Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

Blessed by the God of Travel 22 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 7:26 PM
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What a great time I had in Slovenia! Since I assume most Americans have never even heard of the country, it goes without saying that this place is terribly underrated as a vacation destination.

I spent another great afternoon with the Hare Krishnas. Not only did I enjoy talking about their beliefs and karma, but it was a relaxed way to meet the locals. I sat at a picnic table with a few other women and we all watched their kids play. I got to help one lady, Sabrina, with her beautiful 10 month old girl. My nephew Kaden was that age the last time I saw him, so it meant a lot for me for an almost stranger to trust me with her child. The entire place was filled with such trust and generosity. We meditated together, heard a lecture, and then came the feast. Such wonderful food, completely different from anything else I´ve eaten before, and all vegetarian. This is followed by singing and dancing. It was great to see the little kids running back and forth between the adults, some of who were surprisingly energetic even after an hour of sweating under the fans.

The next day I had been planning on going to Berlin after a few hours in a northern lake town, but I decided instead to spend the night at Lake Bled. I´ve been hearing about this place for months from Rick Steves, so how could I pass it up? And Rick Steves never lies. In fact, my mantra of late has been WWRSD– What would Rick Steves do?

Bled is at the foothills of the Julian Alps, called the Sunny Alps by the Slovenes. Blue skies reflect back in the clear water. The 6km path around the lake gives plenty of time to see the snow capped Alps, a castle perched overlooking the town, and swams swimming out to Bled Island. A €12 gondola ride takes you out the island, where 99 stone steps rise out of the water. At the top of the stairs is an old church, and inside there is a bell that gives good luck if you ring it 3 times. I´d met a nice Australian couple on the boat who said that when I rang the bell they heard a distinctive American twang. As I stepped off the boat and headed back towards my incredibly crappy hostel, I was glad I´d followed Rick Steves´advice.

I was thinking this thought and smiling at the puffy clouds, the snowy mountains, and the families of swans when I noticed a few men standing on the side of the lake. One of them had a large video camera, and at first I rolled my eyes at the silliness of Asian tour groups. But then I noticed one of the men, standing with his back to me, was very tall, and blond…

I pulled off my sunglasses and the stupidest grin spread across my face. The man with the camera noticed me and nudged his Nordic friend. My hands were shaking and I didn´t know what to say. Could this be? The travel dream that I thought was too stupid to even mention to anyone–is it actually coming true, and in such a fairy tale setting? Here I was, standing on the shore of Lake Bled, face to face with Rick Steves himself!

Me and Rick Steves by juliannedodds.

A handshake turned into a hug, he asked my name and exchanged some pleasantries. I told him the only reason I was there was because of him. That I watched his show and loved his radio podcasts. That my parents were going to shit themselves when they found out.  I couldn´t thank him enough, to tell him what an amazing, wonderful experience this was for me. Was it a coincidence, or was it destiny?

I just about skipped the 2 km uphill to my hostel, and after dropping my bag ran out to the nearest photo shop. If something were to happen to my camera, I needed a hard copy of this event. I needed 10 copies in fact. Every couple hours I pull out that photo and I still can´t believe my good luck.I hope that you all watch his show and see the episode on Lake Bled that he was filming as I was there, and maybe, boys and girls, if you believe, and you follow every bit of Rick Steves´advise, you too will meet the God of Travel.

Then there was some bullshit with the train system, blah blah blah, but eventually I wound up in Innsbruck. At breakfast I heard a deep voice that reminded me fondly of my Uncle Jerry, and following the sound I met a nice couple from Knoxville, TN, named John & Sue. We spent about an hour talking over pastries, discussing our mutual travel plans. I love Southern folk of a certain age. When I got up to leave John said to me, in that wonderful deep voice that reminded me of Gregory Peck and my Granddad (as well as the afor mentioned uncle), that I have gumption. Music that played in my head all day long.

So a few hours later found me riding a cable car up the Nordpark mountain. From the top of the ride I climbed up to the peak, and as far as I could see were those blue mountains. The ice caps blended in with the clouds. I don´t know how long I stood up there alone, but it was wonderful. I really don´t think I could live in the mountains on account of the winter, but every time I get into a range like that I feel so excited. Driving into the Smokies this past December I felt the same thing, and I remember how once Jason and I had reached those little Alpine towns in February that I was skipping through the snow. And the Alps, with the warm summer air blending with the chill of the snow on the ground, is truly an amazing place to be.

On the way down I stopped at a cafe where I ran into an Arizona couple I´d met on the ascent, Matt & Alex (Alex would want me to say that she is a lady, and it´s true). I ordered the same ham strudel they were eating and we shared our stories. Alex got the bill and we headed further downhill to the zoo. We saw some baby animals, quite cute, talked some more. When we headed off in our separate directions back in the Inn valley I realized just how potent the blessing of the Travel God had been.

