Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vienna -> Venice -> Cinque Terre -> Rome

Well unfortunately my camera has decided that it doesnt want to download photos anymore, so it looks like there won't be any pictures coming for the remainder of the trip, which I'm super bummed about! So Im sorry that there's only words to read, but I thought I might as well update you all on where Im at currently.

After backpacking Austria, we spent a few days in Vienna where I discovered amazing things like Wiener Wasser (Water from Vienna) and Wiener Gelato (Everything in Vienna is Wiener). The palaces there were beautiful and the three of us had a fun time trying to cook pasta in the middle of a park with Lucas's camping stove. There's a theme park there that very closely resembles the Santa Cruz Boardwalk which houses the famous Wiener Ferris Wheel. I also went to a traveling exhibit on the human body uniquely named "Bodies". They took apart several real human bodies and have them on display with different cuts so that you can see the intricacies inside. It was so fascinating!

A day of travel and we were in Italy! Crazy lightning storms along the way made for a very entertaining train ride with light flashes every few seconds! I actually loved Venice. It's true that you can get a gist for what the city is like in only a day or two, but its really not as dirty as everyone had described it to me. The best part for me was walking along the western water front and sitting in a grassy park eating cheese, crackers, and wine while watching the boats go by in the main canal. We had a very nice room there and it was actually really fun to get lost in the maze of streets and canals there. Its like one giant labrynth. Often the big roads would dead end and the tiny little alleyways would lead to big open plazas!

Another half day of travel and we made it to La Spezia, the town just outside of the Cinque Terre. A bus ride halfway over the mountain to the Cinque Terre dropped us off in a super small town called Biassa where we spent one night before dropping down into the Cinque Terre. Biassa was a really quaint town with probably 500 residents and a very very loud clock tower that rang on the hour and halfhour throughout the night. I think I'll actually miss that sound a lot!

The next day we took a bus into the first town of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore. We ended up spending each of our four nights in this small town. It was our favorite of the five towns because of its smaller size and less attration to major tourism. Pictures do not do this place justice. Beautiful blue water at about 75 degrees made for amazing swimming each day! Our first day there I decided to splurge and go SCUBA diving. How often would I be able to do that? It was really amazing to be diving there and I got to see some really neat sea life including a large octopus and some fish that resembled lion fish. We basically spent our four days there waking up and having coffee and breakfast on our porch, hiking from town to town, cliff jumping into the warm salty water, sunbathing, cooking dinner in our apartment, and then watching the sunset on the rocky pier that was in the town that we stayed in. This place made for by far the most fun time that I have had yet in Europe. I think that the beauty was only half of what made it so great. The rest was just that I got a chance to relax, which was so wonderful!

Rome so far: The collosseum was simply amazing to see and the town is just full of wonderful history and ruins everywhere you look. So yesterday was the collosseum and the house of Augustus. Today we visited the Christian catacombs which were as equally impressive in a different way. Tomorrow we're going to spend the whole day at the Vatican City and the Cistene Chapel. The next day will be spent in town somewhere. After that, Im going to try and see as much of Greece as I can in 3 days and then head on back to Paris only stopping in Florence for a day along the way. And that will conclude my trip!

Im so thankful to the Lord for all of the beauty that I have seen recently in Italy. I love seeing the Lord's handiwork in all of this beautiful country. I feel so blessed to be here. At the same time I just cant wait to come home and see my family and friends again. There really is no place like home, and Im really looking forward to going to it!

Sorry again about the pictures. I'll do my best to put some up when I get back to the states and can use a different cord or something. Have a wonderful week!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Austrian Alps!

