Monday, May 25, 2009

Here I am, back in Bamberg-

Weirdly enough, formatting on Macs always trips out my blog, so I’m trying this a different way and hopefully it will turn out all right. I would also like to thank all the great people who keep commenting on my blog. I appreciate the feedback and will therefore keep writing tons and tons every time I get on.

 Back on track, I’ve decided to fill you in on the rest of my trip. We ended in Switzerland. It was rainy and I was feeling quite crabby- obviously. After emailing and blogging for two hours, I felt much better about my life and travels.

The rain stopped, the fog started clearing, and I found out Tucino looked quite beautiful. It’s in the state of Locarno in Switzerland. I may have gotten that wrong…but I’m sure someone will correct me if the mistakes are too grave. Someone always does.

After emailing on a train station bench, feeling paranoid about every passing stranger, I got back in touch with my inner adventurer. We met up with Remo, our couch surfing host for the area. He was devilishly handsome and gave us the down and out about the World Trade Center being a conspiracy and filling us in on the many kinds of liquor at our disposal in his flat. Very nice of him, but we did have to fill him in on our abstinence.

Remo was terribly nice, when we were standing on his porch, looking at the view, he saw we weren’t wearing any socks, and brought us out a couple pairs. He also told us to make ourselves at home and said if we would like, we could go out to eat with him and a couple friends. We were pleased as punch and emphatically agreed.

We ended up eating with him, his sister Vera, and her husband Scott. We had some delicious pizza. In fact, it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had. It happened to be $18 pizza as well, so it’s also the most expensive pizza I’ve ever had. Turns out we were in the Italian part of Switzerland, so it figures.

We were also advised everyone gets their own pizza; nobody splits out there. So we each ate a medium, thin crust pizza. I ended up talking so much I only finished half my pizza and ate the other half for lunch the next day. That’s what happens when you love listening to yourself talk… I kid, is joke.

Vera actually had quite a few questions about our church, so I took that time to fill her in and answer any questions she might have. It was a good opportunity to see the simple nature of missionary work and the ease of sharing it with others. It was good to get an extra buoy added to my resolve to serve a mission. 

After much bonding and talk, we took Vera and Scott home and walked around with Remo. We walked right into another restaurant and got some Italian drinks. It was interesting to do so. I’d never realized how crazy socializing is in the single Italian Switzerland. Really, it’s kind of like that everywhere huh? Well, that drink was another 5 euros, so it was an expensive night, but we figured you only socialize in Switzerland so often.

The next day we headed out to the bungee jump after a vigorous morning jog with Remo. The bus took us up a mountain to the dam. It was a steep dam. I’ll probably post some pictures on facebook, or the video. Jasmyn or Colton Hicks may also have put those on facebook. I will only post those things if I can figure out how to get my facebook settings back to English from Czech. Otherwise, I won’t be able to navigate around. Bless google, I’m all fixed up.

Back to bungee jumping- it was scary. We walked up to the bridge, judged the steepness of our jump, and watched a couple people jump off. Then we noticed many people go to that dam to watch others jump. I was feeling quite nervous. Tingly even. Colton and Jasmyn- not nervous. Colton, then Jas, then I went. We got video of all three and some good pictures.

When I was strapped in, I felt fluttery. When I stepped to the edge of the platform, my feelings were quite numb. Finally, I had my toes an inch off the side. I felt ok about it, the nervousness was holding back. I held up my arms, I looked around. The guys on the platform said it was important to have fun, I was all strapped in and ready. They counted to three. I jumped, realizing the importance of not thinking. 

All rational thought began seizing me at once. I thought, “No, no, no….NO, NO, NO!!! Bad idea, BAD IDEA!!!!!!!! By then, it was too late, I had already jumped. Then I let out a scream. Colton said it was a terror scream. I would have to agree with him. In the  seconds after jumping, I felt death had claimed me for himself. Then my head started hurting because of the blood rush, panic, panic. Then the bungee cord held me and I felt safe.

Then I didn’t know what to do, even though they’d explained it to me right before. Jumping off a dam does that to you. So I hooked the hook onto my clip and got hauled up. I probably wouldn’t do it as a hobby. I was terrified, but it was a cool experience. Tick. I also got a 7 inch piece of bungee cord to take with me as a souvenir. Very cool.

That afternoon we climbed up the side of the city mountain, far surpassing the church we wanted to see. Oops. Then we had to run and meet Remo for dinner again. We got lost and eventually found the tennis club. We ate bbq and ate at the restaurant again. It was great bonding time with the Swedes. I enjoyed myself immensely.

