Wednesday, November 26, 2008


November 20-25th 2008

A view of Place Jamaa el Fna from a terrace resturant at night!

Day 1
The trip to Morocco started in Reutlingen, Germany at 1:45am. Travis, Rogier, Victoria, Priscilla and I piled into a rented car and drove to Frankfurt Hahn Airport to catch our flight. I drove the 3 hours it took to get to the airport and I had a blast. At 3am there aren’t many drivers out on the road and Germany doesn’t have speed limits on the autobahns, in most cases. We had a nice Mercedes and I got that baby up to 200km/hr or 125miles/hr. Anyway we got to the airport about 2 hours early, checked in and went to our gate. We boarded a little late but we arrived in Marrakech 20 minutes early. We took bus 19 to the city center which took about 30min. Once off the bus we had no idea how to get to our hostel, the Equity Point Marrakech. This guy came up to us and told us that he new where our hostel was. We were a little skeptic, but there were 5 of us and 1 of him and it was day time; so we followed him. As we were walking, we picked up two more people staying at our hostel. We followed the guy to our hostel, through the souks, and random alleys, which made us a little nervous. But he got us there safely and wanted us to pay him 10euros, which was ridiculous so we paid him 4euros!
We couldn’t check into our room at the hostel, so we had to put our stuff down and check in later. We went out to explore the city and taking it all in. The first day was the craziest and very overwhelming. We ate lunch at a restaurant suggested in lonely planet and it was delicious. It was a great introduction into the Morocco food culture. After lunch we went back to the hostel to check in and relax. We hung out there for a while, playing cards or reading. At around 6pm we went out to find dinner. The first night there, we learned that at around sunset the market square gets crazy. Donkeys come in bringing food stalls, food, and gas powered grills. They are known as El-Fna Food Stalls and there were about 30 of them. The workers harass you until you sit down and eat at their stall. If you don’t choose theirs then they can get pretty nasty. Anyway we sat at one table and ordered a variety of dishes; from salads and fries to meats, calamari, fish fillets and dessert. After our meal we went back to the hostel and hung out before going to bed.

Day 2
We slept in as much as we could, but we still ended up waking up early. We ate breakfast, which consisted of bread, jam, cream cheese and orange juice. After breakfast we all got ready and then headed out. We were headed for the train station so that we could buy our tickets for the next’s day’s trip to Casablanca. We walked back to the main bus stop, got money out at the bank and then got on the bus. We got off the bus at the wrong stop so we had to walk about a mile to the train station. Once there we bought our tickets and then decided to continue to walk to see other sights. We walked down Ave Med VI to Ave de la Menara and went to the Menara, which is close to the airport. La Menara wasn’t anything special except the large “pool” behind the building that had some massive fish. We thought it might be nice to go swimming, but after seeing those fish we thought they might eat us! After resting there for a while we walked back toward city center coming to the fancier part of Marrakech. It was full of nice houses, large hotels and country clubs/spas. We had lunch at a famous restaurant called, Alizia, which is a mix of Italian and Moroccan food. After that we walked back to the city center and then down to the Royal Palace and Palais Badi. We couldn’t really get into the palaces so we just rested for a while in a courtyard, which was full of westerners, and then headed back to our hostel. We relaxed a little at our hostel and played cards. For dinner we went to a restaurant that was suggested by the hostel. Mabrouka restaurant was very nice and close to our hostel which was near the market. They had live music and good food. The only thing that was annoying to my friends was the amount of cats that were just walking around and staring at you while you ate! It didn’t really bother me, as my family has a lot of cats. After dinner we walked around the market square and souks until we ended up at our hostel. Then we played mad libs and went then went to bed.

Day 3
We had to wake up early to catch our train to Casablanca. So we woke up at 7am, everyone showered, got breakfast to go and then walked to the bus stop. We took bus 66 to the train station and were right on time. Our train was already there so we boarded and looked for an empty cabin. We left on time and we had a nice train ride, but it took longer than we expected to get there. (See Casablanca for more details.) We got back to Marrakech at around 10pm and there were no busses running so we had to take a cab. The cab situation was a little sketchy. With five people it’s a little more difficult to get a cab. We managed to find one, after being sketched out by this guy who wanted to take us in his van! Anyway, we finally made it to the hostel and went to bed.

