Pooping in public

Using the restroom in public is never relaxing but at times a necessary adventure. There is always the standby of McDonald’s or Starbucks with free public bathrooms. When stepping off the train in Europe make sure you have some loose change to pay for a potty trip. Each region has different challenges that you may not be aware of. Asia uses a squatty potty. If you are not used to relieving yourself hanging over a hole in the floor, then you may end up with wet feet. Backpackers have more of a solitary advantage but also have to dig a hole first. This isn’t in public, but it’s not on the privacy of your own home seat advantage.

Walk into a hotel lobby as if you belong there to avoid the front desk.

You may even be able to wander around to find snacks and cookies just don’t look too out of place.

On the unpredictable road of travel, food can be a friend and then seemingly turn on you. That is why it’s important to keep different toilet locations in the back of your mind as a safe bet.

There are a few tips for any country you find yourself in where you are crossing your legs and asking with big hand gestures trying to make yourself understand. I recommend having some small change on you to pay for the maintenance “tip” basket sitting next to the strick looking bathroom attendant. Having your own paper is safer than hoping for the best after the door shuts. In some places in Asia, you must grab paper before you enter the stall. The best tip I can pass along is to wash your hands and stay regular!

American Thanksgiving

Turkey! It’s the first image that comes to mind and to my taste buds is a juicy thick cut turkey. My family, like so many others, celebrates Turkey Day in excess by cooking and eating too much food and then processing to eat more by the colorful array of the desserts. Turkey crammed with stuffing and freshly boiled potatoes smashed together with milk and butter melting on top. I’m not sure where casseroles came from but I’m sure they are my favorite. Corn casserole, green beans casserole, and scallop potatoes are always full helping on my plate. There is cranberry sauce and canned cranberry which I prefer. Sweat potatoes with a golden brown marshmallow on top, buttered vegetables, and rolls getting the least attention. Ham is added to Thanksgiving and recently fried turkey has been a trendy addition to the table. There are many mishaps resulting in fires and emergency department calls. If the turkey is fully thawed dried off the oil and water make a terrible mixture. Luckily the first try for my dad went well, maybe a little overcooked but no fire as so many were videotaping waiting for the worst. Thanks, family. There were two other tragically baked turkeys so go around for our international group of fourteen.

We had a family from London and his friend and my father is from former Yugoslavia and had moonshine in hand with stories from everyone around the table. My dad’s wife had her sisters and niece with their kid all joining the group. One long table getting a plate from the buffet and finding a seat and having to explain pilgrims and Indians to an outsider is a great way to laugh about silly holiday decorations.

The good china is usually taken out for special holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving along with the best flatware. These are traditionally the items passed on in a woman’s dowry along with the serving dishing, linen napkins and tablecloths and glassware only used on these special occasions making it all the more magical.

Dessert is always the best part and the hardest to plan ahead for but what are a few more bites! Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, pecan pie, and a cookie- cream pie all found their way toon my fork. The real meaning of Thanksgiving day is togetherness. Coming together and being part of my family dinner and my boyfriend family dinner. Both dinners had the family home cooked meals with way too much food. Plastic containers are filled with leftovers and send home in filled plastic bags. As with any other worldly traditions, the eldest usually run the dinner keeping their parent’s memories alive and keeping the family rituals. Leaving the table uncomfortably full is completely normal.

Oktoberfest!

Welcome to the beer fest of all beer fests!

Oktoberfest in Munich Germany puts on a grand show every year for almost 7 million people starting at the end of September. But before you can drink a pint of beer there is much planning, prep, and building that must go on with a team of highly skilled teams create a new vision each year. There are 700 vendors ready to set up for the weeks of madness ahead. The area of the event is already a construction site by July and doesn’t stop for ten weeks. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant beer tents. There are 14 major tents and 15 minor tents. In the biggest tents, there can be upward of 8,000 festival-goers. The tents are made of all wood grounded to concrete that is poured every year. For the management, this is a full-time job planning and pulling off this annual party. Several thousand people come together to wrap up the project in the few weeks of construction. Tear down is about half the time of set up running around five weeks. Most parts are stored in storage containers and delivered to the storehouses in Munich

