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A year abroad: my international adventure

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by binary visions, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Next we made our way to Krakow where, coincidentally, World Youth Day was almost underway. Though not religious myself, it seemed silly to not attend this crazy event where people from around the world travel to a selected location every two years to see a Papal mass, participate in local events, and socialize. I have never seen a calmer, happier, more well-behaved group of 2.5 million people.





    Krakow itself was very pleasant, we mostly biked and walked around the old town, tried some local fare, took in the sights, and enjoyed the spectacle of WYD. I made sure to stop by the locally famous kielbasa man, who shows up in a blue van at 8pm at one of the local markets and cooks kielbasa over an open flame until 2am. It was amazing.









    Of course, you can't visit Krakow without making the pilgrimage to the sobering sights of Auschwitz and Birkenau in the nearby town of Oswiecim. It's... completely terrifying and nauseating to see the scale of these places, and the precision with which they were run. The hair exhibit is infamous, but I found it almost more horrifying to see the log books, requisition forms, inventories, etc., all kept with precise detail by (presumably) fellow human beings who were bearing witness to this slaughter.





    After leaving Krakow, we made our way to the very southern tip of Poland, within spitting distance of the boarder with Slovakia. There, we stayed at a spectacular ski apartment among the Polish Tatras, and spend several days hiking. The stay and the views were both outstanding, and we absolutely loved the hiking there.





    One of our hikes, up to the peak of Swinica, involved clambering up a set of sheer rock faces, hoisting ourselves along ropes and chains embedded into the cliff face. A good time was had by all, and the views were epic.











    Next up: Prague
     
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  2. jdcamb

    jdcamb Tool Time!

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  3. stevew

    stevew unique white person

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    butterfly pic....freeeeaaaaky....
     
  4. allsk8sno

    allsk8sno Turbo Monkey

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    I HATE TICKS
     
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  5. jdcamb

    jdcamb Tool Time!

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  6. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Yeah... it was horrific. Jenn now has a boarderline-phobia about them now, after she felt one grabbing on to her eyelid.

    Apparently the little fuckers detect the sweet, sweet CO2 exhalations of passing meat and fling themselves down from the tree leaves. Our guide shrugged and said he just ignores them and showers when he gets home.

    Laos, I think. We had incredible food in Luang Prabang. It seemed like every meal, from the beautiful formal restaurants to the little street-side cafes were amazing. The food overall in Laos was amazing, I'd highly recommend it to any foodie who wants to try something new.
     
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  7. Flo33

    Flo33 Monkey

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    Did you have a Tick-borne Encephalitis vaccine before visiting? The guide probably had I guess. These fuckers a bad. But I never heard of them raining down. Around here they are mostly found on the ground on grass and other rather low growing plants.
     
  8. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    No, we had a myriad of vaccines (seriously, we practically went into the travel clinic and said, "we'll take one of everything") but not tick-borne encephalitis.

    We coated ourselves in Deet, which apparently is pretty effective at keeping the ticks from latching on, and went through a ritual of de-lousing ourselves after each foray into the woods.

    Neither of us had heard of them falling out of trees either, but holy shit, after about the dozenth time I slapped the back of my neck only to come away with a wriggling little horror, there was no doubt that's where they were coming from.
     
  9. Flo33

    Flo33 Monkey

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    Sounds frightening to be honest. :fie:
     
  10. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I'd forgotten about this for a bit, but we were starting to get into the part of the trip where we weren't necessarily spending several weeks in each country, so we'll do a few countries in one post.

    We departed Poland and made our way to Prague. Prague is an interesting city, since they put up little resistance during WWII, which has left the historic center mostly original. They have their famous astronomical clock, which goes off on the hour, attracting a mob below it to watch a skeleton tug on a rope and apostles peer out at the crowd below.









    Of course, we sampled the food (trdelnik, a type of cake cooked on a spit) and the beers (Czech pilsners, naturally).