Day 4
We didn’t really have anything planned for the day except souks shopping!! We woke up, got breakfast, then got ready and headed out at around 10am. It was so much fun just walking around and looking at all the stuff. It’s crazy to see how much stuff they sell, especially when you can walk 40 yards and see the exact same thing being sold at another shop. The plethora of shops works to your advantage. You can bargain at one shop, and if you don’t get the price you want, you can go to another shop and try your luck there! We walked and shopped for hours. We got a little lost and ended up at Palais Baha, which is really far from the main souks. We had lunch in a courtyard (the one with all the westerners) at a restaurant near the Royal palace, and then walked back toward our hostel within the souks. We bought a couple more things along the way to our hostel. At the hostel we relaxed, played cards and checked out our merchandise. Later around dinner time we went back out to find dinner. We ate at Hotel Ali, which had a huge “all you can eat” Moroccan buffet. It was delicious but not worth the price, since you can’t really eat 80dh (8euros) worth of Moroccan food! After dinner we walked around a little and then went to our hostel for the night.

Day 5
We had planned to go to Essaoura, a coastal city about 3 hours from Marrakech. We woke up early and took the bus to the train station. We found the bus to Essaoura, but it was sold out, so we were stuck in Marrakech. We went back to the hostel and ate breakfast and went out to get some last souvenirs/gifts. Once again we spent most of the day just walking around the souks. It really didn’t get old, I had such a good time talking to the locals and bargaining. For our last lunch we ate at a shawarma restaurant, and then we went back to the hostel. We played charades and cards while sitting outside and enjoying the sun. When it got dark we went to the market and ate on the rooftop terrace at Argana café. We had a beautiful view of the Place Jama El Fna (market square) and la Koutoubia Mosque. After dinner the girls got henna tattoos and the boys drank some OJ! Then we went back to our hostel after getting some snacks for the next’s day’s plan ride/drive. At the hostel we repacked showered and then went to bed.

Day 6
It was another early morning and a long day for us. We caught the bus to the airport at 7:20am and arrived at around 8am. We waited in line and checked in. Then we waited in line again to go through security, which was sectioned off into a male line and a female line! Then we had to wait in line again to go through passport control. After passport control we found our gate, and guess what, we waited in line again! Awesome! We took off relatively on time and landed on time as well. In Frankfurt we had to pick up our car to drive to Reutlingen. I was suppose to drive on the way back but the lady didn’t know what my Arizona’s drivers license’s code meant, so she wouldn’t let me; even though I had already driven to Frankfurt and I explained to her what it meat. Needless to say Germany is not known for customer service and she was a total jerk. Well we got the car and were on our way to Reutlingen by 3pm. We stopped at McDonalds for lunch/dinner. We were home by 6:30pm.

Morocco/Marrakech was a 3.5. I had a great time in Morocco. Good company, great weather, interesting culture, and amazing food. We saw a lot of tourist, but we also mingled with the locals. The people were very friendly and open, but aggressive. When you are shopping and or deciding where to eat dinner, be prepared to be surrounded, persuaded and then possible dragged to the destination. They won’t hurt you; they are just trying to make a living. Many of the locals thought Victoria, Priscilla and I were Moroccan and would speak to us in French or Arabic until they learned otherwise! It was a great Ice breaker though. The locals also loved to talk about Obama; they love him, especially his skin color! I would go back to Morocco in a second and explore the other cities such as Tangier, fes, Rabat and take a trip to the Sahara. I would recommend Morocco as an exotic travel destination to anyone!

November 22nd 2008
Hassan II mosque is the third largest in the world and it is massive!

Day Trip

Casablanca was a 2.5. It was interesting but the Souks weren't as cool as in Marrakech and there weren't as many sights either.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Sliema and Valletta
October 18th-21st 2008
View from St. Elimo's Fortress, Valletta, Malta!

