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Where I Have Already Been- The Amanda edition

You’ll see on the right side of the home page that we’ll be keeping count of each of the countries we visit. Since we both are coming into the challenge with a few countries under our belt, we wanted to take a minute to briefly explain the trips we’ve (separately) already taken to those countries. Though we didn’t visit any of them together, we’re still counting them towards our personal country counts. Below are some quick account of where Amanda has been so far!

Canada

I visited Canada with my family in my middle school years. To be totally honest, I don’t remember much of the trip, except that we saw Niagara Falls and visited a Ripley’s Museum (why?). I don’t believe this trip would count under our current rules as I believe we stayed less than a day, but I’m counting it. I do hope, though, to make it back before my 30th to firmly cement it in my tracker.

Germany

Ahh, Deutschland… meine Liebe. I’ve been to Germany twice so far. First was after my Freshman year of high school through an exchange program with my school. For two weeks I lived with a host family and attended their version of American high school. Then for the final week or so, my school’s group traveled to Köln (Cologne), München (Munich), and other places. One such outing was the former Dachau concentration camp. Words cannot express the feeling of walking those grounds. I can only implore others to visit a site such as that if they ever find themselves in that part of the world. It really does have a life-changing impact.

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I absolutely fell in love with the culture in my brief time in Germany. I went on to study five total years of the language, but I hope to one day achieve fluency. I loved the mix of architecture in both the towns and the cities and I loved the lifestyle- biking everywhere (you should have seen the bike “parking lot” at the school), picking up fresh bread and cheese each few days, and spending so much time outside.

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I loved it so much that when I returned to Europe in the summer of 2015 (more on that below), I made sure to return. For only about two days that time, but at least I got a little taste of Munich again. I finally got to have Käse Spätzle again- I had been dreaming about it ever since I left. I also had quite the interesting run in with the German police who, might I say, may be the most gorgeous police force in the world. Like honestly…each new one that walked in the room was more handsome than the last, to the point that we thought we were on some German prank show.  But perhaps more on that another time.

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Italy

As I mentioned above, in the Summer of 2015 I was fortunate to go on a roughly one month trip through some of Europe. My college roommates at the time were studying abroad in Spain and Italy respectively and I spent the first half of that summer working. For the second half, though, right as they were each finishing up their study abroad experiences, I flew out to meet them. I met one of my roommates in Italy where her family had a home in a small Italian village. Less than 24 hours after I arrived, we woke up before the sun, hopped on a bus to the airport, and flew to Munich for two days. When we returned from Munich, we hung out a few more days in her home, exploring the town, eating a lot of gelato, and taking small trips. We met our third roommate in Rome a few days later and then rented a car and drove to another small town were we stayed in an AirBnB for a few days.

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Let me take this moment to tell you that Italian towns are some of the most mind-bending places I’ve ever been. They are literal mazes, but both horizontally and vertically. They are all built on top of huge hills/small mountains and each street and home are all built on top of one another and with a million alleyways connecting them. You could start down an alley, pass through some tunnels, and end up on the other side of town, unsure of how you even got there. It is amazing and so much fun to explore. It was in one of these mazes that we drove our rental car pretty far down a pedestrian walk-way. We only discovered it was solely for pedestrians when the road eventually became so tight that the car wouldn’t fit anymore. At that point, we had already made so many turns and squeezed through so many tight spots, that it took all of us to back the whole way out. Once the car started overheating from trying to reverse out the last uphill stretch, some very nice old Italian men came to the rescue and whipped the car out of there like it was no big deal at all. Word of advice: if a road seems too tight for a car, it probably is. But then again, it’s Italy, so it also might be totally fine…

We also took the hottest train known to man on a day trip to Florence which was an incredibly beautiful city. We spent almost exactly 24 hours there, which was an absolute whirlwind of art, museums, architecture, and the ability to drink out of wine bottles on the street. Last, we spent a good part of a day in Vatican City (the smallest country in the world). We toured some churches, were given different standards of dress at each one, and climbed to the top of the Dome in St. Peter’s Basilica (my claustrophobia was on red alert).

The Netherlands

After our time in Italy, we flew from Rome to Amsterdam. Prior to that flight I had absolutely no problem with flying. I rather enjoyed it actually and liked being able to watch the landing and takeoff through the window. After that flight, though, I retained a slight fear of flying (yes, I know, contradictory to the blog’s title). First, it was my first flight that I didn’t have a window seat and I now know that if I can’t personally see what is happening out the window, then we are most certainly spiraling to our death. We were flying during the night, so it was completely dark outside, meaning that even as we were landing, I couldn’t see any ground from my vantage point- thus naturally guaranteeing in my mind that we must be descending into the ocean. Additionally, being financially-strapped college kids, we booked the cheapest flight there was, which resulted in a  very small, very light plane in which you could feel every gust of wind. But what really made the situation nerve-wracking for me were the husband and wife sitting between me and the window. They were an old Italian couple who apparently weren’t too comfortable with flying as they spent the entire flight bowed in prayer and whispering passionate pleas to god (I can only assume- they were speaking Italian). When ever one of those wind gusts came through, and they were pretty strong, the wife drew crossed herself and the husband pressed his face against the seat in front of him and rocked back and forth. By the time we were landing and I was sure we were approaching our death, I’m pretty sure both of them had devolved into quietly crying in fear. Ever since that flight, I get a little anxiety in planes.

After that nightmare of a journey, we arrived in Amsterdam to our AirBnB which, unbeknownst to us prior to our arrival, was basically a dutch frat bother’s glorified dorm. We shared the bathroom with the floor, had to take dark, candle lit stairs past a bunch of parties, and were surrounded by bumping bass most of the time. That being said, 8/10, pretty good place to stay. We did the typical Amsterdam activities- took paddle boats around the canals, tried some local foods, watched a live sex show, all the family favorites. It was also incredibly clean- in the first 15 minutes of our arrival, while waiting to get into the AirBnB, we witnessed two police officers knock on the neighbor’s door to get them to clean up a small bag of trash that an animal had gotten into during the night. Amsterdam was definitely one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen and I cannot wait to make it back to that corner of the world.

France

The last stop on our trip was Paris. We took an 8+ hour bus from Amsterdam to Paris, which wasn’t nearly as bad as we expected. Paris was really a whirlwind as we only had about 2 days in the city. We did all the usual touristy stuff- Rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower, climbed the Arc de Triomphe, ate snails. I liked Paris but it was my first experience of “Paris Syndrome.” For whatever reason, Paris kind of disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely gorgeous, but I think something about the incredible hype about the city made it almost impossible to match in reality.  I think that when I am able to go back in the future and spend a long time in the city, instead of two whirlwind days, I’ll be able to find all the quiet cafes and corners that will make me fall in love with it.

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Obligatory tourist photo

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Seth’s stories to come in another post!

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