Rome

We overheard that the trains would be on strike at 9am on the day we wanted to go to Rome, so we woke up early and took the train to Rome at 6am.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a live protest. We’re not sure what they were protesting, but it was the most peaceful–and fun (people were dancing)– protest I’ve ever seen.

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Since the protestors were blocking most of the streets, we had to find an alternate route to our hotel. My first impression of Rome was that it was so much nicer than I expected! Beautiful buildings, rooftop gardens and quaint cafe’s lined the streets.

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Since we arrived in Rome so early, we decided to take advantage and try and beat the crowds at the tourist destinations. The lady at our hotel gave us a great tip and she told us to buy tickets to see the Colosseum down the street at the Roman Forum to avoid the long lines in the Colosseum.

We were SO happy we followed her advice because the line to get tickets for the Colosseum was INSANE.

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The Colesseum was really cool and kind of erie. I couldn’t stop thinking of what it must have been like to be thrown into the arena as a Christian.

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Pizza in Rome was different from anywhere we had been so far. You pay for your slice based on weight and they cut off a piece and then fold it over to create a pizza sandwich. It was so good!

The lady at our hotel told us to go see St. Peter’s Basilica in the afternoon when the lines had died down. As you can see, there is still a line, but it moved pretty fast. We timed it… it took us 45 minutes.

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It was really hot that afternoon and I was very happy to have this map to block out the sun.

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You can’t go anywhere in Italy without being asked to take someone’s picture.DSC_0531

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The Roman Forum

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By 5pm we were tired and hungry, so we went to a family run restaurant that the lady at our hotel recommended. We were so sad when we arrived and found out they didn’t open for dinner till 6.

But it was worth the wait because this was one of our favorite meals in Itlay. Bruschetta, homemade pasta, bread and a very entertaining waiter. We sat and talked and ate for hours. It was wonderful.

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Florence – Day 2

The next day, we got tickets to explore the Duomo. 
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But first, breakfast!DSC_0399

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The inside was just as massive and beautiful as the outside…

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After we saw the inside, we stood on line to go up to the bell tower. Good thing we got there early because the line behind us was wrapped around the building!

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I was kinda nervous because the one day I wore a dress was the day we wanted to see the Duomo. There are very strict dress code rules and I was so relieved that they let me go by.

The view from above was so cool…

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We climbed a really narrow staircase to the top. Thank God there were small windows along the way.

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The view from the top was magnificent!

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Then we climbed up that tower ^^^ for a view of the dome (below). While walking up the narrow staircase, I bumped into a friend that I went to high school with and hadn’t seen in years! What are the chances?! It was so crazy!

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The next stop was to this really cool market that Davey found. Of course, we got a plate of homemade pasta and it was out of this world!

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And we couldn’t pass up the pizza either…DSC_0443

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Davey also read about this lookout point that you could hike to and get a great view of the city. We were so excited and assumed that it was a hidden gem and that we’d be the only ones there. Nope. The place was swarming with tourists. But it was still a really pretty view.

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At this point in the trip, we were running out of clean clothes. So we had a date at the a laundromat, picnic and all.

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Next stop, Rome!

 

Florence – Day 1

From Pisa, we took the train to Florence.
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Our hotel was really close to the train station and so once we arrived, we dropped off our bags and set out to explore.

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My friend from work was in Florence a few years ago and told me that we had to get a panini from this little, hole-in-the-wall place. We miraculously found it and boy was it worth it. We ordered a wild boar panini with this soft, delicious parmesan and arugula.

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Davey was an expert navigator. Not only did he use the map, but he also constantly compared it to the compass on my phone. So cute! 🙂

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Ponte Vecchio… I loved all the yellow!

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We got our first view of the ginormous Duomo on our walk back to our hotel and decided to wake up early the next day to get tickets to climb the tower for an aerial view of the city. Buona Notte, Florence!

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Pisa

We left Cinque Terre before dawn to catch a train to Pisa in an attempt to beat the crowds. We bought a bunch of the world’s best grapes and waited for the train.

