Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 24, 2011

The Norway Tragedy: Jessie’s Perspective from Switzerland

Dearest Readers,

Two days ago tragedy struck Oslo, Norway. At least 84 people were killed via the car bomb and the shooting rampage on a youth camp allegedly coordinated by one Anders Behring Breivick, a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, according to english.news.cn.

One German man, Vincent, who hadn’t heard about the bombing until we spoke, told us that Norway is regarded as one of the safest countries in Europe. He just kept repeating, “Are you sure it was Norway?” and added half jokingly, “Life is perfect in Norway.”

Needless to say, the European response seems much the same as the American, shocked and appalled at this egregious act that killed so many young people.

I do have to add, however, that because we are in Europe, Switzerland to be specific, I don’t think we have any information that the United States doesn’t already have. All I can add is what I have observed as the European response.

In the train, yesterday, three policemen patrolled the car headed to Brussels as a final destination (we went to France) and there was a policeman in the train station grocery store. Both were occurrences that seemed out of the ordinary. I do not know if this added security is related to the bombing.

When we heard about the happenings in Oslo, we quickly turned on the one English channel on the Swiss television, CNN. We watched the same few pictures scroll across the screen while listening to a British newscaster describe the event.

Since the Oslo tragedy, many friends and family from home have asked us if we feel safe. I would like to quell these doubts by emphasizing that we do not feel in any way unsafe. Europe, while small and tight-knit im many ways, is comprised of many separate countries, so when something happens in one it does not necessarily affect the safety of those in the others.

If something had happened, heaven forbid, closer to us, such as another part of Switerland or Germany or France, I would definitely be frightened and I think a lot of people here would be more directly affected.

Here’s an analogous situation: If I were in the United States and something comparable happened in central America. It would be ghastly, I would try to donate money/time and I would grimly read the updates. But I wouldn’t feel that my personal safety was at risk.

That is how it is here. My heart goes out to Norway, I keep reading for more updates, and I have no idea how to donate in US dollars, but I personally feel removed from the situation. I will watch and report if there are any differences when we head into France today or if there are any more heightened security measures.

My love to Norway.

—–
Jessie

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Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 21, 2011

You’ve Got a Friend In Me

Sooner or later, all close friendships come across what I like to call “The Poop Test.” In said test, you learn how much you can share with the friend. Such as, when you really gotta… you know…go.

Jessie and I have stampeded across this socially accepted barrier with ferocity. We now have, what I’d like to call, an uncomfortably close bond.

She knows what time of day I like to shower, how I take my cappuccino, what to do when I’m pissed off and yes, she knows when I go to the bathroom.

So she completely understood when I peered at her this morning, bleary eyed over some yogurt and Muesli, and told her that I felt a bit burnt out.

We soon decided that instead of strapping on our cameras and money belts and venturing out into Zurich for a day of sight seeing, we  would laze around and enjoy a day of relaxation. Gasp!

To be honest, I felt a little like an old married couple in an empty nest. We baked brownies, watched episodes Parks and Recreation, read our respective novels and took naps together. Yes, we are officially 70-year-olds.

Jessie folds the official box for baking brownies... the Swiss are so funky.

But you know, as lame as it sounds, this day really rejuvenated me. Now, I feel ready to tackle the last week (eek!) of this trip with zeal. I’ve gotten a chance to just relax and spend some time with my travel partner, free of the often stressful demands of actually traveling.

Tomorrow we plan to venture out into Basel and return to our activity-heavy ways, but at least we had a day to spend just as friends, and take some time to realize (after all these weeks together) why this trip has been so great/frustrating/exciting/taxing/amazing/cool/invigorating–because we’re both a couple of kooky kids, who decided to take on Europe together. (Jessie addition: I love Gina Edwards and all of her quirks.)

And to top it off, we’ve totally aced “The Poop Test.”

