Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Switzerland is Amazing (But Expensive)

I have all kinds of posts to write but in Switzerland, the Internet costs about $12 per hour. I will have to catch up on the blogging when it is cheaper.

We are in Interlaken, Switzerland. If you have a chance, google search that and look at pictures. It is simply breathtaking. We can see the Alps from our hostel and will be going up to the top of one mountain sometime this week.

There will be more blogs to come but I dont want to blow all of my cash on Internet.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amsterdam is Very Over Rated

Amsterdam is pretty upon first sight. It is colorful and there are canals everywhere. It is also the bike capital of the world. There were parking structures just for bikes. No kidding. It was unreal. Check out the picture below. It is a 3 story parking garage for bikes.
Both Ryan and I were quite unimpressed with Amsterdam. There simply was nothing to do. Everything is legal in Amsterdam. It makes Nevada seem conservative and that is saying A LOT. It was almost too much though. Because everything is legal, Amsterdam has become a tourist destination for other Europeans and Americans to come there and do things that are illegal back home. We got real tired of walking through the streets and seeing this. It just wasn't our thing.

One positive note was that we were able to meet up with Ben Dictus here. Ben is another former consultant and is traveling through Europe for two months with his fiancee (You didn't here that from me). It was so nice to meet up with them and hang out for a day. It really was the only redeeming part of the trip.

Don't go to Amsterdam. It is way over rated and nothing but a big tourist trap. Spend your time in Germany or Paris.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I am still unable to find a way to post pictures. The comuters in hostels are basically just for checking email, news, and blogging.

Between the two of us, Ryan and I have taken over 1,000 pictures so far so there will be lots to see when we get back and can post them.

Prague Will Spoil You

Prague is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. (And on top of this, it really is a beautiful city. They avoided both World Wars and so all their buildings are still intact). This has either been a nice break for our wallets or it has made everything else we do seem very expensive. Im beginning to think it is the latter of those two.

How cheap is Prague? The exchange rate is about 20 Korunas for $1. (And it was the only country where I didn't cry when I exchanged my money). While this does sound quite cheap, lets put that into some perspective. Beers at a neighborhood pub go for 20 Korunas and beers can be had in the grocery store for as cheap as 7 Korunas (yes, that is 35 American cents). Also, the beers here pretty much only come in half liters.

Since we were feeling newly rich, we went out for a traditional Czech meal. We walked into the restaurant and got a table. The waiter appeared and immeadiately handed us English menus. While this was great, it was also a bit of a letdown. Ryan and I have tried so hard to not stick out as Americans but something about us that day must have screamed dumb tourist.

We ordered the roast duck and dumplings. The woman at the desk in the hostel told us this was a very traditional dish. They brought out the meal in a pot and the portions were unbelievable. We couldn't finish it all. All told the meal (including appetizers and beers) came out to $15 American per person. To say we were happy is a major understatement.

Also, when all was said and done, our hostel came out to something like $50 per person for three days. It was not only the cheapest place we have stayed, but it was also the best.

Everything from here on out is going to seem quite expensive. Maybe we will just go back to Prague.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost in Translation

The source of most of our funny stories and times of complete stupidity mostly stem from not being able to speak the language of the country we are currently in.

Before the trip it was a little bit of a concern but we figured that a lot of Europeans would speak English and it wouldn't be so difficult. How stupid and naive we were.

I have already posted about our adventures in Paris but there have also been some good misques throughout the trip. I am becoming quite adept at saying the wrong word in a different language. When we were getting tickets to go up the Eiffel tower I paid for the tickets and then enteded to say thank you (which in French is Merci). Instead for some reason I said "Bonjour" which means "Hello." She gave me a funny look and so I just smiled and walked off.

Another time was in Prague. We had no clue how to say anything in Czech and pretty much gave up trying. When we were out to eat one night the waitress. She said something in czech which is kind of a catch-all word that can mean "Enjoy." I again jumped the gun and said the word for You're welcome. She gave me a funny look and then walked off. I am pretty sure she spoke very good English but we couldn't even figure out how to ask people that in Czech.

Its been a very interesting experience to say the least. One of the hardest things about the language barrier has been in restaurants. Half the time I just point at something and hope it works out (like pig's knee in Berlin).

It makes me want to start learning another language when I get back home.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Pope's Revenge

This is one of the better stories we have heard while touring Europe (I apologize in advance if I don't get all the details quite right). In Berlin, they built a TV tower in the east (communist) side. It was intended to be a symbol of the city and in some ways, communism.