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I planned my visit for the opening day. It was a calm morning when I arrived with my mother and took a stroll down the main road of beer tents standing tall. By the time we doubled back, the roads were filling with beer drinkers waiting for the day to get started. We picked the Hippodrome tent and sat and had a bite to eat and noticed that most tables were reserved. We quickly learned that there is an opening parade and each owner comes into their tent and taps the first barrel and the beer drinking does not stop for a few weeks after. From the beautiful windows, I watched the parade roll by with barrels of beer and horse-drawn carriage and everyone was dressed for the occasion. There is such a buzz for the town for the opening day, Like the city of Munich has been waiting to unwrap its gift for months, watching the structures go up for months in town.

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My favorite photo of my mother joining me October Fest in 2013

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Yes, this is a blurry picture but they move so fast with all that beer! This was the best I could get an even more beer was rushing by, being gripped tightly by fingertips.

My advice is to get here early to get a seat or wait for the short lines of smaller tents. I definitely would recommend going to multiple tents for different environments in each one. If you have a larger group it pays to plan ahead of time and reserve a table in a tent of your choice. All of Munich books up for this beer event, so planning ahead helps get more of what you are looking for before it’s booked up. My last bit of wisdom is if you drink a few too many pints, there is a nice grassy hill to rest your eyes until the next round. It’s all a very happy party and the locals are waiting to welcome you in. Do your country proud, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. We have all seen this too many times. Safe travels and smart drinking!

Windy Wellington

The Capital of New Zealand and tucked away at the bottom of the north island and is the gateway to the south island. The ferry across the Cook Straight runs from Picton to Wellington three or four times a day through two different companies, Interisland and Bluebird. But we didn’t come here just to leave. There are things to do and see in Wellington! The first place I feel most people are drawn to is the downtown waterfront area. The length of the water has shops, restaurants, and some museums lined up ready for the next batch of visitors. The weekend is the big draw for the waterfront, farmers markets and rummage sales going on every Saturday. Sunday has different events and activities going on all year. When I was there one Sunday morning there was a relay for life race going on. Being the capital city center you can count on various functions.

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The streets are narrow and are filled with endless shops of all kinds. Wellington is a busy city but a friendly one. Like most of New Zealand, their citizens try to look out for one another and give the benefit of the doubt. Wellington is a great city for a pedestrian. I never took a cab or bus while in the capital city. There is wide sidewalk twisting with every street even in the midst of road construction. There are so many fascinating places I passed on my many hours of getting to know this city I definitely didn’t have enough time to stop at them all.

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The best view and my favorite part of the windy capital city is the cable car that lifts to the top of the city. There are signs on the streets to direct you towards the ticket and the bottom of the cable car. Every ten minutes the car runs for a small fee and you will have two options. You can pay for a return ticket down or get a oneway ticket and walk back down to the city. You must take a oneway ticket and wonder the way back down. There are multiple paths to follow heading down and there are even maps available along the way. Lush green landscapes and manicured yards give way to a stunning rose garden. The rose garden was in full bloom on that warm day I found myself at the edge of row after colorful row. Not only roses but the exotic flowers from a place a half a world away from my own home. So it was all new and unique to me. The rose garden is The Lady Norwood Rosegarden and has The Wellington Botanic Garden just up the hill.

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Melbourne, Australia Chinatown vibes

The Chinatown in Melbourne Australia in the central business district and is home to places of business, worships, and restaurants for the home of the longest continuous Chinese settlement. The Chinese originally came for the Australian gold rush and stayed for a new life. This small section of Melbourne is home to the Chinese’s New Year festival which lasts for a few weeks every year with fireworks and the waking of the dragon.

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Many people just pass by  Little Bourke Street on their hustle of the madness of the downtown. I can not say enough how amazing getting away from the droves of people can be. The hidden discovers to be found. Chinatown is missed often because there is so much to do in Melbourne. You can walk down the gate that is the start of Chinatown and see many different Asian restaurants and shops.  Chinatown has grown from one block with a gate on each end to now have grown to multiple blocks over the past few years. I learned that in American Chinatowns, there are mostly Cantonese settled there. In Melbourne, there is a much more diverse Chinatown represented. Why is that good for you? Many more types of food to try and more mixing of cultures.