Day 1
This trip started on a Saturday in Reutlingen, with just myself and my backpack! I took a 2:49pm bus to Stuttgart airport. I checked in, boarded the plane and were airborne on schedule at 4:30pm. We landed in Malta after a rather long and uneventful flight. Although I had read the entire flight and wasn't actually bored, the flight still seemed long. I think it's becuase I hadn't been on a 2.5 hour flight in a really long time! Anyway, after landing I left throught the arrivals gate expecting to find my pre-arragnged ride, but was dissapointed when I saw that he was nowhere to be found. So I had to call the hostel to see what the deal was and they told me he would be there in 20 min. Which meant that he was leaving now, and was not stuck in traffic! I was starving and had time to kill, and when I excited the building I saw those golden arches! They were calling me to them, so as not to dissapoint them, I walked with my backpack on, through the airport parking lot toward them. It was the busyiest Mcdonalds drive through line I have ever seen! Thank goodness the inside wasn't as bad. I ordered quickly and walked even more quickly back to wait for my ride. Meanwhile, I had eaten my fries and cheeseburger! Shortly after I got back to my waiting post, my ride arrived. We drove in a convertable to the hostel where he (the owner/driver of the hostel) checked me in. I asked the necessary questions and went to my room. I settled in, watched tv, then went to bed.

Day 2
I woke up surprisingly early considering how awful I had slept that night. I dressed, ask for a map, got directions to a grocery store, and went to get milk! I came back shortly, and ate my cearal in my room and watched BBC world news. Then I headed out for some exploring. The night before I had learned that Malta had its own language, Maltese, but just about everyone there spoke English anyway. People from all over Europe came there to learn English, you know instead of going to the UK!! Anyway, all the signs, advertisements, menus, and movies were in English. They even drive on the opposite side of the road like the English; however the city resembled nothing of streets of London. It was very much like Tunisia with a French and Spanish flare. I noticed all this while walking toward my destination... the movie theater!! Well I wanted to explore, but I also wanted to see which movies where playing and when. So I walked the 40 mins to the theater, so that I could explore Sliema, St. Julian’s, and finally St. Georges bay (where the theater was). I checked the movie times and bought tickets for two shows, and then I went to the beach. I was at the beach for an hour or so reading, when I got hungry. I ate at this place inside the mall; it wasn't bad, but a little expensive! After lunch I headed to the movies and watched my two films. It was 6:30pm when I got out. I walked home quickly, since I didn't want to get lost in the dark trying to find the hostel. It only took me 30 or so minutes this time! I ate cereal for dinner, watched a movie and then went to bed!!

Day 3
I decided that I would take a bus first thing after breakfasting, to Valetta, the capital. I was at the bus stop by quarter past nine, and waited for 30 minutes before the next bus came. The ride to Valletta was nice, a little bumpy, but short. We arrived at the bus terminal, which is really a very large round-a-bout, full of busses going any which way they please! Despite the kayos I found my way onto a busy street with many shops. I deduced that this was the main shopping area of Valletta. There were many people milling about and I became one of them. I walked until I hit the water, then I walked along the water, and took plenty of pictures. I saw St. Elmo's Fortress, some other ruins and a garden, before looping back to the main shopping street. I was a little bored and wanted to be on the beach, so I took the next bus to St. George's bay. I arrived there at 11am and laid out for a few hours before I saw another two movies! Once again it was 6:30pm when I was walking home, and again it was 7:00pm when I arrived back at the hostel. I ate my cereal for dinner and watched 2 movies again before going to bed!

Day 4
Thankfully I woke up early, so I could enjoy the beach one last time. I walked along the harbor until it was time for me to catch the bus. At the hostel, I got my bag, dropped off the keys and headed to the bus stop. The bus ride was the same as before, short and bumpy, but nice. I waited for the airport bus, which took 20 minutes to finally come. I was at the airport at 11am after a 45min bus ride, this time long and bumpy, but nice. I waited in line for 40 minutes to check in, made it to my gate, and sat outside for 30 mins before boarding. We took off late, as usual, but arrived in Stuttgart on time!

Malta was a 3.5. Warm, sunny and interesting... but it didn't have that exuberant feeling that so many other beach towns do!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Berlin, Germany

September 19-21st, 2009
View from the parlement roof top.