Okay! Well, I think that this past leg of our trip has been by far the best experience for me yet while travelling. Apart from being a nature-lover, I just so enjoy being away from the business of the cities and enjoying the best part of Europe: God´s marvelous creation here. We ended up spending 5 nights in the Austrian Alps in a region called the Dachstein. We arrived in a small town called Schladming and stocked up on our groceries there before heading out.
The day of our first hike we got a late start (seems to be a common theme) and didnt get on the trail until about 16:00 or so. Knowing that we were going to be hiking a good part of the trail in the dark, we took our time hiking up 2000 feet to our first campspot. The night hiking was especially fun, but setting up camp next to another herd of cattle was less fun. We used our tent poles as makeshift cattle prods to get them to leave us alone... I still woke up the next morning with one huffing its snout right next to my face! By far the best part about that night other than eating our chili dinner was what we saw in the sky. Brian spotted it first, but on this clear cold night we witnessed first-hand the Northern Lights. I had no idea that they could be seen this far south, but I couldnt be more sure that that´s what we saw. They were dim, but distinctly fast green waves of particles moving through the air in repetitive patterns. It was absolutely gorgeous watching that under a clear sky with the occasional distant lightning lighting up the higher parts of the atmosphere.
The second day was super relaxing. We hiked about 1 km to a lake nearby and just napped and ate lunch. After destroying an ant nest that invaded our campsite, it started to rain, so we set up camp a bit from the lake. That night after making our first campfire, we sipped hot chocolate while watching the approaching thunderstorm. In about 1 hour the storm went from distant flashes to ones literally right over our heads. I have some incredible video footage of it all happening. 5 minutes after ducking into our tents, it rained harder than I´ve ever experienced while camping. Fun to be nice and dry inside the tent. Go REI!
Day 3: a long hike out to our next lake and up another 1500 feet or so. Almost got struck by lightning while going over a pass. No warning at all... lightning struck about 100 yards from us. We booked it to a cave and ate lunch in some shelter before heading down to the next beautiful lake. It rained the ENTIRE time we were there. So we journaled, read, and got really good at playing double solitaire. The rain seemed to follow us everywhere.
Day 4: More rain! We packed up the in rain and headed out to the Guttenberg-Haus, an alpine hut perched on a sweet hilltop overlooking the whole valley out towards Schladming. Hiking the ridgeline along the way was cold and wet with 50 mph winds and frequent rain. Fun to stay dry inside our raingear! Arriving at the Guttenberg Haus was probably the sweetest sight I have seen on this trip. Upon entering, we found out that rooms there were a mere 10 € per person per night for us youngsters and we sat inside the wood-paneled dining area sipping our hot drinks next to the wood-burning stove. What an experience! Great food, fun to attempt speaking German, and so cozy.
Day 5: For that price, why not stay another night!? A day hike to the Scheichenspitze, a nearby peak another 1500 feet up, occupied our day this day. Amazing views of the Hoher Dachstein (the highest peak in the area) and difficult hiking! We even got to hike along the ridgeline where some cables were attached to the side of the mountain. A ton of fun! This ridgeline trail goes all the way along to the Hoher Dachstein, but we were only able to do part of it without appropriate gear (dont worry mom).
Day 6: A great hike down the mountain. After setting up camp back in Schladming, we went swimming at a nearby pool which never felt so good. We even cooked a mexican meal that night with our campstoves. It was as mexican as it could get out here in Austria. :)
So now we are in Vienna, seeing the sights and enjoying meeting more travellers. We have only one more day here and then we are off to Venice, Italy for a few days. Following that we will head to Greece to check out the islands there. We spent the day yesterday here in Wien mostly touring one of the palaces here in the city. It was HUGE and had some beautiful gardens.
Well, sorry this is so long, but this was by far the most fun I´ve had so far on my journey, so I thought it might be fun to write it all out. I really had a great time meeting with the Lord while staying at the Guttenberghaus and enjoyed waking up early to sip my hot cocoa while reading Romans. The Lord is good and his lovingkindness is everlasting!
Hard to believe I have less than 3 weeks left here. I feel like in terms of seeing what I wanted to see and experiencing culture, this has been the perfect amount of time to spend here. But in the end, there´s no place like home, is there?
"For since the beginning of creation, God´s invisible attributes and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20
For His Renown...

Starting our hike into the alps!

Some really sweet mountain huts along the way!

One of our campsites in the alps - it rained the whole time we were here.

Arriving at the Guttenberghaus - a sweet sight!

The Guttenberg-Haus!

Eating a meal inside next to the woodburning stove. Ah!

A day hike with the Hoher Dachstein in the background.

Using cables to hike the ridgeline!

At the top of the Scheichenspitze - the highest altitude we reached!

Just before leaving the Guttenberg-Haus. So beautiful!

The bench just outside had an amazing view of the valley.

