Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The University of Salamanca Makes the US Look like an Infant

Huerto de Calixto y Melibea
On my never-ending quest to conquer more of Spain, I up and booked a ride to Salamanca, Spain over the weekend! Salamanca is a city close to Galicia, about three hours away via car. It has a historic University, founded in 1134. Let's take a minute and look at that number. 1134. It's like...that should be someone's address...1134 Main Street. But it's the year the University was founded and that's pretty dang old and that's pretty dang cool! It's also the site where Christopher Columbus came to state his case for traveling west to find India. The University is truly the heart of the city, as a ton of people (30,000) study there, and everywhere you go you see students and ancient campus buildings. Also, the city has a vibrant nightlife since there are so many young people around!

Plaza Mayor
Since this was a last minute trip for me, I went ahead and explored it all by myself! I hadn't done this since my trip to Dublin two years ago and man was I out of solo-traveling shape! My kind BlaBlaCar driver dropped me off directly in front of my hostel, where I proceeded to just lay for awhile. Why did I do this? Because I wanted to and there was no one else to make me move if I didn't want to!!! :) Eventually I did get my lazy booty up to wander around the city a bit. The most impressive thing of the night: Plaza Mayor. I knew that it was a focal point of the city, but being there truly reminded me of Venice, Italy with the whole center lit up in a romantic glow! I sat there and gazed at the site for awhile. I also took the time to explore the city a bit, to get lost four times, locate the tourist office, and scope out some bars for the big soccer game the next day...

Inside the convento
Outside the convento
The next morning I hit up the tourist office to get a map, then jumped right in to my site-seeing itinerary! First stop: Convento de San Esteban. Well, I wish I could say this was my intended point of departure for the site-seeing, but in truth I got lost while looking for the entrance to the Cathedral (the biggest building in the city...I am rusty at this solo-traveling thing) and I happened upon the convent and so I went in! It was a very peaceful and beautiful place :)

Next stop was the old + new Cathedral! The old cathedral is a smaller chapel-like place, with the claustro attached. Very cute...and what's more, there was a wedding going on!! As soon as I saw the couple up at the front I started weeping tears of joy...just kidding. But I totally did take an extreeeemelyyyy long time taking my photos in there, in an effort to wedding crash a bit. I also passed through the new cathedral which is directly connected to the old one, which also had its beautiful details. You also can't beat the wonderful aroma of incense in a cathedral :)

Climbing up Ieronimus, a view of the New Cathedral
Next I stopped by a large garden with great views of the city, walked down to see the Salamanca Roman Bridge (I may be biased, but Ourense's better!) and then I continued on to a visit to Ieronimus, the tower of the cathedrals. Here I found myself, once again, climbing up a million stairs to the highest point in the city! This climb was a bit more tourist friendly, as you could stop at every floor and read a bit about the history of the Cathedral while you caught your breath. I didn't bother to count the stairs but there were a ton and I felt myself getting very short of breath and thinking I might simultaneously have a heart attack and a panic attack from the claustrophobia-inducing, steep and numerous stairs. The view from the top was great though, and I got to hear the bells chime a lot while I was up there! Totally worth it.

The last part of my day was supposed to be dedicated to a shopping mall...I Googled centro commercial quickly at the hostel before setting out. Once I got to the location I saw a large Corte Ingles...but no centro commercial of my liking!!! I asked some people about the other shopping center and they said it was outside of the city and I would need to get a car or bus. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! So I took the time to wander around a bit more, found some tempting restaurants for the next day, and I had time to rest a bit at the hostel.

Then. It was time for a very important partido de futbol: Real Madrid vs. Atletico de Madrid.... Champions League Final. I don't want to get started on the details as to why FC Barcelona was not in this match, but just know that I was highly displeased and upset about the results this season. Anyway, I was rooting for Atletico even though they stole the Liga title from Barcelona, just because of the mere fact that I loathe Real Madrid with the passion of a million burning fires. Everyone on that team (besides maybe Casillas) could easily play the lead role of the villain in any movie. Everyone oozes evil, arrogance, and greed. UGH. Anyway. Long story short, Real Madrid won...I stomped out of the bar, went straight to my hostel, tried going to sleep but heard too much commotion on the streets of people out celebrating. BAD NIGHT.

