luces

525313_10151539914862692_1629235700_nAbout a week before the kick off date of Las Fallas officially starts, el espectáculo de luces (light show) that happens, every night for 7 days in the district of Ruzafa! I have been to my fair share of raves and Disney world parades, but wow, Disney has nothing on Las Fallas. The light show would start at 8pm and reoccur every 30 minutes until 10pm to the beat of a few different songs, the funniest was “scream and shout” and seeing a little girl on her dad´s shoulders saying     “it´s Brittney bitch.” The first days of this were the best because we had free range to move and dance as crazy as we wanted, the last few days of Fallas it got pretty packed, as if there was actaully a live concert happening, nope, just the lights.

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Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

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Fallas

Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

Fire spinning Falla! Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

It will happen almost over night, you are strolling through any of the 350 neighborhoods in Valencia (Fallas-communities in this case) and bam, there is a huge sculpture in front of your eyes that was not there just a few hours ago. Each Falla-community commisions two fallas-sculptures, a falla and a falla infintal. Each falla is made up of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. The bigger the falla, the more money that community has. The most expensive Falla this year was 600,000 Euros (x1.3=USD). The fallas are typically satirical, playing on political figures, movie stars, even Steve Jobs.

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enourmous Falla

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enormous Falla

The artist and teams who commission these fallas spend about 364 days working on them, the most fascinating part is on the last day of Las Fallas, every single falla (except the one voted best) gets burned to the ground!

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

Falla infintal These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

Falla infintal
These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

bu

It´s Jack!

Paella

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

The most typical dish to Valencia is the Paella, my favorite being Paella de Marisco (Seafood), the most typical one is made with rabbit and chicken. During Las Fallas, each Falla– community has their own tent to party, dance and make Paella! I ate so much Paella this week, before Fallas even officially started our class was invited to a multicultural desert competition which also came with all the Paella and Sangria you could drink! The following day our falla tent had a Paella competition between the teachers, which obviously also included all the Paella you could eat. It is really neat seeing this dish be prepared because when it is made for the masses they use these huge pan´s over an open fire. It is a science and also an art, things were heating up (quite literally) and the winner went to a FSU favorite, Professor BJ. I was sure to try all of the Paellas, my favorite being the one with snails, shell and all!

Fuegos Artificiales

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One thing that can always make me lose my breath is fire works, in Spanish, Fuegos Artificiales, I have spent countless holidays at the beach, New Years on the bay and 4th of July at  Epcot (Disney park) but no fire works show I have ever seen in my life can come close to the fire works I saw in Valencia during Las Fallas, even my friends mom who has seen a lot more years than we have agreed. Every night for 5 nights at the amazing river bed park at 12 (or 1) fire works would go off for 30 minutes, 45 minutes honestly I have no idea, forever! Each night topped the last, with what seemed like cannons of golden glitter exploding in the sky, everyone was going crazy. The entire park was full of people screaming and hollering for these explosions in the sky!

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Desfiles

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Fitting right in

A very important part of Las Fallas is el desfiles, the parades. Whether it is the falleras and falleros or just people dressed up with their fallas tent, people are always going to be marching with the tradational fallas pasodobles. While you can see parades at any given time during this 5 day fiesta, it is important to note 2 imoprtant parades during the week:

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The start of the virgin

The start of the virgin

Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados This is when Falleras big and small march to the plaza de la virgen (right near where I live) with bouquets of flowers they present to a towering statue of Virgin Mary. The streets are blocked off and it is an obstacle course making it a few plaza´s down town, but so entertaining it´s worth the wait! It is a nice change of pace, the whole week you are bombarded with the smells of fire and smoke but during la ofrenda the plaza is filled with scents of flowers.

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Fallera picking flowers for la ofrenda

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The Virgin composed of flowers

The Virgin composed of flowers

483781_10151594595295439_1843818022_nCabalgada del fuego was the craziest parade I saw during the week, or maybe during my life! This parade is a prelude to la crema bringing 300 hell fires out to play. Ladies in firey red costumes, men dressed up as el diablo and fire, fire, fire! The crowd was out of control on Calle Colon but luckily my class mate Alex managed to snap some awesome shots!

