Apple Strudel...with a little powder sugar on top

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
Munich, Vienna, Prague, Berlin

Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hello my lovely friends!!! So I'm writing this update about 6 months too late; however, a lot has happened and I wanted to let everyone know how things are going as of late.  The best thing that has happened most recently was my amazing trip to Europe for vacation from the skin-boiling heat that Senegal produces in May/beg-June.  Two other volunteers, April and Melissa, and I ventured to Munich, Berlin, Vienna, and Prague for 2.5 weeks for a little r&r and some major sight-seeing.  We started the trip in Munich , by far the cleanest city I have ever visited, a dramatically different look than what I am used to here in Senegal where most major towns resemble large trash dump sites you would find conspicuously placed far away from any human eye in the States. 

We descended the plane into an air so clean my lungs barely knew what to do as the usually dead animal smell and burning trash stench of Senegal were not present to assault it.  We met up with a childhood friend of April’s as she was living in Munich teaching English, and like every Senegalese child that sees an airplane, we stared at everything: green grass, cars with doors that close without having to be tied shut, and pristinely manicured yards.  Our Munich activities included having a picnic in the English Gardens , an immaculately cared for park with a small river running through it filled with naked men, and apparently women although we didn’t see any playing sports and having picnics of their own .  No one warned me that this was the garden in Munich famous for its "clothes optional" policy, so as we approached the garden turning the last corner of the pathway, we came upon a man standing naked proudly displaying himself for all to see .  My immediate reaction was what the heck is that man doing, he’s doing to get arrested; however, my friends quickly said no, he’s just doing what everyone else is doing…being naked.  So as we sat in the park drinking our Presecco and eating our tomato, mozzarella salad, we all watched the naked men playing soccer and Frisbee in the park with thoughts of Senegal far from our minds.   Naked people watching was followed by museums, restaurants, and beer because what would Munich be without beer.

Next stop, Vienna.  Abundant in classic Baroque architecture , Vienna provided amazing scenery in addition to its spectacular buildings accompanied with delicious coffee, pastries, and sausage, of course.  We attended an Opera at the Vienna Opera House followed by amazing cocktails at a greenhouse turned restaurant/bar . The best thing about the opera was the little readers they provide you with so you can understand what’s going on; however, we quickly discovered a little reading goes along way…”I love you”, “leave me”, “I love you”, “No one understands my pain”.  I don’t think operas should be translated, it just ruins the experience.  The cocktails we partook in after the peculiar ”modern” opera experience certainly put a skip in our step as both our waiters were unexpectedly entertaining, and the ambiance was marvelous . Our two cocktail evening was followed by delicious Viennese sausage with cheese inside and curry french fries, a bit odd but worth a try.  We also toured Belvedere, which I didn’t know wasn’t just a brand of vodka until my Vienna experience, the castle of the royal Hapsburg family…quite nice .  And we drank coffee, lots of coffee.

Prague oh Prague how beautiful you are, but oh how badly your weather treated us .  Going from 115* to 50* is quite a shock to the body, but I’m certainly not complaining.  It was an amazing break from the scorching heat and we loved every bit of it.  The highlight of the Prague stint was our venture out into the suburbs of Prague (off our tourist map – quite ambitious of us I have to say) for some delicious microbrewery beer .  And yes I will say it, best beer I have ever tasted.  The bartender was a little Czech man probably in his 50s who didn’t speak a word of English; however, he was so nice to us, being the American tourist girls who wandered into his small, Czech microbrewery bar outside of the tourist bubble.  He would speak in Czech, we would speak in English, he would point, we would laugh, and all of this was accompanied by hand movements made in an attempt to convey our desired beer choice .  We left the bar and made our way back to tourist land and into a quaint vegetarian restaurant (which you needed a reservation for…crazy) and had one of the best meals of the trip. We visited the Prague castle and witnessed tourism at its finest (notice the sarcasm). We happened upon the castle  at 10am, just in time for changing of the guard which one would think people might have some reverence for; however, one would be mistaken in thinking that in this case .  Some lovely tourists from a country I will not name thought it appropriate to stand smack dab in the middle of the path where the guards walk and get about 6 inches away from the oncoming guards face and snap pictures.  Really people?!?! Come on.  The guard was so taken off-guard, no pun intended, that he could not keep a straight face and the ceremony proceeded with him smirking while the lovely still unnamed tourists continued to take his pic.  After the changing was complete, they swarmed the newly placed guard for yet some more photos .  It was quite a sight to behold. 

Last stop….Berlin .  The weather was beautiful as our train pulled into Berlin for the last stop on our lovely vacation.  Our first full day in Berlin we took a free walking tour of the city, which could have been terrible but turned out to be awesome .  There’s tour guide groups in various European cities and they give tours on a tip only basis, you take the tour and pay at the end what you thought it was worth.  Our guide was George from Missouri and he was fact-filled and ridiculously animated throughout the 3.5 hour long tour; it was the quickest I have ever learned so much about one city.  We saw Hitler’s bunker and the somewhat controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (controversial for both its name and design ).  That night we met up with the friend of a friend at a wine bar where you go in, rent a glass for 2euro and then you pay how much you think you drank at the end.  After we went to an extremely random club and danced the night away to '60s rock.  One of my favorite parts of Berlin was visiting the East Side Gallery, a meeting point of East and West Germany where the largest section of the wall still stands .  Artists from all over the world got together when the wall fell in 1989 and created an art gallery on the wall as an homage to its history and it has remained intact to this day with updates and restorations taking place every 10 years.  We then ate our last amazing dinner; I had salmon for the first time in 1 year, and drank amazing cocktails to send ourselves off properly.

We flew back to Senegal, a bit misty-eyed, and reluctant to leave; however, our plane ride from Madrid to Dakar was the best flight I’ve ever had.  Some crazy French comedic group/Rumba band was on the plane helping us laugh away our sorrows as we returned to the land of the heat and sweat, in addition to the awesome flight attendants who kept giving us wine :)

I am now back in Senegal with 10 months left in my service.  I’m only hoping it will go by as fast as the first 14 months did.  The rains are coming which is a welcome break from the heat; however, upon our return to Senegal I broke out in heat rash…not so cool.  We will start our latrine project construction after the rains end in Oct/Nov, something I know will bring me both tears of pain and joy.  Now back to planting trees and practicing hand washing   :)

Love you all!
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