In Prague You Should Eat Mexican Food Of Course!

28/12/14 Second Day in Prague

I like to sleep with the window open. I get this from my dad, and from common sense. It is really uncomfortable and unhealthy to sleep in a room with (in this case) four other people with the window closed and the heat on. Many people don’t seem to understand this. They are still caught up in the world where cold air is what gives you colds, so you need to sleep in a sweat box. Instead, it is the sleeping in the sweat box that will make you sick, especially if someone else sleeping in the same enclosed space is already sick. Five people sleeping and breathing for eight hours in one room definitely uses up all of the fresh air, and you start to breathe each other’s air. You can see evidence of the disgustingness and unhealthiness of this situation in the condensation that gathers on the window and the smell that seems to cling to the room after such a night in a heat box. Perhaps you can understand that the heat and moisture is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If rooms were not as large as they are with cracks allowing a tiny bit of air to seep into the room, we could suffocate in a situation like that. I know this is bringing it to the extreme, but perhaps you have heard of those people who get caught in a blizzard and have to spend the night in their car. They close their windows all the way because it is cold outside, and instead suffocate in their sleep. It is better to be cold, and that is what blankets are for. Most people don’t seem to understand this, and these Indian men definitely did not. Throughout the night, I listened as I heard one get up and shut the window that I had left cracked open. I am a light sleeper and this movement wakes me up, so, I waited for some time and got up and opened the window again. In the morning when he got up, he shut it again. At this point I let it go because I knew he would get ready and eventually leave the room.

The next day we woke up to the unpleasant sound of one of our Indian roommate’s alarm clocks going off at about 7:00 a.m. Needless to say we weren’t happy about this, especially since it didn’t seem to be pressing that he get up. He continued to lie in bed for a while after the alarm went off, and then proceeded to start getting ready at about 7:30 a.m. His time getting ready included spending about an hour in the bathroom, 45 minutes of which was spent in the shower and the rest of which was spent doing who knows what.  After He was done showering and getting ready, it was probably about nine. He proceeded to dawdle around, lying on his bed, playing on his phone, until about 10:30 or 11:00 when he finally left. So, why did his alarm need to go off at 7:00? He seemed as though he was waiting for us to get up so he could talk to us or something, (we continued to pretend to be asleep because after such a performance in the morning, we did not have any interest in talking to him) but he and his roommate finally left for the day.

Because Ali wasn’t feeling well, and I woke up feeling under the weather again we decided to take the morning slowly. This hostel did not serve breakfast for a price we were willing to pay (especially since they had already made us pay to rent sheets, except Kenzy who had decided it would be convenient to carry around a hostel sheet), so the only time commitment we had was to try to go on a free walking tour of Prague at about 2:00 p.m. that started out in the square we had been in yesterday. We did not know exactly how these walking tours worked, so we figured we could just show up about 10 minutes before it started and join in.

We arrived at the square probably around two hours before the tour started and wandered around buying and eating food, and enjoying browsing the various souvenirs offered in the stands before we went on a two hour long walking tour. We then went over to where the tour was meeting about ten minutes before it started as we had planned, and found that the tours indeed did have restrictions. The tour guides could only take up to 40 people on one tour. You could make reservations online to ensure your place in the tour and it would not cost anything, or you could show up earlier, but we did not know how much earlier. We didn’t get to go on the tour that day because it had filled up, so we decided to make a reservation for the next day just to be safe. We had heard good reviews about these tours, and did not want to miss out, especially since it was free.

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(The strange silver statue that would be mentioned on the tour the next day as well).

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(The prohibition themed restaurant)

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(A closer picture for a better idea of what it looked like)

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(The district with the prettier buildings)

Since our plan to spend our day going on a walking tour had not worked out, we decided to wander from the square in a different direction than the bridge had been in so that we could see something new. We did see many new things, such as a prohibition café, and a strange silver statue. We also found the edge of the Jewish Quarter and a Franz Kafka statue that stood in front of it. The stores in this area all seemed to be higher end designer-brand stores, but this meant that the buildings they were located in were beautiful. We decided it would be worth walking a little bit further into this area to see some of the buildings, and then head to an early dinner. However, it was still very early by the time we were finished exploring this area of the city, so we decided to find a bar and get a Czech beer since their beer is very good. This helped us waste about a half hour of time, at which point we decided 4:30 was late enough for dinner.

