Thursday, August 6, 2009

a good day in gent!

the rest of antwerp was a good time. outside the huge mall area there are beautiful plazas (including the plaza of brabo and the town hall), an impressive church (directly across from our hostel), a port and riverwalk, and some good antique shops. and we happened to be there on the last wednesday of the month, which meant that rubenshaus (where Rubens used to live, now an art museum) was free. the house itself was really cool, and the museum was great as well. i recommend it you are ever in antwerp (especially if its the last wednesday of the month). we also stopped in a few times at a bar called veurleste, where the bartender, Ivan Stuzts, was in the middle of "The Longest Bartending Marathon". He already held the guinness world record for longest bartending (84 straight hours in 2008) and now he was attempting to set a new record of 90 hours. we stopped in numerous times to show our support (, but the marathon didnt end until we had left antwerp.

we had been undecided about going to gent, but after numerous recommendations from antwerp locals, we decided to stop there for the day on our way to brugge. it was a really cute little city, without the crowds of people that were in antwerp (and we knew would be in brugge and brussels). we visited some churches, and scammed our way into the gravensteen castle for free (22 years old is close enough to 17 and 18, right?). it was really interesting and had different rooms explaining prison life, torture, weapons, and the middle ages in general...
we also had lunch at a place called Tasty, the best "quick-bite" restaurant ever! it was a little "resto"that sold veggie burgers and freshly blended smoothies!! we were in heaven (hannah is also a vegetarian)! i had never had so many different options of veggie burgers (spicy, texas, soy, schnitzel, garden, etc...) and they were delicious!
then we had some REALLY delicious belgian beers at Chat Noir, a bar in one of the plazas. we talked to the bartender for a while, who gave us free t-shirts for each of our respective beers, and we tried not to laugh as the old man a few tables down from us had a conversation with someone who was not there (seriously, the chair was empty and he was alone. but his "friend" did have a glass of beer and the man made sure to toast him each time he took a sip).

all in all, gent was small but pleasant - stopping for the day ended up being a really good decision.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


july 27th:

- wandered through a huge market
- hannah went to the anne frank museum while i got some coffee and sent emails
- at night we went out to a bar and met some nice dutch people. we tried our first shot of jenever (the "real" gin) and some good dutch beers, recommended by our new friends. we also learned about the unique christmas traditions in amsterdam and "life as the locals live it". then jeffrey came back to hang out at the hotel for a while

july 28th:

- after an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the PERFECT amsterdam mask to add to my collection (they were adamant that the alien mascot mask was not for sale), hannah and i made our way to the train station and caught a train to antwerp.
- upon walking out of the [beautiful] train station in antwerp, i remarked that i had not expected antwerp to be so urban. it is the second biggest city in belgium, but i had heard very little about it... we walked through the main city area and quickly understood why antwerp is known as a fashion capital (right after paris and milan, the biggest fashion center in europe). it reminded me of a giant outdoor mall. at first i really liked that it was so lively, but i quickly realized that the only for me to really enjoy the city would be to get out of the (huge) shopping center. that night we enjoyed a drink on a beautiful terrace, wandered around the city, found some good pizza for dinner (cheap with a student discount)and had our first taste of belgian chocolate! yumm.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

a dam good time!

again, i have been lacking internet....and when i do have it, i lack time to sit and update, so these will be short as i attempt to catch up...

july 24:
i met hannah at our hotel, Hotel Groenendael. during our stay there i fell in love with the run-down, laid-back hotel (more like a motel for young backpackers) right in the center of the city. when i had called to make the reservation the guy had asked which nights and how many people. when i told him 2 nights for 3 people he said ¨great! see ya then!¨. i asked if he needed my name. ¨sure, why not - whats your name?....ok kerri see ya on the 24th!¨. i had been a bit worried that he had even made the reservation - he hadnt asked for a last name or a credit card number or anything. so i called the weekend before arriving. ¨yeah, kerri right? 3 people; 2 nights - see ya then!¨ very low key, very easy, very chill... very amsterdam!

