Thursday, November 29, 2012

Winter has arrived in Saint Louis

I am now going to interrupt my (probably too detailed) account of my trip to talk about the last 3 weeks.
After a rather cold and dreary early fall (according to the locals), Saint Louis has been downright balmy in the almost 3 weeks since I returned from my trip  Okay that might be an exaggeration, but it's been mostly 50's - low 70's. But today when I woke up, my room was furnace (despite the fact that I always sleep with the window slightly cracked because my radiator likes to make my room to warm and I have no way of adjusting it), so I knew immediately that the forecasts I had read were correct -- It's going to be a cold day with a possibility of snow. This is because for some stupid reason the radiator is regulated by the outside temperature, rather than the inside one. So if it's working overtime, it must be cold outside (unfortunately this is also annoying in the opposite way, sometimes it's perfectly nice outside but rather cold in here, and there is nothing I can do to warm up except put on more clothes). Anyway, it's quite cold. So cold, that I got a chill just walking from the school to here (this is like a 2 minute walk, seriously). Apparently, my strategy of wearing less clothes than I normally wear for the weather to go to school (because it is always quite toasty in there and I don't want to haul around five pounds of clothing) may not work this winter.

An unrelated but hilarious picture. This is an advent calender for your cat ( like the ones with chocolate, only, you know, cat food, for your cat)

The past three weeks have flown by, I can hardly believe it's been so long already. I've felt somewhat busy, though with what, I have no idea. I've started running again. I'm currently working back up to 5k, and after that I hope to work with the goal of doing a half marathon when I come back, because I need hobbies here. Though, I might need to join a gym to keep this up through the winter. I've also started doing the 100 push ups program which I am sure would be hilarious to watch because I can't even do a full modified push up. But now I can do at least 8 rather pathetic modified push ups rather than like 2, so progress has been made. Also, I've started thinking about graduate school applications, essays, and recommendations. Mostly though, I have been spending a lot of time sleeping. I literally slept for half of yesterday. Much to my shock, I woke up at 12:30 (note to self: set an alarm for a reasonable hour even on off days) despite the fact that I went to sleep before one. Then I went to sleep at around 12:30 or 1 am. So that's a good way to waste a day. Also, I watch a lot of youtube partially because I can't stream netflix or amazon movies even though I am american because Europe doesn't allow that :(((((. 

My Goals (to finish before I go on my next vacation in about 3 weeks):
* write rough drafts of application essays
* finish asking for recommendations
* continue running (run a 5k before trip?)
* try to transition to "real" push ups 
* finish writing about my other vacation on here

More (extremely detailed, long, and possibly boring) posts about the rest of the cities I visited will be forthcoming shortly (I hope).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Some pictures of Thanksgiving

Tristan and I celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday because that was when he could get here. Our feast was quite simple because the grocery stores lack essential ingredients for two of the things that I would have liked to have in our meal (Jello Salad and cornbread stuffing... specifically it lacked jello and cornbread) and also, as previously noted, my kitchen is tiny. Ultimately, we had green beans, mashed potatoes, scallops of turkey breast, and the only American wine they had at the supermarket (a Rose from California). 
The pictures I took were truly awful -- I don't know why but my camera refuses to take decent photos inside my apartment. Therefore, I have used silly effects to make them look betterish...

This effect is called 1960s. I choose it because the picture already looked like it was from the 1960s.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Since Dad asked and because I was curious myself, I looked up where exactly the Carpathians are in Romania. It turns out that both Brasov and Cluj are considered to be in this mountain range. And we most certainly took a train through them on the way to Buchrest.

The Romanian countryside as seen through the train window and captured by my cheap cellphone camera. 

When we arrived in Brasov, it was already dark. After we arrived at our hostel, our first move was to go to the supermarket to buy shower supplies and after we got cleaned up we went out to get kebabs at one of the  the places we had seen on the way to the store. We ended up going to Andos, a sort of fast food chain. The kebab ended up being kind of nasty -- with way too much sauce! We vowed never to go back to Andos. Then we returned to the hostel and watched a movie in the common room. After it was over, we wanted to go out for a snack. We had seen a few pastry places that were selling this pretzel-like circular thing stuffed with chocolate or other things called covrigi. But when we arrived, they were all out of chocolate ones. Then we remembered that there was a picture of a really delicious looking desert pictured at Andos. So we made the worst decision of our vacation and went back to Andos. We went up to the counter, pointed to the picture and asked for it. They told us we had to go upstairs to get it. So we went up, and were handed a menu in Romanian. After some discussion, we decided to risk it and order something just because it had chocolate in it. Because how bad could something with chocolate in it be? 

Pretty bad, it turns out. Spoiled lumpy milk wrapped in a crepe sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles...yum.
The moral of this story is that you should ever order something just because the only word you understood was chocolate. Awkward. 
Meanwhile, our waitress has completely disappeared. We don't want to wait for her to come back and stare at our depressing dessert. And we know how much it cost, so we decide to just leave the money and bail. The only trouble was that as soon as we got out, Tristan thought he didn't grab his glasses. So we go back up stairs. And as we do, our waitress sees us, and goes up the stairs after us. As we leave once again, she says thank you to us, leading us to believe that she thought we had dined and ditched and then had an attack of conscious and returned to pay.
The next day we saw all of Brasov: 
Infamous Ando's and pretty fog. Also, it was as cold (if not colder) than it looks

Yes, that IS a sign modeled after the Hollywood sign up there in the fog. 

