A German-American Wedding: Congrats to Sabrina and Phil!

At the beginning of August, two of my lovely friends got married in Schwetzingen.  The event was a hoot and my first wedding in Germany is more than worthy of its own blog post.

PART I: The Polterabend

The wedding celebration started back in July with Sabrina and Phil’s Polterabend.  I had never heard of a Polterabend before and a few weeks prior to the event I Googled it.  From what I found on the internet, it’s an old German wedding tradition in which a party is thrown for the future Mr. and Mrs.  All the guests are requested to bring old porcelain dishware to smash on the ground.  The bride and groom have the delightful task of cleaning up all the broken pieces together.  Apparently it’s supposed to bring good luck to the marriage.

Here’s how I pictured it in my head:

The friends and family of Sabrina and Phil arrive at the party.  About thirty minutes in, everyone smashes their four or five plates on the ground.  Sabrina and Phil sweep it up and thirty minutes later everyone enjoys a party together.

Here’s what it actually was:

About 100 friends, family, and coworkers came to celebrate the future matrimony of Phil and Sabrina.  Upon their arrival, they smashed the plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, sinks, toilet bowls, and anything else they could get their hands on from grandparents, their garage, or second-hand shops.  As each guest arrived at the party, they threw what they brought in what I will call the designated porcelain destruction area.  I am not exaggerating when I say that their friends brought boxes of porcelain.  Being the delightful people they are their friends would slowly throw pieces from their box of porcelain and smugly walk away to go enjoy a beer.  Forty-five minutes later, they would return with another box that they had kept hidden in their car.  Three-hours after guests first began to arrive, Sabrina and Phil finally walked away from the destruction area to join their already partying friends.  Three hours.  I will say it again, Phil and Sabrina were cleaning up porcelain for three hours.  Everyone was enjoying drinks, hot dogs, and potato salad, while laughing and pointing at the poor couple clean up everyone else’s mess.  If that isn’t proof of the start of a long, happy, lucky marriage, I don’t know what is. 

It was a great time. There was music, dancing, endless food and drinks, and beer pong (because this is the internet, I will not say whether or not I was the one to introduce Sabrina to this game…).  I left the next morning with a headache, but pretty excited about my new cultural experience.

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Before the hard work began.

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The first round of porcelain.

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This is only part of the aftermath.


 

Part II: The Wedding Weekend

In Germany, couples are required to marry during a small ceremony at the city hall.  It’s the equivalent to getting your marriage license in the States, only everything becomes official the day you marry in the city hall in Germany.  I actually really love this part of the wedding, because it gives the couple a chance to share the official day with only a very small group of family and friends.  It makes it a little more special and personal for the two people getting married.  Afterwards, if they choose to do so, they can have the big church ceremony and reception that is typical of what we usually see in the States.  Phil is half American, so it was really neat to see how he and Sabrina mixed the two country’s traditions together during their big weekend.

Sabrina and Phil honored Aubrey (who was visiting from the States) and I by inviting us to the beautiful city hall ceremony.  It was gorgeous, personal, and a tear-jerker.  Sabrina works for the Lord Mayor, so it was extra special that her boss was the one to marry her and Phil.  He did a great job and even provided Phil’s family from America, Aubrey, and I with a printed-out version of his speech in English so everyone would be able to follow along.

The next day, they had a beautiful church ceremony right in the center of town followed by a reception at a hotel a short drive out of the city.  I don’t want to describe it all here in too much detail, because it’ll get too sappy.  Let’s just say I was that guest who went around taking pictures of everything and going, “OH, did you see the name cards?! Let me get another picture of the menu.”  I was so in awe of all the details I couldn’t help but document it all.  The food was fantastic (including currywurst as a midnight snack!) and the drinks were flowing.  Aubrey and I had such a fantastic time and it was awesome to see two of my great friends finally tie the knot.  In America, wedding receptions typically end at nine or ten depending on the venue, but in typical German/Sabrina & Phil fashion, the reception started at 3:30pm and ended at 3:30am.  Party. Down.  It was so fun.   

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They a good looking couple.

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Look! They’re married!

 

 

This is what love looks like.

This is what love looks like.

 

Congratulations Sabrina and Phil!