The next day was my last, and originally I had planned to find a bus to make it out to that shopping center I was dying to visit. Before checking out of my hostel and heading there, I checked online to see the hours of the mall... of course, the stores were all closed, it was a Sunday! Ugh this is something I will not miss about Spain!! Thankfully I caught that minor detail of opening times before I got all the way to the mall! I went ahead to the next step in my itinerary: an Art Museum!

Casa Lis
Casa Lis, the art deco and art nouveau museum, was great! I was almost entirely surrounded by elderly people but the stuff in there was cool. Pictures weren't allowed, but I was able to snap a photo of the beautiful stained glass that decorates the whole building. There was a big variety of exhibits, mostly focused on ceramic figurines, glass sculptures and paintings. There was also an interesting (for lack of a better term) exhibit on vintage dolls... so you entered these two huge rooms and you were immediately getting stared down by hundreds of beady little eyes!! There were also some original cupie dolls...something I think my sisters would have gotten a kick out of :)

My last site-seeing stop was the historic University! I was hoping to arrive in time for a tour...but I got lost and arrived 15 minutes after the last tour started :( But I still got to see the famous front of the University, where you're supposed to search for the hidden frog in the midst of all the other sculptured details in the door. Everyone was crowding around the area next to the frog so it wasn't quite difficult to find. Legend has it that those who attend the University and find the frog (without the assistance of anyone else) will graduate or something like that. An old guy stopped me and said "Hey...do you want to know the REAL story behind the frog?" I shrugged and said yes. He proceeded to go into a twenty minute discourse about the king and the king's son and how the frog represented sexual immorality and the son died because of it. After I politely said thank you, he then proceeded to tell me the story about various other famous parts of the city... I had to escape so I looked at my non-existent watch, thanked him for his time, and speed walked the heck away!!!

I had a couple hours to spare so I stopped by a Mexican restaurant to get my fill (Bien Trucha is still a million times better), and laid in a park for a bit to take in the sun. Eventually it was time for me to meet up with my next driver, and I probably didn't last more than 30 minutes in the car before dozing off! I was exhausted from my three days of walking around non-stop, and I was excited to get back to my Ourense and back to my own bed :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oh, Valencia!

City of Arts and Sciences
During my time in Spain, I have made it a goal to become an expert in all things Spanish, covering every corner of this country and knowing every major city and even villages, being able to list off all the major traditions and the differences between the provinces, distinguish the different dialects and languages etc. And I have not even come close to achieving this goal 100%. I have humbly come to realize that it would take way more than two years to even attempt such a feat. Even so, I can still try my utmost at getting to many cities, and when the opportunity arose for us to visit Eddie's family in Valencia, I was quite excited!

We were sitting around during Semana Santa, thinking of where we could make a last-minute trip to. Unfortunately, flight and hotel prices skyrocket during this week. But then, I found a 50 euro round trip flight to Morocco!! I looked up an apartment, figured out how to get the airport, places to go in Rabat, etc, and then I went to buy the flight...and realized that I had looked at the flight for the wrong month. That's why it had been so incredibly cheap. Oops. But Eddie's cousin coincidentally invited us to Valencia soon after! So just like that we packed up, found a route to Valencia on BlaBlaCar,  and made the 10 hour journey across Spain to Valencia!

We arrived to Valencia during the late afternoon on a Wednesday. We were beyond exhausted and dirty, but were able to muster up some energy (and spray ourselves with perfume lololol) to meet with Eddie's whole family! It was cool and strange at the same time to be meeting the people I had only seen in pictures before. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, so it was a good start to the trip. We got the chance to try Valencia's style of patatas bravas, which is potatoes with mayonnaise plopped on top and some paprika on top of that...pure, simple, genius. And that night Anabel (Eddie's cousin) made us dinner, which we had with her family and another of Eddie's cousins, Raul. The bed was calling our names pretty early that night, so we passed out pretty soon after dinner.

