My Last Days in Konstanz: Part 4

Okay, the title is a bit misleading. It says Konstanz, but I actually spent one of my last days wandering around Meersburg, soaking up the last of the good weather that we had before I had to move out of my student housing and leave the beautiful Bodensee.

I was really fortunate to have such good weather after quite some rainy days. I could even see the mountains on the Swiss side of the border as I crossed the lake on the ferry.

Looking forwards, I could see the lakefront village of Meersburg. One benefit of the student transportation ticket that I purchased through the university each semester is that the ferry ride was included in the cost. Looking back, I realize that I should have been more thankful for that student transportation ticket. If I want to get a transportation ticket in Munich, I pay more in a month than I did for the whole semester in Konstanz.

Getting back to Meersburg, I walked into the old town as usual and started winding my way up the paths. The village is built on the slope from the water’s edge all the way up to the top of the hill. It can sometimes feel like quite a hike wandering around there.

I first passed by the fortress. It’s quite large and impossible to miss. For a price, you can go on a tour and see the inside, but I’ve never felt the need to do so.

It was sunny on this particular day, but imagine how it must look on a stormy night. I always thought of this fortress as being a possible stand-in for Dracula’s home or some creepy movie set.

You can especially see the age of this fortress if you go around to the entrance side. Often, there’s a man dressed in full armor, so bring your sword if you’d like to challenge a knight to a duel.

Meersburg also has quite a few nice shops and restaurants. It’s a great place for shopping if you’re looking for unique handmade gifts, or want to bring home a Cuckoo clock for that eccentric relative. This little village does a good job of retaining a historic feel while also offering a variety of goods that are both traditional and straight-up modern.

In case you don’t want to do any shopping, the architecture is also quite interesting. Many of the older structures don’t stand up quite straight, and you can see the lean in them.

While you’re exploring, you’ll also be treated to some lovely vines and flowers growing throughout town, plus some fountains. Be warned though – one of the fountains is ornery and likes to squirt water at passersby.

Higher up in the city you come to the palace (Neues Schloss). It has a lovely outlook over the lake and lower part of town. You can also check out a beautiful chapel directly next to the outlook.

Once you’ve had your fill of the palace, head down the hill past the grape vines. I went to the harbor to enjoy one last look at the strange art there.

Peter Lenk, the sculptor behind the Imperia statue in Konstanz, has also left his mark in Meersburg. He has a knack for incorporating history, rudeness, and absurdity into truly provocative works. I’ll let you search for more detailed photographs on your own if you’re interested, but here’s just a taste.

After a full day of wandering, I usually walk along the lakefront back to the ferry. There are more shops and restaurants here of course.

If you’re in the area, Meersburg is a must-see. It was definitely one of my favorite little villages on the lake to visit during my time in Konstanz.

I can’t recommend the Bodensee highly enough, and visiting Meersburg during one of my last days really rounded out my experience. I haven’t been to the Bodensee in quite some time now (well over a year!), but I hope to visit again once the pandemic is over.

Cheers!

Mountains to Milan

Heya, friends! Today I’m digging back into my travel journal to tell you about my first trip to Italy.

This long weekend back in May of 2017 was… not what I expected. But hey, travel isn’t always perfect 100% of the time, and I have committed to sharing my honest experiences with you all.

I guess the best place to start is, obviously, the beginning. A and I had decided to take a road trip passing through Switzerland. We got up early on a slightly chilly morning in Konstanz, drove through a deserted Altstadt, and then over the border into Switzerland.

The weather was perfect for a roadtrip and the drive was actually pretty enjoyable. We even had gorgeous scenery.

Swiss roadtrip

Driving into Italy, we decided to go up over the mountains instead through the mountain tunnel. At that point, I seriously had never seen so much snow in my life. (I have seen quite a bit more since then!)

After getting over the mountain pass, we arrived in Italy, where it was indeed much warmer than it had been up in the mountains.

We parked outside the city, rode the subway in, and dropped our things at the hostel before heading out to explore.

Oh, Milan. I so wanted to love you. I wanted to bask in your sunshine, listen to the song of the Italian language, devour every morsel of legendary Italian cuisine… But, this didn’t happen.

I’m sure that Milan, like most places, can feel like home for some people. But, Milan is a city where I just wasn’t able to get that this-is-my-kind-of-city feeling in the time we spent there.

I enjoyed walking the streets and trying to imagine the history. I marveled at Sforza Castle, remembering tidbits of history related to the Sforzas.

Milan

I sauntered along in the heat, checking out some marble statues but not feeling any real connection to the art. How can that even be in this country which is so significant to the history of Western art ?

There were a few highlights though. One afternoon we spent well over an hour in a botanical garden, examining each specimen as if my life depended on it… until I would see a butterfly that is.

Milan Botanical Garden

And for anyone who knows me, they could probably guess that my other love in Milan was a cemetery. The Monumental Cemetery. Those Italians know how to make a beautiful cemetery, with sculptures, plants, and such a serene atmosphere.

I may not have fallen in love with Italy on my first visit, but I guess that’s a good enough reason to need to go back and try out some of Italy’s other destinations.

Cheers!

My Last Week in Mexico

This post is a part of looking back at my time in Oaxaca.

My last week in Mexico was pretty crazy. Monday started out all right. We had a great night exploring the city. I was a bit tired, but that was it. However, by Tuesday I was not doing well at all. I ended up going to a doctor and being sent home to bed. Which I didn’t really want to do. After that, it all blurred together.

I managed to get some kind of bacterial infection. Maybe from something I ate, drank or even from our Sunday swim. I will never know for sure, but what I do know is that I could not eat for a week. I ended up spending days laying in bed, sleeping and watching Netflix movies when I couldn’t sleep.

I went to the doctor, the emergency room in Oaxaca twice, and the emergency room in Mexico City. Not because I was dying, but because of my treatment. They gave me pills at first, but they were no use because I couldn’t keep anything down. So then they took me to the hospital and gave me two shots in my rear end: one to keep food and water in my body, and another to fight whatever the illness was.

When the first shot that was meant to make it possible for me to retain my water and meager food intake did not work, they send me back to the emergency room for more shots. Then they told me to get another the next day (when we would be laid over in Mexico City) just to make sure I got better. Then they had me on a pill regimen of other stuff to make sure I was better, and a powder to mix with water and drink that helped boost my immune system.

So let me tell you about that pharmacy. When the doctor wrote prescriptions, I went and got them filled. But these prescriptions were not just pills, they also included the shots. The way they do it there, I had to purchase my own injection fluid and my own syringes, which for a small fee I could pay the hospital to administer with the accompaniment of my written directions from the ER doctor.

To sum up this story, I survived the health care system in Mexico. It wasn’t super expensive, and they got me better by the end of the week. Not that I wasn’t exhausted, because I totally was. At least I was well enough to get out and stroll around for our Mexico City bonus phase!

La Cuidad de México was our one-day stop before we came back to the States. Although I didn’t get to say goodbye to Oaxaca in the way that I wanted, I was able to go to a market one last time (though that walk home was pure hell on my tired body), and eat my first full meal since becoming sick, which was also my last non-breakfast meal in Oaxaca. I believe my host mom was really happy about this, as she made me a really nice and mild soup.

The flight to Mexico City was uneventful, so I’ll skip over the boring matters of settling into a hotel room and what not.

One of the first places we visited was the Monumento a Los Niños Héroes, or Heroic Cadets or Boy Soldiers Monument. The monument is dedicated to six teenage military cadets who died for Mexico’s honor in the Mexican-American war. If you’re interested in history, it’s worth looking the six boys up.

Monumento

After spending some time at the monument, we went up to Chapultepec Castle. There’s more history here, but I’ll keep it short and say this castle has passed through many hands. It was first an important site for the Aztec people (a cave here was believed to be one of two entrances to the underworld; the other is at Mitla).

In the 1800’s Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota lived here with their children. Now, as the National History Museum, you can see what parts of the castle looked like during their lifetime, along with other fascinating exhibits.

Chapultepec Castle

We also went to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, or National Anthropology Museum. I hung out with my professor and we took a slow stroll through some exhibits. It was also super exciting, because I finally got to see a Mayan calendar. Life-long dream fulfilled.

Mayan calendar
Mayan calendar

To conclude our short stay in Mexico City, we spent the evening at El Palacio de Bellas Artes, or the Palace of Fine Arts. We saw  a range of dances, from modern to contemporary, from indigenous dances to dances of modern states. I had a lovely evening here and was glad that it was the way that I spent my last in Mexico.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

I have to say, overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the city, especially since I found it hard to get away from the smell of pollution and the loud, busy streets (my hometown is less than 300 people after all!). However, I think that when it comes to Mexico, Oaxaca stole my heart.

Cheers!

My Birthday Weekend

As you all probably noticed, I’ve taken a month-long break from my blog. In that time I’ve taken a great final trip (which I will get to in just a minute), finished all of my assignments, taken one of my final exams on campus, and started working on studying for the final pieces in my other two classes. I’ve also returned to the States, readjusted to the time (my friend who studied in India was right; coming back is worse!), and spent some time with my family and friends.

Like I said, I took one last trip for a grand finale travel weekend. The sixth of December was my birthday, so I thought, why not travel? Since I had not yet been to the Cliffs of Moher, I made seeing them my goal. My usual travel partner agreed to go with me provided I did a good chunk of the driving. (And yes, that means that I do have some sort of ability to drive a manual!)

We left after classes on a Thursday night, heading to Sligo where we would stay that night. This took quite a while as the only way out of Belfast was through considerable traffic. Belfast is big compared to what I’m used to, but it’s not that big. Where on Earth did all the cars suddenly come from?

Anyway, after we escaped the traffic, we ran into rain. My favorite. Not. Eventually, we did make it to Sligo, to a hostel which clearly had no heat. The weekend wasn’t starting off well, but that’s okay. What was coming made up for it.

The next morning we got started straight away after breakfast. The weather was still rainy, but the sun was making a valiant fight to come out. And it did. And then it rained. And then it was sunny, again. Repeat. Though, at the time, I was quite irritated with this annoying and unpredictable weather pattern, it made for an amazing day (well, weekend) of rainbows. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many rainbows we saw over Friday and Saturday.

Yes, we had seen rainbows in Ireland before, but we had never seen them like this. I remember remarking at the first rainbow that I had never seen one so vibrant and clear. Well, I’m happy to say that first rainbow was a weakling!

It became an enjoyable hunt for rainbows, trying to find places to photograph them, and doing so as quickly as possible before they faded away. The rainbow above is the best one we got all weekend at a beach down a tiny one lane road. It was gone not even a minute after I snapped the picture.

I should point out that we weren’t just looking for rainbows the entire first day. We were actually traveling down to the city of Galway and stopping any time we saw something interesting, including random beach signs. One which we followed led us to a gorgeous beach where the sun became our best friend for some truly amazing photographs. I’ll share just a few with you….

Some other things we stumbled upon that day were one of St. Patrick’s churches, a Dark Hedges look-alike, many sheep (it is Ireland, after all), and some pretty intense Irish mountains.

Some of those intense mountains. On the right is Mweelrea Mountain. Climbing that mountain is officially on the bucket list!

I suppose I also can’t get away without mentioning that I also learned how not to drive a manual. We were okay, and the car was too. It just wanted to slide around the wet road and eat a little grass.

I’m just glad that, in the moment of this chaos, for once no pictures were taken of this extremely embarrassing event. I also admit that yes, looking back it’s kind of funny that I tried to go off-roading in a little Mazda.

Moving on… We got to Galway unharmed and sought out our B&B. Since it was my birthday, we decided to splurge a little, and boy am I glad we did! The B&B we stayed at was gorgeous. The beds were comfortable and the home was incredibly warm. The woman who owned the place was so sweet and welcoming. We stayed two nights and the other guests were very quiet and courteous. The breakfast they served was delicious and completely made up for the fact that we had no access to a kitchen as we would at a hostel. I really can’t find a single thing to complain about at this place.

We found the city centre of Galway to be equally as lovely as the B&B. That first night we took a walk around past the Christmas market and all the little shops. We visited a bar which was decorated “American style.” Apparently their definition of America is Texas country, cowgirls, New York city lights, and 80’s rock mixed with 90’s grunge. It was my type of music for the most part so I can’t complain, but the band playing wasn’t all that great.

I did have fun looking at all the license plates and finding Missouri’s state plate as well as Virginia’s. After the band at the first bar finished we went to another bar, which at midnight started playing live music. This band was definitely better. It was a great way to ring in my birthday.

The next morning we took a little trip around Galway and visited the markets and shops. When we had finished looking around we grabbed the car and headed off toward Moher making a little stop along the way.

I had looked up Corcomroe Abbey and it seemed like a nice little place. It wasn’t too far off the way to the cliffs, and when we got there we saw, you guessed it, another rainbow. Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of this one.

The place is well maintained and it even seems that the cemetery is still in use. I really enjoyed that it was so large originally but still quite intact despite the years and weather.

Moving on along, we finally got to the Cliffs of Moher. Shortly before we arrived, a dense cloud of fog descended on us. We bought our tickets anyway and decided to have a lunch in the car before we ventured out.

Luckily enough, it was windy, so there were periods during which the weather cleared enough that we could at least take some pictures and see the cliffs. Unfortunately, it was windy as I said, so every time we were getting some good photos, the fog would obscure the view again. I guess the wind proved it was both good and evil that day.

When you first arrive there is a pretty decent view of the cliffs going off into the distance… which you can view behind some safety barriers which are quite a way back from the edge. However, if you keep walking the barriers disappear.

We hiked along this direction until it started to get dark. You see, I was very concerned about falling off the cliffs in the dark. Obviously, falling off a cliff in the daylight is much better. For this very concern, we walked back before it got too dark. I’m glad we did because it started to rain  heavily.

We got back to Galway safely and dried off before we went into the city centre for an amazing dinner at a pasta house. I’ve never had pasta made fresh like that before, and it was a meal made in heaven. The next day we headed back across Ireland to the university. We stopped along the way at a castle in Trim.

The castle at Trim.

It was a really great three-day weekend adventure. This was also my final adventure away from Belfast. It was bittersweet and, despite the finicky weather, I’m glad we went.

After that weekend I only had one more week of classes, a weekend to say my goodbyes to all my friends and do a few last-minute things in Belfast before flying back to the States. So I guess that’s it. That was the end of my trip.

But that’s not the end of the blog! I’ve got a few more things that I want to say in a few more posts, so keep checking back in the future to hear more. Eventually, I’ll also share which international adventure I’m planning next!

Before I forget, I need to say a very special thank you to my travel partner. He put up with my incessant talking, strange eating habits, an unintended car accident, and so much more all while recovering from having his appendix out the weekend before. So, thank you, A, for a fantastic weekend and the truly unforgettable memories!

Cheers!

Two Radically Different Days

Last weekend my friend and I decided to take a last-minute trip to Dublin. That’s fine, but only if there isn’t a really important game and a Passenger concert that same night.

I’ll be honest with you all. I really didn’t like Dublin. It just wasn’t my type of city, I wasn’t impressed, and it did not live up to its reputation in my mind.

Besides the horrible traffic and copious amounts of taxis, I was disenchanted with the architecture, unappealing bridges, and chaotic mix of modern and historic buildings that seemed more of an eye sore to me than a harmonious mixture.

I’ll try to keep it light, and tell you the few good things about the city followed by a much better second day for the weekend.

When we arrived, the city was super crowded. After finally settling in, we went straight to the Temple Bar District for some sorely-needed food. After eating we took a look around at some of the iconic bars in town.

The Temple Bar

The Quays Bar

They look nice from the outside, but inside, the Temple Bar wasn’t that exciting. In fact, I think that the Crown Bar in Belfast is much more gorgeous. Even Lavery’s and Filthy McNasty’s bars in Belfast are more tasteful. Needless to say, if this is the best the Republic of Ireland has to offer, I’m disappointed.

So now I’ll tell you something I did like: The Old Library at Trinity College. I love to read and I was especially excited to see all the old books and the lovely interior.

We walked around the city some more and happened upon Dublin Castle. I was expecting something massive and old with a beauty to rival the Edinburgh Castle. But no, it wasn’t like that. Only a very small part was those things and a lot of the castle seemed to be pained over in weird colors.

The garden wasn’t exactly what I would call a garden either, so I was further disappointed in that. The brick snakes in a Celtic pattern were interesting, but did not make up for the fact that the castle grounds fell so short of my expectations.

Trying so very hard to be happy…

Shoe photo of the weekend!

Moving on… We ran into Twin and another international student while in Dublin and had dinner with them. The rest of that night we were wandering around town trying to find a place to stay. We failed at this which put me in a very bad mood. My bad mood was not at all helped by the rude people in the city either…

So, no, I didn’t like Dublin. You couldn’t pay me to go back there. I felt very uncomfortable for some reason from the moment we got there, and the things I saw didn’t really make it better. I also felt like the city was completely disorganized.

No, I didn’t have the best experience considering we slept in the car that night, but I also wasn’t too happy before we realized there was not a single place in the city to stay. But hey, I’m human, and I don’t have to love every place I visit. Also, cities aren’t really my thing. I’m happier surrounded by trees any day. Which brings me to day two of our trip: Wicklow County.

We went to the Wicklow Mountains National Park and hiked 11 kilometers. That’s 6.8 miles. I was exhausted to say the least but the views were stunning. The first half of the hike was a bit slow but it really picked up later.

We hiked past a few loughs, past a small waterfall, and up a mountain onto a boardwalk. Here are a few highlights of the natural beauty:

Poulanass Waterfall

Some mountain goats are hanging out in the grass there. They blend in well.

On the way back, we also checked out some eerie ruins which I have since learned make up Glendalough, St. Kevin’s monastic retreat. The graveyard there had headstones dating back hundreds of years and there were even some recent ones, suggesting that the cemetery was still in use today. I was most attracted by the round tower from the 10th century. Really though, the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul were the most awe-inspiring.

Inside the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.

All in all, our day outdoors was much better than our day and night in Dublin. The best part: the weather was clear. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and although it was cold enough that I saw ice for the first time here, I can’t really complain. Moral of the story: Always skip the big cities you aren’t sure about and head straight for the wilderness, if that’s your thing that is.

Cheers!