Day 16cont.
We arrived in Berlin and took the s-bahn to Alexander Platz, and then we changed to the U2 getting off at Rosa-Luxemburgstr. The Wombats hostel was right by the station and we were checked in quickly. It was a large hostel and very nice, but not as nice as the hostel I stayed at the last time I was in Berlin. We left right after we dropped off our stuff and went to Alexander Platz. We checked out the movie theater there and found that they were all in German, so we went to another theater. The theater in Potsdammer Platz had English original versions and we saw Tropical Thunder. We bought sweet popcorn and watched the movie. After that we went back to our hostel, and then to the grocery store. We bought breakfast and some soup just in case we got hungry. We didn’t get hungry; we just read, went to the bar for our free drink and then went to bed.

Day 17
We had to set our alarm for 9:20am so that we could be ready in time for our tour. We got dressed and went down to eat breakfast. We left for our walking tour shortly after breakfast. We had to take a bus to Brandenburg tor to actually start our tour. Once there we got some stuff at Starbucks then followed our tour guide. It was the same tour I had taken a year before with Brian, expect that we had a different person and we started where the other tour had finished. I liked the first tour best, I thought the guy was brilliant and knew much more interesting facts. Anyway, it was a good balance because I learned some stuff that I didn’t know before. After the tour we went to the parliament building so that Victoria could see the inside. We took the bus back to our hostel after visiting the parliament building. We hung around for while then decided to go out to dinner to celebrate our last day of travel. We went to Marcus Bräu, an authentic German restaurant, a little pricey but dang good. We went back to the hostel, read and then went to bed.

Day 18
We woke up at 9am again, got dressed, ate breakfast, checked out and went of a walk. We took some pictures of the Rathaus then had a coffee at a café. We walked back the hostel to get our stuff. We took the bus to the airport and checked in, ate our leftover cup of soup (we had to borrow some hot water!! It was pretty ghetto!!) and then went through security!! We boarded the plane and our September trip was over. Back to reality!

Berlin was a 3. Better the second time around.

Dresden & Leipzig, Germany

September 19th, 2008
Square infront of the National Opera.

Day 16 cont
The train from Dresden arrived in Leipzig at 11am. We locked our backpacks up at the train station then walked to tourist information to find a map. After we got our map we walked toward the first sight on our very short list. On the walk we noticed that there was a lot of construction going on in the city. A few streets were closed because of it, but we could still see the main sights. We went to the Market Square, St. Peters Church, Nicholas church, the Old Rathaus, the New Rathaus, the Opera House, and through most of the shopping district, in an hour!!! We walked back to the city center and got something to eat at a Chinese restaurant. I had chicken fried rice, as usual. We walked back to the train station after lunch and still had an hour to kill before our train to Berlin left. So we sat outside and listened to music. Then we got some ice cream and went for one last walk in Leipzig. We went to the train station, got our bags out and then got on the train to Berlin at 1:51pm. Two cities down, one more to go!!

Leipzig was a 2.5. It was much more interesting after we learned more about the cities historical significants. Too bad we learned this info while we were in Berlin!

September 18-19th, 2008
A view from the river.

Day 15cont.
The train ride from Prague to Dresden was a little under 2 hours. When we arrived in Dresden and followed the direction to our hostel, Der Doofe. It took about 20 minutes to get to our hostel once in route. We checked into our hostel and were the only ones in our room. We relaxed for a few minutes and then headed out to see the city. We took the train to the river and then walked along it, seeing: the Ministry of Interior, and the Golden Rider. Then we crossed the bridge Augustus, passed the Blockhouse, Opera, Royal Palace, Zwinger, and the National Theater. We ventured into a large square to the Church of Our Lady. We sat inside the church for a few minutes admiring the craftsmanship and then left. We walked to city hall and he Church of the Holy Cross. It was well past 2 by this time and we were starving so we took the tram to the pedestrian zone. We got some money out and ate at Pizza Hut!! Very American, but it was good!! After our late lunch we went back to the square and bought post cards. Then we took the tram to our hostel and were in for the night. We read, did a crossword, and then went to bed.

Day 16
We had another early morning. Our train to Leipzig was at 9:21 so we dressed, ate breakfast and were out the door by 8:45. Once at the train station, we went straight to our train and were on our way to Leipzig.

Dresden was a 2. Interesting historical buildings but little to do or see.

Prague, Czech Repbulic

September 16-18 2008
Victoria and I decided to walk along the river, thinking we could get to the bridge. We couldn't! We had to walk all the way back and go around!

