Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Munich, Füssen, Salzburg, & Dresden

We have some train time from Prague to Berlin, so I though I would catch up with you guys a little.

Munich was cold (have you noticed a theme to my blogs about Europe?), but fun. We went to a sweet technology museum that has pretty much everything ever invented. Jason and I both thought that the coolest things were the first machines. Maybe we've been living in a land of limited electricity too long, but the stuff they could do using water pressure was amazing! I also really liked the glass blowing part. There was a guy sitting there making beautiful wine goblets with a big blowtorch.

While we were walking around we spotted this statue and I just couldn't resist... Those of you from AR know what I'm talking about!

Calling the Hogs!

I love bread, I always have. In Germany I have discovered a new love – the soft pretzel. In Munich I saw something that made my heart skip a beat – a GIANT soft pretzel . It was amazing :)

On our last day in Munich we went over to see a really cool castle around 11 in the morning. When we got there I realized that it was not the castle that I thought we were going to. (It was the Schloss Nymphenburg and the other one was the Schloss Neuschwanstein – an honest mistake...) The Schloss Nymphenburg was huge and beautiful, but it was just in the middle of the city. The one I had wanted to see was the one that Walt Disney patterned his castle after – on a big mountain with towering spires.

We were planning on traveling to Saltzberg that day and our tickets are only limited to 5 days of traveling, not five trips. We checked the guide book and the city with Schloss Neuschwanstein wasn't too far south of Munich, so we decided to go. We took a few quick pictures and went back to the train station. (I'll have Jason post some of the pictures because we didn't take them with my camera)

When we got to the station we found out that the next train to Füssen was leaving in about 11 minutes. We talked about it quickly and decided it would work, but then we remembered that our bags were still at the hostel. We tore out of the train station and ran to the hostel (a few blocks away) as fast as we could. We grabbed the bags and ran back to the train station only to arrive 3 minutes after the train left. The cold dry air was such a shock to my lungs that when we got to the platform I almost died from an asthma attack (or at least that's what it felt like... hehe).

We waited for the next train and got to Füssen a little after 4. We didn't get to the castle ticket office until 4:40 and she said that the only remaining castle tour in English was at 5:50. Perfect! The only problem was that the bus that would've taken us up to the castle wasn't working. Remember how I said the castle was on top of a huge hill... We busted it up the hill, running as much as we could, and it took us about 25 minutes to get to the top. Then we relaxed and took some pictures before the tour. When the tour started we found out that we couldn't take any pictures inside the castle at all, so Jason lugging his 15 pound backpack all the way up the hill might have been a mistake.

Jason took some really cool pictures of the outside, but I thought I would show you a few of mine just as a little preview.

This is the view from the castle. It was a pretty hazy day, so the picture's not awesome. I told you it was really high up!

This is part of the outside.

The marble on the castle was really beautiful.

The castle was definitely worth it. It was nice to walk around, take some pictures, and relax outside while we waited for the tour so that we could go in. The inside of the castle was amazing! I am still bummed that we didn't get to take any pictures! Every single surface of everything was painted or carved or somehow intricately designed. I can't even imagine how much work went into it.

Unfortunately the tour group ahead of us was a huge private group and they took a long time so our tour was slowed down a lot. Near the end Jason and I realized that we had less than half an hour before the bus that would take us to from the part of town the ticket office was in to the part of town our train was going to leave from. We tore out of the castle and ran back down that huge hill. We got to the bus station breathless and shaky-legged, but we beat the bus by about 3 minutes. We got to the train on time and we were on our way to Salzburg.

In the middle of the journey we had to change trains and while we were waiting I noticed some peanut M&M's in the vending machine. I marched over and deposited my 60 cents, but the candy got stuck. No problem I thought, I'll just buy another bag and the two will fall together. I counted up the rest of my change and it was only 58 cents . Jason banged on the machine to no avail. I was about to give up, but I decided to see if a gentle body slam might loosen my precious snack. Sure enough, it wiggled a little. I think I slammed into the machine about 15 times, but at last I was victorious!

Because of our detour we didn't get in to Salzburg until just before midnight. We had a hostel booked, so we went to the tram platform. Our hostel was on the other side town and at this point we discovered that all of the public transportation in Salzburg shuts down just before midnight... We lugged our bag around to about 7 hotels within walking distance of the train station and all of them were full, so at 2 am we just went back to the train station to wait until 5 when the trams started running again. That was literally the coldest three hours of my life!