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The battlefield

In the middle of the city stretching for miles is a park, where a river once was, but has now been converted to an enormous stretch of land where there are different kinds of exercise equipment, play grounds, museums, everything! But during Las Fallas the riverbed turned into a war ground. It was impossible to walk through here at night without a constant suspension of a fire cracker coming down from above. The first night that the boys in my program found the pyroshop we had a battle. Some of us were on a bridge overlooking the river bed and the rest of us were down below. Tossing firecrackers back and forth, drinking and playing with fire… not a safe combo, but no one lost any body parts (from our program) which shocked me a little.

Nit de La Crema

Nit de La Crema 2013 View of the city from the top found this photo online

Nit de La Crema 2013
View of the city from the top
found this photo online

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The highly anticipated crema happens on the last night of Fallas, by this time everyone’s bodies are drained from the constant boozing, lack of sleep and infinite walking. Even though we were on day 5 of constant fiesta the fact that is was all coming to an end was quite sad, but the show must go on, and that it did. Nit de la Crema, night of the cremation, is what all the partying leads up too. A spring cleaning some say. I got to see 3 different Fallas burn and it got hot! As each falla goes up in flames fireworks accompany it.

Fallera very sad it´s over

Fallera very sad it´s over

Falla infintal are the first to go

Falla infintal are the first to go

Next, our Falla goes up in flames!

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Tent hopping and ran into this!

Tent hopping and ran into this!

Ciao bella

Ciao bella

Las Fallas can never be put into a perfect description no matter how many words, photos or videos I use, but I hope this gave yáll an insight on how unique Valencian culture is. Alex Tellez made an awesome Fallas recap video i´ll post on here!

Praha, final city of our spring break adventure

Aside

We hopped on a double-decker bus around 8am in Vienna and headed Northwest to a city I knew very little about, except that I should go. The first step I took into the city I was in love, the architecture here is so elegant, old and different from anything I have ever seen. I could not keep my eyes from looking up at the pointy tops of the buildings the whole time.

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We arrived in Praha, Česká Republika (in English, Prague, Czech Republic) around 1pm and made our way to our hotel for the night “City Center Hotel.” I wouldn´t reccomend staying here, the hostel, Arpacay we were at for the remaining 3 days was much cozier and all around had a much better vibe. Being able to jump into a down comforter that accompanied all of the beds in the hostel was quite nice and the breakfast was cheap but filling (tons of granola, yogurt, bread and meat), the staff helpful and the location perfect! It is located in the lower town (Mala Strana) of Prague, near the castle. ImageOur first night in Prague We walked up and down the Vltava river and each step presented us with a different view of the Prague castle, which is over 1000 years old! It felt like an alternate reality. I am from Florida, so I grew up seeing “Cinderella’s castle” at Disney World, there were times when I had to remind myself this is a real city, and that is a real castle. Nothing excites me more than the history that lies in these European palaces! We made our way to lesser town and hiked up to the castle at night! This was really awesome because we got to beat the crowds and look at the castle with out a group of 20 posing in front of it. Another interesting time to visit the castle, which we did, is at noon for the changing of the guards. There is a band and the guards are very traditional during this ceremony. Expect it to be packed, but worth it. I definitely recommend going at both day and night because you get to see two very different views of the city, dark and light. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the extensive walk to the castle, we were parched, and headed to The Pub to wet our whistles. I´m not one to splurge much, but the bloody´s at The Pub are worth it! I never really acquired a taste for this drink, but after having my senses rocked by the bloody I tried in Prague, I´m a fan! The man who made our Bloody´s took his precious time, and for obvious reason, perfection!

My favorite musician in the town!

My favorite musician in the town! Check out that instrumental masterpiece he created!!

The next day we made our way from our hotel in old town to our amazing hostel in lower town. The best part about this walk is crossing the Vltava river via the Charles Bridge (Karlův most, take not of the Czech name because it is on signs everywhere and a very central landmark in town). In my opinion, the best free thing to do in Prague! On this bridge you can find several musicians, artist, and other types of vendors. Much entertainment to be enjoyed on this bridge, not to mention killer photos!