Gina

Dearest Readers,

Some days, it rains. Gina and I are beginning to get the impression that these puffy gray clouds are following us.

We are arrived in Basel to stay with our wonderful hosts Sarah Arbogast and her brother Robert. She showed us around and then we made a plan to travel together for the next two days: Lucerne (Tuesday) and Freiburg (Wednesday).

Today (Thursday), we were supposed to go to Zurich, but instead, we ended up watching Parks and Rec and baking brownies. It was wonderful and much needed. You’ll see why after we describe the last two day trips.

Lucerne:

We arrived to this Alp-ian village and walked along the flower-laden wooden bridge just in time for it to begin pouring down rain.

Flower Bridge!

We boarded a large boat and headed to the small lake town of Weggis, which I am sure is beautiful on a nicer day. As it turns out, we ended up trapped in Weggis for an hour, shivering as we wandered the streets searching for anything to do in this small village (a shop owner kindly told us it is not big enough to qualify for a town).

Weggis is nestled between large mountains we could barely make out between the smatterings of rain and layers of fog. We took a small respite in a coffee shop and drank hot chocolate while we waited for the boat.

yes it's pouring...and I'm cheering (sarcastically)

We decided Lucerne would be one of those trips we would look back on and laugh about … just not yet.

Freiburg:

Freiburg, Germany is famous because it is right in the midst of the Black Forest. Why the Black Forest is significant … none of us really know. The forest is not black (haha literalist joke), but looks much like other lush green forests we have seen on other mountains.

we did have fun in freiburg!!!

We arrived in the rain, and stumbled upon an archeological museum where the kind woman behind the desk gave us a list of activities for the day. We heeded her advice and headed to the top of a decadent cathedral.

We had to walk up a million steps to get claustrophobically slammed against the sweating bodies of dozens of other people, but it was a great view from the top. We could see the mountains rise and fall around us, and the town seemed candy coated with its multi-colored roofs. The big attraction at the top was a giant church bell. We are still not clear why, because it was an ugly rusting bell that you couldn’t even ring (where is the fun in that, I ask you?).

Freiburg from the top!

We then spent the next 30 minutes wandering the streets in search of Cafe Schmidt and Black Forest Cake (dark chocolate and cherry cake). To the town’s credit, everyone was so friendly as they gave us directions. We finally made it to the cafe, which was small and quaint and smelled like sugar and pastries.

The cake looked amazing. When we took the first bite, no one spoke, because, well … it tasted pretty darn awful. It was doused in cherry liquour that dominated the cake and gave it a bitter aftertaste. It was comical. Here we had searched and searched and the cake was gross.

oh the cake...

Luckily, I had a truffle from the cafe to make up for it, and I can soundly say that it was delicious. We spent the rest of the day wandering the shops before heading home for a night of Swiss fondue courtesy of Robert and Sarah and Magnum Mcflurries from McDonalds.

What are Magnum McFlurries, you may be asking yourself. Well, dearest readers, Magnums are amazing European ice cream bars, and they are mixed into McFlurries with brownies and chocolate syrup. We were about to have a dairy-splosion when we got back.

Which Brings us to Today:

So, as you can see, we were a bit worn out and tired of the constant rain. And, honestly, we may be a little mountain-ed out. The mountains here are amazing, but I feel we keep traveling around just to see what we have already seen. So today, Gina and I decided, let’s just have a down day.

I slept in, and we woke up and had breakfast/lunch before heading to the grocery store here for brownie mix (we wanted chocolate chip cookie mix, but apprently that is not something they sell here … who knew).

We deciphered the German instructions with the help of Google, baked the brownies whilst blaring our favorite tunes from home and gorged on them straight out of the oven while watching Parks and Recreation on Gina’s computer.

Look Gina Mixes!!

I would never snack while mixing...

This was our set-up for the day (note the towel under the brownie plates)

I consider this a super successful day. Now Gina is napping, and I am typing away with a cup of Peppermint tea and a smile on my face.

