Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Travel Alphabet

My mom (she has an education-tech blog here) linked me to No Apathy Allowed this morning and I've been reading through her archives: she's an ex-pat who lives in Berlin and loves photography and running. Kindred spirits! Anyway, I found something that I thought would be a fun prompt, so, thank you Mandi!

Age you went on your first international trip.My dad was Air Force, so I grew up all over.  My first move was from Vandenberg AFB in Santa Maria, California to Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, MT--that's where my first international trip occurred. I was ...four? when my parents and my mom's parents went up to Calgary, Canada, where I'm told I stood at the top of the bobsled run and announced that "I wanna be a bobsledder when I grow up!"

Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where.Hrrrm. My family was stationed at Ramstein AFB in Germany from when I was nine until just after my thirteenth birthday, so my beer-snob parents instilled a healthy sense of respect for good beer in me. I like IPAs, but my true love lies in pilsners. 

Cuisine (favorite).Gotta be either German food (Käsespätzle!), or German Italian food (by which I mean, Italian food found in Germany). I don't know what it is about Italian by way of Germany, but it may have something to do with hearty German portion sizes and accompaniment by delicious beer. Also, it doesn't involve Italians. (Haha.)

Various Schnitzels and some aforementioned Käsespätzle in Heidelberg
Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why.
My overall favorite destination will probably always be Germany in general, but if we look more closely, I really love London. I've been there three times and just really enjoy it! ...I do think part of it might have something to do with the fact that the three times I went there, I had been living in Germany for an extended period, so an English-language destination was lovely--specifically, the fact that there were English-language bookstores available! 

Least favorite destination would probably be Italy. My dad came up with a theory, based on the two-week trip my family took to Italy when I was in sixth grade, which focuses on the driving styles of various cultures: the more car horns are heard in a given city or country, the less civilized the place.  We also were gypped by both citizens and state-run institutions (the water taxis in Venice), so that put a bad taste in our combined mouths. During my year as an exchange student in Bad Homburg (about 20 klicks outside of Frankfurt), I revisited many places I'd been as a kid (London, Berlin, Bruges, Paris, Dresden, Amsterdam), but had absolutely no interest in returning to Italy.

Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”.
This is strangely Stillwater-centric (my family moved to Stillwater, OK, from Germany, and my parents and brother still live there now), which is very weird for me: I've done my best to distance myself from everything about Oklahoma. I just...Stillwater was a very hard move for me. I went from my favorite place in the world--Germany--to a small, fairly conservative and boring town in the middle of Oklahoma, which the buckle of the freakin' Bible Belt. However, the rock band The All-American Rejects hail from Stillwater! Tyson, the lead singer, and Nick, the lead guitarist, both graduated from Stillwater High School, one of them in the same class as my best friend's older brother. Her mom actually babysat Tyson when he was little. I graduated with Tyson's cousin, and played their song "Dirty Little Secret" on Rock Band with her at a party once. 

Anyway, the Rejects played a show at Batschkapp in Frankfurt while I was there. I made a poster that said "From StillH2O with Love" in the school's colors and held it up at the show. Their faces just LIT. UP. They were smiling and waving and gesticulating to one another--it was just so cool. At the end of the show, Tyson crumpled up a set list and leaned out over the crowd to hand it directly to me, even pulling it out of other people's hands to make sure I ended up with it. 

They're my dirty little secret.
Favorite mode of transportation.
Despite the fact that Deutsche Bahn's motto seems to be "Deutsche Bahn: Wir bitten um ihren Verständniss" ("We ask for your understanding," thanks to delays and the like), I love train travel. I love being able to go from Point A to Point B and not have to drive; to be able to read a book and just kick back, but without the costs and crampedness associated with air travel.

Greatest feeling while traveling.Understanding the foreign-language conversations of people around you.

Hottest place you’ve traveled to.I don't remember it terribly well, but my family took a Costa cruise through the Med when I was 11 or so and one of the stops was in Tunis, Tunisia. I assume that was the hottest.

Incredible service you’ve experienced and where.I feel like this shouldn't count since it wasn't international, but it was travel nonetheless. When I was nine, my family took a trip to Chicago and had dinner one night at the Hard Rock. Our waitress, Megan, was phenomenal. (The fact that I still remember her name should attest to that.) She goofed around with us; she took pictures with us; she brought my little brother into the kitchen with her to pick up his food. 