Sidenote: Eddie's cousin Anabel has two children, the youngest of which is 11-months old and was crawling about...he was the cutest little bundle of blonde-haired-blue-eyed joy!! And I know little Damy isn't so young anymore but the little guy still made me think of him!! DAMY I MISS YOU!
Look at these cuties!!
The first thing on the agenda for Valencia the next day was to visit the City of Arts and Sciences.  Basically it is an area a bit south of the city where there is a cluster of museums: a science museum, an aquarium, a planetarium and cinema, and I don't know what else. It's very impressive to marvel at, because its a long stretch of super modern buildings, probably the most modern stretch of land in all of Spain (well, the parts of Spain that I've seen anyway!) I still can't quite wrap my head around it, because you have this modern area of Valencia and then you go to the center of the city and it is 100% traditional Spanish with the cobblestone narrow roads, the ancient cathedrals and such.

The only place we actually visited at the City of Arts and Sciences was the aquarium: Oceanografic. I was 100% satisfied with the place! It was very impressive. We were there for a few hours, enjoying all the animals and the sun that shone that day. The best exhibits were the ones where you walked through a tunnel and were just surrounded by ocean all around you...especially the shark tank one! I'll admit that I was a bit nervous walking through that one...but to anyone who knows me it should be no surprise since I have a modest fear of sharks...
Nervous smile...

Afterwards we tried the famous Valencian Horchata drink...however I personally find the Mexican kind to be much better :) We also ventured over to a shopping center just because I love them and so good ol' Eddie endured a couple hours of me living out my shopping desires! Afterwards we went to the center of Valencia just to have a look around at everything. It is a typical Spanish city in every way, there was nothing that seemed out of place; there were the beautiful old buildings, the smaller streets, the bigger shopping streets, the bustling plazas, and palm trees! Valencia's cathedral is especially impressive, in its very ornate and beautiful architecture! It has two towers that you can climb up and get a view of the whole city. I think this is becoming one of my favorite things to do in cities...climb to the highest point usually up an ungodly amount of stairs, that way you can get a good work out and your reward at the end is a gorgeous view!! Unfortunately for me, we did not have time at this moment to make the trip up the tower because we had an appointment to get to....
Outside the cathedral
Inside the cathedral

We had another "live escape" game we had to get to! Apparently these are getting to be popular in various tourist destinations. The one we did in Valencia was called X-Door and it was similar in idea to the one we did in Munich, called HintQuest! It was quite a different theme from the Munich one, a bit less organized, but still another fun way to pass an hour! Again I can't delve into details because we're sworn to secrecy... just kidding. But it would ruin the fun for the future participants!

We ended the night by going out to this sweet gourmet hamburger place that Anabel's boyfriend works at. It felt quite American, with the variety of burgers and toppings to put on them...it reminded me of Red Robin! But it was not quite as greasy as the American version, no one touches us when it comes to greasiness. After dinner we headed home...we had had a long day and were looking forward to getting some shut eye.

Day three was the one I was most excited for because it included an afternoon at the BEACH! And we had perfect weather for it, too! And we could actually go IN the water because it wasn't -20C like the water in Galicia! Ugh, so nice. But it also made me long for some Chicago beaches, which have even warmer water and the skyline in the background!!
Not a bad view at the beach :)

Steak in some sort of tomato sauce
Merluza (hake fish?) in a creamy vegetable sauce
We were starving after a few hours at the beach, and wanted to find somewhere good to eat. Good ol' Eddie was very patient with me, because I was very picky about where I wanted to go. We even sat down at one place that looked decent but then I wanted to leave because the people at the table next to us were giving me weird vibes and the waiter didn't come to take our order after almost ten minutes of having sat down. Deuces, restaurant. We wandered for another half an hour because nothing looked good to me until we finally found a small place that was perfect! I think the wait was worth it! We ate very well and fairly cheap, and it was typical Valencian food. Eddie lived in Valencia when he was very young, and some of our food even reminded him of his childhood :)