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This particular train was different from any we had taken before. We were assigned the window seats in a small room consisted of 6 seats. When we got to our cabin and saw that we would have to share that tiny space with 4 yappy, loud girls, we left to find an empty– or at least quieter– cabin. We found one and we turned the lights off so that we could sleep, and so we would deter any obnoxious, loud passengers.

Lucky for us, all of our fellow cabin-mates were quiet, not-smelly and they all and slept. Hallelujah.

We got off the train and walked through a college to get to the famous leaning tower. It was really cool to see the college campus and watch the hustle and bustle of the students walking to class.

The sun finally started to rise and by some miracle (we didn’t have a map), we found the tower. We were both really shocked by how much it was leaning! It was SO nice to see the tower without all of crowds!

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So, evidently this one guy started to build the tower and when it started to lean, he abandoned the project. Fast forward a bunch of years later and another guy decided to finish the project, even though many people had doubts and warned him that it would never work.

He didn’t care what people said and pressed on to try and finish the tower. He made the columns on the one side a bit taller than the ones on the other side to try and help even it out. It was predicted that the tower would fall shortly after it was finished in 1372, but hundreds of years later, it’s still standing.

Hope you enjoyed my history lesson. 🙂

Davey bought a ticket to go up into the tower and so we had some time to kill before it opened, so of course, we got cappuccinos.

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If you drink your cappuccino standing at the bar, it’s 1.50 euro. If you sit at a table it’s 3 euro. If you sit outside at a table, it’s 6-7 euro. Obviously, we drank our’s standing at the bar so that we could save some money for gelato!

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Here is the view from the inside of the tower.DSC_0284

Davey said that the stairs were really crooked and it was very noticeable that the tower was leaning. DSC_0286

I happily sat on the steps, ate the grapes and people watched.
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Davey’s in the window.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Davey got in trouble for ringing one of the bells at the top… but they’re just asking to be rung!
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I had so much fun sitting on these steps watching people try to take pictures like the one below! “Left, left! No, too far. Ok, stop… hold your hand right there…” It was really funny to look around and see people creatively taking pictures pushing down, or holding up the tower.

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By the time we left (I think it was 9am) this area was swarming with tourists! Glad we came early! Oddly enough, we totally looked like tourists too!

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A highlight of Pisa was this food truck. You know you’re in Italy when a food truck has a wood burning oven inside. We weren’t really sure what we were ordering, but it was SO GOOD. It was like a pizza quesadilla… delicious!

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Cinque Terre – Part II

Get ready for a visual feast because you’re about to get an eye-full! This was one of our favorite parts of the trip. Cinque Terre is made up of 5 towns and you can hike the old goat paths that connect one village to the next. Unfortunately there was an avalanche a year ago on the path that connects the last 2 villages and so the path was closed so we could only hike up to the 3rd town, Corniglia.

We woke up early and stopped at the market to buy some fruit. These grapes… I have no words. They are one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. They are a special variety (I forget the name) that grows in Sicily and they are amazing. They have a delicate sweetness that’s unlike anything we have in America. Needless to say, we made a point to try and find these grapes in every city we went to.

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To balanace out the fruit, we also got a croissant and 2 cappucinos while we waited for the train.

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We took the train from Riomaggiore to Monterosso and started to explore. Monterosso reminded us of California. It had a beautiful beach and stunning ocean views and similar flowers… it was beautiful! (Lindsay, wish we could go for a walk on this beach!)

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Can you see the guy holding up the cliff?

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Writing a few postcards…

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That’s Monterosso. We hiked east along the coast towards Riomaggiore.

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The only wildlife we saw:IMG_6574

It took us a few hours to walk to Vernazza, mainly because we kept stopping to take pictures and gawk at the amazing views. Plus, why would you want to rush a hike like this?!
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Vernazza. We were in a constant state of amazement that these towns were built on cliffs.

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It definitely wasn’t lunch time, but it’s always time for pizza.

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It was so fun to peer into the kitchens of the restaurants we passed and see all the beautiful produce.DSC_0180

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↑ A semi-aerial view of Vernazza… ↓Corniglia in the distance.
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These towns built on cliffs are not only incredible, but they’re so cute a colorful!