After seeing the main sights of the city, we hiked up to the Brasov Citadel, which was honestly pretty lame, but it was worth it for the views. 
The citadel 

 We finished up the day by walking by the city walls, and seeing "the narrowest street in eastern europe" which was the most contrived sight I've ever seen. If you ask me, it didn't even count as a street and certainly didn't warrant any pictures, it was more of gap between two buildings.
We relaxed for the rest of the night, which was quite lovely.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cluj Napoca: city of nothing

We arrived in Cluj Napoca around lunch time, we were starving! So our first mission was to find an ATM so we could get into town...This turned out to be rather more difficult than one would expect. I mean you'd expect an airport to have several ATMs and places to exchange. Eventually we succeeded in finding an ATM, but then we missed our bus into town by seconds. So we were like, screw this, let's just take a taxi.
Taxis are by far the most dangerous part of Eastern Europe travels, and not for the reason you would think. It's dangerous because there is probably like a 10% chance that you will die in some sort of fiery car crash because they are the most aggressive drivers ever and don't seem to have any fear of breaking laws.
We made it the hostel in one piece though. So then we had to check into our hostel, and the woman who was working there was the least friendly person ever. She more or less asked us what we were doing there... which was quite odd. So we were given the WORST MAP EVER. It was this sad blurry black and white print out, not very enlightening to say the least. 
After getting settled in, we went to a very traditional Romanian restaurant for lunch. Just kidding, we went to KFC. It was tasty. Then we walked around and saw probably 50% of what this city has to offer in like an hour.
There was this cathedral and statue
And not much else... So we went back and napped because we were sleepy. We said we would go out later, but by the time we woke up it was dark. Thus, sight seeing ended for the day. Then we went down to the common room for WiFi and such. When we got down there, the people that were down there looked at us like we were intruding on some sort of private event. The whole first few hours at the hostel involved us being made to feel like intruders... so that was awkward. 
For dinner we shared a fantastically delicious pizza and then we went to a little bar near it because apparently Cluj is thought to be cool because of it's night life? Unfortunately (or fortunately?), neither of us are big partyers, and that night we didn't even feel like sort of partying it up. We had one drink (I had this mixed drink that was their specialty called Kool Aid, but it didn't really taste like Kool Aid (I guess maybe it tasted like what Kool Aid would taste like if you put Vodka in it?) which was disappointing, but I guess it's probably a good thing because alcoholic drinks that taste like Kool Aid are probably a recipe for alcohol poisoning. 
Then we went to sleep at like 10:30, because we know how to party hard. And we wanted to get up fairly early so we could take some pictures before leaving on a noon train. 
But the best laid plans of mice and men are all for naught. At midnight we were awoken by our roommates who had decided to go down the party hard route. They were completely drunk, and speaking very loudly in terribly accented English. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than drunk strongly accented bad English. 
"It hurts, the tattoo, to make?" "Romania very poor. We make one joint for four people. We get very high. very high." 
Meanwhile, they are assembling joints.
Finally, they leave. Then they come back, then they leave again. We decide to try to get a different room. Tristan goes downstairs, but our lovely roommates are talking to the person on duty. But our troubles are not over, one of them comes back in. He lays on the floor by the window. Talking to himself (in English, strangely). We pray he doesn't throw up or something. He gets up to go back down, but he comes back quickly, this time managing to get in a bed. And then finally, the commotion stopped. 
The next morning, we learned one of these people got kicked out of the hostel, the guy who was laying on the floor's heart was racing and he thought he would die. Why would anyone do this to themselves? 
Needless to say, we were glad to leave that hostel.

Me outside the hostel. I guess it kind of had a cool location. Near to an old city wall. But can you really have a good location in a city where there is nothing to see?

Romanians try really hard to embrace their Roman heritage

We had delicious pastries on the way to the train station (I got a raspberry strudel, it was like toaster strudel, only better). And then we took a train to Brasov. 

Us, at the Cluj train station

Thursday, November 15, 2012

La Vacance de Toussaints: The beginning

I haven't written anything for quite a while, but I have a good excuse, I was travelling for two weeks so now I have lots to talk about, but it turns out that going straight into work after traveling (even if it's only 12 hours a week) is pretty exhausting, but I seem to have finally recovered.
Saturday (Oct 27), I left Saint Louis early in the morning and met Tristan in Paris. We spent a few hours there, we had pizza and went to an English language bookstore and then we took a train to Beauvais, a small town north of Paris that has the "Paris" airport out of which Wizzair flies. The city itself was very beautiful, but we bused through it to our hotel which was near the airport. 

As I've mentioned before, when you get out of the city, France starts looking a bit more like America: 
Very... French architecture? 
This side of the hotel was less expensive than the other one because it is "not romantic" 

Buffalo Grill is this chain of America-themed restaurants. They play country music,  the waiters/esses where plaid shirts and jeans, and they serve (mostly) american food. It's pretty delicious. I got the "Menu Sherif" - little salad with the best ranch dressing I've ever tasted, hamburger, fries, drink, and profiteroles all for the not very low price of 14.90 euro, but it was completely worth it. I will be going back, I'm sure. Also, I would totally start a business selling their ranch dressing.