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Where are they now… and where have they been?

February 1, 2011
It’s now been just over a month since us Eurobiters got back from our tremendous adventure abroad. So many of you may be asking, “Where are they now?” And since we haven’t posted in over a month, the bigger question may be, “Where have they been?” Well lets answer the later of the two questions first. The past month we took a much needed break from the blog to let our minds process all that happened. When we last posted, we were stuck in the middle of Heathrow Airport, wondering if we would ever get out of London. Well, after about half dozed cancelled flights, we did in fact make it back to the states. But it wasn’t easy. Colin lost a bag while Eric and I missed one last flight from Philly to Chicago which caused us to spend Christmas Eve in a Holiday Inn Express (how romantic). But all three of us made it back to our families by Christmas Day and Colin even got his bag back a week later. Turns out getting back was just the beginning. The weeks following were consumed by calls, emails and tweets to Orbitz, airlines and credit card companies in order for us to climb out of our Euro-debt. I think it safe to say the dust has finally settled and we are all ready to to move on to our next adventure. Now what could be more exciting and terrifying than a two month trip through Europe? How about… reality?
The past month was filled with just as many questions as our experience trying to maneuver a Hungarian train station. Where will I work, where will I live, and how will I eat? Wow… unemployment sounds oddly familiar. But alas, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Eric has been working as a substitute teacher while he waits for his gig on a Royal Caribbean Cruise line. That boy will be signing and dancing his way through the Bahamas starting in April.
  • Colin is preparing for the big move up to New York. If anyone is looking for a hip and stylish white pickup truck, let him know. And trust me, that truck is a beauty.
  • I was lucky enough to make it back down to the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World. I have back working with Disney Weddings and Disney Institute in the warm sunshine of Orlando for a few days now.
And now you know the exciting conclusion of the Eurobites adventure. I hope it was everything you would hope it would be. We had a wonderful time sharing our experiences with you. So far we have just hit the tip of the iceberg of what happened on this trip. We have so many more stories to share, so check back time to time and you might find a new one. Until next time.

Will we be home for Christmas?

December 20, 2010

It’s been some time since the Eurobites monster blog has been updated. Don’t worry… we have a good reason. It’s a long story, and frankly, I don’t have the energy to write it all down. The past 72 hours have been filled with missed flights, canceled flights and “what the hell happen to that flight?” flights. So I am going to fill you in with the latest news.

This weekend, the UK experienced the largest snow storm in the past 20 years. The snow triggered huge disruptions that are still causing delayed and canceled flights. So far there have been three planes that were suppose to take us home… we haven’t gotten on any of them. So now Eric and I currently have a flight scheduled to leave early Wednesday morning to Chicago. After Colin’s flight was canceled for tomorrow, he booked a new flight to get him home on December 24. That is cutting it dangerously close to Christmas. We spent Saturday night trying to sleep at the airport, in hopes that we would be able to talk to a representative, but no such luck. Below are some pictures from inside the airport. Walking through I kept having flashbacks to Titanic as they were handing out life vest. Just take out the string quartet and drop in some horrible Christmas music. Check out the pictures below to see the madness.

So we are praying that it clears up so we can be home with our families for the holidays. For the most up to date information on our travels, make sure to follow our Twitter feeds. We want to say thank you for everyone who has been sending their love and support. It warms our hearts here in the cold London air to know we are in your thoughts.

60 Second Cities: Budapest

December 12, 2010

Budapest brought us well into the second half of our adventure. After we experienced the city, it’s safe to say it took a toll on our bodies. Can you tell?

Turn Your Memories Into Movie Magic

December 10, 2010

There have been so many moments over the past few weeks where I have stopped and thought to myself, “this is so beautiful, I feel like I am in a movie.” It’s interesting how I have started comparing reality to Hollywood. But when I try to capture those moments on film, it just doesn’t seem right. A panorama shot just isn’t dramatic enough. So let’s look to hollywood and see how to turn your memories into movie magic.

We call it… The uplifting, super dramatic, spinning, 360 shot. Feel free to come up with your own name. Here is how it’s done.

1. Stand in the middle of your chosen location. Plazas work well, or other locations where you are surrounded by tall structures.

2. Have a friend stand about 10-15 ft away from you with the camera at shin level. Make sure your back is facing them.

3. Start to move the camera closer while lifting at the same time. The camera should reach shoulder level a few feet away.

4. The start to turn clockwise while the camera moves counter clockwise. Both you and the camera make 2 full turns.

5. Finally, land the camera so it is look over you shoulder and pointing and the most spectacular view. Add some inspiring music and voilà! Movie magic!

The Biggest Little World That You Ever Did See

December 8, 2010

Imagine a city the size of your dining room table, complete with cars, buses, and a population of approximately 40,000. Imagine a country the size of your living room; highways, mountains, skyscrapers, countryside. Ok, ok now imagine an entire world, city to city, country to country, all packed into your house, and then some! Ok now stop imagining, because IT’S REAL! It’s called the Miniature Wonderland, and it’s hiding out in Hamburg, Germany.