The next day we headed to church in a nearby city with all our stuff. The bus we were going to catch didn’t run on Sundays or some such nonsense, so we had to hitchhike. Luckily Mike picked us up and took us to the train station. Bless you Mike. He was a caddy on his way to a woman’s golf tourney; Sunday was the last day.We got to the city a little late, so we had to take a cab to church- expensive b/c it was further from the station than we had originally thought.

From church, we got a ride back to the station and rode on to Florence. For some reason, we were feeling out of sorts. I’m not sure why, we were just tired from train riding around. We were trying to figure out what to do in Florence, and I ran into…Drew Horton from freshman year. Crazy small world! AND, his wife Jess is the sister of Braden, that boy Jasmyn dated last semester. Their other sister Stephanie was there with her friend Liz.

They took us to a scenic viewpoint that night. Drew helped us set up a hostel; he ran lots of stairs, bless his heart. We checked quite a few places. The next day we went to Cinque Terre- it’s a cool seaside hiking area. On the way we stopped into Pisa and checked out the leaning tower. We met some boys on the way and saw Steph and Liz again. We met them on purpose that night for gelato. Ah, the blessed gelato of Italy.

On the train to Cinque Terre, we also ran into three attractive boys traveling from America. One of the three actually came with us to Cinque Terre. His name was James. He was quite keen on libertarianism and was a hoot. He’s ridden quite a bit in motorcycle world. He sold his bike because he figured it would eventually get him into trouble. He said people don’t call you in on the highway on a motorcycle, because they just think, “That guy’s gonna die. I hope his mother knows what he’s doing.” However, in fast cars they call you in all the time.

Cinque Terre was beautiful. While there, we swam a bit, but mostly hiked. Hot day it was, but most of the coast spots were quite a climb down from the main trail we were on.

The next day we investigated Florence and watched Demons and Angels in the theater with the girls, Jess, and Drew. Intermission is still going strong in the Italian theatres, and another stop happened because the power went out. Turns out both times the movie stopped were the most exciting parts of the movie. Figures 

After the movie we got pizzas and gelato and hung out with our friends. From Florence, we hopped to Rome. We flew through Rome, seeing everything, but in a hurry. It was cool, but I feel I saw everything in Rome there is. It would have been fine to amble, but we got through it and still got to see Prague, which was our main idea.

From Rome, we got a night train to Vienna. Colton will attest, my feet were in rare form that night. I washed them and everything, but my well-worn sandals were hard pressed and no shower was available. I eventually put on socks, but seriously, I hate sleeping in socks. It was for the good of the people.

From Vienna, we jumped to Prague. We exchanged our money to Czech crowns. I exchanged 20 euros, spent like 4, exchanged the rest and had 7 euros left over. I lost half my money in the exchange process. GAY! Anyway, I had no idea how much I would spend out there. I should have just eaten myself silly, but I didn’t know how much I would lose in transition.

 We wandered the city looking for hostels and found nothing. It began raining, but the rain was warm. We found an apartment for the night, it was 23 euros; most hostels and night trains cost about 20, so we felt alright about it.

 That night we wandered the city, Colton and Jas saw a concert. I skipped it, but should have seen it because I lost all my crowns anyhow. We investigated the fortress on the hill. We saw much cool stuff. The next day we had a day trip to another castle on a hill.

 We walked slowly to the castle and walked slowly back, missing the train by 2 minutes. We saw it leave the station. Luckily trains left for Prague every 30 minutes. Unluckily, the schedulers lied to us and we had to wait another hour before the next train came. Luckily it began pouring rain and cleared the air. Unluckily, the train stopped and everyone had to get off at the next station.

Luckily everyone in the station was confused. Unluckily, we had to make it to Prague before 5:11 because our train left then. Jas and Colton had to catch that train because it was the last train to Nuremburg and their plane left Saturday morning at 6 am. 3:30 we were getting antsy. The train had stopped because the previous train, the one we missed by two minutes, had caught fire. Luckily, we weren’t on that train. Unluckily, we were going to be hard pressed to catch our next train.

We took a bus to another train station, got to Prague at 5 pm, ran to our apt. to get the bags, ran back to the station with our huge bags. We didn’t know what platform to go to. No number was listed, just the letters NEJ. Who the heck knows what that means? I certainly didn’t know.

We saw a sign with a city starting with N on it, in Europe some cities are spelled differently. The people on the train kept telling us it wasn’t going to Nuremburg, but we’d been lied to before. For what reason, I know not. They left right after telling us to check the other train station.

