Salzburg!

Let’s start at the very beginning– a very good place to start. When you read you begin with “a,b,c.”

When you visit Salzburg, you begin by skipping at full speed through the exact arbor where Maria imparted the joys of singing to those stodgy Von Trapps. SalzburgNext, swing by a perfect café so that your cream-colored husband can have some crisp apple strudel. Germany-86 Germany-87Why yes, these are pretty much ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS. Germany-89 Germany-91 Even though it might (will) rain almost the entire time you are in Salzburg, just remember to have confidence in sunshine, have confidence in rain, have confidence that that rain will keep tourist numbers low and let you explore all those pretty streets and colorful buildings with minimal interference.Germany-93 Germany-95 How do you solve a problem like empty wall space? WITH GIANT HORSE MURALS. I might be 27 going on 28, and I know that I’m naive, but I will never stop geeking out over horses and thinking that someday everyone will think they are cool.Germany-97 Germany-101[We interrupt the Sound of Music fangirling to recognize that a couple other notable people lived in Salzburg. Like Mozart. Now then. Back to our previously scheduled witty referencing of lyrics and too many photos.] Germany-102 Germany-104 That man. Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.Germany-109Ok, Sound of Music or not, the above is TERRIBLE a relationship philosophy. But whatever. Nazis were coming and there were lots of bold statements flying about. Plus, let’s be real: I always fast-forwarded past that song anyways, as it was pretty boring.  Germany-112 We did indeed climb every mountain for these views… and by every, I mean one. And it was more of a hill…but then it came ALIVE WITH THE SOUNDS OF MUSIC, as every bell in the valley started tolling and the organ in the fortress started playing through the window. Germany-114 Germany-115 James, wishing he had some bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…or maybe just for his wife to stop taking photos. Germany-117 Germany-121 And the day was filled with song. Like when I spotted ANY flower, and would promptly burst into a very unappreciated rendition of “Edelweiss,” or when I noticed on the way back to the train station that these famous steps were empty (given the fact that it was pouring cold rain) and I seized the moment for an entire solo performance of “Do, Re, Mi.” Germany-133 See? Nailed it.steps

We…

  • Took the RVO bus from Berchtesgaden to Salzburg, as it is only 45 minutes. We used the Bayern pass for the day, taking the train back to Munich that evening. The pass doesn’t work for getting around Salzburg, but it was pretty small so we just walked everywhere.
  • Did another Rick Steves [free! iphone!] walking tour to take in a lot of the city.
  • Hiked up to the Fortress and ended up spending a lot of time up there exploring, partially due to the shelter it offered from the rain. Also, free wifi.
  • Made lots of snack breaks in Salzburg’s adorable cafés and restaurants.

(Are you so ready for these trip recaps to be over? I promise- only like 50 more. Or 2. But maybe 50.)

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Berchtesgaden: Beauty and Darkness.

Germany-41 Germany-44Germany-43 Germany-49 Germany-52 Germany-54 Germany-60 Germany-61 Germany-62 Germany-65 Germany-67A couple days into our Germany trip, we headed out of Munich and up into the mountains. We spent a day in the impossibly beautiful town of Berchtesgaden. Berchtesgaden is a perfect alpine town, surprisingly calm and nestled in between high mountains shrouded in mist. The legend says that the angels charged with distributing wonders the world over received the command to hurry up. Rushing forward, they dumped all the wonders in Berchtesgaden before continuing on to the rest of the world.

And when you are in this place, you feel that, the excess of beauty all around you.

One of the top things I had wanted to visit in Berchetsgaden was the crystal clear waters of the Königssee. We took a boat across the waters — startlingly emerald even though it was a foggy day where we couldn’t even see the top halves of the mountains around us. Halfway across the lake, the captain stopped the boat and took out a trumpet. He played a beautiful song across the water, pausing after each line as the music echoed seven times around us. By the end of the song, so many lines were echoing together and it was so beautiful, that I cried. On the other side of the lake, we docked on the shores of St Bartholomä. We walked around the tiny chapel, soaked in the stillness of the empty meadows, and settled into a cheery inn for cake and hot chocolate. It was the perfect incarnation of Gemütlichkeit– that blend of coziness and well-being that lacks an English equivalent.

