Solo backpacking in Europe before Grad School takes over my life

Barcelona and Beyond

Photographic Interview

Hey guys, I kept a more extensive blog of my travels this summer for my family and wasn’t able to update this one as much.  I just imported all of my blog entries from the other blog and I will hopefully add in some pictures as well.  Also, I will be completing the photographic interview below:

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Maryland.  Grew up in Catonsville, MD for most of my life.

What does your fridge look like?

Pretty boring and basic.  This was from when I first moved in, but I can’t say that much variety has been introduced.  I make a lot of basic stuff like pasta, eggs, oatmeal, etc.

Who is your favorite person?

My family (mom, dad, and brother) are definitely my favorite people, but I don’t like posting pictures of other people on the internet.

What is your favorite food?

I loooooove harvest cheddar sunchips… I gotta watch it when I have them in my apartment because I’ll eat an entire bag in one sitting.

Part of your Daily Routine:

Gotta admit that I floss every day because I hate when my dentist yells at me.

What color are your eyes?

What relaxes you?

I enjoy a nice hot cup of tea pretty much every day.  I’ve even started waking up earlier in the mornings so I can enjoy a cup of tea while reading up on Tpunk.

What does your letterbox look like?

What do you have planned for the next 12 months?

Grad school in Mechanical Engineering.  Hopefully it will take me 2 years to do so I can travel again before settling in to some work.

Where are you on a Sunday night?

I don’t like going out and doing stuff when I know I have to be at class/work in the morning, so I just relax on the computer.  I usually read also.

Posted by offhegoes03 on 10-06-2008 at 07:10 pm
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 0 Comments

I can´t believe a month has already gone by

This trip has felt like it has lasted forever, and yet I also can´t believe how fast this trip has gone by.  I fly back to the States tomorrow, and I´m both excited to come back and yet I want to stay longer.  I will post a big post once I get home, but I just wanted to update you guys once again.

I was supposed to go to Nice after Gimmelwald and then spend 3 nights in Barcelona at the end of my trip.  Unfortunately, I put off booking the train too late and all the TGV´s were booked solid.  I ended up staying in Gimmelwald for another 3 nights and then taking a night train to Barcelona last night.  I spent a total of 10 days in the alps and I don´t regret any of them.  I hiked a lot, and I got to spend some time with some awesome people.  I have decided that 3 nights in a big city is just not enough.  You don´t get enough time to relax, you get burnt out going on trains all the time, and you really do not get to know people enough.  I think I will spend about 5 nights in each city for my next trip unless it´s a really small place.  Even in smaller cities like Sevilla, I wish I had spent anotehr night or two. 

Traveling around Europe has been great.  I have met some awesome people and experienced all sorts of things that some people will never see because they won´t make the committment to getting out there and visiting foreign countries.  I´m hoping this trip will allow me to help out new members on the boards whenever they have questions about the countries I have visited.  I´ll post more tomorrow when I´m home!

Posted by offhegoes03 on 07-08-2008 at 03:07 pm
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 2 Comments

Gimmelwald is one of the most amazing places I have ever been

I can’t type for too long since my internet time is almost over, but I promise to fill in the gaps once I get back from my trip.  I’ve been keeping a journal almost every day just so that I remember everything that goes on.

 Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland is amazing.  Definitely one of the coolest hostels I’ve stayed in (in addition to Samay Sevilla and the one I stayed in in Derry 2 years ago).  I’ve been doing a ton of hiking and relaxing in the free hot tub at night.  I’ve really felt at home here and I feel that I will stay in touch with the people I met here for a long time.  I wish I could write more, but I will definitely add more later.  I’m off to Nice, France tomorrow for 2 nights and then back to Barcelona for 3 nights.  I fly home on the 9th which is waaaay too close, but then again, I do miss some of the comforts of home. 

Posted by offhegoes03 on 07-03-2008 at 06:07 am
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 0 Comments

Change of plans slightly

So, things were going a bit too smoothly, and something was bound to go wrong eventually.  I’ve been moving around so much, that I forgot that I would be arriving in Munich on a weekend.  When I tried to book some of the hostels, they were all booked up for the cheap rooms.  I tried booking for Munich a day later even, but I couldn’t find anything good.  I ended up just changing things up and booked a hostel for 6 nights in Berlin.  I was still a little mad at myself for waiting so long to book, but once I got the train all settled for Berlin, I was fine.  I will just need to make sure I’m good with booking more than a day ahead in the future.