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(I really liked the tree in front of this building)

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(A Jewish synagogue)

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(Franze Kafka Statue on the edge of the Jewish Quarter)

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(Less zoomed in)

We had found someone’s travel blog that said the best Mexican food in all of Europe, was in Prague at a restaurant called Las Adelitas, so of course we had to go. We have all been abroad in Europe for months now and, although each country has its own cuisine, the flavors in Europe are very mild compared to other parts of the world, and we missed serious flavors. In addition, we are also all from the West Coast of the United States, where cuisine is heavily influenced by any country that uses strong spices, but especially easy to find is food and flavors that have come up from Mexico and that we all love. We grew up with this food.

Our early dinner was at this Mexican restaurant, Las Adelitas, which we had found the day before so that we would know where to go. Since this cuisine is so important to us, we decided to make this a big dinner and ended up spending more than we might normally spend on a meal. Thankfully Eastern Europe is cheaper than other parts, so it was not as expensive as it could have been.

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We started our dinner off with margaritas because we were at a Mexican restaurant and really had no choice. Kenzy and I ordered the mango margaritas (they probably had about 10-15 different flavors for margaritas) which came recommended by our waiter. They arrived with a fresh slice of mango in them and were very good. Ali decided she would rather have a strawberry margarita, but after exchanging tastes of each, she wished she had ordered a mango one as well, but enjoyed her strawberry one anyway.

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(Mexican food and Margaritas at Las Adelitas)

One of my favorite things to order in the United States at certain kinds of restaurants, even though it is not strictly Mexican, it is Mexican influenced, are nachos. I don’t mean the cheap tortilla chips with the fake nacho cheese (although I do guiltily like those too), I mean the nachos that are piled with beans, cheese, greens, salsa, sour cream, and so on. Looking at the menu in this restaurant because it had been so long since I had either, I could not decide between the enchiladas and the nachos. In the end we all split the nachos (which were big enough to be a full meal themselves) and I ordered the enchiladas. They had three different kinds of enchiladas (separated by the types of sauces). One had green sauce, another had red, and the last had mole (accent on the e) sauce. I wanted to try all of them because I am indecisive when it comes to food because I want to try everything, but thankfully one of the options was to order a plate with each of these on it. I really enjoyed the enchiladas with green and red sauce, because I am a salsa person, but the mole sauce was a little bit too sweet for me to completely enjoy on an enchilada. Regardless, they were all delicious, and this place was very good as promised. Finally I decided I wanted to try a Mexican beer in comparison to the Czech beer because they had Mexican beers at this restaurant. (The time and food intake between these drinks was enough that I was trying these drinks to enjoy them, not to experience any sort of chemical change).

We probably spent about 2-3 hours eating this meal, and decided to head back to the hostel and our lovely roommates at the end of it.

Even When You Encounter Something Unpleasant, Enjoy Yourself

27/12/14 First Full Day In Prague

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(On our way to the next hostel, the sun was shining)

I had written a couple more posts from winter break that I have not gotten around to posting, so now I am going to try.

In the morning we had breakfast with the Indian girls, who would be staying in this hostel for a few nights, and parted ways (this was the first breakfast we had eaten that had anything hot. There were scrambled eggs and beans here).

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(Also on the way to the next hostel, you can see a few stands of Christmas Markets here)

Our hostel bookings in a few locations, such as Prague, got a little mixed up causing us to have one night booked in one hostel and the rest booked in another. Walking down the hill in the morning to catch the tram at the bottom, we realized how close it was to come from this direction to get to the hostel, but that wouldn’t matter anymore because we did not have any reason to return to this hostel. Instead we went across town to another, larger hostel, and immediately wished our stay in Prague had all been in the first hostel that we stayed in. This hostel was called A and O Hostel Hotel, or something of the sort, and apparently has about six different locations. We did not feel the need to check in yet, we just wanted to drop our stuff off in their luggage storage rooms so that we would not have to carry it around as we spent the day out in the city.

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(A picture of Czech money)

The first thing we did in Prague out in the city was withdraw money of course. For some reason I decided it would be ideal if one person withdrew all of the Czech crowns so that the other two of us could pay them back in Euros. I don’t remember my reasoning at the time, but it made sense then and seemed to work out at the end of Prague. Kenzy decided she would withdraw money, and we headed into the main square, where all of the tourists go. Even though Munich had already started cleaning up their Christmas markets when we were there, Prague’s were up, and they were in full swing. It was okay with us that Munich had already shut their markets down because we had spent so many days wandering the markets of Nuremberg, but it was nice that Prague still had markets open because it offered a different selection of food and other items to look at then the ones that had been available in Nuremberg. Whereas Nuremberg has many markets seemingly all over the city, Prague only had a few concentrated in one square, which was a nice contrast to the overwhelming amount available in Nuremberg.