But I am not the only one to find Berchtesgaden alluring. As I shared in an Instagram post of this beautiful place, it was also where Hitler chose to build his personal retreat, perched high above the valley. It is a place so beautiful that it is hard to imagine that it was at the heart of some of the greatest evil, the greatest ugliness that the world has ever known. But it was. And when you are in this place, you feel that, a history of darkness looming over you.

Throughout my time in Europe, I started working way through some of the theoretical texts that I will use in my dissertation. In one of them, George Steiner talks about the truth that the Holocaust forces us to face, the truth that beauty, the humanities, good books and lovely ideas, did not stave off evil. It is naive to thing that those who surround themselves with beauty are incapable of darkness, and Steiner painfully illustrates that. History illustrates that. Berctesgaden illustrates that. Sometimes beauty and darkness dwell closer together than we like to think.

Dostoyevsky famously wrote that “Beauty will save the world,” and I desperately want to believe him, because it is a deeply nice thing to believe. But it didn’t. It won’t. Standing atop the misty mountains in Berchtesgaden, I was reminded of that. Truth will, Christ will, and sometimes it seems far from beautiful in the moment. But truth always leads to something far more beautiful than anything we could imagine.

I’m not sorry that we visited Berchtesgaden, that we toured Dachau, that we had somber sights and thoughts mixed in with the fun and beauty of our trip. The memory of darkness is important, because it helps you prevent it from coming back, strengthens you against it. Standing on the shores of the Köningssee, I kept on thinking that the blend of beauty and darkness in this place is a reminder of what we all experience every day. All of humanity, all of creation, all of this world, is fallen. But all of creation, every last site where something awful happened, will experience redemption someday. Maybe the beauty we see now, however mixed with darkness it is, is just a little foretaste of that.

 

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Eric & Sarah

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Speaking Deutsch and Exploring Munich.

Germany-10Germany-4 Germany-12 Germany-14 Germany-15 Germany-16 Germany-17 Germany-19 Germany-20 Germany-21 Germany-23 Germany-25 Germany-29 Germany-30 Germany-32 Germany-35 Germany-36 Germany-37 Germany-137 Germany-140When we stepped off the plane in Germany, I was pretty psyched to use my German. It would be a far stretch to say I speak German. My one semester of translation and one semester of casually auditing German 103 mean that I can read simple things and carry on bare bones conversations about such topics like the furniture in my home and my favorite activities. Except, for that last topic, I can only ever remember the verbs for “eating” and “watching TV.” Hello, my name is American.

Yet I was ready to use my words all the same. Despite the fact that James contentedly used English our whole trip, pointing out (correctly I might add) that the English of whoever we were dealing with would always be better than our German/ Italian. While that is true, I just can’t do it. This led to me frequently asking Italian wait-staff my one confident Italian phrase – “Where is the restroom?” – everywhere we went. Unfortunately, the confidence with which I delivered my tiny slice of fluency always engendered Italian responses…which might as well be Greek to me.

Germany was marked with similar linguistic encounters. Our personal favorite was within our first minutes in Germany:

Hannah (In German, confident): Could I have a map of the train systems?

Man at kiosk delivers blank stares and unintelligible responses in German.

Hannah (In English, defeated): Could I have a metro map?

Man at kiosk (In English): The post office is on strike. It’s been a couple weeks and will probably last longer.

I still have no clue what that relation was. But! It didn’t stop me. I whipped out my phrases everywhere we went to varying degrees of success. Success, in the sense that they were usually met with comprehension and answers… failure in the sense that those answers were usually in German and thus, not helpful. But, as we found Germany to be the most logical country that has ever existed, and her inhabitants some of the most helpful, we got by just fine.

