Saturday, October 17, 2015

another summer in europe...


my summer days exploring the rich histories of europe have once again come to an end...i've struggled to write a true conclusion of my trip because i know it signifies a return to the everyday grind of life back home.  but conclude i must, for it resets the countdown of anticipation for the next adventure to be had! so...

welcome reader, to the end of another summer in europe...

over the course of 29 days,  i logged:

6 countries   15 cities   548, 219 steps  and  252 miles

at about that halfway mark, two weeks in, i began to map out what a life in europe might look like...finally conquering spanish as a second language?  adjusting to mandatory 6 week vacations? embracing a culture that favors the experiences of life?  there's so much i love about europe, and my final days spread over germany, denmark and sweden helped me reflect on why...

i was heartbroken to leave prague, i did not spend nearly enough time exploring the richness of arguably one of europe's most beautiful cities.  it defines everything i see when i close my eyes and picture what a european city is.  two days just wasn't enough to take it all in...but thats just how it goes sometimes...

12 hours in berlin, germany

      rappers delight for ze germans entertainment  :)

                                                                                german salsa dancing lessons.  
                                                                     set along the spree river that cuts through berlin


i boarded a train headed for berlin, germany, my first time entering europe's economic powerhouse.  and although i had only spent two days in prague (not including a full day on the train from vienna, so really three days) i had actually stolen those days from time i had planned to spend in berlin.  so what to do with only 12 scheduled hours in the german capital?  karaoke of-course  :)  my host nadine picked me up at the train station, and we went straight to karaoke, with my full travel bag sitting in the backseat of the car!


5 days in hamburg, germany

i hosted randi & antonia 2 years ago in la  :)

i was worn out, exhausted of travel by the time i'd reached hamburg and my two incredible friends randi & antonia.  i was so tired, but so happy to be seeing these two again, now in their home city.  here is a look back at when we all met during their visit to los angeles!  and now it was my turn to explore their town...

randi was head deep in polishing off her master's thesis so
antonia chauffeured me around by bike that day  :) 

2 days in copenhagen, denmark

bottom left:  on the way from hamburg to copenhagen,
they put the train on a BOAT!  it was insane

i was a week away from returning home, and no matter where i went, or what i did, in seven days i had to be at the airport in stockholm, sweden to board my flight back to the u.s.  during my final hours in hamburg, i was still debating between a quick stop in amsterdam ( you know, just because it's amsterdam) or a more relaxing stay in copenhagen.  stockholm is quite a bit north from the rest of europe, about 12 hours by train/boat (literally train-boat combination, still can't believe that one...they really put a train inside of a boat).  and while amsterdam sounded great, it was out of the way and would have made for a 16 hour trek back to stockholm  :/    copenhangen was on the way to stockholm and made for the reasonable choice...and when i'm tired, i default to reasonable.

up until this time, i was blessed with friends and hosts who opened their homes to me.  they shared meals, walks, laughs, drinks and meaningful conversations and i am deeply grateful to them!   copenhagen was the first time in 24 days of travel that i would be staying in formal accommodation, 'urban house' hostel in the city center.  during a free walking tour my first day, i befriended 2 londoners and we explored more of the city after the tour!  including copenhagens famous free-town, christiana.  it's a counter-culture community thats 'seperated' itself from the reaches of goverment, definitely worth visiting if you make your way to copenhagen  :)


3 days in stockholm, sweden

my 2nd full day, i walked nearly 20 miles around stockholm!

a friend from home, growing up in washington, alexis, had made a move over to stockholm, and i knew i couldn't miss an opportunity to be so close and not catch up!  i arrived in stockholm on sept. 4th, my flight leaving on monday the 7th.  i spent the next 2 days exploring the different islands of this beautiful city, and one in-particular 'djurgården'.  i stumbled upon the coolest little snail, who offered a solid 45 minutes of entertainment.  alexis had given me a few pointers of where to go, the royal palace, city hall, boat tours, vasamuseet (old war ships, so awesome!).  one of my favorites was 'fotografiska' a contemporary photography museum.  excellent exhibits, large prints with dedicated space and amazing views of the city...


catching up with old friends on the other side of the world!  on monday morning,
hours before my long trek home, we met for breakfast and discussed the last 6 or
so years of our lives since we'd last met  :)

as i wrap up these last few moments of joy and reflection on this years summer tour, i think about what impacted me the most over these 4 incredible weeks...and it always comes back to the people i've encountered and the friendships that have been built with them.

anouk and the keller family for an unforgettable week in switzerland, katy for lunch in lausanne, beat for the best of zurich, jeanny and inga for such great company in vienna, jana for sharing your love of prague, nadine for berlin condensed, randi & antonia...so much love to you :)  and alexis for a warm breakfast on such a cold nordic day!

thank you to everyone that helped ensure this adventure was so memorable...with no plans for whats next, and really no timetable, my future adventures look brighter than ever  :)  


thanks for reading!