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I’ll Take a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, Please

This morning I read an article that Starbucks is releasing the Pumpkin Spice Latte early this year.  A whimper immediately bubbled out of my throat.  At the end of this month, America gets to enjoy the delicious flavor of fall before fall even begins while I wait for Germany to discover that:

pumpkin + coffee =  that emoji with the hearts for eyes

With only two and a half months left here in Germany, my brain started buzzing with all of the things that I miss eating/drinking/doing in America.  Here’s a quickly compiled list, in no particular order, of the things I will immediately flock towards when I step off the airplane:

1. Pumpkin Spice Latte

2. Chick fil-A

3. Five Guys

4. UTZ Salt ‘n Vinegar Potato Chips

5. Pork BBQ Sandwiches

6. Speaking English casually without worrying whether or not I’m leaving out slang, so that whoever I’m speaking to understands me (Marisa and Roseanna – you guys don’t count as speaking casual English. With your weird Australian and New Zealand slang, I don’t know what the heck you’re telling me half the time.)

7. Maryland Renaissance Festival

8. The country and the quiet that comes with sitting outside on the front porch

9. Driving a Car

10. Target

11. Watching movies in their original version without thinking, “why would they pick this person to dub Tom Hanks voice?! It sounds nothing like him.”

12. Filter Coffee. In a diner. Where I can have as many cups as I want.

13. Bacon

14. Goldfish

15. Ciders

16. Baking or cooking without having to translate the measurements and temperatures

17. Free water

18. Free refills

19. Free bathrooms

20. Carl’s Ice Cream

21. Paul’s Donuts

22. Not being restricted to the pharmacy to buy ibuprofen

23. My clothes.  This one sounds vain, but it’s more of a curiosity thing.  After a year away, I honestly cannot remember what clothes and shoes I left behind in the back of the closet of my childhood bedroom.

24. Netflix

25. Friends and family, blah blah, mushy mushy.  Before I even demand a hot dog covered in chili and cheese, I’ll probably tackle my family members and squeeze on all my friends.  Then I’ll devour the hot dog and ask for a Chick fil-A breakfast.

A Little History, a Little Döner, a Lot of Walking

At the end of July, Aubrey made the trek across the giant pond for a ten-day Germany adventure.  The first stop on his trip here was Berlin.  During my high school trip to Germany seven years ago, Berlin was one of our stops, but as it always is traveling in large groups, it’s hard to fully experience everything.  I was definitely excited this time to cram in as much sightseeing as we could.

Even with a lost suitcase and a six-hour bus ride immediately following his flight, Aubrey was trooper (and happy he packed that extra pair of underwear in his carry-on).  After watching Frozen, taking a nap, and reading a trashy Nicholas Sparks novel, we finally arrived late evening in Berlin.

Because Aubrey and I are a weird ultra-traveler team and crammed in an insane amount during our three-day trip, I’m just going to list my favorite things that we saw.  I do want to point out for those travelers on a tight budget, such as myself, Berlin is a fantastic city.  A lot of the neatest tourist attractions are free and for those that aren’t, you can usually use a student ID to get a discount.  (No, I am not above pretending to still be a student.  I will remain a “student” until my hair is grey.)

  • Brandenburger Tor – Although this is an obvious must-see in Berlin, I wanted to mention it anyway. The gate is famous for hosting many major historical events (such as Ronald Reagan’s speech exclaiming, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) and for being front and center when the Berlin Wall opened in 1989. Today, it’s usually completely surrounded by tourists all trying to snap a photo in front of it.  I recommend visiting it in the evening, because it’s beautifully lit-up.
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Unfortunately, my camera is not one million megapixels, so it doesn’t capture how awesome the gate looks at night.

  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Walking distance from the Brandenburger Tor is the Holocaust Memorial. It’s huge and you don’t fully realize the capacity of it all until you walk amongst the giant concrete slabs. There’s not really any information at the memorial to explain the symbolism which leaves visitors open to coming up with their own meaning. 

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  • Stasi Exhibition – Aubrey and I just happened upon the Stasi Exhibit on our way to Checkpoint Charlie. The Stasi was the subject of my German thesis in college, so I was pumped to find this hidden gem. There is actually a Stasi Museum in Berlin separate from this one (which we didn’t get a chance to visit), but this exhibit is free and provides personal stories from people who were victims of the oppressive Ministry for State Security.  For those who don’t know anything or are limited in their knowledge of the Stasi, here’s a quick summary of the organization.  Its history is fascinating and there’s been recent debate about the role of former Stasi (official and unofficial) in society today.