    While Prague is a nice enough city, the historic center is somewhat overrun with tacky shops, overpriced vendors, and entrance fees everywhere you turn. We skipped a number of the buildings because of the borderline-absurd ticket costs to peek inside. Nonetheless, we spent some time exploring the city and its castles, and then took an excursion out to the Sedlec Ossuary, a famous graveyard and church with an incredibly large collection of bone sculptures and decorations.












    From the Czech Republic, we journeyed to Austria and spent several days seeing the sights in Vienna. Vienna was a busy but beautiful city. Huge churches decorate the city, and we stopped for me to consume massive amounts of Weiner Schnitzel and Tafelspitz.















    Vienna is well-known for its cakes. Many hotels have their own special cake, only served at that one place. Jenn decided she was going to do a cake tour of the city, so we spent several meals wandering from restaurant to hotel, sampling cakes and pies and baked goods as we went. Of course we stopped at the famous Hotel Sacher and tried the sachertorte, which was actually amazing - it absolutely lived up to the billing. Cafe Central, Cafe Imperial, Demel and others... we stuffed ourselves. I think we tried 15 different cakes while we were in Vienna!











     
    #90 -   Jun 4, 2017
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  11. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    A short trip from Vienna is the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. It's a popular day trip, so we took a bus over to see the sights.

    The old town is quite nice, very separate from the city itself and full of twisting and turning walking streets, lined with churches and mansions and pleasant shops and restaurants.









    Walking distance from the old town is the Bratislava Castle, whose origins go back to 907 AD. The current castle is fairly recent, but an impressive and impeccably-kept place with nice views of the city.





    Nearby, the Slavin War Memorial honors Soviet forces who liberated the city from the Germans during WWII, and offers a nice look back at the castle and the surrounding area.





    After our short visit to Bratislava, we journeyed to Budapest, to see what Hungary had to offer us. Weirdly, we arrived during the celebration of Hungary's independence day celebration, St. Stephen's Day - we do seem to have a knack for turning up in the right countries at the right times.

    We watched the morning ceremonial flag raising in front of one of the most spectacular parliament buildings either of us had ever seen.





    After the opening ceremonies, we made our way through the throngs to enjoy the various local foods available - huge piles of fresh bread, enormous tubs of bubbling goulash, giant blocks of cheese, pastries, truffles and cakes. Two of the treats - a bread and a cake - are selected before the festival as Hungary's "new bread" and "national cake" for the year. It was a ton of fun, just wandering and eating and soaking in the sights.









    We did some walking outside of the city, seeking views, respite from the crowds, and some fresh air. On the Buda side of the river, we walked up Gellert Hill, getting a great view of Buda Castle and a panorama of the city.





    St. Stephen's Day is celebrated with fireworks throughout the city, so we claimed a spot along the river to watch.







    Of course, we weren't there only for the festivities. In subsequent days, we investigated the beautiful central market, the impressive churches, and the bridges that connect Buda and Pest at multiple spots along the Danube. It's quite a wonderful city, with a great, comfortable feel.

















    A sobering spectacle awaited us at the city's holocaust memorial. Many in Hungary feel that the sculpture that stands does not represent Hungary's close ties to Nazi Germany, thus betraying the memory of those that died. As a quiet protest, a living memorial has been set up in front of the sculpture, with drawings, letters, keepsakes and other items displayed to keep the memories alive.









    Budapest rests on 125 mineral-rich thermal springs, sometimes being referred to as the City of Baths. Naturally, we couldn't leave the city without exploring some of the thermal springs, so we chose one of the oldest and least-updated baths in the city, seeking something a little more akin to an "authentic" Turkish Bath experience, rather than feeling as if we were at a spa. This led us to the Kiraly Baths, where we had a great time inside, switching between the various temperatures and the steam room. It was not much more than a tile-and-concrete slab with pipes coming out of the walls, but we thought it was a great time.

     
    #91 -   Jul 4, 2017
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  12. Flo33

    Flo33 Monkey

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    Bump? :clue: