A.D.M. Was Here: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia

To reflect the way I rushed through these cities, I’m squeezing them all into a single post (secondary motive: to finish writing about my prior travels a bit faster; there are still a number of countries to get through).

Prague, Czech Republic

A friend from law school, let’s call him Mr. Sarcastic, let me stay at his family’s place in a quiet part of the city. He picked me up at the train station and we took some sort of public transit to their family’s apartment where we kicked his younger sister out of her bedroom. I took my Mr. Sarcastic’s crappy bed, he took his sister’s considerably fluffier bed, and she was banished to the couch in the living room. Not my idea.

Longest escalator I've ever seen.

Prague Station’s escalator is probably the longest I’ve ever seen.

After leaving my bags at the apartment and before going out for the night, I ate some random food Mr. Sarcastic’s mom set out for me (ham cold cuts, I think). My friend’s mom, through my friend as a translator, gave me advice not to drink any liquor due to recent incidents of counterfeit stuff in the region causing people to go blind.

So, Mr. Sarcastic gave me on a night tour of some areas of the city. It was getting close to Christmas so there wasn’t much partying going on; but there were holiday decorations and a Christmas market. We finished the night by drinking a bit at some club called Karlovy Lazne.

Prague at Night 01

Prague at Night 02

The next morning, Mr. Sarcastic brought me to see Prague Castle and its hodgepodge of architectural forms. If I recall correctly, the variations are due to the fact that Prague was a major seat of power for a long period of time, which brought a broad range of intellectuals there, including architects.

Prague 01

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral's interior.

St. Vitus Cathedral’s interior.

While I did some touristy stuff at St. Vitus Cathedral, Mr. Sarcastic ran off to the post office (I think). It began snowing while I waited for the dingus to comeback (actually, it was nice).

Prague St Vitus Cathedral 03

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A.D.M. Was Here: Berlin

Coming back into the Eurozone after Scandinavia, the price of food and lodging seemed super-reasonable. My train out of Copenhagen brought me to Hamburg where I had some time before the next leg of my journey to Berlin; I spent that time at a Christmas market eating Christmas-y snacks (assuming you count deep-fried dough covered in Nutella as a Christmas snack).

Hamburg Christmas Market

Christmas Market in Hamburg

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A.D.M. Was Here: Scandinavia

After my trip to Iceland, I returned to London for a one-night pit stop. One weekend into the winter break, most of my classmates had already left the country. Many went back to the United States to spend the holidays with their families, and a few others went off to do some more traveling. I prepped myself to do the latter.

I moved my luggage from the flat in Bloomsbury over to my law school’s building and packed about seven days’ worth of clothing into a canvas “holdall” bag from Marks & Spencer. The clothes would last me two weeks as I rode the rails around Europe as part of my self-imposed rite of passage to become a full-fledged pretentious writer (note: I washed my clothes at a hostel in Athens halfway through the trip).

The first stop on my solo trip was Scandinavia.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo 00

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A.D.M. Was Here: Italy, Revisited (with Grumpy Law Students)

In the middle of our semester in London, I went with some classmates to Italy. One of our friends set the itinerary, booking all of our lodgings, and telling us where to be on which days. Travel arrangements, for the most part, was the responsibility of each the individual. So, we round up making our way to Venice in smaller cell groups.

Venice

Our first stop was Venice, which was more of the same from my first trip there (minus random, fun hostel people). Venice Again Venice Again 2 Venice Again 3 Bologna

We stopped in Bologna only because it’s the birthplace of Kappa Sigma, a frat to which one of our classmates belongs to. Emboldened by the spirit of his fraternity’s forefathers, this guy overcame his fear of heights and climbed with the rest of us to the top of the Golden Assay, a tower overlooking the city. Bologna The Golden Assay Before the tower, we went to a restaurant called Da Cesari for lunch and walked around chugging a giant bottle of wine. Da Cesari supposedly has awesome rabbit ravioli, but I made the mistake of ordering some pasta with Bolognese sauce which was rather mediocre.

Florence

Rushing out of Bologna, we got to Florence around sunset. When we were shown to our hostel rooms, I was thoroughly grossed out by my gassy male roommates, particularly since the space was so small. Unable to find lodging elsewhere, I stayed in the other room with my other classmates (yep, I’m that high maintenance).

We had dinner at Da il Latini—easily the best meal of the trip. Once seated, we were given an unlimited amount of food of whatever the kitchen was preparing that day, and unlimited wine. The meal included three or four types of meats, two pastas, and some other stuff. My personal favorite was the chicken liver spread over a slice of toasted baguette-like bread. We asked for an extra plate of those. The meal was capped off with some limoncello (lemon liqueur).

A bit of bad luck the next morning put most of the group in a foul mood—in contrast to the last night, I was super laid-back and relaxed for no explicable reason. The first morale-drainer was our hostel’s lack of hot water. It was winter, and our only bathing option was a cold shower. I was the only one who went ahead and showered anyway. Next, we ventured back to the train station and found there was a labor strike, halting all trains for the day and stranding us in Florence. Continue reading

A.D.M. Was Here: Scotland and the Republic of Ireland

Other trips I took during my semester in London had me going solo to Scotland and, later, with some classmates to the Republic of Ireland.

