Tag Archives: travel

At 17:40 I Regret Joining Rideshares

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been in a bizarre rideshare situation from my ride from Paris to Madrid, but this one tops it tenfold. It’s true that one of the greatest aspects of traveling consists of meeting new people, but it’s also true that since traveling puts you in contact with so many different types of people, you are bound to meet a few strange ones.

I spent a few days in Zurich catching up on sleep and rest. Non-stop movement through Switzerland, bad weather, and a nice apartment to stay in made it easy to stay inside and catch up on my journal for a few days with a few ventures out to dinner with my host and her friends… and I even mustered the energy to walk along the lakeside.

My Great Adventure 2013 2084

cavities in gemany

ich mag kein karies

If only they played the gummy bear song

If only they played the gummy bear song

A cute little cafe by the Lakeside.

A cute little cafe by the Lakeside.

I also made a strong attempt to figure out a financial conundrum. Switzerland is insanely expensive – I’ve plopped down $9 USD for a bottle of water at a not-so-fancy restaurant. Trains to Budapest, my next destination, were extremely expensive and flying was simply not an option.

I arranged a rideshare with a Hungarian driver, a Swiss-Jamaican lady, and a German young adult. I stealthily scoped the car quickly for weaponry and drugs, and got in the car feeling alert yet expecting a smooth ride.

That’s the thing about expectations – they are oftentimes very, very wrong.

17:00 I get inside the vehicle and sit in the back seat – behind the German boy and stare out the window. The driver and the German begin talking about cars.

17:30 We pick up Veronica, the Swiss-Jamaican woman.

17:32 The driver mentions that he used to buy cars in Poland and sell them to Russians and Italians.

17:40 The driver recaps a story where one time there was a “misunderstanding” in the car purchasing scheme and he had to escape prison to go find his papers proving the vehicle was his. Eventually, he was caught again and “everything was situated.”

17:40 I regret joining rideshares.

18:00 We are pulled over by the German police. The driver suspects it’s because he looks Romanian.

19:00 We drop off the German and Veronica moves to the front seat.

19:20 The driver asks us if we think “slavery was a little bit of a good idea?”

19:21 I argue with him as politely as possible. Usually extremely stupid questions send me off my rocker, but I did not want to anger a stranger who happened to be driving me.

20:00 The driver goes on a rampage about how the Hungarians will “soak the Hungarian soil with Romanian blood.” The conversation gets increasingly uncomfortable by the minute… he even expresses sympathy for the Nazis.

20:19 “I tried to kill a lobster with my bare hands and I didn’t like how it’s legs tickled my arms when it squirmed, so I don’t think I could kill a human.”

20:32 The seat I am sitting on is literally becoming unraveled at the seams because I’ve been picking at it anxiously for the past two hours.

21:00 We go to a gas station. My phone hasn’t worked because we’ve been out of Switzerland. Veronica begs me to switch seats with her because she hates the crazy driver.

21:30 I take comfort in the fact that this man has a wife and some children (according to his phone background)… so at least they would notice if he came back with a kidnapped American and Swiss-Jamaican… hopefully.

22:00 I close my eyes and just listen to the music. He screams at me that “it’s RUDE to sleep!”

22:30 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

23:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

24:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

01:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

02:00 We stop for a quick food and bathroom break at a run down gas station manned by a bored attendant. The peanuts I get offer me a sort of gluttonous comfort.

03:00 He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant. Whenever I close my eyes, he screams that falling asleep is extremely rude.

04:04 He abruptly pulls over in a rest stop and takes a nap.

04:05 Veronica and I wonder (audibly) if this man is crazy… and if he plans on ever waking up. We are apparently less than an hour from Budapest. I entertain the idea of walking.

04:30 The driver awakens as if he never napped… He drones on and on about his life… details irrelevant.

05:00 We can see signs that promise Budapest is quickly approaching.