With love from Basel,


Jessie

Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 19, 2011

We’re Almost in 3 Countries: Basel, Switzerland

Our first full day in Basel, Switzerland we decided to go on a day trip to Lucerne! We thought it would be best to illustrate our day in photos rather than tell it to you. Fill in your own story here.

Dearest Readers,

So today, I became a French woman (sort of). Not in the sense that I won’t shave my legs or that I have any conception of the language.

But in the sense that today, I bought a sandwich on a baguette from a food stand, gingerly placed it in the basket of my bike, and set off for the lake, weaving amongst the easily spotted tourists with their maps and fanny packs. I was apparently convincing because a woman stopped to ask me for directions in French, and I had to shake my head sadly and admit that I spoke not one lick of French.

So as you can easily deduce from that one anecdote, I’m basically French. (I know I’m not really, but hey, a girl can dream, right?)

Oh hey, hey I'm French in Annecy

This morning, I woke up at 7:30 a.m. (which if you know me, is a miracle), rented a bike from my hostel and biked around the lake alone. To be clear, this is the first time Gina and I have done anything separately. But she wanted to sleep in, and the area is so small and safe, I decided I would do it anyway. (And don’t worry all concerned parents reading this, we will never separate again.)

The scene was so peaceful and idyllic. I biked by store owners wiping down their windows, pulling their freshly baked baguettes from the oven and arranging their merchandise on the side of the road.

I biked by the canal that runs through the city and around just a portion of the lake (I only biked for 45 minutes). I stopped every so often to take in some of the scenery. Since it poured yesterday, the water was exceedingly tumultuous, and low dark clouds hovered ominously over the mountain tops.

Pretty but ominous...

But I wasn’t deterred by the clouds of goom and doom. Here I was, amongst the Alps on a beautiful morning feeling…kind of at home here.

That must seem strange considering we have been in Annecy all of two nights, but the two of us have managed to carve a niche for ourselves in each city and Annecy is no exception.

Gina and I met at the hostel after my ride and walked along the lake one last time before our noon train. We meandered through the shops, and eventually stopped at Bagels and Cupcakes, where we actually are regulars.

I buy a small cupcake a day (okay, okay, you’ve caught me, I bought a big one yesterday) and Gina buys a cookie a day. The guy is so nice and friendly and is always excited to see us. Well, I assume he is excited to see us considering he always smiles, but he speaks almost solely French, so our actual vocal communication is minimal.

We told him it was our last day, so he gave me my cupcake free and only charged Gina one euro for her cookie (that way he saved us both a euro). It was such a kind gesture, and I finished my delicate vanilla cupcake as Gina ate her final Snickers cookie. It was how we said goodbye to Annecy.

Me and my cupcake. A match made in confectionary heaven.

Speaking of free food, last night we received free dessert at the restaurant where we had cheese fondue (a French classic) for dinner. We don’t know why we received free dessert.

In fact, when the waiter told us he was giving us free dessert, skeptical Gina asked, “Why?” He retorted, “It’s free–you don’t need to ask questions.”

And who are we to question free desserts? All the waiters seemed to be in on it, and they would walk by and wink and murmur, “Bon Apetit!”

I ordered strawberry and vanilla ice-cream with fresh strawberry sauce. It was to die for. And Gina had caramel flan. I felt sort of giddy, like we were getting away with a small felony … free desserts! Don’t tell the other customers!

We had befriended an American couple sitting across from us, and when they saw what happened the woman exclaimed good-naturedly, “Youth! No one says, old woman would you like free ice-cream? Enjoy it!”

Enjoying myself in Annecy ... with arms a flailin'

And we did. In fact, we enjoyed our entire stay in Annecy. But onwards and upwards, to Basel, Switzerland!

With love from Annecy and almost Basel!

—-
Jessie

Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 18, 2011

De-stressing and Coming “Home”: Annecy, France

I am the dad who will not stop for directions on a family trip.

