5 layers of love

I’ve never cried over a cake… until today. It was so good. I couldn’t help myself. While in Budapest today my friend and I decided to venture over to the Hungarian National Art Museum. On our way there we walked into a little paper shop that sold things like postcards, journals and posters. Inside we met the curator of the shop who after a few minuets of conversation suggested a little local cafe and pastry shop. After we had spent about three hours looking at the seemingly endless maze of Picasso’s most famous works, we headed over to the place called Asztalka.

I can honestly consider this one of the most pleasant afternoons I have enjoyed in a while. The weather was perfect on this afternoon in late May. We bathed in sunshine. Flowers and spring foliage decorated the Buda hills. Across from Asztalka wedding bells rang and churchgoers flooded in to the chapel.

As we walked into the pastry shop there were only about five choices of cake, but they offered a full espresso and coffee bar. I decided to take my chances on a layered caramel cake accompanied by a strait espresso. My friend had a flat white and what appeared to be a very fluffy cheesecake with a layer of fresh fruit compote on the top.

Asztalka’s sitting room reminded me of something out of the book Alice in Wonderland. It looks like the aesthetic equivalent to a little girl’s imaginary tea shop.  Drinks are served in mismatch teacups and pastries on crystal platters, lace curtains grace the windows, a pink area rug covers the floor and tiny armchairs beckon patrons to take a seat.

But, the best part of the entire experience were the pastries. My cake had over 5 layers of rich caramel, fulfilling even my wildest hopes and dreams. The crust which held it all together was flaky, buttery and absolutely delectable.

Needless to say, we will soon be back for more. I absolutely recommend Asztalka to anyone traveling through Budapest.13220858_567843270052043_3372933804885901259_n.jpg

Street Harassment and Self Respect

Today began with a rough start. My friend and I are in Budapest and we had stopped to take a picture of a bridge when suddenly I felt a tap on my butt.  I figured it was someone passing by, tapping my with a handbag or hip by accident on the busy street. I was wrong. Glancing behind me I saw a guy driving away on a tiny little moped, accompanied by a group of guys laughing hysterically and glancing back at me. Naturally I was pissed off and ready to fight this guy. Under no circumstance was this acceptable. But, then it hit me just how hilarious and pathetic the situation was. Not only did he mostly miss my ass, he didn’t even do it for his own pleasure. Instead, this was his sad attempt to try and prove his fragile (or possibly nonexistent)  masculinity to his friends. He is so insecure about his image that he was literally willing to physically assault someone on the street. Also, if the guys who assaulted me (or any other guilty of street harassment) happens to read this, I have a special message for you. You disgust me.

I desperately wish people would understand assaulting people (verbally or physically) does nothing to enforce gender norms or masculinity. It only deteriorates any respect that people might have had for someone before the incident. As a society, its pathetic and deplorable that we allow this to continue. Admittedly, it is an easy thing to blow off. Women and men both find various ways to justify the behavior. Even subconsciously, we have a tendency to do it. When the incident occurred this morning the first thought that came to my mind was that I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. It was “rude” of me. I thought that perhaps that he slapped my ass because I was in his way. But, then I thought about the MILLION other ways he could have told me to move. For all I care, he could have yelled at me, called me an ignorant tourist. Even that would have been better then the call he made. This behavior was simply disgusting and I was not to blame for the incident, nor is anyone who has even been harassed on the street.

Bohemian Pubs and American Politics

Last night in Budapest, my friend and I decided to try our chances at a little place called Szimpla Kert. Considered something called a “ruined pub”, Szimpla is part of a network of bars and clubs that specialize in Budapest’s bohemian culture. These establishments are located in abandoned buildings and courtyards throughout the city. They are decorated with a mixture of eccentric art and graffiti.For those of you familiar with Boulder, Colorado, this place would have fit in perfectly on Pearl Street. They serve a large variety of drinks and everyone over the age of 18 is welcome. Tip: It might be a good idea to bring an official form of identification if you plan to visit. Unlike many other establishments in Europe, they check ID for anyone that looks like they might be under 18.

Perhaps my favorite parts of the bars are the variety of people that they draw in and how relaxed everyone seems to be. People from all the world gather, hoping to mingle with interesting people. Compared with other Bars and Clubs that I have been to in Europe, people who come to Szimpla simply want to relax and take a moment to enjoy a chill night out. At the beginning of the night my friend and I were pleased to walk in and hear one of our favorite songs “All Night” playing. Szimpla mostly plays a mix of electro-swing. For anyone unfamiliar with this genre, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C7UgR_sIW0  by Parov Stelar. Although a little quirky, the lyrics and beat are sure to stick with you.

Before we knew it, we had met two students from the United Kingdom and a pair or friends from Canada taking a gap year. Talking to people in environments like this is low key one of my favorite things. Everyone is in a similar situation and everyone clearly has a passion for travel. This combination has always proven itself to make for great conversation. To hear everyone’s backstory and plans for the future of their journey is inspirational. We talked with the two guys from Canada for about an hour. We traded our best travel stories and shred tips about cities. But things really got interesting when they decided to bring up the upcoming American election. To hear an outsider’s perspective on the “circus” that people call the American Election system was humorous. For a while we debated on Hillary’s strengths while my Canadian friend referred to her as the “Attractive Boss Bitch” (he might have been a little intoxicated… to be fair) I found it relieving that everyone else in the world is horrified that we would let Donald Trump get this far in the election and they pass on their sympathies if he wins. One guy even told me that he hopes to visit the states before Donald Trump “takes over” and ruins the country.

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Szimpla during daylight hours. They serve cocktails all day, but they don’t get busy until 11 pm.

