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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Italia!

My schedule for the next two weeks.




Sunday:
Night train to Venice. Depart 8:40pm. (Ps. people were telling us 8pm, I'm certain that it was because we have a real history of being late. But not this time. Norbert wants to take us to the station himself. I love that man.)

Monday:
Arrive in Venice. EXPLORE! Eat gelato! Use our museum passes! Soak up culture! Gain all sorts of new knowledge for our music journals!

Tuesday:
Tour the Scrovegni Chapel. Travel to Milan.

Wednesday:
MILAN. Gelato, gelato, gelato. Also, use the Italian-English dictionary that Norbert got Ana and I for the trip. Did I mention that I love him?...Also, we're staying in a hostel that is attached to a mental institution. Prayers would be greatly appreciated. (I'm secretly super excited).

Thursday:
Florence. All day long see the Italian sights. And avoid the Italian men.

Friday:
Tour the Galleria dell'Accademia. Enjoy the rest of Florence. Eat some more gelato.

Saturday:
Back to Venice. Ride in a gondola, of course.

Sunday:
Travel to Salzburg. Via bus. Also, I will be slipping in a little General Conference here and there. I swear.

Monday:
Salzburg and....SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR! All caps were necessary for that statement.

Tuesday:
Salzburg and an amazing concert.

Wednesday:
Salzburg. Free time. All the time.

Thursday:
Silent Night church, and drive to Melk.

Friday:
Melk and Mauthausen. Driving, driving, driving. Arrive home in Vienna.

You could say that I'm rather excited. I'll try to keep my camera charged and I will try to document everything in my journal. But mostly, I'm just going to have fun. Because let's be honest, that's why I came.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Budapest.

Let it be known that I have a new favorite city.
Of all the places in this world, Hungary houses my love.
My liebling if you will, my muse if you're in to that sort of thing.
It is the sparkle in my eye, the sugar to my donut.
More like the cinnamon to my turtleneck, but we'll get to that.

BUDAPEST.

I love you dearly.



This last week was a good one. The kind that is enjoyed and never documented, because let's be honest, my personal journal, as dear to my heart as it typically is, has been more than neglected. It's been since Turkey that I've even cracked open that leather-bound piece of love. (Thank-you Bobby Jo).


MONDAY:
School and school work- to fulfill the diligent student side of me.
Then, monday night Ana and I went to see Elina Garanca at the Musik Verein. A couple weeks back we saw that she was coming and so we bought Norbert tickets for his birthday, which is this Saturday. Because Norbert LOVES Elina Garanca. He even carries a picture of her in his wallet. Sadly, Norbert couldn't go to the concert because of a previous commitment with his sister. He almost cried when he told us the news. 
So we went ourselves, and were determined to get Elina's signature for him. 
As a token of all of our love for him. 

Elina's note says:
To: Norbert
Happy Birthday
Love Elina.

That spells...Success. 

We may have had to stretch the truth a little and say that Norbert was our Dad, instead of our host dad, to avoid confusion and awkward looks. It all worked out, don't worry.
The infamous Elina Garanca. The best in the game of Mezzo Soprano.
She takes life seriously.

Elina Garanca signing Norbert's birthday card.
Also, when we gave this to Norbert, THAT NIGHT, because we couldn't resist any longer, he also teared up. That, my friends, is true love.
THE NOTE.
The shakiness is from excitement.
TUESDAY:
Ana and I ran home from school. 
Here are the facts:
It takes us 40 mins to get to school via public transportation.
We live all uphill from our school.
And while I am going to intentionally leave the exact mileage vague, just know that it is an impressive feat. To some. Also, we made it home in only 30 minutes.
We are running machines. nbd.
Tuesday after our music class we left for Budapest. This was the calmest and most uneventful train departure of our lives. No running, so desperate prayers, no tears and most of all, no lateness.
It felt strange and uncertain, I was a little scared that we were on the wrong train, all the way up until we pulled in to Budapest. We'd done it. Finally. Being on time is not our strong point in life.
That night we got in to our hostel, and then climbed a mountain to see the lights and views of Buda and Pest. This is the moment when I fell in love. This sight:

Budapest.
My newest love.
Ana and I overlooking the city. And loving our lives. Note that we are not wearing coats  past nine at night.
After hiking down we treated ourselves to some liquid chocolate hot chocolate. It was thick, and it was sweet, and it was heart-stopping worthy. But we deserved it. Pretty sure.