We made our way home afterward, quite exhausted. After taking showers we hung out a bit with the family, but I also had to make time for a little nap! When I woke up it was already time to get ready for our night out. The plan was to stop somewhere to get some tapas and then go watch a Flamenco show!!! It had been far too long since I'd seen flamenco, and while I accepted the fact that whatever flamenco we saw in Valencia would probably not compare to the authentic thing in Andalusia, I went into the show with an open mind.

Before we arrived to the show, we stopped to get some quick tapas. We got a bit lost on the way to the show, so we just picked a bar that was nearby. We sat down, ordered drinks and asked the waiter to recommend some food to us. He proceeded to recommend some patatas bravas, pulpo, lacon, empanada, croquetas... we told him we were looking for something that was typical of Valencia. To which he responded: "Oh, but this is a Galician bar!" ...Really? Of all the bars in Valencia to end up at, we end up at un bar gallego. Oh well! Bring on the bravas, croquetas, and estrella galicia beer!!

GET IT girl
We ate quickly and it was all delicious (obviously.) then ran over to catch the show. It was already packed! We ended up having to stand near the back of the bar but we could still see the show very well. As soon as I heard the Spanish guitar start going, I was smiling from ear to ear. There were two women who danced...one was younger with a very distinct style of dance, she included some moves that I swear looked like she was doing the robot. But the other older woman HIT IT SO. HARD. AND. SO. WELL. I was so impressed! She also sang as she danced which I still can't quite comprehend. It was definitely a touristy place, there were some people who tried to clap along with the dancers when they started las palmas...and then quickly stopped when they saw that it wasn't the typical rhythm of clapping! The show ended around 1 in the morning and since the metros were already closed we hailed a taxi to take us home.

Our last day in Valencia was undoubtedly the greatest! We set out in the morning for the family's house out in the country, and this is where we stayed a majority of the day. It was a perfect house, secluded out in an open field, with the sun beating down as we sat out on the huge terrace! We were there with two of Eddie's cousins and their families, and also his aunt and uncle. This uncle was just the most hilarious jolly old guy. He never stopped making jokes and swearing and complaining that he gets no respect and messing around with his grand kids. He also immediately took his shirt off when we got to the house to work on his tan, no shame, I loved it. They all treated me so kindly! Eddie's uncle showed us how to make paella, so I took the best mental notes of my life:

Step 1: Gather ingredients: meat (usually rabbit and chicken), vegetables (lima beans and green beans ONLY!), tomatoes, rice, salt, coloring, oil, water

Step 2: Heat up the paella pan! (I gotta get me one of these!)

Step 3: Slowly cook the meat in the oil

Step 4: Add the vegetables to cook once the meat is almost done

Step 5:  Add the water and rice, and tomato. Let cook for strictly 20 minutes!

Step 6: EAT UP (drizzle with some lemon if desired)

I have tried a bunch of different types of paella since I've been here, and this was by far the greatest. It was so flavorful and juicy and perfect!! I hope I can recreate it when I get home!

We had a big family lunch of the paella, and sat around the table talking and having dessert and drinking licor cafe and other digestivos  afterwards while the children played around us. It was the perfect little afternoon!

That evening we walked around Valencia center one last time, stopping to get frozen yogurt to put the cherry on top of our trip. I was very happy with our trip there overall, and it was certainly more for the family aspect of it than the attraction of the city itself! As I sit here writing this, I have less than two weeks left in Ourense, and I am oozing with ganas to be with my family. So Valencia was a nice way to be with family I now have here while I wait to get back to the States :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Two-Day Barcy Frenzy!