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  • Reichstag Building – Luckily, I did a quick Google search before our trip to know that you have to sign up online in advance to get inside the building. Unfortunately, I found out too late to snag a spot on one of the building’s free guided tours, but I was able to sign us up for a climb to the dome. Free audio guides are provided and give a great explanation of everything you’re looking at from the top.  I recommend going on a nice day so you can get a great, clear view of the city.  The building is even open late into the evening, so you can catch the sunrise from the top.

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  • East Side Gallery – During my high school trip to Berlin, this was one of the stops that still sticks out the most in my mind. The East Side Gallery is a huge portion of the Berlin Wall that stands along the Spree River, covered with murals originally painted in 1990.  Today, the original paintings are covered with graffiti from vandalism throughout the years and I believe some restoration has taken place to try to maintain the original artwork. 

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  • Berliner Dom – After two unsuccessful attempts into the Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island, Aubrey and I finally refined ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to make it in on this Berlin trip. (But apparently, excuse my language, it must be really fucking cool if two weekdays in a row the line for this museum wraps around the other museum buildings.)  Instead, we decided to pay four euros to walk inside the Berliner Dom.  Living in Germany, I’ve been inside a lot of churches, so going into another one (that I had to PAY for?!) I felt, “mehhhh”.  I was very pleasantly surprised once we got inside.  I might have missed a sign, but from what I could tell, there was absolutely no advertisement prior to being in the building that says you could go up inside the dome.  After wandering through the building, we saw signs for the “Dom Walkup”.  We followed them and groups of people up flights of stairs that became increasingly narrow (and more and more nerve-wracking for two people not so excited about heights), and viola! We were at the top of the dome! It was really very neat and you get a fantastic view of the city.  So, if you’re on a budget, instead of paying twelve euros to hike to the top of the Fernsehturm, the dome is well worth the four euros.

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  • Tränenpalast/Palace of Tears – This is another small, free museum that I’m so glad Aubrey and I made the effort to find. I discovered it on my Berlin TripAdvisor search and the museum itself isn’t well advertised once you’re in the area. The museum is located in the former border crossing between East and West Berlin at Friedrichstraβe station.  The name comes from friends and family members in the East who had to say tearful goodbyes to their loved ones travelling back into the West.  The museum is packed full of information and I loved every bit of it.  One of the most noteworthy portions of the museum is a room playing the same new stories from the viewpoint of West Germany and East Germany for comparison. 

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These are only a few of the sites that we saw on our trip, but they were my favorite.  I should also add for the hungry travelers, Berlin is where two of my favorite German delicacies were created: the currywurst and döner.  Check out the Currywurst Museum restaurant and taste the different versions of currywurst that they have (avoid the tourist traps near Checkpoint Charlie trying to sell you their overpriced, less delicious version).  For the best döner I have ever had check out Döner Turm at Turmstraβe UBahn stop.

Although three days wasn’t enough for even Aubrey and I to cover everything we wanted to see, it was still an amazing trip.  Berlin is one of those cities you can visit four times and still not see everything.

The City of Beer, Pretzels, and Lederhosen

After a few activity-packed months here in Germany, I am finally taking the time to sit down and write a long overdue blog post about my trip to München.

At the end of June, my great friends, Suzanne and Taylor, took a stop by Frankfurt (by the way- I moved!) halfway through their two-week European backpacking trip. It was fantastic to see a couple friends from home and although Frankfurt doesn’t have too many tourist attractions, we made the most of their three days here. I stuffed their stomachs with as much German food and Apfelwein as they would allow between watching World Cup games. Their couple days here flew by and they were already onto their next big city. Luckily, their last stop was a trip to München to round out their time in Europe, so I took the opportunity to meet up with them for a weekend.

Public transportation in Germany is fantastic and it’s recently only gotten better because of the new city-to-city bus system. Even though it takes longer than going by train or car, the bus system is extremely cheap and I highly recommend it. For around 25 euros total, I took FlixBus on my way down to München and MeinFernBus back up to Frankfurt. Both buses provided wifi, electrical outlets, and a bathroom. To continue keeping the cost of the weekend trip low, I opted not to stay with my friends in their hostel and instead decided it was the perfect time to cross couchsurfing off of my bucket list (sorry you’re finding out this way, mom and dad). I’d previously been skeptical about couchsurfing before, but after talking with multiple people who have both hosted and surfed, with only good things to say, I decided to go for it. For those who don’t know what couchsurfing is, check out their website here. Luckily, for my first experience, I had an amazing host who I can’t thank enough for a great weekend.