Charles bridge late night

Charles bridge late night

Viva La Musica!

Viva La Musica!

Photo by mi amiga Kim who I got to meet up with in Prague!

Photo of Trdelnik by mi amiga Kim who I got to meet up feast with in Prague!

After yet another trek, we were hungry, the lady at the front desk of the hostel recommended us to two amazing restaurants, both in lower town, U Schnellů and Malostranska-Beseda. My favorite being Malostranska-Beseda, it was here that I asked the bar tender how to say cheers in Czech, na zdravi, always a good word to know when visiting a foreign country! I fell in love with Czech food during my time in Prague. I had never given thought to Czech food before, but I´m glad we found each other. At Malostranska-Beseda they started us off with complementary bread and butter. This wasn´t your typical bread and butter, the bread seemed to have cheese and pieces of bacon baked into it (and I don’t even like bacon) and the butter was garlic and chives. For my main course, I ate Roast beef with traditional creamy sauce, cranberries and a variation of dumplings. The combination of roast beef and cranberries is AMAZING!! The next day At U Schnellu I had roasted eggplant filled with cheese, tomatoes, basmati rice and yogurt salsa. Both places were very reasonably priced but it’s always good to keep in mind the 100 Koruna (Czech currnecy) = about 5 US Dollars.No visit to Prague is complete with out grubbing out on street food, which we found plenty of in old town (Staroměstské náměstí) square. After missing our free tour, were living in Spain so being on time for anything has turned into quite a struggle, we did the next best thing, EAT!481250_10151474249027692_1781322584_n Our first snack was Lángos, which is actually a Hungarian treat. It consists of fried dough, garlic butter, tomato sauce and cheese. Although they can consist of many other things when made at home. Our next task was satisfying my ever lasting sweet tooth. The most common sweet treat on the street is Trdelnik; rolled dough coated with sugar, cinnamon or nuts, this was perfect to warm our hands in the cold weather that accompanies Prague in mid-February. Something I noticed almost instantly is that there are Puppets everywhere! Scary, cute, funny, naughty you name it Prague has it. We made our way to a puppet shop and I was able to sneak in a few pics for my Uncle Jimmy who collects these strange dolls.

Astronomical clock in old town!

Astronomical clock in old town!

My favroite piece at the butterfly effect exhibit!

My favorite piece at the butterfly effect exhibit!

We went to an exhibit that was only in Prague until Mid-March, The Butterfly Effect, which hosted very unique pieces of art and then finally found our friends at the hostel! We met up with some of our best friends in the FSU Valencia program, Hector and Tash! I was beyond ecstatic to have this crew in the middle of Europe. We decided to hit The Jazz Dock, which I highly recommend. The atmosphere was chill but up-beat at the same time, the drinks were good and the food was great. Our group of 6 held down seats at the bar right near the band and enjoyed the sounds of this amazing quartet. After the Jazz dock some of us went to the most