We listened to some podcasts and we got to chat with some nice people at the station, but we didn't get any sleep. At 5 am we locked our bags in a locker and jumped on a bus to warm up and see some of the city. The warm bus made us very tired and we were both asleep when we got back to the train station. We tried another bus and we stayed awake for a little bit, but after a few minutes we dozed off again. When we got back to the train station the second time we found a bakery and got some food and coffee and then hit the town.

I am sure that our experience was slightly tainted by the freezing night at the train station, but Salzburg wasn't really that great. We didn't go on any tours or see any of the Mozart stuff, so I'm sure there were a lot of things that we missed out on. We really just ran around on the busses for the morning and took some pictures along the river that runs through town. By lunch time we were ready to get back to Germany. We took a train back to Munich and then on to Dresden. We slept a lot on that train, and it was lovely!

A few shots in Salzburg

The mountains were pretty amazing!

Dresden was awesome, probably my favorite city so far. Most of the time we were there it was cold and rainy, but it was still cool. There were lots of interesting old buildings, our hostel was nice, the transportation system was German (which is way better than anyone else's), but the highlight was the Hot Spoon. It was a soup restaurant close to our hostel and we shared several bowls there on different occasions.

Here is a picture of Jason in love :)

We used the all-you-can-ride day passes for the city public transportation systems in other cities, but we got the most use out of it in Dresden. Because it was raining we saw tons of the city from the trams. At 6 euro for the two of us for the day it was the cheapest tour ever. Sometimes I was not that great at reading the map, so we got lost several times which just meant that we saw even more of Dresden.

One place where we did hop off the tram and walk around was an old palace in the middle of town.

This is just one of the buidlings. There were several in this same style all in a big square.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the places that we stayed, but this hostel room in Dresden was so cute I had to snap a few.

Here is our room. It was a six bed dorm. (I was sitting on the other pair of bunks)

And here is the view out the window. Pretty nice, huh?

All-in-all we are having a great time. I'll blog about Prague later, but right now I'm a little tired.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Clothes

Written on Tuesday morning:

Right now we are riding on a super fast ICE train heading from Stuttgart to Munich. We are excited to see a new city, but also very sad to leave Anna. We had a really great time! We had dinner at her parents' house on Saturday and then we went to a concert. After breakfast we spent most of Sunday in Tübingen, which is a beautiful old German city.

Anna and I enjoying some hot cocoa in Tübingen

Then we had dinner with her parents again (so good!!!!!), and on Monday we spent the day shopping and hanging out in the town where she lives, Karlsruhe. She told us a little about Germany (including some tips about train travel) and she steered us toward some pretty excellent German food.

I think that I have mentioned that it's cold here... We didn't exactly have clothes fit for the blustery chill to bring with us, so yesterday we went clothes shopping with Anna. She took us to a second-hand shop and I got a sweet ski jacket for 8 euros! I am snuggled up in it as I'm typing this, and I love it. Jason got a jacket, a sweater, and a nice shirt (all for quite cheap), so he's feeling good too.

After that we got some wonderful German food and then we went to the one euro store (like the dollar store). I was looking for mittens, but they didn't have any. It was actually Jason who made the real discovery. The only shoes that he has here are his Chacos. They are perfect for Africa, but his feet have been chilly here in the land of winter so we were checking around to see if we could pick up some cheap shoes. In the one euro store he purchased, not shoes, but toe socks. That's right. Jason is now walking around Germany in Chacos and toe socks. He is in love with them and he thinks that they have the magic power to make the crosswalk lights turn green. It works about 50% of the time, so I guess the jury's still out on that one.

The three of us with our new clothes.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Water and Ice Cream

I forgot to include two pictures that I had wanted to put in my blog about the trip. The day before we left I did a little bit of laundry and Jason took a picture of me scrubbing on the wash board. Humerously, the girl who cleans the guest rooms saw me washing and told me to stop so that she could get more soap. Then when she came back with the soap she just took over washing. When I told her I could do it she just laughed and said that it would take me all morning so I washed up some other things while she worked the clothes over.

