Germany Christmas Markets in Bavaria 

I got a second chance to go to Munich. I will never understand why I am so fond of German Christmas Markets. Maybe it is the cooler weather? Maybe the hot wine and food? Maybe the Christmas decorations found in the centre and markets? I do not know why? Maybe the German Christmas markets, I went to as a kid, back in Texas inspired me to visit real German markets?   

I  had a wonderful time exploring different markets in Munich and Nuremberg. The Christmas ornaments found in these markets are just stunning and beautiful.Most ornaments are hand crafted! Original pieces of work can go for a reasonable price. I see the ornaments a fine art. The colours, the design, and creativity into making an ornament. German Christmas ornaments are one of my favorite things to put on a Christmas tree. 
On top of the ornaments, I love the food and the drinks you find in these markets. Traditional foods found in these markets: glühwein (a hot wine), beer, sausage, German sweets, gingerbread, and much more. I want to focus on my favorite item called glühwein. It is a popular drink found at German Markets. Many markets have a special decorated cup. You pay a deposit for the cup. You can keep the cup as a souvenir or return the cup and get your deposit back. 
What is glühwein? This drink is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and at times vanilla pods. It is one of my favorite things to have while exploring German Christmas Markets. 
I love being in the centre of a German Christmas Market because there is so much going on at one time. From people buying items in stalls to hearing music or food cooking on a grill. I find these markets be very enjoyable. I look forward to seeing a German Christmas Market next year. Maybe in the Northern German? 

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Summer Update Mid Point of Stay

Everything is looking good. I’ve spent the last few weeks dealing with paperwork for going back to Spain. I’ve successfully got a new visa for the coming school year. I should be getting my passport back very soon.  I am still working on getting my FBI background check notarized and translated. At the moment, my FBI background check is in D.C. being notarized by the Department of State. I need to finish working on some last minute lose ties in the States.

I’ve spent time catching up with friends and families. It’s been nice enjoying Tex-Mex and margaritas. I saw my little half-sister for the first time in years. It was wonderful seeing her. I hope to continue to develop a relationship and maintain contact with her. I am looking forward to seeing more of family and friends in the coming weeks. I got a few trips planned.

I am looking forward to the coming week. I will be in Las Angeles for a week. I am looking forward to seeing some beaches and enjoying some cooler weather. I am a little tired of Austin and the heat. It will be nice to escape from Texas.  I got about 4 and half weeks left in the States. I am looking forward to spending time with my father and close friends.

Beaches nearby Marseille France to Visit During Your Holiday

I spent five days in Marseille, France, on a nice summer holiday. I enjoyed escaping from my busy life in Madrid. I needed this holiday because the past school year was a struggle for me. It was nice to go back to France and have a very enjoyable holiday. Southern, France, was just charming and amazing. I fell in love, again, with another place in Europe.

I flew into Marseille from Madrid. Marseille is more laid back and older than Paris. I found it to be easy to get from the airport to the city centre.There are a few options for getting to the city centre. It’s possible to catch a bus or a train to the city centre. Using either the bus or train will require an exchange to the metro; it is easy to find the metro system at the main train station. There are only two lines: the red line and the blue line. I only used the metro go to the city centre and back to the airport.

Marseille is a very easy to navigate on foot. It is possible to see this city in 2 and half days. Most major attractions cost nothing or a few euros. The museums are nice, but will cost more than 8 Euros. The beaches are the best part of this city.

The coastline of Southern France is just stunning. The limestone cliffs and the crystal clear water of the Mediterranean Sea are just remarkable. I’ve never seen anything as breathtaking as the Mediterranean Sea. During my holiday, I went to two major points of interest for swimming and beach time: Calanques National Park and the Island of Frioul. Both beaches were very rocky with beautiful clear water. These beaches put my native Texas beaches to shame. Just lovely beaches!

Calanques National Park is about a 45-minute bus ride from the city centre of Marseille. It’s easy to spot Bus # 21 in Plaza Castellane. Ride to the end of the line towards L’avenue de Prado. The bus drops off nearby a university. From the drop off point, it will take 45-minutes to reach the water. Hint: follow everyone walking towards the hiking trail. So worth the hike!

The scenery is very enjoyable to sit back and enjoy. The white cliffs and light blue water compliment each other. It’s possible to spend all day enjoying the beauty of this park. Before you go on a hike to this water, you need to have a good pair of walking shoes, your day bag together with provisions for the day, and other important items for your hike. The hike back up will be wearisome, but you will be thankful you spent the day swimming and enjoying the beach.

On another day, I spent half a day on the Island of Frioul. You can get to this island by a ferry from the Old Port in Marseille. There are various ferry companies that can get you out to the islands. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes from the Old Port. It costs about 10 Euros for a round trip ticket. The water was refreshing, so bring you swimwear with you.