WEDNESDAY:
Hiked up to the castle, and explored the city from the Pest side. And then Ana, Kiely and I met up with my old roommate and good friend McKenna Kramer, who is serving her mission conveniently there in Budapest. She is a lovely lady, and it was really fun to catch up with her. Plus, she let us in on a bunch of old legends, and I love legends. We went to lunch at a local place and then she took us to her favorite little shop - homemade books, and we went up to the fisherman's bastion to see parliament and the bridges. Then she had to get back to missionary work and so we parted ways. But I loved seeing her, and it makes me grateful for missionaries all over the world.  

McKenna and I on the Lion's bridge.

McKenna and I from the fisherman's bastion, overlooking Parliament and Buda.
She is the cutest missionary.
Our little excursion group.
Kiely, Ana, me, Sister Kramer and Sister Johnson.
With the Hungarian coat of arms behind us.
Wednesday night we trekked out to a faraway traditional restaurant for dinner, complete with man playing accordion by our table. Also, in commemoration for Pi day, we stopped at one of the street stands and picked up some pies. It was fitting. And necessary. 

3.1415
Pi day. 
Ps. They have these things called "Turtlenecks" in Prague and Budapest, but not in Vienna. 
They look like this:
And they are melt-in-your-mouth wonderful.
Especially after they roll them in cinnamon or almonds or chocolate. I'm telling you, if you go to either of these places. Get one. Scratch that, get two or three.

THURSDAY:
Woke up early, and went to the...Thermal baths.
I've had a lot of life changing moments here in Europe. This bath one, was one of the best.
March 15th I was sun-bathing and playing in outside pools. Can you believe it?
It was so warm, and there was the best people watching opportunities. Old men were playing chess in speedos, people were getting back massages from the fountains and leather-skinned women were everywhere. We also went in to the sauna, but only for about ten seconds because it was so hot we almost died, we could not breath. And apparently after being in the sauna, you're supposed to jump in this ice-cold bath. So we did.
My heart didn't stop, but I was sure that it would.

Thursday was also a Hungarian National Holiday. So fun.
There were political speeches, bands playing all over the city, shops set up in the streets and pie, pie and more pie. And we wore little Hungarian pins to fit in.
Ana, Kiely and I caught our train back to Vienna without any scary moments again.
Life is less exciting when you're on time to everything.

Ana and our purchases.

We had to spend all of our Hungarian Forints before leaving the country. So we spent it all at a grocery store. It was only a three-hour train ride, but we packed for days. Everyone walking by gave us the weirdest looks. 
FRIDAY:
Last day of German class. Hip hip hooray! I really did love German though, the only problem is that after Turkey, I couldn't remember anything. 
After taking the German final (done with tests until September!), Ana and I ran home.
We did a walking tour for our class and then went to the GRAND opening of the infamous Tichy's.
They are brilliant here. They close all the Eis stands for Winter, and then open them back up in the spring. And everyone goes, and the ice cream tastes so much better when it seems like a rare treat. We had to wait in that massive line for a whole hour. And people were not very kind, and everyone was shoving and cutting, and it was a rough moment for me. I'm pretty sure I grew a little black spot in my heart. 
But as soon as we did get our ice cream, and were sitting in the park enjoying it. That black spot melted away. Because Tichy's is absolutely blog-worthy. 
Also, if you're ever wondering what flavors to order, just ask me. I've had most of them by now.

Tichy's!
On Friday's our YSA group always has a waffle night and some sort of activity for all of us. We support these kinds of actions. Also, we learned a traditional Austrian dance this last Friday. There was a lot of jumping, and circling, and kicking and slapping. And, consequentially, a lot of laughing. 


SATURDAY:
Maybe one of the best days of my life.
Note the lack of jacket/long sleeves/coat.
And also the lack of tight/leggings/pants in this picture:
Need I say more?