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Not only are the homes built on cliffs, but so are the vineyards. The metal thing towards the center of the picture is a bucket-type contraption that has a motor and rides up the hill on that track.

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Drinking water from a fountain in the rock. It’s potable… don’t worry.

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We couldn’t agree with that above picture more! Since the path to Manarola, the 4th town, was closed, we took the train so that we could still explore the village. It was so picturesque!

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We found a perfect overlook to watch the sunset from.

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After sunset, we stopped at a market and got pesto, bread, proscutto, tomatoes, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and of course those amazing grapes to have for dinner on our balcony.

Since we couldn’t hike all the way to our village because the path was closed, we took the train. Here I am waiting for it to arrive.

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There were signs everywhere alerting us to watch out for pickpocketers and this sign in particular was my favorite. It shows the worst crime ever… a thief stealing your drink and panini. Hahaha!

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Goodnight Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre – Part I

Imagine our surprise when we went to buy train tickets to the most anticipated destination on our trip and we couldn’t find any. Hmmmm… maybe we spelled it wrong? Do Italians spell it differently? (Florence = Firinze, Rome = Roma, Venice = Venezia)

Well, we found out that there is no town called Cinque Terre, but that there are 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore

We stayed in Riomaggiore and loved it. When we got off the train, we had to walk through this tunnel to get to the town. It was really pretty and had interesting mosaics on the right side.

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Our first glimpse of the town.

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We found a super cheap room which ended up being an entire 2 story apartment complete with a kitchen and a balcony with a view. We think that they may have overbooked the hotel and given us this apartment because it was the only on left… lucky for us!DSC_0084

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Our perch on the balcony was nice, but we decided to get out and explore the town before it got dark.

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Lot’s of cobblestone steps and narrow streets and grape vines and beautiful views. For dinner, we ordered a pizza to-go and ate it on our balcony… it was perfect.

 

Turin + Genoa

We debated on whether to go to Genoa or to Turin for our next stop and then decided on Turin. Our guidebook said that Turin had the best risotto and lots of amazing food and since the 2006 Olympics where there, we figured it’d be a cool place to visit.

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The first of many, many gelato’s! IMG_6531

In Turin, we tried what’s called an appertivo. You buy a drink for 8 euro and you get an unlimited buffet. It was pretty delicious and a great way to try a bunch of different things.

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Turin was cool, but it definitely wasn’t our favorite place in Italy. Our hotel was really far out of town and we had to take the trolley. It was interesting to get out of the touristy areas of the town and see how the locals lived. The highlight for me was waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh croissants baking in the oven.

The breakfast at our hotel was amazing and Turin lived up to it’s claim of having great food.

 

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Next stop, Cinque Terre. But since we didn’t stay in Genoa, we got off the train at that stop and explored a bit. DSC_0071

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Genoa was a super cool, bustling sea-port town with a narrow maze of streets. We liked Genoa a lot and wished we could’ve spent more time there, but Cinuqe Terra was waiting for us!

 

 

 

 

Milan

Milan, or Milano as the Italians say, was our first stop in Italy. I was giddy with excitement when we got off the train.

 

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We had no idea where to find our hotel, so just like in Germany, we showed the address to a taxi driver. He refused to drive us there and told us to walk because it was very close. The taxi drivers wait in a line and this guy was at the front of the line and I’m sure he didn’t want to waste all that time that he had waited to be next on what probably would’ve been a 2 minute ride.

So, we walked. And we found it! And our room had a balcony that was yellow!IMG_6507

It was really warm in Milan, so we changed and then set out to see the sights. We got a map and went back to the train station to catch the subway to see the Duomo, aka church. The subway was packed! I loved hearing people speaking in Italian… it was so pretty to listen to!