Munich was our home base for the trip, and we spent our first day, fourth day, and a couple evenings exploring her streets and sights. As the pictures show, I ate an ungodly amount of pretzels. I think I managed to have one not just every day, but at every meal, for the entire duration of the trip. Hashtag success.

As many of you suggested, we did venture into all of the main beergardens/halls in Munich. While I am a sever extrovert who loves massive crowds of people, I was SO OVERWHELMED, though not all-together displeased. The people! The noise! The music! Yet in those loud places, we met some amazing people. Our last night, I got carried away with my German confidence, throwing my phrases at our waiter so quickly that the whole table laughed. When he brought us an English menu, I was disappointed to see (as some of you had warned), that it was about 1/3 as long as the German one. I set to work on slowly working my way through the German menu, when a robust and elderly German man beside me leaned over and just said “If you trust me – I order all traditional food for you.” And so we did, settling into a delicious German meal that still remains a total mystery to me.

And now, some exciting trip deets.

We…

  • Stayed at a beautiful AirBnb. This was my first AirBnb experience, and I was a little nervous, but so many of you gushed about it that my FOMO self had to give it a try. We LOVED the place we stayed. I announced several times that I wanted to redo our whole apartment in DC just to look like our Munich apartment.
  • Ate pretzels everywhere, and loved Bavarian food. The absolute best food we ate was at Paulaner Bräuhaus – thanks Sarah for the recommendation!
  • Did a Rick Steves walking tour to explore the city, stopping and exploring as needed. Some of you recommended downloading the app and it was wonderful! We could turn off his voice and just use the map and text to explore things. I may love him, but I draw the touristy line at trailing around with his voice in my ears.
  • Made sure to hit the museums on Sunday when they are only a euro, though most of the art museum is closed for renovations.
  • Marveled at the pristine wonder that is Germany and its ___________ systems. From trains, to escalators, to public restrooms – everything was clean, efficient, and logical, making it so easy to be an unruffled tourist.
  • Took trains around the region for day trips. You all were so helpful about cluing me into the wonder that is the Bayern Pass. It made it so easy and cheap for us to explore around Germany. Also, the DB site and app were (unsurprisingly) easy and user friendly, allowing us to really explore with great ease and without having to rent a car, which we really wanted to avoid.
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Cinque Terre

Buongiorno! Right after putting up my last post, I boarded a plane to meet James in Italy for our adventure. I had originally (and ambitiously) planned on posting along as we were traveling… but that obviously didn’t happen. It just seemed like such a waste of time to spend precious hours sharing adventures instead of living them. So. A nice break from the blog and now I am back to totally bore you with alllllllllll our travel stories and pictures. Brace yourself for lots of repeats if you have been following along over on Instagram.

In theory, it was going to be romantic – meting James in the Milan airport after a month apart. In reality, it was TERRIBLE. James had a day of missed flights and rerouted connections, and I had a day of chilling in the Milan airport and freaking out that we would NEVER find each other, as neither of us had cell phones with Italian service. But alas, we did… and barely a kiss was exchanged before we started a mad dash across the airport/ city to avoid missing a second train. By the time we finally rolled into Cinque Terre, I was basically ready to hurl myself off the highest hill and call it a day.

But then.

Cinque Terre.

CINQUE TERRE.

Sometimes you love a place, not because it surprises you, but because it conforms EXACTLY with what you had imagined, exactly with the unrealistic dreams you had fostered about it. Thus was the case with Cinque Terre. We spent two days exploring the little towns, drowning ourselves in gelato and pasta, swimming in impossible teal waters, and hiking among vineyards and hills. I spent the whole time in a perpetual state of color-induced spasms and even James found it so beautiful that he pulled out his phone and took a picture. Y’all, this NEVER happens. I wish I had exciting stories to share from Italy, but really we just wandered and ate – enjoying the very essence of vacation in a place that feels like another world. I’ll just let the photos speak for me.  If you are truly interested in trip details, you can scroll to the end for all those exciting links and recommendations.