The sete-plus was so hot and all afternoon I was sitting in the sun. I already had a sunburn from sitting on the side of road, so I covered myself with some bags. They kept the sun off, but I was still baking. After we got to Gambia we stopped at a check point and some girls ran up with bags of cold water. It was probably the single most refreshing drink of my life. You just bite a little hole in the corner to get started. Jason took a picture so we could share the moment with you.

The whole time we were in the car I was thinking that I should be soaking up as much heat as I could before Germany, and I was right. It's really cold here. Today Jason and I went to an old town with our German friend, Anna. It was so beautiful! After a glass of hot chocolate and home hot spinach cake (more like quiche) we felt brave enough to try some ice cream. It was cold, but delicious!

(I borrowed the coat from Anna's sister. Definitely a good decision!)

The Trip

Ok, so I said that the trip up was a long story for a less tired day. I'm sitting on the train from Darmstadt to Stuttgart, so I have a little time.

We were planning on leaving on Monday, but so many last minute things kept coming up that we didn't get to leave until Tuesday. Our alarm didn't go off on Tuesday morning, so instead of leaving the Youth Center at 5 am like we were planning, we didn't get to leave until 7:30. So we got to the place were we could take a sete-plus, bought our tickets, bargained with the driver about the price for our luggage, and then hit the road.

We had some amazing luck on the first ferry. We got there right as it was loading and we were the second to last car on. We drove on and it took off. You can wait like three hours for that ferry, so we were pumped. We crossed into Senegal without incident and got to Ziguinchor in the late morning and then the fun began. There were no sete-plus drivers who wanted to drive from Ziguinchor to Senegal and they were trying to sell us tickets for a fairly convoluted route with several car changes. Finally after enough people were yelling loud enough they called a driver.

The driver came and we paid for a ticket. The guy gave us change, but no tickets and then disappeared. Luckily, our Creole is good enough that we could insist that we had paid and some other people who saw us joined in, so they gave us the tickets. Then they tried to charge us four times the normal amount for our bags, and we were not having that! For some reason Guineans love to yell when they are bargaining, so like 20 minutes of bargaining later we paid double the normal price and a bunch of guys gave the car a push start to hit the road.

When we had been on the road for about 45 minutes the sete-plus broke down. It was early afternoon and we waited for more than two hours while people were taking parts out of the engine and banging them with a hammer. Miraculously, they got the car working, but not before I had gotten a bit of a sunburn. They good thing was that we broke down close to a gas station that had cold coke. Fanta Fiesta never tasted so good!

We crossed the border into the Gambia without any problems, but they did make us pay a little over two bucks each to get in. Then we got to the fairy in Senegal and to our amazement it was just docking on the right side of the river. We ate some interesting sandwiches with meat, noodles, and salad all between bread and chatted with some of the vendors while the fairy was unloading. Right as it started to load an ambulance came roaring up so they pulled all of the cars on and took off across the river without even waiting for the fairy to fill up. I don't really know if I can call that good luck, but it did make the river crossing much quicker.

We didn't have any problems crossing the last border into Senegal again, but the Gambians did make us pay a little over two bucks each again to get out of the country. After that we drove, and drove, and drove. With aching butts and knees we pulled into Dakar at about one in the morning on Wednesday.

We found a taxi driver who spoke enough English to take us to the place that was supposed to be right by the WEC guest house. He dropped us off, but unfortunately, we couldn't find the guest house. We found another guy who spoke English at a restaurant and he knew exactly where the guest house was, or so he said. He took us to the world learning institute. It did have a "w" in the name, but that was about it. Then he said that he knew for sure where it was so we went with him again. This time he took us to a bilingual school. It was about 2:30 am and we were exhausted from the trip and from dragging our bags all over Senegal, so we asked him if he knew where a cheap hotel was. He took us to a little hotel and it was definitely cheap. Scary, but cheap.

We could stay in the room until noon, so we took a shower and went right to bed. Jason woke up around 10:30, went to a nearby gas station, and bought us a huge chocolate bar and some strawberry milk for breakfast. It was sugary and nice :)

We left the hotel at noon and went to a gas station that had a pizza restaurant and a chicken restaurant in it. We spent the rest of the day munching pizza and chips and chicken and french fries and finished it all off with a pound of coconut ice cream (which we split). It was our celebration of normal American food... hehe

From there we got a sweet price on a taxi to the airport. The ticket agents were helpful and knowledgeable, which we were not expecting, so that was a pleasant surprise. The flights to Brussels and then to Frankfurt were smooth and pleasant.