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This cathedral was insanly massive. and beautiful. We were in awe and wondered how in the world they built it so long ago! It’s kinda sad and empty that they focus on the church instead of what really matters, but it was still beautiful. IMG_6509

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Inside was just as massive. DSC_0043

Davey liked to light the candles and he ended up lighting one at every church we went to… just for the fun of it.
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As you can probably see, there are so many people. This square was PACKED with locals and tourists. We were really surprised at how crowded Milan was. It was very much like NYC!DSC_0049

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By now, we were starving, so the main goal was to wander around and hopefully stumble upon the perfect place to eat. We found a place that sold foccicia and it was amazing.

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Basil smells sweeter in Italy. A picture in honor of Grandpa B 🙂IMG_6514

We took the subway back to our hotel and ate dinner at the restaurant across the street. I got spaghetti al carbonara (I’ve actually never tried it before and it was goooood! I mean, bacon, cheese, eggs and cream… how can it not be good!) Davey got lasagna and it was good too.

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The next morning, we walked to find Luini’s. They sold panzerotti which are kinda like a hot pocket. You can get them with meat inside or with fruit or nutella. We got a few of each. They were yummy.

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Next stop, Turin.

Zurich

Goodbye Germany, hello Switzerland! We took an afternoon bus to Zürich. Our bus was a super cool, double-decker bus that had wi-fi.

IMG_6451.JPGOur seats were on the lower level at the only table on the bus. This was kinda cool and kinda not. Poor Davey had to look backwards the whole trip, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t get carsick! We sat next to a young guy and an older lady and they were very nice and gave us tips and on what to do and see in Zürich.

Once we arrived in Zürich, we walked to the train station to get information on how to get to our hotel. We ended up having to take the train out of the city and then walk about 1/2 mile. So, we dropped our bags off and then took the train back into Zürich.

Switzerland is labeled as one of the most expensive countries. The actual city of Zürich was beautiful and clean and it looked expensive. However, barley 2 minutes outside the city were decrepit high-rise apartments, tons of graffiti and lots of small shacks pieced together with tarps and scraps of metal.

I was glad that our hotel was outside the city so we could experience– or at lease see– what real life was like in Switzerland. It’s obviously not only an expensive country to visit for tourists like us, but also for the people who live there.

Zürich was beautiful, but it was our least favorite city. It had a very cold, oppressed, depressed vibe, and while the people were nice, they all seemed sad. It was a good reminder to me that God is the only one who provides true joy and happiness… not riches or fashion or travel.

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Our main goal the first night was to find fondue. The Swiss are known for their cheese, so fondue was a must. We wandered around the city taking in picturesque views as we asked local after local where to find fondue without any luck.


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This is the biggest clock face in all of Europe… so we were told.

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Our trusty map, comfy sneakers and cobblestones.
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By now it was dark and I was starting to get hangry (hungry+angry= hangry). We still had not found a fondue restaurant, so we were about to give up and just get something to eat at the first place we saw. But then… we walked around the corner and saw people dipping cubes of bread into steaming pots of cheese. We were so excited!

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The waiter asked us if we wanted fondue for 1 or 2 people and of course we said 2, not knowing that there was no way we could eat the vast amount of cheese and bread that was set before us. I won’t tell you how much this meal cost because it’s kind of embarrassing that we spend so much money on a bowl of cheese and bread. But it was worth it for the experience. And, it was very delicious.

The next morning, we got up early and took the train to the edge of the city where you can hike up to a lookout point and get an aerial view of Zurich. The city was shrouded in fog that morning, so we didn’t get a very good view, but it was pretty cool to see the fog and feel like you were in the clouds.

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The trains back to the city ran every 20 minutes and we had to catch the next on so that we would be able to catch our other train to Milan. Swiss trains are very punctual and so we knew that even if we were 30 seconds late, the train would already be gone. We had 3 minutes and we sprinted down the mountain and slid onto the train just as the doors closed.

When we got back to the main train station, we got some apple strudel and a cappuccino and retrieved our bags from the storage lockers and boarded our next train.

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The train ride from Zurich to Milan was one of the highlights of our trip. We rode through the alps and saw the most breathtaking views… it was amazing.

 

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IMG_6501.JPGNext stop, Milan!

We’re baaaack!

Hello! Grüezi! Guten Morgen! Bonjourno!

Hello in English, German, Swiss and Italian.