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(The first treat we ate from the markets. It was very good)

The day was beautiful, cloudy and a bit chilly, but no precipitation to get in our way. Old cars took tourists on rides around the city, and the smell of food wafted from nearby stands. We had no particular plan for the day as we walked up to the square. We immediately found a dessert a friend who had been to Prague described to us and suggested we try. It was dough that was wrapped around a thick metal rod and turned over coals. After it came off of the metal rod, it was rolled in cinnamon and sugar and handed to the waiting customer. It was good to eat on a cold day as the cold froze our fingers while we held them out of our pockets or our gloves while consuming the treat in front of us. Kenzy and I felt almost at home, we were back in Eastern Europe, things were cheaper again and not run on the Euro, and the language had some similar words to what we had spent our last semester studying.

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(A church in the square that we saw as we were eating our cinnamon-sugar covered treats)

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(A picture of a street in Prague, in the bottom right you can see one of the cars that one drive people on tours around the city)

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(An important church that we would be told about on our walking tour)

Eventually the dessert came to an end and we had to keep moving to stay warm, so we moved further out in the square and saw what we could and bought real lunch food from the market. Kenzy and I got chicken kebabs on a baguette while Ali opted for a bratwurst on a bun. It is sad that the mustard they have at these markets out on the square is better than the majority of the mustard people in the United States choose to spread over their food, but there is something to be said for quality over quantity and vice versa in the United States.

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(One side of the Astronomical Clock Tower)

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(In the middle of the Christmas Markets was a huge Christmas Tree)

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(Also in the square, a monument we would be told about on the walking tour as well)

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(The Astronomical Clock)

Most of our day was spent wandering around and enjoying the sites (and occasionally stepping inside where we could to warm up again). We saw an important church (which I will picture, but discuss in a later post), an important astronomical clock tower, and an important bridge. We wouldn’t know the complete importance of these places we had seen until we went on our guided tour a few days later.

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(The view from the bridge of the castle)

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(Another view from the bridge)

When it came time for dinner, we headed back to the hostel. Instead of immediately eating dinner, Ali and I took a nap while Kenzy headed to a nearby store to by dinner for herself and Ali.

In the half hour to an hour that Kenzy was gone and Ali and I were napping, two more people arrived in our room. They were two Indian guys who looked to be about our age, but dislike was almost immediately established from Ali’s and my point of view because even though we were obviously lying in bed with our eyes closed, they decided it was acceptable to try to strike up a conversation with us. Relations did not improve because they continued to be inconsiderate from then on. I remember them saying that first night that they liked to see European cities better at night because they look better. This I don’t understand in any circumstance because a European city will look like any other city at night. They all have lights, and will create a picture of a dark landscape with twinkling spots of light, The light may be in differing configurations, but this is not unique. Maybe going up to a particular building at night that is lit up is a unique experience, but in those cases I like to see the building in the day and at night.

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(Walking off of the other side of the bridge)

After Kenzy had returned with food and the two Indian guys had left to go see the city at night, we decided it was time to eat dinner. We knew the hostel had a guest kitchen, but we didn’t realize how poorly thought out much of what the hostel had to offer, was.

We went down to the guest kitchen and found it was locked, so Kenzy went up to reception to ask them to unlock it. She received a very unprofessional and rude reply that there was only one key to the guest kitchen and someone had taken it so they could not possibly open the kitchen for us because you need the key. Of course they had a master key that opened all of the doors in the hostel, the lady was “busy” flirting with some guys who had come to the bar (they had a bar at the reception desk) and couldn’t possibly spare a second to come down and open the kitchen for us. She also refused to lend us the key even if we promised to bring it right back because we are hooligans of course and would probably use it to go where we shouldn’t. When Kenzy came back and recounted her dealings with the woman at the desk, Ali, who hadn’t been feeling well, had had enough. She went up to reception too, and I don’t know exactly what happened between the lady at reception and her, but words were traded (some cursing that the person working at the desk unprofessionally brought into the conversation) with some indication that the kitchen would be unlocked once reception stopped being so busy.