Jazz Dock

Jazz Dock

visually pleasing club I have ever seen, Cross-Club. It is not in the center of town but well worth taking a cab. Just be careful with the cab drivers ripping you off and make sure you discuss the price prior to getting in the cab. One of our cab drivers tried to blatantly rip us off by saying my friend didn´t hand him money, when he did, luckily we didn´t let his sneaky ways get to us and we got my friends change back! 392958_497878680269200_407887803_nThe next day after watching the guards change at the castle and grubbing out on street food, we climbed up to Letenské sady (in English Letná Park) on Letná hill and hung out here for hours and could have stayed longer! Our friend Vanessa has an amazing camera so we got to take lots of pictures of the old town from this view and the Vlatava River rolling under the Charles bridge. The park is huge and there´s intersing buildings, swings and things to do all over it! We spent a lot of time watching the metronome swing back and forth, ha-ha. Fun fact, Michael Jackson kicked of his 1996 world tour here. If you want to people watch, this is definitely the place to do it! That night we went to a bar called the big lebowski, maybe you´ve heard of the movie. This is the only bar in Prague where you can actually name your price for your drinks and pay in Euros, Koruna or USD. The white russians were top-notch, next we headed back into the old town and went to a reggae bar (across from the 5 story club Karlovy Lazne) don´t go to this bar with your parents, but if you want to have some fun I would highly recommend it! And so came our final day in Prague, we obviously knew this day would come and wrapping up the most amazing trip I´ve ever been on was sad, but then we reminded our selves we were going back to our home in Valencia, España so it was fine. 525227_10151474239877692_172865002_nBy this point of the trip we were all scraping change so we decided to get into some nature (free!) and headed to the north-west outskirts of Prague via metro to Divoká Šárka. This place is amazing, directly behind a McDonald’s (gross) you can find this park and walk for hours! To the left of us were really impressive cliffs and to the right a bubbling creek where locals swim in the summer! There was definitely no swimming happening during my visit but we got to see snow, the combination of the green valleys and white snow was the  perfect sign that spring was just a few weeks away. This is a really tranquil place that makes you feel you are hours from the city, when in reality your bout 20 minutes away. Divoká Šárka was the icing on the cake for the final day of our spring break. A plane ride to Barcelona and bus ride to Valencia is what was left on our itinerary, sunny Spain here we come!485041_10151474233942692_1989390868_n Prague is the most architecturally pleasing city I have ever been to from walking the streets to hanging out in the park every sight was picturesque. If you ever make your way to this city be sure to bring some good walking shoes, eat all you can and use the public transportation because its easy, cheap and covenant. Also we found a use-it map for Prague and it was super handy! This map isn´t your standard map, it gives you advice about where the locals eat, party, shop and even how they act!

And im out, Danielle

Österreich; Part 2 of 3 Spring Break 2013

Our German adventure had come to an end, leaving me with one thing: I must go back and explore more of this amazing country!

INNSBRUCK:

It was the morning of February 25 (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY TWIN COUSINS! ) and Alison, Allie and I headed for the main train station to board a train that would take us to the great country of Österreich (in English, Austria). Would of never really considered or known about Innsbruck if it wasn´t for my friend Carter sending me “The Euro Bible” that his friends from UGA made while studying in Innsbruck.

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Train station waiting for our bus to Hall

The train ride was phenomenal as we made our way from flat land to high elevations as each wheel on the train turned we worked our way up in altitude surrounded by 1000´s of feet of white mountains. 2 hours later we had arrived in Innsbruck; one of the most majestic places I have ever seen. While the sun was beating on my face as I looked at snow-covered mountains on each side of me, I knew the next 2 days would be pure bliss. Innsbruck is located in the Tyrol region of Austria in the heart of the Tyrolean alps. Austria has nothing to do with the land down under and they speak German.. not Austrian.

Our hill!

Our sledding hill!

We were staying with our friend Erwin in a town a few kilometers outside of Innsbruck, Hall in Tyrol. Within our first minutes of arriving Erwin asked if we wanted to go sledging, or sledding. I have never been sledding in my 20 years of existence so my answer was an immediate yes! His friend Jules came over with 3 plastic, circular “sleds” and we walked around to find the perfect hill… and we did! We joined two little kids and made our way up and down the hill for close to an hour. I felt like a child again, the snow really makes one forgot about everything else and truly enjoy what is happening at the present moment, a therapy of some sorts. 

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After we wore our selves out sledding we were shown the “beach” of Hall in Tyrol. Although it did not fit my classifications as a beach, it was breathtaking! Millions of unique rocks by side a rambling river with a snowy Alp back drop is definitely something I can get used to.

Instead of eating out at some pricey restaurant we prepared a traditional Austrian meal that is very typical to this region, KäseSpätzle. The most similar thing I can relate spätzle to is Gnocchi, and käse means cheese in German. So a German/Austrian mac n´cheese would be an appropriate description.

ingredients for KäseSpätzle:

  • 1 small onion
  • 250g of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 liter of water
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g of cheese (we used a mix of white, swiss and gouda)
  • 1 more onion to prepare onion rings as a topping for the spätzle.