05:10 We get gas… nothing seems out of the ordinary. I look forward to getting out.
06:00 The driver realizes that he accidentally STOLE the gas. We turn around and head back to the gas station fifty minutes away just as we were pulling into the front gates of Budapest – he rejects my pleas to drop me off first before going back to the gas station.

06:50 We pay the gas station – who had already notified the police. Luckily he’s let off the hook.

7:45 We arrive in Budapest

8:00 I am dropped off at my hostel with Veronica, who refuses to be alone in the car with him. I don’t blame her, and we share my hostel reservation that I had booked the previous night.

I feel like jumping for joy, but take a nap instead.

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Attack of the Lovebirds in Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne is beautiful. I could leave my post just with that statement and splatter pictures everywhere, but everyone knows I’m way too long winded for that. I took the very expensive train and was picked up by my Swiss-German couchsurfing host and his Canadian girlfriend.

A beautiful meeting point at the center of the city.

A beautiful meeting point at the center of the city.

In the evening, we all pitched in to eat legitimate Swiss fondue. At fondue restaurants in California, you are able to dip everything in cheese or chocolate and call it “fondue” – meat, strawberries, wood chips, you name it. In Switzerland? Don’t even think about corrupting the dish with anything other than cheese and bread! The Swiss men laughed in my face after I asked where the rest of the dippers are.

Dipping anything but bread in here? ... that's a fonDONT.

Dipping anything but bread in here? … that’s a fonDONT.

The thick cheese for fondue

The thick cheese for fondue

The next day, we walked along the guard towers that granted spectacular views of the quaint city and I even befriended a yak. One of my resolutions this year was to make friends from all places, other species included.

Canadian girl: It’s cool that they put the “Electric Fence” sign so that the yaks know to stay away.

I was pretty confident that the sign was there for the literate humans.

Yaks and other assorted llama type creatures

Yaks and other assorted llama type creatures

Guardian of the yaks

Guardian of the yaks

Beautiful city of Lucerne

Beautiful city of Lucerne

Little did we know, these cakes are drenched in alcohol. No wonder Swiss children are so calm after sweets.

Little did we know, these cakes are drenched in alcohol. No wonder Swiss children are so calm after sweets.

I attended a barbecue put on by one of my host’s Swiss friends. The mixing of Canadians, French, Americans, and Australians at the event kept people speaking a large amount of English – good for me, as my German let alone Swiss German could use some serious work. I was happy to meet such a friendly and eclectic bunch of people, if only for a short time.

A pig made an appearance at the BBQ :(

A pig made an appearance at the BBQ :(

After the barbecue, we all emigrated to a festival put on by the city – with multiple stages around the lake. We settled at a comedian singer’s stage. I couldn’t understand the lyrics, so I falsely laughed whenever those around me would laugh. The Swiss have a stoic reputation, so I wonder if this comedian was a genius of hilarity in order to get an entire crowd of Lucernites laughing. Everyone I encountered instantly became my new friend, and the jolly spirit of everyone was nothing short of contagious. The night concluded with a grand firework display over the lake – perfect for me since I’d be missing the 4th of July at home!

When in doubt? Befriend strangers!

When in doubt? Befriend strangers!

Misunderstood funny man at the festival

Misunderstood funny man at the festival

Fireworks boomed over the lake

Fireworks boomed over the lake

My host couple got into a bit of drama with one another but made up for it copiously and loudly during the night… and the morning… and the afternoon… so much so that I no longer felt very comfortable around them. At some point, I wondered if the sound was coming from their room or from a pack of wild basset hounds on the hunt for for a tasty meal.

...no comment.

…no comment.

While the lovebirds were busy on their own, I ran into Josh – someone I met in the previous city – and his super friendly girlfriend. We went around the guard tower walls once more (and I waved hello to my friend, the yak) and concluded the day with a stroll alongside the lake. We stopped for ice cream at one of the many creamery stands, each of us enjoying a different flavor of lactose deliciousness.

My second stroll along the city walls

My second stroll along the city walls

How is this anything but spectacular?