I spent the rest of the day doing some of the things I need to do while in Paris.  I saw the arc de triumph and the eiffel tower.  I also went back to Notre Dame so that I could go up in the tower.  I got some good panoramic views of the city and then grabbed a crepe on the way back to my hostel.  Not much else to write at this point in time.  I’ve got an early train tomorrow to Berlin and I should get there around 5 pm or so.  I will probably spend the first day recovering from all of the running around.  I will have plenty of time in Berlin to see the sights, so I can take it easy the first day.

I got here in Berlin yesterday around 5:30 in the evening.  I booked my train ahead of time for Switzerland so that I do not have to go back to the station until I leave on Friday.  Apparently the public transport is really good here once you get used to it, but it is kind of confusing at first.  There’s the U-bahn, S-bahn, Tram, and bus and you usually have to take some sort of combination of the 4.  I got kind of lost on the way to the hostel since I took the tram in the wrong direction, but it wasn’t too bad.  The Germans are very nice and helpful so far (the French really weren’t that bad, at least the ones I ran into in Paris).

The hostel I’m staying at is apparently one of the biggest in Europe.  They boast at least 900 beds.  I’m on the 7th floor and so far I’m the only one in the room which was nice when I came back from the club last night.  This is the first place that has actually charged for internet use, but it’s not too bad, only like €3 for an hour.  I’m pretty much taking today easy and then probably going on a free tour of the city tomorrow.  They offer those in a lot of the big cities, but I have not been able to take advantage of one since I’ve been rushing around a bit.  You usually tip at the end, but it’ll be a good way to see the city.  I also need to check out this random sandcastle contest they have in the middle of the city.  I saw it from the train and it looks pretty cool.  I really need to find a computer where I can charge my ipod because it was a long and boring train ride to Berlin without it.

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-22-2008 at 11:06 am
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 3 Comments

I’m still alive..

Hey guys, sorry for not updating as often as I should, but I’m having way too much fun on the road!  While Barcelona was awesome, Seville was even cooler.  Even though it’s a smaller city, there’s a ton of stuff crammed in there!  I also think that since the hostel was slightly smaller, I got to know people better.  I’m definitely way more outgoing when I’m traveling, and one of my goals is to translate that to my life while I’m not traveling.  I’m not nervous around people, but I just don’t start random conversations with them when I’m home.  I know it’s easier to start conversations when traveling becuase there is so much to talk about, but I’m going to try to see if I can improve on that when I get home.

I went up into La Giralda and got some cool pictures of the city.  I also walked along the Guadalquiver river for a while and just spent a final relaxing day in Seville.  Unfortunately the Real Alcazar was closed on the last day I was in town, so I guess I’ll just have to make it back to Seville sometime in the future.  I took a short train to Madrid on the morning of Tuesday, and after dropping my bags off at the hostel (I can’t remember the name now, I’ll post a review of it later when I get home), I went exploring.  The one plus side of my hostel was that it was really close to some of the cool sights.  It was a short walk to the Plaza Mayor and then I continued on to see the cathedral next to the giant Palace (Palcio Real?  I don’t have my notebook/map down here with me).  I also went to the Prado since it’s free from 6 pm - 8 pm most nights.  It was really cool, but I’m not extremely interested in art in the first place.  If it wasn’t free, I probably wouldn’t have gone.  Plus, I was really tired, so I don’t think I gave some of the art my full attention.

I took an overnight train into Paris and I arrived this morning at about 9.  Unfortunately the train station did not have any maps or anything to give out, so I had to figure out the metro route on the wall.  I’ve gotten much better at figuring out metros now, and I arrived at my hostel shortly afterwards (Caulaincourt Square Hotel).  I was able to see some of the sights including the Pantheon, Latin Quarter, The Catacombs, and Notre Dame.  I will have all day tomorrow to explore more of Paris as well.  I will add more later!