 

Labyrinth of the Vampire Cult and newly founded anxiety

So let me rewind. Our first day in Budapest, we were wandering around the outskirts of Buda Castle and just outside the Hospital Museum when we came across something peculiar. We spotted a dimly lit underground ally and decided to venture into it when the curiosity grew and we decided it was too late to turn back. It had an eerie feel to it. The dim yellow lights cast huge shadows in front of us. Water dripped from the ceilings in a way that send a shiver down your spine. Confused, we continued on looking for an exit or an end to the tunnel. Instead, we came across a ticket booth and a stairway that lead up to a side street on castle hill. There, a plaque quickly explained that the “tunnel” we were just in was actually a labyrinth where the leader of a vampire colt ( supposedly Dracula himself)  was held prisoner until his death. Honestly, I figured this was a tourist trap. But after some research, my friend and I found that the tunnels were actually legitimate and expanded underneath the entire castle. We also found that they give tours of the labyrinth. My hesitation of the tour was overruled by the argument that”no one would believe us” unless we actually took the tour for factual support.

The next day, after our morning run to Krystali Cukraszda (a delicious little bakery and espresso bar), we made our way back up to the castle and once again ascended into the darkness of the labyrinth. I was hopelessly unprepared for what was about to follow. Supposedly a self guided tour, the passage started with a brief explanation and exaggeration of the labyrinth’s history. Wax figures set the scene for a murder most foul, ect…

It wasn’t until maybe a 1/4 mile into the caves that things turned unexpected. Suddenly the wax figures stopped and was replaced with a sign explaining the complexity of the tunnels and the purposes they used to served. The sign also explained a human phenomenon about how paranoia, the dark and thick fog has the potential to mess with our heads.

I instantly felt my anxiety levels rise as I came to the realization that the only way out of the labyrinth lied within the darkness. To gain understanding about the labyrinth, you ad to experience it without outside assistance. I have a huge fear of caves and getting trapped in unescapable places. Before we knew it, we were launched into complete darkness. I couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, that I had faced with such circumstances. The darkness was solid, it fell like a curtain. Darkness is usually different. Even at night, there is moonshine, there are streetlights, or there are the little blue and red glowing lights that come from smoke detectors or a charging cellphone. But it is almost impossible to achieve absolute darkness like this. True darkness like this crushes light. Even when we tried to use cellphones, they had little effect. Miles underground, without the technology of modern society, we were suddenly transported back to the literal DARK ages. The only things that clued me into my location were echoes of water droplets and the smell of decay that came from the cave. Besides that, we were blind. It might not have been as bad if we were somewhere else, but thinking about how were were sitting in a historically proven medieval torture chamber (regardless if the vampire myth was true or not) probably pushed me over the edge. I see no shame in admitting I was terrified.

My best friend lead the way while we slowly worked our way out. If it hadn’t been for her, I probably would have lost ability to move and just died there from an anxiety attack. I still get dizzy and squeamish thinking about it.

The rest of the labyrinth turned out to be okay. Instead of darkness, it was replaced with a tick fog that they highlighted with bright with lights. Every so often you could see artifacts that they recovered form the old uses of the labyrinth. Bits of columns sat in corners while iron gates of ancient jail cells were covered in rust.

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We take a selfie with the last bit of light before we enter the labyrinth. 

Best Bite of Budapest

Tonight, I enjoyed the best meal that I have had in months. Down a little ally there was a place called the M Restaurant. It couldn’t have been much bigger then a tiny cafe, but the food was superb. My friend and I walked into the crowded place and ended up scoring a patio table right outside the door. It was lucky we arrived just in time, because six or seven couples were turned away after us by wait staff because lack of availability. The place is off the beaten path and it is clear that it is predominately frequented by locals. Outside it has a very cute atmosphere. The wooden tables were covered in cushions and had a wall which opened, connecting indoors and outdoors. Happy conversation and clinking glasses could be heard down the street where it resides. Early summer is the perfect time to enjoy patio seating. The temperature is just right and the flowers are in full bloom.

As for my food, it couldn’t have been better. I ordered chicken goulash with a side of dumplings, accompanied by a glass of white house wine. The chicken was tender, juicy and cooked to perfection. The Goulash sauce was savory and perfectly seasoned with paprika and basil. The plain dumplings with light sour cream created a nice balance for the dish.

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Their website can be found at http://metterem.hu

 

Radioactive Art

Today my friend and I wandered into the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts, unsure what to expect. From the outside, the museum actually looked closed. Banners draped across construction boardwalks made us question if we could even go inside. But after some investigation we finally found the front doors. From the few exhibits that we saw, my favorite was the “Explore Color” portion. There were four different rooms that divided art by blues, reds, greens,  and browns. Each room displayed different types of dishes, cloths, paintings, furniture, and other random items. One particular feature that caught my eye was an ultraviolet light that caused these jars and glasses to glow a bright, an almost bioluminescent green. Curious about it, we looked on the nearby plaque and found a description. Turns out that the secret ingredient that made the pieces glow was legitimate Uranium. As in, these pieces of art were actually radioactive. The artist supposedly designed them to make a statement about nuclear warfare and other radioactive social problems. Although the art curator seemed to feel safe being around these, I didn’t.

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The Downpour

Today in Budapest was significant  because of the amount of rain that fell. Being from Colorado, my friend and I drastically underestimated the rain in Budapest.

We woke up around 9 that morning and headed across the river to the “Buda” side of Budapest. From there we hiked to the fisherman’s bastion and castle hill. Coming from an elevation of 9,000 feet actually makes life much easier. As we passed other tourists that seemed to be breathing heavily from the hike, we were rolling in the extra oxygen. We felt like super-humans. From the top of the funicular (a little train that takes you up to the top of the hill) the view seems surreal. You can see the entirety of the city on a clear day. After we soaked in the view properly, we headed on to go explore the contents within the castle walls.  Besides pretty buildings and a few nicely kept gardens, there wasn’t too much to see until we finally found a museum, which had been suggested to me by a friend who recently studied abroad here.