How is this anything but spectacular?

Inside one of the beautiful cathedrals - a soft and feminine feel, different from most cathedrals!

Inside one of the beautiful cathedrals – a soft and feminine feel, different from most cathedrals!

Switzerland is beautiful, there’s no getting around that.

lucerne lake

Funhouse style buildings are everywhere in this city

Funhouse style buildings are everywhere in this city

The pig outline of the lion's den - a message from the architect.

The pig outline of the lion’s den – a message from the architect.

I was sad to return to my host’s home because I felt that things had been becoming pretty awkward. I was encroaching on their snow-globe of newfound love!

The next day was perhaps one of my favorites of the entire trip… but it deserves a post of its own, so be patient my little interwebz readers.

At the end of my day, I was locked out. I skyped and remained glued to the perimeters of the apartment leeching their wifi. When will you be home? I said. Whenever we are done with our date, they said. I was beginning to think A. The host couple abhorred me, B. The host couple has a bizarre exhibitionist type fetish, C. The host couple had no idea that hosting people in couchsurfing requires the visitor to be at the host’s house.

I gave a rushed goodbye and caught the first train out to Zurich, sad to leave such beautiful scenery but excited to see what my last stop in Switzerland had in store.

Lausanne, Switzerland

Rewind back to Lyon, where I sat in an apartment room sending messages to potential hosts hoping to line up accommodation plans for my journey through Switzerland. Being a solo and female traveler, I try to be as safe as possible – always checking for references, and preferring to house with female couchsurfers. I also try to avoid people with only female references (meaning the guy has an affinity for traveling women), people with no references at all, or people who respond with an excessive use of winkys. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, girls simply aren’t as active as guys on couchsurfing.

So imagine my excitement when I message a girl asking to be hosted, and she responds, “I can’t, but my friend Gabrielle probably can.”

An hour later, I get an offer from a brunette ‘Gabriele’ with a strong jawline from Lausanne.

In my head, I figured that the original girl asked her friend and that said friend had now messaged me.

I glanced at the profile but didn’t look too into the pictures or the small details. I read all positive references and the about-me section. It actually seemed like Gabriele and I had a lot in common! Excited to stay with a girl, I readily accepted.

Turns out, Gabriele is the Italian spelling of Gabriel – a male’s name. Obliviously, I took my train to Lausanne imagining girl’s nights out with a dark and masculine looking female. To be fair, Gabriele does have longer hair and wears sunglasses in all pictures.

Gabriele picked me up and we went to a barbeque with his friends on a lake. All were very friendly, even if they communicated in smiles and food offerings more than English. This part of Switzerland speaks French, one of the four official languages of the country.

A simple barbeque

A simple barbeque

Our view from the barbeque

Our view from the barbeque

Children playing in the fountains

Children playing in the fountains

Gabriele spent the next few days at a work event in Geneva, so I largely had the apartment to myself with his sister roommate. I spent most of my time walking along the lake, ducking into nooks to avoid random rain spells. The Alps dotted the background, and I loved the natural beauty of Lausanne vastly more than the industrial bustle of Geneva.

Swans run Switzerland - it's a fact.

Swans run Switzerland – it’s a fact.

statue lausanne switzerland

Paddle boats for those looking to tone their thighs.

Paddle boats for those looking to tone their thighs.

What a beautiful place to hang out

What a beautiful place to hang out

Quaint dock on the lake

Quaint dock on the lake

Solo travel breeds selfies... and floral accessories.

Solo travel breeds selfies… and floral accessories.

Sailboats speckling the blue landscape

Sailboats speckling the blue landscape

While the city is small, there are many gardens and even a free Olympic museum located on a beautiful boat on the lakeside.

Lausanne totes the Olympic flag everywhere - a symbol of their prized museum

Lausanne totes the Olympic flag everywhere – a symbol of their prized museum

The Olympic Museum housed on this boat

The Olympic Museum housed on this boat

Representing LA!

Representing LA!