From this point you have to make the dough balls which is spätzle, prepare your onions, cut the cheese and make your onion rings. It is safe to assume you are reading this on the computer so you probably have access to Google. If you wish to make this, which I highly recommend you do, search “recipe for KäseSpätzle” and voilà your recipe awaits. I´d love to write it out here but I am approaching my final days of school so have a bit of homework to catch up on. If you decide to make it, please comment here and let me know what you thought! I absolutely loved it, and its low ingredients cost. We finished our dinner off with “Austrian desert,” schnapps!

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Prost!

The day next our goal was to get on that mountain! Since it was winter and the mountain was completely covered in knee-high snow,hiking up there was impossible with our lack of gear. After visiting gummy bear world, eating some amazing Italian pizza (since it’s just the next country over) and loading up on some beer for the mountain we took flight on the Nordkettenbahn (aka gondola) and made our way up to the highest point possible, over 7600 feet, which is called the Hafelekar. We took in the scenery of an endless sea of snowy mountains in every direction, never in my life have I seen this many mountains!

Chairs at the Seegrube (second highest point) were nice!

Chairs at the Seegrube (second highest point) were nice! My amazing travel companions Alison and Allie.

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My small friend Allie

My small friend Allie

On top of the alps!photo by Allie I :)

On top of the alps!
photo by Allie I 🙂

At this point Allie and I decided to trek a little farther than the Hafelekar since we had the shoes for it, why not? No joke, snow was up to our knees and it felt great! To see no human civilization. Just you and nature. It was a refreshing feeling, especially since we had been on such a schedule during the trip catching buses, trains and planes being away from it all on the mountain was amazing!

Sunsetting by the cable car station

Sunsetting by the cable car station

Later that night we went to a bar Moustache and had some white Russians, I must have been spoiled in Vail because these glasses seemed infant sized, but then I realized that´s how most white Russians should be… I guess just not at Garf´s where the glasses were what I now realize is abnormally big for W.R. Anyway, After Moustache closed we wandered downstairs and found ourselves at a club called Aftershave. I really enjoyed the clever naming of the pair. Since Innsbruck has an extremely large student population the club was pretty packed for reggae night on a Tuesday. We proceeded to make our rounds in Innsbruck with our amazing tour guide Erwin before catching our 5 am train to Vienna.

VIENNA:

Welcome to Vienna

Welcome to Vienna

St Stephen’s Cathedral lit up at night!

Properly known as Wien, the capital and largest city in Österreich (Austria) is where we made our way the morning of February 27th. Since our final destination was Prague, the most logical way to arrive in Prague from Innsbruck was by bus from Vienna, so we stopped here for a day. We walked around a lot and saw the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral, palace, and theatre. The city looks completely different during the day and night so it´s definitely worth it to see both! I wasn´t really there long enough but it was a great place to pass through, I´d love to come back with more time! We had amazing käse-bratwurst; bratwurst filled with cheese,while watching kids ice skate (and fall) in front of the winter exhibit near the theatre. At night we had amazing Greek food, a lot of people from all over the world make Vienna their home so there is certainly food for everyone’s pallet here. Use-it is an amazing map we found in Prague and after I looked on-line I found one for Vienna (after my trip) so I would highly recommend anyone heading to Vienna to go ahead and Use-it! HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

The next morning we would board a double decker bus and arrive in the magical land they call Prague…