We rode to the next station and headed to the information station. At this station, we found a Slovakian lady speaking in behalf of a group of English speakers who had also missed the train. Apparently it had skipped our station after all. There was a fire on the tracks…we knew all about that. Anyway, they’d posted something about it 10 min before, saying it was only going  through this station and we should have known. We were screwed.

However, the Slovakian lady, bless her forever, talked in our behalf to the train employees and got us a train, to a bus, to take us to Munich/Nuremburg. When we got to the bus- it was a van- we found there were only 12 seats and 13 people. Despite the numerous volunteers for the floor seat, the company would not let anyone sit on the floor because they might get stopped at the border and someone would have to get out.

They needed someone to stay behind. I didn’t have a flight, so I said I could do it. I volunteered, they said they’d give me a 100 euro voucher for a hotel and take me there, but I’d have to find my own way back to the train station. Who knows how much or how far that would be? So I said I’d only stay if I had a ride or money to get back to the station as well.

Plus, there was a fight in the parking lot and I totally thought a guy was going to get golf clubbed in the head with us all watching. The altercation was eventually circumvented by police, but it was nerve racking to watch. We did not know what to do about this problem. Golf clubs are dangerous, especially those wielded by crazy guys in parking lots.

The Prague train people ended up just sending another car, we got to Munich about 1 am and I slept in the train station. Info was closed for the night and I didn’t know where to go. I was tired and found a waiting room in the station on the second floor.

Despite the creepy oldish man watching me read my scriptures and write in my journal, I was ok. I fell asleep at 3, only to be awakened by crazy homeless people yelling at each other in the otherwise silent waiting room. All the older people started leaving and I thought maybe I should go also. 

I was so tired though, so I slept until 6 am, since the crazy people finally left. 6 am I woke up because train people came up to shoo us out of the waiting area. Cruel demons. I ran to the toilet, then upstairs to eat something. I’m not a morning eater, so I went upstairs to the Burger King and tried to convince myself to eat.

As I stared at the sign, I heard the guy at the table next to me say, “Nice pajamas.” He seemed to be normal enough and had a New Zealand accent. I quite enjoy these accents, so I sat and talked with him and his friend. Their names were Fergus and Patrick. They had been partying all night and were hungry. Apparently the hotel they were staying at didn’t serve the continental breakfast until 7, but they were hungry at 6, so Burger King it was.

I had an over bright, cheery countenance for 3 hours of sleep and Fergus asked what I was doing the next hour before my train came. I wasn’t sure, so he said I could come to their hotel and shower up before my train. It sounded unwise, but I like a good shower. So I did it. I took a shower in the strange circumstances of this, with my wisdom telling me no and smelling like moldy sea urchin.

Afterwards, I ran back to the station, missing my train by seconds. I waited another hour, planning my day in Salzburg Austria with care. I then slept on that train. When I got to Salzburg, I wanted to see the Eagle’s Nest and Dachau. I found out both were a ways away. Dachau was back by Munich and the Eagle’s nest required a bus ticket and some time.

I went to put my bag in a locker and three frat boys were doing the same. They were from Iowa, just traveling like me, and I said I wasn’t sure what to do that day. They asked if I’d like to travel with them and I said I would love to. Their names were Ryan, Phil, and Casey. We wandered the city until 2, when Ryan finally succeeded in convincing me I had to see Dachau because it was a very moving experience.

I got back to the train station, finding out I wouldn’t get to Dachau until 5:15 and the camp closes at 5 pm. Then I couldn’t find the boys, so I looked for a hostel to spend the night in. I put my bags away and walked back to the train station locker area to leave the boys a note, in case they wanted to hang out that night. Their train didn’t leave until midnight.

On my way I stopped to get a donor kebab and some indian boys started staring my way. Now listen here, I know I say a lot of males stare at me, but seriously, it’s true. I cannot possibly be imagining it. Weird ones all over the world, it’s uncanny. Danielle, Jenny, I’m telling you, lots of weird people stare at me. When I get my life film, I will show you. It’s all taped, then you will believe me.

So after buying my donor kebab, I walked to the train station and put a note in the locker of those boys. Then I noticed one of the strange Indian boys was following me. I walked all over Salzburg, and he just plodded behind me in his flip flops. I would stop, he would stop. Outside the residential area, he stopped following me, but I know he knew I knew he was following me.