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-19-2008 at 01:06 pm
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 1 Comment

On to Sevilla

Hey guys, I´ve been so busy seeing everything, I´ve neglected this blog.  This will be a pretty quick post since I have a lot to do today, but it will definitely be longer than the last one.

Barcelona was a ton of fun.  I arrived early in the morning around 8:30 and was not looking forward to the jet lag since I couldn´t sleep a wink on the plane despite having both seats to sprawl out on (what luck!).  I picked up a map and took the bus to Plaza Cataluna.  I proceeded to walk in the wrong direction on las ramblas and had to turn around and walk even further to get to Kabul.  I finally found it, but I could not check in so I tossed my bag into the luggage storage room and started exploring.  I walked down towards the sea where they have a cool stretch of las ramblas called la rambla de la mar.  I took a ton of pictures as I was wandering around.  I eventually made it back to the hostel to check in where they put me in a 2 bed dorm rather than the 8 bed dorm that I signed up for!  I ended up paying the same price and I got a lot more sleep than some of the people I talked to in the bigger dorms.  Even though I was jet lagged, I was drawn in by the happy hour deal of 2 for 1.  €3 bought me 2 liters of beer.  Yes, you really can´t do much better than that.  I ended up getting pretty drunk and meeting some cool people in the hostel.  The next day, I took a metro to the train station to reserve my seat for my trip to Sevilla.  After that I headed to La Sagrada Familia and La Padrera which were both really cool.  I wanted to head to the Park Guell, but I was exhausted and never made it there.  I need to head back there when I get back to Barcelona the day before my flight.  On the last day in Barcelona, I relaxed on the beach for most of the day and just generally enjoyed myself.  I went with a guy I went out to a couple bars with and some girls he knew from his dorm.  Aside from the asian women asking to give you €5 massages every 3 minutes, it was awesome.  The water was cold, but it was very sunny so it was nice.

I arrived in Sevilla yesterday and even though I was tired from the early wakeup, I went around and saw a lot of the sights.  I went to the Cathedral and La Giralda.  I checked out the bullfighting ring and took a tour.  There´s a fight today and I´m torn about going.  On one hand, it´s a once in a lifetime thing to do and it´s not really that expensive for the cheap seats.  On the other hand, hearing the descriptions of the bullfights, you´re basically going in there to see a slaughter because they weaken the bull so much before the matador finishes him off.  I need to go now because I want to reserve my train for Madrid for Tuesday and hopefully see if I can reserve an overnight train from Madrid to Paris.  Not sure if I can do that here at the Sevilla station, but hopefully someone will speak English and I can find out.  Luckily I´ve remembered a bit of Spanish from high school, so I´ve been alright so far.  The real test will be France and Germany where I know even less! 

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-15-2008 at 05:06 am
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 0 Comments

Barcelona is great

I will post more later, but I gotta run.  Just letting everyone I`m having a great time so far!

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-13-2008 at 10:06 am
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 2 Comments

Final Countdown

So I thought of the title for this post and then it made me think of that totally awesome song. Then I asked myself, “Am I just imagining it or was that song by a band named Europe?” So I googled it and sure enough, Final Countdown was by Europe. Anyways, enjoy this totally awesome video while reading through the rest of my post.

So I tried packing everything up today to see how it fit. Things fit pretty well, but I might have to figure out some things that I can ditch. Here is the list I am working with right now. It includes the clothes I will be wearing to the airport.

Clothes:

2 Tshirts

1 Polo Shirt

1 Button Up Long Sleeved Shirt

1 wicking long sleeve shirt

1 rain jacket

1 pair jeans

1 pair khakis

2 pairs quick dry boxers

2 pairs coolmax socks

1 bandana

1 pair brown shoes

1 pair shower sandals

Other:

Passport

Railpass

Moneybelt

Toiletries (Glasses, backup contact lenses, 2 oz contact solution, toothbrush, floss)

First Aid (Bandaids, neosporin, tylenol, rolaids, imodium)

Camera + usb cable + 2 gig memory card

IPod Shuffle + usb cable to charge at internet cafes

Rick Steves French, Italian, and German Phrase book (Thanks Lizz!)