With this information, we decided to all go up to the reception area and sit looking expectantly in their direction so that they could not forget us. Once reception was clear we finally got the hostel workers to agree to open the door. Here I ask, what is the point of having a guest kitchen if you keep it locked? All proper hostels have a kitchen for the people staying there to use, with dishes provided. People who stay in hostels need and want those dishes and that kitchen available. Usually hostel goers are traveling and want to have the option of making their own food , but are not going to steal anything because that’s not hostel culture and it is too heavy to carry dishes around.

Obviously this was not a proper hostel.

After dinner, we went back up to our room to get ready for bed. Eventually the Indian guys came back and were equally as irritating as they had been before. (I think that along with some of us not feeling well and being tired from traveling, there was a bit of culture clash in the manners and etiquette department. Usually I am okay adjusting to a new culture, but the new culture I was adjusting to here was the Czech culture since I was in the Czech Republic).

Through Snow and Fog, from Munich to Prague

26/12/14 Another Travel Day

Waking up the next morning, the first thing I saw was the snow covered ground. Even though we had not had a white Christmas, our boxing day decided it needed to be white. We had to get up and ready to be able to eat breakfast and then check out by 10:00 a.m., which is the common check out time at most hostels and hotels. Our train was scheduled for 12:44, so we decided to head straight to the train station because there was not time to do anything before our travel to the next city started. (I think I said that our last train left at 12:44 too but was late. I was wrong, although that one was late; it actually was scheduled to leave at 2:06. That is why that by the time we got to Munich, the daylight had gone and we did not have time to do much of anything).

This train ride would not be another easy one hour train; it would be six hours long, which meant we needed entertainment and snacks. Kenzy and Ali wanted to buy a deck of cards because none of us had thought to bring them for the trains that we would be taking from city to city. Unfortunately the only playing cards we could find in Munich cost 5 or 6 euros, which was more than they should cost anywhere, so we decided not to buy them there. Instead, Kenzy and I bought more candied nuts, which we proceeded to start eating before we boarded the train.

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(One of the very few pictures of the day, but this is of the slushy snow as we made our way out of Munich)

Over the six hours we spent our time napping for a short while and playing many games that did not require cards. The games included the type where you choose a category such as books, movie titles, song titles, or something else that you can think of many of that subject. Someone starts and whatever letter the title they said ends with, you have think of a title that starts with that letter. You also cannot reuse the same titles and the word “the” does not count in titles. We played this game first with song titles and later book and movie titles.

Another game we played Kenzy said was a German game she learned from her grandmother, although I cannot remember the name in German. We played it in English of course. As many people as you want can play, but each need some way to write information down. Usually this is written on paper, but we used our phones because we did not have paper to write on. There are six categories that are as follows: city, country, river, name, job, animal. One person goes through the alphabet as quickly or as slowly as they want in their head so others cannot hear what letter they are on at any given time. Eventually someone else needs to tell the person going through the alphabet to stop. That person tells everyone the letter they stopped on. At this point someone with a timer starts the clock for a minute and a half and everyone must try to think of something in each of these categories starting with the mentioned letter during that time. After the time is up, a score keeper must write down each person’s name to keep score on a piece of paper. If you get a correct answer in a category that no one else gets, you get twenty points. If someone else picked a different thing for that category and both answers are possibilities, you each get ten points. If you both picked the same thing in that category that is correct, you get five points. If you could not think of anything you get zero points for that category. For example, if “E” was chosen, I could write something like this:

City: Edinburg

Country: Ecuador

River: Euphrates

Name: Eleanor

Job: Entertainer

Animal: Eel

If someone else chose Edinburg for their city too, we would both get five points. If only I chose Edinburg for the city that starts with E, then I get ten points, but someone else could get ten points too if they chose a different city. If nobody else could think of a city that started with E, then I would get twenty points.

The river category is the hardest letter because rivers are not as commonly known as any of the other categories. It is interesting to play though because you can learn something you did not think of from the people around you.

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(In a restaurant we would later eat at)

Eventually we got to Prague and had to find our way to yet another hostel. There had been a slight booking problem, so we were only staying in this hostel for one night and then moving to another hostel the next day. Each time we go to a new city, we go to the information counter at the train station and ask them to point us in the direction of our hostel (what transportation would be the best to use and so on). Ali had led the way in the German cities because her German was the best, but now we were in an Eastern European city. Some of the words in Czech were similar enough to Russian that Kenzy and I could guess what they meant, which meant that some people probably spoke Russian if they did not speak English, but Prague is a very touristy city, so we didn’t encounter much of a problem using English.