I’d put on the train note we should meet there at 9, so I was back at 9. As I passed the kebab place, the Indian guy started following me again. I went to the train lockers, he followed me. I stopped and looked back, he stopped and pretended he hadn’t noticed. I walked again, he commenced walking. He said “Hi.” I ignored him and kept walking. I don’t speak German. I didn’t want to talk to him, he was creeping me out.

Then I sat in the station and waited a while in the main area. He stood outside the station, checking every once in a while to make sure I was still there and waited as I sat on the bench. I felt ridiculous, like I was in a spy movie.

Then I started walking back to my hostel. He followed me the first block, I turned around and said, “Why are you following me?” He said, “Nine.” Yeah right, like I was some kind of idiot. What the heck was he doing? Hunting for rabbits? Anway, his creepiness made me even more anxious to meet those American boys, but I had had enough waiting and following for the night, so I went to my hostel. As soon as I turned the corner, I started running. When I looked back, weirdy was gone. Whew, maybe he figured out I wasn’t interested.

The next morning I awoke at 6 am to drug addicts screaming at each other in the streets.  It was terribly invigorating. I didn’t want to miss my train to the Eagle’s Nest, so I ran up to the train station, whereby the bus station was set.

It turned out I was an hour and a half early for the bus. Instead of returning to the hostel, I just sat on a tire by the bus post. A lot of strange people stared at me that morning as well. One kindly looking old man stopped his van at the bus stop across the street and waved me over. I walked over and he slurred something to me in German.

I had no idea what he was saying or inferring to me, so I just recrossed the street and waited for my bus again. He drove past a couple more times and even parked his van and walked across to where I was sitting, waiting for my bus. I don’t speak a lick of German, so all I could say was, “I don’t speak
German, just English.”

He tried waving me over to his van. He was trying to persuade me to do something… Do I look like an idiot? I also tried shooing him away with my hands, like I had shooed the pigeons, but it didn’t work as well with him. Finally he left. I think he had hoped I was some kind of hooker or something, but sorry, I’m just a weirdy magnet.

My bus came, I got onto two other buses, and 30 euros later, I ended up at the Eagle’s Nest- a really pretty area Hitler had built up a secret bunker in. It was cool because of the scenery, but I was a little disappointed. Then I realized I was there, so I hiked around. I also filmed some people walking over the snow, I didn’t catch any big trippers, but some of the footage is pretty funny.

Then again I got back to Salzburg by 2 pm, so I was disappointed again. I did not realize the Eagle’s Nest would be a day trip. I will go to Dachau before I leave Europe. I’ve met many people in my travels. It was an adventure for sure. I’m now set to babysit for 2 weeks for my cousins. Today was grand, I’ll let you know at the end of the two weeks how it goes.


Ali Snow said...

Wow Mer, first, I'm so happy you're alive. Second, I'm so happy you have a blog so I can keep up with you. Third, man you're busy! I can't believe all the cool things you're doing right now. I'm so impressed with you sense of adventure. Congratulations on the mission decision! I love and miss you!

Raymond and Amy Lambert Family said...

I agree w/ the previous comment--I'm glad you're alive! How do you get such weird guys? Way to go on the mission decision!

Sarah Gessel said...

For reals, people in Switzerland are swiss not swedes.

Your feet do stink.

Sounds fun. But tiring.

*liSa* said...

That sounds awesome. when is the last time you were in the United States?
I know my tan lines are outrageous, i really need to get back on track with my nude bathing!

Cookie said...

Wow Sis! Your travels sound amazing. I wish I were there with you. My kids have been out of school a week and already I am getting the whining "I'm bored" so the babies are getting bigger. I need to post pictures of the kids. I am not good about that. I am excited for you and I love listening to your stories. Be SAFE! Make sure you come home to us :) Missing you! tell mike and danielle I say hi :) Cookie

Christensen family said...

Oh my Merilee. Talk about adventure after adventure. I could not stop reading your fabulous stories. I do have to say you are quite brave. First, I would NEVER bungee jump... just reading your description is enough for me. Then those crazy guys... you be safe! I love that you are seeing and doing so many wonderful things! Love you!

Kristie said...

I'm nicknaming you: Adventure Pants.

Amanda Petersen said...

WOW! How do you have the energy to live your life? Seriously? You are amazing! I am very surprised and impressed by your mission decision. You will be an amazing missionary! It definitely flashes me back to many a conversation we had Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year in college when a mission was the furthest thing from your mind. My, how times have changed. Tucker and I are both very excited for you! Please keep us updated on everything. We move to Michigan in August! Crazy!