Two gents got the idea about ten years ago and started the project in December, 2000. It is now the biggest miniature world in the…world. And they are still growing! At quite a rapid pace, I might add. While we were there, they had plans for four more countries, some of which you could see already being constructed.

Not only are there trains winding around the entire thing, but there are also working cars buses and semis that weave through traffic, stop at stop lights and turn on their lights at night. There are ships that sail on real water. Hot air balloons above your head. Oh yeah, and the entire world goes through night and day about every ten minutes (complete with sunrises and sunsets).

In a few scenes, cars broke down or buildings caught on fire, so of course the fire trucks turned on their lights and sirens and headed to the site to take care of the problem. I tell you, no detail was overlooked in this truly incredible wonderland. And when I say detail, I mean detail. There was a gas station with changing gas prices that always reflected the local average. A chocolate factory that spit out real pieces of chocolate. Traffic jams, rock concerts, you name it. Oh and did I mention the nearly 3 story high room, home of the Swiss Alps? Ridiculous.

Some buildings were recognizable. Others were original interpretations. But each one fit into their respective cities and countries and each one had people in and around them. Now they didn’t just go buy a bunch of little figurines at the dollar store and stand them around. Each person is hand made and unique and is part of an entire scene. It’s literally like you’re looking into the lives of thousands of tiny people. How many thousands you might ask? Approximately 200,000. We were also pleasantly surprised to find dozens of quite funny and often risqué scenes going on. Sex in the woods, the filming of a porno, and naked mountain hikers, to name a few.

In America alone, they take visitors on a journey through the Redwoods, Yosemite National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Miami, Key West, and Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center (complete with a rocket launch to the ceiling). And if you look closely, you can spot Area 51, and their interpretation is quite unique and entertaining.

Probably the most surprising thing about this Miniature Wonderland is that none of our travel books said anything about it! So it truly is a hidden gem and totally worth looking into if you’re in or around Hamburg. If, for whatever reason, you still have doubts, here’s a sneak peek of what to expect, as well as some stats on the big little world.

Some fast facts about this little fantasy world:

  2009 2014
Train Track Length 12,000 m 20,000 m
Trains 890 Over 1,300
Train Carriages 14,100 15,000
Longest Train 14.51 m 14.51 m
Lights 295,000 Over 500,000
Trees 215, 000 330,000
Figures (people) 200,000 300,000
Man Hours 558,000 Over 800,000

 

 

Chaos as of Late: Part 2

December 7, 2010

Hopefully you haven’t had your fill of chaos, because we’ve got plenty more to serve up. You last left your heroes just after they arrived in Rome. Other than being expensive, Rome was pretty incredible. We only had about two and a half days in this ancient city and on Saturday evening, we were ready to hop on our flight to our next destination, Barcelona. This is where we continue our tales of Chaos.

Chaos 2:

We left our hostel around 5:45pm on our way to the airport. We caught a bus and arrived at the airport around 7:15 for our 9:30 flight. So far, so good right? Well we already know this isn’t that kind of story. Upon trying to check our bags, the woman behind the desk nonchalantly informed us that our flight was cancelled and that, in fact, there was a strike in Spain and all flights to and from the country were cancelled. She actually said, “I thought you knew.” Like we were friends who had discussed it at coffee the day before, and silly me had just forgotten. Regardless of my personal feelings towards her, we were not flying to Barcelona that night. Shit what do we do?! To our right, we saw a long line of people who no doubt were trying to figure that out too.

We got in line and the three of us rotated who would wait in line with the bags while the others ran around the airport trying to figure out what the hell was going on and what were our options. After assessing the situation and speaking with airport people as well as some other people in line (who had waited 4 and a half hours) we decided to take a bus back to the Rome train station and see what our options were there. The good news thus far is that we can get refunded for the flight.

After the train ticket woman laughed at us when we told her we wanted to get to Barcelona, we decided to try some alternatives. So we started a complicated journey, inching our way closer and closer to barcelona, meanwhile eating up our eurail travel days. After killing a few hours in the Rome train station, we hopped on a night train to Milan.

Because of the train schedules, we were going to have to stay in Milan until Monday (expensive), but with a small stroke of luck and our sprinting skills we made it on a train to France. Just so you have an idea of how close we cut it, the train started moving before we even put our bags down. Approximately 19 hours after this ordeal started, we arrived Nice, France.

With close to 9 hours to kill in Nice, we found a place to put our bags down and eat something. This took form in a Golden Corral-esque establishment in which we were easily the youngest diners by at least 35 years. After another long day, we headed to the train station to catch our 9pm train to Barcelona. This is about the time we were all getting pretty ripe and there was still no shower in our near futures.