The metro part of our journey to the hostel was pretty straight forward, but after we exited the metro station and found the tram station we were supposed to use, we did not know which direction we were supposed to go in. We saw a hotel nearby and went inside to ask them for directions. Hotels are very useful for travelers, even those who are not guests at any given one. The receptionists are usually very accommodating and willing to help and hotels either already have the information you need because they host tourists all of the time, or they can look it up for you. The inside of this hotel was done in a more old-fashioned style that was very pleasing to the eye. I remember that there were also some very tempting-looking cookies sitting on a table probably to welcome guests, which we were obviously not invited to enjoy because we were not guests staying at the hotel. The receptionist was very accommodating and pointed us in the correct direction – which was either direction; it just depended on whether we wanted to walk uphill or downhill with all of our luggage in tow. We chose to walk down hill, but when we got off at the top of the hill, there were multiple streets upon which the hill went down, so we found another hotel from which to ask assistance, again.

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(On the way down the hill to the hostel)

When we finally were headed in the correct direction down the hill, we didn’t realize how far up the hill we had come just to walk down the hill. It took us at least fifteen minutes to walk from the area that the tram had dropped us off to find the hostel. The only good part about this walk was noticing the restaurants on the way down the hill, and the view when there was a break in the buildings. Nearing the end of our walk, Kenzy and Ali kept questioning whether or not we had missed the hostel. I had pulled the map up on my GPS back at the train station (a trick I found out back in Kazan’, if the map was already loaded on wifi and you walk away from the wifi and don’t try to fiddle with the map too much, you can still see directions, your location, and your destination’s location), but I knew that a couple times my map had mislead me, yet I still wanted to walk further down the hill to see if we would find the hostel. We did find it pretty quickly after this; it was just getting into the hostel that turned out to be a problem. Most hostels have the front door open for customers, but because this this desk only had a receptionist at it during a few hours of the day, the door remained locked unless someone pressed a button from the inside to allow you to enter. The man on the other end of the speaker who allowed us to enter did not seem to understand that once we entered we could not hear him on the speaker that was outside. Either this or he still wanted to talk to us to let us know that our keys were in a drop box near the desk since no one was at the desk at this time to inform us of this.

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(Also on the way down the hill)

When we got to our room, we met two very nice Indian girls who would be our roommates for the night. We were a little confused at first because we thought the hostel had given one of us and one of the Indian girls a number for the same bed. In fact it turned out that two of us had been booked in one room and one of us in another. There was an extra bed in the 5 bedroom dorm because another friend was supposed to have traveled with the Indian girls, but could not come at the last minute. It shouldn’t really have mattered because it was only for one night, but it was a little disorienting that we had been booked in separate rooms because, although there is a disclaimer that says this can happen if the hostel is booked too full, I have never experienced this happening.

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(Pasta doesn’t make for great pictures, but it was really good)

In the end we all ended up sleeping in the same room because of the girls’ friend who left the extra bed. After we dropped our stuff off, we decided it was time to grab dinner and then head to bed. Because the Czech Republic is in the European Union, some places will accept Euros, but the country has its own currency that most places prefer you to use, so we had to find a place that was willing to accept Euros since we had not yet withdrawn crowns. This place ended up being an Italian place that we had spotted on our way down the hill. We all ordered different pasta dishes, and in the end, a Czech beer. For some reason Czech beers are something that are recommended for people to try, and they are very good, but I guess it is one of the lesser known beer countries unless you live in Europe (maybe now they are becoming more well-known). Dinner over, we went back to the hostel and got ready for bed.

A Russian Morning to You too

21/12/14

(I am sorry for the delay in posting. The combination of me being under the weather and choosing to sleep instead of write at times, combined with the “free wifi” at previous hostels that my computer won’t actually connect to, I seem to have fallen behind. I hope to start posting twice a day, or 3 times every 2 days to try to catch up, but I don’t think these extra posts will be regular, only when I have time to write something extra).