Called the “Hospital Museum” it was actually a 5-mile long nuclear-proof bunker the had been transformed throughout that ages by different political parties and governments within Budapest. During its time it served as a hospital for both Soviet troops, nationalists, and German solders as a red cross certified safe place for everyone. Because of its intentional certification, the place was respected and spared by raids. During the later part of ww2 through the end of the cold war, it served as a nuclear-safe bunker.  On the tour, we had the chance to see the old generators, water storage supply units, air circulation systems for the tunnel, and giant diesel fuel tanks that could run everything in case of power loss. Fun Fact: We learned on the tour that the Hungarian word for “radiation” is actually “sugar.” My mind immediately went to “sugar cookies” and I wondered about the confusion and worry this might bring to Hungarian tourists in America.

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This is the entrance to the Hospital Museum / Nuclear Bunker

By the end of the day we ended up outside the Hungarian Parliament. This giant building is actually a little intimidating. Despite the armed guards every couple feet, its gothic pillars and tours accurately represent its prestige. When we sat down to enjoy the view, it had started to sprinkle rain. But by the time my friend and I had made it back to our hotel, we were drenched. My jeans were soaked and I could feel water squish between my toes as I walked. My hair had begun to drip onto my face. It seemed everyone was carrying around umbrellas except for us.  When we made it into the hotel, the front desk assistant gave us a look that might have been a mix of sympathy and disgust at the mud we just tracked into his clean lobby.

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Me, enjoying a calm  drizzle before the downpour.

It is the people who make the trip.

It never really gets old. It seems cliché, but it is true. Every time I fly through Europe to some new and unfamiliar destination, the people I meet amaze me. I don’t really consider myself to be much of a conversationalist but for some reason people always end up talking to me.

Today I was on my way to Budapest, catching a connecting flight through Heathrow, when my friend and I met two distinctive people. The first was a TSA officer who clearly wasn’t in the mood to deal with my optimistic outlook and the second was a Hungarian lady who attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where I currently study.

It wasn’t half an hour into our trip when someone said something strange to me. My best friend and I have this theory; whenever we are together some randomly guy will say something to one of us that takes us completely off guard. This time, it was a TSA officer in Denver. I was about to take off on an international flight with my best friend to explore an exotic city in Eastern Europe. Can you blame me for being excited? Opportunities like this are what I live for. So when he asked me why I was smiling so much, I just told him that I was excited. I wasn’t about to lie to TSA officer! To that, he replied with an overly salty and dramatic response of “Well aren’t you just a cheeseball.” A cheeseball? A cheeseball!! I have been called a lot of things, but this was a first.

For this flight, we took British Airways from Denver to Heathrow The downfall to British Airways is that they always have trouble being on time. Every single time I have flown on a direct flight on BA, which granted has only been 3 occasions, the flight inevitably ends up being delayed by at least an hour. By now I’ve learned that in order to make a connecting flight from Heathrow, you need a minimum of two hours unless you plan on booking it down the concourse. In March of 2015, I wrote about about yet another one of this airport’s many dysfunctions. But instead of having trouble with the airport this time, it was security that caught me off guard. I made the mistake of assuming that just because the Denver TSA approved my carryon items, Heathrow security check probably would would too. As I was headed down the line, I was pulled to the side and told to remove the contents of my bag and was forced to re-sort my luggage no less then three different times under the supervision of the security officer. Turns out that I had accidently left a bottle of sunscreen at the bottom of my backpack. Oops…

What this experience produced though was a friend. When I was shuffling everything so it fit back into my backpack, the Hungarian lady mentioned earlier caught sight of a CU sticker on the back of my phone. While waiting in the terminal this lead to a half hour discussion of the Culture of Boulder Colorado, the “trust fund hippies” that inhabit it, and the “communist design” of the engineering building. I use those quotations not as paraphrases, but rather as direct quotes. She clearly chose her words with precision because those might just me the most accurate descriptions I have ever heard. The quote about the design about the engineering center caught me off guard because she followed up the “communist design” comment with a personal anecdote about her experience with the communist regime. She also mentioned that in her day the Alfred Packer Grill served great panini. Personally, I still think this stands true today. Although our college may have added new additions like buffalo sharped pools and fancy community centers, they at least have managed to keep their panini priorities strait.

As we finally arrived in Budapest, I was shocked how green that the city is. I don’t mean necessarily earth friendly, but rather luscious. The trees were covered in huge leaves, many areas were landscaped in flawless lawns and flowers were abundant. Unlike many other European cities that I have visited, they also have lots of parks and greenbelt areas hidden within the city. These all make a wonderful foreground in pictures (for all you aspiring photographers out there.)

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Budapest: Here I Come

2016 has been a big year. It has changed me as person, for both good and bad reasons. The last five months of my life have been some of the most emotional ones I have ever experienced. Those who know me realize that I’m not one to openly express what I feel, it’s not in my nature. So as my first completed year of college comes to  an end, I’ve decided it is time to exercise my newfound freedom and take a trip across the globe.

When I first imaged taking this trip, I pictured being accompanied by my two best friends.  But, after a heartbreaking loss, it will only be my friend Lauren and I. Although our friend Luke won’t be able to accompany us physically, he will accompany us in our thoughts and our hearts. Although my trio may be gone, our original optimism and inclination for adventure continues. The world awaits and we will take it on with heavy hearts.

A year ago, I would have never pictured where I am today. Throwing together an international trip in only a week has been a challenge, but an exciting learning experience. I’m so thankful that I was raised with an international and opportunistic mind set. I get a thrill out of planning each and every new adventure.