Things started out perfectly...originally Eddie and I were going to arrive about an hour and a half later than everyone else to the airport. But our flight got in a bit early, and theirs got in a bit late, so TA-DA we ran into each other near the exit! We piled into two taxis and drove to our apartment, catching up a bit on the ride over. It was already past 11pm when we got to the apartment, but we were all starving so we headed out for dinner. We loaded up on jamon, croquetas, pimientos, pulpo, and vino then went home, exhausted.

Erica and Me and Churros and Chocolate :D
Churros were the first thing on the agenda for the next morning! We found some perfect churros; they were nice and sugary with the chocolate thick just the way it should be. I was reminded of New Year's Day 2013, getting churros with Alex, Kevin, and Jill and just downing my cup of chocolate after I finished the churros. Some things never change.

Park Guell
We had less than 48 hours left in Barcelona, so we were quite pressed for time. The sites we saw and the time we spent at each place was an abbreviated version of what I would have liked to have shown everyone!! Barcelona has so many things and two days is not enough. The first thing on the list: Park Guell. This has always been one of my favorite little fantasy lands! There were some changes to the park since the last time I'd been there, though. Namely you have to PAY to enter now! And you can only enter at a specific time during the opening hours, and there are no men illegally selling souvenirs and no people playing live music... so it's actually less lively in the park than it usually is! But it will always be a must-see of Barcelona :)

Afterwards, we stopped by a nearby restaurant and everyone got their fill of paella. Next we headed to Las Ramblas! The shopping street was crowded and lively as always. I usually make it part of my routine to get a huge scoop of gelato in Las Ramblas, but it was quite chilly out so I passed. The weather in general in Barcelona was super windy and colder than it's ever been in the times I've visited! It surprised me because I had never seen Barcelona as anything less than a sunny perfect paradise!! Anyway, we continued on to La Boqueria as well. After gazing at every possible organ of the pig that was for sale, I decided to buy something chocolatey. Everytime I go to La Boqueria I see the awesome chocolate and candy stands, I take a photo, and then I continue on without sampling anything. This day, I decided to do something whacky and actually buy something! I ended up selecting a golf ball-sized mound of chocolate covered slivered almonds. The man weighed the chocolate and told me with a pleasant smile "5 euros" (around $7). I asked him to repeat the price, I must have heard wrong. "5 euros". Darn it. I emptied out my wallet to pay that man. And you better believe I devoured every last crumb of that tiny chocolate ball!!

Sagrada Familia
Next we wandered about a bit more, stopping by the Cat statue for Erica before stopping at a tapas place for dinner! We wandered around quite a bit in the Latin Quarter in order to find the perfect place. I wanted to try somewhere I hadn't tried before that would give everyone else a good tapas experience, so we walked into this one place that looked inviting yet not too pricey. Turns out, it's the same owner as the restaurant I went to with my American and French buddies last New Years :) So it was obviously a great choice!

The first thing on the agenda for the next day was to visit the Sagrada Familia. We emerged from the underground metro to a Barcelona that literally almost knocked us off our feet...it was so windy! I could only compare this level of wind to Iowa winters, it was outrageous. It was also a bad day to have chosen to wear a dress. Oh well.

So we did a quick visit to the cathedral, stopping to gaze at it from every angle but unfortunately not going inside due to time constraints. We wandered away from the cathedral next to get some lunch. We had the perfect Catalan food experience at this cellar-like restaurant called La Bodegueta de Verdaguer, where the waiter/owner recommended to us the perfect array of tapas, all of which were delicious. I would recommend this place to anyone who visits Barcelona!
La Bodegueta de Verdaguer

Next we walked down Passeig de Gracia to get a view of two other Gaudi buildings! First we went to Casa Battlo, which apparently was under construction. But don't worry, the construction tarp that covered the entire building at least had the photo of what the real Casa Battlo looked like underneath lolololl! We continued to Casa Mila which was not under construction. I was hoping to go into one of the houses, but with the time constraint along with the 25 euro entrance fee, we passed :)

We continued our stroll, heading to Barceloneta and stopping to get some ice cream and crepes along the way. Eventually we made it to the beach, where the wind was amplified at least tenfold. It was hilarious, I thought we were straight up going to get blown into the Balearic Sea. We all took the time to take photos, and my sisters and I were reminded of an infamous photo from our childhood where we are all posing in front of Lake Michigan and everyone looks good and then you see me with my childish afro blowing every which way into the wind. I'd like to think that in the photos taken at Barceloneta, everyone was doing the Cynthia-hair-everywhere beach pose.