CinqueTerre-2 CinqueTerre-5 CinqueTerre-6 CinqueTerre-8 CinqueTerre-13 CinqueTerre-15 CinqueTerre-17 CinqueTerre-18 CinqueTerre-20 CinqueTerre-21 CinqueTerre-23 CinqueTerre-24 CinqueTerre-25 CinqueTerre-27 CinqueTerre-33CinqueTerre-35 CinqueTerre-39 CinqueTerre-43 CinqueTerre-45 CinqueTerre-47 CinqueTerre-48 CinqueTerre-50 CinqueTerre-53 CinqueTerre-56 CinqueTerre-58 CinqueTerre-59 CinqueTerre-60 CinqueTerre-63 CinqueTerre-65 CinqueTerre-67 CinqueTerre-69 CinqueTerre-83 CinqueTerre-88 CinqueTerre-91 CinqueTerre-95CinqueTerre-96CinqueTerre-100 CinqueTerre-107 CinqueTerre-108 CinqueTerre-109CinqueTerre-94

We…

  • Spent our two days like this: Day 1 – explored Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, dinner back in Riomaggiore. ATE ALL THE THINGS. Day 2- caught a train to Monterosso (other end from Riomaggiore) before the strike started at 9, enjoy breakfast and wanderings, then set up on beach chairs till mid afternoon. Hiked to Vernazza, then took a dip in the harbor followed by a snack by the sea and a later train back to Riomaggiore (after the strike ended), for dinner. Insert gelato breaks anytime there is a comma in the preceding sentences and you have our visit. 2 days, plus our original evening when we arrived, was a perfect amount of time to spend in Cinque Terre.
  • Let Rick Steves be our guide. I have always been leery of Rick and his devoted American followers, as I don’t really want to follow the cattle blindly to top tourist destinations. But so many of you sang his praises when I asked for tips that I gave it a try. Rick, we love you. While we didn’t follow him to the letter, his logistic information was spot on, his maps helpful, and his recommendations excellent. I might just be a convert, even as I hate myself for saying that.
  • Stayed here and I cannot recommend it enough for budget travelers. It’s in Riomaggiore, which was not my favorite city to explore (though I did love its rocky beach and harbor, not to mention the restaurant below that I couldn’t get enough of), and thus was perfect as a home base, freeing exploration time up for the others. Plus, it is super close to the train station, and not dragging your bags up endless hills is a blessing. Our room was one of the “off-site” ones, which meant it was an entire mini apartment.
  • Ate at this restaurant twice. I’m pretty sure a couple of you recommended it and it was PERFECT. Sea views! Tasty food, including the best caprese salad I have ever had! Casual vibe and not too pricey! The first night we ate at the top level, in the actual restaurant – the best pesto of the trip (as you all suggested/commanded, we ate pesto at every meal). The last night, we ate in their wine bar, where you just order endless small plates of tasty Italian treats. We also ate here after climbing all those steps up to Corniglia (it’s right at the very top of the almost 400 stairs), and it was both delicious, and a perfect respite with great views.
  • Took the trains between most of the towns (the ferry wasn’t running), but did do a vineyard hike around Manarola (which, by the way, was my favorite town) and did the lengthy Monterosso-Vernazza coastal hike, mostly due to a train strike on our second day. The rest of the coastal trails are closed, and have been for the past couple years due to a landslide.
  • Spent lots of time sipping cocktails in Vernazza’s harbor – definitely one of the best hangout spaces in all the villages. Enjoying one of those drinks after a dip in the harbor makes it even better.
  • Rented beach chairs for a morning at the beach in Monterosso before our long hike and I can’t recommend this enough. Yes, it is pricey and you could just lie on the rocks next door instead. But it makes for a perfectly relaxing day, and the price of a chair coupled with a massive 5 euro pizza makes for a not too expensive lengthy lunch.
  • Got sunburned, because we are pasty and it’s what we do.
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No one else is going to do it.