In keeping with this persona, I study and scrutinize each city’s map, walk (run) so quickly I leave Jessie in the dust and act out a bit when I don’t know (exactly) where we are/where we need to go/how to get there.

[In case you wondered, Jessie is the mom who tries to subdue the temperamental husband. She has a 50% success rate.]

Well as you can imagine, I place a great deal of stress on myself in this (admittedly self-imposed) role. Getting from place A to place B kinda happens a lot on this trip.

Luckily, we just visited Annecy, France. (Pronounced “antsy.” For example: “Jessie was really Annecy because she thought we were on the wrong train.”)

Oh so purdy.

Oh so purdy.

Initially, I didn’t know how much France and I would get along. The first few people we encountered after disembarking from our train in Annecy treated us with that “oh-you-don’t-speak-my-language-so-I-have-a-right-to-be-rude-to-you” attitude. You might be familiar with it.

But after arriving at our hostel in Annecy, I felt an immediate sense of relaxation.

Behind Annecy Hostel’s quaint wooden gate sprawled a front yard reminiscent of my childhood, with several bikes parked outside and trees flanking the sides. Inside, a tiny little French woman bustled around, checking us in and muddling through the few English phrases she knew with the utmost cuteness. While she babbled about the common area (complete with Marilyn Monroe wall decal) and kitchen (with fire engine red cupboards), I couldn’t help but notice her nervous little tendencies that reminded me of my Grammie (an anxious little Italian woman).

How could I get stressed in a place that felt like home? The song “Lollipop” (by the Chordetts, not Lil’ Wayne) played in the background, for goodness sake!

Once we explored Annecy a bit further, my affection for the place only grew. The narrow little streets lined with French, Italian and Greek restaurants in pastel stucco buildings greeted us as we ambled into the “old city.” Around us, we heard smatterings of English and Spanish, but primarily, the foreign tones of French. A tourist destination for actual…French people? How novel.

Aw, Jessie with her bike!

Aw, Jessie with her bike!

Soon enough, we found the lake—the main reason we had come to Annecy in the first place. Aqua blue and surrounded by tall Alps brimming with forest, we fell in love.

Me, by the lake!

Me, by the lake!

After gaping at the idyllic scene before us from various angles, we hit the local “beach,” a grassy area where bikinis and boobs ruled. As a caveat, the average age of the topless women there? 65+. Jessie and I opted out of the “No shirt? No problem!” understanding.

I kept falling asleep under the radiating sun, and then awaking to the sound of laughter, talking and splashing. For a moment I would think I had returned to the city pool back home, only to open my eyes to the towering mountains before me, and remember that I was far, far from there.

As we tend to do about 4-5 times a day (Jessie thinks it’s more around 50), Jessie and I got hungry in Annecy. During one quest for a reasonably-priced lunch, Jessie and I tentatively entered a little shop called “Bagels and Cupcakes,” where we gestured and charaded our way to paninis, cookies and cupcakes. We befriended the man behind the counter, who thought our lack of French made us adorable (take that, stereotypes!). In our three days there, we became regulars at B&C. And on our last visit, our French friend whipped out some English he had been hiding up his baker’s sleeve and gave us free pastries. C’est magnifique!

During the evening, we returned to the lake only to find music and a dance floor full of salsa enthusiasts. We stopped and watched for about half an hour, chuckling at a girl who thought salsa dancing equaled grinding, an overenthusiastic middle aged man with crazy facial expressions, and a young couple who obviously had one thing on their mind, if you catch my drift. I even found my dancing doppelganger: a girl who looked somewhat stressed out the entire time, but was trying super hard. I almost introduced myself.

Jessie, reenacting the dance moves

Now as I ride on this train to a new place, reflecting on Annecy, I feel a great sense of peace. For a few days, I put away my map and my furrowed brow and I let a little French town take care of me. I might still be thousands of miles away, but I feel pretty close to home.