After arriving to München late Friday evening and a comfortable sleep on my host’s couch, I met up with Suzanne and Taylor at the famous Glockenspiel to watch the giant clock do its cuckoo-ing at the Marienplatz. It’s pretty neat, but if anyone is ever in München and shows up to the clock at 11:05, missing the show, don’t sweat it. It’s not that neat. I’d say it’s at least exciting for kids to see, but according to the five year-old yelling, “Dadddddddd, when are we going home?!” behind me, it’s apparently not that popular with the littles.

The Glockenspiel

The Glockenspiel

After a quick walk through the Marienplatz, we hopped onto the U-Bahn towards the Olympiapark. Suzanne had been squirming with excitement about going since they started planning their trip to Europe and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Home to the 1972 Summer Olympics, visitors can walk through the various sport facilities (and even swim in the Olympic pool). We paid five euros to take the elevator to the top of the Olympiaturm, and although the weather wasn’t spectacular, it still offered an incredible view of the city. On top of that, there’s an awesome display on the windows as you walk around the top that explains what you’re looking at. Interestingly, the former Olympic Village, scene of the 1972 massacre, now houses university students. Within the park at the end of the Hanns-Braun-Brücke, there is a tasteful and somber memorial recognizing those who were killed.

The Olypmiaturm

The Olypmiaturm

Following our trip through Olympic history, we made our way back closer to the center of town and stopped by the memorial I had been itching to see: The White Rose Memorial and Museum. The White Rose (die Weiβe Rose) was a resistance group in the 1940s composed mostly of university students who opposed the Third Reich. Famously known for the members Sophie and Hans Scholl, the group dispersed leaflets encouraging non-violent opposition to Hitler’s regime throughout the University of Munich’s campus. In 1943, the group’s main members were arrested and killed. Later that year, Allied planes dropped millions of copies of the group’s final pamphlet into Germany. If you aren’t looking for it, you will walk right by the White Rose Memorial. Located on Geschwister-Scholl Platz in front of the university, the square has copies of the group’s pamphlets embedded into the ground. Inside the university building, you can visit the small, but informative, White Rose Museum. Unfortunately for Suzanne and Taylor, everything within the museum is in German, but they do provide pamphlets and books in English for those who are interested in learning more.

Portion of the White Rose Memorial

Portion of the White Rose Memorial

We decided to liven up our mood after our two somewhat somber memorial stops by visiting the Chinese Tower in the Englischer Garten. We ate a pretzel the size of our face and had our first giant beers that make München so famous. We ended up rolling with it and continued onto the famous Hofbräuhaus. In my personal, and probably unpopular, opinion it’s a little overrated. The Hofbräuhaus is famous throughout the world for that “typical” Bavarian music, giant beers, waitresses carrying ten giant beers at one time, and traditional German food. It’s an experience and a definite must-see if ever traveling through the city, but don’t expect this to be what Germany is all about. I’ve had better beer, the food is absolutely nothing to holler about, but the atmosphere is exciting. It’s loud, everyone is happy, and you get to share a table with strangers, who are most likely fellow travelers.

Suzanne and Taylor in the Englischer Garten

Suzanne and Taylor in the Englischer Garten

Our final stop together on Sunday was a short trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. The former camp is just outside of München and only about a twenty minute S-Bahn trip away. Studying German for so long, I’ve come across multiple classes and lectures that discuss the Holocaust. Visiting a former concentration camp is something I’ve been interested in doing for a long time. For three euros, we took a two-hour tour in English. Visitors also have the option to walk through the site on their own or to walk through with an audio guide. If anyone gets the opportunity to visit Dachau, I highly recommend the tour. Our guide was incredible and a walking encyclopedia. The experience was very sobering and definitely overwhelming.

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All in all, we had a fantastic time together in München, and although it was sad to say bye to Suzanne and Taylor, I’m glad we got to be tourists in one of the most visited cities in Germany together.

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A Divided City

A little over two weeks ago, I took an adventure with Aubrey that almost doubled my collection of passport stamps in a few days.  Cyprus has been on Aubrey’s travel radar for awhile now, and because it’s just a short plane ride from where he’s currently living, we decided to plan a quick trip to the island together.  Other than knowing it’s a small island in the Mediterranean, I was pretty ignorant to all things Cyprus before I started to research for our trip.  Here’s a little information about the island for those who are curious:

The island is split between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and the Republic of Cyprus.  The Turkish portion of the country is located in the North and its independence is only officially recognized by Turkey.  To the rest of the world, the northern part of the island is “Turkish-occupied territory”.  The southern half of the island is the Greek part of the island, officially recognized throughout the world.  The Greek portion, or the Republic of Cyprus, is a member of the European Union and uses the euro.  The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus uses the lira.  Nicosia (or Lefkosa) is the capital of both halves and has remained divided since 1974.  I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the island’s history, so if anyone wants to know why Cyprus is split, Lonely Planet’s website does an alright job summing it up here and BBC’s website also has a handy timeline of events.