Montpellier-198Montpellier-200 Montpellier-207 Montpellier-212 Montpellier-222 Montpellier-223 Montpellier-226 Montpellier-227 Montpellier-228

Montpellier-230 Montpellier-231Montpellier-232 Montpellier-233 Montpellier-234 Montpellier-242 Montpellier-243 Montpellier-267Montpellier-275Montpellier-293Montpellier-296Montpellier-297Montpellier-298Montpellier-307Montpellier-309Montpellier-317Montpellier-328Montpellier-329Montpellier-331Montpellier-334Montpellier-335Montpellier-336Montpellier-337Montpellier-348Montpellier-353Montpellier-366When I lived in Paris in my first year as a real adult (read: freshly graduated and thus not actually much of an adult at all but feeling intoxicated by my freedom), I got terribly sick. I don’t get sick a lot, but that year I picked up one bug after another from the elementary schools where I worked in the suburbs. One morning, I was showering before work, and all the sudden I realized: I am going to vomit. I had approximately 2 seconds to consider if I could make it out of the shower and down the hallway to the shared toilet (no), or if I could jump out of the shower and find somewhere to vomit in my shoebox sized studio (also no) or if I should just vomit all over myself in the shower (yes). It wasn’t pretty, and as I stood there doing the post-vomit ugly cry, it hit me.

No one else was going to clean this up.

No one was going to hold back my hair while I was sick the rest of the day.

No one was going to bring me tissue and tea and sympathy while I reclined on a pile of pillows.

There were no roommates, no friends near enough to walk over, no parents, no boyfriend.

It was just newly adult me in a shower of vomit. And so, I stopped crying, finished washing the shampoo out of my hair, and then cleaned up myself and my shower.

Why am I sharing a 7 year-old story about vomit on the blog today?

Because it is a lesson I have thought about over and over the past couple weeks. Luckily, many of us live lives surrounded by people who help us, who shoulder burdens alongside of us and who lend wisdom and assistance to problems. But that is not always the case, and in the moments when you are surrounded by [literal or figurative] vomit and you realize that YOU are the only person who is around to take care of it, do you know what happens?

You do it. You don’t waste time debating what to do, as you would when you have people around to help and give you the luxury of reflection. You just do it. It is surprisingly freeing to realize that you are the only one who is going to do something, and then doing it.

While the reality of traveling around southern France with 12 students has been ridiculously fun and deeply rewarding, the logistics were not always easy. And because France is France, there were so many times where I desperately needed help, and no one would help me. The place we were going wouldn’t have a website, or the number would be outdated. The tourism office would insist that they had no clue how to reach any of the local tourist sites. The people I called at the actual sites would declare that they don’t know how people get there. The bus schedules were like a secret code of random hours and special days of no service. Every time that it looked like nothing was going to work out for one of our outings, I was tempted to just wait for someone to magically show up and help, and then I would remember.

No one else is going to clean this up.

And I would get up, start calling afresh, start beating down doors, start demanding answers, and make it happen. It helps that my students were the most flexible bunch ever, always game for adventures and very understanding when I announced that I wasn’t totally sure how we were going to make it from point A to point B. I gave my vomit pep talk to a group of girls who went on an adventure of their own to Marseille and they remembered it when almost everything in their trip went wrong, and they had to clean it up themselves, hours away from me or anyone else who could help. I thought about it when my friend Jackie came to visit, and her delayed flight meant a missed train, a night in the train station, and jumping a train the next morning without a ticket because no one was there to sell one. International travel is full of moments where you realize that you can’t wait around for help. You have to act.

And the result? Adventures, beautiful adventures like the ones in the pictures above. This past week my students and I explored Arles, where Vincent Van Gough painted over 300 paintings, the bright colors of the city explaining his impulse towards colors in his works. We climbed up into the hills and gorges around Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, a village unlike anywhere I have ever been. We celebrated the end of our trip with a five-course dinner in Montpellier, the city we have all come to love. We laughed and cried, and took a million pictures. I am so proud of every last one of them.