Ice cream in Vienna - a popular treat here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Interlaken -> Luzern -> Salzburg

Just some more pictures here for you all to see. Switzerland is by far my favorite country in Europe so far, and I think it might be tough to be topped. We did some day hiking in the beatiful small town of Grindelwald - which is in one of the valleys that leads to the Jungfrau peak. The next day was Switzerland´s national day and so we watched a rainy parade in town and saw some fireworks later that night, which were great.

The next day was spent in Luzern, where we got a free boat ride across the lake and ended up playing a pickup game of soccer with some exchange students for most of the afternoon before cooling off with a swim in the lake. What a perfect day!
Right now we´re back in Salzburg preparing for our next trip out to the Austrian alps! Its fun to be back in a place that you know sort of well and are able to navigate through. I love this town and could easily spend another week here. So next up is the Austrian alps with hopefully a couple of stops at some mountain huts along the way. So the next post will probably not be until after all of that happens, so stay tuned! I´m just loving the Lord´s glory here and His beauty is shining so brightly in what He has made! Cheers! (I find myself saying this all the time for some reason...)

Hiking through Grindelwald, Switzerland

We even got to go to the driving range in the valley.

Luzern, Switzerland

Switzerland´s national day is August 1st!

Our hostel in Interlaken.


McDonald´s never looked so good!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Swiss Alps!

Well I just typed out this entire story about our backpacking trip in the Swiss Alps in the Diablerets region of Switzerland, but I just erased it all. Computers.. you cant live with them and you cant live without them. The highlights: the backpacking was some of the most beautiful that i have ever experienced. We hiked across a glacier, camped in a thunderstorm and got barraged by cattle all night a couple nights ago. Pretty fun.

Right now we are in Interlaken and will be celebrating Switzerland's international day tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun.

A special thank you to the Schneider family for being so gracious in meeting our needs and preparing us for the amazing backpacking experience that we had. We couldn't have done it without you! From here we're heading to Luzern, another smaller town in Switzerland.

God has been so good to us in keeping us safe and free from major injury. Praise Him for this beautiful creation that He has made!

Crossing the Diablerets Glacier!

Our campsite the first night!

A valley in the alps.

At the top of the pass!

On our way back down the other side!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Salzburg -> Munich -> Paris -> Montpreveyers

So there have been quite a few happenings since the last post. Munich was very nice and our second day there we were able to experience a genuine beer hall for lunch and go to the Deutches Museum which is the largest technical museum in the world! I was in my element. Enough airplanes to make any engineer drool... except for Brian. But that's because he's a civil engineer. So he went to the bridges and waterways displays. :)

The day prior to that we went to the castles outside of Füssen in the very southern part of Germany. Unfortunately it was a little underwhelming and the literally thousands of tourists made it less pleasant. Oh and it rained on us too. But the castle history was actually very interesting. I also forgot to mention that our first night in Munich we were without a hostel because they were all booked.. that was interesting. We eventually found a place to sleep (on a floor). Actually, it was quite comfy.

The next day we trekked back to Paris to meet up with Lucas who was flying in the next day. The day he got in, Brian and I went to the Louvre. As neat as all the paintings and artifacts were, there were soo many people there. I think Im finding that the less people there are the better. So that night we never found Lucas. His plane got in late.

Long story short we found him in the train station just before our train left for Switzerland. The Lord has us in His hands and allowed us to find him with perfect timing. Praise Him! So the past two days we have spent here with the Schneider family who have been so gracious in allowing us to stay with them in their home.

They live in an old farmhouse originally constructed in 1840 in a little town outside of Lausanne called Montpreveyers. With only 500 residents, it is quite quaint. The Schneiders are family friends from the bay area that we met several years ago and have kept in touch with. So they have kindly put us up in their home for a couple of days and given us all sorts of wonderful tips before we head out to the Swiss Alps for the backpacking portion of our journey (Thank you Daniel and Martine for your warm hospitality!).

So tomorrow the three musketeers head out for a mountain region called the Diablerets. It is less crowded and quite breathtaking. In a day we will start a three day backpacking trip through these mountains and pass over the Diablerets Glacier along the way. We are all quite excited about that! It is the only glacier in Switzerland that you can cross without needing a guide or extra equipment. So that should be amazing to say the least.