When you get to the island, you can buy a cheap lunch at one of the sandwich shops. Grab some lunch and explore the island. There are many nice points and beaches to enjoy. I would suggest packing a day bag with all your essentials for the day. You will be tired by the time you get back to the Old Port. Get dinner and take a nap. Then get some wine and enjoy the evening in Marseille. The city is nice to walk around at night. Enjoy!

Marseille is not as famous as Nice, but tourist should consider adding Marseille to their list of places to visit during a holiday to Southern France. There were not as many tourists in this city compared to London or Barcelona. If you want few tourists, then go to Marseille for a holiday. Also, Marseille is a diver’s paradise. There are lots of options for chartered dives from Marseille. The water is just beautiful. I hope you were inspired to go to Marseille for the beaches. Just a beautiful place!

Summer 2016: July Update 1

I just returned from Spain. I will be back in the States for a total of 9 weeks. At the moment, I am focusing on getting my paperwork for my new visa done and other things taken care of while in the States. I recently applied for a tutoring job. I hope to tutor a few hours out the week, so I can have some pocket money. Also, I am trying to practice Spanish, review so German, and perp for the GRE. I am busy this summer. In a couple of weeks, I am going to Las Angeles for a week to visit a friend. 

An Emotional Visit to Auschwitz

On March 18th, 2016, I went to Auschwitz a concentration camp in Poland. The experience of visiting this concentration camp opened a door that showed the un-beautiful and evil side of humanity. I still can’t believe how recent the crimes that took place here happened. It was nearly 71 years ago when Auschwitz closed on January 27, 1945. The Red Army (the Soviets) liberated the prisoners of Auschwitz. I’ve read a lot on this topic.    Plus, I’ve watched many documentaries about World War II and Auschwitz. I have learned a lot, but all the learning I have done didn’t prepare me emotionally for my visit.  There isn’t anyway to emotionally prepare for a visit to Auschwitz. The emotions one will experience will be dark, depressing, and just shock.

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I experienced all kinds of different emotions while at Auschwitz. I was mainly in a state of shock during my visit. It’s one thing to watch or read about Auschwitz, but to be present at the crime scene where such evil was committed is a totally different level of emotion and realism. I couldn’t believe around nearly 1.1 million people were murdered at this concentration camp at the hands of the Nazis. It’s a massive camp with smaller sister camps nearby. For me two exhibits set everything into reality: the room with all the shoes and the room with women’s hair of the murdered victims.The hair and shoes once belonged to a living person. A person with a name and life story that disappeared from this Earth in less than two hours to ash. No more and lost to time. GONE. To think this happened is a very eerie feeling and bone chilling.

All the torn and dusty objects on display still can’t help someone comprehend the large scale, for the mass destruction that took place at Auschwitz is unfathomable. One in six Jews who died in the Holocaust were murdered here, and more people died here than the British  and American lives lost during World War II combined. The life lost here is the highest in the history of mankind. It’s so high that I had a hard time trying to imagine the people lost. It’s impossible.

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As I was touring Auschwitz, I felt a heavy emotion of sadness over come me. I felt this way the whole time as I was walking around the concentration camp. This heavy emotion was like a dark rain cloud above me. Kinda of like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh with his little rain cloud that follows him around in the cartoon series. I can’t remember another time in my life where I felt such strong heartache and misery at one time. These emotions were deeper than spells of depression I have experienced in my life. When I was in my late teens to my early 20s, I had some very dark spells of depression that I had to wrestle through. It’s hard to describe such senses in writing. To feel these depressing emotions and to fully understand what I am explaining, one needs to make the trip to Auschwitz.

Many people call Auschwitz a museum, but to me it is more than a museum or memorial. It’s a cemetery to those who were murdered by the Nazis. There are no individual tombstones marking every single victim killed, but there are building remains from 1940-1945 and memorials setup as reminders of what happened to all the victims. The victims’ ashes were thrown in the nearby river or placed on the soil.

Going to Auschwitz is a form of paying your respects to the victims of the Holocaust and remembering the evil that was committed there. As mankind as a whole, we mustn’t forget these evil crimes committed. We need to remember what happened and never repeat such crimes. If we forget, we have set a destiny of repeating such tragic and horrendous crimes again to our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race.

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One thing that really annoyed me while I was at Auschwitz was the lack of respect had people had for this place. I saw a lot of people taken selfies with selfie sticks. Let me ask. Would you take a selfie with a dead loved one in their casket? The answer is probably no.I think it’s unacceptable to take selfies with selfie sticks at such a place.