When you make it to the busy area of CBD of Melbourne make sure you take time out to walk the few blocks of Chinatown. Even if it is just to see the beautiful buildings and for the free smells.

A first look at Melbourne Australia

Body Worlds Exhibit Worldwide

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This amazing exhibition shows real cadavers on display to show how the human body works and the effects of different health choices. This is a worldwide traveling exhibit in multiple locations at the same time. Every time I have been to this display I see different pieces and I am always amazed. This is the true definition of being in awe of the human body and what it can do. Not only what the body can do but also what it can put up with or even overcome. Showing that healthy choices make a healthy long-lasting body is the main goal. What better way then to visually show the damage. I feel we all like to pretend that what is going on under our skin is working well enough. Seeing the lung of a smoker next to the lung of a non-smoker there is no room to argue. There are also very powerful demonstrations and pieces that show disease and disabilities.

wandering in the dimly lit room with black covered walls and black lined cases that makes the bright spotlights make every detail more dramatic. I started to look down at my own body looking at what would be right under the surface. Being is sports my whole life I kept looking at different areas that I have injured before and seeing how the body is woven together. Such a fragile inter working that we often take for granted and abuse. Treating your body right is the ticket to a quality long life.

Dr. Angelina Whalley and Dr. Gunther von Hagens are the creators of the traveling exhibit and their goal is preventive healthcare. To show first hand the effect on the daily decisions there are interactive displayed as well as the perfectly preserved models arranged to spark your wonder. Plastination is the process of preservation invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977. The process replaces body fluids with plastic, then are positioned and harden by heat, gas, or light. The complexity of nature preserved forever. It is odorless and easy to transport to the international locations. Great detail and hard work goes into each body that is being prepared. It could take up to 800 hours to prepare a whole body. Then sent over to be put in a series of baths of acetone and then dehydrated for around three to four months. Only then does the plastination process take place, forced vacuum impregnation. That process takes about six to eight weeks. After it comes out and drips dry and is still flexible. With the help of pins, wires, staples, and other aids the model starts to take its pose. Getting into the final pose can take a few weeks up to a few months. The final step is to cure the specimen and preserve it forever for all of our viewing pleasure.

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Body Worlds is such an amazing learning tool. People usually spend about one to two hours looking and reading. I have never been disappointed when I have gone to an exhibit like this. Around every corner is a new area of life. Breaking each area up by body part like lungs or kidneys and the damage unhealthy choices cause. Or other rooms were filled with a portraits of different family from around the world and what their monthly grocery looks like all stacked up compared to the other families from around the world. The choices you could see were made up of locations and culture influences. Still more rooms have what reconstructed joins look like or plates with screws drilled directly into the bone. There is so much information and yet you still walk away with questions, not to imply that there was unanswered questions about the exhibit, but rather open and expand your mind to lead to more questions. This is what a good science display will achieve no matter the age. Learning especially about how our own body works is priceless. With that being said the few times I went i notices it depends on where the show is being hosted. The bigger the science center the more it cost. Also the bigger the science center the more pieces of the traveling exhibition can be enjoyed. There are some large pieces like cross sections and large animal specimens. I would guess $10 -$25 USD for tickets.

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The creators seem very stright forward about the negative effects on the body. Such as the smoking man with his leathery skin and blackened lungs. There is a healthy non-smoking lung sitting next to a smokers lung.

