Tokyo Bound

In exactly 4 days I will be packing up the necessities and preparing to embark on another adventure. Unlike the rest of my travels though, this time I will be headed into uncharted territory. The majority of my travels have led me to  Europe, but this time I will he headed to  Japan.  This will mark my first introduction to Asia and the mysteries that the region has to offer. Though I am a little intimated by the potential culture shock, this feeling is overridden by genuine curiosity and excitement.

In the last few days, I’ve finally had time to start research on both cultural expectations and geographic context for all the things that I hope to see.  Our trip will start in Tokyo before heading to see a local department in the town of Nakahara and finally riding the Japan Rail trains down to Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Though this itinerary is pretty flexible, it is always good to set out with general idea of where we will be headed.

Even preparing for this trip has been educational. For the Japan Rail train passes, we had to order them ahead of time. Evidently they ate not actually sold in Japan since they are a promotional experiment set up by the government to help tourists and boost the economy. They must be picked up out of the country. Only visitors to the region can get them for either 1 ,7, or 14 days. While I was visiting Boulder, Colorado one day, my father sent me an address of an independent British travel company office off Pearl Street and instructed me to pick up the tickets. I walked into a brand new, yet nearly abandoned officebuilbing and took an elevator to the top floor. After giving the receptionist our last name she handed me three, antique looking, paper tickets with japanese lettering and barcodes printed on the font. I was expecting something comparable to a DC metro card. Instead, the tickets that were handed to me stirred up memories of the train tickets seen in popular children’s anime, Spirited Away.

I try my best to remain openminded and look forward to the known. I live by the philosophy that the best stories come from experiences where you walk into a situation without any preconceived notions or expectations. No matter what I might encounter, I’ll do my best to take on life one step at a time. As always, I hope to share my experiences and adventures though this blog.

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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. 

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

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. 

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! 

Peace and love in Prague 

Today has been yet another inspirational day. I’ve realized something about travel. When you originally explore a city, you may feel tired, thirsty, and miserable. Yet after you sit down for a good meal and a rest your subconscious somehow sorts all the new things you have been experiencing and turns them into a condensed version of adventreous exploration. Yousomehow  forget how tired you felt hiking up a hill but remember the amazing view at the top for example.  After the day ends and you reflect upon your expericnes, you finally begin to realize the depth and importantce of them. This was certainly the case for me today. 

We left our hotel later then would have been ideal this morning. But we decided to hike over to new town Prague by the Charles bridge (a historic bridge lines with famous statues and epic views). There, we explored artists selling water colors on the street and finally found our way into a local Starbucks. I know what you’re thinking…. Why go to a European city just to drink Starbucks? Normally we would not have, but it was really cold outside and the location happened to be very convinent. 

Anyway after our coffee break we decided to venture onto a tiny side street as we followed directions to something called the “Lennon wall.” This wall is a famous street art project inspired by the Beatles to stand for peace and hope after the Vietnam war. All along the wall people have added messages of their own in spray paint. They usually represent a wish for change of current human rights violations. Today in blue paint was a message that read “happiness is a warm gun.” I will let you intepret that how you may. 

 My local friend and guide Hanka was telling me that only a few weeks before someone had completely white washed the wall, leaving it blank and desolate. People were so mad that a group of locals used an old picture reference to completely restore the wall to its original condition. 

Down the street from the wall was one of those famous love lock bridges. After reading about them for many years and seeing pictures of them in Europe it was amazing to stumble across one in person. For coupes visiting Europe together, it’s tradition to find a bridge and put a combination or key lock on it,  symbolic of an eternity together. Locks entirely took up the railings over the bridge and looked like thick vines of a metal plant. 

When we finally got back to the hotel, ready to meet colleagues of my fathers, I inwas very suppressed by who I  saw. My cousin flew across the world to surprise me on my my eighteenth birthday. I knew my aunt and uncle were also supposed to join us, but her presence was also a very pleasant surprise. 

One to remember 

For all my friends back in the United States, there is about a seven hour difference beteern Prague and  Denver. So while I was experiencing the Czech version of jägermire, most people were off working day jobs and sleeping the Saturday away. Not to sound mean or anything…

Anyway, although today was a good day, the evening turned out to be even better. I mentioned in an earier post that Prague had a decent nightlife. That turned out to be an understatement. As we went to go visit the historic national museum building, we were disappointed to hear it was closed for the next four years because of construction. As we went to walk away, we happened to see a lady on the side of the box office. She was advertising tickets to a symphony. We were already interested at seeing an opera or musical performance so decided what she had to say. Turns out, she offered tickets to a symphony right here inside the national museum.