The next morning we woke up and packed up since we had to check out by 10:00 a.m. When we finally made it downstairs to check out, we decided it would be ideal to ask about the two bags that were supposed to come into the airport that day. Kenzy and I talked to the man at the desk in Russian while Ali waited nearby. Another man showed up who also spoke Russian and, although the bags had not yet arrived, we ended up having a very friendly conversation with them about Kenzy and me studying Russian in St. Petersburg, which prompted one of the men to pull out his phone with the comment that St. Petersburg was very beautiful and look, he had pictures.

This conversation led to the exchange of numbers and other needed information in case the bags did show up, but in such a way that these men were willing to work with us and call us if anything did arrive.

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(First glimpse walking into the Christmas Markets)

It was not a particularly cold day, especially when carrying luggage around, but gray clouds covered the whole sky making pictures difficult. The first thing we did was make our way across town to the next hostel. We had to stop at a central metro station for a while in order to orient ourselves, but moved on to the hostel after that. This hostel Kenzy had mentioned that she and Ali had been planning to stay in it for a while. It was located in part of a castle (what was once the location of the Imperial Stables, but had been turned into an international hostel) that was central to Nuremberg in what used to be a militarily strategic location, which meant it was on top of a hill. Since Kenzy was the only one who had her bag at the time, she experienced the full impact of the hill. Ali and I only carried what we had used as carry-ons on the plane. Even without the bags to carry up the hill, it was not a small hill. Once we made it inside, a snappy German man immediately informed us that we could not check in until 3:00 p.m., which we did not care about, we just wanted a luggage storage room so that we could set our stuff down and actually enjoy our first day in Nuremberg.

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(First glimpse of the castle)

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(There were horse drawn carriages giving people tours of Nuremberg, pulled by some of the biggest horses I have ever seen).

After we were granted a storage room, Ali called the airport where her luggage was supposed to come from and I tried to call the number I had been given by Aeroflot representatives. Throughout the day we tried this number quite a few times and never had any luck with someone picking up the phone. I tried that and other airport numbers enough times that I ran through the money that Kenzy had put on her Russian phone should something like this occur. I used her phone because I did not have mine with me.

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(We came back down to the markets to find them more crowded, but not as crowded as they would become).

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(Different parts of the market had different names, this was the children’s section, but good food belongs to everyone, so we visited it).

We spent our day wandering around the markets and trying some food here and there, but since we couldn’t try everything in one day we spent some time scoping out what we might want to try in the following days. I had woken up feeling a little under the weather and with that on top of the worry of not having my luggage returned to me I just felt like the day was dragging by despite how much I tried to enjoy it. At one point we stopped by Starbucks to ask for free water and take a break from walking around, but we were on our feet for the majority of the day. Even when eating, we would buy street food and eat it wherever we happened to be.

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(In the children’s area)

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(There were lots of children)

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(and things for them to do)

Although we spent most of our time in the markets there was the occasional wandering into non-market areas. One that I remember particularly well was a bridge over a small river. I seem to like scenes with water, tree branches and birds or ducks on gray days; I think they are rather picturesque, as cliché as that term is. What was before me in that river was exactly that type of scene.

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(The ducks in the river were either black or white, no in-between)

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At the end of the day we had potato soup served to us in a bread bowl on a napkin, that we also ate standing up. It was very good, but, although I enjoy bread bowls, I always wish there was less bread and more soup because I never eat all of the bread anyway. Regardless, the soup was very good on a cool night, even though it had pieces of bacon in it which I don’t like.

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(As the day got darker, the markets started lighting up)

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(The light shining through reflective objects)

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(You could better see the Christmas decorations)

After eating dinner we walked back up the long hill to the hostel to check in. When we checked in we asked if we could barrow their phone to make a local phone call and they said yes, but once it was past 8:00. When we got up to the room, there were six beds, two of which had already been taken. There were two Asian girls who had basically taken over the room. They had done laundry and hung their clothes on hangers in any available area in addition to taking a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom for their own personal use. It was a little bit odd, but not the end of the world.

We headed back down to the front desk at 8:00 and made the necessary calls to the airport again, which was, again, useless. This time we also called the men at Hotel Moldova, which required me to talk on the phone in Russian.