- germy




Sunday, August 30, 2015

Germy in Praha!

despite my great hopes that the carefully crafted words personifying these pages will in some way connect the reader to my experiences...i couldn't possibly find the words to describe my deep love and affection for the incredibly stunning beauty and aura of prague...

 welcome to the 3rd country of my 2015 summer tour of europe;

 praha, czech republic!

a nearly panoramic view of the city from prague castle!

with my travels officially halfway through, i started a game of roulette with the cities i could possibly tour during the 14 or so days of adventure i had remaining.  the clouds and rain of switzerland had nearly driven me to a pit stop in italy, where i could have found some sun along the shores of the mediteranean...and multiple comments from friends had me to believe that prague wouldn't be too much different than vienna (my last stop). so it could be skipped if time was short...

but alas, my instincts led me to prague, and it's one of the most important and satisfying decicions concerning travel (and photography) that i've ever made...


me with my host jana (bottom left) and another traveler she was hosting yi-hsin
(bottom right). yi-hsin was hitchhiking through europe for a month,
with the help of  hitchwiki.org

my host, jana, was so kind and generous in her hospitality. the love she has for her city came through in the many small, finer details she showed me during our strolls through the city streets.

among the many kind things jana offered, two stand out as truly impactful...one, she made an authentic czech dish for dinner one night, of potato/bacon frittata with salad (pictured above, top right). and two, she outlined a walking tour of prague that i would come to treat as a bible. a route so incredibly perfect, that i would end up following it's nearly 10 mile course...twice


  day 1: blue line      day 2: green line     map: gtsincoming.cz
i began each walk on the red star, and ended on the black pentagon.

i started my first full day (blue line) a bit behind schedule, and only made it about 75% through the total route before meeting up with jana for drinks and a few games of pool after she'd finished work! 

i was so stunned by what i'd seen of the city over the 5-6 hours spent exploring it's unique history and design...as we made our way back home, my mind began to craft a mission...


14th century church in prague's old town. the pražský orloj
(prague astronomical clock tower) can be seen to the left.
it was a well planned early morning mission that allowed for
tourist-free photo's like this :)

i was overwhelmed by the opportunities to capture such an array of aesthetic architecture. but i felt limited in my ability to expose the true beauty of the city...with so many tourists and local residents walking here and standing there, the impact of seeing the architecture in it's complete form was hopeless...

i decided with a good nights rest, i would trek out for an early morning attack on the bricks and mortar stacked by men of history. as it often happens while traveling, the 'good nights sleep' aspect fell through, and i shut my eyes around 1:00AM, with an alarm set to go off in 3 hours...

a view of prague's old town square, chrám matky boži před týnem
(church of our lady before tyn). 
the 14th century structure highlights this frame.


view from karlův most (charles bridge). by now i was racing against 
the rising sun. and not just for tourist-free photographs,
but to also squeeze out the best lighting early mornings have to offer!

zahrady pražského (lower gardens below prague castle)

another view from karlův mos.
the sun was growing more intense as it inched up the sky.

tower of pražský orloj (the prague astronomical clock)

by 5:00AM i was in the city center, sprawled out, face down and hugging centuries old cobblestone. the previous days walk had given me a logistical map of which targets i would focus on. i expected a small window of time between the morning's best light, and when the first people would begin to make their way into the streets to start their day...

by the time i'd hit karlův most (charles bridge) around 7:00AM, i was no longer guaranteed the pleasure of a clean frame...but i was drunk with satisfaction, stupefied by aesthetic and exhausted beyond belief.  i took the metro back to jana's, napped until noon, and went back out to the city center to complete the rest of the most perfect walking tour, with happiness and leisure  :)

i honestly feel fortunate to have had the privilege to capture the city in such an intimate setting. the weather, not having been the most reliable over the last weeks, was holding strong over that early morning and through the rest of my time in prague.

