Saturday, August 4, 2012

Month 3 Awards

As of July 17th, we will have been traveling for three months. To recap, here’s where we’ve been in month 3. Molietz, France – Paris, France – Milan, Italy – Rome, Italy – Napoli, Italy – Tuscany, Italy – Venice, Italy – Munich, Germany – Bamberg, Germany – Frieberg, Germany – Geneva, Switzerland – Lucerne, Switzerland – Zurich, Switzerland


The Tent – Munich, Germany

As a rule, Munich is about €30 per person per night. At The Tent, it’s €10 to be in a 100 bunk circus-tent. No pillows, but you can request as many blankets as you want. We’re pretty sure the blankets have never been washed. No worries for us because we have our cocoons, which are sheets sewn into a sleeping bag to keep off bed bugs. Breakfast is a la carte, so you can pile your plate with hard-boiled eggs, mueslix, cereal, coffee, bread, OJ and pay about 50 cents each. Because it’s Germany, there’s also cold-cuts and cheese slices. To top it off, there’s a bonfire every night and a cheap dinner served. The best was the BBQ where you could get a sausage with a vein of cheese running through it for €2. A steak cost €3.50. €4 would get you a 1-liter mug of beer, that’s about 2.5 pints. The staff was helpful and the people were friendly. Sure, there was a mouse in the room every once in awhile, but what did you expect? It’s a tent… I mean The Tent.


The Heart of Tuscany – Tuscany, Italy

We give out this award with a heavy heart, because The Heart of Tuscany had a great view, there was an infinity pool, the food was great and we met some nice people. It qualified as a “hostel” because of dorm beds, but it was really a Tuscan villa. Unfortunately, we were in the top of the main house and had to make a difficult choice. We could either keep the windows shut all night and boil like lobsters or open the windows and risk on onslaught of mosquitoes. The first two nights we boiled. The last night we opened the windows. We were still scratching mosquito bites two weeks later. All the other hostels in Italy were like this, but not as bad. This was horrendous. PUT A MOSQUITO NET IN THE ROOM OR GET A FAN!!!!


Osterhaus – Bamberg, Germany

This is not just a restaurant, but a brewery that’s been open since the 15th century. They make Rauchbier, which actually tastes like bacon. Yes, it’s bacon beer! On top of that, the food was wonderful. Leslie had one of her new favorites called the zwiebel, which is a full onion, peeled, with the inner layers removed. It’s then stuffed with a meatloaf-like mixture and baked. Bryan had a pork shoulder, which was great, but the people pushed this place over the top. We were served outside on picnic tables, and each time we met the other patrons around us. Once, there was a Germany family from out of town. The other time was a 50 year-old-man who was acting as care-giver for an 80 year-old with dementia. Good people + good food + good beer = award winner!

Honorable Mention

Pezzafina – Frascati, Italy

Pezzafina is about 25 minutes outside of Rome, right next to the place we stayed in Frascati. It’s run by the Pezzafina family. They serve up moderately-priced Italian food in a friendly, atmospheric setting. The entire restaurant is on top of a cave, where they store some wines that are older than I am. When they realized we were new to the restaurant they opened the doors and let us explore the cave. I also had a bacon and cheese-sauce pasta that was heavenly. We’d never had crispy bacon in a sauce before, but it’s definitely worth experimenting with at home.


Leslie’s Winner – The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The one and only!!! You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve seen the movies, but none of those do it justice. Even seeing the “metal asparagus” from across Paris won’t allow you to realize the massive undertaking that went into it’s creation. The grandeur of the structure doesn’t really hit you until you’re right in front of it. We walked up to the “first floor”, which is half-way up. It made for some great photos as the light and shadows played off each other.

Bryan’s Winner – The Colosseum, Rome

The greatest treasure of antiquity is a still an emotional powerhouse. The floor is gone, so you can see the complex (if antiquated) system of pullys and counterweights that used to cause rampaging elephants to appear while two gladiators were battling to the death. The ancient spectacle was a cultural center, chance to win glory for slaves and freemen alike and a chance for the rich and famous to share an experience with the commoner.


The Bread – Geneva, Switzerland

Okay, so we weren’t actually in Geneva when this happened. John and Danielle Dolin of the wonderful blog A Mr. And Mrs. Live with the Swisses took us across the border into France, where we went to a little street market. We tried some bread that looked wonderfully decadent, and was! The samples were so great we decided to purchase two slices. Bryan chose the chocolate bread and the baker acted like he’d cut a slice 1/4 inch thick. “Bigger!” he said, stopping him when the slice reached an inch and a half. Leslie then ordered an inch-wide slice of the orange bread. Little did we know, these slices were sold by weight and that bread was heavy. We spent €13 on two slices of bread. Oog.


Freiberg, Germany -> Geneva, Switzerland

Usually, we get lost, have to take multiple trains or end up playing charades with someone who doesn’t speak English. On this day, we woke up, went straight to train station, took one train and found a smiling face on the other side in the form of John Dolin. He took us right to his apartment, gave us water, homemade cookies and turned on American television. Easiest. Travel. Day. Ever.


Paris -> Rome

This day deserves a blog of it’s own, which we’ll hopefully get to someday. It started with the person at the hostel sending us to a Parisian train station. We walked twenty minutes through the largest underground subway station we’ve ever seen in order to be informed that we had been directed to the wrong train station. There are 4 major train stations in Paris. We walked twenty minutes back through the train station, lugging our backpacks, in order to catch the metro to the other train station. Then everyone had to evacuate the train because there was a dog on the track. Seriously. We eventually made it to the right station, and all direct lines to Rome were full for Eurail passengers. The woman behind the counter told us we’d have to pay full price. Leslie sat outside with the bags and quietly cried. Bryan figured out we could go from Paris to Lyon to Geneva to Milan, spend the night and take an early train to Rome the next day. Worst. Travel. Day. Ever.


Hofbraushaus – Munich, Germany

Back in the day, Bavaria was an independent country. The Hofbrauhaus was the Royal Bavarian Beer Hall. 1 Liter Beers served in a beer garden by people wearing traditional German garb. True, it’ a bit Disney-like nowadays with the way they cater to expectations and hold older styles, but it’s still pretty cool.


The Lake Parade – Geneva Switzerland

Twenty semi-trucks that have been turned into mobile dance clubs moving slowly through the waterfront of Geneva blasting techno music. We’re not big techno people, but that was fun.


Chateau Dolin – Geneva, Switzerland

Sometimes, we miss home. Some times, you find something that reminds you of home. Every once in a loooong while, a place is like a little bit of home has been moved overseas. That’s what it was like with our friends John and Danielle Dolin. All the movies and books were in English, the food was familiar and (thanks to the magic of SlingBox), even the television had shows from Seattle. We actually got to watch Seattle Sounders FC play live! If this were a hostel, it would have won best hostel hands down. However, we could never categorize this home as such.


Bamberg, Germany

A walk-able downtown area, quaint old buildings, people playing watersports in the river and of course, the local delicacy, beer that tastes like bacon! On top of it, the food was great, with traditional German fair dominating every corner. I would not have expected the city with the best food this month would be German as opposed to Italian, but the world is full of surprises. Bamburg is one of the best.

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