Edinburgh

Sometime after the car trip in Southern England with classmates I hardly knew, I booked train tickets for a solo excursion to Scotland.

Most confusing name in the Isles (probably not actually, but close enough)

The entire time I was in Edinburgh, I had no idea how to pronounce its name. It wasn’t my fault, though. I blame the wonky spelling which came from the mixing of old school Celtic and English. For those of you who don’t know how to say Edinburgh, here’s a hint: it’s not “burg” as in burger; it’s more like “bur’ah” (the “gh” has a French quality to it).

Side note: the Scottish Gaelic name for the city, Dùn Èideann, sounds a lot cooler. Particularly because of its similarity to Dúnedain (the fictional race in The Lord of the Rings to which Aragorn belongs, and the reason the character looks to be in his 30’s when he’s actually 88).

The Castle Rock Hostel: a whole lot of awkward (not the hostel’s fault though)

Castle Rock Hostel

The nights I spent in Edinburgh were at Castle Rock Hostel. From the entrance of the hostel, you could see Edinburgh Castle. Inside, there were a lot of common areas where you could sit, chat, drink and eat. Most of the employees were travelers who worked in exchange for lodging (not an uncommon situation for hostels). After my first day of exploring, eating, and drinking, I came back to the hostel and actually tried to work on my novel (I’m not sure if it had a title yet, but it definitely wasn’t called REMNANT OF US yet). Having a beer or two still in me, I didn’t get much work done.

While working, I was invited to join a group of folks from several different countries (France, Spain, and—I dunno, probably Australia ’cause I like to say Aussies are everywhere). The French guy was teaching them to play Settlers of Catan and no one seemed to care. So, unsurprisingly, the French guy won.

Later, I was trying to find a place to watch my stinkin’ Netflix and wound up in a room which was supposed to be a spot for people to sit around and listen to records. However, the Spanish girl from the Catan game showed up with her temporary American love interest. In a misguided attempt to seem sociable and interesting in front of the Spanish girl, the American kid kept talking to me about music and his unorthodox college (rather than ignoring me and letting me sneak away), and then a fourth person showed up and set up camp in the record room.

Don’t feel too bad for the kid, though. Eventually, the young couple found some alone time in the loft above the dining room. I know ’cause I walked in on them making out while finding another Netflix-friendly spot (spring for a hotel, kid!). That wasn’t even the most awkward thing that happened at the hostel.

On another night, some other couple in my co-ed dorm room decided to have sex in the corner while everyone was sleeping. Lucky for me (if you can call it lucky), I was so tired I didn’t care and just passed out.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Benelux and Strasbourg (and a Mugging!)

Some building in Brussels.

Some building in Brussels.

On some weekends while studying in London, I made excursions out of the UK to go to other parts of Europe. Sometimes, I went on unofficial trips alone or with classmates and, other times, the class would go on a sort of field trip together. These class trips included Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) and Strasbourg.

King’s Cross and the Eurostar

As I mentioned in an older post, I was staying in a flat near King’s Cross (which I’d only heard of beforehand thanks to Harry Potter). It was about a ten minute walk away, across the street from the local Burger King and McDonald’s (and, I think, a Pret a Manger).

Nearly our entire class of law students were to take a train from London to continental Europe. I lazily assumed that meant we were leaving from King’s Cross and walked there dangerously close to the departure time only to learn that the Eurostar train didn’t leave from King’s Cross, but from St. Pancras. Though the two stations were literally across the street from one another, it feels super far when you’re late for your train.

Hustling over there, I got to the Eurostar security check and saw substantial lines of people waiting to get through. Talking to a Eurostar employee, I told her about my dilemma and she unexpectedly ushered me through security to get me to my train. I essentially cut in front of dozens of people who arrived to the station on time, making me feel both like a jerk and kind of like a boss at the same time (the theme for this post is me feeling like a jerk).

A glimpse of Brusels, then Luxembourg and the American Military Cemetary

Street in Brussels.

Street in Brussels.

An underwater train and a long bus ride later, we arrived in Brussels for a walking tour. The guide told us a bunch of stuff which I no longer remember, though she pointed out some nice places to get chocolate, restaurants specializing in mussels, and government buildings. Then, they packed us back into the bus and shipped us off to Luxembourg.

Judging from the fact that I have this photo of a Luxembourg hotel in the middle of the night, I think we stayed in Luxembourg. I don’t recall anything interesting happening that night, though I assume I drank with some classmates. Actually, this might have been the place where my classmate spilled red wine on the hotel couch.

Ho Hotel in Luxembourg

“Four Star Ho—” Yeah . . . sorry.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg is pretty.

The next day, we were given a tour of the city, and brought to the Luxembourg American Military Cemetary where many World War II U.S. soldiers were buried (if I recall correctly, many of the bodies were eventually moved to the U.S.). It’s always a little heartbreaking seeing the grave of an unknown soldier.

Unknown Soldier Luxembourg

“Here rests in honored glory / a Comrade in arms / known but to God.”

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