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Another weekend, another spontaneous festival with Germans 9 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:47 AM
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They say that Germans are magnets for other Germans, and damn if it’s not true. And it’s great that I show up on that Ger-dar, not as a full-fledged German, but as I say, I like the Germans and they like me. Not like those Spanish…
Yesterday I had to move to a different room in the hostel, to the last free bed, because of course even when I arrive at the hostel without a reservation I don’t know how many days I’m staying, so I usually only pay one day at a time (which sometimes means I don’t have a bed, but also this confusion sometimes results in the receptionist forgetting to charge me). In my new room was a hung-over German who immediately invited me to party with his friends for the day. My plan was to spend the day reading in the park, but this sounded good too. This was 11h00.

So we tumbled out into the main square where there just happened to be a huge festival celebrating Krakow’s students. We grabbed some beer, a brand called Redd that mixes beer with juice for some delicious mixes, and met up with the other Germans. About this time German-Boy-Robin (Herr Robin to distinguish him from all the other Robins I have) and I thought to introduce ourselves. When the other Germans found out that I had visited their hometown Regensburg (remember the mushroom cafe?) they were delighted, and the day began.

We spend a couple hours at the concert in the main square, where the city’s students had decked themselves out in some silly costumes. It was like Mardi Gras on Frenchman Street, but smaller, daylight, more sober (sorry guys, but I believe NOLA can outdrink every other city in the world) and no drugs. Then we grabbed some spicy kebabs, which Herr Robin complained about for the next 12 hours, met up with a giant brick wall of a Dane, and hopped a bus out to Nova Huta, the communist district of Krakow. There, behind the Real Hypermarche, in an abandoned airfield, was a huge concert. We grabbed some more beers, got some new sunglasses, a 18″ hotdog, and settled down.

My new friends

new shoes!

I saw a band called Lady Pank, which seems to be Poland’s answer to the Rolling Stones complete with a creepy Mick Jagger, and then a German punk band called Die Toten Hosen, or the Dead Pants. Boy, did those Krakow students love those bands. I’d never heard of them before, but apparently they are each countries’ most popular group.

At this point it was about 1 am and I was still wearing the sundress I’d set off in at noon. I was cold and exhausted. We grabbed a taxi back into the city center and then did what all hip European kids do on a Friday night: McDonald’s. And boy, were those nuggets tasty. There were 2 police stationed in the McD’s making sure no one laughed too loud or sat on the counter, and it is my opinion that their power made them crazy. Too much authority. About 2h30 I got into my bed. Herr Robin and I had parted ways; he was heading out to a club. Crazy Germans.

So in a couple hours I take a bus south to Budapest. I’ve got my last 15 PLN (about $5) to spend. I already came across 2 shirts in the perfect shade of yellow, and I’ve been looking for a perfect shade of yellow T shirt in my size for months, so now I have 2. It’s a sunny day, the tourists are clogging the streets, and I’m going to eat a mango gelato and watch it all.

Also, I am so pleased that I got my brother the perfect birthday present from Poland…

Other things that make my life possible: travel spacebags, Diva cup, USAA bank which allows me to make unlimited international transactions, including cash withdrawls, for no fees, lightload towels (although now I want the beach towel!), and Rick Steves.

 

Czech interlude plus practicalities of the road 4 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 9:26 AM
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One difficulty of traveling is laundry. It’s not really a problem to wash socks and underwear in the sink, but it does get annoying to do it daily. Also, if I am traveling the next day I have to pack my damp clothes into my bag, so I try to put out my clothesline when I’m staying somewhere for a couple nights. With my elastic clothesline I carry a drain plug, detergent, and myrrh oil to scent my clothes. But really, sometimes just rinsing the clothes makes them shrink back to their original size and feel clean.

Traveling can be hard on a hygiene routine too. Hostel showers generally suck, so there’s not much incentive to bathe. There’s hair on the floor, the water automatically turns off every 9 seconds, and there are no shelves or hooks to hang your clothes or toiletries. Also, with a 32 L daypack as my bag, I can only carry a few of my most loved familiar products. My mom sends me travel sized bottles filled with my favorite organic lavender lotion. I have a few bottles of essential oils for hygiene purposes, and they also do double-duty as aromatherapy (rosewood oil is anti-infectious, anti-fungal, a local anesthetic, and it smells good). One thing I don’t carry is shampoo, because I can always find or borrow some and it’s not something I’m particular about. It’s fun buying new toothpaste in a different countries, although I could only find unwaxed dental floss in France. I’ve always heard about how wonderful European pharmacies are, and it’s true, but I don’t have enough space to buy all the intriguing lotions and cremes I see on the shelves! Even more so than with my clothing, I make sure that every beauty product I carry is exactly what I want, so I can pretend to pamper myself.

Coming to Izzy’s is great for a lot of reasons. I can relax, let my backpack hang out, and, perhaps most importantly, take a bath. A real honest to goodness bath. Hot water, some lavender oil, and me with a crossword puzzle. It’s easy to loose an hour in there and I’m always glad to do so. Even Buddy the dog comes out of the tub smelling nice and feeling silky (you may remember him as the astro-dog who ate my Dutch brownies).

So now I am back in Prague, having fun with Izzy’s even though I saw her 4 weeks ago in Marseille. When I arrived at her apartment we immediately set out for a friend’s cottage on top of a mountain overlooking the city. We all had a great time drinking beer and grilling sausages around the fire with some Czechs. The dog had a great time rolling around in some dead animal he found in the woods. We didn’t sing, but there was an iPod playing. The rest of the weekend is spent eating, drinking Coke, and watching TV. Just the break I need before heading east to Poland!