Deutschland; Part 1 of 3 Spring Break 2013

Be on the look out for this guy in Munich

Be on the look out for this guy in Munich

The two words – Spring Break usually put immediate thoughts of bikinis, booze and beach into one’s mind. After last years epic road trip to Colorado, the idea of staying put on one beach and boozing for 7 days had vanished far from my head. So as spring break rolled around this year I had NO IDEA what to do. The opinions were endless but finally my roommate Alison and I decided on 3 countries, 4 cities within 9 days. Our first stop was München, Deutschland (Munich, Germany) we arrived in the city on the 22nd of February and headed strait for the famous biergartenHofbräuhaus. Since it was snowing and in the midst of winter the actual “garden” part was closed (which we didn’t realize until our last night in Germany) I highly recommend visiting Germany in the summer if you can for the beauty of drinking out doors! One of my best friends, Allie, is studying in Firenze, Italia (Florence, Italy) and would be meeting up with Alison and I at the Hofbräuhaus to travel with us for the next 8 days! As we waited we drank Liter beers, probably the best dark or in German “dunkel” beer I have ever had in my life! Since this place gets pretty packed, a man by the name of Jörg asked if he could sit with us, sure why not? At first he helped us translate the menu and most importantly taught us the German way to say “cheers” and that is “Prost!”Image We discovered that he was in Munich getting a patent for a prosthetic shoulder he created! We chatted for hours while listening to the horns and yodeling of a German band in the Hofbräuhaus dressed in very traditional German attire. It was really amazing to watch, as these men were pounding their huge beer and devouring bratwurst they would play music mid snack and let out an extremely loud “YAHOOOO.” For dinner I had Saftiges Bierkutschergulasch, Beef goulash with pork dumplings! It was so juicy and flavorful, very typical to the Bavarian region of Germany. Alison ordered bratwurst and sauerkraut, I had only eaten bratwurst once during a rain delay at a String Cheese Incident concert in Colorado and had been craving more ever since. Her meal was amazing as well, from this point on I knew I was in for a treat being able to eat in Germany for the next 3 days! Jörg had to leave to catch his train back home to Rhine Valley, at this point, we realized Allie should have been at our meeting point already! Since none of us have German phones all we could do was wait..and wait.. and wait. And finally she arrived! I had not seen her smiling face since December so seeing her in Germany was crazy! I gave her the biggest hug and we were off into the snowy city center of Munich, Germany. Since we are all Florida girls the snow was unreal and it was snowing the entire time we were in Munich. Snowballs and drawing funny pictures on cars with the snow is what a majority of our time there consisted of, haha. f412e9be-714a-41af-9af6-3a751f176db8_zps7e3b7231Later that night we went to club “Pacha” and saw a band we have liked for a while GoldfishWARNING:If you ever find your self at Pacha avoid the 10 euro drinks at the bar. Anyway, seeing this group was amazing, the group consists of 2 guys, Dominic Peters and David Poole, from South Africa who “Live DJ” which basically means not only are they producing awesome beats for people to really dance to, they incorporate this with instruments. Piano, Saxophone, Flute and a very interesting Bass were all incorporated in the Munich show.

Another reason to love Munich is the 24 hour metro! This saved us a ton on cabs and really allowed us to see more of the city since we didn’t have to worry about costly cab fee’s.

People were still biking everywhere despite the cold!

People were still biking everywhere despite the cold!

Saturday we made our way to another biergarten (again we didn’t realize the concept of the biergarten’s and that they were closed outside in winter) Augustiner Keller, which is highly recommend by the people I met in Munich as the best beer in the city, the food was amazing too! We had quite the feast here, which included, Jun Schweinebraten – roast pork with dark beef gravy, potato dumplings and red cabbage (sauerkraut is made with cabbage also); Gesottener Tafelspitz mit bratkartoffeln und spinat – boiled beef, pan-fried potatoes and spinach and for desert apfelkücherl in zimt – zucker und vanillesoße which is basically fried apple fritters with vanilla ice cream coated with cinnamon and sugar, needless to say that was gone in about 5 seconds between the 3 of us!

The next day we set out for some sight-seeing, first stop the painfully depressing Dachau concentration camp. The sky was extremely grey, highly appropriate for visiting the first Nazi concentration camp opened in Germany. It was very interesting to be able to close your eyes and transport yourself to the times when people were fed an eighth of a loaf of bread a day while we were standing in the cremation rooms. This was not by any means a fun place to enjoy Munich, but we felt it was very necessary to come here and witness a piece of history. There were times walking around the camps when I was cold in my scarf, gloves, boots, and coat; than I was quickly reminded that the holocaust victims here had none of that, probably not even shoes and were trekking through this bitter cold.