We were pretty skeptical when we heard that the cost was the equivalent to about twenty American dollars each, but decided to commit and buy tickets anyway.

As the six o’clock curtain call neared, we were sure there had been some sort of a mistake. A lady let us into the theatre and we went to go take seats. We walked into the building to find chairs on the stairs of the entrance to the museum. The walls were engraved with beautiful gold platelet faces and designs and red carpets adorned the large steps of four identical stair cases. Large golden lanterns lit the the main room and left dark shadows in dark corridors  of the remainder of the building.

My dad and I joked about how the museum was possibly haunted. The air was cool and the building was not heated.

When time for the concert to began finally came, a total of six musicians walked on stage. Three violins, a cellist, a bass player, and a pianist waked onto a platform which was set up with music stands. What I had believed to be a full orchestra happened only to be a chamber orchestra. For such a small group, their sound resonated beautifully. There only about ten people in the entire audience. For the small price of about twenty dollars, we were granted access of a private performance of Vilvaldi and Mozart’s most famous music in one of the most famous buildings of the Czech Republic.  For a reference, this building probably sees thousands of tourists a day in the summer and is reserved as a national landmark. Let’s just say I felt pretty special for a private performance in the middle of it all.

Afterword, perhaps a little drunk (no foreshadow or pun intended) on adrenaline. So we decided to take a sneak peak down the dark corridors of the abandoned museum. To be entirely honest, the wasn’t much to see. All the exhibits had been taken down, only dusty display cases were left as the moon shined though the large windows. At that moment, I almost believed it was haunted.

Now I should probably explain the jägermire reference. At dinner, since my 18th birthday is tomorrow, my dad suggested I be adventurous so the waiter decided to bring me a shot of the local  liquor. The tase would best be described as a cinnamon type mint, with a strong aftertaste of spice.  I usually don’t like minty drinks, but I must admit it had a really refreshing flavor. Despite being refreshing though, it was also very very strong.  After two glasses of wine plus that shot, I feel pretty loopy.

After being only my first whole day in Prague, I can’t wait to experience other crazy things in this unique city for the next nine days.

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A whole new world 

After nearly my first whole day in Prague I can say one thing for certain. This is a city, unlike other old European cities, that is still growing and developing its own sence of peonality.

Ever since the fall of the communist party here, Prague has been establishing a new culture. Since the city was not bombed during would war 2 all the historical buildings and gothic architecture stand tall and intact. From the cobblestone streets, up past the carefully detailed siding, bright redrooves, and up to the starkly contrasting bright blue sky, the city screams of its pride.  On the outside of town hundreds of ugly and cold apartment buildings can be seen falling into disrepair and rubble. They show proof of the communist party’s failed attempt at mass housing before independence was won for the Czech people.

Despite ancient buildings and historical streets, the city is beaming of youth.  At night the streets grow crowded and noisy as people flock to clubs, bars, restaurants, and concerts. Young adults from across Europe flock to the city on weekends to party and take part in cheap food and good alcohol. Beer is very popular here and the city is renoued for its various brews. They also have a selection of delicious wine (both sweet white and oaky red)… My favorites.

They are also unusually relaxed about rules and regulations. At dinner last night I ordered wine, since I am not yet eighteen they didn’t seem to care about age and therefor failed to ask me for identification. Although this is pretty standard around Europe, it still seems odd in contrast to the laws of the United States.

Cars park wherever they wish in the streets. Last night smart cars were scattered on sidewalks and larger cars jut out every which way on the street.  People also tend to be very aggressive  and fast drivers in this city. If you don’t look both ways before crossing a street, you have a very high chance at being hit head on at fourth miles per hour or more. Last night I was almost side swiped by a man on a little motorcycle.

Yet another variation which supposed me was the amount of smoke in the city. Unlike the United States, smoking is not only allowed …but encouraged in many public restaurants and bars. In the markets and major squares people use smokers to cook ham, cinnamon  rolls, and other classic street food. Instead of fried food, Prague seemed to have smoked food.