After my flight to Turkey, which included an almost missed connection from Istanbul to Antalya (long passport control line, elderly and children in my way on the walking paths from one terminal to the next, and a painstakingly slow man through security), I made it!  Aubrey prepared an evening in Antalya with mantı and shepherds salad for dinner (read about my love for Turkish food in my Antalya post), before we woke up Friday morning to hop onto a 45-minute plane ride to Ercan Airport in the TRNC.

From Ercan, we grabbed a bus to the northern Cypriot city, Girne (or Kyrenia).  We only had a couple hours to spend in the city, but it proved to be enough.  I recommend Girne as a must-see stop on a trip to Cyprus, but it doesn’t take too long to get through it all.  The harbor is beautiful and directly on the water is a castle that looks nice, but was a few too many lira for us to want to go inside.  I was fascinated by the colorful doors and shutters on the buildings and the cats roaming around freely.  After walking around the city, Aubrey and I ducked our heads into an awesome restaurant called Whiskey Joes for a few ciders and fish and chips.  The place was filled with British ex-pats (Cyprus was under British administration for awhile and today there still seems to be a big British community) and we unfortunately had to miss karaoke night to catch our bus to Nicosia.  After a short bus trip to the Turkish half of Nicosia, Aubrey and I slowly wandered our way through the northern half of the city before we found the border crossing.  Surprisingly fast and easy, we had crossed the border, gathered another stamp on our passports, and found ourselves on the Greek half of Nicosia.  For all three nights that we were in Cyprus, Aubrey and I stayed at the Atsy Hotel in Nicosia.  For future travelers, I can’t recommend it enough as an affordable, comfortable option.  I even made a TripAdvisor account when I got home just to talk them up.

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Friday night we caught up on our sleep after the previously busy day, but I woke Aubrey up nice and early for a surprise trip to Paphos.  We got ready, packed our book bag, ate breakfast, and were ready to pick up our rental car by 8:00am.  Professionals.  I didn’t panic too much thinking about driving on the other side of the road although I might have asked Aubrey, “what if the pedals are backwards too?!” (they aren’t).

The drive from Nicosia to Paphos lasted under two hours, so we successfully made it in time to pick up my belated birthday surprise for Aubrey: rental bikes to have a leisurely ride from the center of Paphos to Aphrodite’s Rock and the Aphrodite Rock Brewery that recently opened up.  To make a long, awful, still fresh memory short, it didn’t turn out so awesome.  The bike “path” was actually the side of the highway, the leisurely ride was actually 26 kilometers (one way), and the path I was told would be flat was seemingly uphill both ways.  Needless to say, we didn’t make it the full 26 kilometers to Aphrodite’s Rock, opting instead to visit a small village before turning back early in the hopes of catching a bus back (we later heartbreakingly learned that bikes are not allowed on Paphos city buses).  Although we drove back to Nicosia exhausted and covered in scratches and bruises from multiple falls off our bikes, Paphos really is an awesome city.  Before the birthday bike ride from hell (Aubrey seriously has a pass for the next eight years on birthday presents to me), we stopped at the Paphos Archeological UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The ruins and mosaics are unbelievably expansive and it alone was worth the two hour drive from Nicosia.  After a few hours of ruins exploring, we hopped back on our bikes and took a quick stop in the small village Kouklia.  Sixteen kilometers outside Paphos, the little village housed another World Heritage Site and we learned a lot about the island’s history.  The origins of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite, actually began in Paphos, Cyprus before the Greeks reached the island.  Once they got there, the Greeks learned about the Paphos goddess of fertility and said, “Hey! We like that.”  Baddabing, baddaboom, Aphrodite was adopted into the Greek pantheon.  From Kouklia, Aubrey and I decided we’d done enough and headed back toward Paphos to turn in the torture devices I’d rented us.  I highly recommend a stop in Paphos for future travelers to the island.  I also recommend skipping the bike rentals.  Explore the city with your feet or car rental and your butt will thank you.