if you ever have the opportunity to make a stop in prague, i highly recommend taking it.  for it's beauty and other striking assets, it's surprisingly very budget friendly when it comes to expenses.  beer is typically cheaper than water, and a full meal will run you about 100 crowns (about $4 usd today).  i was quite sad to leave the city on the train bound for my next stop, germany.  but i was also so happy to have seen and experienced all that i had in the the two full days i was here.  


during those two days, my adventure totals continued to rise. you can see the calculated totals below:

totals:     17 days     10 cities     3 countries     328,000 steps     160 miles


as my time abroad dwindles, the overall satisfaction with my tour solidifies more with every passing second.  thank you to my host jana for giving me more than i could have ever expected from praha, and thank you to the rich history and people of what i can say is truly one of my favorite cities.

the final stops on my tour are still to be determined...the game of euro city roulette carries on!  but next up...germany!

until next time, ahoj praha, guten tag berlin!

thanks for reading,

-germy

********** bonus material **********


an organ player in one of the many churches sat to practice on a tuesday afternoon...



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Germy in Wien!

 hallo from, wien (vienna), austria! hello reader and welcome to country #2 of my 2015 summer euro tour! after an 8 hour train ride from zurich, i stepped onto the platform in a brand new station with fresh feet, ready to tackle another european teasure…


on the danube river, running through the heart of wien         photo:  jeanny prüger

as i start my first full day in a new city, my mission is usually pretty simple: take my camera, find the architecture, and go… but the 3 days i spent in wien didn’t fit that typical adventuring format… to me, i can at times, operate my life quite independently of others; isolation and crippling shyness define my personality well.  but not in vienna…architecture and the patient hunt for aesthetically sound photographs gave way to drinks, food, laughter and dancing!

my host jeanny and i at empress sisi’s castle schönbrunn palace  (photo: inga mau)      

a dear friend from vienna, jeanny, was my incredible host in the heart of the city. i gave a small tour of los angeles to her and a few other au pairs working in berkeley, california over a year ago…and now, the time had come for me to see her city! also an avid photographer, jeanny has given me a rare gift during my visit here…photos of myself! photos of me drinking, eating, laughing, dancing, and all in all just having a damn good time in vienna :)

so, foregoing the usual cityscapes and history that can dominate these pages, lets indulge in something a little lighter this time!

enjoy!


ok, so just a little bit of architecture above, 
but even that was blocked by fun and entertainment
(see the giant movie screen blocking the structure on the bottom?!)  

jeanny took us on a walking tour of the city center after finishing work. we stopped by the parlament building (spelled correctly), city hall and the gardens of city hall. we also made our way to hofburg castle, a tourist staple, and a super relaxing river beach bar along the historic danube river!


food isn’t usually a top priority for me while traveling.
but jeanny insisted on a hearty austrian made breakfast each morning

breakfast #1 (not pictured, eaten too fast) european style pancakes (crepes) with honey, raspberry, blueberry, yogurt, and nutella. breakfast #2, pictured top left: austrian kaiserschmarren, similar to american french toast, but the dough is made from scratch, hmmmmmm! i also hunted down some peanut butter, which is not a common european food piece and snacked on it as the american delicacy that it is…pinky’s up!!

additionally, pictured above (bottom right) is the single most disgusting dish austrians equate to a meal…some type of diced ham, hardened in fat with an egg topping…(name: i didn’t want to know)

we also treated ourselves to austrian beer made by a local brewery, ottakringer, just steps from jeanny’s flat. and a tasty traditional austrian sandwhich: leberkäse semmel (thickly cut ham between a sliced roll)

jeanny jordan!
how austrians take out the trash!



another former au pair in berkeley, inga, from germany was visiting jeanny as well.
 it’s such an incredible feeling to see friends i’ve met in the u.s.
 and explore another city with them on the other side of the world :)


prater amusement park!

a night spent roaming around vienna’s prater amusement park: http://www.prater.at


another end of the day spent on the danube river, before heading out 
for a night on the town!  have you ever danced so hard, and for so long, 
that you can wring out your shirt on the train ride home?
(top right!)


my 3 days in vienna were documented so well in the smiles and laughs above. thank you for these memories jeanny (and inga!), it will be impossible to forget how much fun and adventure can be squeezed into 72 hours :) 

despite the vienna city capers, the step count and mile totals continue to rise: 

totals:     14 days     9 cities     2 countries     257,000 steps     136 miles


my next adventure, country #3, will be in prague, czech republic. i’m anxious to discover the rich history of this uber central european city, and to once again, dive into the beautiful architecture of the past!

quf wiedersehen wien! ahoj prague!


thanks for reading!


