Friday, December 31, 2010

Perú

I was going to do Switzerland next. But Switzerland is a lot like Austria, which is a lot like Germany. I think we need a break from the Strudel crowd.

So let's do Perú!

Why? Because while it is freezing here in the States, it happens to be summer in South America.

Not that I ever experience summer. My year currently is 70% cold-ass winter, with a little bit of tepid spring and chilly fall stapled on for good measure. I am in the US during our winter, barely make it through the spring and then just as the temperatures start to peak I head down to Peru to enjoy some more winter. And for someone who ceases to function like a normal person when temps drop below 70F, this lifestyle turns the weather into a perpetual torture device.

Oddly, I find the whole thing worth it.






Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Austria

I have to admit, my experience in Austria consists of driving straight through it. Which is a pity, because it was a truly beautiful country (from what I saw flash past the window). It has the same postcard-perfect look as Germany; the snowcapped mountains, lush valleys, and villages that look like they belong under the Christmas tree all make you wonder why you had the misfortune of being born anywhere else. I imagine everyone in Austria waking up, laughing at the rest of us, and then going to have tea with magical garden gnomes in their nearby enchanted castle.




The only picture I seem to have taken in Austria is of me posing next to a giant stuffed bison. Somehow, this sums up my life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Best o' Germany

1. Best palace: Linderhof

2. Best Palace grounds: Schwetzingen Castle grounds

3. Best asparagus festival: Schwetzingen

4. Best spectacular mountain views: Garmisch-Partenkirchen

5. Best bizzarre ice cream item: Spaghettieis

6. Best tourist place you'll be glad you went to: Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Munich

7. Best museum to not eat lunch before: The Criminal Museum, Rothenburg (has such a lovely collection of torture devices)

8. Best pastries to eat far too much of: Bienenstich,
Apfelkuchen, Erdbeer tartelette

9. Best pastry that looks delicious but you will regret: Marzipan anything

10. Best trivia for awkward party situations : The "did you know you have to pay for ketchup in a German McDonald's?" line
(May also work as a pick up line. To be tested).

11. Best music to listen to while very drunk on German beer: Blümchen. Don't lie, you've loudly sung "Heut' ist mein Tag" while stumbling around. Who cares if its over a decade old? Certainly not that nice old man in lederhosen you are lovingly serenading!

12. Best tacky souvenir to bring back: "Oh look, a large mug with ugly pictures on it. Because I love you."

13. Best souvenir that will actually be appreciated: The awesome Christmas carousels

14. Best overpriced gift for your child that you won't actually let him play with because you had to sell your liver to purchase it: Steiff. The one and only. I actually can't hate on Steiff; if I had my choice, I'd buy everything they ever produced.

15. Best place to make a Star Wars joke: The Philosopher's Walk, Heidelberg. Yea, I know its spelled wrong - nerd.


16. Best place for Aly to head to next, because she never seems to make it: The North Sea islands.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Germany


I'll begin with Germany. It well deserves to start our journey -- country I was born in, country I find myself most often returning to, country with Kartoffelkloesse. Most significantly, however, is the 'at home' feeling that warms me whenever I go to Germany. I have many places I've loved, several I want to return to, but very few that I could picture myself parking my cat and doing crosswords in my old age. Southern Germany easily tops this exclusive list.




To start, Germany is incredibly clean, organized, and beautiful. It is like they've been spending the last 500 years slowly auditioning for the "country most deserving of a postcard" award. You go down a random alley in some tiny village, and BAM, you find yourself facing the most beautiful mountain scenery of your life.









Or you might find yourself facing a fairytale castle (trip note: when you go, bring a tiara. It makes photo opportunities in castles that much better).















Or perhaps when you turn down that little side street you find yourself facing a gas station with a giant banana tower. Inside this magical banana, they have "gas station food", such as fresh crossaint sandwiches and made-to-order pasta. The bathrooms are also spotless with a nice little old man who tends them, proudly telling you that he has the "cleanest bathrooms in the world". And by god, he's right. Oh Germany, land of awesome gas stations.


Not that it is all rainbows and butterflies; being vegetarian in Germany often means eating an unholy amount of potatoes. In fact, on one of my high school trips I believe I ate some form of hashbrown twice a day for a week. And this was before I was of age to wash down my hungry misery with beer. (The situation has improved in the last ten years though. The last time I visited, I had no trouble finding delicious vegetarian meals, often without a potato in sight.)

Also, no matter how hard I try, I will always fail at German. My accent is usually nonexistent, although I occassionally attempt to make cat-coughing-up-furball sounds. I also never remember the different between "kein" (none) and "klein" (small)-- which means all the difference between water with kein bubbles (regular water) and water with klein bubbles (mineral water - the nasty drink of Satan). Obviously, this is not Germany's fault, but my own language handicap that creates both adventure and embarrassment (at the same time!)

But even with these small quibbles, I'd be pretty happy spending the rest of my life in some German cottage. And I bet my cat would be too.

Friday, December 24, 2010

One goal

So I pretty much only have one goal in life. Visit every country* in the world. All of them.


*Country as according to the 2010 UN member list. I've got to draw the line somewhere because countries keep multiplying like crazy (I'm looking at you, Balkans).

BUT -- I am including Palestine, Taiwan and Vatican City on there too (opening a whooooooole can of worms with this sentence). Western Sahara, I dunno how I feel about you. If someone can give me a really compelling argument that it should be included then I'll think about it.





If you want to help me do this, either through witty statements of support, monetary donations, or travel companionship, please let me know. Even if you don't want to help, I'll be updating this blog with stories and pictures. Enjoy.