So ANOTHER night train it was. You’d think after sleeping in a train seat so many times, we’d get used to it. But no, it’s still just as uncomfortable the 17th time. Other than having to figure out some connections, there was no funny business on this train. And we actually got to see some beautiful country side as well as saw the sunrise along the coast. Glimmer in the dirt.

So at approximately 11:50am this morning, 42 hours after it all began, we arrived in Barcelona. We had eaten two meals, brushed our teeth once, and slept maybe 6 hours in total. The layers of grease and grime I felt on my body was unlike any I’d ever felt. And the disorientation I felt between lack of food, sleep, and water was profound. We’ve had to remind each other what day it is numerous times so far.

Unfortunately, because of some mishaps along the way, we are now out of travel days. Which equals we have to buy our train to Madrid. It could be better. It could be worse. BUT if Spain doesn’t get the strike all cleaned up by the 15th, we won’t be able to catch our already booked flight from Madrid to London. And with no more travel days left, we would have to buy another train ticket somewhere outside of Spain and then find another flight to London.

It’s amazing; the first half of the trip went so smoothly and now I feel like we don’t know what will happen day to day. As my mom keeps telling me every time something goes wrong, “You’re just makin’ memories!” Thanks mom😉 So as has been made very clear by the fates of the universe, there is no telling what tomorrow will bring. All I can say is stay tuned. We’ve got less than two weeks left!

Chaos as of Late: Part 1

December 6, 2010

I’ll start this message by saying that we have quite a bit of catching up to do little nibblers. So much that it can’t all be taken care of in one post. More fun videos and pictures and such to come very soon. But this an urgent message that we thought you needed to know right away. So get comfortable. Fasten your safety belts. And take a deep breath because we’re going on a roller coaster.

Chaos: Part 1

It all began as our amazing stay in Budapest was coming to a close. We needed to get to Rome. If you’re not already familiar, one glance at a map will tell you that that’s quite an ambitious train ride, to say the least. We considered making a pit stop in northern Italy to break up the trip but then decided to suck it and prepare for the longest train ride of our lives.

So we left our hostel at 5am and caught our 7am train. Keep in mind that we’d had quite the going away celebrations the night before. Once on the train, we were tired and uncomfortable. We made one connection to another train. We then made another stop in the southern town of Villach, Austria (of which we knew nothing at the time). We were to connect to a bus here and head to Venice, still destined for Rome.

Unbeknownst to us, we needed a reservation for said train. We realized this as the bus arrived. We ran to the ticket desk (each one of us carrying upwards of 50 lbs in baggage on our shoulders) and asked for a reservation for the bus to Venice. Realizing the urgency of the situation, the helpful ticket woman quickly printed us three tickets just in time for us to run out the door and watch our bus drive away. We returned to the ticket booth, defeated, and were told that the next bus to Venice was the next day. However, there was a train going directly to Rome that left at midnight that night. Well that was better than nothing.

But where were we? We had no idea. When we saw the name, we weren’t even sure what country it was in, nor were we sure how to pronounce it. But we had about 9 hours to kill there, so there was plenty of time to find out what Villach, Austria (we later deduced) was all about. With nowhere to store our backpacks, and about a foot of snow on the ground (and more falling), we set out to explore. As we began our trek, we actually found Villach to be very quaint and actually quite nice.

Christmas lights decorated the pedestrian streets, with a giant Christmas tree as the centerpiece. There were covered outdoor bars with heating units, people walking around and a Christmas market. It would have, of course, been nicer to explore this winter wonderland sans backpack. But it was still nice to wandered for a while. We found somewhere to get schnitzel and then found a McDonald’s where we were able to nab some wifi, which we used to inform our Rome hostel of our situation. I won’t delve into much more detail of our time in Villach, because honestly there’s not much more detail in which to delve. I will say that 9 hours is quite a long time to kill. But we somehow made it to midnight and hopped on the train, tired and ready to sleep.

But of course it wasn’t that simple. When we got on the train, we found ourselves sharing a couchette with not only our baggage, but also two other women. And let me tell you, those couchettes aren’t that big to start with. And to top it all off, the seats had absolutely NO recline to them. They sat STRAIGHT up. We were on that train for 9 hours, and I’m sure slept, in total, maybe an hour.

We arrived in Rome at around 9am. We dragged ourselves off the train and hobbled to our hostel. Upon arrival, we were informed that we were still charged for the previous night when we were stranded in Austria. Awesome. As exhausted as we were, we knew we didn’t have much time in Rome, so we grabbed a map and headed out to explore some old Roman stuff.

And it is there that I will leave you for now. But rest assured that Chaos: Part 2 is easily even more of a travesty. JD, if you’re reading this (and you better be), we hope you’re satisfied with the catastrophes that have occurred.

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