- germy

***************  bonus material  ***************



Friday, August 21, 2015

Germy in Suisse!


bonjour, hallo & ciao from the motherland! welcome reader to the first stop of my 2015 summer euro tour. it's with a great smile that i sit to document my many adventures in switzerland.

focmaps.com
10 days, 8 cities, 167,000 steps rounding out at 100 miles on foot :)

to say that i explored the lands of my great great grandparents doesn't do my feet (nor my pf flyers) justice. every step was a reminder of the many years i spent longing for the day i'd actually be here. although i often found myself taking much needed mid-day snoozes, i promise you, i took full advantage of each and every hour i had.

because of our flight path over the artic, 
i didn't experience darkness for well over 30 hours

the adventure began in earnest with the 20 hour flight to my first city, geneva. we flew over greenland and the artic ocean with stunning views of blinding white glaciers.

a friend i hosted in los angeles last year, anouk, was my incredible host during the time i had in the french speaking west end of switzerland. as i made my way through swiss customs, it was so nice to see a familiar face smiling back at me on the other side of the world!


my wonderful swiss host in geneva, anouk! 
thank you to the entire keller family for your kindness and hospitality :)

during the 5 days i had under the care of the keller family, i was absolutley humbled with generosity and comfort. with anouk on summer holidays, she was kind enough to guide me around the various cities i had on my list.

Geneva

a day spent in geneva, biking around the city and swimming in it's beautiful lake. 
there's a unique collide between two rivers in the center collage above; 
one comes from the lake (blue) the other from the mountains (brown). 
we also made a stop at the U.N. Europe HQ! (top left)

Lausanne


an afternoon spent in lausanne is an afternoon spent on the stairmaster...the city is built on hills, big, exhausting, endlessly beautiful hills! lausanne is across from geneva on lac leman (lake geneva) and another friend i hosted in los angeles calls it her home. katy met up with me and anouk during her lunch break and we sat in the park, catching up on life :) we were also surpised by an impromptu street performance from a band outside lausanne's large cathedral!

La Chaux De Fonds (home village)


my 3rd day in switzerland was ambitous. 3 cities and 5 trains later, i will have seen my home village, la chaux de fonds (above) along with the swiss capital (bern) and ending the day with a stay in the swiss alps (anzere). we spent 3 hours on a walking tour through la chaux de fonds which included a stop at the international watch museum. it's not just my roots that draw me to swiss time pieces, it's the craftsmanship and precision that intrigue me...it was an incredible feeling and privilage to walk the streets in the village of my great great grandparents :)


Bern (swiss captial)


a pleasantly rainy day in the swiss captial! we stumbled upon the U.S. Embassy and i also fell in love with a beautiful wenger watch...it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase a swiss watch in none other than the swiss capital, but to have an instant connection with the piece as well (think harry potter and his wand!) was beyond meaningful.

Anzere (swiss alps!)


unfortunatley, most all of my time in switzerland was accompanied by clouds and rain. although it didn't stop me from enjoying my experience, it did prove for some sub-par images :/ but none tops the rainiest, cloudiest, foggiest conditions like my time in the swiss alps! just outside of sion, a mountain community (anzere) was where i spent 2 nights and a full day covered in the densest mist i've ever seen. we hiked 12 miles rountrip to a beautiful lake that we knew we weren't actually going to be able to see...but the hike (and the 50 ft. radius we could see from any given angle) was still a blast!

Zurich

my experience in zurich would not have been nearly 
as memorable without the amazing host i now consider a good friend.

my zurich host, beat, gave me a guided tour of zurich each night after finishing work. we walked by his favorite places in his beloved city, where tourists rarely venture. he lent me his bike for a strenuous uphill trek to a panoramic view of zurich and it's lake from atop uetilberg. but depsite the shocking views of the city and the surrounding swiss alps, my favorite part of zurich was being treated to the finest local meal of  zurich geschnetzeltes (small pieces of veal cooked in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce). thank you for your unrelenting hospitality and kindness beat! people like you make the world a much better place :)

Einsiedeln

einsiedeln was a suggestion from my host, beat. i mentioned that 
i wanted a small village atmostphere and his recommendation was spot on! 
i took beat's bike and cycled around a large lake, discovered an enormous monestary, 
summer ski jumping, and two cows i'd now call my friends :)

