Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One Year in Germany

It's hard to believe that Steven and I have been living in Germany for an entire year! (Yes, I know technically Steven's been here his entire life, but you know what I mean.) This year has been a joy and a blessing and I feel so grateful to have spent our first year of marriage in such a wonderful place. A lot has happened in this past year...we've gotten older, if even just a little, and grown closer together as a couple. I've discovered new aspects of myself being here I may never have come to realize had we stayed in America. I'm certain everything happens for a reason and us being here, in Europe, was meant to be. It's certainly been a year to remember! 

We moved in to our new apartment and started getting settled. I began making an effort to learn German. I explored my new city with my two new sisters (pictured above.) I made new friends at church and went on several day trips around Germany with Steven to get to know the area better. 


I ate enough food food for six people at a carnival with friends, went clubbing in Europe for the first time, and continued settling into the German way of life. I also started working for the most amazing family ever!


I turned nineteen! I got an SLR camera and began to learn how to use it. We got to see one of our favorite artists perform at a swanky rooftop venue overlooking downtown Frankfurt. Steven and I explored the palace gardens in Wuerzburg, Germany which I still sometimes daydream about to this day.  I also met my blogger friend turned real life friend Alyx in October, and we took a daytrip to Mainz, Germany. 


Steven and I spent the most romantic, relaxing, luxurious week in the South of France. We explored Montpellier and Marseille: loved the first city, hated the second. Montpellier was warm, quiet, lovely, with architecture that reminded me of Paris but palm trees that reminded me of Spain. This city will always have a place in my heart and I'd love to have a flat there someday to vacation in.


We took a daytrip to Strasbourg, France to peruse the amazing Christmas market there.  Temperatures in Frankfurt dropped to -20 degrees Celcius, and I subsequently came down with the worst sickness I've ever had! I lost my voice completely (seriously, couldn't make a sound) for over a week. Thank goodness for antibiotics! I got better just in time to travel to Odense, Denmark with my family for Christmas. 


We rang in the new year up at my in-laws house with my family, Alyx and her hubby! My family knows how to party, and the fireworks? Forget it. Crazy. I started intensive German language school, and continued braving Germany's bitter cold!


We spent several days exploring Istanbul, Turkey, which quickly earned its title as one of my favorite cities! I will never forget our experiences shopping in the bazaar, visiting the mosques and listening to the call to prayer five times each day. The food is pretty much unbeatable, too!  I also took a bus to Prague by myself and spent several days there exploring the city and making new friends. 


The earth started waking up from it's winter-induced slumber, which made for a very happy Daryl. I discovered the amazingness that is this American themed bowling alley.  I bought a ten euro bike, named her Hilda, and started riding her around instead of taking the train. I started doing Yoga which has saved me in more ways than one. I also made these cute shoes, which I love more than any other pair and they cost me less than ten bucks. 


I spent two weeks in my hometown in Southern California. I ate American food, drove a car, and reconnected with old friends I missed so much. Did I mention I ate American food? A lot of it. 


Steven and I went on a romantic getaway to Malta. It was amazing in every sense of the word.   We spent full days out on the water and it could not have been more wonderful! I also photographed this engagement shoot and my first wedding!  


I went on a Blate with Alex from Ifs, ands & Butts and she showed me around Karlsruhe, Germany. We spent a week in Barcelona with my family! and had the most amazing time with them. I photographed a cute couple in Schwetzingen, Germany!


One of my best friends came to visit me in Frankfurt! We then strapped on backpacks and flew to Budapest and made our way back home via Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg and the Bavarian Alps! I still have so much to tell you about this trip, so stay tuned. Steven and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary! Since then we've spent time out in the country with Steven's family, and you can't forget the Medieval Festival at Gryffin Stone Castle.

I can't believe it's been a year...it still seems so surreal to me.
Thank you to all whom I've befriended on this journey. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

More Reasons to Love Budapest, Hungary

Budapest has quickly climbed its way up to the top of my list of favorite European cities. It is laid back and unpretentious, alive, vibrant, and beautiful. Accommodation is cheap and food is even cheaper; in fact you'd be hard pressed to find a better value for your money anywhere else in Europe. I'm not saying it's the cheapest, prices seem to drop the farther east one goes, but in Budapest you get a whole heck of a lot for the little you spend. 
I'm already thinking up ways to get back to Budapest...this time with my husband.

What's your favorite European city? Or favorite city, period? 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Underwhelmed by Bratislava, Slovakia.

Before arriving in Bratislava, Slovakia I'd asked a lot of people for tips and opinions. I received mixed reviews. Some people gushed about the city and others just stared at me dryly and said "Bratislava is a S***hole." and left it at that. Because of these various very mixed reviews, I really didn't know what to expect when we arrived there, which I suppose could be considered a good thing. Going into a place with high or specific expectations is the fastest way to make sure you leave disappointed. After a day and a half in the city, I have to sadly admit that Bratislava didn't do it for me.  

