A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: amyandkev

Our Big Trip: By the Numbers

by Kevin & Amy

After more than four-and-a-half months of travel, our “Excellent Adventure” has finally come to an end. Here are some interesting numbers and statistics from the big trip:

35,369: Number of Miles Traveled

138: Total Number of Days

18: Number of Countries Visited

5,025: Number of Photographs Loaded on Flickr.com

210: Amount of Dollars That We Went Over-Budget (Not bad!)

50: Number of different hotels, hostels, or huts

22: Number of Flights

2: Number of Overnight Trains

2: Number of Overnight Buses

2: Number of Overnight Boats

13,671: Total Number of Hits on our Travel Blog

434: Average Number of Unique Visitors Each Month

Anyway, we want to thank all of you for taking the time to read our entries and follow along on our journey. We’ve been amazed by the number of people who have regularly visited our site for months on end. Each and every month, our website has been visited by hundreds and hundreds of people from around the globe. (Very, very cool.)

We would love to know who has been reading along, so---if you've read at least a few blog entries--- please post a comment to this entry or send us an email at alrosenfield@gmail.com. (Thanks!) Feel free to also send us any questions you may have about travel in general or a specific destination that we visited. (We hope that our blogging has or will inspire at least a few of you to travel abroad in the near future...) Happy travels!

Cheers,
Amy & Kev

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Posted by amyandkev 21:05 Comments (3)

Paris

by Kevin

Even before arriving in Paris, our prior travels had taken us to some Paris-like monuments. We saw the quasi-Eiffel Tower in Dalat, Vietnam:

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And we saw the quasi- Arc de Triomphe in Vientiane, Laos:

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But neither were quite as awe-inspiring as finally seeing the real thing:

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Paris was the final destination on our round-the-world travels, and—despite initially feeling a bit burned out —it’s hard not to feel energized by the sights of Paris. Incredible buildings and sites are seemingly around every corner, and we had a great time wandering through the city’s various neighborhoods (in addition to visiting the requisite landmarks and museums, and eating the fantastic cuisine).

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We also were pleasantly surprised to discover that the French Open was going on during our stay in Paris. Roland Garros is only a short subway ride from the city center, although we had to wait in line for two hours in order to snag an evening grounds pass. This was Amy’s first in-person experience with professional tennis, and we both had a blast wandering from court to court to watch a few games or a set from various singles and doubles matches---usually sitting less than fifteen feet from the court.

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You can check out all of our Paris pictures by clicking here. Hard to believe, but Paris is the LAST STOP on our four-and-a-half month, round-the-world trip. The adventure has come to an end... We have definitely had an incredible time these past several months, but we are both quite excited to be back in Seattle again. We will try to post a few wrap-up blogs soon…

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Posted by amyandkev 20:05 Archived in France Comments (0)

Santorini

by Kevin

We’ve fallen a bit behind on our blogging, so I’m going to keep this entry short---and let the photos do most of the talking. Santorini was easily our favorite island in Greece. The size of the island is much smaller and manageable than Rhodes and certainly Crete (which is huge), and the island’s natural scenery and whitewashed, cliff-side villages are stunning.

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Our hotel was built on a steep cliff overlooking the Caldera, which is the water-filled volcanic center formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. The nearby picturesque villages of Fira and Oia are similarly built on cliffs, with narrow pedestrians streets and whitewashed buildings perched above the deep blue waters of the Caldera. Very unique. Very cool.

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We spent three full days on Santorini, spending our time exploring the island on ATVs, taking a sunset sailboat cruise through the Calderra, hitting wineries, and hanging out by our hotel’s pool and enjoying the incredible views. Three days is enough time to adequately see and enjoy the island, but we could have easily spent several more days there…

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You can see all of our Santorini pics by clicking here. From Santorini, we spent just over 24 hours in Athens, which was enough time to spend an evening in The Placa and tour the Acropolis and Parthenon. Our next and final stop: Paris.