I recall seeing people taking selfies with the entrance gate with the famous words Arbeit Macht Frei sign. Just made me sick seeing people take these pictures. Another incident was a person climbing over a chained off area to get a selfie with the remains of one of the crematoriums. Absolutely totally no respect for the victims of the Holocaust. Seeing people have no respect, made my stomach twist and turn. I was very sick seeing these people take out a selfie sticks and take pictures at Auschwitz. I definitely believe selfie stick should be banned at this location because it is a cemetery and memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

I do realize that humans react differently to events, stories, and ect. However, I still believe many people would experience the same kind of emotions I described above. I just do not understand how people could think it’s a great idea to take a selfie with the remains of a crematorium where innocent peoples’ corpses where burned and turned to ash. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think it’s very disrespectful to take pictures of this nature here.This was the only thing that made me very upset about others at this concentration camp. This is my only complaint. Now on to why everyone should visit Auschwitz.

I believe everyone should make the trip to Auschwitz. Why? Auschwitz shows mankind how evil and dark the human race has been. It’s an important reminder that humankind mustn’t tread in those waters again. Seeing Auschwitz shows the soul the dark side of human nature that is possible if one is allowed to do such horrid acts against their fellow brothers and sisters of the human race. We mustn’t forget where we have come from because if we forget we are doomed to repeat such atrocious acts. History can and will repeat itself, so it is our duty to be educated about the events of the past and not to forget what mankind has done.

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After this trip, I feel that I am better human because I have seen the remains of what happened at Auschwitz. Going to Auschwitz has been on the major life changing highlights of my life.  I am aware of the dark side of humankind and how this evil can act towards fellow humans. I pray we never enter this realm again. We must never forget what happened during the Holocaust.

Stockholm on the Cheap Side

Most travellers I have encountered, will say that going to Scandinavia is very expensive compared to Eastern Europe. I will agree that Scandinavia is very expensive, but a two day trip to Stockholm is more affordable than one would think. There are many tricks to keeping a two day holiday to Stockholm on the side of affordable.

First of all, I stayed a hostel in the city centre on the main island called Gamla Stan (Old Town). Seriously, it was worth sacrificing some privacy to have more money to spend on things like transport, museum admission, food, and souvenirs.  I spent close to €60.00 for two nights for the hostel. I spent about €30.00 for 2 days worth of food, student admission to the Vasa Museum €10.oo, street food €10.00, tip for the walking tour €3.00, admission to the Swedish History Museum €0.00, and 3 transport cards €8.00, roundtrip to and from the airport by coach €15.00, and €25.00 on souvenirs. That’s a total of €160.00 for two days in Stockholm, Sweden. I think that’s not too bad for a very expensive city in Europe.

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Stockholm is affordably if you buy food at the grocery store and cook mostly at your hostel.  If you want to eat out in Stockholm for cheap, forget looking at any of the menus placed outside the restaurants in Gamla Stan you will become shocked with the price. A low costing meal in this area will be about 200 Swedish Krona = Euros €21.54 for a basic lunch (sandwich and crisps) without a drink. It’s best to eat at your accommodation or pack your lunch for your day of exploring.

Another way to eat out and not feel the burn in your wallet is to buy a hotdog or a doner kebab at a food stall on the street. Hotdogs or a doner kebabs should cost around 79- 120 Swedish Krona=  €8.51- €12.92 Euros. Not too bad for someone else preparing your food, but the bottom line is that food and drinks are super expensive in Stockholm.

During my time in Stockholm, I did not order alcoholic drinks at all. Going out in Stockholm is super expensive, so if you want to save money don’t go out here and save going out for another city that’s cheaper. Maybe Lisbon? Bucharest? Prague? Krakow? Super cheap compared to Stockholm.

Attractions in this city can be expensive too, so research and pick wisely what you want to do. I went to two museums the Vasa Museum and the Swedish History Museum. The Vasa Museum houses a preserved 17th century ship and artefacts from the ship wreck. Very nice museum to visit. The Swedish History Museum gave me a lot of insight about the history of Sweden. Plus, it’s free to visit and a five minute walk from the Vasa Museum.  I love museums and history. I believe both museums are worth seeing.

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I explored the Old Town by myself. The best way to describe the Old Town is that it’s a glorious labyrinth of charming cobbled streets, alleyways, faded mustard and rust coloured town houses and meeting squares reflecting north German architecture. I love the Old Town because of how old it is, the small cobbled streets, and the architecture. I went to the royal palace, the German Church,  the world’s oldest bank, the Nobel Prize Museum, and many other highlights. I still find it hard to believe that the Old Town was once considered the slum of Stockholm (from mid 19th-20th century)  and how it is now a highly sought after address.