Pinakothek der Moderne

Since it was a sunday, every museum in Germany was only 1 Euro (1.30 USD) we boarded the bus, then the tram (yet again MORE amazing public transportation in Munich) and headed to the art district of the city. We had enough time to hit Pinakothek der Moderne (the bigger of the two) and Museum Brandhorst where we would see works by Picasso, Dali (both who I have seen their musuems in their hometowns in Spain; Malaga and Figueras) a new found favorite of mine; Caroll Dunham, and many other artist, all of the works were so varied and original I could have been at these musuems for hours! I felt really privigled to be exploring these gallerys with my best friend, studio art/art history major Allie, because she had some info to drop along the way!

Caroll Dunham  Wild Grain 1983/84

Caroll Dunham
Wild Grain 1983/84

Can you find my roomie?

Can you find my roomie?

After the museums we made our way to the humongous Englischer Garten, German for “English Garden”, it looked like a setting straight out of a Hollywood Christmas movie, nothing but white as far as the eye can see. White covered trees, roofs, grass, and ice… yes, snow-covered ice; I can think of safer things. As we were walking across what we thought was a huge snow-covered field and I was running full speed toward the pond 524855_4710315271659_2107996810_nwhere all the ducks were is when we realized we were actually on the pond. Some snow sifted and we saw rock hard ice, once again being Florida girls this is something totally foreign to us. Maybe even more foreign than being in a country where the native tongue isn’t English. We began to take pictures and laughing about how cool it was to be walking on water. We saw a little patch of trees, at the time we thought this was a forest that would get us off the lake, but no, an island. Anyway, we walked toward this “forest” and then ccccc-rrr-a-cccc-kkk and the ice under my boots just broke, I had no choice but to hop to the island that we were basically on the edge of. At this point the sun was setting as each second passed and I felt trapped, for the first time in my life I felt 100% helpless. I didn’t know whether to scream, cry or laugh… I was in a real pickle. I decided the first thing to do was dig into the area I was standing on to make sure I was in

Translation --> "Do not enter the ice surface live danger, forbidden"

Translation –> “Do not enter the ice surface live danger, forbidden”

fact on land and not continuing to tread on thin ice, I was relived to find out I was on land,but that still did not change the fact that I needed to get back to the larger mass of land where I came from, no way I could stay on that “island” much longer. I made my first move off of the island… cccc-rrr-a-cc-kk that dreadful sound of ice crunching under your feet made my skin crawl once more. This time I had learned to test it with one foot so I was still safe, but still trapped. I knew what I had to do and that was follow the foot steps we previously made on the thicker ice. I don’t really know how I did it but I took a very extended step towards those foots prints and I was off. This was by far the sketchiest walk I have ever taken, even though 15 minutes prior I was running on this path. I made it! I reached safe land; heart racing and hands shaking. Rookie Florida move to say the least.

We had worked up quite an appetite after that incident and luckily stumbled onto what would be an extremely pleasant surprise, Shanai Indian restaurant. There is actually a rapidly growing Indian community in Munich, with almost 4,000 Indian people in the city (as of 2012/02). The next morning we boarded a train for what would be a beautiful ride to Innsbruck, Austria…

Frozen water in the fountain

Frozen water in the fountain

If I can leave you with anything when heading to Germany is eat new foods, if it’s cold make sure you’ve got some water proof/weather proof shoes and gloves you can play in snow with, watch out for those frozen lakes and mingle amungst the locals! … but I think these tips can go for just about anywhere 🙂

PROST!

 

School trip to Andalucia

January 28th 88 students and I groggily boarded a bus and headed south to spend a week in Spain’s southern region of Andalucia. Our first stop was Cordoba and a visit to the breathe-taking Mezquita–catedral de Córdoba. This mosque began construction in 785 in a time when Cordoba was the capital of Al-Andalus.

Columns in the mosque

The Moorish architecture is heavily present throughout the Mosque-cathedral.What caught my eye the most were the 856 columns made of red brick and limestone; that gave the mosque a never-ending look.  What I found to be most interesting in this place of worship was the middle. In 1236 Cordoba was conquered by Kind Ferdinand III and the mosque was turned into a Catholic cathedral. About 200 columns were knocked down and an extravagant catholic church was put smack dab in the middle complete with lots of gold and giant saints. People still worship here today! Although it took the place of worship for the Muslim people and completely altered it, the reason it is still standing today is because during the Spanish inquisition it was pardoned of being destroyed because it was not solely a Muslim worship te

mple but a catholic one.