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Posted by amyandkev 15:38 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Greece: Rhodes and Crete

by Amy

Amazing. If I had to sum up Greece in one word it would probably be just that. Or Stunning. Or Tranquil. Or Mesmerizing. Or if I get 4 words it would be “just what I needed after 5 months of hostels and wearing shower shoes.” Okay, so that's 13 words, but you get the idea. Our Greece experience is one that will standout in a lifetime of memory books. While we will definitely be back to Greece (there’s so much to see), we may likely never get to see it the way that we did with Jenny and Rob.

It all started when we finally, after 4 months of emails, phone calls, and sometimes even tears, met up with my sister and Rob (with their son Ethan and nanny Jen in tow) on the island of Rhodes. I couldn't have been happier to see them (as much fun as Kevin and I had touring Turkey for two weeks -- meeting up with my sister was all I could think about!). Kevin and I caught a quick ferry from Marmaris, Turkey to Rhodes, Greece, which is where our journey with them began.

Our plans for the itinerary included a visit to three different islands: Rhodes for 3 nights, Crete for an additional 3 nights, and then finally Santorini for 4 nights. Then we would be flying to Athens for a one night stay and that is when we would part ways. In addition to meeting us in Greece, Jenny and Rob also planned this entire leg of the trip – including picking up the hotel accmoodations and transfers. And these weren’t just any accommodations – they were five star hotels and suites. When we arrived at our first hotel we knew we were in for an amazing two weeks (check out these pics of our Rhodes hotel -- the last one is of our private pool:)

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RHODES

The island of Rhodes was a lot of fun and a worthy visit. Outside of being the site of the hotel (which, in our opinion was enough of a reason to visit alone), Rhodes is is one of the most popular islands of Greece and the capital, Rhodes Town, is surrounded by stone walls of a very well preserved Venetian castle. It is one of the biggest and best preserved medieval settlements in all of Europe. And like any proper European castle district, this one didn't disappoint with its narrow cobblestone streets filled with restaurants, shops, and sites that are restricted to pedestrians. (In fact, the streets are so narrow I don't see how cars could ever fit).

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Most of the buildings in this part of the city date from Italian rule and are thus adorned with neo-Gothic and Venetian architectural style. This adds much charm to the city and is evident in the types of restaurants -- we definitely had a lot of Greek and Italian food!

Another must-see of Rhodes is a visit to the village of Lindos. It is located south of the capital, on the eastern coast of the island. It is dominated by a magnificent and imposing acropolis, which can be visited either by foot (quite a steep hike to the top) or with the aid of a donkey. Initially, Jenny and I were psyched about the opportunity to ride a donkey up the hill. However, our better sense won out when we learned via our guidebooks that donkeys should not be ridden by persons over 115 pounds. It was quite disheartening to learn and observe the amount of weight that these small animals bore over gruelling conditions -- apparently the Greeks apply no restrictions on who can hire them. Donkey or no donkey, the hike to the acropolis was well worth the effort. It rewarded us with ancient ruins and amazing views of the town of Lindos.

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CRETE

After a few sun-filled days touring the island of Rhodes and spending lazy days sunbathing in our private hotel-room pools, we set off for our quick flight to Crete. Once in Crete, we ended up at a resort town called Elounda, and at a resort we will forever fondly refer to as "The Palace." The actual name of the resort is "The Blue Palace," and it is like nothing we have ever experienced before. I know I sound a bit like a broken record, but believe me when I say that this made the resort on Rhodes feel like a DoubleTree. (Oh, am I really back to the "hotel-snob Amy" that I was before I left on this trip? And here just a week ago, I would have reveled in the thought of staying at a DoubleTree. Wow, what a little 5-class resort treatment will do to a person!).

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Unfortunately, with just two full days in Crete we did not have adequate time to see much of the island and were focused on just those areas close enough to our hotel. (I would recommend dedicating at minimum 5 nights in Crete...it's just too big of an island to do in 2 days). However, we did manage to visit Knossos, which is a must-see for those interested in ancient history (you're welcome, Kevin and Rob).