I went on a free walking tour too. I love free walking tours because you tip based on what you think the tour was worth to you. Plus, your tour guide usually is a local and keeps you entertained for the duration of the walking tour. Usually, the tour guide has a lot of information about the city he/she is guiding you around in.  I had a lovely guide that was a student and showed us a lot of major highlights that I would have never learned important facts about these spots on my own. He was great because he was very entertaining and had a lot to tell us about his hometown of Stockholm. Towards the end of the tour, he gave us great advice on affordable good coffee shops on Gamla Stan (old town) where all the locals go for coffee. Unfortunately, I did not have time to check out these coffee shops. I think getting coffee in the Old Town would have been lovely.  I always recommend free walking tours.

Stockholm by far is one of the safest European cities I have been to by myself. I can’t rave enough how safe I felt in Stockholm. I would defiantly recommend this city to any solo female traveller out there. I never felt that I was in danger of being  harmed or harassed. It was so nice to walk around the streets and feel comfortable.  There are other reasons why I love this city and want to go back someday.

Stockholm is a unique city because the city centre is built on 14 small islands on the Baltic Sea. I think Stockholm looks amazing in any season. I think it’s fascinating how you have to use ferries to get to some other parts of the city. Stockholm is a small city compared to Paris, London, or Barcelona.  According to my online search, there are around 909,976 people living in the municipality ,approximately 1.4 million in the urban area,and 2.2 million in the metropolitan area of Stockholm.

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I believe the city is very walkable, well connected, and easy to navigate. I did not get lost at all during my time in Stockholm. I will also note that my mobile phone’s SIM card was locked and so I didn’t have a working mobile for most of my holiday (I will write more about that experience in another blog). I knew my way around Stockholm in a couple hours after the free walking tour and just exploring on my own. Stockholm is amazing on foot or by ferry. I had a wonderful time exploring the city. I hope to return again in the future. When I return to Sweden, I want to get out of Stockholm and see Gothenburg and other places.

 

Bucharest Romania’s Capital and Transylvania

When people say they are going on holiday to Europe, most people think of going to popular places such as London, Paris, or Barcelona. Most American tourist don’t usually think of Romania as a place to spend their holiday. I got to spend a weekend in Bucharest and a day in Transylvania. I enjoyed how cheap this holiday was for me compared to my to visits to cities like  Munich, London, Paris, or Barcelona.

I still can’t believe how cheap this trip was compared to my other holidays in Europe. My accommodations only cost me 27 Euros for three nights. Food was so cheap too! At the time of my holiday, the 1 Euro got me 4.65 Romanian Leu. I had 50 Romanian Leu left over from my trip that I kept as a little souvenir. In a couple of years, the Romanian Leu will no longer exist because Romania is in the process of going to the Euro. Another reason to go now is because of how cheap it is to visit on the USD or the Euro. 12705433_10153589724814024_5652674921384820730_n.jpg

When Comparing my other holidays in Europe, I didn’t see as many tourist in Bucharest as I did in other major European cities. This was a treat for me because sometimes I become overwhelmed with too many people around me. It was very nice to have a change. This is another good reason to go to Romania. I believe Romania is often over looked as a place to visit because it is in Eastern Europe and not as popular as other destinations in Western Europe.

What to do in Bucharest? I kept myself very busy.  I spent my weekend exploring beautiful old orthodox churches, seeing the Palace of Parliament, enjoying the Old Town in the city centre, and just getting lost in Bucharest. I think Bucharest is cleaner than Madrid, Spain, where I have been living for close to two years now. I became a big fan of Victorian architecture, the mark the Communist era left, and the grunge vibe.  I like how all these themes can be found in Bucharest. This makes the city unique to over cities in Europe.

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I got to get out of Bucharest for a day to go visit a Romanian palace and the famous fortress where Dracula lived in the world renown region called Transylvania. I like this region of Romania because the people in this area still believe in witchcraft and old folklore. Plus, the area is covered with forest and mountains.The little villages that are found in this area still look like little medieval villages. In a way, I felt as if I went back in time to the Medieval Ages. I went on a day tour from the capital and went to three major points of interest: Dracula’s Castle, the city of Brașov, and my favourite the Peles Palace12688052_10153585814219024_5128288122318918900_n.jpg

Peles Palace is amazing because of the German influence the royal family incorporated into the building. The architecture is amazing. There’s a lot of wood used on this building that adds to the beauty of the building. I haven’t seen a palace like this one in any other part of Europe.  The inside was beautiful, but you had to pay a silly tax to take pictures and wear blue plastic shoe covers inside. I think the outside is best part of this building. It was built in the 1870s by King Carol I as a summer palace for the royal family. Today nobody lives there. If you come to Romania, book a day trip to Transylvania and you won’t regret your choice to visit this beautiful region.  If you have the time, you should go to Romania for a quick visit. 12670229_10153586639164024_7772893915103208041_n.jpg