that first day hannah and i wandered around the entire city - around dam square, through the red light district and coffee bars and sex shops, along countless canals (they call it ¨the venice of the north¨), all the way across town toward towards the quiter Vondel Park area. then we went to the van gogh museum - a major let-down. it was really expensive and kinda unimpressive - despite being the largest van gogh collection in the world, it lacked key pieces like Starry Night or the Cafe Terrace. later we caught some interesting street performances, including a middle aged man performing acrobats in nothing more than a neon green thong! gotta love it.

afterwards we went back to the hotel to meet up with dave and begin the evening! a fun night of coffee shops (not your typical starbucks, if ya catch my drift), falafel, and drinks. but it was a pretty early night - hannah was jet-lagged and i hadnt gotten any sleep on my 12 hour train ride, so we were exhausted.

July 25:
- dave and hannah discovered Bagels and Beans, which they really enjoyed... cheap bagel
sandwiches! yumm
- live jazz in vondel park
- more wandering around the redlight district
- a visit to the Bulldog, the oldest coffee shop in amsterdam
- tibetan food for dinner - delicious!
- out to a few bars
- grabbed some supplies and headed back to chill at the hotel

July 26:
- we went back to Bagels and Beans for breakfast
- saw part of a beach soccer tournament in dam square
- caught the madrid vs. egypt soccer game in a pub near the redlight district
- dave left, but we had a fun weekend together!
- vegetarian dinner for kerri and hannah
- some drinks and cards and an early night

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

back to bern!

the next day i woke up early and went on a canyoning trip with some guys from arizona. canyoning, for those of you who may not know, is basically hiking down the inside of canyons by walking, climbing, jumping (my favorite), rappeling, and swimming. very fun!
when i got back, i grabbed my pack and caught an afternoon train to bern, only an hour away. when i got there, i found my hostel and headed out. i planned to go to Neuchatel the next day, which left me only the night in bern. i walked towards the rose garden to check it out, but when i got to the bottom of the hill leading up to the entrance, i was exhausted. i started up the hill, got half way, and literally turned around! i couldnt make it, i was so exhausted! very unlike me - i must really need sleep. so i changed my plan: get a glass of wine in town, go back to the hostel to make dinner, read, and fall asleep. and that was about all my poor body could handle that night, unfortunately.

the next day i checked out, locked up my pack at the train station, and caught a train to neuchatel. the reason i was going to neuchatel was because on the train from paris to bern we had passed through it, and my mother decided right then that neuchatel was a magical, wonderful place. she talked about it through the rest of her time in europe, and sent e-mails about the swiss utopia, encouraging me to go there. i figured i could spend a day there to make her happy and get a look for myself...
well neuchatel was a small, but lovely city. i went up to the cathedral and took a tour of the castle (a functioning castle that seems modern, despite its age). then it was raining so i ducked into a small local cafe for lunch. when it cleared up i headed down to the huge lake and took a long stroll.
and then it was time to be heading back to bern - i had to board a 12-hour night train to amsterdam to meet dave and hannah!

Monday, July 27, 2009

lack of internet...

hallo hallo. i have not had internet in a while, hence the gap in updates.

so i left salzburg and my midnight train ended up being a 2am train due to delays...and in zurich i decided to go straight on to interlaken, only i had to take a train to bern and transfer there to my final train, which would have been fine, had i not slept through my transfer in bern and continued on toward geneva...bummer. oh well. i hopped off and cought the next train back to bern, and transferred to the right train. i got to interlaken by 2pm... not too much of an inconvenience.

interlaken is a huge draw for backpackers from arround the world because of its' adventure sports! ice climbing, sky diving, bunjee jumping, canyoning, paragliding, name it, interlaken has it...for a price. i was immediately faced with the major dilemma of what to do, how much to spend, how long to stay! i immediately made friends with a couple guys from michigan and southern illinois (one of the guys had the same exact voice as dan the man... quite odd, especially once i realized that they had very little else in common). they tried to influence me to go glacier climbing the next day, and canyoning the day after that. i decided i would take the brochures, find myself a beer and a bench, and ponder over my different options alongside one of the peaceful rivers nearby.

