Sunday, June 29, 2014

One Year in Germany

Today marks one year in Germany.  In honor of my anniversary, here is my top 10 list from my first year here.

1. She said yes.  Hands down, the best moment of the year.

2. Finishing the marathon.  This is something I never really thought I'd do and it sucked a lot, but I am proud of myself for finishing.

3. Sleeping in a castle.  On Sara's first visit to Germany, we spent the night in a castle.  It was as awesome as it sounds.

4. A weekend in Paris.  You can't beat meeting your fiancee for a long Valentine's Day weekend in Paris.

5. Christmas Markets.  Probably the coolest thing in Germany.

6. Turkish Delight.  Istanbul is an amazing city.  I wish we had more time there.

7. Berlin.  I've made two trips up to the capital and it's an awesome, awesome place.

8. Friends visiting.  I've had a number of guests in my first year with Shelley and Shana in October, Sara a number of times, Chris and Monica this spring, Kyle, other Sara and Kristin this summer.  Frankfurt is always more fun when I have guests.  If you are reading this, make your plans to come out here in year two.

9. Vienna.  Lots of cool culture stuff and a great night out.

10. Thanksgiving in San Antonio.  Both our families together for the holiday.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Drinking in Prague

Considering that the beer was awesome and yet so amazingly cheap ($2-3 for a half liter), we tried a good number of beers.  This post is dedicated to notentirely.

Czech it Out

A couple weeks ago, I spent a long weekend in Prague with my friends Kyle and Sara, who are traveling the world this year and Natalie.  We had a blast drinking the incredibly cheap, delicious beer, eating yummy, heavy food, and walking around the fantastic city.

Enjoy the photos.

Prague apparently has a thing for statues without faces

Old town square

Bit of a controversial statue

Again - no face

Prague castle on the hill across the river

Awesome vineyard

View from vineyard

Prague Cathedral

Prague Cathedral

They had these cool old car tours

Charles Bridge at night

Old Town Square at night

Old Town Square at night

Astrological clock in Prague

Old Town Square

Cemetery and Church

Gorgeous hot day had tons of people boating on the river
We competed in a room escape game, where we are locked in a room and have escape by solving puzzles and such.
The room has a 40% success rate.  We got out in around 45 minutes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Not Constantinople (Day 3)

On Tuesday, we started off our day by taking a tour of the Egyptian spice market and a cruise of the Bosphorus.  I have walked past a number of spice stalls in various markets that I have been to before, but I am always so intimidated by the large piles of unfamiliar spices.  A strange spice in a strange language purchased in a strange manner.  I've never really stopped by.  On our tour, however, our guide took us to a stall where the salesman told us all about the spices and teas and Turkish delight.  I really enjoyed this part of the tour.  I'm sure the salesman was happy too, as we bought quite a bit from him.

Turkish tea
Sara eyeing the spices

Check out the name of the spice - it was extra spicy 

Sara and me with Adam, our spice guy in Istanbul
After the spice market, we stopped at the "New Mosque", which was built in 1660.  I guess it was newer than the blue mosque.  It was built in conjunction with the Egyptian spice market - a place for the vendors to pray.  Although smaller than the blue mosque, Sara and I both thought it was the prettier of the two.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any interior pictures.

Wash basin outside the mosque

Entry way to the mosque
The highlight of our tour that morning was our cruise along the Bosphorus.  Quick geography lesson:  The old city is the peninsula that sticks out.  The new city is to the north, across the Golden Horn, which is the waterway separating the new and old city.  To the east is the Asian side across the Bosphorus, which leads from the sea of Marmara to the Black Sea.

Our boat cruise started off in the Golden Horn and then went up the Bosphorus.  Lots of cool old palaces and new modern palaces.  When I have several million dollars to spare, I may buy myself a nice house on the strait.  

This was the only "island" in the Bosphorus - they turned it into an exclusive night club

Cool old fort

View of cool old fort from Asia side

Sara got to step into Asia for like 30 seconds

After our cruise, we made our way back to go visit the Hagia Sofia, which had been closed on Monday.  The Hagia Sofia was an awesome old Byzantine Church (built by Justinian, I think) which was converted to an awesome old Mosque under the Ottomans and was converted to an awesome museum in the 1970s.  They have uncovered a number of the old Christian mosaics to go along with the Islamic art.  Really cool place - by far my favorite tourist site in Istanbul.

For some perspective on the size

Ancient mosaic that had been painted over when it was a mosque

After Hagia Sofia, we took a Turkish bath.  Interesting experience.  Men and women were separate, so Sara and I parted ways.  They gave me a towel to change into and then put me in a steam room for 10 minutes.  Then, my Turkish bath guy has me lay down on this octagonal stage in the middle of a large hot, humid room, where he proceeds to spend 20 minutes giving me a not so great massage and rubbing me down with some exfoliating glove.  Then he takes me to the side of the room and proceeds to throw warm water all over me to rinse me off.  He then washes and rinses me one more time.  All this time and his only English is "good?  No good?"  It was good - especially after a day walking around the hot city.

For dinner that night, we made our way over to the more metropolitan new city and ate dinner at this bar off of Taksim Square.  I taught Sara how to play backgammon and she even beat me 2 out of 3.  After dinner, we made our way back to our hotel and then left bright and early the next day.