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After the failed bike ride the day before, Aubrey and I gave ourselves the chance to slowly get ready Sunday morning before finally exploring Nicosia.  We headed first thing to the Cyprus Museum, which was free, and filled with a ton of information and artifacts for tourists to oogle at.  Afterwards, we meandered into the original part of the walled city.  Ledra Street, where we had crossed the border two nights before, is in the middle of the walled part of Nicosia and filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.  We stopped for a quick coffee (Aubrey had a deeeeelicious iced cappuccino), before walking back along the wall and finding ourselves at another part of the border.  Here was one of our favorite parts of the whole trip: we happened upon a Catholic church that sat directly on the border between the two parts of the city with barrels and barbed wire separating Turkish and Greek Nicosia.  As the morning service was letting out, we realized the church was directly next to the courtyard of the Vatican Embassy.  Standing in the courtyard, we could see the both the Turkish Cypriot flag and the Greek flag in our point of view and were there just in time to hear the Call to Prayer go off from the other side of the barbed wire fence.  It was a cool moment.

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After a quick nap back at the hotel to revive us for the rest of the evening, Aubrey and I went exploring to find his grandfather’s former house.  In the 1950s, Aubrey’s grandfather lived in Cyprus for a few years and Aubrey’s dad went to kindergarten there.  Guess what – it’s 2014 and the house still stands!  It was awesome to find a little bit of Aubrey’s family’s history so far from Virginia.  We creepily snooped through bushes and trees to use our detective skills to find the right house and luckily Cypriots asked if we needed help, rather than said, “What the heck are you doing?”

The rest of the evening we explored more of the old walled city, enjoyed a delicious dinner, and hit the hay before our final day in Cyprus.  Monday I insisted that we check out Larnaca, an eastern beach city that popped up a lot in my research.  We checked out of the hotel, jumped into our backwards rental car for the last time, and took an hour drive to see a little bit of what a Cyprus beach has to offer.  Womp.  We were disappointed.  Granted, it wasn’t high season for the tiny island, but after the culture and history that Girne, Paphos, and Nicosia had to offer, we weren’t excited by Larnaca.  We stayed about two hours, saw the Church of Saint Lazarus and his really old bones, before heading back to Nicosia, turning in our little rental, and crossing back over into the TRNC.  As we wandered into the Turkish half of Nicosia, Aubrey’s nerd alarm went off, and he happened to find the European Commission building.  Currently, the building is home to an exhibit on the former Ermou Marketplace in Nicosia that has now become the United Nations buffer zone between the two halves.  It was fascinating to read the stories and memories of the former street’s shop owners.  Unfortunately, it was our last stop in Cyprus before we had to head back to the airport.

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Aubrey and I spend the majority of our trip on the Greek side, because that was where our hotel was located and we couldn’t drive the rental car across the border.  We both left a little disappointed we didn’t see more of the Turkish half, but hopefully we’ll have the means to go again one day to see how the island has changed.  My point is, my recommendation is if you travel to Cyprus (which you should), try to not let one side or the other monopolize your time.  The Greek half is typically more touristy, but don’t let that keep you from checking out the Turkish side too.

Until the next adventure!

Proud and a Little Nostalgic

IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! After publishing this post, Mary Washington Women’s Rugby Team went on to compete in the final four in California and WON.  UMW Women’s Rugby is the 2014 DII National Champion.  No big deal.

My four years at Mary Washington were filled with friends, late nights, papers, work, themed parties, and happy hours.  I loved every minute of college, but nothing defined my experience more than my rugby team.  I dabbled in rugby throughout high school, but it did nothing to prepare me for the level of play and family I would gain once I made it to college.  My best friend and college roommate, Lara, and I moved in to our dorm rooms early our freshman year just to join the team.  Between being thrown into the awkwardness of freshman year and the intimidation of a new rugby team filled with experienced players, we were those nervous, please-like-me girls on the team.  Four years later, we were graduating and had (somewhat) grown out of that phase.

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Seven years of playing together.

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The most badass I’ve ever felt.

Joining the rugby team at UMW was the best decision I’ve ever made and I consider every person I played with a part of our tight-knit family.  My teammates were my best friends and my sisters and everyone showed an insane dedication to the team.  We frequently said, “Sorry, I can’t go out tonight.  I’ve gotta go to bed – game tomorrow.”  Instead of staying in the library to write papers, the girls would show up at practice and resign themselves to a late evening.  We had pasta parties, movie nights, Thanksgiving dinners, and sang songs together every Saturday after our games.  With broken fingers, stitches, bloody noses, sprained ankles, and concussions I wouldn’t change anything about my experience on the team.