Another Olympic jewel

Another Olympic jewel

Cute homes, stores, swans, and a stunning cathedral were frequent sights and stops for me as I wandered around. I was happy to find that the city was relatively free of other tourists like myself.

I loved these buildings

I loved these buildings

buildings Lausanne

One of the many beautiful sights I discovered in my meandering

One of the many beautiful sights I discovered in my meandering

Advertisements under a bridge

Advertisements under a bridge

No wonder everyone in Switzerland is so slim - nobody can afford the fast food!

No wonder everyone in Switzerland is so slim – nobody can afford the fast food!

I've been crushing the raillll road, all the live-long day....

I’ve been crushing the raillll road, all the live-long day….

The Cathedral can be seen from most of the city

The Cathedral can be seen from most of the city

Outside of the cathedral

Outside of the cathedral

Guardian she-goblin

Guardian she-goblin

Not necessarily being a Francophile, I struggled with the French-only bus ticket machines. Gabriele had advised me to take a ticket that was apparently only good for three stops (little did I know). The bus ticket checking brigade had checked me twice in the short time I was in Lausanne… the third time, I handed them my ticket proudly and resumed journaling. The man shook his head angrily and spoke to me in French.

A few seats away, another passenger was being chastised.

My blank expression must have shown a disconnect between his words and my comprehension – but when he pointed at the open door, I understood one thing: he wants me to get off.

The other bad passenger and I left the bus and stood on the sidewalk alongside my punisher until another English speaking ticket policeman came by. I explained that I was using these tickets every time and never had a problem before. I opened my wallet and revealed a black pocket stuffed full with tickets valid for only three stops… I told him that I been using most of them to get across the 10+ stop city.

He laughed and showed me how to pay for the correct ticket. I boarded the next bus unscathed.

The other Swiss passenger, however, was not so lucky… they did not entertain his pleads for mercy and fined him 200 Swiss Francs.

Ignorantia juris non excusat, or “ignorance of the law does not excuse” unless of course, you are a confidently-oblivious-five-feet-tall foreigner.

My Self Timer & I: A Love Story

My Self Timer & I: A Love Story

I Ran Into A Mediterranean Romeo & Juliet in Geneva, Switzerland

After Switzerland handed me a plate of harsh weather, I changed my clothes and dubiously embarked back out into the city. Part of me wished that I invested in a helmet before continuing onward, but I figured that my karma was good enough to a point where hail the size of marbles and golf balls wouldn’t pelt me a second time… at least, not a second time in one day.

And to be honest, I wanted to get out of my couchsurfer’s house because he ended up being somewhat of a Canadian chauvinist with what I interpreted as some form of Napoleon complex. The first few minutes in his home (he had other female roommates) he began telling me about his not-luck in Switzerland. Apparently, “the Swiss chicks are just as intimidated by a real man as the Canadians b*&#$es are when they see one!” Something tells me if you have bad luck with the two out of two national populations you’ve dated, then you’re doing something wrong with females in general.

I caught the tram to the Red Cross Museum. I loved the alone experience of going through it at my own pace, letting information seep into me while I looked over pictures and pamphlets passed out by the Red Cross during major world disasters.

Canopy outside of the Red Cross Museum

Canopy outside of the Red Cross Museum

Red Cross Museum

The mood was ruined only slightly by the fact that a rowdy group of 5th graders were taking their time through the museum as well. I was constantly speeding up in front of them so as to not be inundated by the voices of 10 year olds bickering in French, trying to avoid knocking over any displays in their bouts of cat fighting.

Colombian Safety Poster

Colombian Safety Poster

Chains symbolizing the struggle people have had to escape their dire situations.

Chains symbolizing the struggle people have had to escape their dire situations.

The most impactful sections were first, a display of artwork by people made during times of distress – either as prisoners of war or held in concentration camps. It’s amazing how the need to create perseveres even when the most basic human needs are stripped away. There truly were cases where people created something meaningful out of small scraps of nothing.