So they begun building it and quickly found out that they were overmatched. Berlin sits in somewhat swampy land and it proved to be too much of a challenge for the East German engineers. They quietly brought in some Swedish (capitalist) engineers to finish the project.

The tower is quite the sight and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Around this time the government had also cracked down on churches and had removed all crosses from the eastern side. As it turns out, when the sunlight hits the tower, it forms a giant cross. People began calling this the Pope's revenge for taking the crosses down. The East German government tried lots of things to scatter the light but in the end declared that it was not a cross, but rather a giant plus sign for communism.

We happened to hit Berlin on a beautiful, sunny day and we could very clearly see the cross on the tower.

Friday, June 19, 2009


In Prague we are staying at a hostel called Sir Tobys that was highly recommended on a blog I read. It is easily the best hostel we have stayed in. Check it out: http://www.sirtobys.com/

Also, the exchange rate here is $1 = 20 koruna and things are quite cheap so that is working out well for us.

Eich bin ein Berliner

Berlin is definately going to compete with Paris for my favorite city so far. There is so much history and you could easily argue Berlin has been in the center of most of the major events in the 20th century.

We took a free tour despite our bad experience on the one in London and this one was great. (http://www.newberlintours.com/nbt/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/lang,en/)

Our tour guide was from England and talked a lot about the history of the city. One thing that really amazed me was the fact that there are still some buildings in Berlin that show damage from World War II. Yeah, its been over 60 years and they are still getting around to repairing things. It was crazy to look at and think about.

The food was good here too and we were able to find a restaurant that had an english menu. There special was a "Berliner" with potatoes and peas. It sounded good enough and when I got it, it turned out to be a pig's knee. It was some of the most tender pork I have eaten and it was surprisingly good.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We sadly had to leave Paris and had a train that left at 6:25am to go to Amsterdam. Why would we book something that early? Because it was the cheapest ticket and wouldn't waste a day traveling (at least that was the idea).

The plan was to get up at 5am to give us plenty of time to make the train. Here is how it actually went down:

5:00am: Get up and get in the shower.

5:25am: I finish getting dressed and throw my clothes in my backpack. This is when we start to realize we were on a tight schedule.

5:26am: Rain comes pouring down like someone turned on a faucet. We stood at the door for a good 3 minutes just saying "Really?!" over and over again.

5:29am: We put on our rain jackets and head out into the downpour. Ever tried sprinting through a torrential downpour with a 30lb backpack on your back? It is actually something more like a waddle.

5:45am: Make it to the Metro station and we and everything we own is absolutely soaked. My shoes and socks are squishing out water as I take each step. We find a sympathetic man at the station to help us buy tickets and run to our subway train

5:46am: Discover that we just missed the subway train and next one won't be for another 7 minutes

5:58am: Get off at the international train station, Gare du Nord and run up a broken escalator to get to the ticket office.

6:00am: Find a ticket machine and think we are home clear. Turns out the ticket machine does not recognize the reservation number. This is about the time I am almost in meltdown mode.

6:08am: Run to the train and flag down the train director. He looks through an electronic handheld device that had the manifest and cannot find our names on it. I am beyond mad at this point. I am soaking wet, shivering, and am holding an email confirmation for our tickets that we paid in full that is apparently worthless now.... and the train is leaving. The director suggests going to buy new tickets for €100 (yeah, the keyboards here have the euro sign... pretty sweet €€€€).

6:15am: Run (waddle) our way to the ticket office and wait in line behind 4 American girls who are practically yelling at the ticket agent about their Eurail passes and not having tickets. Apparently we are not the only ones having problems.

6:20am: I am the next one in line to get tickets and Ryan takes off to go find the train director to tell him we will be making the train. I get up to the next representative and she managed to find our reservation and print the tickets in under 2 minutes. She must have sensed the despiration.

6:22am: I am tearing throught the train station (waddling) like a banshee with tickets in hand, wildly waving them. Meet up with Ryan only to find that they had just closed the board ramp for the train. We plead with the woman who just put the barrier up and it went something like this: "Si vou plais! Si vou plais!" and she let us go under the barrier.

6:24am: We make it to the door where the train director is. The same 4 American girls are there yelling at the train director because he wont let them on board. The train is 15 seconds from departing and he won't let them on. Ryan runs right up to the front of that group of people and then just jumps on the train. I follow seconds behind. The American girls go ballistic. "WHAT! how do they get to go on? Thats so unfair! What the...." and then the train director shut the door and told us we got lucky.