Day 13cont
The flight from Krakow was very short and we arrived in Prague at 4pm. We bought tickets for the bus and took it to the metro station. We took the metro to the stop recommended by our hostel, the Riverbank hostel, and then walked to our building. We rang the bell and no one answered, so we had to go to a shop just down the road and use their phone. We called the hostel guy and within 5 minutes he arrived to let us in. We checked in and paid for our stay. We changed clothes and got ready to go to dinner. We were meeting Victoria’s cousins at a Cuban restaurant, La Bodequita Del Medio a Cuban. We took the tram to Powedergate and navigated our way to the bank to get some cash, and then we walked to the restaurant. We got to the restaurant before they did, so we ordered a drink and waited. When they arrived we were seated immediately. We ordered and then chatted while we waited for our food. Dinner was good and we were out of there by 9pm. We were supposed to meet our Australian friends again, at 10pm, so we had an hour to kill beforehand. We walked around to try and see if we could find the bar they were in. We couldn’t find them so we gave up and went for some ice cream. We finally met them at 10pm and hung out at a bar until closing time. Victoria and I walked home quickly at around 2am, and then we went straight to bed.

Day 14
I hate going to bed really late and still waking up early. It’s really annoying!! Anyway, we went to the grocery store after dressing and got breakfast. We ate and then headed to the Prague Castle. It was a long walk and it took us about an hour or more to make it all the way to the top. It didn’t help that we were stopping a lot along the way to look at souvenirs!! We took some pictures of the castle and the view from the castle and then headed down. We walked across Charles Bridge, stopped at a few stores, and then headed to old town. We saw old town again, but during the day which was nice. We took the metro over to the National Museum, by main shopping district. Then we took the metro to the hostel and took a nap. After our nap our friends had arrived and we went out for dinner. We chose an authentic Czech restaurant. It was delicious but not too expensive. After dinner we hung out at our hostel, playing mad libs, having a few drinks and doing a crossword. They left after 1am and we went to be around 2.

Day 15
We woke up at 8am, got ready to leave, ate breakfast and checked out. We went to the train station to buy our tickets. We waited in line for a long time only to find out that we were at the wrong train station. We bought our tickets there still and took the metro over to the other train station. It was a good thing we decided to be earlier than needed. Other wise we might have not made the train in time!!! But we had plenty of time, so we got some snacks to use the rest of our Czech money up. Then we boarded our train at 10:30am and were on our way to Dresden!!

Prague was a 3 the second time around. The weather was crappy and it was a lot colder than last year!!


Auschwitz Concentration Camps
September 15th, 2008
View of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of all Nazi concentration camps.

Day trip
I have wanted to visit to Auschwitz ever since I moved to Germany and have seen the Nazi history come to life. Auschwitz played a major role in the holocaust. We decided to do a private tour, in order to get the best experience. We took a bus from Krakow to the Concentration camp. On the way we watched a very graphic film shot by the Soviets when they liberated the camp. When we arrived at the camp we got our head sets and followed our tour guide. We toured the main camp Auschwitz I first. The camp was well maintained and very depressing. We were at Auschwitz for 2 hours, going through the barracks, administrative buildings and experiencing the horror that occurred. We finished up with Auschwitz I and headed for Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Birkenau was the main extermination site, and the largest Nazi concentration camp in Europe. Both camps are a perfect testament to German efficiency. The Nazis efficiently, registered, housed, beat, humiliated, controlled and killed hundreds of thousands people. Birkenau held over 400,000 prisoners of may backgrounds. The Jews were normally murdered right away, but the Pols and Hungarians were kept to work in the IG Farben factory or out doors. Millions people died over the 4 years the camp was in use; constructed in 1940-41 and liberated in 1944-45. It’s very difficult to describe how you feel when you are there. It’s so fascinating, intriguing and disturbing all at the same time. I’m glad I went and I think everyone should go at least once in there life.

Photos from Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Left picture: Tracks leading into the camp.
Right picture: Barracks within Birkenau.

Left picture: Bunk beds for prisoners usually slept 4 per bunk.
Right picture: Toliet facility for prisoners.