Ian and Sofia

Me and Eddie

We headed back to our apartment afterward to rest a bit and pack up. We were determined to find a super awesome joint to have our final dinner together! I had done some research for cheap, delicious restaurants in Barcelona, which was quite difficult. I had also been looking for places that served genuine tapas when you ordered a drink, which is even more difficult! I had in fact found three places that fit into one of the two categories...and literally zero of the three of them ended up being still in business... Nice goin, Cynth! But Erica found an awesome place that served food from Basque country in Spain, and we had a perfect last dinner. We ordered one round of food and ended up ordering even more because it was so delicious!

We headed back to the apartment to finish packing. We all had veryyyy early flights the next morning, so we should have just gone to bed. But instead we stayed awake talking in the living room until about 3 in the morning, at which point I said "Oh shoot. We need to leave for our flight in an hour so maybe I should start packing..." But it was a perfect last night and I was soooo happy to see my sissies!! Writing this blog post now is making me quite nostalgic to be back home in Chicago with them and the rest of the family. One month from today I will be on my flight home, though! So let the countdown begin :D

The millionth photo I've taken from my favorite spot in Barcelona :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

München on some bretzels, 'wurst, and schnitzel (lololol)

Pretzels +  Beer = Munich
Traveling via the S-Bahn train from the airport to central Munich, we emerged from the tunnels with a winter wonderland surrounding us! Well, there wasn't actually any snow on the ground, but there were huge flakes falling from the sky which was quite exciting for us!

We unwound at our apartment, while trying to make a game plan for the rest of the day. It was snowing, big wet, relentless, puddles of snowflakes, and many of the things I had listed for us to do were outside (i.e., go on a tour, drink beer outside, eat food outside, go to parks, eat a picnic with beer at a park, etc). We finally settled on going to the city center and exploring, 

We took a nice long walk through the city center, stopped by some shops, and ended up at Weisses Bräuhaus for a late night snack and cold brew. I ordered a pretzel soup while Eddie ordered some sausage, and we got two different beers to sample as we snacked. A perfect little first dinner! And by first dinner, I mean, we later went home and ate a second full meal/dinner. If I were to give Munich a theme, it would have to be sausage (bratwust, weisswurst, bierwurst,) bretzels (pretzels) and beer. Our diet was almost exclusively based off of those items during our stay here.

Day 1: Getting to know Munich

The lady on the right!!
Our first full day, we did a Sandeman's free tour in Spanish. It was very complete, (we also made a stop at Starbucks! first time in forever!!...where I proceeded to order a hot chocolate...) starting snowing partway through, but the sun emerged near the end of the tour. It was cool because one of the places we walked through, Odeonsplatz, we later saw featured in some indie movie that was on TV.

After the tour we walked through a cute little market, where I posed by some pretty flowers and some angry woman scolded me and said "NO PHOE-TOES". Funny how that seems to be a universally known phrase in every country. We also walked up a tower at Peterskirche which, per my count was 307 steps but according to Eddie, 295, and according to real facts, was 306 steps (WINNER WINNER WINNER :D )... There were some great views of Munich from here, but unfortunately a cage preventing us from getting any Cynthia-approved couple photos. Still got a nice self photo with the New Town Hall, as well as a view of some traditional Bavarian buildings, which I love!

New City Hall
Bavaria! (Old City Hall)
We headed down from the tower, and my butt and thighs were convinced  that I'd done about 500 squats after so many steps! We ate lunch at Augustiner Beerhaus, which is just one of the many beer houses there are in Munich. This was one of the best parts of Munich... getting to taste an array of beers that were all made right there in the city. Our waitress wasn't the kindest nor the most patient lady, but we had a good meal and some good beer!