I really don't know how we made that train but we did. Unreal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A (Dumb) American in Paris

We got in to Paris on Saurday afternoon after leaving London on a very good note. London was great and I was begining to feel somewhat comfortable with all the traveling.

We go to our hostel in Paris after a little frustration with the automatic Metro ticket dispensers. We checked into our rooms and then decided to grab a snack. Between the two of use, we can say "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", and "do you speak English" in French. With this limited knowledge of French, we set out to a nearby cafe.

We sat down in the cafe and a waiter walked over to us and began speaking french. We tried our best to point and guesture for two glasses of red qine, but the waiter gave up trying to understand us and walked away. We were very out of our element and thought about leaving. Right around that time, the bartender came over and asked in broken English what we wanted. We told him two glasses of red wine. He brought two glasses of white wine. Close enough. We drank the wine and went back to the hostel for a snack. Daniel and Ryan: 0 France: 1

Then we decided to head into the city to see the Eiffel Tower. We jumped on the metro and went all the way down to it. On a side note, the metro in Paris is amazing. We got an all day, unlimited pass for 3 euro and 20 cents. The trains were on time and the longest we waited fro one was about three minutes.

We got down to the Eiffel Tower and it was awe inspiring. I have heard one of the only things in life that doesn't dissapoint when you see it in person is the Grand Canyon (I absolutely agree with this). I will submitt o add the Eiffel Tower to this list. We got a bottle of wine, some sandwiches and sat in the park with thousands of other Parisians and watched the sun set behind the tower. I think I took about 100 pictures of it during the sunset and then as it was lit up at night. I could have sat there all night.

Even though I don't know much of the language, I really like the feel of Paris. I have a feeling this will not be the last time I am here.

We went out and did the tourist thing today. We climbed to the top of the Eiffel tower to see the view (well climbed halfway to avoid a 2 hour wait and then took the elevator to the top. Paris is an amazing city from the air as well). We also saw the Louvre, the Arc de Triumph, and Notre Dame.

Sadly, our time is coming to a close and we are off tomorrow to Amsterdam.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Ryan and I sat down to breakfast yesterday morning when a guy in sunglasses and a beard walked in to grab a coffee. Ryan recognized him and told me to look. Turns out it was Zach Galifianakis from the movie "The Hangover." He is the one carrying the baby in the picture above. Right after he walks up to the counter, Bradley Cooper walked in as well (He is the one in the middle of the picture). Ryan and I were like two kids on Christmas morning. We had seen The Hangover before we left and laughed the whole way through it. It is one of the best comedies I have ever seen. I was real tempted to walk over to them and ask to have my picture taken but we ended up just sitting and staring. As Zach went to walk out, we stopped him and just said we thought the movie was very funny. He thanked us and seemed surprised that we recognized him. (Which wasn't that hard. He had the beard and the exact same sunglasses on as the ones he wore in the movie). Bradley heard that there wwere two Americans in the cafe and came over to meet us. He was really cool and said, "Hey, I'm Bradley, nice to meet you." He and Zach were in town for the London premier and we talked for a bit about that and then they left.
How weird is it that we were sitting in some random cafe in London and those two come walking in off the street?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fog of Travel

So a quick update on last night... I really cannot think of a time when I was more frustrated. Around 1:00am I discovered that despite the fact I had checked in anc paid for a room, I actually was not staying in a room at all. Ryan was beside himself in anger and at one point just walked away to another room. The guy at the front desk was named Cesar and might have been from Spain or some other South American country. He was basically incompitent.

I finally got Cesar to agree to release a room to me at 2:00 am provided the guy did not check in before that. I sat and watched TV and tried not to get real mad. 2:00am came around and I went to the front desk, relieved to get my bed finally. Turns out that Cesar was still not comfortable with giving me my room despite his deal an hour earlier. It took everything I had left at that point not to reach across the counter and hit this gut in the face. There was not a single bed open in any hostel within miles and all this guy can offer me is my money back to let me crash on the couch in the recption area?

He decided to check all the flights arriving from Italy and then finally decided to call the guy about his reservation. Turns out the guy didn't need the reservation at all. It was 2:30am and I finally had a bed. I got a room key for 207 and went up there.

I swiped the key and was instantly hit by a fog of body odor and the smell of sweaty guys. It was overpowering and I almost gagged anf fainted at the same time. I pressed on and hopped in the open bed and quickly passed out.