Saturday Ana and I had breakfast with Norbert and Liesl, the best kind of morning. And then we made our way down to the Donau Island and rented ourselves some spiffy bikes. Complete with baskets and advertisements in the wheels. We rode for four hours, and didn't even cover the whole island. The sun was out and people were sun-bathing by the canal. It was the perfect day. We topped it off with a friendly get-together at yet another ice cream salon and a birthday party for Raphael. 

Also...this is embarrassing.
We're in a boat.
Because Ana and I hang out alone, self-timer is our only picture-taking friend. Well, that and asking strangers in broken German/English which is typically even more embarrassing. So this happened. Boat picture. Sorrrrrrrrry.

Also, happy moment.
Ice cream bar and bare legs.
Heavenly.
Ps. I have noticed that in this post there are a lot of references to ice cream and/or gelato and their consumption in my life. I only ask one thing: don't judge.
You would be doing the same.

Cool grafitti on the Danau. 
SUNDAY:
Home town German ward. It feels so good to go to church where you belong, even if you don't understand anything that is ever being said. Plus, we met a few boys who knew their way around Vienna quite well, and they gave us some tips for our last little while here. I can't even make myself count how many days I have left. For fear of tears in my eyeballs.
Also, Norbert and Liesl had a birthday party for their son and their grand daughter in the garden. 
They know how to live well here I've decided. And I want to be like them when I grow up.
Ana and I hanging out in the secret game room.
Seriously, we have to go through a secret passage to find this place.

This is the secret ski room.
Also, this is only two walls of four...you do the math.
Should I again mention that Liesl is a world champion skier? Because she is.


Hungarian sunsets. Some of the best.
Ps. I forgot to mention this.
Norbert and Liesl went on a ski vacation a while back. They left Ana and I this note.
I suggest that they cannot get any sweeter.
It is certain that I am going to cry when I leave this paradise. 

Sooooooooo long. I apologize, I'm really bad at the whole brief idea. Whoever gets to the end of this post and reads this, send me a message. Because I will bring you back a treat. One that you will love. And one that will most likely contain sugar. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Turkey, Wien, Prague and back again.

More Turkey...
Turkish man.
This is for Ryan.
He was your twin. I SWEAR.

Hagia Sophia from our Hotel Balcony. And yes, that is snow on the rooftops.
 
Our group:
Me, Kiely, Kristin, and Adriana.
In front of the Medusa head.

Ana, Kristin, me and Kiely.
Ana and I's hair is crazy. Hers much more than mine.
We're blaming the wind.

A failed self-timer attempt.
By the way, I am literally sprinting.

More Medusa's.
The Basilica Cistern was much much much cooler than I expected.
And we got to play dress up down there.
More on that later.

Outside the Egyptian Spice Market.
Splendid cheese.
And tea.
And herbs of every kind.
And of course, Turkish delight.

The call the prayer, and the prayer. Men washing their hands and feet outside.



A super cute old man sleeping in the sunshine.

Inside the Sultanehmet Mosque.

More Sultanehmet Mosque.

Once upon a time we had an obnoxious waiter.
He thought that it was acceptable to put straws in Adriana's hair.
I proceeded to laugh until my sides hurt.
And...he got a talking to from us.
He needed to learn manners.
And not to sell us Whirling Dervish show tickets for absurd prices.
I hate being scammed.

Apparently you look skinny if you show your neck in photos.
Thank-you Tyra.

Whirling Dervishes.
You WILL be disappointed.
And you WILL want to trip them.
Whirl this dervish.
Well we made it back from Turkey. Safe and sound, and so exhausted. Liesl and Norbert left for a ski vacation on Monday so Ana and I have the house to ourselves.
Can you say partay??
Homework party is more like it. Well, and dance parties. And pajama parties. And Phantom of the Opera parties. (Because we can't sit through a whole real opera, we have to watch the movies).
We had school on Monday, and Elder Christofferson came to speak to the Young Single Adults here in Vienna. THIS, was a real treat.
There were tons of people waiting for him to show up, anticipating his arrival, so Adriana, Kiely and I decided to go to the grocery store down the street to pick up some oranges.
We walk outside and bam shazaam his van is pulling up. So we greeted him at his door.
Fact. We were the welcoming party.
And...because every visitor to Vienna needs some good gelato, I invited Elder Christofferson to get gelato with us that evening. He almost accepted. Almost.
His exact words were:
"That sounds wonderful, I'll have to check with my wife."
I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I offered to buy. There was no way he was going to back out on that kind of deal.
Turns out he did have to back out, but not before apologizing profusely and telling me that he had early meetings, and had to get to bed, he also threw in that he was an old man. Consider him forgiven.