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But truly the highlight of Crete for me is probably swimming in the Mediterranean Sea at the Blue Palace hotel. After a day spent kyaking and paddle boating out to a nearby island with ruins to check out, we returned to the comforts of our resort. Rob and Kevin convinced my sister and I that we needed to join them in the sea, as it was probably our only opportunity to actually swim in the Mediterranean. We were convinced --- and the feeling of floating through the crystal blue waters of a sea on the other side of the world from Seattle -- well, it never gets old. And retiring to the terry-clothed comfort of our bathrobe and slippers with glass of syrah in hand - I just don't think it ever gets better than this...

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Rhodes and Crete have blown us away. And now we can't wait to see what is in store on our final Greek island stop: Santorini.

Posted by amyandkev 04:41 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

Turkey: Wrap-Up

by Kevin

What We Did: We spent two full weeks traveling through Turkey. We began in Istanbul (three days there); then took the overnight bus to Goreme in the central Cappadocia region (three more days); took another overnight bus to Olympos, on the Mediterranean coast (two days); sailed on a “blue cruise” gullet boat from Olympos to Fethiye (four days); and then relaxed in Fethiye and Marmaris (three days) before catching a ferry to Rhodes, Greece.

Overall Impression: Turkey was easily one of our favorite destinations. (Of the countries visited so far, Amy ranks it third behind only New Zealand and Vietnam. Definitely a top spot.) There is a ton to see and do in this country, and we could have easily spent another week here.

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Food & Drink: The food in Turkey is fantastic, often very simple but expertly spiced and marinated. We frequently had amazing lentil soup, enjoyed delicious kebab sandwiches on pita, and ate ridiculous quantities of bread at every meal. For beverages, we pretty much drank tea, tea, and more Turkish tea (with the occasional beer thrown in). Sorry, no more tea, please. I need a break.

The People: The Turkish people are exceedingly friendly and outgoing. (I’d rank Turkey and Laos as the two friendliest countries we’ve visited.) Shopkeepers routinely invited us in for tea, even when they knew that would not be buying anything. Restaurant owners would come chat with us during our meals and literally shake our hands when we said goodbye. And,on a slightly different note, Amy couldn’t stop talking about how attractive Turkish men are. (Enough already!)

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Cost: Turkey is by no means cheap (not like Southeast Asia, for example). But good accommodation is reasonably priced, and the food can be very inexpensive---especially if you get slightly away from the tourist centers. For instance, at a small restaurant in Feyithe, Amy and I ordered lentil soup, Turkish pizza, a dip platter with pita, and beer---and our total bill was only 8 liras (about $6). And fantastic kebab sandwiches are widely available for less than $2 each.

Night Buses: We took night buses from Istanbul to Goreme and then, later, from Goreme to Olympos. Both of these buses left late in the evening (usually around 10 or 11 at night) and arrived at 8 or 9 in the morning. The buses are modern, air-conditioned and quite nice---but they are still only as comfortable as buses can possibly get. (Thank goodness for sleeping pills.) The photo below is from a shuttle bus (not a night bus) where the bus was overflowing, and I had to sit on the floor. (Thankfully, it was a relatively short ride.)

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Istanbul: Turkey’s largest city is as fascinating and memorable as any European city we’ve seen. Our three days here weren’t enough. (We wanted to stay at least four nights, but we couldn’t find accommodation beyond our three nights.) Highlights included the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, and just aimlessly wandering the winding, cobblestone streets of Old Town.

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Cappaddocia: The Cappadoccia region was probably my favorite part of Turkey. The rock formations here look like they are from a different planet; incredibly unique and often flat-out stunning. Much of the town of Goreme is built into these rock formations, and our hotel was actually a “cave hotel” with the rooms dug out of a rock chimney.

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For activities in Cappaddocia, we hiked through canyons, toured an ancient underground city, and floated over the rock formations and canyons in a hot air balloon. Very cool place.