After that, we will be recovering in the beautiful town of Interlaken for two nights from which we will do some more touristy day hikes in the beautiful Jungfrau region of the alps. After that??? We keep saying we're just glad we found Lucas. Who knows what would have happened otherwise!

So we're off to the mountains! This has been the part of the trip that I have most been looking forward to. I love the mountains and love communing with the Lord there through His creation. What an amazing God we serve who created all this with a word!

Until our backpacking adventure is over, au revoir!

The view from the castle Neuschweinstein in Füssen, Germany.

The Deutches Museum in Munich - the largest technical museum in the world!

The city center in Munich.

The Mona Lisa... that's IT??

Sunset over the Seine in Paris as seen from Pont Neuf.

We finally found Lucas!

Bike riding through the Swiss countryside today just near Lausanne.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Berlin -> Prague -> Berchtesgaden -> Salzburg

Well, its been quite some time since my last post! The internet has been anything but available, but hopefully the pictures in this post will make up for it. Heres a quick summary of my recent trail:

Copenhagen was great - especially the danishes. Biking through town and the cool architecture were the highlights for me.

We stayed in Berlin for two nights, but only travelled around the city for a couple of hours. I was starting to get sick, so the tourism was short lived. The highlight of that was Checkpoint Charlie, where so much history with the Berlin wall happened. Actually kind of sobering to be there.

Prague was beautiful. The train ride in was along this river which was stunningly gorgeous. Im constantly amazed at the beautiful world that the Lord has created. In Prague, we ran into my robotics professor from Cal Poly! Small world indeed.

By far the most beautiful place I have been yet was in Berchtesgaden, Germany. In the very southern part, its actually a national park, and its beauty rivals that of the Sierras. See the pictures! A hike to the Klausteinhaus or Hitler's Eagles Nest was my favorite. Stunningly beautiful. The picture doesnt even come close to describing it. And it was in between two very rainy days.. the Lord is good! We camped there and had a great time.. Thanks Grampy for the recommendation!

I am writing this post from Salzburg just before heading out to Munich. I have a train in an hour or so. Tomorrow Brian and I are planning on visiting the famous castle outside of Füssen, Germany. In a few days we are meeting my good friend Lucas in Paris and starting our adventures of backpacking the Swiss Alps!

Other than being a little sick and having my knees hurt, I have been able to stay quite healthy and I praise the Lord for that. More to come. Thanks for your faithful prayers.

Windmill in Copenhagen.

My moving company! So much fun to find this sign!

Checkpoing Charlie in Berlin. The allied edge of the Berlin Wall!

The cathedral at the castle in Prague.

I ran into my robotics professor in the town square in Prague.

A wonderful view of Köngissee Lake in Berchtesgaden, Germany

The incredible view from Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden.

Recognize this scene in Salzburg?

The gazebo in the Sound of Music! Salzburg, Austria.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Copenhagen -> Berlin

So theres only one picture because the computer that I'm using right now is extremely slow. It took me 10 minutes to get this picture up, so hopefully I can get to another computer and post again soon!

Copenhagen was a great time. Brian and I rented bikes for the day that we were there and it was actually a great way to see the city! There are a ton of sections to the city, including its own hippie town. We met some really neat people there as well. Brian and I took a tour of the Carlsburg beer factory which was really pretty fun. While inside the factory a thunderstorm came up and it downpoured for a few minutes; then it was sunny the rest of the day! Best danishes ever! (I guess thats to be expected).

The next day was spent travelling to Berlin. Today we toured Berlin, which was really great. Its a humongous city and we only got to see a portion of it. But we did go to Checkpoint Charlie - the edge of the US control during the Berlin Wall crisis. I was going to include a picture of me there, but...

Tonight we cooked our own delicious meal of spaghetti and sausage with salad - our first meal that we've really cooked for ourselves! It was delicious. Tonight we're getting to bed early and leaving tomorrow morning for Prague. More to come from there! Brian and I are trying to avoid getting sick, so if you could pray for that, that would be wonderful.

Praise God for His faithfulness to us thus far! Until Prague...

A ferry to Copenhagen - the TRAIN rolls right on! Amazing engineering!