Journey that took the longest.The summer of 2000, my mom took my brother and me back stateside for various weddings, family events, and visits. We "caught a hop" on a military aircraft (I think a C-5?), where we were given earplugs in our goodie bags because the engines were so loud. The seats were facing backwards, too, I remember. Anyway, we were flying from Ramstein, Germany, to Baltimore or DC or something like that, but the "check engine" light came on over England, so we landed in Mildenhall and spent the night there while the plane was being repaired. 

The next morning, my mom got us up at oh-dark-hundred and we loaded back on the plane...only to land a few hours later in Reykjavik, Iceland with the same issue. We only stayed in the airport, but they had an awesome vending-machine food court where I got a cup of chicken and dumpling soup (ahhh, the things that kids remember). Finally we were able to get to the States; I have no idea how long the trip took, however. Much longer than it was supposed to, at any rate!

Keepsake from your travels.Uhhhhhhhhh...I take a lot of pictures, I guess?  I can't really think of anything right off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's something. I got some pretty schweet electric-purple faux glasses in Paris? 

Street market in Amsterdam
Let-down sight, why and where.
The Musee Magritte in Brussels. It had JUST opened. Magritte is one of my favorite artists and I was extremely excited to visit in the first week of its operation. However, I didn't think about it beforehand: all of the really famous Magritte paintings are already in big museums, so this museum was just a collection of a bunch of not-as-cool, not-as-popular pieces.

Moment where you fell in love with travel.I don't know as though I could peg a single moment. From an early age, my family traveled quite a bit, and living in Germany for three and a half years meant that we never spent a weekend at home--there was always something we could go do, to go see! My first big trip was in second grade, when my grandparents drove my mom, brother, and me in their motorhome from Omaha, Nebraska to the East Coast to visit my dad, who was at a three-month-long training exercise in Norfolk, VA. "The Motorhome Trip" lasted a full month and my mom homeschooled us, even working in lessons about The Trumpet of the Swan and, for my kindergarten-age brother, Make Way for Ducklings before we saw the Swan Boats in Boston.

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in.The night before we flew out of Frankfurt to move back to the States, we were put up in a really gorgeous hotel. I particularly remember going up to a "clubhouse" kind of room and having a Coke while reading in a really comfy couch. Can't remember what hotel it was, though.

Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?Hearts, wherever I can find them, and my name! Victoria (or Viktoria) is fairly prevalent in Europe; I have pictures of Viktoria hotels, restaurants, streets, and stores.

Käsetorte in the Sächsische Schweiz
Passport stamps, how many and from where?I have very few actual passport stamps, since most of my travels were in between EU countries. I've been to ....oh geez, I can never remember if it's 26 or 27 countries all total. USA, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Italy, the Vatican, Tunisia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Poland.  Crap, I guess it's 29!

Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.First one that springs to mind is the Roald Dahl Museum in Aylesbury. Very cool! Bottles of George's Marvellous Medicine; a green-screen effect room; the Great Glass Elevator.

Recommended sight, event or experience.Weihnachtsmärkten! (Christmas markets!) No matter where you go, they'll be fabulous. Huts selling Glühwein (hot spiced wine), all kinds of food, crafts, etc: how can you go wrong? I've been to Weihnachtsmärkten all over Germany and also in France, and I think either Denmark or the Netherlands.
Weihnachtsmarkt in Nürnberg
Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling.That's hard. I don't like splurging on much. Nice museums, maybe? 

Touristy thing you’ve done.Hop-on, hop-off busses anywhere. It's a great way to see the sights! I took an awesome Magical Mystery Bus Tour while visiting Liverpool on a Beatles-centric pilgrimage, too.

Unforgettable travel memory.Taking a trip from Frankfurt to Brussels to Bruges and to Paris by myself and deciding what to do and when: namely, taking naps pretty much everywhere. I took naps in parks all over Europe and got super sunburnt laying in the parks both by the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

Visas, how many and for where?I don't think we needed a visa to visit Russia while on a Baltic cruise, so just a student visa for my year in Germany.

Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?This will sound ridiculous, but drinking crazy-cheap (something like 1,20Euro, so a buck-fifty at the time), 1,5LTetrapak'ed table wine from the local grocery store with a girlfriend in Germany. We were wasted for an entire weekend. It was fabulous.

So drunk.
eXcellent view and from where?
Riding the London Eye.

Years spent traveling?....all of the years? So 22 at this point.

Zealous sports fans and where?I can't think it could be anyone besides German Fußball fans!