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Olympos: Our next stop was the tiny town on Olympos, a small backpacker hangout located in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea. We hiked the surrounding mountains, wandered through ruins, hung out by the sea, and generally did a whole lot of nothing at our bungalow. Very relaxing. Very nice. We also did a night hike to the Chimera Flames (a natural phenomenon that produces everlasting flames from the ground), where we had a bit of a scare---Amy fell and sprained her ankle. Fortunately, the sprain was slight, and it didn’t restrict it her much. And what better means of recovery then to spend four days relaxing on a boat? (That is exactly what we did next.)

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Boat Cruise. From Olympos, we boarded a sailboat and spent four days and three nights cruising the Mediterranean coast until we reached Feyithe. There were 11 guests total on the boat, and--aside from several stops to explore coastal towns or ruins--most of our days were lazily spent sunning, swimming, and playing cards. (Luckily, the weather was fantastic.) The water here is crystal clear, and the mountains rising up out of the sea are extremely scenic.

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Feyithe. Our boat cruise ended in the coastal town of Feyithe, where we spent two more nights. Throughout our trip, we had been reluctantly resisting the urge to buy many souvenirs (since we had almost no room in our suitcases and didn’t want to carry heavy souvenirs around for months on end)----but, here in Feyithe, we finally broke down and bought a few items. (For better or worse, we’ve visited 17 countries so far and yet most of our souvenirs and gifts will all come from a single country. Oh well.)

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Marmaris. From Feyithe, we took a three-hour bus to the coastal town of Marmaris, which is a popular destination for Europeans. Very touristy. We had barely an evening in Marmaris before we caught an early morning ferry to the Greek island of Rhodes.

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In Rhodes, we met up with Amy’s sister, Jenny, and Jenny’s husband, Rob. (Plus, their baby, Ethan). The plan is to visit the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini before spending a short time in Athens. Greece is one of the final countries on our trip (only Paris remains), and we are definitely going out with a bang. More soon…

Posted by amyandkev 08:47 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Holy Hot-Air Balloon Ride!

By Amy

Have you ever been on a hot-air balloon ride? Neither had I. That is until we arrived in the country of Turkey and the spectacular region of Cappadocia. I knew at some point in my life that I would probably get to experience the thrill of floating high in the sky in a hot-air balloon. But if you asked me a year ago where and when it would be, I would have never guessed it would occur this year, and absolutely never across the world in Turkey. But that’s exactly what Kevin and I did a few days ago.

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We woke up very early on Sunday morning (5:30am!) to catch the first ride of the day (sunrise). When we arrived at the launch site, the excitement started; just in seeing the 10 – 15 incredibly massive balloons getting inflated in preparation for the morning’s first launch was a sight to be seen. The day couldn’t have been better for ballooning if hand-painted by a master artist herself – the sun was just starting to rise over the hilltops and blue sky engulfed us. We waited as our balloon was being inflated and several others launched before our eyes; the anxious passengers filling into the baskets and then the balloons slowly floating into the sky. Our balloon wasn’t even inflated yet and already my camera had taken nearly 100 photos. I couldn’t wait for our turn!

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Finally, the 9 of us in our group were told to get in the basket, which was partitioned into 5 sections. Kevin and I climbed into one of those sections. Then, with the massive, fully inflated balloon dominating the sky above us, the pilots ignited the torches that sent our balloon aflight. The feeling as we left the earth and started to float is indescribable. It’s not a scary feeling – nothing like a roller coaster or other thrill-seeker’s adventure – but rather a peaceful and surreal feeling as you slowing float away into the sky. The view was incredible – the Cappadocia region in Turkey itself is uniquely beautiful – built upon incredible rock formations as far as the eye can see. The ancient people that settled in this land made shelters and homes out of the rock caves, which can be seen everywhere . In fact, even the hotels and hostels are mostly built within these ancient caves (including our hotel room!).