Au revoir, Annecy.

Gina

 

 

Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 17, 2011

When I Grow up I’ll Understand

Sometimes I feel like a school child in an art museum.

I show up to all these amazing places—super jazzed and ready to go, like I’m on an un-chaperoned field trip. I am bouncing off the walls. Not because of what I’m about to see, but because I know it will be special. I walk by important things, take photos and maybe even learn a thing or two. I pose in those little face-in-hole photo ops and swing by the gift shop. And then I move on.

Increasingly, I realize that these events will have more gravity once I grow up a little. Maybe once I finally master those multiplication tables and move onto the 4th grade.

I say all of this because we just left Geneva—a city of great international importance. I’ve now stood amidst the fountains outside the U.N. and even toured the World Health Organization. Yet, I know that the true significance of these experiences won’t set in until later. As of now, Geneva is just one stop on this grand tour, but it won’t always be.

Travel teaches. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much. It expands your conception of the world and makes you care about far away places and people. Now, Geneva is not just some faraway city, but the place where I got terribly overpriced Thai food, took a yellow boat across a lake, and meandered past watches so expensive they didn’t even have price tags. Now, Geneva is a little part of me. Maybe it was only one day, and maybe I’ll never go back, but I’ll remember going.

And just like those silly little field trips in elementary school, it will remain special, no matter how many years pass.

Gina

Dearest Readers,

It’s raining it’s pouring, Gina’s upstairs snoring (no seriously). Here in Annecy, France it is raining cats and dogs and probably other animals too! It hasn’t stopped for 7 hours, which is tragic, because it was supposed to be our day on the beach.

But never fear, dearest readers, for Gina and I can make fun wherever we go. Our hostel is so precious (right now the family that owns it is gathered in the common room playing French Scrabble).

So I am curled up with a giant mug of Peppermint tea (I have been carrying this tea with me ever since Carolin gave me some in Leipzig!) looking out over the hostel’s garden–yes, the hostel has a garden full of couches and volleyball nets and flowers–writing and reflecting. What could be better?

These past four days have been our craziest. We spent one full day in Geneva, Switzerland and then one half day and one full day in Annecy, France and tomorrow we head to Switzerland. As if the country switch isn’t enough, they are on two different currencies as well (good grief!).

So without further ado, here is the best of Geneva and Annecy:

–The beautiful jet and the magnificent lake of Geneva. Gina and I weren’t really sure about our choice to go to Geneva. I mean, all there is is stuff to look at, there is not really that much to do.

Just being narcissistic with Lake Geneva

But, wow, Geneva is gorgeous. We sat by the lake, wandered along the coast, and just admired the water.
Gina describes the jet best: you know when a small child holds a hose straight up in the air and it flies straight up and then back down? It’s a big kid version of that.

Wow-ser Geneva

We were even able to go back as the sun was setting over the alps. *Gush* I couldn’t stop gaping at the way the mountains changed colors with the setting sun. Blood reds changed to light tangerine oranges and  muted yellows.

–We toured the World Health Organization in Geneva. Our wonderful advisor coordinated a visit with a girl who works there, Julia, and she gave us a full history of the place along with a tour. We stood at the top and had a wonderful view of Geneva and the lake.

Julia and Us!

–In Annecy, we found a beach. Okay, beach in the broadest sense of the word meaning grass where you could lie down and a place to swim, but in this town, this is as close to beach as you can possibly get. We arrived early yesterday, so that we could spend the entire afternoon laying out and swimming in the freezing cold water.
I just kept looking around and thinking, how is this real life? It’s just such a beautiful city. It’s called the Venice of France, because it has a beautiful canal that runs through the streets and meets up with the lake. The alps surrounding the lake are equally breathtaking. I am running out of ways to describe the beauty of this area without repeating myself or running into cliches (I already used the word breathtaking so how much worse can I get?!).