Our next stop was Sevilla, Spain, home-town of my amazing friend Lucia!

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

Beautiful view of the town of Sevilla! (from the top of the bell towers at Catedral de Sevilla)

My schoolmates and I felt like royalty (which is only appropriate while in Andalucia, right?) when we entered our hotel. Before dinner we made our way up to the terrace and got an amazing view of Catedral de Sevilla, the largest Gothic style cathedral and 4th largest overall cathedral in the world!

Taking in the view!

Taberna Coloniales 

For dinner in Sevilla my friends and I took Lucia’s advice and had dinner at Taberna Coloniales. This was the best meal I ate the whole Andalucia trip, and maybe even during my entire trip in Spain thus far! If you ever find yourself in Sevilla put this place on your list! At dinner I ordered  berenjenas rellenas (stuffed eggplant) filled with shrimp, which was a delightful surprise! Our table also ordered Roquefort dulce con moras (cheese and sweet berry jam spread) this combination was fantastic, I am a huge advocate for cheese and berries! For dessert we got Tia Pepe (Spanish cheesecake).

Plaza De España

Panoramic view of the plaza

Panoramic view of the plaza

This famous Plaza was used as a filming location for Star-wars episode 1 & 2, I have never really seen the movie but my roommate, Alison better known as Rosada, is a HUGE fan so she was pretty thrilled about this. A neat feature of the plaza is the tiled covered walls that feature each province of Spain. I really could have spent hours here observing the fine tile and bridges throughout the plaza.

Viva Valencia!

Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (Royal Alcazars of Sevillethe oldest royal palace still in Europe!

Hall of ambassadors

Check out that detail!

Check out that detail!

It’s very typical for artist to come to the ancient palace and work on paintings,etc.

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

Notice the beautiful painting and immaculate tiles behind her!

After we toured Sevilla we were off to Granada to visit the Alhambra. Never have I seen architecture so fine before, I was taken aback by how small the detail was here. I tried

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

A view of Granada from a window in the Alhambra

to imagine my self back in 889 when the Alhambra was first constructed as a fortress using tiny tools hour after hour to create a huge piece of what would be one of the most amazing buildings in the world. In 1333 the fortress was converted into a royal palace. Of all places, my camera died mid way through the Alhambra, but I was able to snap a few photos before it died. Since Alhambra is a bit higher on the mountain than the rest of Granada we were able to get a spectacular view of the white washed city from above! We were also able to see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, a mountain very popular in Andalucia for its skiing. It was a bit surreal being so hot and then walking up and seeing snow! Especially being a Florida native.

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

A nice shot of the Sierra Nevada by my class mate Oliver Pettis

Their were many royal cats in Alhambra, not a shabby spot to live if you ask me! I could go on for days about Spanish tile, the tile in the Alhambra is probably my favorite so far. Covered in star patterns and geometric shapes of yellow, green, blue and white the tile could almost tell a story. How is it that something so old is still so appealing to the eye after all of these years? IMG_3731Walking through the Alhambra where most of the palaces walls were covered in carvings like the photo seen below literally sent chills down my spine. This palace is so well-preserved (although new pieces are sometimes added) it is almost like time travel thinking about the royal families that once lived here.

Intricacy at its finest

Intricacy at its finest

Ceiling detail

Ceiling detail

After so much sight-seeing (although I could have stayed there for hours longer) I was ready to eat! One thing I loved so much about Andalucia was the free tapas! This is most practiced in Granada. Order a reasonably priced beer or wine (or soda but no thanks) and get a free tapa, rice, bocadilla, or any other concoction the bars come up with. After 3 drinks and 3 tapas I was full from tapa hopping (and my wallet was still pretty full too!)

The weather, food, architecture and nightlife were remarkable in Andalucia. If you ever end up in Spain put this region on your to-do list!