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Floating in the sky gives you an incredible view of the caves and rock formations all throughout this region. And the feeling of being in a hot-air balloon is amazing – it is such a peaceful and romantic experience, with the occasional adrenalin rush. A few times the pilots descended us deep into a canyon made by the rock formations to get an up close and personal view of the caves and landscapes. This was an incredible feeling – the expertise that they needed to have in order to keep us floating deep in the canyons without hitting any of the rocks amazed me. (Isn’t at least some of the direction and speed we move based on the current wind pattern and out of the control of the pilots??). At any rate, Kevin and I agreed that the most exhilarating part of the ride was when we were descended deep into the canyons, and not, as I would have expected, when we were flying hundreds of feet into the air.

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At one point when we were deep within a canyon, the pilots changed our direction to have us head toward a rock tower (or what they call cave chimneys since they are tall, long, and usually inhabit a cave within them that was used in ancient times for shelter). The view was great, and kept getting better as the pilots moved us in closer and closer. I kept thinking that they must be planning on turning us around soon. But we weren’t changing directions yet. And we were getting closer and closer to the point that if we didn’t turn around now, I thought for sure we would hit. So I peeled my head away from the chimney to look at our pilots – what were they thinking?? They just had this calm look on their face with a slight smile. I quickly looked back at where we were headed. We were definitely ascending now in an attempt to get above the chimney, but it was going to be close! Nearer and nearer to the chimney we got while we continued to ascend higher and higher, but not yet enough to clear the chimney. Now everyone in our basket was on the edge of their feet and starting to squirm – a few people called out worries. We saw the pilots staring intently ahead concentrating deeply on this maneuver. Finally, we had reached the chimney and ascended to the top of it, but all of the passengers held their breath (or closed their eyes) as we moved up over it, uncertain whether we would clear it. You could see all our heads (well those of us who kept our eyes open) lean over the basket (including our pilots!) to ensure that our basket cleared. It did! Whew…that was all the excitement I needed for the one flight. Everyone cheered and I found the pilots smiling, clearly proud of their efforts. I couldn’t help wondering how they practice these moves – it certainly leaves you no room for error!

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After about an hour and 15 minutes of flying, we slowly descended to the ground. Our ride was over. And what a ride it was! We celebrated with glasses of champagne and were each issued certificates of our achievement. I wasn’t exactly sure what our achievement was, unless it was keeping our breakfast down while they succeeded in the trick moves. At any rate, Kevin and I were all smiles as we toasted each other to another amazing experience overseas. Hot Air Ballooning in Turkey? Who would have guessed (though I hear Luxor, Egypt has amazing hot-air ballooning...)!

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Posted by amyandkev 05:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (5)

Eastern Europe: Random Thoughts & Photos

by Kevin

After a month traveling through Eastern Europe (plus Amsterdam), we’ve encountered a countless array of random and odd things that are probably only interesting to us ignorant Americans. (Or maybe just me.) Here are some of the most memorable ones…

Paying to Pee: Most of the public restrooms throughout Eastern Europe require payment for use (usually somewhere around 25-50 cents). Paying a person stationed closely outside the restroom seems a bit strange in its own respect. But the most bizarre thing (for me anyway) was in the Krakow train station, where the cost differed depending on whether I planned on using a toilet (more expensive) or just a urinal (less expensive). In essence, I had to tell the lady beforehand exactly what I planned on doing inside that restroom (for the record: just peeing). Seems a bit strange and awkward, no?

More Toilet Talk: Amsterdam has a popular, late-night square surrounded by scores of bars that is thus filled with scores of drunken men at night roaming around the square. What’s the best restroom solution for hundreds of drunken guys and late-night loitering? Well, the city installed outdoor urinals near the middle of the square, in public display of everyone...

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Obama-Mania. Every country we visit (including Asia and New Zealand) is obsessed with our new president. The local newspapers talk endlessly about him, and the local people—when we tell them that we are from the U.S.—continually ask us about him and/or tell us how much they prefer him to our previous president. (At this point, he’s pretty much like an international rock star.)