Secondly, the photograph’s of hundreds of children’s faces who were documented as unclaimed during the time of the Rwandan genocide. I examined their expressions, attempting to read into their little minds. What were they feeling? Did they trust who was photographing them?

After the Red Cross Museum, I walked a short distance to the United Nations Headquarters and scheduled myself for a tour. As a political science major, I geek out at large governmental buildings, so this was a joy for me despite my own very complex views of the UN itself – in short, I have a love-hate relationship with the UN itself. Still, I felt connected to the rooms that housed the signings of acts against atrocities that are so relevant to the world we live in today.

The UN entrance

The UN entrance

Chantae in front of the UN

An outside perspective from inside of the UN.

An outside perspective from inside of the UN.

One of the many large conference rooms housed in he UN

One of the many large conference rooms housed in he UN

Long ago, Moritz asked me what most people thought of when they thought of Germans. I responded with, “They love things made of metal.” Imagine my joy when I walked through a gallery of artwork given to the headquarters from every nation. From China, a large tapestry hung up on the wall filled with vivid colors. From the US, plaques of text art displaying the civil rights. From Germany, three circles made of metal nails… painted in various shades of grey. They say stereotyping is wrong, but how else can you explain this?

To: the UN, Love: Germany

To: the UN, Love: Germany

I went back to my host’s home and examined his garden that was inevitably destroyed by hail bombardment. “Hibiscus is the most sensual flower…” his voice rang in my head. I remained locked out until one of his roommates let me in.

My host's "sensual hibiscus"

My host’s “sensual hibiscus”

In the evening, my host brought me with him to an outside music festival. I joined some Swiss girls on the dance floor and had an amazingly good time dancing around to the salsa music.

Outdoor music festival

Outdoor music festival

Beautiful set up.

Beautiful set up.

A couple lingered around me for the entirety of the night – a Greek girl and Macedonian boy. For those who don’t know (I didn’t) Greeks and Macedonians are mortal enemies… the boyfriend spout out their Romeo and Julietesque love story to me.

Romeo: After the three date, I tell her that I love her. She say that she does not know me well. I was supposed to move back to Macedonia. So I do. Then after a week in Macedonia, I call her and tell her I love her again. She does not take this well.

Juliet: It’s true. I thought he was crazy.

Romeo: So I showed her I loved her by getting a tattoo of her as an angel on my back. To me, she is my angel. So she says ‘OK we do another date.’ So I move back to Geneva the next day.

He pulled up his shirt revealing a very thin and masculine looking drawing of the girl with angel wings.

I quickly glanced at my couchsurfing host, who also heard the love story, he was stifling a grimace… much like myself. I don’t know if the tattoo was more creepily romantic, or offensive.

He also told me that he taught her how to box. My eyes drifted to her wrist that was wrapped in a cast…

“Yeah, she broke her hand punching me.”

“Hmm…” I awkwardly respond, “love is a battlefield.”

They lovebirds fought the entire night after that, concluding with her drunkenly riding her bike home and him stumbling after her by foot.

My final day was spent with me topping off the rest of the touristy destinations I hadn’t seen yet.

Such as the chocolate isle of the grocery store…

Eenie meenie miney moe...

Eenie meenie miney moe…

The jet stream on the lake…

I did indeed run under this.

I did indeed run under this.

And finally, the flower clock!

geneva flower clock

I also witnessed this poor fellow try to pet a swan, which was painful for us both.

Swan whisperer

Swan whisperer

Lyon, France: The Anti-Paris

Flying into Lyon, I feared that I would regret my decision to come here instead of Nice. Little birds told me mixed things ranging from “gee willikers you’ll love it” to “why would you EVER EVER EVERRRR go there is your plane ticket refundable?!!!” When my plane landed, I was unsure of what to expect.

A unique statue in front of the city center.

A unique statue in front of the city center.

My pistachio macaroon addiction may have been enabled in this city.

My pistachio macaroon addiction may have been enabled in this city.

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