Due to limited WiFi, lack of time, and being in vacation mode, I didn’t post a single picture from our trip on Facebook. So, I thought I’d dust off the old blog and post a bunch of pictures from our trip.

But let me preface this by saying that we didn’t do much planning in preparation for this trip. We were so focused on our triathlon training this summer/fall that before we knew it, it was already October.

We also kept our Etsy shop open while we were gone and a few weeks leading up to our trip, we were busy making and packaging a ton of lamps that our AWESOME friend Wayne was able to ship for us once we were gone.

We packed at midnight the night before our 6am flight to Italy and we booked our first hotel while we were in the airport on a layover.

Needless to say, we flew by the seat of our pants, made plans as we went, and couldn’t have planned a more perfectly awesome trip to Europe!

After 15+ hours of traveling, we arrived in Munich. Here’s the view from the plane:IMG_6431.JPG

After we made it through customs, we kinda just wandered around and looked at each other like deer in headlights. We were tired and without wifi or GPS, we had no idea how to get to our hotel, much less pronounce the address: Diertersheimer Strasse 58 Neufahrn 85375 DE

Thanks to a tip from a friend, I had taken a screen shot of the hotel confirmation and we showed it to a taxi driver and he drove us to our hotel. Piece of cake. It was about a 30 minute drive from the airport and we drove through fields and ended up in a quaint bavarian town right outside of Munich. It was adorable!

It was 10am German time, who knows what time our time and so we checked into our teeny tiny room and meant to take a 1 hour nap but it turned into a 5 hour nap. Whoops.

We definitely could’ve slept longer, but we made ourselves get up and go explore the town. This is the view from outside our hotel.

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We walked about a mile and found a German restaurant and ordered some very German wienerschnitzel. Davey also ordered what he thought was fresh made bread with homemade butter, but it ended up being a slice of bread slathered with lard. It was… gross. My sausage looks gross, but it was actually pretty good. All in all, we’re not huge fans of German food and couldn’t wait to eat Italian food!

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The next day, we took the train to Munich. We were shocked at how easy it was to buy a ticket and how easy the trains and subways were to navigate! I’ve been to NYC more times than I can count and I still can’t get the hang of the subway. But in Germany, after one ride, we caught on and barley needed a map.

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Once we arrived at our stop in Munich, we had a 25 minute walk to our hotel. We checked in and then got a map and asked for directions to a cool Farmer’s Market that Davey had found. Basically, we had to take a bus and a subway and we were a bit unsure we’d be able to not get lost, but the girl assured us that it was easy. “Just follow the crowd”, she said. Uh, ok.

IMG_6445.JPGShe was right… not about follow the crowd, but about it being easy to navigate. We arrived downtown and got a pretzel. German pretzels are SO good.


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We walked around the Farmer’s Market and got a grilled cheese sandwich at the cheese booth… amazing. We also bought some smoked mozzarella for a snack.


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This was the only time it rained on our entire trip and as soon as we bought an umbrella, the rain stopped. Go figure.


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While we were walking around, we decided to try and find the train station so we could check and see what times the trains were leaving for Zurich, our next stop. We found a guy who spoke English and he told us that we wouldn’t be able to go to Zurich because the trains were going on strike tomorrow. But he told us that we could take a bus and, in fact, the bus was much cheaper!

So, we bought our bus tickets for the next day and felt super relieved because the guy told us that we were lucky to have a seat on the bus because once people found out the trains were on strike, everyone would try to take the bus and a lot of people wouldn’t be able to get a seat. Thank God we got our tickets ahead of time!

The next morning, we ate the BEST breakfast buffet we’ve ever had at a hotel. It was amazing. Fresh bread, croissants, cheese, meat, yogurt, granola, bagels, cream cheese, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, eggs, sausage, coffee, fresh juice… it was amazing.

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After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and took the bus and a subway to the bus station to catch our ride to Zurich. We took the scenic route.

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I actually liked Germany much more than I thought I would and although it was a quick visit, I would definitely go back. Next stop, Zurich Switzerland!

The trains on strike:

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