 

The thing about plans is that they never last 15 April 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 10:59 AM
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So according to the detailed plan I made 2 weeks ago in Marseille, I should be heading to Florence right now. But no, I´m back in Barcelona and I´m staying in Toulouse tonight, and back in Le Vignaud tomorrow.

Spain is strange. All the touristy places play the same bad American music from 10 years ago. I have heard the Cher song ¨do you believe in life after love?¨so many times in the past 2 weeks that it´s disgusting.

I really stocked up on books at some used English book shops I found in Madrid. It´s great to have the books, but they are so heavy! I can´t believe how much stuff I keep accumulating and carrying.

I think I´m going to go back to Amsterdam for Queen´s Day on 30 April. It will be an interesting and exciting experience, I´m sure. Last night in a bar I met a guy from Louisiana, who also had not been home since he was 21 (but he is 35 now so it´s a little different for him). It was great to have some bayou talk in rainy Madrid. I didn´t sleep at all last night, except for 1 hour on the Madrid-Barcelona train this morning, so my brain is totally fried. I brushed my teeth in a Burger King. It´s one of those days.

Oh, also you will all be glad to know that my wallet is now securely fastened to my pants by chain. And I finally have my ATM and credit card back!

 

The humid air of Marseille feels like home 5 April 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 1:07 PM
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So Izzy just left for Milan after 4 days together in sometimes sunny Marseille. I’m on my own again. But it’s getting warm, and I even left my coat from Cesky Krumlov at the train station when I dropped her off. It’s strange how sad it is to leave something like that behind…

Well, I’m finally getting back into backpacking. After spending the last 7 weeks in France, tomorrow I’m starting a whirlwind 10 city tour before meeting my dad in Paris at the end of May. This is where my railpass comes in handy. First off is Barcelona, which should be lovely. I’ll be in Italy for the middle of April, and then Greece! Then follows Dubrovnik, Zagreb, maybe Ljubljana, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, and finally Munich. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, but I am excited. Also getting tired and ready to go home, but then I remember that I don’t have a home anymore. So I guess I’m ready to make a home again.

Yesterday we went to the Callanques on the Mediterranean. Easily the most beautiful land I’ve seen in Europe. The walk took 1.5 hours through rocky mountains covered with wild rosemary. When we finally arrived at the rocky beach (where I ate a blood orange I found on the way) I was so excited to get into that turqoise water, and even though it was so cold my legs were numb it made sunning on the rocks that much better.

The day before we walked around the Vieux Port of Marseille and sat outside a restaurant and ate big pots of mussels. The city is strange, and I can’t help but be uncomfortable walking through some of the ethnic neighborhoods where there are only men on the streets. But still, I like this place and would come back, at least for the beach.

On the way here from Jason’s house I lost my wallet in Limoges, so I’m dealing with that headache. My new wallet is on a rope tied to my pants, but really I need a chain. At least I had another credit card and some cash stored somewhere else, so I’m not stranded. Also having parents looking out for me makes a huge difference!

 

Mooching 6 January 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 1:48 PM
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Ooh, I am getting the hang of this ultra-budget travel thing. I bargained a bed in a hostel down to E15 (they were asking 20), then went back to my old hostel for the free breakfast (I am staying there again tonight, but they don’t realize I haven’t slept here in 3 days, just eat the breakfasts and sit in the lounge, yo), and then last night I slept at an awesome place I found on couch surfing. So then today I am finally getting a museum pass, and maybe even do some laundry. I’ve been wearing a flea-market sweater for days without washing it first and I feel grungy. Also, I am trying to find a super-discount bike, which I will then take on the train with me when I leave. I am leaving Ams on 10 Jan, spending 1 day in Brussels, and then heading to a farm south of Paris to spend a few weeks. So it’s cold but I’m meeting some pretty awesome people and not at all starving.

 

Hostel things 3 January 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 9:06 AM
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I have never been in a confined room filled with so much pot smoke for so long! The lounge of my hostel allows smoking (but they don’t sell) and since there are people I’ve been meeting here and my bed is just upstairs I’ve been in the lounge for a few hours a day. But now my throat is itching and I keep sneezing, so I think it’s from all the fumes. I’m moving to a new hostel tonight, and I don’t think they allow smoking, so that should be OK (but it’s right across from the Bulldog, one of the popular coffeeshops for tourists).

I went to a flea market at Waterlooplein yesterday, which was fun. I got me a new knife. I need to clean it, but then I’ll be able to make sandwiches, cut up baddies, and open wine bottles.

I have to go check out of my bed now. What I’ve learned about hostels: 1) earplugs are a must 2) take the blankets and pillows off empty beds because otherwise it’s too cold to sleep! 3) hot water may come from the blue tap and it may take 10 minutes, but it’s worth it and feels SOOO good!

Oh, also, my mom got my diploma (!) and said I got magna cum laude. I had to look it up on wiki, and it means “with great praise”