$250. that is what i decided to allow myself to spend. it was a lot, but i would choose activities that i could not do in the states, things that i may never have the option to do again. what would they be? well... i've been sky diving and bunjee jumping and paragliding and rafting... so those were all out. ice hiking and glacier climbing? that sounds pretty unique. canyoning was one of the most popular activities, and people seemed to love it.

so by that evening, i had booked one more night in interlaken, a glacier climbing adventure, and a canyoning trip, with an extra day allowed for hiking (the only free activity... IF you don't take the tram back down). ha... ya only live once, right?

the next morning i woke up really early and hopped in the van that picked us up for glacier climbing. i was with the guys i had met the day before, plus a couple of guys my age from texas (they had just graduated from UT), and some aussies! a fine group! and an excellent guide. it was an hour trip out and a 45 minute hike up to the glacier. wow. i think i got my money's worth just after the hike. the view was spectacular, and we were hiking a real, moving glacier! what?! really really cool. when we got to our base we had a picnic lunch in the ice, and then got ready to climb! our guide (a liberal, middle-aged, jack daniel-drinking swiss guy with a dirty sense of humor) had decided that i would be the model for the trip. so i was used as a prop to show everybody else how to do things properly. this was all fine, until i realized that i would be the first to descend into the depths of the glacier. oh dear! fortunately, the first climb was an easy one, and i set a fine example!
throughout the course of the day we did a whole bunch of different climbs. some were pretty simple, and others were really difficult! a couple times i was convinced i would NEVER back it back to the top! my upper body strength is limited, and some of the ice was very slippery! luckily my belay was really encouraging and patient (one of the aussie guys, named matt). the climbing was really fun! but also very challenging and exhausting! by the end of the day i had added to my collection of bruises, ripped my pants, cut my skin, but most importantly, climbed a glacier! it was all worth it! and i cannot explain how cool the view was... and i'm sure the pictures will not do it justice either. by the end of the day, when the clouds hid most of the sun, the glacier - this live piece of ice making its way through the alps - was a bright blue! it radiated blue from each crevice... really, really amazing.
that night i hung out around the hostel (which had one of the most happening bars in interlaken) and chatted with my new friends, while meeting even more.

the next day was my hiking day! i got a good night sleep and then met some friends for breakfast. (all of the guys i had gone glacier climbing with the day before were going on an all-day canyoning trip. i was a bit disappointed i had not booked the same trip, since the group had been so fun). we made a picnic lunch and set out for Harder Kulm, a 5-hour hike away. the hike was challenging - each step up-hill - but interesting, with great views of interlaken below us. when we reached the top, we sat and took in the beautiful city and enjoyed the conversation. our group was pretty diverse - mayank from india, tressa and devon from University of Georgia, and kevin and pete from Wheaton College in Illinois... a christian college. it made for interesting conversation - kevin, mayank, and i talked about culture and religion for a couple hours... each of us coming from a different background with different beliefs. very interesting.

back at the hostel, we made a big dinner of potatoes and other vegetables, and bought a few bottles of wine. later, pete and i went for a long walk and had some interesting conversations about our pasts and distinct spiritual beliefs. it was a good time... though i have to admit after a while i just wanted to go back and hang out with some of the other people i had met during the day. oh well.

more updates to come!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


yesterday while clint was at work i took a walk into the old town and explored the tiny city. salzburg is really nice and quiet, with a small city center. when clint got off work we went back to town to have a drink. then we had dinner back at the castle. after dinner, i sat in on the seminar. the theme was globalization and consumer capitalism... i found it to be quite interesting.
Salzburg Global Seminar invites academics from all different cultures and institutions to come and discuss global issues. its actually a pretty cool organization, and the presentation i saw was really intriguing. afterwards we were able to just mingle and chat with the participants in the courtyard.
then clint and i went to the other side of the pond to enjoy the whiskey we had bought at the store (and today i have a headache, to say the least).

today we woke up late and went on a hunt for a the rain. then we went up to the top of untersberg (an intimidatingly huge mountain nearby) for lunch. now we are back at the castle - clint is napping while i update the blog and do laundry (which i desperately needed to do). and tonight we will have dinner here and then i am leaving on a midnight train to georgia.... i mean, switzerland. i have a hostel booked for tomorrow night and the next night in interlaken, and i am debating whether i should stop in zurich on the way there...the train to interlaken stops in zurich, so it would be cool to check it out. the problem is that it gets in there at 6:30am... so there prob wont be much to do. so most likely i will just continue on to interlaken.. i'll let ya know.

okok hope kyle's birthday was good. i sent him a message on facebook.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

czech me out!