This past weekend, my old team played in the sweet sixteen finals in Pennsylvania.  On Saturday, they completely demolished the competition, beating Kent State 131-0 and becoming part of the elite eight.  Sunday, the team played against Appalachian State University and unfortunately lost 31-19.  The team returned back to Virginia early Monday morning, and after a weekend of rugby, began their week of final exams.  Yesterday, the team received an e-mail that Appalachian State had to pull out of the final four, allowing Mary Washington to take their spot.  Next weekend, my old team is flying to California to play for one of the final four spots in Nationals.  Needless to say, this is a BIG DEAL.  Also, to prove how dedicated these girls are, the seniors are skipping their chance to walk at graduation so they can play.

I am so proud of my former team, both the old and the new members.  Congratulations, ladies! You earned it.  Tackle low, be tall like trees, and wreck the competition.  I’ll be thinking of you next weekend!

I can honestly say I am and always will be a Mary Wash women’s rugger.

 

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Check out this beautiful group of ladies

A Casual 4,000 Kilometer Drive

Once again, I’m a little behind on what I’ve been up to.  March flew by and I’m nearing my halfway point in my year here in Germany! There was no better way to mark the middle point in my adventure abroad than a visit from my parents and Aubrey.  With my host family taking a vacation together and the fact that they’re awesome enough to give me an extra few days off, I had two weeks to travel around with everyone.  In typical American fashion, we road-tripped it around France and Germany and added a ton of kilometers to my parents’ rental car.

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Reunited with my little mom!

A few weeks ago, my parents arrived super early at the Frankfurt Airport.  It was nice for them to finally meet my family across the ocean and they pushed through the jetlag their first day here long enough for me to give them a walking tour of Mainz.  Mom only fell asleep in public three times! In her defense though, we were sitting each time, so I understand.  After two evenings in Mainz, a quick day trip to their old tromping grounds in Aschaffenburg, and lunch in Heidelberg with my good friend Sabrina, my parents and I jumped in the rental car and began our big excursion!  As I said before, we covered a lot of ground, so I’ll split up the post into the different areas we visited.

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Look! It’s my parents reunited with Sabrina!

Strasbourg, France: The start of our almost 4,000 kilometer journey began across the German border in Strasbourg.  I have to admit, I wasn’t super enthusiastic about traveling to France, which makes me sound like a super snob.  I’ve traveled to Normandy and Paris previously and my opinion afterwards was always, “meh”.  Granted, I speak zero French.  Absolutely none.  And the French really like to speak French.  Which makes sense – I like to speak English!  But I never found anyone very helpful or welcoming if you couldn’t “voulez vous” your way through the country.  (After looking up what “voulez vous” means, it doesn’t actually make sense in that context.  But you get my drift.  No Frenchy = no helpy.)  My point is, our trip to France was really wonderful, and I really was just being a snob before.  We only spent one night in Strasbourg, but had the chance to walk throughout the main part of the city.  In the center of downtown is a fantastic, intricate cathedral that is so centralized it’s impossible to get the entire building in one photo.  Strasbourg was the perfect first stop on our expedition!

 

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Strasbourg Cathedral

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Canal through Strasbourg

 

 

Burgundy, France: As avid wine lovers, my parents picked the Burgundy area as our main stop on the first half of our self-guided road trip.  It’s known throughout the intense wine drinker network for having some of the most expensive wine in the world.  But! Lucky for us, they also have inexpensive, delicious wine as well.  We stayed in a small village named Nuits-Saint-Georges (don’t ask me to pronounce it) in a huge 18th century mansion bed-and-breakfast.  Walking into our bed and breakfast we were immediately greeted by one of the friendliest, open ladies I’ve ever met.  Walking into our suit bedroom for the next three nights, we were immediately met by horrifying old-fashioned photos of people.  My parents were fine and didn’t mind the set-up, but then again, their bedroom didn’t have ten pictures of old people staring down at them.  Yes, I am 23 years-old, but I slept with the bathroom light on for three nights and I’m not ashamed of it.  My mom, being a mom, also took photos of every single thing that we saw on our trip, but I refused to let her take pictures of the room I stayed in here until the day we left.  I was convinced the people in the pictures would do some horror movie-thing and disappear when you looked back at the photos on the camera (they didn’t).