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The X Lady

The one-of-a-kind inter works of this display is well worth the the time, fee, and traffic. There are multible exhibitions in differnt parts of the world thoughout the year. There no excuess not to go to this eye opening display. It will be somewhere near you soon, and if, not travel a little you know you’d love it. @heidvastag

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Reichstag 

Walking up to this large front lawn of the Reichstag on a nice day makes me want to sit and have an afternoon lunch. There is no time for this in Berlin there is just too much amazing things to see. The Reichstag building is a parliament building and has strict guidelines to get in the door. Registration is free to enter but you must register before you enter. Be sure you bring your passport. I never tell anyone to go wandering around the city with their passport on then, but every rule has its exception. The dome and the roof terrace have different times for the terrace and dome. The Reichstag is also closed for maintenance and holidays throughout the year, so be sure to check opening times and dates when planning your visit. I did not pre-register before going to the Reichstag. I did wait in a long that moved pretty quickly, bringing in a small group of people in to check passports with faces before we were allowed up to the elevators to the dome and terrace.

Walking into the beautiful glass and mirror dome that spirals up to the observation deck overlooking Berlin. The dome is 23 meters high and 40 meters wide and designed by Sir Norman Foster. Foster originally planned an air cushion-like flat roof and only under political pressure planned a dome. There are guided tours available and a wealth of knowledge and fascinating facts that are hidden in the Reichstag. One such fact not largely known is that there are still Cyrillic graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the siege in 1945. It has been carefully preserved and can still be seen by visitors today. There is also a bullet hole from the Second World War.

The Brandenburg Gate is a short walk away. The city is very well laid out from The Reichstag building. The Holocaust memorial isn’t too much further than the Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island is further past that. I don’t recommend trying to push yourself and see it all in one day. There is so much to see in this city, so plan for full days of exploring no matter how long you are in Berlin.

Reichstag is a must if it is the first of the fiftieth time you are coming here. Just the walk up to the top is a piece of living art to the view of this unique city. I can’t get enough Berlin.

There is a restaurant on the terrace serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are required for dining here and the menu is on the pricey side, but the views are free. The hardest part about visiting Reichstag is deciding whether to visit in the daytime or at night.

Budapest

An old world feel from the moment you get off at Keleti Train Station. There is much history under the layers of dirt from time and neglect. Please don’t let my negative comments sway you from seeing this great and old city. After you make your way out of the sketchy train station and wander around you will see a beautiful city with many secrets.

This man was waiting to greet me at the corner with his belly wore from rubs. I feel like I could outrun him.

On one of my stops from the subway, I walked up steps to a festival in full swing with dancing, fresh food cooking, and music. I spent a few hours deciding on what I wanted for lunch and watched the street performers.

Wandering around I found local treats and homemade crafts that I recognized from my Hungarian grandmother’s house. The same red pattern of tablecloths and napkins brought back great memories of family dinners of the same food I was seeking in the city. This is a big reason I travel, its to reconnect with your past if only by a pattern or a smell.

 

There are so many grand stone building with complex curly ends and detailed columns, don’t forget to look up.

Hello Berlin

Berlin may bring up mixed thoughts and feelings upon hearing the name, but the city has grown to be a cultural and artistic hotspot.

The Holocaust Memorial is a maze of different sized columns numbering 2711 in all. The artist meant for the memorial to be confusing and disorienting. It is not taken kindly if you climb on the memorial, so please be respectful.

The great Brandenburg Gate always seems to be filled with life. This gate marks the former city gate where the beginning of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.

While walking around there was a “checkpoint” where I received an old school passport stamp for Checkpoint Charlie at the east and west side of the Berlin checkpoint.

The water world of Venice

When I finally got away from the crowds of tourists I found hidden alleys and secret cafes with very strong coffee.

I came over the bridge to the multiple islands of Venice by train and stepping into a madhouse. I checked my backpack at the Santa Lucia rail station for the day and made it out into the mobs of people.

Only having one day for this beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea was definitely not enough. I started off with the steady flow of people slowly walking over bridges and down wide paths lined with shops of all kinds on either side. Taking in the sights I came to see from my guidebooks, and taking a few photos of the dressed up gondolas ready for the next tourist ride; I decided to get off the very beaten path. The random turns I made took me further into the real city of narrow alleys and no flashy tourist signs. Needless to say, I was very lost for a bit but I had the rest of the day to make my way back to the train station. I finally had to ask for directions and stayed closer to the station and ate sweets and drank coffee until my night train arrived. I swear I was buzzed off caffeine and sugar by the time I stepped on the train.