In the end I had to call the man at Hotel Moldova about 3 or 4 times because the baggage hadn’t come in. During one of these calls it sounded like he had called the airport for me and had inquired about when my luggage would arrive. Either that or the airport called him so that he knew what to tell me. Finally he told me to call him back at ten and the luggage was in. At the time when I went down to make the ten o’clock phone call, Ali came down as well in order to call the airport again to see where her bag was. Her bag had already arrived at the hostel, which we found when we got down to the front desk. Kenzy was kind enough to venture all the way across Nuremberg with me to keep me company while I collected it, which I appreciated very much since it was dark and Hotel Moldova is not located in the best area. It took about 24 hours for the people who work for the Frankfurt airport to make the 3 or 4 hour trip that Kenzy and I made the night before to drop off my bag. I was just glad I got it back all in one piece and that the Russian men had been so accommodating and helpful throughout the process.

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(On the way back up the hill, we stopped to take pictures)

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(Really only as an excuse to take a break though, although the lit-up buildings were pretty)

On the way back I got to experience what it was like to travel with the luggage and later climb the hill with it. On the way up the hill I started singing Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne. Specifically the part that goes, So far away, I wish you were here… in direct reference to the location of the hostel at the top of the hill and me at the bottom of the hill with a heavy bag. At this point Kenzy joined in and, although we didn’t realize we knew so many of the lyrics, we sang a good portion of the song as we climbed up the hill.

With Artūras in Vilnius

The first person I will write about is Artūras. If you ever want a real tour of a city, meet someone like Artūras who knows so much about the city they live in. This way you can walk and talk with just the two of you, and you don’t need to try to listen over the chatter of the people around you, or listen to the unnecessarily long and drawn out descriptions of monuments and historic sites that are commonly heard on regular group tours. Artūras is fluent in Lithuanian and Russian. He says he is lucky he has Russian relatives, because then he didn’t have to study Russian, he knows it from growing up with Russian speakers in his family. He also speaks English rather well. One of the many topics I discussed with him was the grammatical components of the Lithuanian language. One of the first pieces of information he told me about the Lithuanian language is that Lithuanian probably has every type of grammar there is found in languages. In other words, it is a very complicated language. I already knew it was a complicated language, but knowing it is, and learning about the various components that make it so, are very different. Lithuanian has seven cases (English has three which are not actually significant to learning the language since they don’t cause changes in the adjective and noun endings as they do in other languages, so most English speakers do not know what cases are unless they try to learn a language that has them). Lithuanian also has tenses that are just as complicated as the set of tenses found in English. Artūras told me that English speakers tend to find Lithuanian tenses easier to learn because we have complicated ones ourselves, but I can’t personally imagine coupling our ridiculous tenses with a set of Russian cases (this is what I am comparing it to because of these two languages I have the most knowledge). He also said that the only language that Lithuanian is related to is Latvian, but the languages are not mutually intelligible. I believe Lithuanian is the oldest (still spoken) European language, and many of its words have obviously Latin or Sanskrit roots.

Maybe this will be more interesting than the grammar of a foreign language. The name of Lithuania in Lithuanian is “Lietuva.” My host told me this word is similar to the word is similar to the Lithuanian word for rain, which is something like “lietus.” He said that the name “Lietuva” actually comes from the word for rain, and the name basically translates to “Rainland.” So Lithuania’s name is actually “Rainland.”

Artūras went to Minsk, I believe, last spring (this is the capitol of Belarus, a country that right now I think would be very difficult for a citizen of the United States to visit) and said it was the cleanest city he had ever visited because everywhere he looked, he could not find garbage. He said that while he was there he looked around specifically to try to find garbage maybe under a stairwell, or hidden by a bush, but there was none. The reason for this, he said, is that the current Belorussian regime promotes cleanliness. They have propaganda about cleanliness in the country that the country should be clean on the streets, but also you should keep your living space clean as well. I think this is a very interesting value to be promoted with the use of propaganda. In addition, there are no homeless or drunk people on the streets. My host said that if a drunk person stumbled out onto the street, that police would come out of nowhere within five minutes of the person appearing on the street, and the person would be taken away. He said the country has many police.

Artūras also hitchhiked with a friend across Europe. He said when they were trying to get out of Lithuania and Poland it was harder because hitchhiking is not as common, but once they got to Germany for example, they would barely have to stick out their hands and they would have a ride to the next stop. While Artūras and his friend were hitchhiking, he said they had a tent that they would set up at truck stops and just sleep in the parking lot. In the morning they would make food in their tent,  and then clean everything up. After that, all they had to do was go to the side of the road to catch a ride. I think this is so interesting because I don’t think it would be very simple to do this in the United States.