Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Visiting Texas in August (or "why yes I am insane")

I'll keep this update short and sweet. This are going well here. I've had several friends crash at my place the last few days, the weather has been cooler lately and Prague continues to be a wonderful place to live. And as I'm sure you can tell from these pictures, there is no problem having fun with the other expats when we get together.

The game funnybone produces some interesting positions

The bigger news in case didn't know, is that I will be leaving Prague and returning to Texas for two or three weeks on August 18th. I need to apply for my new visa in the US. The best part is that I get to see all of you (I assume anyone who's put up with reading this is either a friend or family member). Just don't get between me and dr pepper and/or mexican food while I'm back!

For now, here is something cool to see. Follow this link to view a video I shot high in the Alps. It does a slightly better job of helping you understand exactly what I saw up there.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Elysium (part two)

Gimmelwald (the town of 100 people that I stayed in) and I posing together

Be forewarned, this post will be heavy on the pictures because well .... duh!

The third day saw me leaving my enchanting lakefront lodge and heading towards the breathtaking Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. Along the way I stopped to admire deep valleys, high peaks and a series of both outdoor and indoor waterfalls. The indoor one was a group of waterfalls inside a cave. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Yes those glowing colors really are what it looked like

From there I took the cable car up to the town of Murren, that sits a little above Gimmelwald. At this point the phrase breathtaking became literal. It was so magnificent that I could (and did) forget to breath a few times. Trying to understand what I saw from the pictures below is like trying to appreciate Beethoven's 5th from only two notes. However I still suggest looking at them because even those two notes are still part of a masterpiece (the artist being God in this case)


After finally managing to shut my mouth (a process that many of you know can take quite a long time), I proceed to make me way to my hostel (pictured below). This was easily my favorite hostel anywhere. It had an open friendly atmosphere inside that reminded me of a gathering of old friends, not a bunch of random strangers. Within minutes I'd joined several conversations and had a host of new friends. Everyone who stayed there shared an adventurous spirit and a love of nature with non of the fratboy mentality that invades so many city hostels.

To top off an already wonderful day, around 9 someone came in and reported that a polka festival was happening in a tent in the village. A group of us decided to head over and we were treated to charming music with good drinks and a wonderful ambiance. As an added bonus, part of a traveling girls choir was with us and they performed the national anthem in honor of Independence Day (and it was a GOOD performance). I definitely fell asleep with a smile on my face.

The Mountain Hostel

Three accordions and yodeling. What more could you need at a party??

The next morning began bright and early at 6:30am. I and a group of girls from the previous night had decided to go to the revolving restaurant on top of the mountain near us if it was clear that morning. It was and we did. However there was one teeny tiny problem. While it certainly was clear at the bottom, the top was literally in the clouds when we arrived. The temporary breaks in the clouds we got revealed a gorgeous panorama around us. Sadly they were few and far between. To pass the time, we went to (and I am not making this name up) the "Touristorama" to watch clips from the James Bond movie that was shot there.

After a few hours of intermittent napping and going Mystery Science Theater on the film clips, we finally gave up and headed back down to do some hiking. Honestly though, when hiking in the Swiss Alps is your backup plan, you're doing ok. And so another day ended with blissful exhaustion :)

Murren at sunrise

See, I told you I wasn't making it up!

My final day began with the usual stunning views and proceeded into a scenic little hike through a nearby canyon. My friend Heidi from the previous two days decided to join me and we had a great time exploring and talking. She then made the extraordinarily kind offer to drive me back to Prague (rather than have to take the bus). In exchange I offered her a free place to sleep on the couch and the tour of a city she'd always wanted to visit. We did just that with two details of note along the way.

The view out of the bathroom window at the hostel

The first was that Interlaken had a grocery coop that had real, normal Dr. Pepper. Most of you are aware that I have some small affinity for this drink. And it had been a while since I'd had DP but I decided to show restraint. I only bought 14 bottles.

I'm a happy guy :)

The second item is that on our way to CZ, we passed through Germany on the Autobahn. Heidi was kind enough to let me drive the Mercedes she had rented there. I won't go into details except to say that driving that fast legally is unbearably awesome!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Switzerland (pronounced "heaven")

From the left: The Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau

Before I begin this update, let me preface this by saying that no words or pictures can even begin to convey the beauty that I witnessed in my week in the Swiss Alps. With that out of the way, lets get started :)

Being the crazy person that I am, I decided to take the overnight bus to Interlaken and then go Canyoning that afternoon. This is crazy because you must sleep on the bus (and without a window seat this it tough) and because they stopped every two hours and turned on the lights for 20 minutes (which at 2 and 4am is NOT fun). Fortunately I made it through surprisingly well rested and ready for the day.

After exploring the city during the morning and just soaking up the swiss atmosphere it was off to canyoning. What is canyoning you ask? In short, its this...

Rappelling 160 ft straight down a cliff

Free jumping up to 30ft into shallow pools

Sliding down natural rock formations into pools and my personal favorite pictured here, zip-lining!

The whole thing took a couple of hours and was an absolute blast. And I only nearly killed myself twice!! It helped me make some new friends and got me into the right frame of mind to enjoy the Alps. The evening ended with me arriving at my lakefront hostel and learning that I had a room to myself :) Perfect end to a great day!

Day two began with the view you see above. It led into some relaxed exploring of the little town I was staying in before heading to meet some of my canyoning friends for a late lunch at a place Harder Kulm that overlooks both Interlaken and the mountains south of it. The top picture from this post was taken there. More follow below. The day ended with a lovely walk and some great ice cream :)

To keep this from becoming too long and boring (too late I know), i'll put the rest in an update tomorrow ;)

I had previously only seen water this color in Alaska (the color is the result of the lakes being glacier fed)

My friend Bena and I in front of a serious view of one of the two lakes that flank Interlaken

This is the other one