Kasey and I stepped off the bus in Bratislava in the early afternoon. If you haven't read the relatively humorous story of how we managed to get on the bus to Slovakia from Hungary, you may want to. It was over 90 degrees at 11 AM but compared to the whopping 105 degrees that Budapest was sporting, we felt downright comfortable. After checking into our hostel (We stayed here, it was very nice and I'd highly recommend it if you'll be in Bratislava.) we set out to do some exploring.

As you can see from the photos, there are some parts of Bratislava that are really quite pretty. What I didn't photograph are the gross, ugly communist era high rises made from concrete and steel that overpower the old town completely. As we learned on our free walking tour through the old town  (which I would also recommend, it was very informative) over 70% of the Bratislava's beautiful, historic buildings were completely demolished in a communist effort to "modernize" the city in the 1970's. 70%! I honestly was so floored that anyone would think that destroying beautiful architecture was a good idea...and then they go and replace it with this!:

I will say, however, that one gem about Bratislava is the food. Am I totally strange for loving eastern European food? I couldn't eat it regularly, seeing as their idea of a balanced meal is eating meat with meat and a side of grease...but yum. The prices in Bratislava were also really reasonable. I had dinner and a soda for about six euro and left the restaurant completely stuffed! 

Traditional Slovak Potato Dumplings with Bacon and Sour Cream.

For me, Bratislava gets two out of five stars. I really wanted to like it, because I'm a huge fan of underdog, lesser-visited places...but some cities just don't do it for you and this was one of them. I think if I'd had the time to stay longer and venture a bit outside of Bratislava itself, the experience would have been much better. 

Have you ever been to a city that just didn't impress you as much as you'd hoped? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas in July Link Up!

The day is finally here, my friends! It's time to link up your posts about what you received for your Christmas in July gift exchange that I hosted with Alyx and Celia.  Sounds fun, no?

I was paired up with Malou from Skip to Malou. I was SO pleased and impressed with what she sent me, each part of it was so thoughtful...thanks Malou! 

This is a little tea light candle that looks like a canal house. Malou is living in Amsterdam, so this offers a taste of where she lives. I loved the canal houses when I was in Amsterdam, so lets just say I'm obsessed. What's even better is that I plan to fill my future apartment (or home...the one we'll actually take the time to decorate properly) with travel related trinkets to give the space personality. I can't wait to display this on a shelf next to some of my favorite old books!

Malou took my love of travel into consideration for this gift! Here is a travel journal filled with check lists and planning pages, perfect for mapping out my future adventures. 

Included with the travel journal are maps where you can scratch off where you've been. How fun is that?

I was also really impressed with this Van Gogh birthday calendar. A Birthday calendar is a special calender meant only to record the birthdays of those important to you...perfect for remembering when you need to buy gifts! What Malou didn't know is that I actually LOVE Van Gogh, and visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was actually my favorite part of my trip to the Netherlands.

Thank you so much Malou, I really appreciate it and hope you liked my gift as well! 
Did you write a post about Christmas in July? Link up your post here! Be sure to link back to my blog so that others can find this and enjoy as well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Medieval Festival at Griffin Stone Castle

I can't say I've ever had an interest in Renaissance Fairs, and even though they occurred frequently in the states near where I lived, I'd never felt the burning desire to attend one. This could be a bit surprising to those who know me well, because I'm actually a bit of a Medieval Fantasy nerd. Hand me a Game of Thrones book or anything by J.R.R. Tolkein and I'm a happy, happy girl. Still, Renaissance fairs have always just seemed a little bit too "out there." for me and so, up until this past weekend, I had never been to one. 

Truth be told, I didn't even really know that we were headed to a Renaissance Fair. My mother-in-law told us about a "Ritterfest" that was taking place at Burg GreifenStein. ("Ritterfest" translates to "Knight's Party" and "Burg GreifenStein" Translates to Griffin Stone Castle.)

I wasn't quite sure what a "Ritterfest" was. A "Knight's Festival?" What's that? Is it a jousting tournament? A feast? A party? All I knew is that it was actually being held at a castle, and that was cool. We decided to make it a double date with Steven's parents and headed on over at about 7 in the evening.

It was, in fact, a Renaissance fair. People were dressed as lords and ladies and knights, there were apothecary stalls and sword vendors and people selling Medieval cloaks for 200 euro a piece. Thank you, but, I have to pass on that one. Steven actually has this odd obsession with swords and kept continually asking to buy one, causing me only to laugh awkwardly unsure if he was being serious or not. 

I have to say, though, the fact that all of this was taking place at (and in) a beautiful old castle was truly amazing. 

My Cute Hubby and I. 

There was a music show on a small stage that was really fun to watch and listen to. We got a few serious kicks out of the old woman in the crazy witch costume (not pictured) who was seriously rocking out to the music. Could not stop laughing for ten straight minutes.

There was a blacksmith actually working here, hammering out armor. Pretty amazing to watch. 
Just a seven year old fire twirler, no big deal. 

And, my favorite, the medieval carousel. 

 Have you ever been to a Renaissance Fair? Did you love it or hate it? Tell me your stories! 


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