Other than the scary bedroom pictures, we had a really nice time in Burgundy!  We drove throughout the vineyards, visited the city of Beaune, drank a lot of wine, and were lucky enough to have super beautiful t-shirt weather.  After our four nights in France, we made an overnight stop in Freiburg, drove through the beautiful Black Forest where dad bought a super cool pig cuckoo clock, and headed to Frankfurt to pick Aubrey up from the airport to begin the second leg of our journey throughout Bayern (Bavaria, for you ‘Muricans).

 

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Casual morning run through the vineyards of Nuits-Saint-Georges.

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany: This might have been my favorite spot on the whole trip! With Aubrey as the new edition on our voyage, we spent two nights in the really neat city, Rothenburg.  The original part of the city is completely walled, but anyone can climb to the top and walk along the wall if they feel like playing Game of Thrones.  It’s a really awesome city filled with tourists, but for good reason.  Bombing during WWII wiped out a lot of the medieval cities that still existed throughout the country, but Rothenburg was lucky enough to avoid too much damage.  The buildings within the wall are really beautiful and if anyone has the opportunity to go, definitely go on the Night Watchman tour – the tour guide has been the same for years and he does a really fantastic job of mixing humor and history.

 

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Rothenburg after dark.

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Cheesin’ with the Night Watchman.

 

 

Berchtesgaden, Germany:  On our drive from Rothenburg, raindrops turned into snowflakes.  I squealed, Aubrey fist-pumped, and my parents groaned.  While Aubrey and I had a snow-free winter this year, my parents had the complete opposite and had been enjoying the chance to get away from the white, wet stuff.  My parents put on their happy faces though and we made the best of the weather.  On the border between Germany and Austria, Berchtesgaden sits in the German Alps and is known historically for the numerous Nazi senior officials who spent time there.  If you visit during the right time of year, you can even travel to the top of the mountains and see Hitler’s famous retreat, the Eagle’s Nest.  Although the Eagle’s Nest was closed for the season, we enjoyed lots of delicious Bavarian beer, took a boat ride on the Königssee (which was extra beautiful because of all the snow), and enjoyed an awesome tour through the salt mines.

 

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St. Bartholomä on the Königssee

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We made those salt mine suits look good.

 

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Look at how cute my old people are on St. Bartholomä!

 

Oberammergau, Germany:  On our way into Oberammergau, we took a quick stop by the well-kept secret from tourists travelling in Germany – Neuschwanstein! I’m totally kidding.  The place is crawling with tourists from all over the world to visit the not-so-medieval castle of King Ludwig.  I have to admit, although we really enjoyed being able to see the castle in the snow, the tour was meh.  To go inside the castle, everyone is required to go on one of the planned tours.  Once you get on the tour, they try to get you in and out as fast as possible so they can shove more people inside.  It’s neat, but you don’t really have a lot of time to take it all in.  After our somewhat jog through the castle, we headed into the town of Oberammergau for the evening.  It’s known for having some super elaborate passion play every ten years (we missed it, darn…), but as far as I’m concerned it was home to my favorite restaurant we went to on our entire trip.  The next morning, we rose bright and early for our drive back to Mainz after a quick stop at another one of King Ludwig’s homes, Linderhof.  I personally liked it much better than Neuschwanstein, not only because Ludwig had a personal dining room table on a pulley system that could rise out of the kitchen and upstairs into his dining room covered in food, but because the tour was less rushed and compacted with interesting information.

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My parents just bein’ cute near Neuschwanstein.

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In front of the giant fountain at Linderhof.

 

The vacation with my parents and Aubrey seemed to be over quicker than it began and before I knew it everyone was flying back to their current homes.  After six months away from Virginia, I missed my parents much more than I realized and after so much buildup for the big vacation with them and Aubrey, it was hard to see everyone go all at once.  We stayed in some amazing places, ate amazing food, and I was feeling a little more than sluggish from the past weeks’ excitement and beer.  Without much time to stop and think about it though, after a week back in Mainz, I was off on the next adventure to Freiburg with my friend Lisa.  This past Sunday I successfully ran my first half marathon! Toot toot! (Yes, that is me tooting my own horn.)  Only in Germany would they offer the runners alcoholic free beer during the race.  No, I didn’t take any…I waited until I was done.

 

13.1 miles = Success!

13.1 miles = Success!

 

I wish everyone back home well-deserved warm weather and a good transition into spring!