But I’m pretty sure the vomit pep talk applies far beyond travel. Life is full of moments where things are going wrong and we don’t know what to do. I’m not bashing seeking good advice or help at all, as those are amazing things. But sometimes, stressing about what to do is so much more painful than just deciding that YOU are the one who needs to do whatever it is, and then doing it. Sometimes it is strangely easier to decide that no one else is going to clean this up, and then doing hopping to it.

My students all went home this weekend, and I was back in Paris last night. Today, it is off to Italy where I will meet James and we will go on our own adventure. I can admit – I’m looking forward to seeing him not just because I have the biggest crush, but also because it is fun to travel with a buddy who makes it so I don’t have to fix everything by myself. That’s kind of one of the points of getting married.

But still, these past couple weeks have been a good reminder that you would miss a lot if you wait around for others to fix things, for them to help clean up messes, for adventure to come to you. Sometimes, you just have to go after it.

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Summer face, summer hair.

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I absolutely hate doing my hair and makeup during the summer.

It isn’t just that both are ruined the second I walk outside, as the heat has me sweating and wiping at my face and the humidity has my hair simultaneously going limp and frizzing out – a truly diabolical miracle of science.

It is that the act of doing hair and makeup is rendered utterly miserable during the summer. Perhaps for you, this isn’t the case. Perhaps you stand in your nicely air conditioned bathroom, applying foundation to a smooth, cool brow and curling your locks in calm composure. But in DC, we do not have central air. The two window units that do a fine(ish) job of cooling the bedroom and living room whimper out at the kitchen and categorically reject the bathroom, leaving it a blazing inferno. In France, I am reminded of one thing I do not like at all about Europe, and that is its seemingly systematic refusal of air conditioning. When I go to get ready in the morning, I am already covered in a slight sheen of sweat, already hot and dreading putting any layers – be they makeup or clothing – on my body. The latter cannot be avoided. The former must be modified.

Here is my summer face routine, where the name of the game is wearing fewer layers, protecting from the sun, and spending as little time as possible in the Inferno Chamber/ bathroom.

  • Moisturizer that has sunscreen in it. I just started using this one, because MK is my go-to to try new products, but I’m curious. Any other moisturizer+sunscreen dream-team combos you all love?
  • BB Cream with SPF 30. BB cream is for real magic. You all were so great with all your suggestions, and I have been switching every time I run out to try a bunch. I’m currently loving this one.
  • Anastasia Eyebrow Powder. Pricey, but mine has lasted over a year, and when the summer sweat has me too irritated to put on eye-shadow, as least my brows will hold strong.
  • Translucent Loose Powder. This stuff is the best at making one look put together during the months where walking outside feels like you are in a dishwasher. If I am just going out quickly, I skip all the above and just toss some of this on for composure.
  • Mascara. I’ve tried them fancy brands, but I always come back to loving the cheap Covergirl one.
  • Bold lipstick. Really I love bright lips all the time, but especially during the summer where I get really lazy with everything else. When you have bold lipstick, you are put together with two quick swipes. My favorites are this one and this one.

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As for the hair, very rarely do I have the patience to curl mine during the summer, as it probably will get pulled up the second I step outside. For summer hair, here are my go-tos.

  • This messy bun. Easy, always works, I can do it with 5 heavy duty bobby pins.
  • Headband wrap. It’s basically a finessed version of this. I fell in love with a turban headband from Anthropologie, but alas, twas too pricey. Thus I was pretty excited when I grabbed the one shown in the first photo from H&M for just a couple dollars.
  • Hats with braids/low buns/side-poney. I grabbed that white hat at a cheap store here in France before we went to the beach in our first week. I have since worn it almost every day, as it keeps my face and head protected from the sun, keeps me cool, and cuts my primping time back to mere minutes. Success.
  • Lots and lots of dry shampoo. It just makes every up-do hold so much better and look so much fuller.

What are your tricks for summer hair and face?

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