This trip is unique because, unlike in the past when I had others doing my planning, the details were completely left up to my friend and I. To my surprise, the difficulty did not lie in the reservations or flights. The difficult part is getting ahold of the proper currency and learning enough of the language to get by. If you haven’t heard, Hungarian is arguably one of the most difficult languages to learn on the entire planet. According to wikipedia it has 14 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes… whatever that means. My overly American accent is not prepared to handle the sounds required to achieve proper pronunciation. It also turns out that Hungarian Forints aren’t typically kept in stock at currency exchange centers in the state of Colorado. Right now, our game plan for learning the language is to make friends on the plane during our layover from Heathrow to Budapest. As for currency, we are forced to try our luck at an airport currency exchange kiosk.

 

 

48 hours in DC

Washington, DC is a city of hustle and bustle. Personally, that’s why I am so attracted to it. The people in a city that never sleeps is usually driven by ambition and a vision.  DC is a perfect example. There is always someone new to meet, places to see, and things to try. I have a deep love for DC because whenever I am there its like I’m on top of the world.

This time around in DC, I was actually there for originally an international fraternity conference called Phi Alpha Delta. This group is composed of undergraduate students, graduate students, and also those going through law school. We are collectively committed to the end goal of finding a career in the legal profession. I was still lucky enough to find time to explore the city in the short 48 hours my group and I were there.

We spent Saturday afternoon exploring a few key Smithsonian museums. The Air and Space museum was impressive because of the space and air history artifacts put on display. This had been my second time at the museum so perhaps it was less interesting to me. But, I had never been to the Botanical Gardens or the American History Museum before.

For anyone traveling to DC in the near future, I would highly suggest the American History Museum. When you walk in its not overly impressive, but by the time you finally get to the meat of the exhibits, the content and research that has gone into the exhibits have a profound effect. There is nothing like experiencing an overview of American History where many of the decisions about the outcomes have been made. The section on American war was perhaps my favorite. It starts out with the American Revolution and slowly transitions from war to war based on a linear timeline. But as you approach later wars and more controversial wars, like the Vietnam War, they are presented in a way that becomes very real for those visiting the exhibit. I don’t think ever been so moved by an exhibit, not emotionally but mentally. The American History of war Museum at the Smithsonian left me with a deep curiosity and new perspective on quite a few things. I suggest that if you can make the time, it would be worth spending an entire day or two at this museum alone.

The botanical museum was mostly just beautiful. The diversity of plants are astounding. The most interesting rooms were probably either the endangered species room or the room that featured various medicinal plants. I have always had an interest in botany so I found this museum more interesting them my counterparts but they still enjoyed themselves. This  botanical museum could comfortably be seen in an hour or two. But make sure not to miss it. I had no idea that it was even there until this trip. It is hidden in comparison to the rest of the mall. Instead of being directly off the National Mall, it sits directly to the right of the Capitol Building.

After the Smithsonian closed we made our way up to Capitol hill and toured the outsides of the buildings in this area. From the outside, the Supreme Court was by far the most impressive. It reminded me of  ancient buildings that I’ve seen  in citifies like Vienna or Rome. Its Roman pillars were larger then most redwoods. You had to stand a couple hundred feet back from the building just to get a complete picture bottom to top, but you were free to walk up on the steps outside of the building. Perhaps less impressive from the outside but still beautiful was the Library of Congress.  Although, if you do make your way up to Capitol Hill, make sure that you do it between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:30 PM. Unfortunately, we arrived about an hour late and the doors were closed to the pubic. I would have bet though that the interior would have made up for the unimpressive exterior.

The most majestic moment that I encountered in DC was walking through the memorials during sunset. I cannot stress the beauty of the Lincoln Memorial with a gorgeous sunset behind it. The colored light was bouncing over the reflection pool and the area glowed of purple and blue.12118679_492143454288692_78464703576351655_n

29 Travel Hacks Even Frequent Fliers Don’t Know

Unusually helpful hints! Unlike most “travel hacks” this article is well researched .

TIME

Instead of insulting your intelligence with “hacks” like “pack light,” or “bring an empty water bottle,” we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks that will help even the most seasoned jetsetter avoid the inevitable hassles of frequent flying.

1. Sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Essentially an express lane for the proactive, these programs are pre-approvals from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that designate you a low-risk traveler. As long as you’re not a convicted criminal, you’re good to go after little more than some light paperwork and a quick in-person interview.

Essentially, TSA PreCheck ($85) makes U.S. domestic travel simpler, allowing you to keep your shoes, belts, etc. on and cut security lines, while Global Entry ($100) makes returning from an international trip easier, eradicating paperwork and lengthy processing lines.

2. Book two one-way flights

Sometimes flying two different airlines and booking two one-way…

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Napali coast… a wild adventure 

The Napali coast. It’s a natural phenomenon of which I have never seen anything similar to before. As featured in the Jurassic parks movie, it’s greenery and elegance are reflected in everything around it. The hills are best described as velvety green and the water that splashes onto the coast a turquoise blue. 

An upside to traveling with a professional rock climber is that they push your boundaries and test your adventurous limits. We left our condo around six am in order to drive up to the Napali coast where we would be doing our eight mile hike. Now eight miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is considerably more strenuous when half the trek is swimming through rivers, crawling through mud, and stumbling down boulders on near vertical surfaces. 

Our group of seven split up into two groups. Peter the rock climber, my friend Jess, and I (being the most capable for the trek) went up ahead and left the others to take a slower pace.  

As we neared the trailhead, giant warning signs greeted us.

 “Caution: flash flood area” 
“Caution: strong tide current”
“Cation: steep cliffs ahead” 
“Cation: falling rocks” 
The sight was slightly ominous. But there was a certain thrill in the air. It was almost like a challenge. It was pushing us toward the end of the world and unexplored territory. (At least unexplored to me)

It took us about three hours to hike into the back country where we would turn around and head back. The loop was 22 miles if you were to complete the entire thing. 