I sure hope this this is not a trend with our hostel stays.


No, I am not watching baseball, nor is there bowling involved.

I flew into London today and we got our bags and headed to the London Underground to ride into the city and find our hostel. We were quickly greeted by a locked gate and a large sign that said some of the Transit workers had gone on strike the night before. There would be no subway trains. Seeing as how the only directions we had to our hostel were by the Tube, we were in trouble. A man at the help desk laughed at us when we asked if there really were not going to be trains, but he very kindly wrote specific instructions on how to get into the city by bus. We had to change several times and take a portion by above ground train, but we finally made it.

Apparently the strike has caught all of London by surprise and the newspapers here all had front page stories about the nightmare of a morning commute people here had. You cannot find a bus that isn't squeexed beyond maximum capacity because there is no other way to get around the city. It is pretty crazy.

Bearing this in mind, we were worried about getting to the English national soccer game tonight. We worked wth a girl at the hostel to find a route that ivolved us walking to an undeground station about 20 minutes away. (Apparently, there are a few trains still running despite the strike, but they are few and very far between and the wait times can be very long). We set out and after about 20 minutes, we came up to the underground station entrance only to find it closed and locked up. Right as I was about to lose faith and figure we would never make it, or have to pay hundreds for a cab ride, a bus driver comes out of his parked bus and announces that he is taking people to Wimbley Stadium (this was not a scheduled route and apparently, the guy just did it). We jumped on that bus and felt very lucky as we passed literally hundreds of people waiting on buses to take them back home.

We finally made it to Wembley stadium and got to our seats. They were right near one of the goals on the lower level and we had a perfect view of the field. The stadium was quite impressive. (Pictures will follow, I am still trying to figure out how to get them off my camera and onto public computers). Englad trounced Andorra 6-0 and it was an exciting game to watch with all of the goal scoring.

Once the game ended, we figured we were out of luck in finding our way home unless there was another charitable bus driver. As we left the stadium, we followed the crowd to see where they were all going. Turns out, there was one train that was going back into central London and we were able to catch it and get somewhat close to our hostel.

It seemed as if today was just our day until we got back to the hostel. We walked into the room and There were 5 beds taken. The problem is that both of us were supposed to be sleeping there. I figured it was some mistake and the hostel could fix it, but as it turns out the hostel has no record of us having a reservation for tonight. I showed the guy at the front desk my reciept and the email confirmation I had printed out, but it didnt matter. Apparenty when we checked in the person that did it allowed us to check into a room that was already booked up. I really don't know how it happened, but this mistake is definately not my fault.

So basically, even though I have already checked in and have stored my stuff in the room, I am homeless. The hostel is booked up and there is no availability in any of the hostels around. My only hope rests with one guy who may or may not show up. The guy at the front desk assures me he wont show up, but seeing as how he cannot figure out my reservation, I do not have much hope. Maybe I will be couch surfing tonight after all.

It was the perfect day...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And so it begins....

All this stuff is getting packed nice and orderly into my backpack for the trip to Europe... at least that is the idea.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Calamari Open

This past Monday I played in a golf tournament called the Calamari Open. The tournament is organized by an archetect in Truckee, California and around 50 people participate. The tournament is strictly for fun and I was easily the youngest person there.

We played at a brand new course in Truckee called Timilick (http://www.timilick.com/). It was absolutely beautiful. Truckee is only a few miles away from Lake Tahoe and so the course is set among towering pine trees and there were some good views of the mountains. (http://www.timilick.com/golf/).

The Calamari Open dates back a couple of decades and was started by a few friends who wanted to have their own golf tournament and have a good time. In the early days, the guys would pile into an RV and head up into the mountains to a course. There of course was a lot of drinking to along with the golf. One year, the group stopped at a restaraunt on the way up. After everyone had their fill, they piled back into the RV and continued up the winding mountain roads. One of the guys began to get car sick and proceded to throw up the calamari he had just eaten all over the back of the RV. Thus, the Calamari Open was born.
I had played on Sunday as well and shot some of the worst golf in my life. I had a 60 on the front nine before we had to quit due to thunderstorms. I did not have high expectations for the Calamari Open. The format of the tournament was a 4 person scramble with one player keeping their own score for each hole. We only had three in our group, so one person would play the hole normally while the other two played best ball.
I really enjoy tournament golf and had a blast. For the six holes I was responsible for playing, I was only 1 over par and had 2 birdies. It is a performance I will not repeat for a while.