So far the only pictures we have taken in Annecy are of us eating French Fondue...at this restaurant our waiters gave us free dessert. We still don't know why...yay!

–We happened upon “salsa night” in Annecy. We were wandering the lake last night as the sun was setting and found all of these adults dressed up and looking spiffy and dancing … really really well. It was hilarious to people watch. Some couples moved as one while others looked uncomfortable with the idea of motion. The Spanish music pulsed and all of the sudden, everyone was line dancing.
If everyone hadn’t looked so gosh darn coordinated, we would have joined it. But I thought for once I would spare my dignity, and not get my flailing limbs involved.
Gina and I decided that we hope we are the kind of adults who can one day dance with our significant others by the lake in the Alps.

–Bagels and Cupcakes. It’s a little cafe in Annecy that Gina and I have become regulars in (aka, we have come both days we are here and chatted with the owner…him in French, us in English, both of us gesturing, nodding, and smiling).
The walls are bright greens and there are small orange tables with hot pink chairs. If you know me at all, you know that bright colors can bring a smile to my face on the darkest of days.
They sell mini cupcakes for 1 euro and big cupcakes for 2.5 euro, which is a steal for this area. Gina likes the giant cookies for 2 euro. Either way, each cupcake is like a small piece of art bedecked with small sugar balls and dollops of amazing, slightly cold frosting.
We plan to go back tomorrow before we leave.

–Meeting people in our hostel. The best part about the rain is that it traps all of us in the hostel common room. So we have met a couple from Australia, a couple from Paris, a woman who just moved here, a girl from Philadelphia studying abroad, a girl traveling on her own from Australia, and more.
Everyone has crazy cool stories whether they have hiked the mountains of Italy or gallavanted through Spain, everyone has a piece of advice to share. And we can all commiserate about the best and worsts of traveling.
The best part? Gina and I can actually contribute. We suddenly realized that we have good stories and we have advice to give out (we gave out suggestions of hostels or cities we like).
As people who have traveled for 4 weeks now, we are considered veterans. We are wise in the ways of the world. Who would’ve thunk it?

Tommorow we are off to Switzerland, but we plan to spend the morning biking around the lake (weather permitting). This is truly the life.

With much love from Annecy!

—–
Jessie

Posted by: 2girls2europe | July 15, 2011

Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Book: Jessie’s Backpacker Tips

Dearest Readers,

So Gina has passed off some delightful little tricks of the backpacker trade. Well, I want in on that action.

Besides, it has been a few weeks since Gina’s post. And my advice is more stuff you should know along the way. So here is Jessie’s “Advice For Those Hoping To Backpack And Save Money And Be Smart About It.” (Clearly, I need to think of a better name before I go writing the book.) Some of the tips are physical things you should have and others are emotional things you should do, but all of them are practical things you should remember!

1. Save those little quart sized sandwich bags that they give you at the airport–and all plastic bags for that matter.

Basically, you never know when you will need them. You may want to pack a sandwich for your hike up a mountain, or you may have a wet washcloth that you don’t want to dampen the other contents of your backpack. A ziplock will always come in handy, and it takes up almost no space.

Other plastic bags are useful for these reasons, and because at most grocery stores in Europe you have to buy the bags (a rip off…but smart business-wise). So having bags ahead of time will save you moo-lah that you need for other things, like the food itself.

2. Carabiners.

Those little clampy things? Yes. Have them. You know those things that they sell in nature/trail stores that you think will never have a purpose in your trail-less travels? A carabiner has many purposes even for those non-hiker types such as myself.

I cart my travel pillow around carabiner-ed to my carry on bag. When we go out for a picnic, I carabiner the aforementioned plastic bag to my purse. When I can’t fit my sandals in my backpack, I carabiner them to the outside. (Gina: She’s never actually done that.) Carabiner = winning.