At the 4 miles we ended up at the bottom of the mountains near the turquoise ocean. But it was much more interesting then your adverage beach. The high tide had created a type of land bridge and a separate body of water in an inlet. It wasn’t exactly a lake, but rather a giant tide pool of smooth sand and guppies. It was only about waist deep at most, and the sun had warmed the water to almost hot tub temperature. Maybe around 90 degrees. Unlike the ocean which was staid by strong and dangerous tide, this pool was completely still even though it was only twenty feet away. It was also stunningly clear water. You could see every little detail on the bottom including variation in the color of grains of sand. It seemed surreal. 

On the side of the pool were cliff walls which opened into caves and large caverns. Being the capable adventurer he is, Peter had a head lamp so we took a look around but stopped when we noticed a deep dark underwater lake. There are very few things I fear, but I must admit this is one of them. There was an incident when I was younger that prompts me to have a fear of cave lakes and drowning in general, but we won’t go into that now. Either way there was no way in hell I was going into that water to continue. I was able to convince the others to turn back when we noticed another warning sign. 

“Caution: Do NOT swim. Possible flesh eating bacteria present” 

But as we weren’t to turn back we were handed a tempting offer. If you were to continue another two miles up the trail you would reach a waterfall with another pool at the bottom. He offered to take both Jess and I but we decided to decline once we assessed our water situation and found it was almost gone.  

At the end of the day we thankful that we had declined his offer. When we picked him up from his further adventure another four hours later, he admitted he was glad we didn’t join him. Evidently the condition of the terrain only worsened, the mid afternoon sun was scorching, and in the four hours we gave him before we picked him up he only managed to make it another mile. Worst of all, he didn’t even reach the waterfall. Given that he is a professional rock climber, this is a horrifying thought to consider how rough this trail really was. 

We learned a few days later that the state of Hawaii requires proof of experience and a license to continue past the point I went. Oops.  

I’ve adopted it as a personal goal of mine in the future to return to the island and complete the 22 mile loop. Maybe like a bucket list goal, so to say.  

 

Travel Talk 

Here I sit in San Francisco, waiting for my flight.  Our flight was supposed to be at 2:30. Air port delays are often annoying but I actually appreciate the time to get stuff done. Stuff like write this blog post.  (I may as well, because I just learned we won’t even get more information until 7 am in San Francisco. That’s 8 am in Denver.) 

It’s always an odd phenomenon when one travels on a flight longer then 5 hours. You somehow manage to experience 24 hours of sunrises, sunsets, and starry skies as you follow th skyline in that short span. Four hours ago I left the Lihue airport around sunset. Now I sit in San Francisco enjoying a chai latte and watching the sunset through a terminal window. 

This latest trip for me has been different than most others I go on. I usually travel for the excitement, thrill, history, and adventure. But this time it was a nice mix of all this stuff and a decent amount of relaxation. You don’t realize how stressed out you are until you have the opportunity to sit on a beach and analyze your life.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most of those stress triggers might be just completely irrelevant in the scheme of things. 

Now…. Onto the details about my trip! 

The condo we and our family friends rented was near Poipu beach. This is a beach on the southern side of Kauai, Hawaii. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Wildlife and animals: 

Because of the heat most mornings I had a hard time sleeping in. So instead of laying in bead, I would go for walks on the beach every morning. There is something pristine and perfect about green sea turtles which were sprinkled on the beaches this time of morning before people took over the area. The full moon would draw them out and coax the onto the beach.  Besides the turtles, I also happened across a Hawaiian seal one morning. 

All over the island and not just on Poipu, wild cats and chickens have taken over. They are everywhere and although I was surprised by it, locals have just seemed to accept it as fact. You would think that the cat population would keep the chickens to a minimum, but the cats don’t seem to interested in the chicken buffet. 

Another interesting spot for birdwatching is the light house and national animal sanctuary on the northeastern side of the island. Around mid summer, which happens to be now, redfooted boobies build there nests and hatch eggs. The whole side of the rocky oceanfront looked like it had been toiltet papered by a group of troublesome teens… But instead of trash all those white  speaks were actually birds. 

Food: 

My favorite food island was by far the fruit. The Mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, and banana on the island are all to die for. Sweet, tangy, and delectable are all under statements. The next runners up were the locally caught sushi and shave ice. There’s nothing like fresh food and a cool treat on a very hot day. 

Adventures:

Well I would update you about these now, but they are nothing without picture evidence as proof. For example, when I went exploring canvas and remote beaches on the Napali Coast (where Jurassic park was filmed) it wouldn’t have same the effect without context of an image. There are certain things you can’t explain with words. 

Surf’s up

Today I learned to surf. This might not sound like a huge deal, but considering I am from Colorado, it’s a pretty unique experience for me. 

It was just about as painful as I expected, but it was surprisingly easier the I thought it would be. The key is to fall…. A lot. This is true partially because you just naturally get better with practice. But it is mostly true because I’ve realized that when you get accustomed to falling you don’t fear it anymore and the natural feel of balance slowly comes. If you aren’t fearful of falling, you aren’t distracted by it. Focus and relaxation is a pretty big deal evidently. 

Unfortunately through, when I did fall the first few times, I fell hard. Little did I know that I would end up flipping my board over a coral reef and slicing open my right foot with about five sizable gashes. Also during this incident I managed to knock the wind our of myself.  Dazed and confused, is at there holding onto my board for dear life for a few seconds before the pain subsided.

The next rookie mistake I made was letting myself get pulled into a current that ended up with me spraining my hand when I landed on the beach. My right hand got stuck under my board. Don’t ask me how… I’m not even sure myself. 