Tuesday we caught the train to Prague.
Barely.
Adriana and I are creating a really bad habit.
We have been finding ourselves very, very, very far away from our trains when we're needing to be on them.
It first happened here in Vienna, every single day on the way to school.
Then in Bratislava, when we had to run across the whole country practically to catch the train to Vienna.
This time we were so on time, but as we were standing in front of the monitors at Wien Mitte we realized we were at the WRONG station. With only fifteen minutes to get the far station.
I've never run so hard in my whole entire life.
Not even when I was in cross country in high school (probably why I got kicked off?..)
We made it, barely. It must have been the prayers, or the pained and desperate looks on our faces as we sprinted straight on to the train. The ticket taker didn't even bother looking at ours.
I guess he figured that if we wanted to go to Prague that bad, he would just let us.
We looked rather pathetic.
And then, catching the train back to Vienna, we didn't know which train was ours.
And we had, again, seconds to spare by the time we hopped on a train. Any train.

Next week, Budapest. We're going to redeem ourselves.
We're going to spend the night in the train station, so we don't miss our train, or our connection.
We're going to be so ready.
I'll let you know how it goes.


PRAGUE!
Some say that it is the most beautiful city in the world.

The Famous Vienna Sunsets.
I don't actually know if they're really famous, but everything is, or ought to be, so I'm adding the sunsets.

The Train Ride. Five loooooong hours. From Vienna to Prague. Made much, much, much better by Milka eggs.
I didn't think I would ever say this but: these beat Cadbury eggs. And I have a real fond relationship with Cadbury's.
So this is a big deal.
Also, during our mad sprint to the train, we had to make sure NOT to break the eggs. Let me just emphasize that we take our chocolate seriously here in Europe. And our candy. Gummies specifically. 

FUNNY STORY:
There is a hole in the wall between the snakes heads, and if you can stick your hand in there without getting bit by the snakes...you can make a wish and it will surely come true.
Or so the legend goes...
The legend THAT I MADE UP.
On the fly, because the snakes faces were practically begging me to make up a ridiculous lie.
And so everyone in my group stuck their hands in there and made a wish.
And this is Ana and I ridiculing the snakes. Because those snakes are not very good influences on me.

Praha.

Keep in mind that it's okay to look dumb in a jumping picture.
It's a jumping picture for heavens sake's.
It's impossible to look dignified. 

Touring Prague on a Segway is the way to go. Obviously. 

Who does this look like to you?...
He's famous. Pretty sure.

In love with red rooftops. 

Aly. Paige. Alexa. Me. Ana. and Paige.
Six girls, just peace-ing the world.

We love.

We love so much, we make hearts with our bodies.

Franz Kafka anyone?
I read his Metamorphosis since being here.
He is an odd fellow, but cool statue?

I'm really grateful this picture was captured.
It shows Ana holding hands with a man. And me too.
Proof that #1. Being cute has perks (namely help with photo posings) and #2. That man is a player.
Side note: That man had surprisingly soft hands (Ana's words, not mine. I swear).

The Astrological Clock.
Also world famous. Prettttty certain about that one.
AND. When it goes off every hour, a man in a red cape toots his trumpet at the top of the tower.
Very charming.
Also, note this:
Just around the corner of this here clock you will find a courtyard. And there, you will find a stand. A Turtleneck stand. A turtleneck being a heavenly piece of dough rolled in sugar and crushed nuts and wrapped around a stick and slowly cooked over coals.
I have never had anything more deliciously fulfilling. It will make you cry, I'm not exaggerating.

Cemetery.
Lovely cemetery on top of all of Prague.

I look like a wet animal. Because I was a wet animal. We'd been rained on all day. But it was a beautiful overlook of the city. And the rock in the foreground is really artsy. 
And that was Prague. It was wonderful. And now I'm back in Vienna!
I missed it so so so much.
And off to Budapest next week.

And...I get to see and go to lunch with McKenna Kramer in Budapest. Fact. Yay!