Photos from Auschwitz I Camp

Administrative buildings/prisioner holds

Left picture: Typical electric fence surrounding the camp.
Right picture: Crematoria for new arrivals.

Although Auschwitz was extreamly sad and depression it was a 4. Very interesting and a must see.

"If we don't learn about the past, how will we know if history is going to repeat itself?"

September 14-16th, 2008
View of Karkow City.

Day 11cont.
We landed on time and found ourselves in one of the smallest airports I have ever been too. It had maybe 5 gates. Anyway we had to wait for the bus to take us to the train that would take us to the city center! We only waited for 20 minutes before the bus came. The train took us to the train station that was connected to a mall. We walked out of the mall and our hostel was right there. We checked into the Greg Tom hostel, settled in, booked our trip to Auschwitz for the next day, and then headed out. Krakow is small but nice. We went to the market square and took some pictures. We hung out around there for a while, and then went to get something to eat. We had more traditional Polish food, it was great and cheap! After dinner we met up with our Australian friends that we met in Warsaw. We just went to a bar and talked for a while, and then we all went back to our hostels.

Day 12
We had to wake up early because of our trip to Auschwitz (See above blog for details). After we got back from Auschwitz it was still fairly early. So we ventured over to the castle and explored that for a while. Then for lunch/linner we went to the mall. We ate in the food court, and then got some snacks for later, at the grocery store. We went back to the hostel and stayed there for the rest of the day. We sat in the living room and watched movie after movie. It was great. Then we ate traditional polish soup that our hostel made, for dinner. We went to our room and went to bed at 12am.

Day 13
It seems like we have been traveling for months. We are only on our 13th day and we still have 5 days left and it feels longer. I mean I’m not tired of traveling with Victoria; I am just annoyed with the weather. Traveling can be very exhausting! Anyway, once again we were on our way to the airport but this time we were headed to Prague.

Krakow was a 2.5. Smaller than Warsaw but still nice, clean and interesting.

September 12-14th, 2008
The "Prague" looking side of Warsaw!!!

Day 9
When we arrived in Warsaw, it was a lot colder than it was in Scandinavia. We were a little upset. Anyway, we found the bus to the city centre and got off near the hostel. We walked for about 5 minutes and found the place. We checked in and put our stuff away. We went to get some money and food. We walked down Krakowski toward city centre. We found the bank, got money out and then went to KFC for lunch. After lunch we went to this Empire State looking building, that was a museum. We wondered around in there for a while, and then went to the indoor flea market. We bought some stuff then headed back to our hostel. Back at the hostel we paid, and asked where a grocery store was. We went to the store to get our food for our stay. Back at the hostel we pretty much just sat around and talked to some Australian guys the entire time. We exchanged information and planned to meet up with them in Krakow, our next destination. We went to be after 2am.

Day 10
This was our main sight seeing day. We went to the old town part of Warsaw. It reminded me a lot of Prague. As we walked down Krakowskie Street, in the opposite direction as the day before, we passed the Kopernika statue, University of Warsaw, a church, the National Theater, and the Opera house. We arrived at Zamkowy square, where we took about a thousand pictures. While in old town we stopped and looked at a lot of souvenir shops and bought some post cards. As we continued to explore old town we saw a lot more sights like, the Royal Castle, St. John the Baptist Cathedral Basilica, Our Lady of Charity church, and the Museum of Warsaw. After seeing almost all of old town we headed across Slako-Dabrowsky Bridge. We walked for 20 minutes in sleet and wind before we made it across. Once across we saw the more residential part of Warsaw. We passed a few more churches before we found the restaurant we were looking for. Well it’s actually not a restaurant it’s a Soviet Milk Bar, and its one of the few left. It’s called Zabkowski. The food is extremely good and really cheap. Mostly pensioners and students go there. After lunch we took the tram back to old town then walked back to our hostel. We were extremely tired so we just hung around the hostel, read, did a crossword and ate dinner. We went to bed around 10pm.

Day 11
I’m glad we were able to sleep in because we were really tired. But we only slept in until 9am but it was nice. We ate breakfast, messed around online, hung out and then walked to our airport bus. We were at the airport in no time and on our way to Krakow.
Warsaw was a 3. Cleaner, safer, nicer and prettier than I expected. It has an unique mix of Prague and Kiev.