Yet despite the pain, it was totally worth it. By the end my second hour I could actually catch a wave and ride it for a few feet before face planing into the sand. When you manage to successfully ride a wave you feel like pure sunshine. It’s like you’re on top of the world and nothing can bring you down. (Well except for maybe a shark or tsunami)  

 

LA? No way…  and other interesting observations 

I am not a fan of LA. 

Well, I suppose that judgement is a little presumptuous. Let’s just say I am not a fan of LAX, or it’s airport. I have never actually spent significant time in the city besides layovers. 

As you fly into the city a layer of thick pollution coats the city. From the sky you just see mile upon mile of dirty commercial sprawl with small residencies intertwined among the urban expanse. There is no greenery on the ground, maybe with the exception of a few palm trees. This is not surprising considering the entire city is made up of one large concerted block. I believe it was Amy Poehler who once said that she will never fully understand LA.  Now I know why. 

Once our plane landed we were forced to taxi around for about half an hour before we were able find our way to a gangplank. Evidently there was a backload of flights being held up because of various mechanical issues. 

Flight attendants tell you to remain calm and quiet in this situation but I am here to tell you that “calm and quiet” doesn’t happen when you have a connecting flight to catch in exactly fifteen minutes. There is nothing more aggravating  then being held captive on an incoming flight when the seconds ticking by are an annoying reminder that your plane started to bored and you are a sitting duck several concourses away. In a situation like this, there is no chill. 

Once we finally were able to make our way off the plane, it hit me just how  appreciative of effiency I am exactly. I remember complaining a few months ago about the inconsistency and inefficiency of the Heathrow airport in London. LAX makes their connection transportation system look like first class service. Once we made out way off the plane, we were stranded on a little island in the middle of the Tarmac so we had to take a bus back to the central part of the airport. Now I wish I could say this went smoothly and quickly. But we were put on a bus where we left in the 105 degree heat for quit  some time given our tight connection . Were obviously inconvincing her because she seemed to be in the middle of a a gossip session with one of her close friends. They literally started to braid each others hair when my family and I finally got the guts to ask if we could get a move on. With an eye roll and a snort she finally asked her friend to leave so we could get a move on. Like I said before, I am used to effcency and I appreciate people who take their jobs seriously and have a little respect for the airlines who pay them. Silly me, guess I needed a reality check. 

But, somehow we still managed to catch our flight because of some sort of magical intervention from above. We made the cut off for boarding by exactly two minuets. As I write this I’m looking out the window and admiring large expanse of ocean. But on our way from Denver to LA the view was a bit more unique. The Grand Canyon indeed looks like a giant crack in the earth compared to all the flat desert around it. It was an unusual site and one I felt honored to see on such a clear day. 

 Fun fact: it takes about four minuets to fly over the Grand Canyon in a commercial jet. 

Now on our other connection from LA to Lihui, Hawaii I saw something else amazing. From above cloud level, the Pacific Ocean appeared to be the exact same shade aqua blue as the sky above it.  The fluffy clouds in between the two layers looked like a thin layer of marshmallow in this sandwich of blue. It looked like the sky had been reflected into a mirror.   (See picture below) 

Finally as we settle into our little bungalow/condo I finally have time to tell you about my journey so far. I was surprised to find that the rooms don’t have air conditioning, but the soft ocean breezes and free wifi more then make up for it. The view off our balcony happens to be that of a cactus garden. This worries me slightly because I have a bad history with cactuses. The last time I was near a cactus garden the surgeon had to pull eight thornes out of my thighs, arms, and face.  

 

 

mosquitoes and mayhem

Fun Fact: I have never been camping.

Despite the fact I have lived  in the heart of the Rocky Mountains for 18 years and have a deep love for the outdoors, I have never been camping. Or, at lest until now….

Our little camping trip originally started as a week long group trip to Lake Powell but eventually after several road blocks we had a change of plans. It made me sad at the time to consider all of our planning we had done over the course of a month was irrelevant. But after reflecting upon the events of the last couple days, I know realize the verse had something else in mind for me.

It didn’t quite hit me until we were out in the middle of freaking nowhere without cell service how much I actually trust my boyfriend. Since our other friend decided to bail on the trip, it turned out to just be the two of us. As we drove mile after mile into the wilderness it occurred to me just how easy it would be to kill someone out here and dispose of the body without a trace. (What a romantic thought to be having while alone with your boyfriend… I know) Still, the thought of being outside the reach of reality and responsibility with such an awesome person for a few days was a awesome thought.

We reached our destination and started to set up camp in a little field on the edge of an aspen grove. We started to set up the tent.  I attempted to help, but felt like I was performing an SNL comedy skit. Not only was my clumsy disposition getting in the way but I had never actually set one up before. It probably looked like I was attempting to build a space ship for NASA according to the look of pure concentration on my face.

As sunset neared, so did the misquotes. They were literally everywhere. As we made smores for dessert we decided to try putting peanut butter on the gram crackers. Which is amazing and delicious for the record. But it turns out they are also attracted to peanut butter. I was already pretty frustrated at that point so my rage accidentally let itself out as I yelled “STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY PEANUT BUTTER!” The look on my boyfriend’s face was priceless because he assumed I was talking to him at first. oops. I have a feeling that this is the start of a long term inside joke.

Strangely enough, the award for most awkward moment of the night goes to the moment when we realized we had been set up. It was your classic situation. Unknown to my boyfriend, one of his friends had snuck a condom and a pack of beer into our camping supplies. Luckily we had a good laugh about it and I have a pretty solid plan to mess with his friend next time I see him.

I have decided that the point of camping isn’t to relax and enjoy nature. It is to go for an adventure, open yourself up to new experiences with friends, and see what kind of mischief you manage to get yourself into. Well, maybe all that plus enjoying the night sky. For the record: those stars were amazing.