3. Use your hair things/ponytail holders.

Sorry guys; this is mostly a girl tip. You thought they were just for hair, but oh ho, you could not have been more wrong. They are for closing bags of food for backpack transport and for keeping your jeans tightly wound so they pack smaller … and I suppose they are for hair too.

4. Buy the books you actually want to read.

I have a confession. I, Jessie, nerdy feminist girl, love chick lit novels. Yes, it’s true. I, a lover of Truman Capote and ee cummings, love girl romance novels. Not super raunchy dirty novels, but cute, happy-ending beach reads.

I always used to try to hide that. I thought it made me seem weak or shallow, but now I just realize that it’s what I like, so what do I care? It’s not like I read these books and expect my life to be like that, I just like to read them.

And on this trip I have limited space for books (considering that I can’t buy e-books while abroad), so when I purchase a book, I have to actually intend on reading it.
Therefore, I am not going to chose the book that will make me look like an intellectual. I am going to chose the book that I truly enjoy, even if it has sparkly stars on the cover and is called This Charming Man. Actully, in this book’s defense, it turned out to be about domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and the lines of morality in journalism, which only goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

And you can’t judge a girl by her book. (I am so profound, I know, I know, stop it!)

5. Protein pack your meals, and keep emergency snacks in every bag.

My mother, being the personal trainer and general genius that she is, has impressed this lesson into my brain.

Eating an egg at breakfast instead of carb-y cereal will sustain you longer. If you have meat and cheese at lunch instead of pizza, dinner can be held off for more hours. Plus, if you have protein at meals, you won’t need to snack in between them.

Snacks are essential especially if you have low blood sugar like me. I keep a granola bar in every bag, because you never know when you will get roped into a walking tour that is supposed to last two hours, but then it goes on for four. Or when you will be trapped on a train for six hours without a food cart. Travelling is full of unexpected time-eaters (no pun intended), so be sure your stomach won’t be reduced to eating your other organs and pack a snack.

6. This one may seem obvious but it’s true: your water bottle is your best friend.

Carrying a water bottle has saved me so much money, because instead of buying drinks when I buy snacks, I just refill my water bottle in the nearest sink. Make sure you have a purse that can hold it, because you should keep your water bottle on you all the time. It is super easy to become dehydrated when you are walking all day.

7. Accept that some days will suck.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I was under the mistaken impression that if I was traveling the world, living the dream then that must mean I would never be in a bad mood/nothing bad could happen/the world would be perfect. I am not exactly sure where that mindset came from, but don’t worry, this disillusionment did not last long.
It’s still 6 weeks of my life, and when have you ever had 6 weeks where every day was perfect? Unless you are angelic or oblivious, it’s impossible. And that is okay. Just because every day isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that the trip is going poorly or that you are failing as a traveler.

And a few days are going to be particularly terrible. Nothing goes right, you miss something critical, and suddenly all you want to do is be home where everything is easier. Please know, dearest reader, that this is perfectly normal. Homesickness is natural.
The remedy for this? Normally, for me, it’s to Skype someone from home. Whether it be my boyfriend or my mom or my best friends at college or high school, just connecting to home makes it bearable.

The upside of these suck-y days, you ask? You savor the exceptional days, because if every day was exceptional, you wouldn’t appreciate it.

Well readers, I have more tips, but this post is lengthy enough. So I will leave you with these seven for now (for seven is the most magical number!…Harry Potter reference). I’m off to look out the window of the train as we travel through the Alps and daydream and read my chick lit novel that I love.

With love from Geneva!

—–Jessie

I avoid vortexes whenever possible.

So I became particularly perturbed when, upon planning our itinerary, Jessie and I realized that we would find ourselves trapped in one. A time vortex, that is, that would forbid us from viewing the newest (and last!) Harry Potter installment at midnight.

To use a Jessie-ism—b’scuse me?

We nearly wept. According to some random blog that listed the dates of the premieres across the world, we would miss it in both Salzburg and Geneva by one day—the two places we’d travel to during those ever-so-epic dates.