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U.S. & Seattle Travelers. Throughout our travels, we have met hundreds of travelers… but very few Americans. Compared with other nations (especially England and Australia, or even Canada), a much smaller percentage of Americans seem to travel abroad for long stretches of time (except perhaps for the summer after college graduation). And, for shorter trips, few Americans seem to travel outside of the summer and Christmas seasons.

However, for as few Americans as we’ve met, we’ve met quite a few travelers from Seattle. (We’ve easily met more people from Seattle than any other U.S. city.) Is it a coincidence, or are Seattleites more apt to get out and see the world? (Just today, we met a Seattle guy who went to college and was good friends with two of my hometown friends from Prosser. Small world.)

Vancouver Travelers. As for cities outside of the U.S., we have probably met more travelers from Vancouver, B.C. than from any other city. Sydney, Australia and London, England are a very close second.

Coffee. It is pretty much impossible to find standard drip coffee. Everything is espresso here. The closest we can get to standard coffee is to order essentially an Americano or what’s known as a “long black”(espresso with hot water). Amy’s mom took it a step farther in Croatia by ordering a separate cup of hot water to add to her coffee, which was a great idea. We’ve told various European travelers that we prefer American coffee, which they always find quite shocking. (They think American-style coffee is too thin and watery and far too weak.)

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Night Trains. We’ve taken night trains on several occasions, including trips from Prague to Krakow and from Krakow to Budapest. This is a fantastic way to travel large distances. We found our private cabins to be more spacious than we expected, and night travels saves time (plus the expense of a hotel). Highly recommended. With respect to train travel in general, our only word of caution is that some trains do not have any food or beverage service. We took a 9-hour train ride from Budapest to Ljubljana that—to our shock—lacked a dining car or any food service whatsoever. We travelled from noon until 9 o’clock that day without any food (other than a croissant that we had brought, which we rationed sparingly throughout the trip). Not good.

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Beer. We may have pined for American-style coffee, but the beer in Eastern Europe is consistently superior. Even the Budweiser is better. Far better. (The Czech “Budweiser” has reportedly been in constant litigation with the American one.)

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Gelato. The gelato in Eastern Europe is incredibly good, found on seemingly every street corner, and is quite cheap. (Usually about a dollar per scoop.) I’ll bet we are average two scoops a day on this trip. Highly addictive. Hard to resist.

Escalators. This is random, but the escalators in much of Eastern Europe are often extremely steep and extremely fast. You definitely have to pay attention and time your steps when getting on and off them. (Not sure why I needed to point this out. But now you know.)

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Vacation Days. When we talk with foreign travellers about life and culture in the United States, the thing that shocks them the most is the small amount of vacation days that Americans typically receive from their employers. In much of Europe, for instance, it is common for someone right out of school (with zero experience) to get a job with five weeks paid vacation (plus holidays). So they are quite shocked when we tell them that two weeks vacation is fairly typical in the United States. (And, wow, you wouldn't even believe some of the standard maternity/paternity leaves that are offered in many European countries. Ridiculous.)

Dyed-Red Hair: Throughout Eastern Europe, it is very common to see middle-aged or elderly woman with the same exact color of hair dye. We read that this a remnant of the Communist days, when the red hair dye was the only dye available for purchase.

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Hot Wine: Who knew that heated wine with cinnamon could be so good? We drank this incessantly in the Czech Republic, where “hot wine” is available in nearly every restaurant and even sold by street vendors. On a cold day, this is tough to beat. And Amy and I have already vowed to make hot wine a Winter Holiday tradition.

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Anyway, we are presently travelling around Turkey. Hot air balloons, cave hotels, enormous mosques, tree house hostels, overnight gullet trips, underground cities… yup, we definitely have a lot to report (and some great photos to show). More soon…

Posted by amyandkev 07:58 Comments (0)

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