Butterflies, strawberry pies, and perfection 

Yesterday: it could have not been more perfect. I know this sounds like a classic cliche and a boring story… But this is a story of perfectly timed adventures. 

I began the day early in the morning. For me this is a small miracle. It takes a special kind of person to coax me out of bed at eight am in order to meet for a morning hike. And I must say…my date is that very special type of person, because I would do it again in a heart beat. 

I am lucky to live in the mountains, it gives me a new opportunity everyday to explore a different place. So in place of coming up with more creative ideas, my date and I decided to go on a hike at a state park two minuets from my house. 

Usually I am extraordinary awka awkward on first dates, but yesterday just seemed to flow. We kept running into small little details that made for fun conversation and an overall brilliant day. 

While we were walking for example, we kept passing this lady with an official looking clip board. Turns out she was a conservationist whose literal job was to go around and count different species of butterfly. 

Eventually we got tired of walking and ended up setting up a hammock in a field of flowers and cuddling. 

As we were on our way to get food at a local grill, we decided to go pick up our friend. We walked in her house to find she was baking pies. The smell of Apple, cherry, and strawberry wafted through the air. Of course she invited us to come back once we got food and end the event with her eating pie and watching Pushing Dasies. For anyone who knows the show, you probably realize the perfection of this idea. Pushing Dasies and pie go together like movies and popcorn.  We gladly accepted her offer and indulged in the bliss of strawberry heaven. 

All of it seemed like one giant dream. Somehow what was supposed to be a short few hour thing turned into a thirteen hour carefree summer day. It seemed like something which I would awaken from any moment.  I usually write about the bitter satire in my life. But recently my sass has seemed to take a back seat.  Yesterday just seemed to call for recollection of perfection. And Yes, that rhyme may have been on purpose. 

Unexplored territory and a twist on unfamiliarity

Our last day in Prague was definitely among one of my favorites. Despite having a last nostalgic walk around the city, I discovered many unknown gems of the area and had a few unreplicable experiences. 

We woke up early on Sunday in an attempt to attend Palm Sunday mass at one of the city’s historical cathedrals. The morning air was extremely chilly and misty rain fell from the sky from grey clouds above. The entire hillside was foggy so it was hard to see Prague  which usually adorns the hillside. 

The cathedral itself, although plain on the outside, it’s brilliantly decorated with vivid frescos which can be seen 300 feet above on the carefully hand painted ceiling. Gold statues of saints, apostles, and martyrs keep careful watch over the (very uncomfortable) antique wooden pews. 

Right as we sat down, a priest said something in Czech and the entire congregation followed him to a court yard. Here, the air was warmer and thick with inscents. We gathered here with a group of probably around thirty other locals. Since it was Palm Sunday, everyone brought branches as tradition dictates. But instead of using dried palm leaves, a group of locals had gone a few before and cut fresh pussywillow branches from a nearby town. Since it is early spring, the large fuzzy white blossoms were absolutely beautiful on the green branches. 

One thing which caught me off guard was not the fact the mass was in Czech, or the fact it was about twelve degrees in the gothic church, but how we received communion. 

Back in the states, we usually cup our hands right under left before the priest places it in our palm. Then after, it is optional to partake in the wine or “blood.”  Back in the Czech Republic, the priest dips the bread or “body” into the wine before literally feeding it to you. All the locals just opened their mouth and allowed him to place it in. Being the ignorant American, I studdered awkwardly as the entire congregation of Czech Catholics watched me attempt to partake In communion. At first I presented my palm as is typically the norm. But instead of just handing it to me, the priest just stood there and waited for me to catch on. His eyes were full amused judgment. 

After mass, we found ourselves just off a small courtyard in an adorable little bakery and coffee shop. One thing I love about Prague is their delicious food and drinks. On multiple occasions I had their version of a thin but rich chocolate pudding, which they refer to as “hot coco.” I knew this is typical in Spain, but didn’t know it was similar in Eastern Europe too. 

On the menu they had a short snipit of history about the courtyard. To my surprise, a nobleman beheaded his wife there in the early 16th century.  It did not specify why, but I figure she probably cheated on him or something to that effect. 

After the cafe, we decided to go visit a moneststy at the top of the hill we had heard lots about. We debated on taking a taxi, but I’m so glad we braved the hill and hiked up ourselves. Once you passed the main city center and neared the crest of the hill, cobble stones turned into fresh green grass and you had the opportunity to take a stroll among the vineyard where the local monks produce  wine and fresh grapes.  By that point you are high enough on the hill to have a beautiful view of the entire city. Much like Vienna, turquoise domes provide a contract against the red rooves of houses in Prague. 

Dear Vienna, 

It’s sad to think my trip abroad had almost come to an end. Tonight I just got back to me hotel room after another amazing day. Yet, tomorrow around this time I will be back home hallway around the world.

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Vienna. It’s one of those places people fantasize about…. And for good reason. Its a city you could visit for weeks and still have new things to discover. Around every corner there is a new monument or museum.  I saw the home of Mozart and sigmund frued. I saw the birthplace of Mozart’s many classic works.

Around the central part of the city lies a main park. In the center is a giant romanticized statue of Mozart. Blow it lies a giant treble clef made up entirely of bright yellow flowers. Beside Mozart, the gardens are full of other famous statues and monuments. On the outskirts of the gardens lie rosebushes dedicated for citizens of the city who have gone missing, or so tried to explain our tour guide. I have never actually been to Europe in the spring or summer, so to see flowers blooming and trees flowering was a treat.

On one side of the park, there is a giant atrium with  a butterfly pavilion and cafe. On all the others lie a castle, government buildings, and the state opera. Now, these buildings aren’t your typical offices…… Every single building in the entire city looks as of it has been built to impress. The peaks and spires stand tall as if competing for great new nights. The outsides are very ornate with statues of majestic women, horses, and frescos. There are great copper  domes on many of the buildings which have turned a bright turquoise color because of their age.