If you ever happen to visit the city, I highly recommend the local street food. I has some honey baked ham today for lunch and it was simply delicious. Tomorrow I hope to try other street food such as their famous potato crisps.

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My hatred of heathrow but love of London 

Heathrow….. For suched a famously awful airport, I never really understood the complaints and frustration associated with it until now. 

I sit here after a sleepless nine hour flight only to learn that because of miscommunication and a workers strike that they overbooked our flight and I now have a five hour layover and two hour flight until we get to reach our final destination of Prague, Czech Republic. Even before we left Denver I knew something was up, even if I did not want to consciously accept it. Usually at check in they print you tickets for all layovers and connections. For some reason the only handed us one and stated that we could pick our other ticket here in heathrow. They pretty much just passed the problem onto someone else and hoped we wouldn’t notice. 

I suppose in retrospect that this isn’t the fault of the London airport…. But it still greatly annoyes me.  It’s lucky they have free wifi or I would not be writing this post.

Despite this minor set back, my flight to London was decent. My family and I chose to fly British airways and I do not regret the decision for three major reasons. One, is that the accents of the flight attendants were simply adorable. Two, tea was never in short supply. The flight attendants waltzed down the isle every hour proclaiming “tea? Would anybody like tea?” in their most perky and happy accents.  And three, British tabloid newspapers are very entertaining. From a design standpoint the size of their headlines are rediculously oversized. But the actual content is simply rediculous and entertains. It rivals that of British television.  It was completely fluff journalism except for  two stories.

Yet possibly one of the scariest situations I have been in yet, and which every traveler has to face, is the possibility of solo seat assignments.  My mom and I discussed worst possible scenarios of who to be stuck next to for nine hours. She said a crying baby would be bad, but I countered that a creepy man with body oder would be worse. As I got on the plane I was relieved to see that I was placed next to a nice lady from east London who was returning from a skiing trip with friends. My mom jokingly told her of my fear and some random British  guy in the next row added “yeah, lucky you didn’t end up next to me.” I honestly wasn’t sure what to say to that…

Its been a very long time since I’ve last been in London. It’s a very modern and fast paced city. To be entirely honest I miss it. If I had another I’d be very tempted to go do some sight seeing. As we descended during our flight the cool and refreshing feeling of spooky London mist brought back memories of my trip here with extended family.  

the start of a travel blog on Prague

As spring break nears, so does my anticipation for my trip abroad. Like I have stated in past posts, travel is an important aspect to my life. Nothing can quite match the exhilaration of it. Still, the week before a big trip I find that my mind is racing and I am starting to freak out about all the things I have to accomplish before my plane takes off.

Passport: Check

Travel scarf: Check

Foreign Currency: Check

Still, making sure I have everything packed is one of my least concerns. Final plans and reservations for not only plane tickets, but hotel reservations, train tickets, and schedule timing sit in the back of my mind.

I have recently made a contact/ friend in the Czech Republic.I have gotten to know her because of my father who has previous connections with the IPA, an international organization for retired law enforcement officers for various nations all over the world. The group provides a local representative to greet fellow members of the organization and their families traveling abroad.  Over the last week I have been coordinating with her about plans and possibilities about my trip.

Since I will be celebrating my 18th birthday in Prague, which is the legal drinking age, she invited me to go clubbing with her and her friends. Despite being in a foreign country, this is an experience which will be somewhat new to me.  I’ve had alcohol before, but it  still seems weird that I will finally be of age to partake in an open and public setting with friends. In fact, after the fall of the communist regime, clubbing in the Czech Republic has evidently been growing more and more popular and the nightlife in the city has exploded. It seems unreal that I will be there to experience it with my own eyes in less then a week.

According to my guide Hanka, Drum and Bass is a very popular type of music for local clubs. Since this genre isn’t very popular in America, I haven’t had much experience with it. But it pretty much just sounds like European Dub-Step. Shout out to YouTube for a quick education in the subject.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTFnisU752g

To thank her she actually asked me to bring her makeup…of all things! I did not realize this, but cosmetics about double the price in large European cities. For some reason they are a lot cheaper in the US. My guess it is might be because of currency change rates and transportation costs.

I have always dreamed  about becoming a travel blogger. Now, this is going to become a reality( at least for two weeks)  I promise to update you with my progress and share my encounters with the unknown.