Book for trains

Journal + Pen

Sharpie (labeling food in kitchens)

Mini flashlight

Travel quick dry towel

Laundry stuff (line to hang, sink stopper, tide to go pen, etc)

Day pack

Sunglasses

That’s about all I can see right now that I can think of. I’ll update if I forgot something. Let me know if you think I’m missing something important.  I’ll be carrying my backpack on the plane, so no swiss army knife even though it might prove useful.  I’m leaving on Tuesday.  I can’t believe how close it is!

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-08-2008 at 01:06 am
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 2 Comments

Absolutely can’t wait (9 day mark)

Well, my trip is a little more than a week away and the excitement has begun to pick up even more.  Not only do I leave for Europe in 9 days, but I’m done my first (and last) year of teaching and I’m slowly but surely getting things in my apartment ready for the temporary move back home in Maryland.  I’m pretty sure I have almost everything I need for my trip, although I’m sure I’ll think of some small things that I need to get when I’m waiting around my empty apartment.  I had a bit of a scare today when I double checked some of my travel insurance stuff.  I accidentally clicked on the insurance policy my mom got for my flight home a couple weeks back, and I started getting nervous when I saw that the policy only covered cancellation/interruption of airfare.  It took me a good 10-15 minutes of searching the web for travel insurance policies until I checked my e-mail account again and clicked on the right e-mail with my policy information.  It was such a relief knowing that I did not have to shell out $90 for another insurance policy covering emergency medical/dental.  These days are going to pass extremely slowly considering I don’t move out of my apartment until Friday, and all I have to do to occupy my time is read and go to some doctor appointments.  I guess I could always go to the library and research my trip more, but I think I’m pretty set.  I only have the first 6 days booked, and I’m trying my hardest to resist booking a bunch of places ahead of time.  I really want to be impulsive this time around.  I may try to couchsurf in Paris and then just book a place in Munich a couple days ahead of time.  I do have nights booked ahead in Switzerland at the mountain hostel in Gimmelwald, but that was something I absolutely do not want to miss.  So as long as I arrive in Gimmelwald by June 27th, I’m good.  The more I think about this trip, the more excited I get and the more I cannot wait to carry everything I will need for the next month on my back.

Posted by offhegoes03 on 06-01-2008 at 08:06 pm
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 0 Comments

21 days to go

So the abdomen pain that I posted about has not increased at all, so I think it is just a sore muscle.  I will be getting a physical again before I go to Europe, so if it is still bothering me, I will get it checked out again.  With the school year winding down (I only teach another half day and then it’s just grading exams, proctoring, and some check out procedures until May 30th) and the pain subsiding, I am starting to get excited about my trip again.

My parents sent me some money for my 23rd birthday and that will cover the jacket I bought and probably some shoes that I want to get.  My brother got me a gift card to target, so I will most likely use that to get a smaller toiletries bag (the one I have right now is huge and impractical).   I don’t think I have to buy anything else now that I think about it. I might just need to get some first aid stuff and batteries for my camera, but I’m pretty set.  I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and picked up The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway.  I figure it’s pretty appropriate for reading when I’m traveling considering I’m going to Spain and France (although I’ll be going from Spain to France rather than the other way around like in the book). I’m thinking about bringing another book with me, but I don’t want anything that will take up too much space.  I’ll probably just leave them at hostels after I finish them for other people to read.

I’ve also been getting my apartment ready to move.  I passed on some of my furniture to my brother and I’m selling some more on craigslist.  I hate moving so much just because it’s such a pain.  I’m going to have to clean up around my apartment to make sure I don’t get stupid avoidable charges, especially since I didn’t have to put down a security deposit for my place.

I’ve been slacking with learning German and French.  I know how to say a handful of phrases, but things have been busy.  Hopefully I’m getting a better handle on how to pronounce some of the consonants and vowels, so I will most likely just print out some phrases that I might need and study them on trains.  Luckily I’m going to Spain first and I at least know that language better than the other two.

Well, that was a lot of random stuff, but with 3 weeks left until the trip, I’m starting to get excited again.  I’ve been looking at a lot of Gaudi architecture and I’m getting really psyched for Barcelona!

Posted by offhegoes03 on 05-19-2008 at 07:05 pm
Posted in Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland with 2 Comments

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