All down the streets from the opera shops like Gucci, Prada, and Coach sell attire for those with exoberant amounts of money.

Because we only had decided to take a day trip to the city, we had a short time to explore the city. Perhaps the only thing I regret about my entire trip was not having more time on Vienna.

As I watched the sunset in the midst of these beauftil gardens, part of me knew I will sometime return to this city. The feeling grows as the rain clears and the wispy clouds giveaway to feathered shades of rose pink and violet. The colors appear vivid next to the bright turquoise domes of the city. I know this sounds crazy but it’s true. The bittersweet feeling of leaving behind unexplored territory gives me something to look forward to…

DSCN5077

An education in international relations 

As I sit here writing this, an episode of the Simpsons in Czech plays in the background. It’s slightly amusing even though I don’t understand the language the plot line is pretty simple to follow. Emotions and tone of voice is identical and gestures say all you need to know. Yet, this phenomenon proves ture for more then just tevevision shows. 

I walk into a nightclub last night called the “Harley”  accomplished by my cousin and a friend. We sit at a table near a bar and it takes a little less then five minuets before we are already being offered drinks by a groups of guys.  People from all over the world come to Prague to dance, mingle, drink, and enjoy the nightlife.  Three pretty girls was more then the guys were able to handle evidently because before we knew it we were being invited to bottle service tables, offered shots of Tennessee Honey, and pulled from around the waist into a twirl on the dance floor. We were especially careful about the drinks because of the growin popularity in date rape drugs. It made me feel much better about the situation to know I had a friend and and my cousin (who is pretty much my big sister) keeping an eye out for me. 

When eyes meet, winks are exchanged, and a hand is offered in a gesture towards the dance floor, the signals are clear. Would an offer for a dance actually hurt anyone? Probably not. By the end of the night I had met a cute guy from Transylvania, four flirtatious Dutchmen, several Germans, loud and slightly older gentlemen from Scotland, some pushy hipster with a man bun (I never got his nationality), and a very sweet local from the  Czech Republic. 

It’s an interesting game…. Meeting people in a bar with hundreds of nationalities. At first you aren’t even sure if you speak the same language. Ironically, this is the only time I have actually used my high school Spanish. But after you concour the language barrier, the conversation turns into the game of “guess where I’m from.” It’s very much like the American teenage boy version of “twenty questions.”  Strangely enough, no one ever guesses I’m form the United States. Everyone always guesses Russia, the Ukraine, or once in a while France or Italy.  

The guy from Transylvania was more intriguing then anything else and slightly creepy. He had gotten there about an hour after we did. The whole time I could feel his eyes constantly on our group. At first I thought his attention was on my cousin, until she pointed out it was really on me. He barely did anything else except stare in my direction and smile sweetly. His move was actually quite brilliant, because I eventually got curious and made my way over to say hi. He was obviously taken aback but we managed to exchange a few worlds he explained that he had not come over sooner but, ” he was too shy and I was  so I pretty.” I almost snorted at the cliche, but was able to resist and only smile in response.” 

Now, I should probably explain the bottle service reference. As we were on the dance floor, a guy approached us and started whispering in my cousins ear. He then lead her by a hand to a nearby private table, one by one he returned and did the same with both my friend and I. I know this sounds like a major judgement lapse on my part, but technically we really only talked…. Until he hailed the waitress and she soon returned with a bottle of vodka and cans of red bull. The three if us shot each other a glance and took on amused smirks.  

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was given some very strange compliments last  night.  While I was dancing, the same guy who wanted us to come party with him leaned over and whispered in my ear “You have a beauftil from. I’ve ne’er seen anything like it. Your legs are so long. I’ve fallen in love.”  At this point, I could no longer contain my laughter. European men have this type of well spoken and smooth nature to them. It’s like a type of classy elegance which is reserved for such occasions. But, this was simply over the top. 

The variety of mucus was amusing because one moment they were plaing hardcore metal  and the next alternative artists like Train. 

By the end if the night, I was thoughtly enjoying myself. If anything, the atmosphere was fun to observe and the flirtatious comments bounced around the room.  

I was taken aback when the hippy guy with a man bun randomly put his hand around my waste and pulled me onto the dance floor. It did not take long too notice he was entirely too drunk and too much of an ass to even deal with. We were dancing with our palms together when all of a sudden he pulled my hands down and placed them directly on his own ass cheeks. The look on my face was probably priceless.  He was clearly a European, probably Bulgarian from the look of him. But he was so proud to show off his own body he wasn’t too interested in touching home. Thank goodness, or he would likely be sitting in en emergency room now, praying he might one day be able to walk again. I would have made sure of that. 

It was then when I noticed the guy I would soon find out was a local from Prague. He seemed to be very perceptive to others’ emotions and caught on quickly that I must have been feeling awkward in my current situation.  As soon as I was able to ditch the show off, the cute Czech quickly cut in for his turn.  He was probably about 6′ 4″ and very blonde with a slender build. It is innocent fun like that which I actually enjoy. He simply seemed to have no other motives then to get to know me and enjoy an evening out.  We danced for a while, content to enjoy each other’s company without any other strings attached. By the end of the night he finally asked I if I wished to go get dinner with him in an evening or two… Unfortunately, I had to politely refuse. In his cute little accent his sadly said “Then is suppose we will never see each other again. Goodbye!” It was one of those lingering statements, one that echos in your mind. 

By that time it was about 3:30 am and we decided it was time to head back so we could get about three hours of sleep before our busy day that morning.  Crazy as it might sound, this wasn’t even half the stories which I could share from the night. My first nightclub experience was legendary to say the least. I realize that I’ll be getting a hard time from my cousin for years to come after this!