This simply could not stand. We tried negotiating other options. Leaving early? Staying late? Catching a night train to another country? Calling Rowling herself and pleading for mercy? Our frazzled psyches would not reject any options.

But no matter what we tried, the answer seemed inevitable: we would just have to miss the midnight release. Be still, my heart. How could we even dare to call ourselves avid fans if we missed the midnight premiere of the final conclusion of Harry? Not to mention the end of our childhoods altogether?!

Don’t look at me like that, reader. With your “oh-you’re-being-so-dramatic” face.

If you’re a true part of my generation—the one that grew up with Harry and friends, the one that had to feverishly wait months between installments, the one that charged the local Waldenbooks at midnight to lay a hand on the new, glossy copy of that beloved book…you know it matters that much.

We reluctantly resigned ourselves to our fate. While our friends in the States would celebrate the release and discuss its nuances without us, we would sluggishly await the moment we found a theater playing it…in English. We would have even taken English subtitles. (I’ll strain my eyes for you, Harry!)

So imagine our elation when, after all of these emotional trials, our lovely Salzburg host informed us that, despite what we had read, that we could catch the Harry Potter premiere. Not only in English, but the next night. July 12. A double feature. Two whole days before the US kids could even taste a preview. Oh my Gringotts.

The moment that the ticket booth opened on July 12, Jessie and I clambered to the Cineplex, 17 Euros in hand, (yeah…ouch) ready to purchase the “golden ticket,” as Jessie would later sing. After some dirty looks thrown (by yours truly) at a couple tweens trying to cut us in line, murmurs of giddy elation and broken English with the lady at the “kassa,” (see—I’m learning German! It means cash register.) we had tickets. It would all end tonight.

Prior to the screening, we did as all savvy movie-goers do, and stuffed our purses with snacks. You would have thought our next stop was Mt. Everest; we both packed candy bars, granola bars, sandwiches and water bottles. Jessie even packed extra socks (Jessie’s defense: she was in sandals, the movie theater could be cold! Gina: still ridiculous). You know, the essentials for a movie like this.

About half an hour before the start of the first movie (they showed Part 1 around 9 p.m.) we bounced inside, the Potter-induced adrenaline coursing through our veins. After locating the proper door (harder than you’d think), we settled into a spot and acted a little like senile old men—rocking back and forth and muttering to ourselves.

We anxiously waited, surveying the other fans around us. Unfortunately, we did not see costumes and garb on others, as we typically do at US releases. Only a couple of college-aged girls sported Gryffindor scarves as they teetered nearby. We smiled at one another, recognizing the unspoken bond between us. Before too long, we ventured inside the theater to begin Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1.

The first movie passed with anticipation building. Our focus on the first installment muddled itself with swelling excitement for midnight’s prize.

An aside: It’s worth noting, I think, that the entire audience became distracted by an apparently drunk girl in heels trying to walk down the steps. She fell down multiple times and everyone laughed. I think more movie theaters should serve alcohol. Free entertainment.

Back to the story.

After the first installment ended, we had about half an hour to freak out amongst ourselves before the show began. We went to the bathroom, which killed about 4 minutes, but we still had 26 to spare. What to do with ourselves? Wasn’t everyone else freaking out? This is Harry Potter, dammit! But everyone else seemed unfazed by the imminent tension. We scuttled back into our seats, hoping that time would pass quickly. I finished my peanut butter sandwich. Jessie put on socks (Jessie: NO I DID NOT!).

Minutes dragged by slower than a Catholic mass in Latin.

But alas, at midnight the theater seats filled, butts settled into the comfy seats, and the lights dimmed.

Then the final chapter of my childhood unfolded in front of me.

I won’t bash or praise the film here. You should watch it first, untainted by commentary as I did.

No, the important thing here is that we made it.

We made it, guys.

Gina

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