Next, we took a hike to visit the Alte
Pinakothek art museum. I was super excited because it's one of the top rated things to do in Munich, but we came at a baaaad time because half of the museum is under renovation! Famous artists like Rubens, Rembrandt, El Greco, da Vinci...all their stuff happened to be in the part that was closed. It was still great to wander around an art museum, though!

We ended the night with a soccer match!!!!!!!!!...on television. I wanted to watch some German soccer but Bayern Munchen wasn't playing in town that weekend, so we watched it on the big screen at a local bar! It's fun to compare the different level of emotion expressed by football fans across Europe. In Spain, it's nonstop old men cursing at the screen for ninety minutes of soccer. In Munich, the fans would cheer loudly after a goal for a solid 20 seconds, then resume their normal seated positions. To each their own!

Day 2: Neuschwanstein Castle!

This was perhaps one of my favorite days of our whole three-city trip. We were off to visit the castle that inspired the Disneyland castle! We loaded up on German pastries then got on a train where we trekked two hours westward toward Fussen, Germany. The landscape grew continually more mountainous the further we went. Once we arrived at the train station, snow capped mountains were all around us. After a short bus ride, we arrived at the cutest village that sits beneath the castle! And we saw this beauty looming high above us :)
My house

I should really be more clear and note that there are actually two castles that we visited in this same area. The first one is Hohenschwangau, and it is...basic. Look at me, a snooty little princess-wannabe saying that Hohenschwangau castle isn't good enough lololool. It's just not as magical looking as Neuschwanstein. And I think that is a fair judgement. See for yourself!
Hohenschwangau Castle
Since we were in the village anyway, we did visit Hohenschwangau, which was a quick 10 minute climb up the hill, and another quick 25 minute guided tour. We then walked the 20 minutes up the mountain to Neuschwanstein, where all the magic happens! It's a beauuuutiful castle, but it's surrounded by thick woods so there aren't super great angles for me to pose like a princess and pretend that I own the castle, but we still managed to get some other good shots!

Loved the mountains surrounding the castle!

A carriage ride down from the castles

We were exhausted after going to the castle, but we had to muster the energy and intelligence for the last task of the night...HintQuest!! This was a really nerdy but thoroughly enjoyable experience... it's a live escape game, so, pretty much the hosts of the game lock us in a room with no directions other than "look for the clues and solve the puzzles and you'll find out how to escape". I've never done anything like it, so it was awesome! I can't go into details of the procedure, because that could ruin the surprise for other people, but if anyone is curious just ask me about it in person :)

Day 3: Relaxin'

Our last day we packed up our stuff and headed out for a couple more stops in Munich. First up was Paulaner am Nockherberg! This is the place where the famous Oktoberfest takes place! We ate at the restaurant, where I got to try the dark beer that was currently in season. Not my favorite German beer, but I drank it all anyway. It was finally a nice, warm, sunny day and it was great to just veg out on the terrace of the restaurant. We left this place around 3pm...and we noticed that many traditionally dressed young people were starting to fill the main plaza area. Munich has the famous Oktoberfest at the end of September, but in March, when we were there, they have a "Starkbierfest", or a dark beer festival. Essentially the same idea as Oktoberfest, but on a smaller scale. So all these people were starting up the party at 3pm!

We ended our time in Munich with an afternoon stroll in Englischer Garten. We got some ice cream, listened to some music, and sat in the sun. This huge park and the activities going on there reminded me a lot of Grinnell's Mac Field during the Spring. People were sprawled out on blankets, others were playing frisbee, having a picnic, or sharing a brew! It was great and made me somewhat nostalgic.

This was our last stop in Munich, and it was perfect. We slowly made our way to the airport for our late night flight to Barcelona...where I was to be reunited with my sisters after seven months of not having seen them!!