Luzern

luzern was another suprise visit on my list, and another succesful suggestion from beat. 
it was the 8th and final city to round off my tour of switzerland.

i've now seen more of my home country switzerland than i have of my actual 'home' state of california. and to be honest, i'm totally happy with that! it's an experience i dreamt of as a child, and the time i've spent here has surpassed any expectations i could have possibly had growing up. 

it's a land that invests heavily in it's people, providing countless public spaces that you would actually want to use. in zurich, they have these amazing swimming areas embedded right in the river. docks line the edges with bars and restaurants, and jumping off the bridges is absolutley acceptable :)

it's difficult to imagine the distances i've walked and the many different cities i've managed to see. i even skipped venice, italy, scratched it right off the list, because i wanted, no... i needed more time in this country. although it's undoubtably the most expensive country i've toured so far (about $20 USD for a plate of delicious chow mein...no, not joking) it's people and culture have also been the kindest and most accepting of others.

up next is vienna (wien) and the country of austria! i'm looking forward to a new adventure and hopefully some improved weather!

to my hosts, anouk, the keller family and beat; you must know how incredibly special you've made my time in switzerland. for the memories i'll never forget, and the friends i'll always have, thank you!


thanks for reading!

- germy

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Germy in Europe 2!

231...this is roughly the number of days worked since mid-september of 2014.  it's now august, 2015 and 4 days separate me from a much anticipated second tour of europe!

august 10 - sept. 7  europe, summer 2015

the alluring history & rich culture of these countries themselves is enough to seduce anyone into a second go around.  but the potentially surprising detail that brought me back is...curiosity.

                                                          source:  swisswatchwire.com

as a child my mother used to mention every so often that her side of the family is swiss.  i knew from a young age that with my darker complexion, a trip pursuing long lost family might end in some awkwardness, but nonetheless, i always took great pride in my half-swiss roots.  to me, the swiss have always meant unparalleled craftsmanship and resolute neutrality.  two things i would be more than happy to have etched into my tombstone (joking, joking...please cremate me!).

i don't have a grand plan to quest after my relatives in the mother country, but i am adamantly curious about the land & culture of switzerland.  and so, it's switzerland where i begin...

i fear this may be your last big adventure old friend...

with my trusty backpack and sidekick adventure bag, i'm packing up a weeks supply of clothes to last for 30 days.  this bag has seen me through moments of paralyzing adrenaline and days of pure elation.  i've had her for 6 solid years, and i couldn't have asked for a better companion.  you're the reason i never have to check a bag, you fit my back like a glove, and you even double as a pillow when i'm desperate...but sadly, with holes in your meshes, and all but busted zipper cords, this may be our last great tour together dear backpack.  lets make it count!

while switzerland is the main attraction, i'm not taking a 19 hour flight with a 5 hour layover in moscow for a one stop tour...

- venice, italy
- vienna, austria
- berlin/hamburg, germany  (and)
- stockholm, sweden

these cities tentatively round off the remaining weeks. and with a eurail pass, my typically well-planned itinerary is not set in it's tracks.  i bought the rail pass for $800, and it allows for 10 full-day train rides, i.e. anywhere i can go (even switching multiple trains) within a 24 hour period counts as 1 day of riding!  28 european countries participate in the eurail pass, and with various packages for purchase, you're bound to find something in your budget.  my only stipulation is that i must use my 10 trips within 2 months...psshhh, done!

representing home with the red, white & blue  :)

as my closet continues to swell with adventure ridden pf flyers, yet another pair joins the collection as this summer's designated euro-tour kicks.  a new pair is vital to my ambitions of exploring 5 brand new cities on foot.  lets see how they hold up to the many miles we have in store together...


my brand new 24-70 f2.8 lense joins me this summer
to slay down europe's architecture once more!

and what would a euro tour be to a photographer without a camera!  sweeping architecture and breathtaking landscapes top my desires, but who knows whats to come...

i invite you to join me on my adventures as i document the beautiful aspects of human civilization and culture in central europe.  with well planned free time (and some luck), i'll be posting  my happenings in each destination along the way.  check-in mid-august for my first stop, switzerland!

to my friends, family and dear sasha for your love and support during this last season of work...
thank you!

i'm inexplicably blessed to once again passionately explore the world around me...


as always,

thanks for reading!

- germy