...and i slept. for 12 hours! i had planned on getting out early and doing a walking tour at 9:30, but i awoke to a huge thunder storm, so i stayed in bed and waited it out. at about 11:30 the rain had pretty much stopped, and i headed out along the river to the narodni divadlo (the national theater) and then crossed medieval Charles Bridge over the vtltava river to mala strana.
i went up to the prague castle (where i watched the Changing of the Guard) and through the third courtyard towards St. Vitus's Cathedral, a truly stunning building.

i had decided that st. nicholas' s church would be the one place that i was going to suck it up and pay the entrance fee (luckily, most of the other places were free). so i reluctantly paid my 70 crowns (a little under $4, i think) and went in. built by the jesuits in the 18th century, the baroque church is huge and ornate. definitely worth the money.

then i visited wallenstein palace, now occupied by the czech senate. it is known for its formal garden, which claims to be one of the finest in all of europe. i enjoyed a walk all around the pond and garden, and took some time to read up on the czech involvement in the EU.

finaly, i visited the church of our lady of victory, where the wax figurine known as the "Bambino di Praga" is housed. people come from all over the world to see this small figurine... frankly, i just don't get it. its pretty small, not very impressive. its like a doll, that they dress up in different clothes and put in a glass box in a church...
ok, time for a beer, and then a visit to strelecky ostrov (an island in the middle of the vltava) and home to finish my pizza leftovers and hang out with people at the hostel!

7/16: i was planning on catching an early train to salzburg to meet up with clint, but he was going to see harry potter at night, so i opted for a later train (i don't get the whole harry potter thing...) i checked out, went to the train station to lock up my bag, and decided to take advantage of my extra day in prague (my train didn't leave until 5:15)! i hiked all the way up to the vysehrad (High Castle). when i got there, i realized that the real attraction was the church and the cemetery. i was a little bummed (another church?! and a cemetery? we have those in the states)...until i actually entered the grounds. the church was beautiful ... aren't they all? but the cemetery was unlike any i have ever seen before in my life. the czech National Cemetery is where the country's great and good (and rich!!) have been buried since the late 19th century. each grave had a statue or a monument or a work of art or a tree.... it was amazing... as odd as that sounds. i walked up and down each row multiple times. these people put a lot of thought (and money, i presume) into their tombstones! it was like being at a unique and diverse art gallery.
afterwards i strolled through the park and enjoyed some spectacular views of the city and river.

eventually i made my way back towards the old town, and found my czech mask (!!!) at a small store on the way. with another hour to kill, i decided to enjoy a liter of pilsner while people-watching in the heart of the city. at 5:15 i boarded my train (it was a 7 hour ride to salzburg)... a very old train, but not umcomfortable. there were cabins with 6 seats each. and no AC, but all the windows were open. for the first 45 minutes i stood and watched the passing countryside with my head out the window.. then i slept for a couple hours.
we had a half hour layover in some town, so i grabbed a beer and some crackers and got back on quickly (i'm extra nervous ever since missing the train in milan). when we took off i again stood with my head out the window, but now watching the most spectacular sunset. i never would have thought 7 hours on this train would be so enjoyable.

at midnight i arrived in salzburg, where clint was waiting for me. it was so good to see him! we took a taxi back to his place, Schloss Leopoldskron (you know, the castle...seriously) and he showed me around. we took a walk around the pond and caught up.
back in his apartment, we hung out and called pete via skype! it was good catching up with him as well. he is going to be working in austin, TX starting in august. i will have to make a trip out to visit him (austin city limits, perhaps??)

today clint is working, and i am using internet to book hostels and trains and basically plan the rest of my trip. i can't believe i will be home in less than a month! time is going by so fast.