In Frankfurt we had a bit of a scare when only one of our bags came out on the belt. We waited for about 15 or 20 minutes after the belt stopped going (because the screen still said our flight on it) and sure enough it popped out with the luggage from the next flight. The lady from the German YFC guesthouse picked us up and we have been having a great time since then. The first real nights sleep in the YFC guesthouse was amazing and the second one was pretty nice as well :)

So, we are here and safe. On Monday when I realized that we were not going to have a chance to leave I decided that this trip was in God's hands. Every time I started to wonder if we were going to make it or worry about something I just prayed about it (so I was praying a lot, but not worrying at all) and it almost couldn't have gone better.

So, that's the trip in a nutshell. We have been having fun in Germany but the efficient and nice public transportation system has been quite confusing. I snapped a picture of Jason puzzling over the bus route.

Yesterday we went to the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Jason was quite giddy when he was preparing his camera gear.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We Have Arrived

Well, we had an exciting trip up here, but that’s a long story for a less tired day We arrived in Germany this morning and a lady who works for YFC Germany picked us up from the airport and took us to the guest house - which is amazing. We have a totally cute room. We took our first showers with hot water since December and they were completely wonderful.

It is FREEZING here (to me) so I love that the kitchen has a sweet coffee machine and hot water with lots of tea all the time. I’ve drunk like 6 mugs of it already today.

There is a YFC team staying here in the guest house from South Africa. They are here to travel around Germany doing dramas and speaking in schools and churches. They are all around our age and they all speak English so we’ve been having fun hanging out with them.

Today we took a freezing walk to some stores in the little town here in search of mittens. We didn’t find any mittens, but we did find something amazing at a little gem called Aldi - broccoli!!!!!! (I sang that last word in a loud high voice, but I don’t really know how to type it like that... hehe) I will leave you with a picture of me kissing my broccoli as the "picture of the day" for today.

Monday, April 7, 2008

News from Gabú

Gabú is one of the 8 regions in Guinea-Bissau and it’s also the name of a city in the center of that region. It’s in the interior, in the middle of a very strong Muslim area. We have some Brazilian friends who work on a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) base there. They were in Bissau this past weekend and they had some stories for me!

The people who work at the YWAM base and the people in the discipleship training classes at the base have been doing tons of stuff in the community. A week or so ago one of the Guineans who is in their discipleship training class was out in the city of Gabú telling people about what Jesus did in his life. While he was talking he said that all people sin and the only way to have forgiveness from that sin is though Jesus. Word of what he was doing somehow got to the regional authority and they came to the YWAM base and told them that from now on no one from YWAM or associated in any way with YWAM could say those things about Jesus in or around the city of Gabú.

A few days later a Christian man was grabbed outside of a church in Gabú and badly beaten by some people that he didn’t know. After that those people went on the radio and said that that’s what happens to Guinean Christians.

Needless to say the mood amongst the missionaries in Gabú has been a little down lately. About a week ago a group of missionaries from YWAM went to a little beach on a river outside of Gabú for a day to relax. They brought some of the people who are in the discipleship classes with them. I heard the story of what happened in Creole, so some of it is a little bit difficult to translate, but basically one of the Guineans who was with them fell into the water. I am not sure if he hit his head before he fell or if he hit it on something under the water, but he was unconscious. Another group of people from the YWAM base was walking along looking at fish and thought that they saw a foot in the water. One of the guys dove under and pulled on the foot. He dragged the guy out of the water. It was the guy from the YWAM base and by this point he had been under water for about 20 minutes. He was dead when they pulled him out. They yelled and all of the other people came running. They tried to resuscitate him, but they couldn’t. They worked on him for a while and then they stopped because they knew they couldn’t do anything.

All of the people from YWAM started praying. Their prayers got louder and louder and they were asking God for a miracle. After some time passed all of a sudden the guy started breathing and opened his eyes. God had literally raised him from the dead. You don’t see that everyday.

It was a powerful reminder to them when things seem their worst God is still able to do His best. When we can’t do anything, He can. Sometimes life seems like complete crap, but our God raises the dead! It’s just amazing to me that a God like that wants to know me!